Ocean’s 8

RATING: [F|👎]

This one has been so hard for me to even get started writing, let me begin by apologizing to the people who went and saw it without first reading this review. In short, I could have used one more boesky, a jim brown, a miss daisy, two jethros and a leon spinks, not to mention the biggest ella fitzgerald ever.

Let me start with the girls. The girls themselves did not do bad. The dichotomy between Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett was playful and sort of witty. Rihanna did very well, and my girl Dakota (Man on Fire) even showed up! The wittiness, or lack thereof, was more of a problem with the writing, which I will discuss later. Anne Hathaway was the worst of the bunch, trying to be cool and play her little double agent part, but that’s as far as it got . . . trying.

The writing was the worst I have seen in a while, lacking the cleverness of the Oceans trilogy from Soderbergh and weaving through the storyline like some sophomore vocals. One can only guess how two weeks ago on IMDb News, this movie ranked in some of the best films of 2018 so far (a hum! Pandering). Can the non-pandering critic, please stand up?

The viewer will get a little comic relief in the last 15 minutes (odd coming from a comedy) with James Corden, but that is all. There are movies we tell you to go see, and there are movies we tell you to wait for the DVD, and this one is neither. This one makes our “must miss” list.

RATING: F

 

Solo: A Star Wars Story

RATING: [B-|🍅]

Solo:

This has everything the Star Wars junkie could want; namely, plenty of first acquaintances and stories. It has the background of Solo and Chewie, a first meet-up with Lando, and of course the finding of the Millenium Falcon — with stories like the 12 parsec Kessel run and the ‘fair in square’ gambling that got Han his ship. It also has a great little cast including, but not limited to, our sweet madam from West World, Maeve (Thandie Newton), Ted Kaczynski from Manhunt (Paul Bettany), and our ‘I think it’s safe to say nobody here’s gonna be splitting the atom’ Marty (Woody Harrelson) from True Detective. I didn’t have much of a background going into the movie on cast and crew but went in expecting failure and came out surprised at how good it was. It was not only an exciting ride but also delivered in other aspects where some of the past (most recent) movies have failed, such as writing. It is odd that the best films that have come out in the past 4 years have been from the “side stories” if you will and not part of what is better known as “The Saga”. I do not want to give too many more spoilers than I already have, but as I have already iterated, if you are a Star Wars fan, then go see this movie. If you are not a Star Wars fan, then go see this movie because it may be enough to warm your sensibilities to the films.

Where is this in relation to other movies:

If you are not sure where this movie lines up in the plot, that is fine, we will not throw you in a cage with a Wookiee and we will hold Order 66 as well. DigitalSpy gives us some great insight and highlights exactly where this story fits in, and not to mention where other film and shows fit in as well. Here is an important aspect about knowing where/how everything fits together:

“Note: To follow this properly, you’re going to need to understand two acronyms – BBY (before the Battle of Yavin) and ABY (after the Battle of Yavin). The Battle of Yavin was an attempt to destroy the Rebel base of Yavin IV that ended in the destruction of the first Death Star as seen in A New Hope.” — DigitalSpy

In between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (19 BBY) and Episode IV: A New Hope (0 BBY) rests our little new Solo movie. There are about 19 years between these two movies and it looks like this falls somewhere between 13BBY-10BBY. Han was born in 29BBY so he would be in his late teens or early twenties, most likely. I watched Episode III before going to see Solo, and it didn’t help much other than get me in a Star Wars mood.

So… I wanna watch all of them. What’s the order?

star warsThis question gets really convoluted indeed. I have always leaned towards a chronological viewing but I know others swear by what is known as the Machete Order. To sum it up it makes Luke the main story and centers the order of viewing around him, starting with Episode 4 and 5 and moving to Episode 2 and 3, and skipping 1 altogether. Let me lay out the chronological order for you, and if you so choose to center your viewing around Luke and Tasha Station and power converters, go ahead. Here is the order (leaving out shows/series/animation etc.).

