Happy Star Wars Day! Ranking the Star Wars (live-action) films

happy star wars day

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! Now, to preface this post, I should say that I’m not exactly a SW super fan, despite having grown up in the 80s with two older brothers who loves the franchise. They were only seven years old when the first film was released in 1977, but I remember they watched the VHS tapes repeatedly years later. So I was familiar with the franchise early on, but I actually didn’t watch the entire original trilogy until my college years. I have since watched ALL of the live-action feature films to date.

Now, I’m excluding the animated feature Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) as I have not seen that one, so we’ve got eleven live-action films total including the spin-offs. Of course with ANY list, it’s all subjective so the ranking is really in order of our FAVORITES 😉

– As to be expected with a list like this, there’ll be spoilers galore – 

I’m inviting my friend + loyal FC contributor Ted Saydalavong to join the fun as well, so let’s start with his ranking.

stormtroopers

TED’s Ranking

Ted’s ranking is based on re-watchability, creative storytelling and most importantly, entertainment value. So here it is from BEST to WORST.

  1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    Yes, this film tends to be on top of many Star Wars fans and I think it’s still the best in the series. Great storytelling with a dark and twist ending.
  2. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
    The original film still entertains by today’s blockbuster standards. Sure some of the effects and dialogs are a bit cheesy but it’s still an entertaining film.
  3. Star Wars: Rogue One (2016)
    I still would like to see the original and darker cut of this film but I think it’s the best one in the newer Star Wars films.
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
    It’s basically a remake of the original Star Wars film but it’s very entertaining. The film has lots of weaknesses but as a fan, I can overlook those flaws.
  5. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019)
    Same can be said of this last film of the so-called Skywalker saga, it has tons of flaws but I was entertained.
  6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
    Hate to keep repeating myself but this one also has tons of flaws and to me, it’s the least entertaining of the new trilogy.
  7. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
    The weakest of the original trilogy but it’s still very entertaining and the speeder chase is one of the best action sequences in the franchise.
  8. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
    A show off of what CGI can do in films and Lucas had a lot of fun with this prequel. Now if only he never included Jar Jar Binks and wrote a better script for the actors, this one could be higher on my list. Still this one might have the best action sequences in the entire series. The Pod race and Duel of Fate are two of the best action scenes in the series.
  9. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    Lucas tried to create an emotional send off for the final film of the prequel but sadly he didn’t know or care to write or direct dramatic sequences. The movie has great special effects for its time but the acting was atrocious and I cringe every time the words were spoken by the actors.
  10. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
    Again, here Lucas tried to create some dramatic and romance for this film but the writing and acting were atrocious. The only things I liked from the film were the action scenes. I love the climactic battle near the end of this film. I think Lucas only wanted to show off the special effects and cool action scenes for the prequel. He should have hired additional writers to fix his scripts for these prequels. Also, this one was shot in the early form of digital filmmaking and it has that flat and dull look that you see in early days of films shot with digital cameras.
  11. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
    This is on the bottom of my list because it’s the most boring and unimaginative of all the films in the series. I actually fell asleep halfway through the film when I saw it in the theater. Gave it another try when it came out on disc and I wish I hadn’t done that, I was not entertained at all.

RUTH’s Ranking

Same with Ted’s criteria for ranking, I too feel that re-watchability + creative storytelling (instead of just plain fan-service) are key, and obviously they’d have to be fun to watch. Anyway, here’s my ranking:

