More on “The Last Jedi”

Posted on January 28, 2018 at 3:36 pm

Copyright 2017 Disney

SPOILERS ALERT!

The most recent “Star Wars” movie has inspired some thoughtful responses and some fascinating behind-the-scenes insights about all of the elements, choices, technologies, and expertise that were included.  As visual effects supervisor Ben Morris said, “It’s just a remarkable piece of filmmaking and action, and I think it started off with the stunts, but the visuals and the sounds are what made it in the end.”

Crafting the Throne Room  One of “The Last Jedi’s” most striking scenes takes place in Snoke’s throne room, and SlashFilm takes us behind the scenes to explain how it was done and what it means.  It is fascinating to see how many From production designer Rick Heinrichs:

When you look toward the throne, you see this almost spinal and rib-like structure above Snoke. So as part of this very elegant, simple shape, there was also an incredibly important sense of power and strength in almost a metaphorically organic way as well…The most important thing for me is that we took the language of the First Order/Empire architecture, and we were able to bend it to our specific use and created something that feels both familiar and novel at the same time.

From writer/director Rian Johnson:

The first thing to say is coming into writing this or any story, the object is not to subvert expectation. The object is not surprise. I think that would lead to some contrived places. The object is drama. And in this case, the object was figuring out a path for each one of these characters where we challenge them and thus learn more about each of them by the end of the movie. So that having been said, Kylo’s arc in this movie I saw as – besides his relationship with Rey – the big arc for Kylo in this movie was breaking down this kind of unstable foundation that he’s on and then building him to where by the end of the film he’s no longer just a Vader wannabe, but he’s stepped into his own as kind of a quote unquote villain, but a complicated villain that you understand, right?

On Uproxx, Johnson explains more about what he had in mind for the confrontation between Kylo Ren and Snoke.

And I like Bitter Gertrude’s view on the “subversive” qualities of “The Last Jedi.” Melissa Hillman writes:

Star Wars has always had its finger on the pulse of the cultural fear of the moment. In the original trilogy in the 1970s and early 80s, it was The Man– an evil establishment that needed to be purified by a younger generation. In the prequels of the 90s, it was evil corporations secretly colluding with a corrupt government to create endless war.

Now, in early 21st century America, the villain is an unstable young white man who had every privilege in life, yet feels like the world has wronged him. Unbeknownst to his family, he finds and communicates with a faraway mentor who radicalizes him with a horrific, authoritarian ideology. By the time his family finds out, it’s too late, and now this unstable young white man has this horrific ideology, access to far too many weapons, and the desperate desire to demolish anything that he perceives as a threat– or is told to perceive as a threat…The Resistance is impressive in its casual diversity. Women and people of color are valued for their expertise as a matter of course; nowhere does the film congratulate itself on its diversity by making a huge point of highlighting it, demonstrating white male benevolence by the generous inclusion of women and people of color, positing a white male audience nodding along, agreeing that we are so wonderful for allowing our White Male World to donate a very small corner for the Less Fortunate. The Resistance is naturally diverse, and no one even seems to notice. That is masterfully subversive.

And The Guardian calls it “triumphantly feminist.”

Among the approving voices is Annalise Ophelian, a documentary film-maker and psychologist whose current project, Looking for Leia, is about girls and women in Star Wars fandom. “The Last Jedi depicts women as multi-faceted, multi-generational, multi-racial. There are women in strong leadership positions and women who occupy student/learner positions,” she says.

The Last Jedi also contains what Ophelian says is the “first truly Bechdel Test passing scene” in the history of the franchise. “Female heroes are traditionally presented in cinematic isolation. This film gives us women working side by side, women in technical positions, and of course women learning the ways of the Force.”

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More About Beauty and the Beast (Spoiler Alert!)

Posted on March 18, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Have you seen “Beauty and the Beast” already? Then enjoy this look at the Easter eggs, movie homages, and hidden details.

And I really enjoyed this discussion of plot holes/omissions in the original that are solved in the live-action remake.

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SPOILER ALERT: Rogue One Secrets

Posted on December 17, 2016 at 7:47 pm

rogue-one-cast

For hard-core “Star Wars” fans only! SPOILER ALERT!

From Slashfilm: What the differences between the trailer and the finished film show us about the reshoots. Particularly interesting is the decision to soften Jyn’s character.

