Friday, July 1, 2022

Obi-Wan Kenobi

I love watching Star Wars.




I'm just so happy it's here, regardless of if it was either a film or a show this was way up on the list of future Lucasfilm projects I was looking forward to. I'm not taking back what I said in my Solo review, I enjoyed the movie and forever will judge those who boycotted it but it was a sacrificial lamb to get a Kenobi movie from me. But hey, we got a roughly 6 hour series in time and I still mostly refuse to associate myself with the Star Wars community, I'm just really over people. I read the Kenobi book by John Jackson Miller quite awhile before the show even began to get me in the mindset of the story this show wanted to tell. And while it did take tiny bits here and there, it of course crafted it's unique original story. I thought it would be one of the most downplayed Star Wars shows ever, heavy on introspection, reflection, and acceptance for Obi-Wan who is still grappling with the fallout of Revenge Of The Sith with maybe some Inquisitor action thrown in because they are a big presence at that time. But no, the story starts out humbly enough but changes gears quick when Leia gets kidnapped forcing Kenobi to leave Tatooine to rescue her while contending with the Inquisitorious and eventually Vader. It's not super in your face the arc that Obi-Wan goes through from being a broken, severely PTSD ridden, hermit content to do nothing to gaining some catharsis and peace while regaining his attunement to the Force through the course of the series. Massive spoiler here but, Ewan McGregor friggin' knocks it so far out of the park that it left that galaxy and ended up in ours. He flexes those acting muscles without even uttering a syllable at times, but carries the wisdom, experience, and compassion of a Jedi Master. It thrills me that we get so much attention on Leia in this show, because Luke has his story and is the focus of 3 movies minimum, so why the hell not give young baby Leia some attention? I have glimpsed the future, and may the space gods have mercy on me for this is precisely what my future daughter will be like. I know it in my soul, a terrific hot mess, beyond stubborn, absurdly adorable, and constantly making me proud and yet worrisome. This girl, Vivien Lyra Blair is a gosh dang 20/10! I have spoken. Moses Ingram pretty much snared my attention from the trailer alone, and Reva's story is really dang good though appropriately kept in the dark for the majority of the series so zip a lip on that for now. And I know she is given plenty of attention and I know people were like "I was hoping for Kenobi. Why are you here?" and that she should have had her own series, to which I would be down for to get a show all about the Inquisitors and how they operate. But the one single thing I was adamantly upset about before seeing the show was there was no handsome evil Jason Isaacs as The Grand Inquisitor, but we got Rupert Friend instead. Those qualms were quickly put to the side after his first scene, entirely reminding me why I love this character so much. He gets that air of superiority, smug charm, icy calm control, and intimidation with some very fun friction with Reva. Like there aren't enough costumes from Star Wars I want already. Speaking of costumes, Darth. F***ing. Vader. How? How...do they keep making him better?? I mean really, my favorite Star Wars character ever just keeps getting improved over time, and in recent times they have been attempting to increase the fear factor with resounding success. I have not feared this Dark Lord in my life until Jedi Fallen Order and then this show makes me horrified to the point of silence. The writing, good God the writing really favors Vader here. Not just lines, but what he does and how he does it is the stuff of legends and nightmares. And the fact we get Hayden back, he gets to do it again after the Prequel Renaissance, I'm proud of him he does such good work! Cause I've went through it all with the prequels, from loving them just as much as the originals and thinking they were all the same level of great, to thinking so little of them after hearing so much negative feedback in my early adult years, to a balanced state of appreciation and enjoyment today. I mean obviously it has so much to do during that era of the prequels, but the stuff here for those big fans of Episodes 1, 2, and 3 I know makes them so happy. It made me incredibly happy, shocked, intrigued, emotionally involved as always. The love just never will fade over time. It's beautifully shot with a lot of emphasis on the expansive environments, and the intricate closeness of character's facial expressions. I honestly think they upped the quality of this show than Mando or Boba, difficult to describe but you can feel the effort and detail given to each episode. Considering it was all from the vision of a single director who brought her own style and little touches is great to see. Not at all that there is anything bad about how multiple directors work on one show, that's a good majority of television, but it's just nice to see someone work on it until the end. Should there be a season 2? I am in the camp of a firm no. It gave enough to satisfy me and my want for knowledge of this period in galactic history, but it ended just right to where I can live happily with what I got. There's no doubt more stories to tell in the subsequent 9 years before A New Hope, but I don't think it needs to be commited to film. The comics have been a doing a LOT for Star Wars in all eras, and I can only begin to tell you how much I need to strap in and dive into the immense depths of all these comic runs at the very least Vader's. I know there is going to be an in retrospect where I ramble on so many tangents about so many things, but this is an overview of what I thought and is it worth watching. Not as accesible as other modern Star Wars shows, but highly entertaining with good storytelling contained within. But if you have even a modicrum of interest or knowledge in Star Wars it's going to be on the list. 4 stars, I will give it a 9/10, and for those saying why do you harbor such hatred for the community? I am what you made me.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

