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watched a thing

and i haven’t written about them, but after watching annihilation, i feel like i don’t have any choice. that thing is going to stick in my head until i flesh it out. the other two will be brief.

we start in Wakanda.

i watched the black panther

if you haven’t seen this movie yet… wtf? lets go. come on. get up, out of your chairs, and i want you to go to the window, and yell… nothing, actually, just follow your head with the rest of your body and then go to the movie.

black panther is a blast, just a lot of fun. it’s a really well-paced action movie, and it’s pretty to look at in a unique style, and the music is awesome. seriously, i saw people annoyed that the villain came in with the same theme music as usual but set to a trap beat, like that said “trap is bad.” my dudes, the villain is from oakland. the beat is meant to call back to his roots, not say trap is bad. good lord.

but also, and this is where spoilers start, it’s a movie that–you don’t have to! you can just root for T’Challa!–if you want to, there’s plenty to think about. the villain isn’t even really a villain. he changes the protagonist’s viewpoint. how many movies you’ve seen do that?

i’m not going to critique how this movie treats killmonger’s plan, or t’challa’s, or isolated wakanda, mainly because i don’t really think it’s my place to do that. black people have got it covered and you should read a few reviews by black writers. my job is to shut up and listen on that front. but also because, i don’t think this movie asks you to. it simply says, on one hand, we have the traditional way wakanda does things, african people doing incredible things and keeping an eye on what’s going on outside their country, all secretly. on the other, we have, not exactly radical black liberation, but kind of a caricature of it. maybe liberation with a healthy dose of vengeance. if you’re #teamkillmonger, and you’re not an authoritarian, the instant he says “the new wakandan empire,” every single hair on the back of your arms should have shot up and said NOPE. so i’m immediately skeptical of reviewers who call this movie a slag on black liberation because he’s not that, he’s another imperialist, just carrying a vibranium banner.

the movie doesn’t ask you to choose him. it also doesn’t ask you to choose the sort of neoliberal conclusion t’challa settles on. it merely asks you to consider: does killmonger have a point? does he have several points? where does he go too far? same for t’challa. check out the white guy’s place in this story: does it look familiar to other movies to you? how’d you feel about the nationalism behind the guards that protected killmonger until it was clear t’challa wasn’t dead? really? whoever is on the throne? i don’t think this movie so much has a message, which is the brilliance of it. it merely reflects the very best–and the very worst–of several possible perspectives, and asks you to consider, or not, if you so choose.

(i for the record was on team nakia from the minute we met her and lupita n’yongo is so goddamn good in this movie holy shit. go find a review that talks about how important this movie’s women are.)

and i watched three billboards outside ebbing, missouri

and i sort of hated it? it’s a very compelling movie with outstanding performances of terrible people whose terribleness is never justified by the movie in a meaningful way. two things.

1: this movie relies heavily on the junior-highest idea of how TV reporting works i have ever seen. throw your “in this reporter’s opinion” line in the shredder, imagine a world where news outlets ask you for comment before airing a story about you, and in general, shut the hell up.

2: if someone asked me to explain how white people deal with bigotry and awfulness, i would just watch this movie with them. because they simply don’t. they call it out when it’s extremely blatant, even then do nothing, and then ignore it when the racist/homophobe/abuser/whateveryouwant are on your side about something. at least peter dinklage’s dwarf character taking abuse all movie culminates in him walking away the only damn white person in this whole town deserving your support, and he knows it, and he makes sure she knows it. and it’s real hard for the argument to be “yes this is all the point” when the movie itself just disregards graphic domestic violence, punctuates it with a joke, moves along like nothing happened. when the casual fslurs in this movie are neither deserved nor warranted nor even directed at anyone on screen–they’re just there, i guess to remind me i don’t belong in this town? when even the black characters in this movie are either no-dimensional plot devices or themselves victims of racist overpolicing, which is pretty much ignored. sure, lady burns down the station, but the guy who threw her friend in jail without bond over two joints is LITERALLY IN THE CAR WITH HER DRIVING TO IDAHO. AND SHE DOESN’T CARE. AND NEITHER DOES THE MOVIE.

3: yes this is more than two but POLICE STATIONS HAVE MORE THAN ONE WAY IN AND OUT. GO OUT THE BACK DOOR IF THE FRONT IS ON FIRE YOU ABSOLUTE, EMPTYHEADED i dont know what i’m bad at insults.

and i watched annihilation.

so that movie… was… a trip and a half. if you aren’t familiar with the source material (i wasn’t myself) then i need you to understand the marketing is goddamn terrible. just terrible. this movie is a trippy sci fi adventure. and it is at many points, deeply demented. there’s one spook in here that i an atheist can only characterize as demonic. it usually isn’t but it has a couple of moments where it is graphic and not easy to watch. i was not expecting this level of descent into madness from the marketing, so you might not be either.

but

if you’re into dark, heady scifi, intricately worked themes, weird natalie portman movies, and you’re fine with a couple sequences of really screwed up imagery, (but not looking for like a horror movie), this movie is for you. it’s really smart. it’s not great, and i’ll splain why, but it’s very good. it’s visually stunning. but you can’t shut your brain off. you gotta keep up with the theming and what’s going on. if you can’t do that or if you get squeamish about super-twisted shit, it’s not for you, it will just be like a bad acid trip.

spoilers to follow.

i really think the key to understanding this movie lies in one line said by the leader/psychologist. okay look i cant remember all (any?) of the names in this movie. so here is who i will refer to:

the leader: the team leader. dr v-something i think. the psychologist with cancer.
natalie portman’s character.
tessa thompson’s self-harm survivor.
bear-lady: the other white lady who gets eaten by a bear.
enya: the addict whose name i misheard as enya and never got that out of my head.

when natalie portman accosts the team leader about why she thinks her husband signed up for a suicide mission, the team leader explains precisely what the shimmer represents in (95% of) this movie [para.]: “a suicide mission? do you think that’s what this is? people confuse suicide with self-destruction. almost no one commits suicide. almost all of us self-destruct.”

the shimmer is, for the vast majority of this movie, not just a “prism that refracts DNA.” it’s an exploration into self-destruction. when people self-destruct they do crazy stuff that makes no sense. each member of the all-female team go on some symbolic journey of self-destruction in the shimmer, and the film’s job is poking at why they do what they do, and at what happens to them.

