Solo

Solo is not a bad movie but it’s not a great movie. It’s an OK movie which seems to be the opinion of just about everyone who saw it. We could say the same or worse about a movie like ‘The Phantom Menace’ or ‘The Last Jedi’ but ‘Solo’ doesn’t even excite people enough to take a stronger view on it.

It’s a bit difficult to pin down the main factors for why it went wrong for other movies have succeeded where it failed. People might ask did we really need a origin/prequel story about Han Solo? Well, did we really need one for Batman? Or Superman? I don’t think making it a prequel was a bad point but for me a lot of what happened before Solo got on the Millennium Falcon wasn’t that interesting. I started to sit up a bit more when Chewy and Han are where they are supposed to be.
I think one of the problems with the movie is that it doesn’t have a strong story to hold the film together. It’s basically stringing together bits and pieces of Hans life that he has mentioned in the original Trilogy. It’s supposed to be a heist movie but it isn’t even a good heist movie. It doesn’t even try to be a clever one and pay homage to great heist movies the way Rogue One did with War movies such as the Dirty Dozen.

Han Solo the character isn’t really enough to hold up the film on it’s own. That’s not the fault of Alden Ehrenreich, he does a fine job of playing Han Solo but there is not much done about the character himself. The film is more about how he got to where he was in ‘A New Hope’ rather than how he became Han Solo. Actually, the film does explain how he became “Solo”, he is named by an imperial guard as Solo since he is traveling Solo. This to me shows that those involved in the movie didn’t really put enough effort into it. It could have been more than it was but they seemed to think things like that were “clever” and “character development” in some way…. Instead of showing us a Han in Pilot school or learning his trade on the streets we are givin this information in the opening lines of the film. The rest of the film consists largely of set pieces which don’t add anything to the character.

The most exciting things in the film were the mention of Beckett having killed Aura Sing (a Jedi bounty hunter) and the appearance of Maul, both characters from the prequel trilogy. As for Maul I don’t care if they follow the animated continuity or not in his future films. I think not sticking to the animated series allows for a thrilling confrontation in an Obi Wan movie.

It seems like there won’t be more Solo movies after this one but with disney trying to develop this era of the franchise more where could they go? There are hints of solo movies for Kenobi, Bobba Fett and Vader. Why not do a movie with all of them together? Kenobi, Maul, Vader, Bobba Fett and Han Solo. Where can you go wrong?

Favorite Quote:I’ve got a really good feeling about this.” – Han

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Star Trek Discovery

As a first Season it’s the most uneven season since probably the first season of TNG.
In fact I would go further and say it’s all over the place as my opinion with the show is too.

As I said in my review of the pilot I was unimpressed, the whole thing felt very stiff and the action and effects were bland, the Klingons a bunch of bores. At that time the pilot still had the touch of Bryan Fuller behind it and the creative team he had brought on board sounded promising. We had Nicholas Meyer and Rod Roddenberry as executive producers. Meyer was even supposed to be writing episode 3 but his script was ditched and his participation in the writers room went down to zero. His only involvement now is merely his name on the credits. I haven’t heard anything of Rod Roddenberry either. It’s rather disappointing as it were these names that gave me a sense of trust in the direction of the series.

From episode 3 (the second pilot) onwards I still felt the show to be all over the place. A lot of the early episodes were uninteresting, the characters and crew of the Discovery were unlikable but there is one character who piqued my interest. Gabriel Lorca.

The character was absolutely fascinating to me, he didn’t sit in the Captains chair, he kept the lights down low due to an eye condition caused by the destruction of his ship, he seemed to be suffering from PTSD, he was a hard ass and kicked the crap out of the Klingons, even when he blew up their ship he put some eye drops in his eyes so he could watch their ship explode in brilliant glory, fuck yeah.
I got the sense that Lorca was being developed as a Villain for the series. I thought would be around a bit longer than 1 season, I expected that eventually it would be Burnham verses Lorca but I didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did…

