REVIEW: “THE WRETCHED” (2020) IFC Midnight

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“THE WRETCHED” is a lovely looking movie – though this might be an odd thing to say about a horror film.  But take into consideration the fact the budget for this was most probably almost nil, the Pierce Brothers, Brett & Drew do an okay job here. The plot is not revolutionary by any means, but there are some surprises including a nifty twist at the end involving one of the horror cliches that the film uses repeatedly to signify the presence of evil.

Speaking of that plot, it opens with a horror film usual – girl alone gets taken out within it’s first two minutes. Then we switch over to the real point of the plot. We follow a teenage boy Ben (John-Paul Howard) who’s struggling with his parents divorce, and has come to spend some time with his father Liam (Jamison Jones). But life soon gets complicated when he notices something weird going on in the neighbor’s Abbie (Zarah Mahler) & Ty (Kevin Bigley) house with their child Dillon (Blane Crockarell), who seeks out Ben when things start going awry at home. Seems an old, evil demon-style witch has come out the forest to mess around with them. She lives under a tree and has the power to cast a spell on people such that they ‘forget’ about the existence of loved ones around them. From here, everything that can happen – will happen. Love interests, conflicts with town bullies, conflicts with father and his new girlfriend Sara (Azie Tesfai), and other plot lines go exactly where one would expect them to as well.

The characters are not the best ones to get behind and the evil presented by ‘The Wretched’ herself, lacks any real dread or scary-ness. Overall there’s just no real delving in the psychology of what’s happening, fear or mystery. However, amidst this somehow everything works, albeit on a basic level, a kind of a flat line if you will. Performances were okay all around, but some of the characters were given very little to work with. That being said, John-Paul Howard as the central hero Ben and Mallory (Piper Curda) as his summer crush, are very much the standouts here in performances. Cinematography and editing can prompt as much critique, though on the background of all that’s aforementioned, the visual side of things provided some comfort. Always extra appreciation for good practical effects, gore and such which thankfully they didn’t overdo on.  Lastly, the original score was – guess what – a bit on the uninspiring side – but hey limited budget again!

Nicely acted and shot, with decent, practical special effects with some struggles with the story which at times was a bit un-interesting and yes, completely cliche. Still it’s a well-edited mainstream pleaser. There’s a story, and it flows evenly as it entertains, accompanied by a romp of characters, decent gore and cinematography. The problem is, it does so on a surface kind of level. The Pierce brothers utilize a wide selection of familiar, ordinary devices and old tricks, perhaps trying to weave together something new, but ending up just bit on the been there/seen that side. If you’re a fan of spooky, ghost/wraith type horror, it’s entirely possible you might enjoy The Wretched as it’s not so much that it’s not to be disliked, but nor is it something to take much away from.

Grade: C+

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Media Review link courtesy of IFC Films & IFC Midnight

“THE WRETCHED”  IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR RENT/PURCHASE ON VOD

 

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 5

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And onto week #5 of quarantine TV watches rated by me.

First up:


We’re Here: HBO
Found this gem almost by accident and immediately fell head over heels for it. It’s real life about 3 drag queens who traverse small town America where they have residents from each town participate in a one night only drag show. It’s the storytelling behind each person and town that had me in tears at the end of both episodes that have aired. It’s a much needed watch for the close minded among us.
Grade: A


Tommy: CBS Network
TV diversity is so much bigger than film. But every once is a while comes a show that just doesn’t work as well & the characters feel forced..even with a stellar cast including #EdieFalco & #RussellGJones the storylines just fall flat.
Grade: C


Hollywood: NETFLIX
#RyanMurphy has a signature look to his shows and this one is no different. Set in late 1940’s its beautifully shot but it took me till eps 3 to figure out the difference #DavidCorenswet & #JakePicking – the middle eps. are great, but the finale is predictable & bland. Kudos #PattiLuPone #HollandTaylor & #DylanMcDermott for keeping it interesting.
Grade: C+ bordering B-


Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered: The Lost Children: HBO
A startlingly look at what happened to these children & the conviction of #WayneWilliams definitely deserves a watch as Atlanta’s new mayor #KeishaLanceBottoms takes the bold and might I add, right step in re-opening this investigation. It’s eye-opening & heart wrenching-and worth every minute of your time.
Grade: A

