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Movie review: Solo: A Star Wars Story

There’s been a lot of dubious buzz over the last several months about Solo: A Star Wars Story. A lot of folks have been concerned about the change in directors, and about whether the movie would deliver a cohesive story. It’s only been out a week, and there’s buzz now about OHNOEZ DID IT FLOP, apparently because it hasn’t made quite as gigantic a pile of money as The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have done.

With all this negative buzz going around, you could easily conclude that the movie sucks. I am delighted to report, Internets, that this is not the case.

As y’all know I’m a lifelong fangirl for Harrison Ford in general, and for Han Solo in particular. So I was absolutely expecting to come into this movie all Judgy McJudgypants. Because of my Ford fangirldom, but also because of my longstanding love of the Han Solo backstory novels by Brian Daley and A.C. Crispin. The Crispins in particular are near and dear to my heart, as I relied upon them heavily for inspiration when playing Han on Star Wars MUSH back in the day.

Happily, while this movie’s story is of course different in the minor details (while getting the major ones generally right), its spirit felt entirely like those novels. It was just generally fun in a way we don’t usually get with Star Wars flicks. By which I mean, we’re not dealing with galaxy-shaking stakes here. This is an origin story, a heist-flick-in-space, with the Empire only a background presence rather than the main point.

And while Alden Ehrenreich isn’t Harrison Ford, I am now happy to accept his take on Han. Also, Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is absolutely glorious, and so is the droid L3.

All in all, if you’re a Star Wars fan–and especially if you’re a Han fan–go see it!

Now let’s have a swing past the Spoiler Mines of Kessel, shall we?

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Movies

Movie review: Avengers: Infinity War (no spoilers)

My household doesn’t usually see movies on opening weekend. But a couple of days ago Dara informed me that spoilers were falling like rain on her social media feeds! So yesterday evening, we scampered off for a viewing of Avengers: Infinity War at one of our local theaters.

I was deeply amused that said theater was running the film on almost every single one of their screens. I was equally amused, on the way out, to see that one of the ticket takers was dressed up like Loki. So they were clearly milking the Marvel money cow for all it’s worth.

As for the movie itself? This post will talk about it in a general non-spoilery fashion. I’ll do another post with in-depth spoiler-laden commentary.

Pacing and cast

I’ve seen multiple headlines of reviews talking about the movie being overstuffed. These reviews are not wrong. Almost every single character we’ve had introduced to us in the last ten years of the MCU shows up. Some get more screen time than others, as is inevitable with a cast this large. But with so many characters in play, the film has very little time to do much with any of them, except for the ones specifically involved with the biggest plot points.

And, given that the film’s running time is 2 hours 29 minutes, that’s a lot of time to be juggling so many characters.

Fight scenes make up a lot of the two and a half hours. Dara and I talked about how in some ways the pacing of this movie felt like The Battle of the Five Armies, in that it was almost non-stop fighty fighty fighty fighty. Because of this, some of y’all may find the film kind of exhausting. I personally didn’t; despite the long running time, I mostly felt like it moved well. I felt only a time or two that things were dragging a bit, and those moments were fleeting.

So very much in media res

I cannot stress this enough: this film expects you to know what happened in the films that led up to this one. If you haven’t been heavily invested in the MCU up until this point, this is so very not the place to come into the storyline. This is the cinematic equivalent of trying to come in on the Harry Potter books with book 7, or The Lord of the Rings with Return of the King.

For me, this was just fine. I have been heavily invested in the MCU. But I can definitely see that a casual moviegoer, someone who may have missed one or more of the previous movies, could come into this movie and be very, very lost.

So what I’m saying here is, brush up on previous MCU plots before you go see Infinity War. Go read Wikipedia plot summaries of them at the very least, if you don’t have time to watch the actual films. You don’t need to know every single previous MCU film well for the important plot points of this one to make sense. But you should brush up on Avengers: Age of Ultron, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America: Civil War, and Thor: Ragnarok.

Comic book cosmology, oh my yes

One more important point I want to make: we are now well and thoroughly into the territory of some of the wackier aspects of comic book plots here, people. In particular, we’re getting into the cosmology of the Marvel Universe, with the entire notion of the Infinity Stones, and what Thanos wants to do with them.

A lot of the action is in space, or on worlds that aren’t Earth. Some of these sequences are handled more realistically than others. Dara told me after we came out of the film that certain parts of it knocked her right out of the story, because of her immediate “uh, no” reaction. You’ll want to break out the industrial strength cables for the suspension of your disbelief here, y’all.

There are multiple on-screen deaths, be warned. But more than one of them failed to hit me with the Feels that I think the film wanted out of me, specifically because I knew that this was a comic book plot and that deaths are almost never final in these sorts of storylines. Knowing that we’re into the wackier cosmology of the Marvel universe at this point distanced me in a way some of the earlier films didn’t do, because of their better grounding in realism. (Notably, the first two Captain Americas.)

That said: I did totally tear up at certain points during the climax of the story.