i’ll start with the leader, she’s easy. she has terminal cancer and is not fighting it. she’s dying, she knows she’s dying, and when she reaches the lighthouse, she’s just gives in and melts away. the psychologist has decided she is going to face death head on and see what it holds for her. so she goes into the shimmer, to the source of it all, and is consumed. she doesn’t fight ever. she keeps watch, she remains cautious and vigilant, and then, is consumed. she could fight this, but she chooses not to. she faces it. she says herself that the lifestyle choices we make are a form of self-destruction.

bear-lady has the most tragic of the five’s backstories. she lost a young daughter to some disease or something, it doesn’t really matter exactly, she’s just totally blindsided by a crushing life event and, in her own words, “it’s like I lost myself too,” that’s not verbatim but she describes just not being her anymore in the wake of this loss. so what happens to her in the shimmer is pretty much exactly this. she’s blindsided by a bear in the dark and killed before anyone can do anything. but she isn’t gone. the horror she’s gone through comes back in the GOD DAMN DEMONIC PIGBEAR EATING HER VOICE OMG THAT WAS CREEPS. she is gone, she has been totally destroyed, and yet, she still exists, still is alive through this DEMONBEAR I REBUKE YOU. she becomes a shell of that horror, and that’s pretty much it. it meshes, maybe not seamlessly, but decently enough her money line that we started this paragraph with. a sudden, random catastrophe has left her feeling like nothing but a horrid, shrieking voice of agony. is that self destruction? not exactly. she doesn’t choose this. but sometimes this path chooses us.

we can’t talk about bear-lady without talking about enya, who, claps for movie including a gay (?) woman of color and that not mattering at all. like she makes a joke hoping for some Natalie Time, doesn’t get it, and we just move along with our lives. it doesn’t play into her story, it’s just who she is. representation!! anyway, i think she had been clean from whatever her addiction was for 10 months in this movie. but then things get traumatic. she loses someone she’s close (?) to, and she starts to become unhinged. she accuses everyone, natalie portman specifically, of actually killing bear-lady. and that’s when the I SAID I REBUKE YOU, PIGBEARDEMON, comes calling, sounding like an old friend… but only bringing destruction. which is one way how a relapse can work. this metaphor was little heavy handed for me, but it’s also the clearest for it, it works the best.

tessa… who i have now seen in two (2) movies and am quickly joining her team, she rocks, and she is here portraying a self-harm survivor who now hides the cliched forearms covered in scars. her path is kind of beautiful to me. i’ll mention this role is tough for me to write about because, heh, wonder why i stopped wearing shorts around high school? so she’s also ultra-smart and walks around the shimmer with a sort of air of wonder about her. that gets her in trouble quickly, when she goes in the house in the swamp and gets attacked by the super-alligator thing because she has no urgency. she still asks for help though. after that cursed creature kills enya, the very next scene, tessa is outside with her arms exposed for the first time. after going through that trauma, she’s not hiding this part of her anymore, she has chosen to embrace it. “she wants to face [the shimmer],” she tells natalie portman. “you want to fight it. i don’t want either of those things.” she’s explored this path of self-destruction and decided she’s ready to embrace it. so she rubs some shimmer-grass into her arms and walks away, mutating in front of our eyes into something else. something new. i’m very grateful to have gotten to see her in this role because it’s written well and she kinda kills it, and it’s super duper meaningful to me in a way languge fails. i have no more metaphor analysis because of the last reason.

so that leaves natalie, and the end of the movie, and my gripes. [dramatic, creepy trombone]

so after the leader rolls credits and explodes, a big floating ball appears. natalie stares into it and a drop of blood is pulled into it from her face. you know that expression “staring into the abyss,” and how it looks back into you?

lets back up. the movie reveals in flashbacks that her husband, special forces, is never home. so sometimes, she’s boinking a coworker. one day, she ends it with him, and tells him that her husband (kane) knows about them. we also see through various bits of film discovered by the team that kane slowly descended into madness himself and eventually blew himself up with a phosphorous grenade, on a mission he left without warning for, a day early. we’re left to wonder whether maybe he chose to leave early because he found out–the timeline isn’t clear. he describes himself being completely eaten up inside, and it’s by mutation from the shimmer, but his wife’s betrayal may be leading him down a path of self-destruction that leads him here, to the lighthouse. he’s filmed and replaced by some sort of mimic, and that’s who natalie was introduced to in the first act. an echo of him. not him–clearly not him. just, something like him.

this version of him, like an unbidden memory, jumps suddenly back into her life. she had taken him for dead and grown obsessed with staying in their bedroom when she wasn’t working. she wouldn’t even hang out with that one coworker in her grief. but when he’s back, well now she has to find out why he went in, what happened to him. and when she finally reaches the lighthouse, she stares into the abyss, the abyss is a bitch and stares back, like it does, and she comes face to face with… a mimic of herself. for me, she didn’t just chase her husband into the shimmer to try to save him out of love. it’s just as much out of guilt. she doesn’t think he would have accepted this mission if they were just happily married. (bear-lady makes a reference to everyone on the team having a story, and specifically mentioned relationship drama.) so now, out of guilt, she defies everything in her way to go make it right, and comes face to face with…herself. she’s unable to get out of her own way and would be stuck there if she didn’t trick the mimic into killing itself with a grenade like kane did.

and that’s where the ending loses me.

killing the mimic destroys the whole shimmer…….? how? why? what happened to for example tessa, or any other people still in it? is this her “working through” her guilt? by coming face-to-face with herself and forcing herself to suffer how he did in the end? see, i would be willing to accept that if the movie just ended there, or if the last shot didn’t reveal that she isn’t exactly herself any more either, that her iris flashes gray just like the kane-mimic’s does. what??? he knows he isn’t kane because he doesn’t have kane’s memory. he’s as stunned as anyone else that he recognizes natalie portman at home. but this is natalie’s character. it’s her. we know this. she knows this. is she changed, sure, but the film implies she’s become a mimic too and that makes no damn sense. plus, her “defeating” the shimmer like some kind of final boss doesn’t make any sense either. her journey was the only one that matters? no one else’s. just hers? okay, movie. all of the theming, all of the metaphors, break down, in about ten minutes. [dramatic trombone.] and then, one last thing.