That’s a wrap on Peggy at the Movies TV recommendations week 5. Till next week..stay safe and sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies #Atlanta #Tommy #WereHere #Hollywood

REVIEW: “TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” (2020) IFC Films

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We all grow up learning about not only our heroes, but of our villains as well.  Sometimes these “villain’s” can actually become heroes to those who follow and worship them – as is the ‘Robin Hood effect’ where by stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, they are greatly admired people in history. Depending on where it is you grow up – is whom you learn about.  So while a greater part of my growing up was in the U.S., I learned of people like Jessie James, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, and Bonnie & Clyde etc. While ‘down-under’ in Australia it seems they had a ‘villain’ all of their very own. Ned Kelly and The Kelly Gang.  I know some of the films done about these characters have taken a lot of liberties when it comes to facts, so when I found out this one is based upon a book written by Peter Carey – who describes the book as being ‘true’ – with a big emphasis on such as it being in the title as well, it was a bit jolting to see the “TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” open with the statement: “Nothing you’re about to see is true.”

Delving into the first hour of the movie which takes a total focus on Ned’s childhood. Young Ned (Orlando Sschwerdt) as the eldest son of the Ellen Kelly (Essie Davis) and John Kelly (Ben Corbett), who are some of those unlucky Irish who were transported to Australia as convicts. British Sergeant O’Neil (Charlie Hunnam) not only arrests John for stealing a cow which Ned actually stole, but has been with Ellen this whole time as well. The whole episode leaves Ned to start a spiral that seems to follow him from this point on. In-between Ellen resorts to whatever she must do to keep all her children alive and in steps Harry Power (Russell Crowe) with whom Ellen sends Ned away with to supposedly “make him a man,” but has essentially sold him to Power. Power tries to force Ned to kill O’Neil as revenge, and Ned falls short as he shoots him, but almost as an accident, and doesn’t kill him – but O’Neil then hauls him off to jail. Yes, this is just the first hour which is so crazily portrayed, it’s almost as if they are all going through some psychosis or another and we are just along for the ride trying to keep up with it all.

We then fast-forward ten years for the even more graphic second half of the film with a now grown up and out of jail Ned (George MacKay). Ned returns home to find his mother shacked up with a guy only a few years older than himself, George King (Marlon Williams) a drifter from California no less, who proclaims he is going to be Ned’s new father – he is also a horse thief and has recruited Ned’s younger brother Dan (Earl Cave), and Dan’s friend Steve (Louis Hewison) to help out. Their ‘signature’ is of the gang is wearing women’s dresses, which Ned finds and goes on a rail to return the dresses. In doing so, he is suddenly with Mary (Thomasin McKenzie), who he falls for immediately even though she has a baby that isn’t his. And in one of the more odd scenes, and there are many, he meets and almost becomes friends with another British law office, Constable Fitzpatrick (Nicholas Hoult), whose character is hard to differentiate from his childhood nemesis, Sergeant O’Neill.

This whole film is akin to a whirlwind or a high speed hurricane where you find yourself in the center of and can’t get out. I can best describe it as an Insane Historical Fantasy – with a punk rock soundtrack that upon hearing at the beginning, I almost thought Ned was going to be a 1970’s punk rocker, an Australian Sid Vicious of sort, because of it. After doing my own little piece of research on Ned Kelly and his gang, I find out he was known most of all for what made him most famous, as the bushranger who wore a suit of bulletproof iron during his final shootout with the police. While this is shown in the film, and despite the historical setting, context and characters, it by no means represents or even intentionally tries to tell a historically respectable, let alone accurate portrayal of Ned Kelly.

Understandably I’m very split on this film, but let me at least give credit where credit is due. The acting all around is great, the cast is all fine in what they’re given, stand outs include; Orlando Schwerdt as Young Ned, Russell Crowe, Essie Davis – whom I will say totally creeped me out and I will admit to not really having known who she was at all – turns out she is the directors wife as well.  Thomasin McKenzie and Nicholas Hoult did okay enough, but again, it was as if Hunnam & Hoult were interchangeable as their roles were so similar and both distasteful characters. I haven’t got many complaints about the other performers, only that they weren’t given much for me to be invested in despite the film’s insistence I empathize with Ned. I believe anyone of a similar age to when the real Ned Kelly died (25) could play Ned, yet despite the material not being compelling enough to decide if Ned’s actions be justified or vilified, it’s not going to sway how anyone views the character be it hero or righteous criminal, but perhaps intensify it as it did make me personally want to read about him. Mackay is as fine as ever with what he does, yet his lack of a beard that’s always characterized Ned Kelly fails me to even buy him as Ned completely.

