Rogue One : I Have All the Thoughts

*Spoilers Ahoy*

Two awesome things happened in 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was released and I made my way into this world screaming and naked.

We’ve had this amazing relationship throughout these soon to be forty years. Together, we’ve ridden that proverbial roller coaster, have both had our triumphs and our failures, and managed to still have people love us. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I took my first breath and I would consider myself a pretty  big fan.

I’ve gone to most opening nights when new movies have come out, save for the first two where I was still in diapers and toddling around the house getting into trouble.  Yet, science fiction was like food for the soul in my house and my father made sure we saw them when we could understand what was going on. I fell in love. I wanted to be Princess Leia.

In 1999, I researched Phantom Menace despite the secrecy and dressed up as Queen Amidala for the premiere. Now, I know you’ll scream about pictures and it doesn’t really count if there aren’t any, but there aren’t. Sorry.

I remember the intensity of that night. News crews were there interviewing die hard fans. The mood was electric. We grabbed our popcorn and cheered at the iconic scroll.  We all know how that evening ended.  Check that–we all know how that whole series ended. <insert sad face>

Opening Night at The Force Awakens
Opening Night at The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens premiere had a very similar atmosphere. This was my chance to introduce a new era  of this space opera to my own kids. I prayed to the cinema gods that we would see something amazing.  We left that theater pumped up. I loved it. My girls loved it. We had all sorts of theories on Rey’s lineage. We were in shock over Han’s death. We can’t wait for Episode 8. For an excellent distillation of this movie, see this video of Movies with Mikey.

Star Wars has had a profound effect in my life. It’s the kind of saga that makes you question a lot of things in both the crafting of said universe, and how those things may apply to your own.

So naturally, when the previews came out for Rogue One, it was a definite “must see.” I had booked our vacation before the release date, but we happened to be sailing to the Bahamas CbSolKMWcAAGEdAon the Disney cruise line on opening day. We sat on the slightly rocky Dream, at 11PM  in a full Walt Disney Theater, and waited for the credits to roll. The audience went wild.

And from the first few scenes, we knew we weren’t watching a typical Star Wars story. It was gritty, relentless, and depressing.

Yes, some may argue that Empire Strikes Back was depressing, or hell, episodes 1,2,3 were soul crushing in their own way, but this was a different kind of depressing. One that shakes you to your core, because you know this movie isn’t speaking about the characters on the screen, but right at you. It holds a different kind of weight.

I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate it for all the technical and storytelling reasons. I checked my watch to see just how much time was left. I silently cursed at the rapid jumps from planet to planet and wondered just what had been cut. There were scenes that were obviously  missing from the previews. Saw Gerrera’s story was superfluous in this version and I wanted to love Jyn Erso, but couldn’t. I also didn’t care for the CGI’d Tarkin or Leia as it pulled me right out of the movie, but in the end, those things didn’t really matter. I could pick at the details forever. I want to talk about the overall theme here:

Rogue One couldn’t have come at a better time. Coupled with all the fear and angst invading many a psyche, the message is simple and very powerful. Hope is essential. Hope can be rekindled from even the smallest, dying ember. Hope should be fought for and is worth the ultimate sacrifice.

One by one, we watch as each of the characters pay the price to keep hope alive in an untenable situation. They do it because at some point, keeping that ember burning for others transcends the self. It becomes essential for the greater good.

“I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” is not only a mantra for self discipline, but speaks to the bigger picture of what the Force actually represents. It is everything–life, death, happiness, sadness, love, and hate, despair, and that much repeated word, hope. It is all of the things that make us who we are. With hints in episode seven that perhaps this light side/dark side thing isn’t so black and white, I think Rogue One gives us a real look on what it takes to maintain the balance.

Despite Rogue One’s problems, I think the movie ultimately succeeds in showingCwHBcGmXgAA3eUQ that there are many ways to fight for something. From standing up to a bully threatening to destroy her family, Lyra Erso holds firm with a blaster and still shoots, even though she is woefully outgunned. Galen Erso literally fights from inside the belly of the beast and forges the hope in the form of an Achilles heel. Cassian Andor kills his contact when to the best of his knowledge, the message keeping hope alive is in peril. Chirrut Imwe crosses a field in one of the truly beautiful moments of this movie, to throw a switch, knowing he will pay the ultimate price, but does it anyway. Scores put their lives on the line and die, passing on plans to stop this horrific Goliath as it carves its destructive path through the universe.