  1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    I actually go back and forth between this one and the first one, aka A New Hope (now I feel like George Lucas should just leave the original title Star Wars). In the end, this one wins as it’s got the most iconic, emotional moments (the ultimate hero/villain, father/son duel) that is so indelible even people who don’t watch the films know the ‘I Am Your Father’ reference.
  2. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
    I remember really enjoying this one and was in awe of how George Lucas launched such a behemoth franchise that span five decades and beyond with this first film. It’s the first time I heard that amazingly iconic theme song by John Williams and being transported into a galaxy far, far away. After re-watching this a few more times, I was still invested in the journey Luke, Leia, Han and the whole space opera gang.
  3. Star Wars: Rogue One (2016)
    I love this one the most out of the spin-offs. I like Gareth Edwards’ direction and Felicity Jones as the lead. It’s got plenty of fun and humorous moments (esp. Donnie Yen’s scenes!) as well as emotional resonance I’m looking for. I wish Edwards had stayed on to direct some of the Skywalker saga movies.
  4. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
    I have to say I’m just not fond of Jabba the Hut at all, I tend to fast forward his scenes a lot whenever I re-watch this one. The whole sequence with the Ewoks aren’t my faves either, though I enjoy the Leia + Han romance and the adventure with Lando Calrissian, etc. So overall still a great end to the first trilogy that leaves so much room to expand the story.
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
    I’m baffled by all the hate towards this one. I guess haters are gonna hate, which is a prime example of toxic fandom. I personally enjoyed Rian Johnson’s take on this franchise, adding some surprising twists whilst still staying true to George Lucas’ legacy. I know many fans hated the direction of Luke in this film but I appreciate the deconstruction of such a titular character of why he’s a legend, who gets to have the Force, etc.
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
    Unlike Ted, I don’t find this boring at all and I like the fact that it’s a space heist flick. I actually like Alden Ehrenreich as Han and enjoyed all the bits between him and Donald Glover’s flamboyant Lando. I’ve rewatched it on Blu-ray since seeing it in the theater the first time and still enjoyed it a great deal.
  7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
    This movie reminds me a lot of Superman Returns where Bryan Singer just paid homage to Richard Donner’s Superman. JJ Abrams did the same thing with this one, as Ted said above, It’s basically a remake of the original Star Wars movie. There’s a sheer lack of suspense and even the death scene involving a beloved character didn’t give me the emotional resonant I expected. I do love the introduction of Kylo Ren who provides some of the unexpected hilarious moments of rage, ahah. I also love Rey when she was just a petulant, defiant desert dweller, that is until Abrams abominably ruins her character in Rise of Skywalker!
  8. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
    I guess I can’t blame George Lucas in wanting to give us the backstory of his space opera, esp. his most famous character that is Darth Vader. If only he’d hire a good writer or collaborate with one to execute his vision. I mean, there is no excuse for such an irritating character like Jar Jar Binks! I do like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as the two powerful Jedis and I think their casting save the film for me. Like Ted, I also enjoy the action scenes of the Pod race and Duel of Fate. I actually love the music of Duel of the Fate scene so much that I used that particular score for a re-cut of Face/Off I did in a video editing class!
  9. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    I actually just rewatched the last battle scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin and it’s so heartbreaking! I remember tearing up during the last moments, esp. when Obi-Wan screamed ‘You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!’ Ewan McGregor is so good as Obi-Wan, I’m glad he gets to reprise it soon 16 years later! Overall though, Anakin’s journey to the dark side under the wing of Emperor Palpatine could’ve been more compelling. I think what makes the last scene of Anakin becoming Darth Vader so poignant because we know just how evil this lost kid could become. 
  10. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
    As I mentioned, I hated the fact that Abrams practically ruined Rey’s character by making her the grand-daughter of Palpatine, ugh! Plus the entire movie consists of SO much nostalgia. Now, while I enjoy seeing beloved actors from the franchise, seeing them distracts me from the actual story. Fan-service rarely make for good movies and that is the case here. I also think Abrams gave the talented Adam Driver such a disservice by making his character into nothing more than a conflicted man-child. As funny as emo Kylo Ren is, in the end he isn’t really a compelling character.
  11. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
    I honestly can’t remember much about this movie other than the cheesy dialog between the two lovebirds Anakin and Padme. I totally agree with Ted that Lucas should have hired good writers to fix his scripts for the prequels.
may the force be with you

Well, what do you think of our rankings? How would YOU rank the eleven STAR WARS movies?

FlixChatter Review: Knives Out (2019)

With a provocative title like Knives Out, the film had better be a sharp murder mystery. Fortunately, writer/director Rian Johnson and his stellar ensemble cast delivered! The film embraces the tropes of the whodunnit genre – the wealthy dysfunctional family, the historic mansion, and an eccentric detective investigating the case… but it cleverly turned it on its head. It’s not as eerie, chilling or overly dark, in fact, Johnson kept the mood rather light and even seemingly frivolous. But don’t let that fool you, it’s suspenseful when it needs to be and oh, it’s just so delightfully entertaining!

The film starts out with the death of the family patriarch, crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), following his own birthday celebration. Soon the family gathers to mourn him, while in reality all they care about is how big of the inheritance they’d get. Given the suspicious nature of Harlan’s death, the detectives promptly arrive to question the members, including the debonair detective Benoit Blanc, whose involvement in the case is a mystery in itself.

Daniel Craig seems to have a blast playing Detective Blanc, with a rather quirky Southern Accent. The accent perhaps intentional to contrast him from the WASP-y, Massachusetts-bred Harlan  family, much like Agatha Christie’s Poirot’s mustache sets her protagonist apart from the people he’s investigating. Craig definitely stands out even amongst this stellar cast, but the real star of the film is Ana de Armas who plays Marta Cabrera, Harlan’s loyal nurse who can’t lie without vomiting. That bit lends to some hilarious scenes in the film. This is only the second time I saw her since Blade Runner 2049, but she’s proven herself a versatile actress. Here she looks plain as can be, dressed in the dowdiest clothes, but portrays a seemingly-helpless-but-smarter-than-you-think character so well that you’re never quite know just who she really is.

I won’t go into more plot details, as this is the kind of film that’s best to go into it blindly. Any fan of murder mystery would get a kick out Johnson’s clever plot that keeps you guessing. Every single member of the family could have been the culprit, and that’s what made this kind of movies fun. I kept thinking things would go one way and it went another direction, keeping things suspenseful yet light and mirthful. Most of the action takes place inside or around the mansion, but there’s enough going for it to keep you engaged. It goes to show that a good script the best special effect of all, no amount of special effect or stunning visuals can make up for a good story.