i love benedict wong. he’s great and he’s wasted in this movie. but can we not include his character at all please? i’m not sure framing this narrative helps, and his character seems to exist only to dumb down and explain the movie. there’s a moment where natalie refuses to tell him something because it made no sense, like “i don’t have to explain this to you,” and he insists. “yes. you do.” then we go through this big extravagant ending, all of these metaphors finally come to a head, and then the movie gives us…benedict wong. “SO IT WAS ALIENS?” “yeah,” natalie agrees. “it was aliens.” it’s as if the movie wants to assure you that if you don’t want it to be, the movie doesn’t have to be that deep. it can just be a trippy ride about a bubble that magically makes your DNA combine with trees and stuff because aliens. y’all, that movie would be GARBAGE.

i call producer meddling on this character, and i call producer meddling on this ending. from what mrs was able to find out online, in the source material the shimmer doesn’t get destroyed. natalie’s character just stays at the lighthouse, colonel kurtz style. and that fucking works a whole lot better than her defeating the shimmer does. but it doesn’t feel complete in the same way. it doesn’t feel like the journey has an end, because the hero does not come home. it isn’t easy to understand, and that’s why i call producer meddling, either that or fundamental lack of understanding of this aspect of the source material.

but yeah it’s a really clever film, stunning, dark as shit and not date material, but you should see it if you’re into such things.

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this comes about a week after i saw it. actually exactly a week.

i’m probably going to talk in this one more about OG jumanji than about this version because i think the new one is better. you should not expect spoilers.

i absolutely adored this movie. it’s not exactly a sequel, it’s not a remake, it’s not a reboot, it’s more, ah… a re-imagining. jumanji in the 90s is an ancient board game, so jumanji in 2017 (set at first in 1996) is an atari cartridge, which is a perfect analogue. it has very clear rules, which are pretty absurd, i won’t lie, and it follows them to the absolute extent of that absurdity. every single rule the movie makes explicit leads to something, be it a key plot point or someone just… exploding (for a huge laugh). it’s funny as hell. and it’s not one sense of humor either. these are not the same jokes repeated over and over. the laughs are kept very fresh by the way the characters and cast interplay. even its dick jokes weren’t eye-rolling. there isn’t a lot of depth here–the characters aren’t beautifully-rounded portraits of human beings (although they do all grow in some way), there isn’t some overarching theme to write a thesis on how it blew your mind–in fact, turn your brain off and just have a good time.

i really don’t know what to say about the cast. karen gillan is a gem, the rock is bae, and there really isn’t much of anyone else they could have cast in this movie for this role except jack black, he is utterly perfect in every way. (i’ve seen chris hemsworth pull off something kind of similar, except he’s [long, embarrassing string of emoji] and jables looks like your spouse’s weird uncle, which mattered.) i’ve always been a little meh on kevin hart but he’s great in this. the cast kick ass. and this movie is a framed narrative, and even the cast outside the frame are good.

the only complaints i have are contained to this graph and they are mildly spoilerish (and EXTREMELY minor). warning… warning… warning… warning… didn’t care for the villain a lot. he’s pretty much just nasty and the final encounter with him wasn’t as dramatic as the setting really could have earned.

so those jokes i mentioned? they land for the entirety of the movie. start to finish. it doesn’t stop being funny when the stakes are raised. the fun for us doesn’t have to go away because shit got real for the characters. really this is just a wildly entertaining movie, and because it couldn’t give less of a shit how dumb and silly it is, it gets a solid good-good go-watch-this rating from me. this is the kind of movie i want to watch when i feel shitty. i may buy it (and i hate rewatching things). the ONLY thing i was actively disappointed by, which is different from a complaint, is that karen gillan didn’t say “bite me” at that one part. you’ll know the part. maybe she didnt because it was obvious but that was like, THE LINE. my head was SCREAMING it. “LOOK DOWN. LOOK UP. ‘BITE ME.’ DO ITTTTTT.” ah! well,

contrast this with the original jumanji, which i loved as a kid and have seen like 40 million times between the house and substitute teachers. i even had the IRL board game. (it was boring.) and yet………………………. what…. what is it? what is that movie attempting to be?

is it a comedy? then why doesn’t robin williams (pbuh) have jokes?

is it a family movie? then why is it so dark? why do adults just breeze on by when alan is getting the shit kicked out of him and his bike jacked? why does it look like the (omg that cgi is actually so bad lol) monkeys are going on a murder spree? why does everyone almost actually die somehow? why is the NRA’s wet dream in this movie?

is it a kid-thriller? then where is the suspense? we know what they need to do–just sit down and roll the dice, then pick up the game and run, and as soon as it’s safe again, do it again. stop dicking around and just do it. if it is a PG thriller why is van pelt a slapstick routine? he should be scary. he is defeated by a bar code scanner and outright squeals once.

what are the rules? it rains in the house when they roll monsoon. can they just go outside? what if they had rolled it outside? would the whole town flood? how come sometimes it just rains, but other times you roll a carniverous plant that shoots you with tranquilizers (lolwut), or murderous… seriously, were those chimps? bonobos? they look so bad it’s impossible to tell, or a fuckoff stampede that never ends (no problem if you just run perpendicular), or the Most Dangerous Game, or if you get extra unlucky, sucked physically into an actual jungle. OR MAYBE YOU JUST GET BATS LOL?

there’s a lot of similarity with what i just wrote and the honest trailer for jumanji. watch that, or don’t, see if i care, but those four minutes helped me express the little nagging “hang on” feeling i always had towards jumanji, despite loving it.

Numanji (i am not sorry and i will not apologize for that) knows exactly what it’s trying to do, and it does it well. maybe it’s easier because of the video game setting, but it also has clear rules (even if they are …random) and sticks to them. it utilizes its cast perfectly. it does a fine job taking the piss out of how dumb video games really are if you overthink them. and it even tries to bring home a motivational message without falling face first into a vat of cheese when it does so.

we grew up with jumanji as a classic, but really. numanji (still not sorry) is better. go see it. you’ll have a blast.

i completely cannot understand why this new star wars installment is dividing people so hard. this is objectively such a good movie. the spoiler free version to start with:

from a technical standpoint i don’t think it’s a stretch to say no other star wars movie can even come close to last jedi. the musical theming we have come to expect, but now the visuals, the art palletes, the cinematography, and thematic elements deeper than “go underdogs” and “go characters i like” on top of some outrageously strong acting, dialogue that mostly isn’t cheesy mumbo jumbo, and characters who have flawed motivations all coming together in conflict, resolved with so much grace. this is a really strong movie just as a movie. it’s imperfect–and i’ll list a few whines i have with it–but i like this movie a lot.

my main purpose below the Spoiler Marker won’t be to talk about the movie so much, but to look at some of those thematic elements i mentioned and wonder aloud… now what? where can the series go from here?