Thanos

Last but not least, Thanos, our Big Bad. How well he’ll work for you will, again, depend upon how well you roll with wacky cosmic comic book plots. Arguably, Thanos’ motivations are shaky at best. But given that, Josh Brolin played him well. We get into some of Thanos’ general backstory, as well as the backstory of how he took Gamora off her home planet when she was a child. That helped make me buy his direct interactions with Gamora and Nebula, at least, if not his overall motivations.

And I’ll say this: the big guy was legit scary in battle. So were his minions, generally referred to as “the Children of Thanos” on screen. (These characters do actually have names; I looked them up on Wikipedia. But I don’t recollect hearing any of them called by these names in the movie.)

All in all, Infinity War definitely entertained me. One more warning, though: this movie ends in a dark cliffhanger-y sort of place. The real resolution isn’t due until the next Avengers flick drops in May 2019. So if you’re not a fan of cliffhangers, consider whether you want to see this film in a theater now, vs. watching it much closer to when the next one comes out.

Stand by for the spoiler-y post, wherein I will talk about this flick in a lot more depth. 😀

Movies

(A quite belated) Movie review: Black Panther

This is of course a super late post given that Black Panther came out a few weeks ago at this point. But I wanted to get this written up anyway, since I did like this movie immensely, and wanted to document my thoughts. 😀

I’ve been seeing discussion posts all over the place about it, but notably on The Mary Sue and Tor.com, both of which have had multiple interesting commentaries on various aspects of the film. They’ve ranged from the overall joy of fans of color for this film, which is massive, to the rightful and eminently correct praise of the multiple awesome women in the cast.

Now, while I’ve been a solid fan of the MCU since the first Iron Man film came out, I’m also of course squarely in the White Chick bracket of fandom. As such, I cannot by definition have the same sort of gut-deep reaction of joy to this film that a fan of color could. But I will say this: given how much joy I got out of seeing Wonder Woman, I can totally extrapolate. I am delighted that this film exists, and that fans of color get to rejoice in it. The opportunity to support it by giving it my theater-going money has pleased me, and I did in fact have enough fun seeing it that I’m strongly considering seeing it again.

For the more in-depth details of things I loved, have a look behind the fold!

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Movie review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (spoilers)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

This is the second of two review/reaction posts for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might want to go look at my non-spoiler post first, and come back to this one later. Because this is the one that has all the spoilers!

Overall, I’ll note in summary what I said in the other post rather than going into general commentary again here. Namely: the movie’s long but didn’t feel overly long to me. Several characters stood out for me with shining performances. And this was very much a “middle movie of a trilogy”, with considerable darkness of plot and galaxy-spanning stakes and ramifications. If you’re going to see this in a theater, be prepped for length.

Now then, let’s get into the SPOILERS.

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Movie review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (no spoilers)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Yesterday Dara and I did as we are wont to do on Christmas, and went out for a movie. This year, the movie in question was of course Star Wars: The Last Jedi. As always, I will be doing a review/reaction post! This year, however, there will actually be two of them. I’ve been asked for a non-spoilery overall reaction, so this post is for that.

This movie is very much the “middle movie of a trilogy”, but to my relief, it did not do what I was afraid it would do, and follow all the beats of The Empire Strikes Back the way The Force Awakens echoed A New Hope. Don’t get me wrong–I really liked The Force Awakens. But I was willing to put up with one “rehash the original plot” movie in this new trilogy. I wasn’t willing to put up with two. Fortunately, I didn’t have to!

As I do, I went back and started reading a bunch of the posts on both The Mary Sue and Tor.com, and at those sources, I’m seeing commentary along the lines of how this movie was overstuffed with plot threads. I do agree that it was possibly longer than it needed to be, but one particular B plot I’ve seen people taking issue with actually didn’t bug me. (Canto Bight, to be specific without going into detail; I’ll talk more about this in the spoiler post.) And overall, I didn’t feel like the movie ground to a screeching halt at any point, despite its length.

I will warn nonetheless that if you’re planning to see this thing in a theater and you have issues with movies that run longer than two hours, don’t drink soda beforehand!

There’s not much I can say about the plot without getting into spoilers. So instead I’ll note a few character performances that stood out for me.

Leia

I have seen commentary that described Carrie Fisher’s performance as “luminous”. This is correct. Because she commanded every single scene she was in, and moreover, gets to do one particularly badassed thing that made my heart just leap.

I have also seen commentary along the lines that the real sorrow of this movie is that we won’t get to see Leia’s arc conclude in Episode IX. This is also correct. Sniff.

Luke

Mark Hamill was fucking amazing, full stop. Dara remarked to me that this was the first time she’d been able to buy Luke Skywalker as an actual Jedi Master. She’s not wrong.

Rose

New character Rose was absolutely adorable.

Vice-Admiral Holdo

This woman doesn’t get a lot of screen time, but she owns what she’s given, and she’s responsible for arguably the most cinematically striking moment in the whole movie.