In Retrospect: The Book Of Boba Fett

I was debating on watching Boba or Visions, but I feel Boba has much more to discuss and this is penance for no May 4th stuff.





It's always important to rewatch stuff some time after, especially if you've had some notes on certain things. Thankfully the problems I had were very minimal, and more touched on the overarching television series "universe" if you will but all in all it's still pretty good. I still say the best parts for me was getting more Tusken culture in this, I found that section of the show some of the most interesting and engaging storytelling in Star Wars. I'll bring another point up near the end about this period but let's move on. Seeing Boba lay the foundations for his status as Daimyo of Mos Espa was interesting, again kinda what I gathered from the trailers that this was almost a crime drama set in Star Wars and I did notice some Godfather elements for sure. I think that's the part people kinda missed about this show is it's called The Book Of Boba Fett, and this is just chapter one I feel people look at this as only a one season show and there isn't any continuation. I feel there is plenty more ground this show can cover and will gladly settle in for a 2 to 3 year long wait for it to return. I mean Dave and Jon have so many plates spinning and I know I went on a tangent about the live action shows intersecting, but I also understood the reasoning behind it. The Mandalorian spearheaded this era, it's a flagship for all future series to travel in it's wake. I don't have a serious issue with Din having essentially an episode and a half just to catch us up on what's been going on. After all, Boba had many moments to himself in season 2 of Mando and it wouldn't surprise me if they balanced it out and gave us a whole episode of just Boba and Fennec in season 3, before going to Mandalore with daddy Mando and little Grogu. I took some grievance with Master Luke also being in this show, but let that not fool you I still loved it and while some may say it isn't entirely pivotal for this show I also couldn't agree to leaving it out because it does do some groundwork for what we'll see next. Hell it sets up a teeny bit of the Ahsoka series, and while we're on that subject just the tiniest little interaction with Ahsoka and Luke was nothing short of mindblowing, and that line man...it cut me deep. Regardless of whether or not something is succesful in terms of Star Wars it's never a waste or superflous, they give new material to expand on and tell more stories. There's always something new. For example, I knew from years of being too nerdy for my own good that Tatooine was once a water planet and you see that in this show during the Tusken portions and that is something I guarantee not everyone who has watched Star Wars knows. So adding things like Ahsoka, Cad Bane, friggin' jedi swordmaster Cin Drallig, among others is great for us old fans who have read the books, played the games, went the distance, it rewards us for knowing so much. Yet it works for new fans as well, because it introduces these new things and garners intrigue. So even if someone was like "Oh the Book Of Boba Fett was a giant pile of nothing, it just seemed like an unnecessary spinoff of Mandalorian" it still does something for this universe and these characters we've seen for some time. It progresses elements and shows something we haven't truly seen before. So I can truthfully let go of the small complaints, it's just entertainment at the end of the day and if we keep getting awesome moments and interesting stories, I just can't ask for more. They did such a good job, even with similar directors this felt like a different show doing it's own thing. Outstanding applause worthy usage of practical effects along with CG which dat look gud! The cast slips effortlessly into the parts, Temuera feels like he just got done filming Attack Of The Clones he just embodies that character, Ming-Na Wen good lord do not get me started I have a century to shout praises of this woman she is a queen, some people would say the Mods are not important characters and are there to make the plot progress but that's not to say the performances are at all forced. It just works in all aspects, nothing feels slapdash or forced, I don't have bewildering questions, I just can enjoy the ride. Not all things in this wonderful galaxy have to be the next groundbreaking peak level of Star Wars goodness. It's very good, the score I'd say remains an 8/10 but it sure is a stalwart strong 8/10. For sure worth a rewatch and discussion. And here we go for the end, what did I think of Kenobi? Only a Sith deals in absolutes.