[this is the spoiler marker]

[seriously i’m going to drop major spoilers immediately]

[last warning]

i do want to start with those gripes though just to get them out of the way. i just saw the movie for a second time and these stuck out to me as kind of, ew.

  • i dislike how they handled leia Not Getting Killed By Kylo Ren. my suspicion is, they had planned for him to kill her in IX. that’s probably not happening now for obvious reasons, but i imagine this was some kind of force fate destiny thing. but DUDE. she’s in the vacuum of space. the moisture in her skin is flash freezing. she has suffocated and is dead. her flying herself back to the ship is fine–she’s obviously always been force-sensitive, just untrained–but if you have to have her survive those bombs, there has to be some other way to do it. like she clearly knew what was about to happen. she could feel kylo ren’s thumb hovering over the button. they could have had her brace and hang on to the controls then force-fly her way in or something and fall unconscious to asphyxia just as the door opens. this way was silly and felt bad.
  • they play fast and loose with the timeline here while making it look like everything is happening simultaneously. it can’t be. several days pass on luke’s island while the resistance cruiser has like 18 hours of fuel left or something, and kylo ren mind-melds with rey on multiple days.
  • i know, the rey narration is actually coming from the next scene, when she’s looking at time stretched out in front of her while we hear her talking to kylo about it, but it’s still extremely sudden narration and very out of place here. it was jarring in a scene that’s already jarring. you over-jarred and now i am tossed out of the movie.
  • i’m torn on whether the appearance of yoda was too on the nose or brilliant and awesome. does the movie lose something without that scene? is luke motivated to force-astral-project himself across the galaxy without it?
  • i am team anti porgs. are they adorable? yes. are they a cynical ploy to woo you into buying shitty merch? also yes. is it cute and hilarious that the porgs were terrified that a giant ass wookiee had just KILLED THEIR FRIEND and was about to EAT him in front of them all? NOT AT ALL, that was sad as hell and threw me out of the movie. especially that one who was the most scared, you just slaughtered his brother and got annoyed that he was sad and terrified you were going to snack on his body, you shag monster. “isnt it a little hypocritical of you to gender the porgs” hey you know what, you try making that bullet point make sense without losing clarity in a bunch of “theys” and without turning them into nonliving things with “its”. anyway it isn’t necessary for chewbacca to take on porg pets by viscerally shaming him for eating meat and exploiting the (fictional, i will emphasize) porgs’ clear grief and mortal horror because their eyes are cute.
  • bb-8 coming out of the head of an at-st was the most “fuck you movie” moment of any of the new movies, and that includes all of the bullshit that happens in the final act of rogue one. to the director’s credit, he almost seems to apologize for this, as fin and rose look at each other like, hang on, really? dafuq? how…? but if you know it’s incredibly stupid then you could have done better. that might work in a comedy but this was a movie with fun and jokes in it and that isn’t the same thing.

now that i have bitched about continuity, magic bullshit, and porgish liberation, let’s gush.

  • wasn’t it awesome at the end when 3po was doing his godawful 3po stats line and poe told him to shut the hell up?
  • wasn’t it so funny at the beginning when poe was acting like he had a bad connection to general hux to stall for time, like usually in sci fi movies all the tech works great until the plot needs it not to for suspense, so thats a super original gag because we dont expect the idea of the tech failing?
  • wasn’t that shot of the resistance cruiser accelerating to lightspeed but hitting stoak’s ship before it reaches that point and just slicing it in half in total silence and almost monochrome jaw-dropping and amazing and the most arresting shot in any star wars movie to date easily?
  • wasn’t the crystal planet like so visually stunning?
  • wasn’t it neat when luke met up with r2d2?
  • wasn’t the “rhyme” between “the force isn’t all lifting rocks” and “ha, lifting rocks” perfect?
  • wasn’t it awesome when the mind link between rey and kylo first showed up and rey was like hey its you i hate you and kylo was just like, bemused, like, oh, huh, what’s going on here?
  • wasn’t the fight scene they shared badass and stoak’s death a great way for both kylo to not turn, because he is following the sith tradition of defeating your master, and also rey to trust he was going to, and THIRD to set up said badass fight scene which was great and fun to watch and made kylo ren trust rey was going to turn with him?
  • wasn’t adam driver amazing in this movie in general?
  • wasn’t the banter between hux and kylo ren great?
  • wasnt it awesome when poe acted to the new general whose name i cant remember (she had purple hair and i spent both entire watches of the movie wishing she had been played by jewel staite, not that this actress was bad or anything) like he was entitled to answers and she just shut him down hard?
  • dont you want more of the obviously untold backstory between her and leia?

Exhale, steph.

i’m ranking this movie 3rd in my star wars power rankings.
1. IV
2. V
3. VIII
4. Rogue one
5. VII
6. VI
7. III
the shit one. I
we don’t talk about that one. II

okay, so now to that thematic thing.

star wars hasn’t really had anything to say about the world before. galaxy? world, screw it. it’s never been about nothing–it’s been about lots of things, but it’s never really made commentary before. that all changes with the side plot that people who aren’t thinking too hard about the movie consider a red herring.