  1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story

  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  6. Episode IV: A New Hope

  7. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

  8. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

  9. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

  10. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Here is the post from DigitalSpy that takes a more in depth look at this order, with some major spoilers as well but a great read.

What can I look forward to next?

Let me just give you the layout of what we have in store for the next few years.

  1. December 20th 2019: Episode IX — which JJ Abrams has taken over in directing.

  2. 2020ish: A Star Wars Story: Obi Wan?? — nobody is exactly sure where this third Star Wars story will take us but most speculation revolves around Uncle Ben as a young Jedi and what he could be up to.

  3. 2021–? Rian Johnson (The Last Jedi) as been given some sort of trilogy that he will be working on and so have Game of Thrones creators Dave Benioff and D.B. Weiss! Both projects will not be related and we have no idea what they will be about!

Here is an in-depth summary from GamesRadar that highlights these possibilities.

solo 2

I will leave you with the challenge of watching all of the Star Wars films in under 12 parsecs (as a unit of distance). Good Luck and may the Force be with you!

Rating: B-

Fahrenheit 451

RATING: [C-|👎]

Let me come right out and say it: this movie is bad. It’s not horrendous, but it is bad. A few things come to mind from the film that are at best interesting, but that is all. If you want a quick suggestion and thin slice, skip this film and find something better on HBO (maybe find the original by famed new-wave French director, François Truffaut).

As I am sure you know this movie is adapted from the acclaimed, now classic Ray Bradbury book with the same name. A society where the fire department doesn’t put out fires but starts them by way of burning books is at the center of this film. And at the center of the fire department is Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) & Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water). When you combine those two with Ramin Bahrani who brought us independent films like Man Push Cart, Chop Shop & 99 Homes (which were all at least B rated movies), you would expect something of the like. We received anything but! All that promise, and no resolve. It just hurts… actually just now writing about the film and thinking about its failures demoted the score from a C to a C-. Keep it up, I can go lower.

Let’s start with Jordan… after banging around the Wakanda countryside Jordan takes a step into a futuristic Cleveland as a fireman where the city seems to live and die by the fire department. The nice Cleavelandites essentially seem to roam around just waiting for an update from the Fire Department (some sort of SnapChat that is displayed on big TVs around the city), at which point the crowd jeers as books are burned and the book lovers get “erased” for a certain number of years. We are never meant to understand what it means to be erased because you can still walk around and have an apartment and collect more paraphernalia. Jordan does decent towards the beginning of the film but as it progresses he become less believable. This may be a script issue, but nevertheless you never believe that Jordan is actually starting to question this whole book-burning thing. He has been brainwashed for 16 years, his only father-figure being a crazed book-burning fanatic (Shannon) and he now starts to question it all?

Speaking of Shannon, the Chief and head honcho at the fire department, what happened to him in this role? Darren Franich correctly notices every time he talks it’s like he is giving a speech. At first you’re thinking, “oh, this guy really has a lot of points/lessons he is going to prove,” but then, very quickly I might add, it gets very old and cheesy.

There is much more I could say about the film but honestly it is not worth my time. Critics all agree on this one that it is very bad, but not only that, most critics agree that this should have been a great movie. I do not think the 32% on RT (4.9/10 average) is reflective of the movie (probably should be closer to 50%), but that 32% reflects some anger and disappointment. Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly can close this one out:

Jordan’s reduced to carrying a flamethrower while everyone else says big important things. The dialogue sounds tin, near-parodic. “Next time I tell you to follow someone,” Shannon screams at an underling, “You crawl into their a–hole, you hear me?” Fahrenheit 451 has it heart in the right place, but its head sure crawled up somewhere.

Rating: C-

Avengers: Infinity War

RATING: [C|👎]

A fun, entertaining movie to be sure, but ultimately has a few glaring problems that any thinking movie-goer would be able to figure out. And if you follow the plot line through the entire movie and figure out what the problems are, you will be underwhelmed.