I also love the fact that the writer/director makes good use of his eclectic ensemble cast, even Plummer in the flashback scenes. Each actor have their moment to shine, though of course some are memorable than others. Chris Evans clearly relish on playing a spoiled brat, practically the black sheep of the family… quite a departure from his goody-two-shoes Captain America role. The cozy-but-oh-so-sexy aesthetic no doubt spikes up sales of Fisherman sweaters everywhere.  I always adore the chameleonic Toni Collette and she’s fun to watch as a lifestyle guru, perhaps channeling Gwyneth Paltrow a bit with her Goop empire. It’s also amusing to see Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson as a couple. I think Jamie Lee should get more leading roles even now in her 60s, this sassy woman’s still got it!

Rian Johnson got so much flak for The Last Jedi which I actually enjoyed. I’m glad he’s back directing an original story as he’s clearly a gifted storyteller. In addition to the shrewd plot, he manages to inject a not-so-subtle jab about today’s political climate in regards to immigrants. I think the Best Original Screenplay Oscar nod is well-deserved, oh and the cast should’ve been nominated for Best Ensemble at SAG Awards too! The last shot of the film is absolutely brilliant… the expressions of the cast and an ingenious use of a particular prop is one of the best cinematic final scenes ever. I can’t help but smile every time I think about it!

I’m glad I was able to catch it before it left local cineplex as I missed the press screening back in November. Apparently a sequel is in the works for this, centered on Benoit Blanc with Craig reprising his role (so Craig is trading James Bond for Blanc, Benoit Blanc. Ha!) Normally I’d roll my eyes whenever sequels are announced, but I’m open to this idea, let’s hope the follow-up sequel’s script is as clever as this one.


Have you seen KNIVES OUT? Well, what did you think?

Musings on Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker (2019)

So here we are… forty two years after the first ever Star Wars film opened in 1977, the final chapter of the Skywalker saga is released. There was a huge anticipation for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, naturally, given its place in the franchise history as the final conclusion. In preparation for this, my hubby and I saw Return of The Jedi the night before (and we actually saw Empire Strikes Back in October as part of MN Orchestra LIVE in concert series).

When I finished watching the movie, I turned to my hubby and whispered, they might as well call this franchise SPOILER ALERT (highlight to read) ‘evil space grandpas’ If you’ve seen this movie, I think you know why. Just like what I did on The Force Awakens, this post is not a review per se, more of my random thoughts about the film and the franchise as a whole, so proceed with caution if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of the same quibbles with this one as the 2015 movie that JJ Abrams also directed… mainly the excessive amount of nostalgia, as some critics have rightly called ‘fan pandering,’ and lack of suspense throughout. Yes there are some fun moments, but the big moments are pretty much predictable. The key phrase ‘no one’s ever really gone’ uttered by Luke Skywalker at the end of The Last Jedi came up again in this movie. Beloved Carrie Fisher returns as General Leia Organa (via the use of repurposed unreleased footage), but she’s not the only one.

In fact, the entire movie is basically a road trip of sort to find a supposedly dead Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) who now resides on the planet Exegol. Apparently he’s so NOT dead after all, in fact he’s been a puppet master to Snoke, Supreme Leader of The First Order. But before Rey, Poe and Fin could get to Exegol, they had to find a device called Sith Wayfinder. I feel like that plot is basically a way to reunite Rey & co. with yet another returning character Lando Calrissian. The crew looked practically giddy to be meeting Billy Dee Williams in that scene, and vice versa, that it took me out of the movie a bit. That’s what nostalgia does… while I enjoy seeing certain actors back in a certain franchise, it distracts me from the actual story that unfolds before me.

Speaking of the story… there’s a lot of ‘more of the same’ in The Rise of the Skywalker. Interesting that there were some rumbles on the interweb that JJ Abrams was subtly dissing Rian Johnson‘s The Last Jedi, saying that it was “a story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other.” Now, whether Abrams was throwing shade at Johnson or not, the fact of the matter is, the two filmmakers didn’t seem to see eye to eye. As a more casual fan of Star Wars, I actually like the fact that Rian had the guts to do something different and subverting the franchise. Unfortunately I’m in the minority and because many die-hard fans hated what Rian did, so naturally he’s not invited back to helm this one.

The biggest ‘twist’ of this movie is in regards to Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) identity. “People keep telling me they know me. No one does,” She quipped in frustration. But her reluctant ‘nemesis’ Kylo Ren claims he does, then he just said it blatantly who her parents really are. It’s supposed to be a gasp-inducing moment, but for some reason it was just ‘meh’… in fact, Rey’s similar lineage situation that bears such resemblance to Luke’s and Kylo’s feels like convenient (read: lazy) writing to me. The part I like most about Rey when she’s first introduced in The Force Awakens is that she’s just a scavenger with no Jedi blood in her, and that her parents are just ordinary people.