fin and rose go to canto bight, aka the wokening of the fin

let’s sum what’s going down here. fin and rose take a little transport through hyperspace (….k) to the playground of the ultra-wealthy: a casino and resort on canto bight. that’s where they’re going to find a master hacker to come save their day. we aren’t told why that moz or whatever person thinks he will agree to help them, but they’re pretty desperate, so you may as well go for it. they park at random on a beach. this isn’t any other place, this is canto bight–someone owns that land, and you didn’t pay them cash to sit your ship there, so you’re now guilty of criminal trespass. rose is not looking forward to this place, but fin gets there and is like blown away, this is opulent and fabulous. i mean, he’s just a stormtrooper, so the line we get is “wow, this place is great” but you know. they step outside and she explains she came from a planet where she was of a slave, child labor caste. their masters got uberrich by selling what her people mined out of the ground. we see some child laborers in that shot, but they aren’t yet important, what’s important is the uhhhhhh dog-cat-horse-goats standing in for quarterhorses on this planet. they’re held against their will and cruelly forced to do something pointless so someone else can profit. this isn’t just a casual animal liberation subplot, the creatures are a symbol of rose’s people. she reveals that most of these people got their wealth from selling arms to the fascUH ahem the first order, and that’s the last piece to fall into place for fin, he decides… you know what, you’re right, these people sit on a throne of blood and lies. then they get arrested.

what happens next is important. they don’t get to meet their master codebreaker, but they do casually run into someone else who can do the job. (hacker ex machina?) he gets them out of their cell and they escape, immediately finding themselves where? the horse-dog-goat-cat stables. that symbol of the oppressed from earlier. now we meet the child laborers of canto bight, and this is the crux: rose explains to the kid who they are, and then they set the goat-dog-cat-horses free, smashing the shit out of the casino on the way, in a manner that would have made a black bloc proud. fin is still a little naive. “it was worth it to hurt them,” he says, but come on, these folks are gonna be fine. and then hacker-ex-machina re-appears, and they have no choice but to put their trust in him.

unfortunately, you can’t put your trust in anyone from this world. hacker-ex-machina helps them because the price is right, and then the next time the price is right, he helps their enemies. money is all that matters to these people, and who gets hurt along the way is just an unfortunate cost of doing business. it does get revealed that capitUH (Cough) canto bight people are funding both sides of the war to generate perpetual profit for themselves a little earlier. hacker-ex-machina uses that fact to say look, there are no good or bad guys. finn calls that bullshit and he says, hm, i may be wrong, who cares? i got mine, nothing matters, good luck with getting executed!

what, the hell, is an anti-capitalist subplot doing in a big budget Disney movie? let’s let rose and leia explain.

fin tries to valkyrie himself into the battering cannon. rose shoves him out of the laser’s path. why? “we won’t win by fighting what we hate. we’ll win by saving what we love.” then they kiss and there’s an explosion and sparks behind them and oh my god groanerino, but that line, combined with leia’s last–that between the people in the millenium falcon, they have all they need to spark a new rebellion–explains exactly what that angle is doing here.

in the final shot of the movie the child laborers are dicking around, playing Resistance Soldier, when some boss alien is like hey back to work. the kid goes to grab his broom. it flies to meet his palm–the kid’s force sensitive, look at that. and he shows us he still has rose’s ring with the rebel emblem. and after faking a little sweeping, he lowers that broomstick like a light saber. these kids are going to grow up into adults who resist.

what the last jedi uses this “red herring” subplot to set up is a universe where neither the rebellion nor the empire, neither the resistance nor the first order, can ever truly win, because they’re both profit machines for the ultra-wealthy that can’t exist without the other, without the two in balance. it’s the never ending exploitative struggle between worker and owner that’s behind all this, and not only can we not trust someone from that world to help us, we don’t even need them. the resistance must fend for itself. and it will fend for itself, and it will grow, not by destroying a force clearly more physically powerful than it, but by helping the people, building solidarity with the people, proving to the people that the resistance has their backs, until the people outnumber the forces that would step on them, exploit them and their work, and stop them living their own lives in the name of money and power. star wars VIII is revolutionary canon, yall, and the next time i’m feeling TIRED, i’ma hear the late (goddammit) carrie fisher in my ear: “we have everything we need.”

so yeah, that’s all buried in a movie about space lasers and lightspeed and john williams music. and none of that even begins to touch on kylo ren’s obsession with letting go of the past or how none of this movie would have happened and everyone would be safe if the new resistance leadership just talked to each other. we could expound on that for another–good lord, thats a lot of words. let’s stop this here. this movie owns. publish button.

this will be filled with major plot spoilers. if you’re here trying to decide whether to go see the movie, go see the stupid movie. it’s good. you’ll love it.

*hillary shimmy* hoo! okay.

rogue one is in the upper tier of star wars films. 7 was better, but it’s better than 6. i am open to placing it equal to or even above 7 upon more viewingses.that makes the tier order 1. New Hope/Empire per your own personal preference, 2. Force Awakens, 3. Rogue One, 4. Jedi, 5. monday morning meetings, 6. revenge of the sith, 7. getting a root canal, 8. groan wars/phantom grimace.

i struggled with the first act or so a little bit, which might have been the movie and might have been that i wasn’t properly caffeinated yet. we’ll see when i see it again. which, i’m totally seeing it again at least once.

the best part is, rogue one is here to help fix star wars in general. every time i’ve watched the original movie, i’ve been bugged a little bit more by a nagging plot hole: how can such a gargantuan and well-engineered thing as the death star have a dumb little flaw like that? i’d always assumed the rebels could only have gotten the death star plans from a defector, but how there’s such a gaping flaw just boggled the mind.

enter this movie. an unwilling engineer to the project built the death star to be vulnerable to attack on its exhaust port and then was himself the defector who told the rebellion where the flaw was (through giving them the plans and hinting at it in his hologram). pow. plot hole closed. rogue one is a top-flight star wars movie simply on the basis of making the OG star wars even better.

so anyway, i think part of what made this movie a little tough for me to get into was the bewildering array of names and locations it throws at you in about ten minutes of screen. (imdb for spelling) enter Galen and Jyn Erso, Cassian, Saw Gerrera, K2, Jedha and three other planets, you’re just tossed in here. i’m down to just be tossed in to a universe, don’t get me wrong, but it was a little confusing and the barrage of locations made me barely remember any of them.

the movie really comes into its own for me when jyn, on jedha, encounters the hologram of her dad. i dont understand what made saw gerrera decide “nah you go i’ll just chill here and die” but other than that it’s tough to have much complaints about the rest of the story. hell, the good guys don’t even live to tell the tale. that was outright arresting. there’s no ex machina to swoop in and save jyn and cassian on the beach? they just… they win, but are left in an impossible situation, and just… the movie lets them die?