This movie has all of your favorite Marvel superheroes in it, and SPOILER ALERT, half of them die. The plot line is highly focused around Thanos, a futuristic/stronger version of Paul Ehrlich who you may remember from the 60s as being famous for giving strong warnings about population control (thank you Ben Shapiro for the reference), which didn’t pan out as promised. You would think a being like Thanos, who has within his means the ability to, well, think . . . see where Ehrlich was wrong, and as our population has gotten bigger and our technology has advanced, we have become better, not worse. I will admit that I have not seen all of the Marvel movies (or shows for that matter) and maybe there is some more background as to how Thanos got to his conclusion of getting rid of 50% of the population, but it was not spelled out in the movie. We just know of a time on his home planet of not taking this action like he wanted because he was out-voted and then a lot of his people suffered. This seems to be his whole reasoning for moving forward with searching for all of the infinity stones so he can snap his fingers to kill half the population, which, SPOILER ALERT, he does.

And this brings us to the other glaring problem with the movie. A handful of the Avengers get Thanos in a pickle and have him tied down at some point in the movie, and Star-Lord (after finding out some less than ideal information), loses his cool and starts beating Thanos over the head with a gun. This inevitably allows Thanos to lose his reigns from the other Avengers and get away, leading ironically enough to the death of Star-Lord and the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew. Another problem now arises: with the Guardians of the Galaxy crew now gone, how does director James Gunn expect to finish the movie he promised us (that is for sure coming out) called Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3?

This is where the whole movie starts to unravel for the thinking audience since we know certain people cannot be dead because we already know what movies are coming out and the proper succession of these movies. How will all of those dead Avengers be revived? Well, we will have to wait for another mediocre movie to find out. Anthony Lane of the New Yorker has it figured out:

There were times, as the audience was hollering around me, with Marvel mania in full spate, that I felt like a mourner at the graveside of cinema. Hence the most moving scene in the film, when various people are blown away—not shot or blasted but sifted and dispersed, dust to dust, and swiftly gone with the wind. It’s a sad sight, but sadder still is my premonition: they’ll be back.

Avengers: Infinity War is doing (not surprisingly) very well amongst our friends over at Rotten Tomatoes with an 84%, as they continue allowing sub-par and thin movies to plague the scenes of proper filmmaking.

RATING: C

 

Westworld: SEASON 1 (spoilers)

RATING: [A-|🍅]

I have not decided completely how this review will pan out, but at the very least it will give you a little background on the show and a rating of the series thus far (including S2E1). This post could progress along as S2 progresses, and unveil new theories and ratings and ideas about where the show is headed.


Jonathan Nolan and his wife Lisa Joy have done tremendous things with Westworld season one. And, now, after taking off in 2017, have given us the next installment of this mind-bending ride.

Season 1, with all of its twists and turns seems to just be breaking the surface of what the creators have in mind with this. Westworld is just the beginning, and as we see at the end of Season 1, we see at least one more world (other than “Westworld”) coming onto the scene. We see the letters “SW,” which could either be taken as “Samurai World” or “Shogun World”, especially from the Eastern feel we get from those new/hungry hosts. When Nolan was asked by IGN if “Shogun world . . . [is] the name,” he responded, “[y]ou’ll have to stay tuned.”

With the possibility of other worlds and only having experienced one of the worlds, this means we have only scratched the surface of the show. By the end of Season 1 we haven’t even had a chance to see the “real world” or where in the world these people even are. The only two locations we see are Westworld and the lab that runs it. This is something to expect in Season 2 to be explored more fully. When taking all of the shows elements into perspective this show just barely hits an A, but still hits. There are only a few shows that would best it, never less those few and far between have the higher ratings reserved for them.

Worldview

In regards to worldview, the show seems to present a secular worldview (see final episode “The Bicameral Man” and Ford’s explanation of Michelangelo’s painting), but also (and maybe accidentally) plays into the mind of a Christianity, with the dichotomy between Creator and Created. A natural question throughout the Christian life is the same question that Bernard asks Maeve at the end of Season 1:

“These things you are doing, have you ever stopped to asked yourself, why you are doing them?”