In The Last Jedi, Kylo himself told her ‘You come from nothing. You’re nothing’ which undeniably made him even more furious that she could wield as much power as he does. Then the ending that film (the scene with the young boy) also hinted that there are other ‘ordinary’ people with no prominent lineage who could use the Force. I love that message that people are more than who they’re born to be and where they come from, that we do have the power to become more than what’s been imagined for us. So by making Rey as a Palpatine obviously undermined the storyline that’s been set before and render many other plot points meaningless. I don’t know in what other cinematic franchise is that ever a good thing??

I have to say that the nostalgic moments have different degrees of impact. I said I enjoyed seeing Leia and Lando, and the final arc of General Leia Organa is a memorable moment. But the now decrepit Palpatine is mostly eye-roll inducing (especially since the scene of Vader throwing him down the space abyss is still fresh in my mind). Not only would it seem impossible that he survived that fall, but just when did he have time to have a son who later becomes Rey’s dad?? On top of that, he’s also mighty enough to build an entire armada and hides ALL of them from every single creature until the opportune time dictated by the script to reveal it.

I barely have time to ponder on that as there’s a ton of stuff going on in this movie… the crew frenetically jumped from place to place in search of that Wayfinder thing-y, which eventually leads to the main battle between Rey and Kylo. No doubt the lightsaber duel of two crucial characters, on top of the remains of the second Death Star no less, looks epic. With the waves and torrential rain, it’s an atmospheric scene to be sure.  It’s got some wow moments, but overall the scene just didn’t have as big an emotional impact as I thought it would.

SPOILER ALERT (proceed with caution as I’ll mention key plot details below)
Since Force Awakens, I’ve grown to appreciate Adam Driver more and more (you could even say he’s my current cinematic crush), but I gotta say Kylo’s got the short end of the stick here in terms of his character. Yes he’s a Darth wannabe from the start, longing to be a powerful Sith leader like his grandpa, but this final movie just renders him into nothing more than a conflicted man-child. It pains me to see Driver, who’s so excellent in Marriage Story which I saw just two months prior, barely given much to do here than looking mostly dazed and discombobulated.

Now, given how powerful Rey’s become, the outcome of the duel and what she did afterwards didn’t really surprise me. In a key moment in the movie, suddenly Han Solo turned up again… Was it a dream? A hallucination? Was Kylo delirious? Does it matter?? In another nostalgic scene, Harrison Ford revisited his most famous ad-lib in Empire Strikes Back as his prodigal son struggled to find the words to say … that part made me smile, but I find this dramatic scene more schmaltzy than genuinely moving.

Still, Driver at least still has a compelling arc and a dignified resolution… gone is Kylo Ren’s toxic power-hungry machismo, in the end he’s Ben Solo after all, and he’s got an honorary ‘death’ as a Jedi. But where is Rose Tico?? The spunky mechanic with a big heart had a big role in The Last Jedi… Kelly Marie Tran was a great addition to the Resistance crew. But here she’s hugely sidelined for most of the movie while Fin is off doing his heroic duty with a new compatriot, Jannah, a Resistance sympathizer. Now, Naomi Ackie is fine in the role, but I can’t help missing Rose in the journey with the Resistance fighters.

Now, after teasing us for four years whether Rey will finally turn to the dark side… well, the final answer is something so utterly predictable. Once again our heroine, just like the original hero of the saga, is facing a family member [yawn]. Rey matters because she’s part of an important, all-powerful family. It’s treading familiar [and familial] grounds the fact that bloodline and lineage is the key to achieving real power, that is the ability to use the Force. Perhaps the fact that we’ve seen all before, the action-packed battle of ‘all of the Sith’ VS ‘all of the Jedi’ barely holds a candle of the original battle between Luke vs Vader/Palpatine. It’s what follows that would likely be the talking points about Rise of Skywalker… yep, it’s all about Reylo.

Not satisfied with just an epic battle of good vs evil, we’ve got to have some controversial romance thrown in. I wonder how the convo goes in the Writers Room… ‘hey wouldn’t it be surreal to have Vader’s grandson making out w/ Palpatine’s granddaughter?’ I supposed Kylo’s longing look every time he sees and ‘feels’ Rey from a distance (boy that came out SO creepy) has suggested he has feelings for her from the start. And who could forget that shirtless scene during a Force-bond in The Last Jedi that bothered Rey so much she asked him to put something on? But yet, I still wasn’t prepared for the kiss… it feels like it came out of nowhere. I mean all the mutual pull between the light and dark side that haunts both these poor souls is SO massive… it took so much out of them with huge stakes on both sides that you would think romance is the last thing on their minds. Naturally plenty of fans have always wanted to ship the two of them, as Reylo has been the subject of a plethora of fan-fiction, which makes the kiss feels obligatory. There’s been a lot of shared motifs in Star Wars and Shakespeare–we’ve seen the Romeo and Juliet plot between Anakin and Padmé before, so I guess their grandson is bound to share similar fate.