Ultimately, it’s greatest weakness is it’s development of Ned as an outlaw. Once Ned is outside the law, his extremist views to the law and state government take hold even though you feel as though Ned wishes he could’ve lived an honest life for his supposed child who from what I’ve now read, never existed. Yet his fall from honest life is fast and doesn’t pick up much weight when his ‘movement’ builds compared to the way the scenes leading up to it do. There’s a lot to admire about this film, yet I don’t think it’ll have a overall appeal to many. I can see it being praised by some, yet ridiculed by others.

With it’s violence and rough sex and language scenes, to say it isn’t recommended to the ‘faint of heart’ would be an understatement.

Grade: C-

@pegsatthemovies

 

Review Screening link: Courtesy of IFC Films 

“TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG” IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR RENT/PURCHASE ON AMAZON

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 4

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Here we are – Week #4 of some quarantine TV watching. Four pretty good shows here ..all worth the watch.

Back to Life: SHOWTIME
On my last week of free Showtime trial and I found this little gem of a dramady..#DaisyHaggard wrote and plays the lead character in this dark comedy of a women trying to get back to life in a small English beach town where she grew up..after being in prison for 18 yrs for killing her best friend. But did she? Watch to find out.
Grade: B+



The Goldbergs: ABC Network
This fun wonderful comedy has been on for a few years now and has yet to get stale. The Goldberg family never fails to be cute, funny, send a message and make you love all the experiences down memory lane of what it was like to grow up in the 80’s. I love it every week.
Grade: A



McMillions: HBO
Who knew that the whole time my co-worker in the 90’s was trying to win the McDonald’s millions with just one missing piece, that it was rigged the whole time. This is a fascinating and sometimes funny look into what really went on behind the manipulation of McDonald’s Monopoly game.
Grade: B

Run: HBO
I’m only on episode 3 of this one written by the indomitable #PhoebeWallerBridge and includes a fantastic cast with #MerrittWever & #DomhnallGleason – it’s playing out as an intriguing story of what-if’s .
Grade: B

Well that’s at wrap on this weeks ‘Peggy at the Movies’ TV recommendations. Hope you all watch and enjoy and please always feel free to throw some recommendations my way. Till next week..stay safe and sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #shutdown #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies

PEGGY AT THE MOVIES – TV SHOWS TO CHECK OUT.. OR NOT – WEEK 3

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As we continue my quarantine TV watches..I have instituted a rule for myself..No TV before 6pm unless its Sunday or I seriously probably would suffer from over-watch. 🤣
Starting off the week with an oldie but a goodie


Law & Order: SVUNBC
This show has held up over time so very well, with it’s ever changing cast and stories pulled from headline news at hand, working for it – and always led by the wonderful #MariskaHargitay
Grade: B


Killing Eve: BBC/AMC Network
One of the most original shows on TV perhaps only being outdone by its stellar acting of it’s two leads #SandraOh & #JodieComer the just released Season 3 seems to be holding its own.
Grade: A


Ray Donovan: SHOWTIME
Finishing up my 30 day free trial here, I caught up on this one. What was once original storylines, have become a bit over the top as how many times can #JonVoight survive death here. He plays a terrible father/human and sadly I don’t think he’s acting.They moved the show to NYC/Boston for Season 6 where the characters originally hailed from, and it was okay.. but it doesn’t seemed to have saved the now far-reaching plots. If it didn’t have #LievSchreiber and a few other fantastic actors..it would be unwatchable
Grade: C-


Little Fires EverywhereHULU
Have you ever started watching a show/movie where within the first 5 minutes you realize you’ve read the book? Well that was me here. And it was a great book and this show seems to pick up its essence with #ReeseWitherspoon & #KerryWashington holding up as the leads.
Grade: B


Briarpatch: USA
Rosario Dawson looks stunning in this show from her hair to her nails to her clothes. But the shows weird premise is a tough one to keep you entertained throughout its 10 episodes..though I made it thru all of them. It’s a mish-mash to be sure.
Grade: C-

Come back next week for more Peggy at the Movies giving you some more quarantined shows to watch.
Stay Safe and Sane.