Monday, June 27, 2022

In Retrospect: The Bad Batch

Has it already been a year?




Strange to think but yeah, The Bad Batch came out just last year and after hearing news and seeing the trailer for season 2 it was time to discuss more. I think I appreciated and got more out of it the second time, if on nothing else but the story. I'm almost positive this story at least for this season actually has little to do with the Batch themselves, throughout all 16 episodes it's hammering the fact that the Republic is no more. You start seeing how the Empire formed, exchange for new currency, identification for all citizens on record, tagging ships, the complete deconstruction of the cloning facilities and slow phasing out of the clones. It's almost like a backdoor series just to see this birth of a new era, while of course still centered on our group of protagonists. Most of them, I think the more I see of Hunter, Omega, Wrecker, and Tech the better I like them. But Echo, man he always feels like the odd one out with little stuff for him to even do. It's like they needed a replacement cause they knew they were going to make Crosshair a baddie, which cheapens and lessens Echo's survival even more for me in The Clone Wars. Perfect example to summarize, Cid's got nicknames for all of the group, Hunter is Bandana, Omega is Tiny, Wrecker is Muscles, Tech is Goggles, and Echo.......ah. I mean I know we got a good fair bit of him and his story of course in Clone Wars, but jeez I just hope they give him more material in the next season. Props on making Crosshair a bastard just because he's an evil son of a mother, no inhibitor chip nonsense though again not that big of a shock when the guy who sounds like he assassinates babies in their cots and bombs hospitals turns out to be a villain. But it's still a good solid dynamic to work off of with these two opposing factions. I know I said the animation quality was lagging a bit behind the final season of Clone Wars, and I do stand mostly by that, but the backgrounds and environments are out of this world. I mean seriously, dat look gud!! I do feel like a major ass for having doubts about Omega, because at first I had nothing but intrigue. A female clone, what does that mean? What's her purpose? How did she come to be a pure genetic replication? And then the worry began and I was like, shit she might be this annoying dumb kid who I can't stand. But as the episodes went on, I liked her a good deal and now I'd guard her forever. Someone brought up a point I never considered with this show, in the case of Omega she is a great new set of eyes that vicariously reflects new viewers, because she's seeing everything for the first time and experiencing the galaxy while older more hardcore fans take the perspective of the clones who's seen The Clone Wars and knows all the little details. I think Lucasfilm has done a sterling job with these shows as introductions to Star Wars, while still giving fans plenty of new stuff to sink their teeth into. Now let's talk favorite moments and characters, the biggest one that sticks in my head is the reintroduction of Cad Bane I mean sweet lord. Star Wars never forgets it's roots in film serials, westerns, and samurai cinema. Like that is a Star Wars scene even my Papa could get into who was brought up on westerns in the 40s and 50s, the spaghetti stinger music, the standoff, Bane's new look, molto bene! The small bit right before the Star Destroyers obliterate the cloning facility, just that eerie quiet emptiness with that music playing, the shots are art and puts that final nail in the coffin of the prequel era. Any moment between Omega and Wrecker was a d'awwww moment, they are precious. Seeing frick fraking Republic Commandos en masse, hell yeah! The ruins of the Venators on Bracca in all their derelict beauty and deep sadness, mmm that's good Star Wars. Aftermath I still say is the best episode but that finale is mighty strong as well no doubt. It maybe wasn't the show I wanted which was essentially full on clone troopers transitioning to stormtroopers and serving the Empire, but heaven forbid they actually make a show of a positive light about albeit space natzis despite selling such iconography on literally everything. I know that was the imagery inspiration, I know, but the Empire is cooler and less horrifically evil and not a bunch of punk ass dissidents and terrorists intent on throwing the galaxy into chaos. This is the way. 4 stars, 8.5/10, Boba Fett joins us next time!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