All in all, The Rise of Skywalker is an enjoyable but also frustrating film. I was caught up in the rousing nostalgic moments and even felt emotionally moved by some of them, but as soon as the movie’s over, I was left with an overwhelming sense of meh. It’s not a bad movie per se… I mean the actors did a good job in their roles, production design & special effects are top notch, John Williams‘ music is obviously still iconic, even Abrams’ direction is enjoyable… but at the end of the day, Chris Terrio and Abrams’ script is serviceable at best.

It proves that no film, no matter how beloved the franchise it, can simply ride on nostalgia alone. At the end of the day, as a film fan, we crave innovative storytelling that sparks one’s imagination… I don’t think JJ Abrams gave us that with this one. Honestly, after nine films, I’d be hard pressed to know just what the Force is supposed to be about since the franchise’s overall narrative is so discordant and inconsistent. Perhaps it’s a good thing this is the final installment of the cinematic Skywalker saga, but of course, with Disney+, no franchise is ever really gone. Especially one as lucrative as this one.


So for those who’ve seen this one, what did you think of The Rise of Skywalker?

 

Trailers Spotlight: ‘Knives Out’ and HULU’s ‘Four Weddings & A Funeral’ miniseries

Film/Show trailers come out every day, but only a few are worth posting about. Well, yesterday TWO trailers came out that caught my eye. Yes they couldn’t be more different from each other in terms of plot, tone and setting, but I’m excited for both! So let’s start with the Rian Johnson‘s star-studded whodunnit thriller…

A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.

I mean, just LOOK. AT. THIS. CAST.

It’s gotta be quite a feat just scheduling THIS kind of ensemble to be in the same room, dayum! Looking at some of the character names on IMDb, sounds like Captain America and General Zod are related? With the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis, James Bond’s got his work cut out for him to solve this case, ha!

And here’s the trailer…

After directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi in 2017, writer/director Rian Johnson is now channeling Alfred Hitchcock and Agatha Christie in his family murder mystery with an amazing cast! Right off the bat it reminds me of the excellent miniseries Ordeal by Innocence on Amazon Prime starring Bill Nighy as the patriarch of a wealthy family. This one seems far more comedic, at least from the way the trailer is cut. Interesting to see Christopher Plummer co-starring with Daniel Craig in similar roles as in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I saw not too long ago. Apparently Craig’s character Benoit Blanc is described as an American Poirot, but what is that accent??! In any case, the scene stealer in this trailer is definitely Chris Evans, shedding his Cap’s goody-two-shoes image with his devil-may-care attitude and a potty mouth. I’m SO down for this suspenseful-but-mirthful wild ride this promises to be. I quite enjoyed Looper, though I should check out Brick one of these days.

KNIVES OUT is released on 27 November, perfect for the Thanksgiving holiday where family gatherings can be murder 😉


Maya, the young communications director for a New York senatorial campaign, receives a wedding invitation from her college schoolmate now living in London. She leaves her professional and personal life behind, in favor of traveling to England and reconnecting with old friends and ends up in the midst of their personal crises. Relationships are forged and broken, political scandals exposed, London social life lampooned, love affairs ignited and doused, and of course there are four weddings… and a funeral.

Now, normally I’m not into remakes of a classic, especially when it’s one of my all time favorites. But when I heard that Mindy Kaling is writing this miniseries AND I saw the cast includes the lovely Nathalie Emmanuel and my current crush Nikesh Patel, I’m SO down for this! Plus the original exec producer/writer Richard Curtis (who also wrote my fave rom-coms Notting Hill, Love Actually, About Time, etc.) himself is involved in this project.

I LOVE that they’re still setting this in London with a diverse cast. Ok my only gripe is the ‘Ryan Gosling dipped in caramel’ comment. Puh-leeze! The Goz wishes he’s got cut-glass cheekbones and voice like Mr. Patel! Glad Nikesh gets to use his own British accent this time, while Nathalie is playing American – not sure why, but I wonder if she’s related to Andie MacDowell’s character Carrie from the original movie who’s also part of this cast.

In any case, I’ve been enjoying the British Indian actor since my bestie Vony tipped me to watch Indian Summer (it’s on Amazon Prime, highly recommended!!). It’s like Downton Abbey but with more POC cast + more intrigue and higher stakes.  It’s time for him to shine as a romantic leading man and based on this trailer, methinks he’ll steal plenty of hearts!

Now, I suppose they could make an entirely new series that’s inspired by the 1994 classic, but considering how tough it is to launch any new tv show, sometimes leveraging something that’s beloved in people’s mind might get more attention. I don’t know what the real reason is, but in the case of this particular series, I’m willing to give this one the benefit of the doubt. A fresh new spin on a classic isn’t automatically bad, so yeah, I look forward to July 31 for the premiere!


