Star Wars Ep9 Teaser

Star Wars Ep9 Teaser

And suddenly everyone on my Facebook is sharing the SW9 trailer.

I’m mostly impressed. The flip with the TIE fighter looks amazing, and we all know what a stickler JJ is for practical effects! Many Bothans died to bring you that stunt.

Not gonna lie, seeing Billy Dee Williams back as Lando was nice. Looks like a lot is happening in this one, and there is going to need to be even more if we want to pretend this is actually a wrap on the series.

Yes, I know Star Wars is a kids movie second and a merchandise machine first, but even so, I was not happy to see another ‘cute’ droid – we can leave that well alone, you know.

And finally…the cackle of Ian McDiarmid to close it out? Perfect.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

So, we saw Captain Marvel over the weekend, and it was really quite enjoyable. As I’ve commented previously, ‘did I enjoy myself’ is the key metric I use these days, and it met that metric. The simply fact is that the movie, on the most accessible level, is a joy to watch. Especially for the de-aged Samuel L Jackson and Clark Gregg as Nick Fury and Agent Coulson, respectively. They seem to be actually having fun, especially Jackson, and just hamming it up because they can. They aren’t the hardened individuals we meet later, which is played to excellent comic effect.

Bree Larson is likewise enjoyable as the titular character. She is confident, smart, funny, sassy, and generally well suited for the role. The plot is decent, with enough background so that people who don’t know from the Kree are not lost, and the plot moves fairly well. There are some lulls, more on that below the fold.

I found it interesting that Danvers was never referred to as Captain Marvel. At all. There was a nicely handled Mar-Vell nod, but not as Captain anything. This is the first MCU movie I recall where no one is referred to as the titular character.

The opening Marvel montage is a tribute to Stan Lee, featuring his cameos and some other photos of him. It is touching and perfect. It was, frankly, an emotional moment. Stan shaped a lot of the stories of my youth, and he’s, really, the first celebrity passing where I felt something over it. I never got to meet him, but I really did – do – mourn his passing.

The cat, Goose (for Anthony Edward’s character in Top Gun), is neat, and the cat/Fury interaction is all it could be. I really liked the entire cat concept, especially the physical bits. Well conceived and written.

This is another success for the Marvel machine. A fun, enjoyable, movie that delivers where and when it needs to. I had fun, and would watch it again without hesitation.

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Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

Yeah, I watched it.

And here’s the thing – this was easily the most recursively meta movie I have ever seen. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a movie about them literally going to a movie, and then trying to get their own movie.

Let that sink in.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies is a movie about them trying to be in a movie. And like many animated properties, the script and art are functioning on two levels – the target level of the main audience, and the second level targeting their parents or other adults. This is accomplished here through the site gags, store names (RorShack), and general levels of self-awareness.

The plot isn’t amazing – standard quest to obtain a thing, with detours into the usual young team stuff. Of course, Robin goes it alone, distancing himself from the team. Of course, they get back together. This seems to be a standard Robin move, so it isn’t a surprise. Of course they win when they work together. Of course they are goofy but strangely excel when needed. Look, it’s Teen Titans Go!, not Teen Titans Godot!.

What I love is that it really achieves my current movie metric – it is enjoyable and fun. Seriously, that’s it these days. I will complain about bad CGI, acting, directing, and so on when needed, but I just want to be entertained at the end of it all. And when a movie provides that for however long it runs, then I am happy.

Some of the better moments include the response of the team when previews show both Alfred and the Batmobile getting movies before Robin. Also, the endless use of obsolete technology (cassette tapes); Michael Bolton doing the upbeat, inspirational song titled “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life”; on arriving at the Warner Brothers lot, the line ‘that’s where the Animaniacs live’; the easily avoided superhero origins…including the Titans easily and instantly saving Krypton; Stan Lee’s cameos were perfect; and the big one…

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Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

Is Criticism of Captain Marvel Legitimate?

I remember it vividly. There was outcry from the media and the fandom over a casting choice. The broad consensus seemed to be that it was pretty much the worst casting decision for the character. Although there was some dissent on who was the right actor for the character. Friends in the fandom and I all agreed, we didn’t think it would work, but we would likely see the movie anyway.

The year was 1988, the actor was Michael Keaton. The movie was Batman.

And we were all wrong, it worked really, really well. As have many other questioned (by one or many) casting choices. Examples range from John Boyega as Finn (because someone may have complained about a black Stormtrooper?), to Daisy Ridley as Rey (or so I am told?), to Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman (honestly, the only complaint I ever heard about her was that she was too thin…), to the cast of the reboot Ghostbusters. All worked. All were controversial to varying degrees, but all worked out. When you think back, I am sure you will remember more – and not all worked, but many did. Hell, I remember joking about Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan as an action hero. But three Matrix movies and two John Wicks later, we have the odd transposition of John ‘Neo’ Wick as a aged slacker in Bill & Ted 3?

The more things change, right?

