May 25th, 2020

Alison had watched and reviewed Booksmart back in October last year.  Search for her review.   I had heard good things about this movie, and this being the directorial debut of Olivia Wilde.   The movie stars a good young cast, who are playing a modern day version of Fast Times at Ridgmount High and the predecessor before that American Graffiti with a bunch of high school kids on their last day of high school and before graduation.

The primary star is the young Kaitlyn Dever, named Amy (who was also in the series Unbelievable) and closely tied with her on screen best friend Molly, the school’s valedictorian (played well by Beanie Feldstein) and their graduating class and some school personnel.   These two best friends, and school outsiders, pledged to focus entirely on studies and school government with a view to getting into good schools and avoid typical high school trappings (partying, drugs, trouble etc).  On the last day of school Molly realizes unexpectedly that some of her classmates, who didn’t seem to focus entirely on school managed to get into equally notable schools as she did (but they also had fun).   She pledges to Amy that they will party it up on their last night of high school, even though they weren’t invited to any parties.   The story moves on to their numerous adventures.    It’s a fun story, and I had a number of good laughs along the way.  Things just happen to them, and they have encounters with a number of their classmates and others along the way.   Problems arise that need to be solved and the two face a number of challenges.   The story is well told and the various side stories match up well (I thought anyway).  I like the message about high school as a stepping stone and even those who you may think have it all together, don’t necessarily do.   There is a good message about friendship.    Things don’t always turn out the way you had planned, even for a single evening of fun.   This isn’t always a bad thing.   We learn, we grow, we take next steps.   The hope is that you meet some good people along the way that you can relate to and connect with.   Some will stay with you briefly, while others may be around for a lifetime.  As one ages you can see some of these people as you look backwards at your life.    There are a lot of truths to be found.  I can hear my daughter telling me that I am being pretentious and obvious at the same time.   Some moves are fun.  Some movies have messages and others still can do both.  This is a quality first time directorial debut for Wilde.   She seems have to a very good grasp of the material and allowing her able actors to make it work.   I note that she didn’t write the screenplay.

I am continuing to work through Killing Eve Season 3, which I do enjoy as well as RUN Season 1 which seems to be getting better each episode.   It started slowly with the other adult investigator star from Unbelievable (Merritt Wever) and Domhnall Gleeson, but it gets better and more complex.   This is yet another series where Phoebe Waller Bridge has her input (and acting skills).   Waller Bridge in also involved with Killing Eve.   I am also continuing to watch Westworld Season 3.   I realize as I watch these episodes just how complex this series really is.   I am not even sure after a short time whether I had watched that episode or not.   Dolores is exploring the “real world” having escaped the adult amusement park.   She has a few friends with her.    Plenty to pay attention about.

I am missing movies.  I am missing the theatre.   This goes without saying I suppose.   I am more distressed about the delays in movie releases like James Bond, Dune, Top Gun etc.   Of course the studios don’t want to lose out on the theatre revenue at $15 a seat.   But it would seem that this virus will keep people out of theatres for quite a while – well maybe everywhere but the US, unless they start showing movies in church.    Stay safe.   Stay home.

December 23rd, 2019 (Merry Christmas – Skywalker Ends)

With much skepticism I headed to the theatre on the Thursday night opening of Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker.   I say skepticism because I so thoroughly disliked the previous The Last Jedi installment of this storied franchise.   Few movies can garner as much hype and anticipation as a Star Wars film.  This one is no different.  42 years in the making, this is to be the end of the nine episode, trilogy of trilogies, albeit the George Lucas final trilogy will never be known as Disney bought the rights and continued along with the saga.   JJ Abrams after the last episode debacle helmed by Rian Johnson, returns to direct and write this film.    Query whether Abrams will ever be thought of as a brilliant writer and/or director.   Abrams mostly directed TV before getting involved with the Star Trek reboot and before that Mission Impossible 3.    For me, despite earning massive dollars with his movies, he shows an annoying ability to mirror a story structure from previous stories.  Star Wars is an excellent example with his first The Force Awakens, mirroring A New Hope and the goal to destroy a Death Star.   I mention this because Rise of Skywalker, does the same thing with Return of the Jedi (even returning to the moons on Endor for an inexplicable reason).   It’s a galaxy for cryin’ out loud!!  Does everything have to tie back to the originals?    Does every character have to make an appearance?   Seriously?