The payoff? Watching the camera pan in on Darth Vader and knowing that even through that mask, he was rattled. Watching the Empire destroy a planet which held unique copies of pretty much everything because they knew they could be beaten. Watching how the smallest group of people willing to stand up, put their foot down and shout no, had mighty results.

Review: 2012

Disclaimer: This review is not for the faint of heart. It also contains spoilers.

Dear Roland Emmerich,

I have to thank you. When I used to mention to my friends how much of a disaster movie addict I was, I’d constantly have to defend my cinematic tastes. Now that I’m done watching the massive visual jackoff session you’ve labeled a movie, I must thank you for curing me of my affliction.

First and foremost, props to cast. Aside from the weird Fabio moment by Sasha (Yohann Urb) at the Las Vegas airport, and the over-the-top ranting by Oliver Platt, the movie was pretty well acted. Props to John Cusack, Amanda Peet, and Liam James for making a dysfunctional family in the midst of a crisis, believable.. uh, er, for the most part. I’m personally going with the bad script excuse.

I’ve  loved Thandie Newton and Chiwetel Ejiofor since I first saw them in MI:2 and Serenity respectively. They deserve scripts much better than this.

When I spoke to my best friend about this, Pete mentioned that there were some “Oh come on!” moments in the beginning, but the special effects started to suck you in as the movie progressed.I hate to say it, but those moments of incredulity never went away for me as time progressed.

This overly long piece of garbage would have been better with a lot of edits.

Let’s trim just a little, shall we?

1.) The scene with the Russian boxer in Las Vegas. Why did you waste five minutes of my time with that? You could have opened on him sitting at the fight with his girlfriend. He gets a call to start boarding. Done.

2.) The extra footage of Danny Glover, attending to the doomed people of Washington D.C. I love Danny Glover. I love Danny Glover as President.I get that he was valiant up and to his last breath.  However, going back after his last Presidential address to watch him die by shoving the U.S.S John F. Kennedy up  his ass was a bit much, no? That selection of scenes could have saved another five minutes.

3.) The multiple script decisions that afforded the Curtis children, unnecessary danger. “Oh, it’s okay,our little girl can come with me as the world goes to shit, as I go try to find a map from the crazy guy standing next to a volcano.”  Stay with the motherfucking plane! Jeez.

4.) All of the cruise ship scenes could have been nixed. Just show the big boat biting it like the Titanic under a huge wave.  Neither story on that ship resonated with me. You could have had the quartet playing “Nearer My God to Thee” and I wouldn’t have been emotionally affected. That would have saved about 10 minutes.

On the same note: I didn’t truly care about anyone in this movie, save for the poor Indian scientist who bites it with his wife and child. It was almost like you and your writers were trying too hard for character development with too many people and in the end, no one got the attention they truly needed.

5.) The canine high wire act. What the fuck was that? Why is it in every single disaster movie, the dog lives? Why again was valuable time wasted to watch a Pomeranian make it to safety? Do you think after destroying the fucking planet that I would care about a damn dog? I’m pretty depressed after watching millions of people just end, but yay, the dog lives. (Insert eye roll here)

6.) The Sasha death scene. I actually thought I heard you scream, “Fooled You!” as the plane finally nose dived down the mountain side. It wasn’t even added suspense. It was just cruel. 2 minutes.

This movie could have been right up there with greats like, The Core and Twister and Independence Day. (Hey, don’t knock some good fun destruction!) I think ultimately where this movie fails is that it tried to be too much of everything and ended up losing its own identity in the process.

Furthermore, the science in this movie…sucks. I’m sure most people will see a cell phone call while the world is on fire as plausible. Hell, where do I sign up with a carrier who is that good? I can see their slogan now — “When the world goes to shit on December 21, 2012, don’t forget to say goodbye with our reliable network and family share plan!”

Ugh. So yeah. Bleh. I will concede that there were moments of pwnage, especially, the destruction of LA, the Yellowstone volcano (Where was the massive shockwave that would have killed everyone in that area, btw?) and the sheer scale of the arks.