The thing with Discovery is that it doesn’t grab you the way a show like ‘Battlestar Galactica’ did. It’s not the dark brooding type of Trek people were expecting. It still very much is Star Trek, though clearly by new producers finding their feet and with Discovery I felt I was kinda getting a bit more fan service. I could tell I was falling for the show when I started humming the unhumable theme tune. I started to like the ridiculous concept of the Spore Drive. By Episode 9 I felt the show was really hitting it’s stride in fact. Then we move to episode 10 where the show enters the Mirror Universe for the first time and it becomes bat shit crazy and had me going “holy crap” a few times. I’m not a fan of Mirror Universe episodes but I gotta admit I was geeking out a bit with the mention of the Defiant from the ‘Enterprise’ episode ‘In a Mirror Darkly’. I’m not really surprised they returned to the mirror universe since those episodes were among the highest rated of ‘Star Trek: Enterprise’. Bringing Michelle Yeoh back as a Mirror Universe version was fantastic too. It released her from the confines of a Starfleet Captain who doesn’t fire first to a total ass kicker. I love Michelle Yeoh’s action movies so when she kicked the shit of of Lorca I was throwing my hands in the air in and cheering. Very few TV shows make me do that. Discovery had me in it’s dirty claws finally, giving me everything I had wanted. I felt dirty but also felt so good.

Making Lorca into a Mirror Universe villain wasn’t a bad idea, it’s kinda interesting. But if find that in doing so it sacrificed a lot of what the character was/could have been. Yes, he is a baddie from the mirror universe, he was fun but the Lorca we thought he was, the traumatized man, was the far more interesting one that had the potential for heavy drama. I hope Jason Issacs returns as Lorca as he is up there as one of my favorite Villains alongside Khan and Gul Dukat.

So Discovery is not the Trek show I hoped for. It is the fast food of Star Treks. Yet like a child high on fat and sugar I am eager for more.

The new/old Enterprise.

I had read a rumor that the Enterprise was going to show up at the end of the season so I was waiting with baited breath and as the distress call came in and the Enterprise was announced I clasped my hands in trepidation.

After seeing the ship I let out a huge sigh of relief and nodded in approval. Discovery producers did us good on this one. It resembles the original very closely and is a very nice and restrained update. I might even say I love it but I’m still excited over the whole thing.
I think a large part of my relief lies in how utterly disappointed I was with the Kelvin Universe Enterprise which didn’t look so much a starship as it did a sculpture made by a designer. The Enterprise A looks even worse in my opinion. Kelvin Universe Starships are pretty ugly.

The Original Enterprise is perfect and doesn’t need to be changed of course but it’s understandable that there is a desire to update it a little bit. I can accept it and we all knew this day was gonna come.

Favorite Quote: “We choose our own pain. Mine helps me remember.” – Lorca

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S

‘S’ feels like the best of ‘Ring’ with large parts in summary form as told by other characters. In some ways it’s an introduction to new readers and a refresher course for others. At times though it seems to get in the way of the story at hand, especially when you are reminded of how good the previous books were. ‘S’ does have it’s own story and mystery to unveil though, the problem is that if you have read the previous books, particularly ‘Ring’ and ‘Spiral’ then you’ll know quite a few of what the big reveals and mysteries are, if not you’ll be able to at least guess them.

The biggest places the book falls are as so, it has a supernatural aspect to it. Now this works fine with the movies because there has always been that aspect, Sadako’s curse is exactly what it is, a curse. In the novels though it is a virus is the guise of a curse. The books have always taken a more scientific approach to the Ring virus and almost all mysteries thus forth, yet here there are elements not really explained in the context of the Ring world, instead (and that brings me to my second point) they are explained in the context of ‘The Loop Program’ in such a wave of the wand way. I was worried as I was hitting the 200 page mark that the story didn’t look like it was going to be wrapped up before I reached the end of the book, at least not in a satisfying way. Alas it does get wrapped up in a “I want to finish writing this thing before bedtime manner” as we have a character appear in 2D form on a computer screen to give a long exposition as to what has been going on all this time. In a way, it’s easy to feel cheated. The main antagonist is even dealt with in an offhand manner which the main character reads about in a news report. Any real confrontation is done in a dream like Haruki Murakami way, it reminded me a bit of the final confrontation at the end of ‘The Wind up Bird Chronicle’.