#tvreviews #womencritic #instareviews #quarantineTV #shutdown #coronaviruswatching #peggyatthemovies

Peggy at the Movies – TV shows to check out.. or not – Week 2

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Welcome to another week of Quarantine and some more TV shows to check out..or not..courtesy of yours truly.


Council of Dads: ABC Network
Save yourself the time – I barely made it thru the pilot episode
Grade: F

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist: NBC Network
This is actually quit cute. Think a Glee for adults – except no one is trying that hard and it’s a great cast #PeterGallagher #MarySteenburgen #LaurenGraham #JaneLevy It’s just simply put – cutsey.
Grade: B-

Homeland: Showtime
So I got myself a 30 day free subscription and caught up on a few things. Carrie Mathison #ClaireDanes still makes the craziest of faces, but it’s the final season and they kinda went back to their roots here and it works.
Grade: B+


World on Fire: PBS
Yes, I watch PBS – as a matter of fact I love Masterpiece etc..this is a decent show that I’m only on eps. 2 of – but i like it. It can be a bit sad & hard, but I recommend it.
Grade: C+

The Plot Against America: HBO
The first 2 eps. were exceedingly slow, but whoa did it pick up. It provides an interesting twist to what if Charles Lindbergh had become President during WWII – for those that still think he’s a hero..and not the Nazi Sympathizer that he was..it will open your eyes. Plus it’s well acted.
Grade: B

Dispatches From Elsewhere: AMC Network
I wanted so badly to like this show..and I tried to keep watching, I really did. Alas, I couldn’t do it anymore – I actually stopped in the middle of an episode. *sigh
Grade: D

Thanks for reading and tune in next week for a new set of shows I’ll be watching including Ozark – which I’ve been saving and Ray Donovan – gotta put those free 30 days to good use! 😊
Take care..stay safe and sane!

#peggyatthemovies #shutdown #quarantineTV #coronaviruswatching #filmcritics #TVreviews #womencritic #instareviews #stayingsane

Peggy at the Movies – shares some TV shows to watch/not watch

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Hi all…Hope everyone is staying safe and most of all..sane!! Haven’t been in the mood to really review movies but luckily we have tons of TV to be able to stream and thought I’d share from my Instagram post a few of things I’ve watched so far and some grades for them. Let me know what you all are watching as well.

First off: #TheSinner S2. USA CHANNEL – Sorry but not even the gorgeous #MattBomer could save this one. S1 had a story with characters we could understand. This was a convoluted mess.
Grade: F

Next up #TheStranger: Netflix – passable for a mystery thriller by Harlen Cobin. But by the end you’re doing a bit of eye rolling because of the believability of the main character and all his actions. But not a terrible watch by any means.
Grade: C+

#TigerKing: Netflix – okay how did we get sucked up into this insane story…because it’s almost too insane to be real. But it is. Fyi – Carole & her dad totally knocked off her husband, the fact that Joe Exotic and all his crazies reveals they were doing meth at the end should surprise absolutely no one. The Antle cult dude, well I have no words. They should all be shut down. End of story.
Grade: B (mostly because it’s Bonkers)


Lastly, #Hunters: Amazon – 1st episode put me off when I first watched it weeks before the shutdown, but i went back to it and it’s a trip and highly original in its filming style, but it’s also pretty hardcore so know that in advance. Plus I ended up loving badass Roxy #TiffanyBoone and Lonny Flash #JoshRadnor – The cast including #AlPacino are fantastic but I truly didn’t like the ending..still so worth the watch.
Grade: B+

Will be back next week with those watches as there is sooooo much more I’ve started. Take care until then.

REVIEW: “THE INVISIBLE MAN” (2020) Blumhouse/Universal Pictures

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There is a difference between what makes scary/horror movies well, scary. There is the slasher/gore type that really aren’t scary, but serve a purpose. And there there is the kind that from the very first moment, have you on the edge of your seat/holding your breath type scare. These are the preferred kind. The kind that holds you in it’s grip with every one of your senses tingling in anticipation.  Writer/Director Leigh Whannell’s “THE INVISIBLE MAN” is that movie.