Yet, there are too many things the story wants to pass as possible and factual that I couldn’t wrap my analytical mind around. I was never engaged by the story to just sit back and enjoy the ride. Instead, I was strapped to my chair and forced to swallow bullshit for almost three hours.

Now can you see why I’m so irate?

Being the anxious person that I am, I did carry around irrational fear we were all going to meet our makers in a similar fashion, but I’d like to thank you for easing my fear that it will not go down the way you’ve said it will.

Please don’t make any more movies.

Most sincerely,

Kate Baker

P.S. You might want to go back and look at where Cusack cuts his head open under water. Miraculously when he survives being submerged and unconscious for a good few minutes, there is no cut. Ooooh. Editfail for joo.

Review: Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince

Am I on crack or something? It seems I’ve pretty much dissented with every major critic on the summer blockbusters this year. The new Harry Potter movie follows this same trend.

I did not care for the movie at all.

Most of the critics praised the useless forays into budding teenage romance. Some even considered it, “A fitting transition leading to the final chapter of the series.”  I couldn’t disagree more. This should have been a story that stood on its own and yet maintained a steady world line.

For me, the highlights were few and far between, and I think this is the first movie out of all of them where I enjoyed the book more than I did the visuals.  I can’t look at a movie and give it my seal of approval for wonderful landscapes and cinematography. I can get those at my neighborhood science centers in their 3D or IMAX presentations.

I distinctly remember the Half-Blood Prince being a lot more poignant. We followed Harry as he immersed himself in the mysterious pages of a potion book and sniffed out the darker paths which would help rid both worlds of Voldemort.  This interpretation of Rowling’s work however,  should have really be entitled: Harry Porker, the Half-Assed Annoying Teenage Romance.

It’s almost like when they were writing the script, the powers that be were trying too hard to be like “Twilight”.  Oh woe be the love lives of horny teenagers in fantastic settings.

I’m sorry. I know that really wasn’t appropriate, but really, I mean, really!? I felt I spent half of the movie cringing at the triangle between Ron, Lavender and Hermoine.

Did Yates suddenly forget that Voldemort was back? I certainly did and that’s not a good thing if you ask me.

**spoilers ahead**

The thing that bugged me the most was that the altered potions text was a character itself in Rowling’s story. As soon as it was introduced in the novel, I instantly wondered who could have been behind the scribbles.

Yet, this script mentioned the actual Half-Blood Prince, like three times. There was no anticipation. There was no time devoted to finding out and there was certainly no magic.  After Dumbledore is killed, and Harry chases Snape from the castle with the rest of the Death Eaters, Snape’s like, “I’m the HBP.”

Cue Snape knocking down Harry and running away.

Yep. That’s pretty much it.

Despite Rickman’s talent, the line was meaningless because more than half the movie was dedicated to a flow chart depicting who was snogging who.

The only other highlight in this dreadfully flat flick was Draco Malfoy. Tom Felton has come a long way as an actor. Usually, I want to punch him in the face with his overacted lines, but he played the part of unwilling minion perfectly. Despite the years of torment he’s poured upon Potter, I actually felt for him at the end. So Kudos, Mr. Felton on a job well done.

As the entire world knows, Dumbledore bites it in the end by the hand of Snape. Those of you who know the motivation revealed in Book 7, understand the climax. Yet, the way this was filmed, I felt nothing. I was expecting to tear up and blubber when one of the greatest wizards of all time was dispatched so violently.

Hell, I cried when Gandalf fell.

Ultimately, I think I was missing immersion in the story.  I kept looking at my watch, wondering when the movie would be done.

I missed the wonder. I missed the fear that spreads in the wake of a terrible foe. I missed the magic.  I might be leaving this one off my collection when it comes out to DVD.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The only thing I have to say to critics who panned this movie is:

When you go to an amusement park to ride the biggest and fastest roller coaster you can find; do you leave your seat saying to yourself, “Gee, yah, that sucked. It had no story what-so-ever. There was no depth! Wahhhhh.”