At the end of the book there are two mysteries that are left for the reader to ponder.
Who is Seiji Kawashia and why did he have a relationship with Sadako?
He is somewhat related to Kaoru Futami from the book ‘Loop’ but that character died in ‘The Birthday’, sacrificing himself to destroy the Ring Virus.
What is Akane’s true power and did she actually kill Niimura? Was it really so easy as to do that? Or was it perhaps the spirit of Sadako, her mother, whom she sees from time to time?
There is another novel ‘Tide’ which follows the story of Kawashida which might blow the lid off these questions. The main character at the end of the novels chooses to go back to bed rather than deal with them and his wife (the clone of Sadako) is too underdeveloped to really know what she thinks.

Am I glad I bought the book after all that? Hell yeah I am. It’s still a page turner because all these years later the story of Ring and Sadako is still so compelling and after a gap of over 10 years between this and the last Ring novel I was really hungering for some more.

Translation Notes: I’d like to say first that I haven’t translated any books but as someone who has read the entire series of Ring Novels I have to say that it seems like the translator made a meal of this one.
There were parts of the book that I had to read again and again just to try and get what the translator was trying to say in English. The most obvious is from early on when during the cursed tape a man hangs himself on the video and the action is described as “crashing through the ceiling”, yet his toes don’t touch the ground and he actually hangs “from” the ceiling, so how is it that he is crashing through it again and again? It’s confusing and unclear when the description of the cursed tape should be handled delicately. A few scenes like this I found difficult to picture in my mind due to the aloof way in which they are written.
Here’s a few more “The body fell with deliberate speed”. Uh OK, so we are talking about the speed? How fast is deliberate? Or is it with the intention of deliberate action? I checked for a definition of this and found a definition in a law dictionary stating “the law or a regulation needs to be maintained or instituted without delay.” Which doesn’t match a hanging scene in a book.

Here’s another, “as the bird flies” – “As the crow flies” is the correct idiom, not bird.

These parts of the novel did spoil it a bit but I put it solely down to the translator and any proof readers, I had not encountered such problems with the other books . Vertical Inc, I expect better.

Favorite Quote: “When signs match, it often means that phenomena that appear unrelated at first sight  are connected underneath.”

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Rings

I can’t understand the negative reviews surrounding this movie. Sure, it’s a slight above average by the numbers horror movies that rehashes aspects of the original making it not wholly original or engaging, but I actually liked it. There’s enough there to keep your attention. It delves deeper into the mythology and creation of Samara which is what I had been hoping to see with the sequels. I was glad it wasn’t just a reboot of what came before but actually expanded on that. I like that a Cult grew around the Urban legend, I like that there is a video within the video (very much like the Ring TV series ‘Ring Saishûshô’) and that it takes a key point from the book ‘Spiral’ aka ‘Rasen’ as the final twist of the film. But yes they could have done more with it. It seems that this movie was planned as a sort of inexpensive backdoor sequel which is probably why the film got a lot of backlash. Originally titled ‘The Ring 3D’ I had even read some rumors way back that Suzuki Koji himself was approached to offer some idea for a third Ring movie, although it seems nothing came of that beyond the final twist at the end.

Is it worth watching? I think so, if you are a fan of the Ring franchise and want to know a little more about how Samara came to be then check it out.

Favorite Quote: “Rebirth”.

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Zatoichi Season 1

Think of this series as very much like the movies. Though they are condensed into about 50 minutes running time they are just as entertaining and have the same production quality feel of the movies.

Equally powerful and at times devastating are the stories they tell. (major spoilers follow)

In episode 3 for example. At the start of the episode Zatoichi is giving a shoulder massage to an old woman and telling her about his mother whom he never knew when he was younger. We see the face of the old woman who’s eyes open wide as if in recognition that Zatoichi is her son. Seconds later though her home is attacked by gangsters and she is killed with Zatoichi never knowing who she might have been. In the same episode Zatoichi also befriends a gangster (one of the same gangsters that attacked the old lady’s home at the start of the episode) whose life Zatoichi spares as he wants no more bloodshed. At the end of the episode he plans to meet his new friend at a bridge but along the way his friend decides to try fight him once more, unknown to Zatoichi, since he is blind, he reluctantly kills the man and then goes to the bridge to wait for the man he just killed. After a while when his friend doesn’t arrive he slowly realizes what has happened and moves on. This is all just in one episode!