Most of this dialogue compiled from various trailers is very different. Jyn’s troublemaker backstory is mostly removed from the finished film. Her responses are more antagonistic and somewhat snarky. We had heard that the reshoots reworked the Jyn character to make her less arrogant and abrasive and more empathetic, and it appears this is true.

And, as you might imagine, there are a couple of very detailed lists of the Easter eggs and references to other “Star Wars” stories, including The Verge, Den of Geek, and Screen Rant.

And CinemaBlend has an intriguing theory on how “Rogue One” relates to the flashback sequence in “Force Awakens.”

These are the fan sites you are looking for.

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Spoiler Alert: What Really Doesn’t Work in “Trainwreck” — and the Surprising Moments that Do

Posted on July 25, 2015 at 3:37 pm

Copyright 2015 Universal
Copyright 2015 Universal

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I had a few more thoughts about Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck” that didn’t fit into my review because they are too spoilery.

First, our concerns over Schumer’s party girl character, also called Amy, are supposed to be about her drinking, pot-smoking, and one-night-stands. But can we take a moment to talk about how completely irresponsible she is at her job? It is a massive violation of journalistic ethics and instant firing offense, even for a skanky rag like the magazine she works for in this film, to sleep with the subject of your story. We are supposed to respect Amy’s professional accomplishments, especially at the end when her story, rejected as “too boring” by her employer, then somehow appears in Vanity Fair.

This is just one element that makes it difficult to make the leap of faith necessary to believe that Mr. Wonderful — or, I should say, Dr. Wonderful — played by Bill Hader, would actually fall for her. Yes, she’s pretty and funny and she sleeps with him right away, but can he have any respect for her whatsoever? No gauzey montage, even with air quotes around it, even with the genuine chemistry between the actors, is enough to prevent us from wondering whether the doctor can’t do better.

There are too many distractions. That dog walker movie? We could have one without it entirely, and there was certainly no reason for a reprise. And what was that “intervention” all about?

What I did like a lot: Amy’s affecting eulogy for her father gives some emotional heft to her character. And the scene after she takes a phone call during his speech is really well done, as Amy learns for the first time that people in relationships resolve conflict; they don’t run away from it.

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Summer Summer-y: The Summer Movies of 2014

Posted on August 31, 2014 at 3:46 pm

fault-in-our-stars-poster-largeA few concluding thoughts on the summer movies of 2014:

A good summer for food movies: “The Chef,” “The 100-Foot Journey,” and “The Trip to Italy” had some big-time actors but the real stars were the luscious meals. Special mention of the delicious French comedy “Le Chef,” starring Jean Reno, and “The Lunchbox” as well.

A bad summer for comedies: “22 Jump Street” was uneven, but at least it had some laughs. Can’t say the same for “Neighbors,” “Blended,” “Tammy,” “The Other Woman,” “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” or “Let’s Be Cops,” excruciating and un-funny wastes of time and talent.

A good summer for super-heroes: “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” were all we hoped for in summer comic book blockbusters. “Spider-Man 2” was pretty good, primarily due to the sizzling chemistry between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone.

A good summer for Scarlett Johansson: She followed up last year’s prestige hit, “Her,” with brilliant work in an astonishing range of films, from the spooky “Under the Skin” to her witty performance in “Captain America.” She was even good in Luc Besson’s second-rate “Lucy.”Guardians of the Galaxy

A good summer for YA adaptations: “The Fault in Our Stars” was skillfully brought to screen, with “If I Stay” and “The Giver” solid runners-up.

A good summer for CGI: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” was a new leap forward in the realism of the motion capture and special effects, especially the expressiveness of the characters. “Guardians of the Galaxy” had terrific CGI, especially Groot.

A bad summer for CGI: “Godzilla” was a disappointment.

I loved: “Boyhood” and “Life Itself”

I wanted to but did not love: “Jersey Boys,” “Magic in the Moonlight,” “Wish I Was Here”

I cried: “The Fault in Our Stars” and — yes — “How to Train Your Dragon 2”

Deserved better box office: “Edge of Tomorrow”

Got better box office than they deserved: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Transformers”

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

We’ve had quite a string of what I call Pogo bad guys. Remember when the comic strip character Pogo looked sadly at a polluted river and said, “We have met the enemy and he is us?” I’m not sure whether it is a lack of imagination in screenwriters or a reflection of the zeitgeist mistrust of institutions, but in films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The November Man,” and even “Let’s Be Cops,” the bad guys turned out to be inside the U.S. Government.

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