Cause really, that’s what a good majority of you sound like and then I remind myself that critics like you don’t go to those sorts of places anyway…

This sequel was spectacular in everything it was designed to do. When I finally got off this blockbuster of a summer ride, my legs were shaking and my adrenaline was pumping.

WoO!

Oh, and by the way–Josh Duhamel can totally meet me in five minutes for some “Fuck yeah, we just saved the world,” sex. I’d be totally fine with that.

Fergie can come too.

Review: Terminator Salvation

I am going to stop reading other people’s reviews until after I see a movie. Now, with that said, you have the choice to continue with this post or go sit through Terminator: Salvation as I did this afternoon.

If you’re looking for the short short review: It was decent. It wasn’t better than Star Trek, so if you’re lagging behind the collective universe on seeing the reboot, I’d um, go see Kirk and Spock first.

Most of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes panned this movie for lack of character development. While these writers have to search their thesauruses in order to preserve the veil of intelligence,we are talking about a movie which has had three previous installments. Frankly, all the character development we needed was in the first flick.

Secondly, if you know anything about the franchise, you know that in the future there is really no time to be swigging tea and eating crumpets while the world is on fucking fire.

So as I mentioned in my Twitter post, any critic who blasted this movie for lack of character depth really needs to figure out why they went to see it. This isn’t The Reader or any sort of film that you need to know why the protagonist is the way he/she is; it’s pretty much a react and try to live situation.

Don’t get me wrong, there were elements I could have lived without. The really nifty ‘override’ hand held computer that the humans were using on the machines. It was as simple as plugging in a zip drive or wire jumping a comprised and nasty enemy, hitting the override button and wee, it turns into your personal slave.

Give me a break please. I could forgive Star Trek for it’s foray into junk science, but this really had me rolling my eyes.

The only other thing that bothered me was near the beginning. McG (That name stopped being cool the first time it was said, btw.) was bouncing the camera and swinging it around like a monkey on a cocaine binge. For the first time in my entire life, I almost felt like getting up out of my seat to go vomit. I toughed it out and thankfully the artsy angles of action to which I hereby dub “Shaky Cam” calmed down.

Overall, it was good. I was happy they didn’t compromise on Kate Connor’s pregnancy weight. Bryce Dallas Howard looked radiant with a little meat on her bones as most pregnant women do, and I was ecstatic they showed her in her full glory. It’s nice to know that in the future, we’re not all airbrushed super models in desperate need of a hamburger while we load our machine-killin shotguns.

The other thing I appreciated, was that in this dire set of circumstances there are moments you see humanity at it’s worst. Despite a common enemy, there are still people who thrive on treating others like crap. You’re probably asking yourself, why Kate, why would you like seeing that? Well, because instead of having every last human survivor working together to defeat the greater enemy, they didn’t gloss over the fact that assholes have about the same survivability as the common cockroach. They will always be around. Place me in a situation similar to the Terminator universe and I’d not only be saving bullets for machines.

Regardless, it was as I said in the beginning of this post, decent. Special effects are fantastic and Christian Bale actually fits the role of John Connor nicely. Anton Yelchin does a fantastic job as Kyle Reese (and Checkov IMO) and I really hope to see Bryce Dallas Howard in more movies. Plot was actually present and for the most part, pretty clever. The only moment the bullshit detector went off was when Connor overrides a bunch of Skynet computers with his trusty Palm Pilot. (I was so hoping to see an Apple logo, but was severely disappointed.)

On a scale of kickassedness, I’d give it 3.5 out of 5.

Second Thoughts

For all of my bitching about the Watchmen, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. Why is that I wonder? Is it because I am finally digesting the movie as a whole? Have I suddenly realized that the reason I didn’t seem to care for it was because I’ve been wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to humanity? That the Comedian was really the metaphor for our entire race; animals without consciences until the damage has been done?

Seriously though, maybe the reason I didn’t like it and I didn’t care for any of the characters (although I found a few interesting to watch) was because it paints a very sad picture for the future of this race. I have been tralalalaing through life hoping that we learn from our mistakes but in the end we only stumble upon our senses of self and continually make new ones.

I mentioned in the previous post that I am not bothered by gore and violence in ultra-stylized movies because I know it’s not real and I’ve learned to turn that part of emotion off while watching. I think my own numbing agent is finally wearing off, and I finally realize why I didn’t like the movie.