Kylo Ren

I want this boy to be thrown down a reactor shaft for what he pulled in the last movie, but I do have to admit, Adam Driver’s doing a great job with the character.

Rey

Fuck yeah. I adore this girl and every minute she’s on screen.

Overall

I’m going to save what quibbles I have for the spoiler post, since what quibbles I have don’t really detract from my overall opinion of this thing. Which is to say: goddamn, this movie. I cried multiple times, and enjoyed the hell out of it, and am very much looking forward to seeing it again.

More to come in the spoiler post!

Movies

Movie review: Blade Runner 2049 happily does not suck

This past weekend, Dara, Paul, and I, along with our pal Jenny, saw Blade Runner 2049. As a household, the Murkworks had varying levels of consternation about this movie. Paul in fact told me that he couldn’t bear to go see it if it turned out to suck, while Dara and I were somewhat less nervous. Even though we both have healthy respect for the original Blade Runner, it’s never been a movie we frequently go back and rewatch.

Hell, I’m a Harrison Ford fangirl, and I’ve maybe seen the original Blade Runner at most four or five times. Compare and contrast this with how many times I’ve rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy. And especially how many times I’ve rewatched Raiders of the Lost Ark!

That said, I did always rather like this particular Harrison Ford pic:

Deckard

Deckard

And, well, the prospect of seeing Mr. Ford in a movie that didn’t suck was tempting indeed. Fortunately for me, Blade Runner 2049 doesn’t suck!

We all agreed afterwards that while it was too long, it ultimately stood as a worthy successor to the original. I’m not sure I like it better than the original. But its story is definitely compelling, and I’ve kept thinking about it since seeing it.

Usually when I do a movie review post, I’ll talk about spoilers behind a cut tag. This time, not so much. After seeing good reviews on both Tor.com (very mild spoilers) and The Mary Sue (specifically avoiding as many spoilers as possible), I’m rather inclined to the latter approach. This movie offers a lot to think about, both within its own context and in how it links back to the original. And I’m reluctant to interfere with a viewer’s ability to get at those things without any preconceived notions.

I agree with the Mary Sue that this movie is gorgeous. Likewise, with Tor.com’s dissatisfaction that the women in the cast ultimately function as little more than plot propulsion for the male leads. And yeah, the movie is kind of too long. Yet on our way out of the theater, we couldn’t nail down where exactly there should have been less movie. It did indeed need to take its time and let everything build.

And while I’m a trifle cranky about how the movie treats its women, I can at least say that there are multiple interesting female characters. Seeing Robin Wright as a police chief is particularly satisfying, after her turn as General Antiope in Wonder Woman earlier this year. Plus, the movie passes the Bechdel with one of her scenes, so there’s that! Plus, I can say that multiple female characters inspired the pondering I’ve done about this movie since we saw it.

Worldbuilding-wise, the movie does an excellent job showing how the world has progressed since the first film. As of this writing, I haven’t watched the shorts that cover some of this backstory in more detail. But the movie didn’t make me feel like I need to.

Director Denis Villeneuve, it turns out, also directed Arrival–which I quite liked. And he’s from Quebec, which adds another thing to my list of Awesome Quebecois Things. He has certainly produced a gorgeous movie here, so he’s now two for two on films of his I’ve seen and liked. This bodes well for further encounters with his work.

And Harrison? Let’s just say that goddamn, it was satisfying to see him. Gruff, crufty old Harrison. I still love him to bits. And those of you who know me and my musical affections will know instantly which of his moments, once he finally shows up on camera, is my absolute favorite. (For that matter, those of you who know my history with CrystalMUSH also now have on-camera evidence of what exactly I had in mind when I was playing Tance Vokrim! Because old Harrison? Yep. That’s Tance.)

Old Deckard, Who Could Also Totally Be Tance

Old Deckard, Who Could Also Totally Be Tance

So yeah. Go see it, if you haven’t already. Maybe keep your expectations down a tad. I’m not a hundred percent sure Blade Runner 2049 achieves greatness, or brings anything truly new to the table that the first one didn’t already present for us. But it was still a fun viewing and I’m quite glad I saw it.

If you have seen it, drop me a comment or two about your thoughts! (Everybody else, beware of comment spoilers!)

Movies

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman

Ever since I heard that there was finally going to be a standalone Wonder Woman movie, I’ve been living in anticipation of seeing it. Last night, my household went to do so. Picoreview: goddamn, you guys, that was satisfying. 😀 I had a few quibbles with it, but they were minor quibbles at best. I teared up twice during the movie. Chris Pine is now certainly my favorite of the small sample set of versions of Steve Trevor I’ve seen. And most importantly, Gal Gadot was a complete delight to watch, from start to finish.

I shall also note for the record that even at our showing at the local iPic theater, we had two different women in full on cosplay, one as Wonder Woman and another as Supergirl. And I spotted a third woman wearing a Wondy tiara. Because we are a nerd town. It’s TRUE.

Spoilers lie beyond the veil that hides Themiscyra from the world of men! And I DO MEAN SPOILERS.

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