Movie Review: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Rian Johnson, USA 2017)

The Star Wars series returned in an unusual position. While it was one of the most popular and beloved series in media history, its most ardent fans also felt insulted and beaten down by years of abuse from the man who began it all. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, USA 2015) was essentially an apology for George Lucas’s crimes. As a way of showing that he was gone and his asinine qualities were gone with him, J.J. Abrams created a paint-by-numbers remake of Star Wars: Episode IV–A New Hope (George Lucas, USA 1977) with noteworthy improvements. The stilted acting of the original film was replaced by a cast that universally performed well. The “save the princess” plot was turned on its head, giving us a female protagonist who was even stronger than Princess Leia (Who was not anything close to the prototypical damsel in distress herself.). The comic relief was largely provided by Finn and BB8 and was never annoying or groan-worthy the way C-3PO had largely been. The effects were improved. The originality meter was very low on the film, but it worked well for what it was trying to do, and seemed to set us up for a second film that would introduce us to a real new Star Wars chapter.

I only returned to watching the Star Wars series because of my love of Rian Johnson. I think Johnson is the best director currently working in American cinema, and I don’t think that’s an overstatement. When he was announced as the writer and director for the second film in the new trilogy, I was on board. And I thought he was set up to be able to bring in all of the originality that was missing from the first film.

It turns out, his marching orders were clearly something quite different from what I expected.

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Movie Review: “Monsieur Verdoux” (Charles Chaplin, USA 1947)

Charles Chaplin has become a misunderstood figure in Hollywood history. He is remembered as the Little Tramp character the he played in several silent films, a character whose physical comedy high jinks are often still delightful and reveal Chaplin’s incredible performance skills. However, he was not just a circus performer. He was much more.

Those who learn more about Hollywood history will probably first encounter Chaplin as a legend who was a victim of the Red Scare of the ’40s and ’50s. He was a man who had been a Hollywood legend but then was exiled from the United States and his latter-day masterpiece Limelight (USA 1952) banned from distribution on the basis of his supposed political views. Continue reading

Movie Review: “Star Wars: Episode V-The Empire Strikes Back” (Irvin Kershner, USA 1980)


Just as a fun project, I’m going to watch all previous Star Wars films except for Episode I and write reviews. I’ve seen the original trilogy before but I’ve never seen Episodes II and III. However, even the original trilogy I have not watched for a very long time, so this is definitely my first look at them with adult eyes.

I do not own the films, so I will not be watching the despecialized editions, though I would certainly prefer to do so. I really hope that Disney doesn’t continue Lucas’s refusal to release the original theatrical versions, because the corny digital additions really stand out as awful. I hated them in the mid ’90s and I’m not feeling any better about them 20 years later. Since they really stand out, I’m essentially going to ignore them in the reviews and just say here that they’re terrible, cartoonish, and unnecessary. And yes, I feel safe saying that even before I’ve finished re-watching them all. The prequels obviously do not have this issue–Lucas got to fill them with digital ugliness on first release. Continue reading