Maeve believed herself to be acting on her own accord the whole time she was part of the rebellion, but it was revealed that each of these steps (all the way to her leaving on a train to the real world!) were already part of her “loop,” or part of her story already written by a Creator. So the Created will always be asking about their own story, much like Maeve reflects on in these final moments of Season 1:

 Is my story already written? How much of my story is already written, and how much am I deciding on?

In other words, who is telling our story? Me? Someone/something else? I love how Aslan responds to Shasta in C.S. Lewis’ Horse and His Boy:

“Child, I am telling you your story, not hers, I tell no one any story but his own.”

Questions about free will or predestination come into play here as well. Are we just automatons of a sort that have a story written by a Creator even though it feels like we make our own decisions? Is it like Ford says, and there really is no need for a Creator, pointing out the human brain hidden in plain sight in Michelangelo’s painting? Or do we have some sort of free will, or can we even break off of our story lines like Maeve ends up doing at the end of Season 1? Remember she gets off the train, thus breaking from the story her creator had destined for her. All interesting questions to think about.

Reminders:

I know it has been a while since Season 1, so let’s remember some things that can help you get back into the show…

Westworld (RECAP)

We are left with Westworld in disarray. A once sprawling countryside with guests who can run amok and do what they will—to a place where not even the guests are safe. There is a rebellion or mutiny of sorts that is getting under way, led by our sweet country girl Dolores and in some ways by our sweet madame of the brothel Maeve.

Delos Corp.

Delos (the company that owns Westworld), have slowly been ousting Ford from his post as headmaster. Run by a little whip Charlotte (who is stuck somewhere at the cocktail party at the end of S1), they will do anything and everything to get rid of Ford. It should also be noted that Delos has been sneaking information out of the park for some use that we do not know.

Ford (Anthony Hopkins)

Ford claims at the end of season 1 that he has done something that Arnold (co-creator of Westworld) could not figure out how to do, and that is to save the hosts. How has he done it? We don’t exactly know, but one thing to remember is that soon after saying he figured out how to save the hosts, a host blew his brains all over some well-to-do humans at a cocktail party. Thus far, we know (and Nolan confirmed via IGN) that it was indeed “a Ford” that died at the end of Season 1. I thought it was very interesting that Nolan said “A Ford” and not “The Ford” or simply “Ford” in his response to IGN about the conclusion of our dear park host (host as in someone who entertains people as guests, not host like . . . well, you know).

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood)

Our sweet dear Dolores has wandered far from her little loop out in the country home with her father. She now is causing a rebellion of Worldly proportions: The voice in her head is now her own and she kicks off these new-found desires with doing what? Oh ya, blowing the brains of Ford all over some well-to-do guests at a cocktail party. Did she do this of her own volition? I don’t know but I could have sworn I saw a twinkle in the eye of Ford (or was that a round making an exit wound) as he raised his glass to toast like he knew exactly what was about to happen.

The Man in Black/William (Ed Harris)

Let us not forget what we already were shown in Season 1, that William is the same person as the man in black separated by about 30 years. Remember we were running two different timelines (at least); and, in one, we have a nice light-haired kid (William) who wants to be respectful of the park and be a gentleman. And, on the other, we have a man [in Black], going to and fro trying to figure out some maze, and who just wants the hosts to fight back. We are left with the Man in Black at the cocktail party getting shot in the arm, to which we can tell he finds extreme delight in. He may finally have a game in which he wants to play.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright)

Bernard is left at the cocktail party with maybe some insight into what is about to happen. We have no idea where Bernard will end up, or who will find out his dirty little secret. Remember a big secret of Bernard’s is that he is actually a host, who does the bidding (at least until the end of S1) of Ford.

