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

Review: “ENTOURAGE” (2015) Warner Bros.

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entourage
“The Boys are back in town” — Spread the word around — The Boys are back– The Boys are back…

From the first opening scenes I’m guessing most will know immediately whether or not they will enjoy this film as before the opening credits even roll out we are caught up in the middle of a huge celebrity filled party scene as “Vincent Chase” (Adrian Grenier) is on a multi-millionaire’s yacht celebrating the end of his 9 day marriage with his friends zooming over on a speedboat to join him with nary a girl who’s not supermodel beautiful in sight. Life’s clearly a bitch for these guys..
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Entourage – based on the very popular HBO series that ran for eight seasons, is a fun, fast-paced, energetic look at both sides of the Hollywood machine. Side 1: The glamorous side of fast cars, nice homes & copious amounts of sex; Side 2: takes a really good peek at what goes on in behind-the-scenes deals that go down just to get films made. At 104 minutes long, there is not a moment wasted in packing in a ton of stuff into this glittering ride of a movie. The party scenes are fun, the dialogue is sharp and biting and the actors inhabit their respective characters well.

So remember ‘Medellin’? The film fiasco that was portrayed on the series that almost put a halt to the career of Vinnie Chase. This film picks up from the that as we once again takes a look at the lives of movie star Vincent Chase, his agent (now studio executive) “Ari Gold” (Jeremy Piven) and his group of cronies “Eric aka ‘E'” (Kevin Connolly), “Johnny Drama” (Kevin Dillon) and “Turtle” (Jerry Ferrera) who surround him. This time, the boys are making Ari’s first blockbuster picture ‘HYDE’ with Vince being not only the lead actor but in the directors chair as well. Everything threatens to go off the rails when the movie goes over budget. To get more money for the production, Ari has to go and deal with difficult Texan financier “Larsen McCredle” (Billy Bob Thornton) and his son “Travis” (Haley Joel Osment). Meanwhile, E is dealing with multiple pregnancies, Turtle is trying to court UFC fighter Ronda Rousey, Vince is dealing with his relationship with Emily Ratajkowski and directing his first major film for Ari, and Drama is coping with his stagnant career and a leaked sex tape. It’s all light fun, accompanied by fast cars, LA icon sightings and an absurd amount of celebrity cameos that if you blink you just might miss one of them.
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With various plotlines moving throughout the film, the party scene that occupies much of the middle section of the film is fantastic and the script really starts to move at a faster, funnier pace. But it’s always Ari who brings the film together. He is by far the most compelling character in the film, always ranting and raving, shouting an incessant amount of profanity at his co-workers while dealing with crazy financiers. Piven is a true scene-stealer, spouting off as much as he can and having a lot of fun with the role. As for the other four principle stars, they’re great together, and while it might take you a moment to recognize child-star Haley Joel Osmont, he does really well in this unexpected character turn with perhaps the meatiest co-star role out of all the actors, getting the chance to portray an immature Texan kid overwhelmed by the celebrity lifestyle.
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While this film is far from a masterpiece by any means, it did keep me smiling throughout with some very funny moments, great dialogue and simply put – it just all works. It’s a good summer diversion that delivers everything you want from a movie like this.. a good time.

B-
@pegsatthemovies

Screening Monday, June 1st, 2015 at Pacific Grove Theatres courtesy of Warner Bros.
Nationwide release: Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

REVIEW OF ~ “A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST” ~ (One word: Funny!)

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If you are not a Seth MacFarlane fan..I would ask you WHY NOT?  The man is funny..”Family Guy” is funny.. “Ted” was hysterical!! And “A Million Ways to Die in the West” follows suit.  But I will warn you, if you don’t like his humour, you might not like this movie as it’s ALL him.  It’s his first ‘acting’ gig and we all know usually he is ‘animated’ or the ‘voice of’ etc etc.. But here he is the lead playing “Albert Stark” a sort of cowboy who is a sheep farmer (yes, be prepared for the bad, but funny sheep jokes/skits) and what he thinks is the love of his life, Louise “Amanda Seyfried” has just left him for Mr.Mustache as I call him, Foy “Neil Patrick Harris”.  In order to win her back he calls Foy out for a ‘duel’ even though he is basically the town oaf and can’t even shoot a gun.  Well step in Anna “Charlize Theron” to help save the day and teach him how to shoot and not exactly tell him who she is, which is the wife of the baddest gunfighter in the West, Clinch Leatherwood “Liam Neeson”  

Basically the plot is nothing to write home about as it’s 1882 in the West and of course their are a Million Ways to Die, snakes, disease, gunfights, or even the doctor can kill you..with a nail in the ear or a Bluejay!! 🙂  And they mostly speak in terms we use today, only the real ‘cowboys’ use old West lingo and there are so many innuendos to be made which make it really funny so pay attention to catch them all and the cameos!!! 

So bottom line, of course Albert and Anna fall in love while she is helping him learn to shoot as she is a crack shot ~ but of course and blah blah blah with that part of the plot. Though it completely sticks to form when he’s counting out the ‘Millions of Ways to Die in the West” in a fun scene with Edward “Giovanni Ribisi” and his ‘girlfriend’ Ruth “Sarah Silverman” ~ who is really a prostitute though they can’t have sex as they are saving themselves for marriage which in of itself makes for some funny one-liners. The movie has a some really beautiful scenic shots and few serious moments that I didn’t expect, but then it also majorly delivers some downright raunchy, gross out scenes that we’ve come to expect from Seth MacFarlane and right smack in the middle of it, one of the BEST scenes EVER will bring you back to the future.. 😀

Oh yeah..and if you’re looking for it to not offend and be perfectly PC..then again, you don’t know MacFarlane’s style because he is NEVER either of those. Seth’s acting is okay..it’s not great by any means but as we all found out one day a few years back that he is so damn cute it’s hard not to like him.  Charlize does okay in a comedic turn, as much as I love her, nothing to write home about in this performance but definitely nice to see her doing some fun stuff as you can tell she’s having a good time! Liam Neeson with his deadpan and yes, accented character is spot on. And for those that say, how can he have his Irish accent in a Western.. well..Hellloooo.. back then more people had accents as in case we forgot our history, we are a country of immigrants so it fits perfectly in.  Also, if you are quick enough to spot a very famous Scotsman in a cameo about a 1/4 of the way through, and a few other good cameos in between, and of course at the end..well..I say good job Seth. 

I realize this movie isn’t getting rave reviews because the critics love to bash his brand of comedy because it’s not the norm..I love things that are not the norm and this movie is funny..much funnier than it’s comedic predecessor “Neighbors” in my opinion. Let’s put it this way, It’s definitely worth paying to see. 

Grade: B-

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