BONUS: The Black Phone

Ooookayyy. Creepy.




So yeah, pretty effective I'd say. I knew it was gonna be one of those weird movies that if nothing else would be interesting, and I'm happy to report it's pretty good. Set in 1978 a rash of child abductions has plagued a small town in Colorado, police are more reacting than acting, parents post missing pictures everywhere, and a 13 year old boy named Phin is the next unfortunate victim. Locked in a bare basement, with bars on the window, a rickety bed, and no clue as to exactly what will happen next tries to plan his next move, while the unhooked phone keeps ringing. I mean it's a pretty terrifying and horrific story before it goes weird, almost a prolonged The Lovely Bones before the girl gets murdered and it plays it's cards well. Very very few jumpscares from Blumhouse, focusing more on the tension and how to get out of this situation from a smart but still entirely young boy. They sure nailed the 70s aesthetic down though, from horror movies playing on TV which I of course knew was The Tingler from 1959 directed by William Castle and starring Vincent Price because I'm a nerd (though I think they screwed up with Texas Chainsaw Massacre which was released in 74' not 78'), to the owl embroidered nightgown so aces across the board in terms of sets, clothing, and media. It even has some brief moments where the film gets grainier than a grindhouse flick, and the colors saturate almost to the point it's hard to discern the environment. The director did very well setting up this atmosphere and world we step into, not to mention bringing out strong material from his actors. Man, these kids were damn good. Mason Thames gives it his all and truthfully doesn't seem like he has to do much acting, thinking logically but still has moments where he breaks down. Same goes for his sister played by Madeliene McGraw, now I know you're not supposed to laugh when kids cuss but Jesus, this girl was on another level. She is not here for this nonsense and is awesome. I am happy they didn't do my guy Jeremy Davies dirty, cause I liked him a great deal in Hannibal, and at first he seems like this abusive piece of shit to the kids but they make him more than one note. He lost his wife to her commiting suicide, he drinks too much, and crosses the line between a whoopin' and child batterment, but he has moments where you see he actually cares about his daughter and son and wants them to have a better life. That's good writing, well done. But now we get to talk about Ethan Hawke, holy crap. I didn't think this word was possible in this day and age but he is eerie in this movie. He doesn't even really do anything to the kid until the tail end, and you have f*** all what his motives or intention is, just that he's this creepy dude with a panel van wearing a few masks that can only be described as kabuki tengu/samurai face masks and wants your kids buried in a shallow grave. God damn. Like, I despise the fact that I live in a world where you just can't let your kids go out alone and play. That upsets me a great deal, cause I lived in a small enough town in a slightly secluded neighborhood with trees on every side and it was the late 90s/early 2000s so it wasn't an issue. But when I was in like maybe 5th grade my momma told me to always carry a cell phone for emergency purposes when I went out. It's just sad man, we got a ways to go before things are actually better. And on that depressing bombshell it is time to end, thank you so much for joining me, see you next week.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Elvis

I think this is the first musician biopic I've seen that had some flair to it.