I bring this up, because we are again in the throes of another stupid casting controversy. Which now, in the age of the internet and instant validation for any and all opinions, means controversy over the movie itself. Before it is released, of course. That is actually one of the key points – real controversy lasts through release, manufactured controversy ends with release. If there were really any problems based on gender or race, they wouldn’t go away with a good performance. The Kelly Marie Tran / Rose Tico issue began after release. She wasn’t an issue until then. So the issues were real, even if they were with the character and our society is too stupid to distinguish between the two.

With Captain Marvel, I see a movie with a main character that is…off. Brie Larson’s facial expressions seem to be either ‘this is so stupid I can’t believe it…must not laugh’ or ‘I don’t get it at all, my agent did this to me, must look serious’. Again, this is based on nothing but the trailers. Actual footage may have different looks happening, we will see.

Worth noting that Jude Law is wearing the same expression. I have seen more of his movies than Brie Larson’s. I have seen two with her in it – Scott Pilgrim vs The World and Kong: Skull Island. It is six for Jude Law, including Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow, Enemy At The Gates, eXistenZ, Gattaca, and his Sherlock Holmes movies. So I know both of them can, in fact, have a range of facial expressions. They just, in the trailers, don’t really seem to here.

For now, it looks like the only fun being had is from Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury. Which is fine, that would be a fun movie.

I do want to see if the so-called controversy over this lasts past opening weekend. If the controversy vanishes, then there is a good chance it was manufactured – either for laughs or to keep the property in the media / social media cycle.

But there is more to be concerned about…

Captain Marvel has, as the main (so I hear at least) villains the shape-shifting Skrulls.

I don’t like that. I have never been a fan of the Skrulls. Green-skinned, pointy-eared aliens that can look like anyone. It is a bit of a too-on-the-nose warning about Canadians, and while it is true that they look just like us, and speak mostly like us, that doesn’t mean they are infiltrating and undermining our society! Canadians, or Soviets, either way, really.

The reason I dislike bringing them in is because it carries so very much baggage with it, and feels like a setup for ‘no, that wasn’t REALLY Character X, just a Skrull!’ as a way to undo the Snap. Like the ill-fated Daredevil movie, there is also far too much background to fit into a single movie, and still have it’s own plot in there too. Which makes me worry that Captain Marvel will fall on the Green Lantern / Daredevil end of the quality spectrum. Not a place anyone wants to be.

Are the Skrulls actually representing something darker?

Further, if the Skrulls are just there to serve as fake heroes, fallen to Thanos, that changes them from Soviet analogues to something far worse. It makes them into whipping boys (aliens?). And there is a really bad connotation there:

A whipping boy was a slave who suffered corporal punishment on behalf of his young master.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whipping_boy

So, are we introducing these aliens just to kill them off? Are we going to try to tell the Kree / Skrull War storyline? Or are we just lazy about it all now, and tossing in a set of instant baddies who don’t take much work?

Taking that further, the Skrull are presented as a classic ‘evil race’. Like the poorly written Drow, everyone is evil! Which is also problematic. We get too much of that kind of crap in reality. We have progressives dividing the world into ‘white’ and ‘not white’ as synonyms for ‘bad’ and ‘good’, and conservatives branding all liberals as pro-infanticide. Neither is right, and both are their own kinds of evil. So adding in the ‘evil Skrulls’ into an already hot mess of social discord seems tone-deaf at best, and the cinematic version of the Limp Bizkit performance at Woodstock 99 at worst.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Spoilers under the fold.

So, Friday I saw Star Wars 9, Episode 8: The Last Jedi. It was…really uneven. Some parts were among the best things I have seen from the franchise (one sequence was among the best I have seen on screen period). But then there were the other parts – the parts that left me confused and wondering what the hell happened. Those parts include some of the worst moments of the franchise, yes, worse than the oft-hated Jar-Jar1As an aside, I like the idea that Jar-Jar was intended to be a hidden villain / Sith and not just the racially insensitive clown he wound up as. The evil Jar-Jar theory redeems Lucas some, and makes the character watchable..

So what did I think overall? I liked it, of course. Look, even a bad Star Wars movie (looking at you, Star Wars 4, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace) is still a Star Wars movie. And this was far better than TPM. The acting continues to be better, the effects usually better, and the continuing resolutions for the original characters is still well done, even if not as well done as it could be. What this movie did wrong can be summed up in the below screenshot from IMDB:

IMDB screenshot - Star Wars: The Last Jedi credits page.

See it?

Here’s a hint – it’s Lucas.

Look, George Lucas deserves a lot of credit – he created this amazing universe of characters we all know, love, and wish we could be part of. That’s all Lucas – he did this. The problem is that he forgot the parts that made this work in his rush to embrace the newest technology. And in doing so, has messed with those kids – adults now – childhoods by adding needless nonsense to the original series, and losing track of what worked so well there. Namely, tight storytelling with relatable characters. TLJ has that, but not where they are needed or wanted. Lucas did a great thing, and now others have taken up the banner – he needs to let them. He told his story, it’s someone else’s turn now.

So, with that addressed, let’s look at the pros and cons of The Last Jedi. Spoilers ahead, click at your own risk! (more…)