do you guys understand how bold that is? hollywood heroes always live to the end credits. no matter how positive you are they’re toast. killing off characters not only prevents $equel$, it’s emotionally risky. you’re either going to make the viewer sad, or you’re not, and the latter means they didn’t connect to your characters. it means you failed. when the stormtroopers shred k2 i figured that was the token Good Guy Death since he was after all a robot, even if he was robot alan tudyk. then the movie immediately shows me they died for something, when stunning young carrie fisher lookalike ingvild deila (with some post-effects help of course) gets the plans, says something nice about hope, and we know what’s going to happen from there. to kill the main characters like that, the movie has to first a) make you understand them, b) make you like them, c) make you attach to them, and then d) take them from you, but show it wasn’t in vain. it’s a bold move, a confident move, and it worked brilliantly.

the only thing i would change is probably the rest of the ending. i’d find a way for the battle at the end to blend seamlessly into the beginning of episode 4. i really thought that’s what was happening when vader said to assemble a boarding party, and when it wasn’t, felt let down (and then remembered that the planet they were around was totally not tatooine). maybe leia’s ship immediately blasts to anywhere in hyperspace, any rim system to try to avoid detection, but somehow the star destroyer follows them, leia tells r2d2 she needs to record a message, and roll credits. idk it needs work but i am also not getting paid trillions of dollars to write movies either.

oh and let’s not forget that c3po found a way to worm his stupid ass into the movie for exactly 10 seconds, which he spent WHINING, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD FOR NOTHING ELSE. i’d delete that too.

sitting here trying to think of what else to say, it strikes me how powerful rogue one really was. it feels like SO MANY THINGS HAPPENED when really there’s just a prologue and 3 distinct acts.

P. galen gets taken
1. jyn comes to the rebellion
2. galen gets killed
3. the assault on the archives

that’s it. that’s the movie. it’s so simple. just a couple of really big events move jyn erso from Fuck Everyone And Your Cause, to dying for it. it only really takes one big event for cassian to go from I’m Just Following Orders to disobeying outright for his conscience. these are effective and make sense, not giant leaps like jyn discovering cassian’s dad was also called galen or something. (i will seriously never forgive bvs.) character arcs move more in two hours than they do in many movies that stretch on for ages. and that’s why rogue one is the prequel we all deserved, man. imagine character work like this around anakin and obi-wan, instead of… trade routes… and monologues about sand. i can’t wait to see this thing again and pick up on all the little things i didn’t catch the first time around. and i hope we get more little side-stories like this in the intervening time  between real star wars movies, and maybe even after as long as they stay good. the universe has a TON of untapped stories to tell. if KOTOR taught us anything it’s that.

attached trailer reviews: all garbo except hidden figures, and even that i don’t have any need to see in theaters. give to netflix pls.

i haven’t written about any movies in a while so i figured the best time to do that again was at 1am on a saturday/sunday. (and publish at 2:30 bc why not i can’t sleep anyway.) about a week ago i saw the new benedict cumberbatch vehicle. actually, i love everyone in this cast. sherlock, and the operative from firefly, and i’ve had an embarrassingly big crush on rachel mcadams since red eye and etc. you should expect minor spoilers here but nothing game breaking.

it’s impossible to remember any of the names in this movie, so i will refer to the following characters:

  • doctor strange
  • the ancient one
  • rachel mcadams’s character
  • chiwetel’s ejiofor’s character
  • the bad guy
  • the evil god-thing
  • wong

Short, spoiler free review: I liked this movie. I didn’t love it. tilda swinton was great. chiwetel was great. benedict wong, as “wong,” was outstanding. his beyonce gag made me almost choke laughing. rachel was good but didn’t get the screen time i expect SMART DIRECTORS to GIVE HER. cumberbatch was very good but his accent came and went a little. it was very very not boring and i had fun. the visuals were overdone at times, and the entire plot is only possible because of two extremely stupid decisions.

Longer, spoiler-light review:

i didn’t know anything about this comic universe at all going into the movie. that’s not uncommon but i’ve at least heard of most marvel properties. doctor strange is a new one to me. it starts by asking a deep, dark, and heavy question as top-of-his-game neurosurgeon Strange murders his own hands by driving like an arrogant moron: what do you do now?

instead of answering that question in any sane way, instead the movie explores different themes, like making an everlasting (positive) impact on the world. strange can’t keep working on his new surgical techniques now, but he can become some magical mystic warrior. just because one thing was taken away, the movie says, that doesn’t mean you can’t keep on in other ways. strange himself just never really addresses that. after about halfway through the film his hands are just never mentioned again. do they get better? that was his plan – learn to heal them like the paralyzed dude did – but when he accepts his new…role?… we forget that plotline completely.

mentioning the paralyzed dude brings me to the first extremely stupid decision.

strange can’t save earth from This Marvel Movie’s Version Of Alt-Hell without using the pendant thing. he can’t use the pendant thing without studying under the ancient one, who he first has to find. he can’t find her if the formerly-paralyzed dude doesn’t decide for some reason to give him the time of day, even though they have a history (very small world here). and he can’t find paralyzed dude if his rehab tech doesn’t seriously and egregiously violate HIPAA. i’m not kidding. this made me actually angry in the theater.  you can’t just go tell your patient about another patient just because he’s also in the medical field and a right prick and you want to make a middle finger of a point. there’s no medical reason for him to reveal that patient’s case to strange, who does not have permission to see that file, which means if someone found out he could face, i shit you not, $50,000 in each civil and criminal fines and up to a year in jail, let alone getting fired from more than just your job. no matter how frustrating a patient is, no rehab therapist is going to commit career suicide and risk prison to make a point. get all the way out of here.

also, This Marvel Movie’s Version Of Alt-Hell is getting annoying. please god let there not be a portal to another galaxy/plane/universe/dimension/whateverthehell in black panther. this goes back to the avengers at least and has to stop.

anyway. this movie was cool and different in a lot of ways. when the ancient one says “it doesn’t have to make sense” that explains exactly the way you need to look at this movie. people wave their arms around and MAGIC BULLSHIT HAPPENS and it doesn’t make any sense, with the sole exception that you need a sling-ring to make a portal. given how much appears to happen without those, that’s a strange and arbitrary rule in a universe that otherwise has none. but i had a lot of fun trying to figure out what was going on, and watching crazy fight sequences that defy Euclidean three-dimensional space, and correctly predicting what the cape was going to do when i saw it move the first time.