Maeve (Thandie Newton)

Maeve has brought most of the lab/office down and is now boarded on a train to head to the real world. She decides last-minute after having seen a mother and a daughter on the train, to get off and go locate her daughter (who may or may not be “real”).

I hope this article gives you some insights as to the things that are coming and a little refresher or what you most likely have forgotten. Stay tuned as I cover this season and discuss further (on another post), all the new questions that arise in Season 2, and all the theories to go with it.

Enjoy and remember: “These violent delights, have violent ends.

RATING: A-

Mosaic

RATING: [B-|🍅]

Steven Soderbergh has been a favorite of mine for a long time (admittedly my love for him began with his Ocean trilogy), but has of late failed to produce the same quality film he used to. He has developed an incredible knack for taking good stories and essentially created movies that leave you unsatisfied. I was not expecting much from Mosaic, but found myself pleased with the end result.

Olivia Lake who is played by Sharon Stone (Casino: best actress in leading role) is a well to do artist of a picture book that is a big deal around the circles that surround her in Summit Utah. She has a poor taste in men and seems to attract trouble at all angles, and winds up missing after a New Years party.

The series has typical feel and what ensues is a crime story that leaves the viewer with fragmented pieces that you will not be able to put together. Soderbergh released Mosaic as an app in 2017, but can more recently be viewed as a 6 part miniseries (about 6 hours) on HBO.

You will be guessing to the very end who was involved in the disappearance of Olivia Lake, and many viewers have even found that by the end they were disappointed with the answer, or lack thereof. The final episode on IMDb is the lowest rated of the entire series at a 6.9 because of this. I disagree with IMDb and think the story resolves itself by the end and would actually rate the final episode among the top 3 of the entire series.

Stellar performances by Garrett Hedlund (Mudbound) and Devin Ratray (Nebraska and Buzz from Home Alone!) along with the writing and cinematography place this series among some of the greats. Although True Detective (HBO) and Happy Valley (Netflix) are better crime series, I think this one was underrated on the whole.

The Review from The Atlantic sums it up like this:

“At any given time, it’s both a dazzlingly experimental work and a totally conventional murder mystery. It’s frank and secretive, flooding viewers with information without giving them the tools to make sense of it. The story has multiple different paths to follow, but they all end up in the same place. Less a show than a television experience, it’s brilliant and exasperating.”

Take some time and watch, and I believe you will not be disappointed.

RATING: B-

Mute

RATING: [D-|👎]

The sounds of critics and movie goers alike singing the praises of this movie can only be summed up using one word: mute. I, like many others had high hopes for this with a potentially great cast of Alexander Skarsgård (Melancholia) and Paul Rudd (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and a fairly new director Duncan Jones. Those hopes were left unfufilled.

Skarsgård plays a highly insecure mute bartender who essentially runs amok looking for his girlfriend who has gone missing. Just when you think (and are praying) that the movie is over, it turns down a very weird path that hammers the final nail in the coffin of this bore of a movie. Oh, and if Americans were not already perceived as stupid/ignorant people (they are, I have spoken with people from all over the world), Rudd even makes it worse as one of the only Americans in the film. A loud mouth know-it-all that is a very unpleasant person throughout the entire movie. This should be taken off of your Netflix List and a thumbs down should be added on it, and you should seek out Duncan’s other film called Source Code, or even better his 2009 film, Moon. His films have progressively gotten worse.

Guardian writer Charles Bramesco gives us a little insight as to why his career may have taken a turn for the worse right now.

“…But sometime in the five-year hiatus prior to 2016’s Warcraft, a difficult period marked by his wife’s battle with cancer and his father’s death, he strayed from the path. His adaptation of the popular online fantasy game was to be Jones’ graduation into the uppermost echelon of big-league film-making, but it was savaged by critics and ate dirt at the US box office.”

Bramesco’s title to his article is a perfect summary of the film: “Duncan Jones’s sic-fi thriller is a Netflix disaster”

This title originally aired February 23rd on Netflix and is still available if you care to watch it (although you shouldn’t).

RATING: D-