All sort of documentary/biographic/dramatized history of musicians lives have been done pretty cut and dry. Basic shots, conventional editing, I think the wildest I've seen is a brief framing device. Until Elvis. Baz Luhrman you absolute madman, this movie keeps your interest through directorial choices alone but of course the story is good. Roughly spanning Elvis Presley's life from a youth growing up in a black neighborhood all the way to his untimely death in 1977, hitting on his gyrating origins, the parental backlash, his brief history in the army, his movies, the comeback special, and his elongated career in Las Vegas just to name a bit. It's nearly clocking in at 3 hours but it sure don't feel like it, it zooms by at times which I can see hardcore Elvis aficionados and history buffs get a bit peeved at but to a man who didn't know a whole lot about Mr. Presley found the bits and scenes interesting and engrossing. Austin Butler, boy let me tell you he gets it and he don't stop till credits, the looks, the voice, the mannerisms, I buy it wholesale. Tom Hanks, unusual of him to play a despicable character but done well, and it's such a shame Elvis never really got the opportunity to play in lots of different countries and do what he actually wanted to do. Put into an early grave far before his time yet still leaving an undeniable impression. Is it sacrilege to say though my favorite song in the movie wasn't one of his songs? This version of Strange Things Happening Every Day rocked my socks off and it isn't a big heavy performance, it's more subdued but hit that sweet spot for me. Was not the biggest fan of the hip hop stuff, granted it only happened twice but I just wasn't there for it. It just felt way out of left field and unnecessary. The visual style makes it's presence known from the word go and does so much, I'm fairly certain even if the plot didn't get you involved you'd still appreciate the visual umph this movie has. From split screen style straight out of Brian De Palma's book, to full out comic book panels complete with speech bubbles, it knows how to add some neat touches. Turns out, I was somewhat familiar with the director's previous work, he directed the 90s Romeo And Juliet with Leo DiCaprio, he directed Moulin Rouge, so high energy and wild style is his bread and butter. I was however surprised at the audience, we got a lot of young people in there besides just me, I was expecting more people from my momma's age bracket who remembered Elvis when he was alive so that was a nice treat, and hey it got a good round of applause so they obviously liked it. It didn't teach me much I didn't know bits of already, but I'd be hardpressed to call it bad or even average. It's solid man, they do it and do it well paying respects to the king and making a investing and entertaining movie. 4 stars, 8.5/10! And I know a certain show ended this week but not to worry, the review will be up next week along with some other goodies from my favorite series.

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Elvis The Comeback Special

Yeah man, that's the good stuff.