While not all episodes are as jam packed as the one above there are some cracking ones. By the end of the first season Zatoichi returns to his hometown and there is a chance it seems that Zatoichi will be able to live life free from violence, but between his reputation and his own sense of justice and revenge things go back to how they’ve always been for him.I wouldn’t have expected anything less for the character.

The series is episodic so don’t expect any arcs or reoccurring villains. After 26 episodes you might feel a bit tired of each episode having similar scenes, themes and action but if you’ve watched the Zatoichi movies and enjoyed them then you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you didn’t watch this series.

Favorite Quote: “When i’m sleeping, if the wind blows hard against the door and makes a noise i’m already holding my sword in my hands.” – Zatoichi

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Last Jedi outrage

After the massively popular reviews following the premiere of the Last Jedi the film was released in most countries on the 15th of December and since then the fan furor has started to increase. Fortunately I had been oblivious to it until after I had seen the film. As I walked out of the cinema silently with my friend

“what did you think?”

“not bad, and you?”

“Not bad. Do you want to see it again?”

“No, you?”

“No.”

It took about 20 minutes to get home by which time I was ready to let loose my thoughts which can be seen in my review. I hadn’t imagined that the fan reaction would be the same until I went online and saw the fan reaction. I checked the reviews on Monday on IMDB and saw this…..

The online reviews are very very negative

At the time the film was standing at 7.9 which I and others found rather hard to believe but it fell to 7.8 the next day and stands at 7.7 now.

The number of one stars for the film is extremely high. Compare that to justice league which stands at 7.1 with far fewer 1 star votes.
Granted people feel more passionately about Star Wars which is partly why they are voting so low. It’s not just a vote against the quality of the film but on the direction the franchise has taken with the latest movie.

https://media.vanityfair.com/photos/5a370db19781ed4490fc37ab/master/w_690,c_limit/Screen%20Shot%202017-12-17%20at%204.25.52%20PM.png

Against this backlash there are fans (and media outlets) who are fighting back saying the negative fan reviews are just people making more accounts and it’s an conspiracy by people who hate the film. Lots of people were latching on to the news that some guy, yes, some guy! on facebook had manipulated the Rotten Tomatoes audience score to which Rotten Tomatoes released a statement to say that the score is authentic.

With a worldwide gross of $573,710,009 1 week later it seems unlikely that the film is going to suffer too badly but the momentum does seem to be slowing down. In America on Monday it earned $21,556,373. This puts it into the top 10 of the highest earning Mondays of all time. Great but that’s 20 million off ‘The Force Awakens’. It’s even behind Jurassic World. It’s likely the movie is going to lose quiet a penny on those repeat viewings. I’m sure Disney will be taking note of this.

So why the furor? There are quite a few things. There were a large amount of plot points that were discarded by Rian Johnson which have annoyed fans.
The main point that people are angry about is the handling of Luke Skywalker himself. Something Mark Hamill has been vocal about and clearly seems a bit hurt by when you listen to his interviews. so it’s not just a few fans making multiple accounts to down vote things.

At this stage it wouldn’t surprise me if there is some bad blood there between himself and disney and I’m curious if he’ll come back at all with the next movie.

Why did critics rate this so highly then? Because they are reviewing a movie not as fans but as critics. They reviewed the movie on it’s own merits while a lot of fans rated it on how a character like Luke was portrayed and how they have seemed to betray the nature of who he is.
As a movie I enjoyed Star Wars the Last Jedi. It is a tad too long though with some unnecessary scenes. As a Star Wars movie I enjoyed it too but there are quite a few things I dislike about the movie and the biggest thing is how they handled Luke.

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Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Or, throwing the lightsaber out with the bathwater. In short, I’m really glad JJ Abrams will be back for the episode 9 after my initial reservation.