My main point of contention in seeing the trailers was that the background voice of the Emperor was plainly heard.  The Emperor (formerly Senator Palpatine) is dead.  In Return of the Jedi, Darth Vader threw him into a massive chasm where in a puff of cloud and smoke he was gone.   As part of the Emperor’s manipulating Anakin, he spoke of a legendary Sith (Darth Plageis The Wise) who could create life and prevent people from dying.   But later he spoke of having to “learn it together” when Anakin was finally turned to the Dark Side.   Now he shows up.   I spoil little by mentioning this, as if you have taken off your jacket and had your first handful of popcorn this is revealed in the film.   If that spoils your movie, you have bigger problems coming.  In short, dead was dead and I saw no reason for resurrecting him.   So then it begins.

In short this movie, for me, didn’t suck.   But it wasn’t great.  My 15yo younger son was not as enthused.   He didn’t like it.  It was just too all over the place for him.   He also hasn’t had an additional 27 years to familiarize himself with the source material.     He asked me what about it did I like directly after we finished, and I struggled coming up with an answer.   Funny.    My answer at the time was that I felt that they did a credible job with some aspects of the Kylo Ren story.   I also felt that they addressed the Princess Leia issue with some tact.   But upon reflection and sleeping on it, I think the main source of positiveness came from the fact that the theme was that individuals have choice and they are not chained to their blood and destiny to decide what they will do with their lives.    Game of Thrones missed out on this lesson in the biggest way!   Danny, since was a Targaryen was to be a ruthless, mindless killer who was power hungry and incapable of being a competent leader.   She avoided this fate for 7 seasons, then reverted back to her blood (her Father after all was the Mad King) in the Final season.   So she must act in the same way, and must be stopped.   Suffice it to say that breaking the bonds of your destiny is just a matter of choosing to do something else.   In Return of the Jedi, when Luke overpowers Darth Vader in the Emperor’s room, the Emperor wrongly states that it was Luke’s “hate that made (him) powerful”.   Actually it was the love of his sister that did, and his desire to protect her from these psychopaths.   So it was refreshing to see moments where characters get to make a choice in Rise of Skywalker.

Other things that I will mention quickly.   I didn’t like the continuation of skills and abilities of characters that have never been seen before from a character.  These come from all sorts of characters and mostly revolve around the force.   Random spaceships are left indiscriminately around for characters to take, and miraculously they fire up and fly without issue (and the characters know how to fly them).   The introduction of a new light sabre (you’ll know what I mean when you see it).  The romance aspect which just sort of fizzles.  The incredible ability to identify which particular Star Destroyer has a ridiculous beacon from just a “feeling”.   Finding escapes from areas that look pretty locked down, and moving around space (or so it seems) with no spacesuit of any kind and running atop space ships that are flying in this space.   I could go on and on and won’t.   Just check your realism metre at the door.    Star Wars will make gazillions of dollars this weekend.   Although this may close out the Skywalker story, given the money to be made, and the success of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda, expect to see more Star Wars movies.   But a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, let’s find some new totally independent stories can be created that introduce new ideas and characters.

I finished watching the first season of Killing Eve on Crave which is a TV series that was given many accolades at the Emmys and Golden Globes.   Sandra Oh (Canadian stars) along with Jodie Comer (previously in The White Princess).   There are many familiar British faces from Harry Potter, other British TV series etc.   Oh won the Golden Globe for Actress in a TV series.   Comer won the Emmy in the same category.  It is a good cast with clever writing.   Comer is particularly excellent.   The basic story is that Oh works for British Intelligence and they are looking to track a thread for numerous seemingly unrelated killings.   They are wondering if there is a new assassin loose who is smart, effective and elusive.   Comer plays the assassin.   I have finished Season 1 and I have enjoyed a great deal.   There are complex relationships at work and people who are equally complex.   Season 2 picks up 30 seconds after Season 1 and I am finished just the first episode.   If you can, check it out.   Well worth the time, with plenty twists and turns.