Thoughts on these trailers, folks?

FlixChatter Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I have to admit that my life has been so hectic lately I haven’t really had time to anticipate any films this holiday season like I normally do. But when the press screening invite came out for The Last Jedi, I actually got more excited despite only having seen only one trailer. Well, I’m glad that is the only trailer/videos I’ve seen of the film… it’s best to see it ‘blind’ knowing as little as possible. I don’t write reviews very often anymore, so indulge me when I go a bit longer with this one.

Force Awakens is more nostalgic and an homage to the original from JJ Abrams, and while The Last Jedi also still has to tread on familiar grounds, it somehow feels fresh and new. There are quite a few surprises that thrills, delights and tugs my heartstrings. Ok granted I’m more of a casual Star Wars fan, so I don’t have the depth knowledge like ardent aficionados, but I was quite caught up with the journey of the main characters. The story pretty much picks up where the last film leaves off, with a literal cliffhanger as we saw Rey (Daisy Ridley) meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) up high on a cliff by an ocean.


But before we get there, the film drops us straight into an intergalactic space battle of the Resistance fighters, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) against the reigning First Order. I enjoy thrilling aerial battles and the SFX is off the charts in a film of this magnitude, but I’m glad there’s more to this movie than just action, action, action. What I really enjoyed most from the film is the quieter, more talky scenes between Rey and Luke. Writer/director Rian Johnson delved deep into the saga’s mythology and Jedi philosophy… about what the force really is, the real power of the Jedi, etc. Those are the real appeal of this enduring franchise and what makes me go ‘ok I see why people love this saga so much and why it appeals to multiple generations.’

There are fans who might not like the direction of Luke in this film (even Hamill himself reportedly told Johnson he fundamentally disagreed how his character was written), but I personally love the deconstruction of such a titular character. Why is Luke such a legend? Just what exactly is the Force and who gets to have it? How does Luke himself sees his own power and its effect in the universe? It’s always intriguing to learn just what the fuss is about Luke, especially given how he was talked about in virtually every scene in The Force Awakens, yet we only got to see him for mere seconds! I love the grizzled, curmudgeon Luke (like Hamill was channeling the real Harrison Ford!), the salt & pepper longish hair and beard makes him look even more distinguished. The scenes between him and Rey are definitely my favorite. “This is not going to go the way you think.” Luke says at one point (it’s not a spoiler as it’s in the trailer and all over its promos)… and you know what, the film actually delivers on that sentiment!

The film is divided into three major scenarios, in which each team has to fulfill a certain ‘task’ if you will, all happening around the same time. My main quibble with the movie is that the transition between one scenario to another feels disjointed at times. One scene would be solemn and intense, then it’ll switch to something more mischievous and funky and then it’s full-throttle action. Perhaps it’s to be expected when you have such a vast narrative involving so many players but it could’ve been done more smoothly. That said though, the film has enough going for it–the energetic action, lively humor and genuine emotion–that I didn’t even mind the 2.5 hours running time.

Obviously the strength of this space saga is the characters people truly care about over the years. I feel like there’s a proper balance (a word thrown out a lot in this film) between the iconic characters and the newer ones that expand the story. The emotional tug of war between Rey and Kylo is the heart of the story here, and both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are absolutely terrific. I’ve loved Ridley’s spunky Rey from the start and I find Driver’s Kylo even more magnetic here (and not only ’cause he’s got such great mane!). Yes he’s a grandpa Vader wanna-be (and he’s still got serious anger-management issues), but there’s much more than that and the internal conflict within him is palpable. Poor Domhnall Gleeson though, a terrific actor who’s relegated to being the comic relief as the over-the-top General Hux.

On the Resistance team, pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, not to be outdone by Adam in the sexy hair department) gets more to do here. I wouldn’t mind seeing a Poe solo movie with the oh-so-charismatic Isaac, he’s just a cool guy with a reckless energy a la Han Solo. There’s less bantering between him and his bestie Fin (John Boyega). Instead, Fin is paired with another spunky maintenance worker loyal to the Resistance, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). BB-8 is still an immensely fun droid to watch, while the new avian creature Porg likely only appeals to little kiddies. I’m glad to see two new female characters with a proper arc, one is Rose and the other is Vice Admiral Holdo, played by veteran actress Laura Dern. There’s a pretty intense exchange between her and Poe, but I’m not even going to spoil it for you what it’s about. One thing I can say is the scenes of Carrie Fisher is truly bittersweet. The film is dedicated to her (naturally!) but the whole film gives a proper homage to such an iconic character.

Now onto SPOILERS territory… (highlight to read)

It was cool to see Yoda making an appearance here with Luke on the island. As Luke struggles with destroying the ancient Jedi text, Yoda just made it go kablooey. It’s not particularly a highlight for me, but it’s cool to see the apprentice and the master reunited. Another reunion that made me tear up is Luke and Leia… especially when she gave the Han Solo’s dice he grabbed from the cockpit of the Millenium Falcon. I love when Leia said ‘Luke, I know what you’re going to say. I changed my hair.’ Ha! It feels like something Carrie Fisher herself would say. When Luke said to her (about Han) ‘he’s never really gone’ it feels like how Carrie herself is to the SW family and the fans. Her spirit will always be with the franchise. 