I don’t much like humanity.

A Good War or Uneasy Peace

Back in high school, my science teacher used to ask the class one at a time, what we’d rather have; a good war or an uneasy peace.

As you thought about this question, your eyes would move primarily to the left or to the right signaling which side of the brain was dominant. In my case, (and very much to my surprise) I was more attuned to left brained thinking than right, paving the way for more analytical, objective and rational thought.

So, with that said — the moment at the end of Watchmen was not completely lost on me which suggested an uneasy peace against a common enemy would be far more beneficial than an all out nuclear war which would destroy humanity all together. (Whew, run on!) It was an understandable and rational way to maneuver events.

Despite getting what the story was trying to accomplish, I guess it was everything else that bothered the shit out of me. Before you ask, no. I didn’t read the comic, graphic novel. I did know about its existence, but it wasn’t something high on my priority list. And yes, I understand that Zach Snyder was utterly faithful to each comic frame.

He should have cheated.

I have to admit, I did really enjoy the opening of the movie. The title sequences set to the one music track I could stomach was pretty engaging. Except of course, the shooting of JFK by The Comedian – that one had me going WTF? Yes, I understand the whole Comedian working for the Gov’t and hence giving weight to the whole conspiracy theory, but really, Zach. You had to go there? I’ll give that scene credit for being one of the only ones that actually made me feel anything, though…and it was mostly disgust.

My main issue was continuity. It was like back story, story, current, past, past, bad music, past, story, wtf, violence, gore, gore, bad music, sex, back story, future, past, current. It was almost like anytime I even had the inkling of caring about someone, the short and quirky scenes would jump to the next setup and pretty soon I wanted to vomit like Laurie every time she was teleported by Dr. Manhattan.

Another main issue was the soundtrack. Music may not be high on your priority list when you see a movie, but it is on mine. Movies that have really good sountracks are generally movies that move me. It’s one of the first things I remember about a film and I’m really sad to say, that whomever picked the diddies for this failure should be relieved of duty.

“Ride of the Valkeries” by Wagner during a Vietnam scene? Totally threw me out of the seriousness of the moment. Score from Snyder’s other movie ‘300’ would have worked substantially better here. All I could think about at this particular moment in time was the scene in Blues Brothers when the nazis fly off the bridge (you know being that this song was written by one of Hitler’s favorite musicians). Yes, I saw the references to Nixon with the swastikas throughout the movie, but this effort in pairing music with that particular scene tried too hard to tie in the political maneuvering to win the war in Vietnam and ended up failing completely.

I didn’t think it could get any worse of course until “Hallelujah” started ringing through my eardrums during the Silk Spectra II and Night Owl love scene. What a mood killer. It what could have been a completely erotic scene, the music completely killed any stimulation for me.

Nena’s “99 Luft Balloons” was okay but it felt like an afterthought. “Ooh, let’s throw in a song about paranoid elected officials willing to destroy the world because of a children’s toy”. Bah. Yeah,the movie was set in the 80’s, yeah, it was a great song, but unlike peanut butter and chocolate, these two great tastes did not go well together here.

I don’t know. I really wanted to like this movie, but this was one of the few movies in which I wanted out. Violence, gore and sex really don’t bother me in ultra-stylized movie adaptations because they are usually not too believable. (It’s the good horror and war movies that make me squeamish.) So it wasn’t because of those elements, it was the fact that after almost 3 hours, I didn’t care about anything or anyone in the movie. Not even the millions who die in the end to save the billions. I was like, eh. Whatever.

Oh and I have to say, I had a really hard time not looking down at Dr. Manhattan’s blue happy man. Usually I’m very adult when I go to movies, but frankly, it was the only interesting thing on the screen. It also doesn’t help that every time the camera would pan back and you could see the Doctor’s body, the teenagers in the theater would giggle.

Eh. Go see it if you must, but I really won’t be surprised if you don’t like it. Don’t try to convince yourself that you do either, I tried. It doesn’t work.

(Btw – I went and saw The Reader, with Kate Winlset right after this. Despite its tone, it actually moved me in ways I can’t describe.)