the trouble is sometimes the visuals get all of the way out of hand. strange’s first encounter with the ancient one is the worst offender here. he flies around and sees shit. what shit? whatever tilda swinton wants him to see, and how does he see it, like is he there, or is he astral projecting, or is she bringing it here, and how come she can throw him across time and space and back again with a shove but it takes a sling ring to make a teleport? that scene was overwhelmingly visually confusing to the point of being almost unwatchable. it was weird for the sake of weirdness.

i understand what it was trying to do, but something can be bewildering without being toss-you-out-of-the-movie visually confusing. the dark zone or whatever the evil god-thing’s house was called was kind of the same way, but not because it looked confusing, more like the texturing and lighting budget all went into Earth scenes and then it came time to add this and only one artist was left for the whole thing. like, it didn’t look bad exactly, just, like CGI, while the whole rest of the movie has wrapped entire buildings around dimensions you and i don’t exist in and looked amazing.

sounds like i’m whining a lot but i really did enjoy this movie. i told my coworkers it was “okay” and then had to quickly remind them of how i generally feel about movies for them to realize that was an actual endorsement. (these are people who don’t think thor 2 is boring because he fine. like, yeah, would without thinking twice, but google is for that.) kinda feels the same here as i am about to yell a lot at the bad guy in my lewis blackest voice.

hey asshole. and all other assholes in movies about magic spells and stuff.

and listen close, this is important.

if you need.
a spell.
from a book.
break in to the library.
and kill people.
to steal a spell.
in a book.
a physical book.
if you have to do that.
take the fucking book! not a page! don’t rip out a page and leave the book behind, you world-class moron. how can doctor strange stop your plan if he can’t learn the spells to do it in the book you took the spell from? why take the extra time to find the spell you want and tear it out – carefully, don’t destroy it – when you can just take
the whole
book

so yeah that was extremely stupid decision number two. bad guy takes a page out of a book instead of the whole book is an ugly movie cliche that makes no sense at all. happens right off the hop and made me think “oh god here we go.” but like i’ve said repeatedly the movie redeemed itself pretty fast. it’s really good when it gets out of its own way. wong is a treat, everyone else is awesome, try not to think about physics at all, and enjoy the trip.

when i saw the trailer for jason bourne during the superbowl i eee’d so hard dogs in a three state radius started barking. this is one of my favorite movie franchises, and while the 4th movie was not that bad honestly, matt damon IS jason bourne and having him back was the most exciting thing in the world. this iteration of the series is not the best of all of them, but i really did like it quite a lot.

below, in the spoilers, is thoughts.

this was a slower pace for a bourne movie. that wasn’t a bad thing, and it gave the action sequences more weight, but it was different. the mix for this film of the theme, Extreme Ways, was even slower, which was appropriate. there’s been a very mixed reaction to this movie as far as i can tell, and i wonder how much of it is this issue of unmet expectations. it’s hard to say that there’s exactly a Bad Guy in this movie, maybe apart from the Asset, just a bunch of people with conflicting motivations, which is cool and different.

bourne starts the movie saying he remembers everything and then immediately is presented with something he didn’t remember. pretty cocky, bourne. we know literally nothing about david webb, let alone his father, so the “revelation” that elder webb created treadstone was a lot less impactful than some of the other bourne revelations. he found out his son had been recruited and i guess that made him realize his program was awful and terrible because he got himself blown up for threatening to go public.

theres no way, by the way, that bourne remembers a face in a car behind his dad’s flaming van. memory is not a hard drive we can go look things up in. i’m willing to hop along for the ride and let that go because memory is infallible in a lot of movies, and it’s integral to this franchise, just a pet peeve. your memory is terrible and always reconstructed when you recall something.

tommy lee jones is excellent as director dewey and so is whoever played his protege, i think she was Lee? jason bourne is, ironically, more about their relationship and how bourne’s next big villain comes into power at the CIA than it is about bourne learning about his father and then going after those responsible. i think that works, because all the old relationships are worn out in the franchise, and you can’t keep making the same movie over and over. other people will again have let down expectations. so it goes and i don’t think your opinion is bad or wrong. so let’s follow her arc because her motivations confused some:

  • notices when jason bourne resurfaces and gets herself on the operation, presumably because it’s a really important one for the agency, for her own career path, you know. it’s against dewey’s wishes despite his fake support, but asked directly to a Real Important Suit so he has no choice.
  • leads a mission to try to bring bourne down but dewey just kind of takes over when shit gets real. this undermines her ambitions.
  • helps bourne escape a team that wanted to kill him and convinces the Real Important Suit, again in front of and against the wishes of dewey, to let her try to bring him in willingly.
  • when she tries this dewey literally has her people killed. this not only undermines her, it directly threatens her.
  • i’m not sure if she already plans to have dewey actually killed at that point or not, but she helps bourne get to vegas. she sees at this point that he’s at least malleable, and she sees more future with him than with dewey at the very least.
  • after the asset opens fire at the conference it should have become extremely clear to lee what was happening, and she was absolutely not going to stand by and let her pal the founder and CEO of Google get killed for having a conscience, even if he looked down on her decisions now. if she didn’t already want dewey dead she did now because she knew what that relationship was.
  • dewey’s last act is to try to literally steal lee’s plan to have bourne come in willingly. i don’t know how much if any of that conversation lee ex machina would have been able to hear, but it’s poetic justice that he was instantly offed for that.
  • she lobbies, and then quietly presses, the Real Important Suit who has always liked her ideas in this movie to let her take dewey’s vacated spot. she tries to bring bourne in again, which would really give him no choice to be honest, and he outclasses her. a new storyline is ready to go. the CIA director’s entire purpose for being promoted is to bring in bourne. bourne knows it, and knows they’ll turn around and decide to kill him if he refuses outright. she is set up to be the new nemesis in a future movie. YAY MORE BOURNE

the movie is called jason bourne, and has a tantalizing plot going on about whether he could have any identity outside being a badass spy assassin, but ultimately leaves those questions unanswered. even his final “let me think about it” was part of the whole outclassing Lee thing. he is trying to just find answers and “find a different way” as he tells dewey, but as dewey points out, that’s not working for him. he’s got another person at gunpoint. there was a time when he could exist independently, before marie was killed in Supremacy. this time he had to resort to the fighting ring. where he allows himself to take pretty heavy beatings sometimes just so he can stay sharp at still winning those fights. that’s training, that isn’t living. but Lee? that’s a character arc. she changes.