Now for those who’ve seen this? Who do you think the Last Jedi is? Is it Luke or is it Rey? Thoughts on the kid in the last scene that hints he’s got the Force with him?

My initial reaction after I saw this is it’s currently one of my favorites in the franchise! Well, after four days seeing it, I still stand by it. In fact, I don’t mind seeing this again by year’s end. It’s really got everything. Thrilling action, check. Intense lightsaber battle, check. Witty repartee, check. Emotional struggles, check. The action punctuates the story and that’s how it should be. Unlike the overwrought and mawkish prequels, Rian’s script has zest and wit, and also unafraid to poke fun at themselves. I also marvel at the cinematography by Steve Yedlin, a longtime Rian Johnson collaborator. So many iconic visuals that truly took my breath away, especially those on the island filmed in County Kerry, Ireland. And of course, John Williams’ iconic epic score still gives me the chills!

By the time the end credits roll, I am already excited to see how the story goes from there. It’s great to have a filmmaker who evidently has been a fan of the franchise since he was a kid, but still also an ‘outsider’ who dared to take the 40-year-old saga into unexpected paths. The force is certainly strong with Rian Johnson, so I have no problem having him do the next Star Wars trilogy.


So what are your thoughts on The Last Jedi? Feel free to indulge me on your own theories about what happens in the film!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt Special: Premium Rush & Looper Reviews

It’s been quite a year for 31-year-old young thespian Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s got four movies opening this year alone, including one mega-blogbuster The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a testament to his versatility that he’s played a supporting role in two (TDKR and Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, out later this November), and a starring role in two action thrillers released within a month of each other. Here are the reviews of those two, starting with the review from FC contributor Cecilia Rusli:

Premium Rush (2012)

I really think that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is currently Hollywood’s shining star in skinny-guy category. He has pretty much impressed me on 500 Days of Summer, Inception, and The Dark Knight Rises which actually affected my curiosity on Premium Rush and Looper where I end up with watching both of them this week.

Premium Rush tells the life of Wilee as a bike messenger who received a package which made he chased by a dirty cop. The main idea of the whole movie is about chasing and running. With a bike.

The movie definitely would appeal to fans of single-speed bikes (fixies) and if you’re one of those people, I’d think you won’t be disappointed in this one. Levitt succeed in showing the best he’s got as a cyclist, riding in a crowded traffic in style. There are plenty of edge-of-your-seats moments here which made me think that this is the bike-version of Fast and Furious. It has a story, but people should not expect much from it. The action parts on the traffic is very entertaining, especially those moments when a biker comes really close to having a deadly accident. However, there was one scene that’s quite disappointing as it appears as if there was going to be a bike-outbreak, where a bunch of bikes suddenly came out of a garage to deceive their enemy, but I don’t think that scene wasn’t handled very well.

As Bobby Monday, Michael Shannon plays his role pretty well. He managed to show his persistence as a tough villain who never stop his fight. Big guy as a dirty cop versus the skinny bike messenger is quite entertaining to watch.

One fun thing about Premium Rush is the graphic design. I really love how Wilee’s GPS shown on the screen, indicating which one is the best way to reach a certain place. The director, David Koepp, also shows some possibilities might happened in route that Wilee’s take. It feels a bit like playing a video game.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a movie which will pump your adrenaline with fun visuals with not much concerns about the story, Premium Rush will suit you just fine. A breath of fresh air for those who are bored watching car chase scenes.

P.S: Stay on seat after the movie ends for some additional footage in the end credits

– Review by Cecilia R.

…..

3 out of 5 reels


Looper (2012)

Time travel sci-fi movies are inherently intriguing to me, so when I first saw the trailer with THIS cast, I knew I wanted to see it. The hype surrounding this film is quite strong, at least if I’m using Twitter as a barometer, but I’m glad to report that I’m not disappointed.

As in the trailer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a specialized assassin, in an outfit called the Loopers. He lives in the year 2042 but the mob he works for lives 30 years ahead where time travel would’ve been invented. When his employer from the future wants to get rid of someone, they zap that person back 30 years where someone like Joe would be waiting with a big gun in hand, ready to blow them up to oblivion. The only rule is: never let your target escape… even if your target is you. The job seems easy enough, I mean, the targets are blindfolded, so it’s not like they could really escape. That is, until one did, and that target happens to be his older self, in the form of Bruce Willis.

Now, before the action begins in full throttle, Director Rian Johnson sets up the story by introducing the Looper doing their jobs and how these junkies hit-men spend their lives in a dystopian future (is there any other kind in the movies??). “Loopers are well paid, they lead a good life…” Joe said in his narration, but what he means by ‘good’ doesn’t mean a happy one and it’s clear that Joe is disillusioned with his life.