Where James Whale’s masterful 1933 version of H.G. Wells‘ story saw its main transparent character commit murder on a mass scale on a self-proclaimed reign of terror, Whannell’s refreshing take on The Invisible Man, has gone for the opposite approach.  It’s not just jump-scares or loud noises, it’s something psychological. From the opening shot, you’re immediately put inside Elisabeth Moss’ character Cecilia’s head.  The whole opening scene makes you uncomfortable as we see Cecilia trying to make her escape and this kind of tension is kept on throughout the film.

Cecilia Kass (Elizabeth Moss) is a woman living in fear. She is stuck in an abusive relationship and can’t get out of it despite living a life of wealth and privilege in a seaside home; she is ready to take some drastic steps in her life to try to escape from her controlling and abusive husband who despite being considered a wealthy genius in the field of Optics, has made her life a living hell.  All of this combined forces her to make a daring escape that has her barely getting away with the help of her sister Alice (Harriett Dyer).

Picking us up two weeks later – we find Cecilia is in hiding with a friend of her sister’s, Officer James Lanier (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid). She is scared to even leave the house and do the most basic of things such as checking the mailbox. All this begins to change (or does it?) when Alice brings Cecilia some information that starts the ball rolling for us all.

So with now having supposedly escaped the controlling relationship, Cecilia’s rehabilitation is cut short by the sudden intrusion of her ex who has figured out how to regain control over her life without anyone knowing how or why.  As it’s around this time that unusual things begin to happen to her. A lost item from the night of her escape shows up, a mysterious kitchen fire starts and lets the audience know to keep their eyes locked on everything as if you blink, you just might miss something cold and calculating happening.  When she expresses her concerns to others that her husband is alive and exacting revenge, and when things begin to escalate, Cecilia is the one who starts to look more and more unstable as the tormenting continues and her life spins out of control.

Expertly utilizing sci-fi trappings to take gaslighting to a whole new extreme, (there is a restaurant scene that you will never forget) the film depicts first-hand the anxieties faced by many modern-day survivors of abuse. As Cecilia stresses to those around her that her genius scientist ex has become invisible, we are left conflicted by knowing the truth of her words but also the understanding that, without hard evidence, it’s hard to accept her story at face value.

By operating in that grey area, ‘The Invisible Man’ proves the horror genre to be one of the most effective means to reflect modern day anxieties to mass audiences. Another thing this film succeeds upon is the writing. The story progresses in a fast paced way which doesn’t seem hurried. The 2 hr. run-time feels achieved. There’s definitely more than one ‘WTF’ moment in this film to keep you on the edge of your seat throughout.  As well, the score and the sound design definitely puts you in Cecilia’s shoes as you struggle with her to point out where and how exactly these events are happening aka where this ‘invisible man’ might be. The camera work is exquisite, and the action sequences definitely feel thrilling and the way it’s shot makes you feel like you’re living it.

Lastly, make no mistake about it, this movie is Elisabeth Moss’s and she lives, breathes and takes you along for the ride as if you are living it right next to her.  Hodge has always been a favourite and holds his own genuinely well here as does Storm Reid.  And don’t feel fooled by the seemingly small part of Michael Dorman as the brother Tom or Cecilia’s husband Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), as both have a surprise or two in hand for you.

Grade: B+

@pegsatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Tuesday, February 25, 2020 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“THE INVISIBLE MAN” IS NOW PLAYING IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE

REVIEW: “1917” (2019) Universal Pictures

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“1917” is a cinematic feast for the eyes, with long expansive shots that follow the lead characters as they execute their mission. It does not hide the horrors that existed in trench warfare, it shows them for their brutality and abundance. A war that is now a century old and therefore no longer widely talked about or understood, is vividly captured in this stunning dramatization by Director Sam Mendes. To anyone who might be hesitating to see the film because they think they will be subjected to the graphic violence and gore of say a ‘Saving Private Ryan’, I can only suggest you don’t, as while ‘1917’ is realistically gruesome, Mendes captures the horrors of war with a more emotional sense and aesthetics. While graphic at varying moments, you are never hit over the head with it. ‘1917’ in this way is beautifully artistic, never straying close to being shock art, but not holding back at the same time.