so who is jason bourne is left unanswered, but we learn all about the next big threat to him, who he may only define himself in opposition to. if he keeps turning her down she’ll eventually have to have him killed right?

other stuff.

yeah deep dream or whatever that tech company is called is really clearly google. imagine google+ took off to compete with facebook and that IS google. all the way down to getting its start from funding provided by US intelligence and the DoD and providing the government with information through IRONFIST erm i mean PRISM, and even the part where it outright refuses military funding, like when it pulled ATLAS and SCHAFT from the DARPA competition. The founders of Google were even Stanford grads for chrissakes, just like this guy whose name wasn’t Alex Killorn but that’s what i always heard. anyway, there’s extremely heavy-handed theme work done in these side plots about freedom vs. privacy, but i was too busy enjoying the google parallels to get too annoyed about that. and it was positively subtle next to batman v superman’s themes shouted as dialogue anyway so hey! positive steps.

the final sequences with bourne vs. asset were great i thought. the timing may not be ideal to have a scene with a swat van plowing through a crowded road with Nice having been not that long ago, but at least this was just cars. their fight was the only really visceral moment of the movie which gave it that much more impact, but it wasn’t boring in the run-up to it so it was worth it for me.

the asset himself seems a little thin of a character. he’s just some scary bogeyman. but that’s fine because he functions as a tool of dewey’s. he serves no purpose other than to do what dewey wants. when bourne finally dispatches him it’s more like tying up a loose end than anything else. it’s not the big OMG FINALLY villain engagement you see in movies like mission impossible, and while it’s maybe the final fight’s climax the movie’s climax is long past, it happened in the hotel room. i like that about this movie. others may not and their opinion is also not bad or wrong.

finally, a sour note: movie uses the Friendly Out Of Nowhere That Shoots The Guy You Thought Was Going To Shoot The Hero cliche. come on, man, you are a much better franchise than that. what the hell, this isn’t CSI: Langley. oh and while i’m on the sour note subject, in the opening scene, why is the line “use SQL to infiltrate the database” subtitled? it’s a meaningless, contextless line. “use SQL to infiltrate” is like “break in with a crowbar” being subtitled as someone visibly breaks into a warehouse. thanks tips.

jason bourne is flawed, its focus is not what you may expect, but i really liked it as a slower-paced but still exciting action movie. Ultimatum is still the best bourne movie so far, but this one was also very good.

usually these little writeups go on quite a bit. this one will not do that. spoilerinos:

SO, watched the new ghostbusters movie today and it was pretty decent! loads of fun, loads of laughs, a few jokes that fell flat. dumb as hell but come on. it’s a movie about people fighting ghosts.

based on the trailers i was little bit concerned about leslie jones’s character. we have a team of four women here, who are, initially,

  • respected physics professor
  • crank, but still, particle physics expert
  • wicked good engineer
  • subway worker who “knows the streets”

and you’ll never guess which was cast black. excuse me, my eyes rolled so hard they fell out of my head. i need to go find them. jones was awesome in the movie, as i’ll get to in a sec, but this particular casting is frustrating.

all right so i went into the theater with pretty good expectations and the first act of this movie did its damnedest to disappoint. all those jokes that fell flat that i mentioned happen in the first 20 minutes or so. before erin and abby become friends again over sharing this omg ghosts discovery, which felt pretty real even though they never then addressed this “abandoning” thing as friends (i bet they do in the deleted scenes), their barbs back and forth are just…stupid. if that was the point the movie was playing with fire being as unfunny as it was for as long as it was, but mainly i think it just went UNSUBTLE LEAD BALLOON OF A JOKE thirty or forty times in a row to get started.

patty saves the movie. the scene where she shows up in their um “office” is a turning point where suddenly the writing gets a whole hell of a lot better. it’s like someone else wrote the screenplay for the parts of the movie before that scene. i don’t understand it. it was SO ROUGH and then all of a sudden SO MUCH BETTER. the overwhelming majority of the movie was fun and good and enjoyable, so my recommendation here is, read this:

“erin and abby were friends once and wrote a book about ghosts but then erin went into science and she’s up for tenure, when abby publishes the thing, so her science career is threatened. abby’s got an insane engineer pal whose name i never did remember, and they go find a ghost and get to be friends again. video of that costs erin her tenure so they try to start this ghosty work and patty shows up in their office having seen one.”

and then go show up to the movie about 20 minutes late. much better experience that way. everything before that sucks, everything after it is pretty great. i’m not even sure how much of that is coincidence. patty is a delight, really complements the other three well, it’s just a shame the writing couldn’t carry her absence in the beginning.

i felt like the Kevin character went farther than it needed to to make its point, but the more i tried to explain that here the more i realized that it was because i understood what it was doing from the get go. he’s a hella dumb disgrace that they keep around because boners because that’s the point, of course. he’s really really annoying because *cough* that’s also the point which is what i was missing. the writers want you to understand how they feel watching Eyecandy Blonde in every other movie. so i’ll leave my critique of him as “probably written too ham-fistedly but ultimately decent satire.” i really enjoyed that Dumb Blonde Eyecandy became a male Damsel in Distress that our heroes had to save though. that was a nice touch. and chris hemsworth absolutely throws himself at this character with gusto. props to him because otherwise it could have fallen really flat.

if you’re a man who is offended by kevin, by the way, THAT’S THE FUCKING POINT. THAT’S THE POINT ON THE VERY MOST SURFACE LEVEL. GOOD GOD. learn to be critical with your head and not your feels.

it’s a dumb movie. the engineer (who i found slightly irritating btw) just fabricates stuff with wild abandon instantly and it all works immediately and is exactly correct for what they need. there’s ghosts and shit and impossibly dumb people and a magic portal and incomprehensible technobabble. there’s no real stakes, as reversing the portal seems to reverse all the damage the army of ghosts does. but, apart from the first act, none of that actually matters. i still had a blast watching this movie and think you should go see it.