Commentaries

Thursday, December 14, 2017

THE LAST JEDI



STAR WARS EPISODE EIGHT: THE LAST JEDI

Film Review by FIORE


Those true STAR WARS fans; the ones who reveled in the original trilogy and made its storylines an iconic part of the culture, should collectively hang George Lucas in effigy for selling the modern-day fable to Disney.  Not since the Mouse took over, has the legend continued in any manner similar to THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.  This latest tale, STAR WARS EPISODE EIGHT: THE LAST JEDI, is filled with lackluster characters, rehashed plots and enough political correctness to choke any American living in the heartland.

STAR WARS EPISODE EIGHT: THE LAST JEDI begins with an elaborate, well shot space battle.  It’s a red herring.  It allows you to think this is going to be an epic experience, ad then it falls off a cliff and sinks in the bog.  The next half-hour is so slow, I had problems staying awake, and the press screening was in the middle of the afternoon!

Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, are all back reprising their roles. It is a sad thing.  None of the new actors have any on screen chemistry.  Daisy attempts a hardened face and screams a lot, but no one is buying it.  Driver continues to be one of the worst villains in cinematic history.  His display of evil is like a cheap bottle of vinegar.  No one in this trilogy comes close to the charisma of Han, Luke and Leia.  

Speaking of which,Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher return as Luke and Leia, while Andy Serkis play Supreme Leader Snoke, Laura Dern shows up as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo and Benicio Del Toro plays DJ, a scamp who’s main goal is to show how Capitalism demands war. 

The story picks up where THE FORCE AWAKENS ends.  Luke is living in solitude on an island and cannot be convinced by Rei to return to the good fight.  As the last Jedi Master, he has an identity crisis which he cannot contain until the ghost of Yoda returns to basically tell him to get his shit together.  

Meanwhile, Rei is convinced there is still good in Kylo and is certain if she confronts him, he can be turned to the light side.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Will Rei become a Jedi?  Will Kylo switch to the good side of The Force?  Will the rebels overcome the better equipped Force One?  Who cares? 

The script takes no cutting or bleeding edge plot points. Just when it seems it will deviate from past stories and boldly go where no Star Wars film has gone before, Rian Johnson’s tale is squashed by the Mouse and we have a replay of RETURN OF THE JEDI.  There are even a host of fuzzy, cute creatures in this tale; probably the only element Disney adds that is worthwhile.

The special effects and cinematography, provided by Rick Heinrichs and Steve Yedlin are all stalwart.  STAR WARS EPISODE EIGHT: THE LAST JEDI is fun to watch, it simply has no substance.
 
A big part of the reason is the infusion of Disney’s political ideology.  The original trilogy concerned the Jedi, and the Jedi’s lifestyle was based on the Code of the Warrior.  The Jedi, who were basically intergalactic samurai, lived by the Bushido. Now, Bushido is replaced by Humanism, the most superficial and idiotic religion that dominates Hollywood, along with Scientology.  The Rebels are transformed into progressive liberals, as they intend to “help the poor and oppressed”.  Remember when they wanted to overthrow a dictatorial government?  Guess that can’t be used because it validates the Second Amendment.



See this in the theatres.  It will lose whatever little value it has on a smaller screen.  It is better than THE FORCE AWAKENS, but that’s not saying much.  This second trilogy is no where near the cinematic excellence of the first.  They are just lavishly visual space movies.  Lucas sold out to Disney, and now the Mouse rules the galaxy, far, far away.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

THE SHAPE OF WATER



VISUALLY ASTOUNDING 


Film Review by FIORE


Guillermo Del Toro makes visually extravagant movies.  His latest, THE SHAPE OF WATER is no exception.  It is being heralded among the minion condescending critics in the two letter cities as his greatest work.  It is not.  PAN’S LABYRINTH is still Del Toro’s piece d’resistance.  Still, THE SHAPE OF WATER has much to offer.

Michael Shannon is excellent.  It is difficult to find a film where Shannon does not shine.  His portrayal of a hard-nosed meticulous rule leader is engrossing.  Alexander Desplat offers an engaging score.  He is one of Tinsel Town’s premiere composers, and he is in top form here.  But the true star of the show is Cinematographer Dan Laustsen.  THE SHAPE OF WATER looks beautiful.  While most of the film is shoot in subdued light, the colors are vibrant, and Laustsen’s framing is textbook perfect.