This Review will contain massive spoilers and rants.

 

Spoiler Rant list:

I remember walking out of ‘The Force Awakens’ with a ton of questions. The point that the film had ended on was such a cock tease of a moment but it set up an epic journey of heroes and villains.

So instead of giving us what the last film set us up for, the themes and plots are thrown away, literally! Luke takes his Father’s lightsaber, the one passed down to him by Obi Wan Kenobi and throws it over his shoulder. This is basically the symbolic moment of what this film does.

Rey’s parents: Nobodies. So much for making such a big deal about it in the last movie.

Snoke: Who is he? What happened to his face? What does he represent? What’s his deal? He’s killed without a single hint as to who, why or where he came from.

The Knights of Ren: As above.

Luke’s light saber gets snapped in half. – The lightsaber that was given the mythical quality of excalibur in ‘The Force Awakens’ is broken here. The destruction of legends or as Kevin Smith put it in his review of ‘The Last Jedi’ a “Fuck you JJ” moment. (at least Rey has the two parts at the end)

Fin: His first question is “where’s Rey?”. The girl he cared so much about in the previous movie. He doesn’t even speak to her in this film.

Fin: The movie actually doesn’t seem to know what to do with his character. After such a strong arc his story is overshadowed by developing a new and frankly unneeded character, Rose.

Kylo Ren’s Mask: Smash it, that stuff is for kids. You don’t want someone intimidating like Vader do you?

Luke: The frickin hero of the original Trilogy actually ignited his light saber over the head of his Nephew, the son of one of his closest friends and his sister. After facing down his father and taking the higher road he would actually have a moment where he would do that? The man who wouldn’t give up on Anakin Skywalker after all the shit he did?

Luke & Yoda: Yoda actually has to tell Luke that the jedi books aren’t important, that after 40 years the last jedi master who defeated Vader and the Emperor has to be told what is really important and what really matters?

I mean, take a look at Season 3 of ‘Star Wars Rebels’ where we actually get to meet Obi Wan in the desert between episodes 3 & 4. A man who taught Vader everything he knows. But when we see him in Rebels he is the wise, calm, Jedi from years of meditation and thinking time in the desert. Luke was the son of Vader, a potential adept of the Dark side, a bomb waiting to go off. Obi Wan didn’t ignite a lightsaber over Luke’s head. He never gave up believing in the one to really bring balance to the force. I don’t believe Luke would have done the same thing either, I don’t believe Luke would have closed himself to the force, not after everything.

Lightsabers battles: The first movie without a lightsaber battle.

Captain Phasma: So much for seeing more of your character developed…

Benicio Del Toro: Why were you in this movie?

No final shot of the main characters in the movie. This is a bit of a no no. Breaks tradition and again, this isn’t just any movie.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I liked the movie. I enjoyed it. There were emotional parts, beautiful scenes and it’s still interesting enough to make me write about it. But it has it’s problems. As real people, like us I can certainly accept these flaws but….

This is Star Wars. These are the archetypal heroes of a generation and more. They are elevated above us as heroes, they aren’t the kind of characters we see on Star Trek, or other SF movies. They are larger and greater in life. That is what JJ Abrams got, that is where he lead us to by the end of ‘The Force Awakens’. Here is Luke, the hero we need. Not the person that we meet in a bar on a sunny afternoon. We need someone above that, he won’t do that. Our childhood hero, who makes the right choice that people can’t always do. Clearly this is where JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson differ. JJ Abrams dresses Luke in white. Johnson has him change out of white robes and into dark ones.

What I liked, the open battle with the bombers. The ship going to light speed and crashing into other ships looked beautiful. Leia was just perfect in all the scenes she was in. A wonderful and sadly final performance by the wonderful Carrie Fisher. I loved R2 showing Leia’s video again. Luke and Leia’s moment together.

So Rey isn’t a Skywalker, nor was she the daughter of Han and Leia who had their minds force wiped by Luke to protect their daughter. I feel in a way that many people might. That a lot of time was spent thinking over nothing.

Favorite Quote:No one’s ever really gone.” – Leia

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