Let me just say the less you know about the plot the better as I went in pretty much ‘blind,’ other than seeing the trailer weeks ago, and it’s fun to see the story unravel in ways I didn’t really expect. There’s really a lot to chew on here, as do most time-travel movies, and I have to admit it was a bit mind-boggling to digest it all as I’m watching it, but now that I’ve processed the movie more, Johnson actually told the story well enough without an overly drawn-out exposition.

The strengths are in the performances, especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who seems to only get better and better as he grows to be a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood. Seems like every time I see him, even in minor roles like in Inception or The Dark Knight Rises, he never fails to impress. I’ve got to admit though, his prosthetic make-up to make him look like Bruce Willis is distracting at times, but once I get into the story, I got used to it. In fact, in some scenes Gordon-Levitt’s mannerism and expressions really do remind me of Willis!

Now, I’ve always been a fan of Bruce. He’s a bad ass guy with a heart and I feel that he sold me on the emotional moments as well as on the action front, in which he channels his iconic John McClane in the Die Hard franchise. In fact, I kept waiting for him to yell ‘Yiippiikayee’ during some of the shootout scenes!

I’m also impressed with Emily Blunt and child actor Pierce Gagnon who plays her little boy. Both played two key roles that serve as the emotional center of the story. Their paths crossed with both the younger and older Joe in a way that not only affect their own lives but the lives of Joe’s fellow Loopers. Their scenes with Gordon-Levitt are well-played, though it could perhaps be tightened a bit as it does feel dragging at times. Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano also lend memorable supporting performances, Daniels is sort of a comic relief as Joe’s manager who happens to be sent by the mob from the future.

It’s refreshing to see a movie based on an original script, not an adaptation nor a remake. Despite all the time travel elements, the film also doesn’t feel too science-fiction-y. I’m also glad Johnson doesn’t pile on one action set pieces after another, instead there are a lot of quiet moments to establish character development that help you get immersed in Joe’s journey.

Final Thoughts: Looper is a thrill ride that has a nice blend of thrilling action and matters of the heart. There are brutal action and some totally-unnecessary nudity here, but fortunately not so much so that derails my overall appreciation for it. At the core of this movie lies a heartfelt love story between a man and a woman, and also between a mother and his son. I like what Ryan @ The Matinee said in his review about how our decisions have a ripple effect that might impact people in ways we don’t intend or understand. It reminds me a bit of another time-travel movie Frequency which also deals with this theme, but this one is much less melodramatic.

I haven’t seen Brick yet, but I might give that a shot to see Johnson + Gordon-Levitt’s previous collaboration. I have an inkling this won’t be the last movie of the pair and that’d be a welcome project in my book!

4.5 out of 5 reels


Thoughts on Premium Rush and/or Looper? Let us know in the comments!

Monthly Roundup: September Movie Watching Recap

I didn’t realize Autumnal Equinox was eight days ago. The best part of this season for me is the gorgeous fall foliage. I love driving past all the colorful trees, the mix of warm colors are just absolutely beautiful! I wish we could just have the next six months be Autumn and skip Winter altogether until April! 😀

Well, you could say I wasn’t as prolific this past month with just 20 posts in 30 days (compared to 25 last month). I deliberately took most of the weekends off as it’s been quite a hectic month for me.

There’s no blogathon I’m participating this past month, but I’ve been busy prepping for the Small Roles… Big Performances. It’s scheduled to go LIVE on Monday at NOON US Central Time, along with a couple of separate posts from FC’s contributors. Thanks to those of you who have submitted their entry. For those who haven’t I’ll still be taking submissions all next week, so just email it to me or leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the main post.

Well, here are some of the posts you might’ve missed from September:

Well, what did I manage to watch this month?

Movies I haven’t seen before:

  1. 2016: Obama America (2012)
  2. Robot & Frank (2012)
  3. The Crow (1994)
  4. Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1993)
  5. Endgame (2009)
  6. Frequency (2000)
  7. Headhunters (2011)
  8. Hysteria (2011)
  9. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  10. Looper (2012)
  11. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
  12. Lumpy (2012)

Re-watch:

  • Monsters, Inc. (2001)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • The Avengers (2012)

Favorite September Movie(s):

I haven’t got a chance to review Looper yet as I’ve been busy with the blogathon, but let me just say it’s a solid sci-fi thriller that’s as much a thrill ride as Headhunters was. I can’t choose which one I like the best, and I think I’d end up giving it the same rating of 4.5 out of 5. Interestingly, both directors of Headhunters and LooperMorten Tyldum and Rian Johnson respectively — have only got three feature films under their belt. Not only that, this marks the second collaboration with an actor they worked with previously (Tyldum with Aksel Hennie and Johnson with Joseph Gordon-Levitt).


So, what movies did you get to see in September and which one is your favorite?