The year is of course ‘1917’. Deep in the heart of France, British soldiers battle the Germans in what appears to be insurmountable odds. Filmed and edited as if it was one long take by 14 time Academy Award nominee cinematographer Roger Deakins, the camera never leaves our leads motion on the battlefield where we meet the two young soldiers, Lance Corporal Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay). They’ve just been assigned an impossible mission by General Erinmore (Colin Firth) to do three very important things: 1. travel by foot behind enemy lines 2. avoid German snipers and artillery 3. find a British battalion that is about to walk into a trap set up by the Germans. It’s a task so dangerous it will probably cost both men their lives, but if they fail, it will lead to the massacre of 1,600 British soldiers. Adding to the urgency of the assignment, Blake’s older brother is one of the 1,600 soldiers about to walk into the ambush. There is no clock ticking in the corner of the screen, but we know time is of the essence, and quite limited.

And although MacKay and Chapman do a pretty phenomenal job at capturing the true essence of their characters going through a literal hell, it’s the side characters with little-to-no screen time who steal their spotlight. Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Richard Madden and Benedict Cumberbatch are checkpoints along the way, but they do impress with the few lines they’re given.

Apart from a couple of nit-picky things there is nothing bad about this movie. To be fair, it could be said some of the scenes are empty and it might test audiences’ patience. It’s even eluded to at the start there is no food around, yet Blake looks very well fed. Chapman also doesn’t nail some of the important scenes, which takes some of the emotional punch away from them. The French women in the cave has a baby that’s not hers, and he just happens to have milk – in the middle of a battle field – felt a bit contrived. The only other thing to mention might be the fact the Germans here can’t seem to aim to save their lives, so much so that it did start to feel a little hard to believe at times.

I rated this quite high film for many reasons. Directing, acting, set design, cinematography, musical score, the raw emotion it invokes. Watch if you will, but know there is no pleasure in watching and the film will grab you and the beginning and not let you go. Even though we know the outcome of WWI, there is no joy, there is no peace. Watch because it will allow you a glimpse at the horror and brutality of war; reflect on their service and sacrifice and hope it never happens again.

Grade: B+

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies and Instagram: peggyatthemovies

 

Media Review Screening: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures

“1917” WILL BE OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE FRIDAY, JANUARY 10, 2020

REVIEW: “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” (2019) LucasFilm/Disney Pictures

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Ah, that familiar opening sequence that we know so well.  Where we know we are going to a galaxy far far away…is about the only thing left from over from the original that will never get old seeing. Even with “STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” having this terrific memorable opening sequence, it is sure note that this isn’t a ‘George Lucas’ vision of Star Wars. To be fair, when it comes to Star Wars, the appreciation and the significance of it all is not lost on me, as well as the quality and enjoyment of the films that people feel. But alas, I probably am not in the high percentile of top fans and really wouldn’t consider myself a big Star Wars fan per se. While having seen most of them, I was just one who never grasped onto to the films so completely as others have. With that, seeing the conclusion of the Skywalker series wasn’t going to make me emotional mess in the lead up as maybe it would be to some others – so just know this review truly has no bias on that end.

Episode IX takes place some number of years after The Last Jedi where Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been training to take down the first order.  The Resistance lead by Leia (Carrie Fisher) are figuring out a way to lead the charge with the few alliances they have left, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is trying to become a powerful Sith. The unknown time after which this is set definitely has a few holes in the character progression that were possibly needed in order to ‘damage control’ on the story direction. It’s is also hard to talk about the film without spoilers, but doing my best to get across the jist of it, without really going into heavy spoiling. The Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is not a spoiler as it’s in the trailers and posters so mentioning him, but not any external story elements stemming from his return noted.

As mentioned the biggest problem with Episode IX is the direction of this story. There is just an excess of side stories in the film which absolutely kills the run time and the effects of what the main story being told is. And can we say Cameos GALORE? Boy there were some good ones though. But if you were of the thought that ‘Force Awakens’ had nothing original to offer, well the Rise of Skywalker will double down on that premise. It’s hard to believe how they set it all up, had conflict and executed the conclusion of these characters, all in one unsuccessful sweep here. Plus smack dab in the middle of battle, leading us down the road to clearly what is to become the new series of films or possibly a new show for Disney +, with a quick little story line with Finn (John Boyega) and Janna (Naomi Ackle) have a little convo about how they came to be Troopers and how they need to ‘try and find where they came from.’ Yep, there is your next movie or TV story line people.