THE SHAPE OF WATER is an adult fairy tale that reads on familiar ground.  A gill man, played by Doug Jones, is captured off a tributary of the Amazon River.  He is brought to a military lab, with the hope that the creature’s unique two different breathing systems can aide America’s space program.  Shannon, as the operation commander, treats the gill man as an animal, to be experimented on, and then eventually vivisected. 

Sally Hawkins plays one of the labs cleaning women.  She discovers the gill man is intelligent, and capable of communications.  To save the creature from the autopsy table, she and fellow maid Octavia Spencer, purloin the gill man to spare his life and return him to the sea.  It’s like the theme reverse of Universal’s THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.

THE SHAPE OF WATER has glaring flaws.  The story, which offers nothing new of films of this ilk, is quite predictable.  Despite the obvious plot points, Editor Sidney Wolinsky stretches each sequence to unbearable lengths.  The film plods along, moseying, like an old man at the mall.  In addition to borrowing from THE CREATURE,  THE SHAPE OF WATER  also appropriates from Tom Hank’s SPLASH, so the entire movie has a been-there, seen-that mien. Jones’ gill man is nearly a carbon copy of Abe, his gill man character in Del Toro’s HELLBOY series.  There are tweaks to the costume and make-up, most notably warning frills like the Dilophosaurus in JURASSIC PARK, but basically, it’s the same creature.

Why then, is so much praise being lauded on THE SHAPE OF WATER?  Perhaps more comfortable with the Hollywood ideology, Del Toro fills his story with all its current cause celebres.  It is a virtual carnival of diversity and political commentary.  The main characters are handicapped, homosexual, supportive of cross-species coitus and racially harmonious, given the time period.  There is strong anti-government and anti-military sentiment; and of course, collusion with the Russians.  These are all themes the pandering propaganda purveyors bathe in, so it is no surprise the film is garnering accolades.



Any knowledgeable viewer will be frustrated with the film’s unfolding and readily discern the movie’s messages.  Still, THE SHAPE OF WATER is worth a view, for the stellar performance of Shannon and the stunning visuals of Laustsen. 

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

MARSHALL



MARSHALL


Film Review by FIORE


There is a lot to be said for MARSHALL, even though it is a story that was told many times before and presents nothing new to the tale.  This version is notable, primarily for the acting of Josh Gad, who shines.

MARSHALL is a snippet of the life of Thurgood Marshall, first Negro appointed to the Supreme Court, and the man responsible for the famous (infamous) Brown vs. the Board of Education decision, which still greatly affects the public school system.  This film concentrates on the early part of Marshall’s career, when he was a lawyer for the NAACP, hearing cases around the country involving racism.  The particular case presented in this film concerns an accusation of rape by a white socialite against her black chauffer in Connecticut.  

Chadwick Boseman plays Marshall, and his performance is the weakest of the cast.  He struts like a proud peacock through the part, bringing an almost superhero smugness to the role; like he’s already read the script.  Perhaps he was still in character from his upcoming stint as BLACK PANTHER.  

Gad is the man who makes this film.  He plays Sam Friedman, a simple civil lawyer who is hoodwinked into taking the criminal rape case with Marshall.  Kate Hudson plays Eleanor Strubing, the woman crying rape and Sterling K Brown is her chauffer, Joe Spell.  James Cromwell is Judge Foster, who oversees the courtroom and Dan Stevens is Loren Willis, the prosecutor.

Cromwell and Hudson offer fine performances and Stevens is second only to Gad in his portrayal of an attorney convinced race and propriety will win out over the truth.  Brown provides yeoman duty.  In a brief cameo role, Keesha Sharp appears as Marshall’s wife.  She currently plays a stronger character in TV’s version of LETHAL WEAPON as the wife of Damon Wayon’s character, Roger Murtaugh.

On the technical side, the soundtrack is supplied by jazz bassist Marcus Miller.  The screenplay, by Michael and Jacob Koskoff, is well paced, but does present a story told frequently, and better, in the past; especially by Walter Mosely and his Easy Rawlins detective novels.  The Koskoff’s version, though it deviates conveniently to accommodate the film’s mien, offers nothing novel in the retelling.  As such, there is no tension in the courtroom scenes, as the unfolding of events is largely predictable.  Director Reginald Hudlin supervises the production seemingly complacent with its mediocrity.  

While MARSHALL is not a film worth repeat viewings, it makes for an entertaining pastime, preferably with an adult libation, solely on Gad’s performance.  He is consistently stellar in his on-screen appearances and seems poised to break the glass ceiling placed on homely, overweight actors.
This film is for folks looking for another interpretation of familiar events, or for those immersed in the cultural misconstruction of white guilt who want to foster their illusion.