Regardless of if you're an Elvis fan or not, this is a pretty damn good live performance. Said to be the special that brought Elvis' career out of the gutter, this is a mighty performance that covers all the bases of his music. You get rock and roll, folk with some fine honky tonk sound, those love ballads that make every woman clay in his hands, and we even get the most energetic and awesome gospel music I've heard since The Blues Brothers. It starts off fairly elaborate, but most of it is shot very akin to if you've ever seen The Beatles music video of Hey Jude, small stage, band close by, surrounded by people. Obviously because it was just a TV special you're not gonna get this giant stage, 4 million lumens, and more than 100,000 folks in attendance, which I think works incredibly well in it's favor. Elvis feels incredibly comfy despite the sweltering heat of being in an all black leather outfit that Rob Halford would find familiar (wristbands included), taking the mickey out of himself and joking often, never afraid to not take himself too seriously and provide entertainment to lots of people. It was a trip seeing the girls in the fashion of that time still fawn over Elvis, and I liked the fact we saw some older people there too just proving that not everyone over the age of 40 deemed him a menace. The performances are strong, playing both songs I knew and didn't know with unparalleled amounts of energy and passion that most modern musicians could only dream of having. Yeah you can say oh he's just gyrating and getting everybody all riled up, but the power of his voice and need to just move to the groove of the beat says otherwise. Hell the only other singer I've seen get that into the music is Joe Cocker, may he rest in peace, it's very difficult to sit still watching this and I do speak from personal experience good buddy. It's a lot of fun and has good variety throughout in musical performance, solo on stage, band on stage, filmed set footage with backup dancers and vocalists, essentially a musical journey through montage, it keeps your interest to see what happens in the next song. Originally only 50 minutes when broadcasted in 1968, I got my hands on a copy clocking in at 75 minutes with one particular sequence that got cut due to censors of a song sequence in a brothel. It was the 60s, we had to wait almost 15 years for The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas to be burned onto celluloid. Though it does make me wonder how much footage got cut of just women grabbing this man, cause when I say the stage is small I mean the front row could reach him in arm's length. I doubt you'd see that nowadays. There's plenty of visuals and ideas that you can trace back to this special, a live performance of a band on a small stage playing to a small group of people, well that's MTV Unplugged. Leather wristbands and a leather outfit, setting the stage for metal, I even saw some brief headbanging. Utilizing sets and backup dancers like any musical movie. Taking some time to talk and joke between songs with no pressure to keep progressing the set, something you'd see just one year later with Woodstock. The influence is felt, and they did a good job production wise bringing everything together. It might be cheating reviewing this, cause how could I not give it a 10/10 but I do strongly urge people to give it a watch and enjoy the music presented. I've had worse wastes of barely over an hour in my lifetime, and I'm happy I saw this. 4 stars, 10/10, and it's new movie time yet again coming up next.

Monday, June 20, 2022

King Creole

I know I probably could have left it at Bubba Ho-Tep, but more Elvis ain't a bad thing.




I was kinda stumped for Elvis material before the new movie but I heard on good account that this movie is one of his best, and it just so happens to be his favorite movie that he ever made so how could you go wrong. I heard tale that James Dean was originally considered for the role and knowing that, I kinda get why the movie is this way. The story concerns flunking high school student Danny who keeps getting into scuffs, and eventually is dragged into this tug of war with a gangster in New Orleans, trying to stay out of trouble and perform as a singer while also getting involved in a rough situation. You can very clearly see a lot of story elements and characterization that would fit in a movie like Rebel Without A Cause which came out 3 years before this. But Elvis Presley shows he can act and of course you get plenty of singing from him but you can see he nails this character. He's got a temper, he doesn't want to be like his dad, he's got the charm and personality that could get him in trouble, and you can read quite a bit in his face. He does really good work. Now I know I could question how romance works in this movie, but hey it was the 50s and in a romance kind of movie all it would take is 5 minutes one on one with a lady for both of you to be head over heels in love. That being said I dare say the best character is Ronnie played by always striking and gorgeous Carolyn Jones, I mean my God this character is just put through the ringer and she can convey just how mistreated, broken, tired, and longing for love this woman is. It's quite remarkable really how she just captures it all and makes you want the best for her so easily. Walter Matthau is a diiiiiick in this movie, full blown asshole, I haven't seen him in many antagonistic roles so I was impressed. The drama is prevalent throughout, with dashes of music and I can honestly say this movie is an easier sell than most musicals. Sure I have faith in Elvis Presley's acting talents, but the man was built to sing and that's what you want, it's more folk music with some blues zest rather than his typical rock and roll stuff but you better believe I got the happy feet and was having a good time with it. That ending though, Jesus Christ was that a downer. I was genuinely upset I won't lie, but that's the telltale sign of being invested in a movie. I wanted to know what was gonna happen, will these characters get a happy ending, you feel the emotion and get the characters so the movie works very very well. Shot in pristine black and white with good sets, nice lighting, it even dips it's pinky toe in some experimental shots for one bit. The editing is a bit weird at a few instances but that's truthfully the only bad thing I can say about it. If ever you were curious about Elvis' acting roles this would be the prime example. I give it 4 stars, 8/10, and next time we'll be getting nothing but raw talent and music galore with the Comeback Special.