As many have already said, there was clearly no plan by Disney for the trilogy. What Abrams set up, then Rian Johnson stepped in and had total control to then do what he wanted, and now Abrams is back to ‘save’ the film by bringing back the Emperor. Okey Dokey. The way the film quickly establishes how and why it is nothing short of lazy. Because there was no mention in the previous sequel films, the Emperors return is ruined due to the franchise factor forcing it back in. The film originally was having Colin Trevorrow as director, so there was clearly no connecting person here like George Lucas and his vision, to step in and help the story take place and progress. Bringing in different directors bring a new look to the film is not a problem, if you can still have a solid story told throughout. Then the bunch of side stories that are being told, just fail to have the time to conclude properly. Maybe they needed more than one film in order to explore them – or should have done so previously. Everything is just rushed into the film and Rey, Finn, Po, Ren and the Emperor, all have to share the screen and some arcs don’t feel earned.

The new band of heroes here as well, just don’t have the same charm, personalities or chemistry together (actually this is the first movie in the new trilogy, where they do stuff together). They feel more like they have been cast for a commercial shoot of the film versus what type of character and personality they had to portray – they are all just so empty, like cardboard-cutouts with calculated screen-time and one-dimensional personalities. Most of them hardly even have an arc or any real character-development over the course of these three movies. The final scene with Kylo Ren and Rey is laughable bad, you’ll know what this is if you’ve seen the film, and if not, you soon will. I was just in awe that the writers ruined a perfect moment by including a said ‘particular action’ which eluded gasping laughs. One character though who was fun and has always been great, is C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). He always been essentially kinda bullied and the film knows this and consequently builds on this to create a somewhat compelling character. Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) wins for the most emotional moment though. Finn and Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac), had character problems that needed to be established in the earlier films as their pay offs don’t feel earned. Rey was also somewhat disappointing mostly due to the direction of the story, but her arc is so unbalanced throughout the first two films that once her character conclusion is just unsatisfactory.

The action as well often doesn’t serve a purpose to the story – it’s just more timely inserted space-battles, chase-scenes and sci-fi fights. Mostly just overblown shiny CGI stuff with a few practical puppets, sets and costumes thrown in to pander to the old fans. These characters didn’t have a lot of time to be together unlike in the original trilogy, so their interactions weren’t memorable. This is also due to the forced jokes and dialogue. I felt like Isaac’s Po was just trying to hard to fill Harrison Ford‘s old shoes of humour when he was Han Solo. Sure the original Star Wars movies had some humor, but in those movies it felt natural, not these wink-wink-moments, slapstick humor and juvenile self aware meme-jokes. What’s worse, is that this movie also tries to be dark at the same time, but this isn’t Empire Strikes Back or Revenge of the Sith, as those movies really were dark chapters in the Star Wars saga with hardly any humor in them.  But in The Rise of Skywalker, it just makes the movie feel even more like a tonal mess, since the movie tries so to be funny, upbeat and happy at the same, making both the humor, the drama and the darker elements feel even more forced and out of place.

The originals worked because they didn’t try to be funny, and the characters were written like they could almost be normal people in the space, whereas the sequel characters are just yelling stuff out that is not natural.  At least the CGI was great. It’s expected to be and it looked cool. What they did with Carrie Fischer was surprisingly good and it fit as well. Yes, it was kind of obvious at points where extreme editing was in play, but her tragic passing was so sad and they had to do what they could after the unfortunate circumstances. (#RIPCarrie). Some of the the battles, while looking good, weren’t all that well executed. As well, lacking a lot of suspense the light-saber duels between Rey and Kylo – on the one hand they were interesting  – on the other they don’t get you as excited as the film wanted you to be. The final fight was just really over the top. I get there’s a finality to the film but there’s so much that’s happening that leaves unanswered questions toward the state of the galaxy.

Lastly, is the music. Yes it’s essentially the same, but John William score is perfect and on every level and is possibly the only thing that elevates the movie. It adds all the tension and emotion to all the Star Wars films to be sure. It’s something we never tire of it after all these films and would still gladly listen to it in future films.

Overall, Rise of Skywalker is underwhelming in it’s execution yet has some good ideas. Even though I’m not it’s biggest fan, there still felt this unsatisfying feeling as the film clearly had no plan and the end result of the story is clearly forced. Is it wrong to have just wanted to see a good conclusion to one of the most popular franchises ever? Instead, the film misses the mark and fails to have an overall finality feeling.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Disney Pictures

“STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER” IS OUT IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE