Posts categorized “Reviews”

Friday, 11 January 2019

TV Review: She-Ra and the Princesses of Power

"I am Adora, He-Man's twin sister, and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my sword and said, 'For The Honor Of Grayskull! I AM SHE-RA!!!'"

“I am Adora, He-Man’s twin sister, and defender of the Crystal Castle. This is Spirit, my beloved steed. Fabulous secrets were revealed to me, the day I held aloft my sword and said, ‘For The Honor Of Greyskull! I AM SHE-RA!!!'”

This new She-Ra show is absolutely brilliant at showing the difficulties of navigating interpersonal relationships. It is, however, still firmly ensconsed in a younger “Saturday morning” genre of shows.

The story follows the same basic beats as the original She-Ra. Adora was kidnapped as a baby (though no mention is made of a manly brother) by the Horde and groomed to be its next great leader. When she discovers the horrors of what the Horde is actually up to she defects and happens to find a sword that can transform her into She-Ra.

Where this show differs wildly from the original is in its depictions of the relationships between all of the characters, particularly the villains. What once were one-dimensional evil caricatures are now fully fleshed-out, unbelievably sympathetic people. The main thrust of the whole show is the sisterly relationship between Adora and Catra, who were both raised as basically sisters by Shadow Weaver, who is (let’s be frank) a pretty terrible mom. Shadow Weaver constantly raises up Adora while denigrating Catra. And even though Adora deeply loves her adopted sister and tries to help her, the fact that she has to rely on Adora so much makes Catra feel weak and resentful.

Because of Shadow Weaver’s parenting style, Catra never bought into the whole Horde thing. She was more cynical and self-serving. But all of the feedback that Adora got growing up made it so that she was pretty gung-ho about striving to be the best for the Horde. So when Adora does defect, Catra doesn’t feel betrayed because Adora left the Horde; she feels personally betrayed because Adora left her. Shadow Weaver spends much of the series trying to get Adora back because she believes Adora would be an amazing general in the Horde. Catra tries to get Adora back because she misses her sister.

Similar care is taken with most other villains (except Hordak, who remains a mostly-offscreen, distant ruler figure). Most fascinating are Scorpia and Entrapta. Scorpia is actually a princess whose family surrendered to the Horde rather than fight. She is rather simple, and doesn’t seem to actually buy into the Horde philosophy. Indeed, she doesn’t even seem to really understand it. She just believes she’s friends with Catra, and wants to help her with her plans because that’s what friends do, right? Entrapta is also a princess who is basically a mad scientist. She’s so in love with experimenting that she never thinks about the consequences of her experiments, and indeed doesn’t seem to see them as anything other than data points to incorporate into future experiments. As such she creates huge amounts of chaos not through malice, but carelessness and tunnel-vision. She joins the Horde simply because Catra encourages her reckless experiments and the mayhem they cause.

Also wonderful is Adora’s relationship with her new, non-horde friends, the feisty Glimmer and the upbeat Bow. Glimmer (who has the ability to teleport) is at first guarded. She has a lot of pain in her past because when the Horde originally invaded they killed her father (the only mention of a death in the whole series—more on that later), and now she’s pretty desperate to move out from both his shadow and the shadow of her immensely powerful, important, and protective mother. Glimmer wants to prove herself on her own terms. Bow, on the other hand, is almost completely unflappable in his optimism and happiness. Its his sunny outgoing-ness that reaches out with childlike naiveté and pulls Adora into the group. He wants to help! He wants everybody to be happy! It’s completely charming.

There is some interesting world-building as well (with reservations—see below). The world is divided into kingdoms (princessdoms?) that each house a very powerful crystal. These crystals form kind of a worldwide power network that the princesses can tap into, and allows them to use their unique powers. She-Ra isn’t a person so much as a global defense system. Adora is not the first She-Ra, she simply becomes the latest one. There are hints and signs pointing to deeper things that will (hopefully) be further developed in subsequent seasons.

Where the show falls short is in its handling of the more violent subjects. The Horde is ostensibly waging a war against the rest of the world, but the logistics of the war are nonsensical. And there is also a real problem of scale. Before the events of the show, the rest of the world (led by the princesses) joined together as a Rebellion and stood up to the Horde. It did not go well. The Rebellion disbanded with each princess going into isolation to protect only their own corner of the globe. But the Horde does not seem to have done anything to press that advantage in the ensuing 15 years (or so). There is no warfront. There are no armies. Indeed, at the climax of the series when the Horde army invades Glimmer’s kingdom, it seems to consist of about 12 tanks and maybe 20 soldiers, and the Rebellion consists entirely of half a dozen people. I wonder if there were budgetary problems that prevented showing larger conflicts? The newer Voltron cartoon handles the scope of war in a much better way. Also nobody ever gets hurt (in any serious way), and except for mention of Glimmer’s father, it is an absolutely deathless war. She-Ra has a gigantic sword that never cuts anybody.

It’s reminiscent of the original A-Team show that had in some episodes showers of machine gun fire that never hit anybody. It’s this feeling of being held back that makes the show seem aimed at an incredibly juvenile audience even at the same time that its handling of relationships is incredibly mature.

Categories: Reviews, TV Reviews.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Does whatever a Spider-Man… Men… Woman… Pig… can…

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018): ★★★½

Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman

There hasn’t been a Spider-Man Movie (that I’ve seen) that quite so successfully encapsulates the sheer exuberance of swinging through a city as Spider-Man.

Much of that must be credited to the wondrous visual style of SMItSV. Most animated movies nowadays have one visual style, and the whole movie looks like it. But SMItSV has a very idiosyncratic and expressive range of styles; individual scenes are animated with different effects depending on the need of the scene. And indeed, later in the movie when a handful of characters are introduced, they’re all animated in their own individual style in addition to the style of the movie. It’s simply amazing to look at, and extreme care was taken to make sure each shot in the movie looks as gorgeous as possible.

I’ve seen some complaints (mostly from those who have only seen the trailer/commercials) about the jittery-looking framerate, but the whole movie from what I could tell never dips below 12fps (which is the same framerate as such beloved animated movies as, you know, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King), so it never bothered me in the least. It just made it look like an animated movie instead of a CGI movie trying to ape real life. And I for one really appreciated that.

But beyond the look of the film, SMItSV is an excellent, very well-told story. It’s mostly the origin story of the Miles Morales version of Spider-Man, who hails from an alternate dimension. The relationship at its emotional core is about Miles and his dad, the strangely-named policeman Jefferson Davis (what black mother would name their son Jefferson Davis!?!?). Some great story and emotional beats about fitting in and figuring out how to find your passion and also help others flow through the film. Miles is an endearingly awkward and scatterbrained teenager just trying to figure out who he is even before he gains spider powers. The sequence where he goes to his Uncle Aaron for advise about the ladies (the “shoulder touch”) and then disastrously tries to implement that advice is just so well done. Also hilarious is the fact that for most of the movie, Miles is dressed up in a cheap Spider-Man costume bought at a cheap costume shop.

There is also a plot that involves villains breaking through dimensional barriers that acts as an excuse to introduce a bunch of different versions of Spider-Man from alternate realities.

Of these, the past-his-prime Peter Parker and the Gwen Stacy Spider-Woman (commonly referred to as “Spider-Gwen” in this world) are the most well-developed. Gwen in particular is incredibly appealing, with a great characterization and fantastic design (including a great albeit unintentional hairstyle). There’s a great running gag that whenever a new spider-person is introduced we see a quick, comic-book-style flashback of their origin story so that we get the gist of the character very quickly. In a lesser movie all these characters would muddy the proceedings up and the movie would become scattershot, but SMItSV is so firmly focused Miles’s story that everything that everything these characters do is brought around to how it affects Miles. That does mean that the other spider-people (other than Peter and Gwen) kinda get the short shrift, especially Peni. But this never really was their story, so I was okay with it.

My only quibble about SMItSV is the relative weakness of the villains, mostly because they have almost no screen time at all due to this being solidly Miles’s story. Dock Ock had the most interesting characterization as a mad scientist who wasn’t evil so much as just thoroughly delighted by mad science. I thought that giving Kingpin an unbelievably thick New-York-thug accent was a huge mistake. Kingpin has always styled himself as a cultured Manhattanite, not a lowly thug from Brooklyn. He should have a cultured New York accent.

If you don’t believe me that SMItSV is great, it just last night won the Golden Globe for best animated feature, beating out The Incredibles 2 and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. So there.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Monday, 29 October 2018

Halloween Book Review: “Goosebumps: Welcome to Sand Hands”

My God, they're made of sand…

My God, they’re made of sand…

This Halloween season, why not get spooked the heck out? Really, WHY NOT? Is there a better way to get spooked the heck out than by reading a supernaturally spooky book? What book series is more spooky than Goosebumps? Especially a choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps!?

O gosh, reading this book made me scared that I would die of fear or scares that I might die.

In this book you take on the role of a spooked-the-heck-out teenager (though if you choose one path you skip to when he’s way growed up) who is scared of pretty much everything, and is spookily attracted to his cousin Zoe (she’s just as tall as you are, and she has the most amazing scent you’ve ever seen. Sometimes you bump into her on purpose). Also you might be attracted to your best bud slash basketball teammate Brad. In fact, it’s Brad’s basketball that serves as the catalyst for many of the horrific choices you must make!

But DON’T take my word for it. Just read these spooky excerpts from this relentless fright-fest… IF YOU DARE (YOU SHOULD DARE IT’S AMAZING)

Ho gosh this is scary should I read on?

Ho gosh this is scary should I read on?

O GOSH APPLES! I'm getting pretty scared gang I don't know if I can read much more… okay maybe just a bit more!

O GOSH SPOOKY APPLES! I’m getting pretty scared gang I don’t know if I can read much more… okay maybe just a bit more!

O NO I CANNOT POSSIBLY READ ANYMORE I'M AFEARD OF SCARES!

O NO I CANNOT POSSIBLY READ ANYMORE I’M AFEARD OF SCARES!

That's it I have died of scares and fears that I might die.

That’s it I have died of scares and fears that I might die.

Can you possibly believe how spooky/scary this book is? Is it EVEN POSSIBLE to believe it!?

Look, I don’t want to spoil too much of the spooky surprises (spookprises?), but the two main branches of the book have you either searching for a lost basketball in Zombie Forest (where your hands might become the titular Sand Hands), or flash-forwarding to many years in the future where you have might a confrontation with your vampire stepchildren (in which case your hands might never become the titular Sand Hands). I’m not sure which one made my heart beat like it was about to have a heart attack more.

There are apparently over 20 spooky endings to this book, but I can’t verify that because every time I get to an ending (usually pretty grisly/gross/bad!) I have to put the book down and run away screaming for several hours before the sweat dries and I’ve drunk enough of my own tears to restore my courage to read more. I’m happy to report that I did get one happy ending! I know because the words on the page said, “This is a happy ending” (even though the guitarist of the band Rush was dead at that point—whoops, spoilers!).

So if you’re stout of heart and gut, you should definitely freak yourself the heck out and get super-duper scared by reading Goosebumps: Welcome to Sand Hands. Thankfully, the whole book is online for you to read FOR SPOOKILY FREE!

  • TO READ GOOSEBUMPS: WELCOME TO SAND HANDS NOW, CLICK HERE!!!!
  • TO BE TOO SCARED TO READ IT BECAUSE YOU’RE A BABY WHO LIKES TO SUCK ON THE CORNER OF ITS BLANKET AND CRY AT BIRDS, DO NOT CLICK HERE!

THE CHOICE IS UP TO YOU!

Categories: Book Reviews, Books, Holiday, Reviews.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Movie Review: Ant Man & the Wasp

These guys...

These guys…

Ant Man & the Wasp (2018): ★★★

Ant Man & the Wasp is pretty much the epitome of a three-star movie. It’s fun, breezy, exciting, and hilarious, but never earth-shattering. You won’t come out of it a better person, or wanting to be a better person, or still gasping in amazement at the things you saw on the screen. You will have a good time, though.

Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this is a better film than its predecessor. You’ve got the origin story out of the way. Now you don’t have to be bothered with watching how Scott Lang became a superhero; you just get to watch what he does as a superhero.

And what he does is be hilarious. Gotta confess, I’m a big Paul Rudd fan. I love his put-upon, slightly loser-ish, everyman persona as Lang. His interactions with exasperated FBI agent Jimmy Woo are gold. His reactions to his suit’s frequent malfunctions are fantastic. Plus Rudd is a great physical comedian. That’s all put to great use in this movie. There’s a montage towards the beginning of the film that shows how he tries to pass the time during his house arrest stint (due to the events of Captain America: Civil War), and he gets to show of some fantastic up-close magic. There’s also an absolutely amazing scene where Michelle Pfeiffer’s character (Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp) possesses Scott Lang. So for quite a long stretch of time, we all get to enjoy and laugh at Paul Rudd doing a spot-on Michelle Pfeiffer impression.

Also funny are Lang’s ex-con sidekicks, who are all trying to start a legitimate security business together with Lang. Michael Peña is once-again amazing as Luis, who while under the effect of a truth serum (“It’s not truth serum!” “It’s truth serum!”) gets to have another one of his monologues where we get to see all of the actors lip-synching to his prattling on. I wonder how long one of those could be before it got old? Could we see a whole movie from Luis’s point of view? I’d probably want to watch that!

As much as this movie is called Ant Man & the Wasp, though, this is really the Wasp’s story. It’s her mother who is in lost, and in accidental jeopardy due to the not-really-villains Ghost and Bill Foster. She’s the one who gets to debut as a superhero. She’s the one who has all the drive. Ant Man is just kind of along to support her, and I thought that was great. It reminded me a lot of Mad Max: Fury Road, in which it was really Furiosa who was the main character, with Max just along for the ride.

I really appreciate the small scope of the plot. Sure, there are huge (literally) superhero fights across San Francisco, but there is no earth-shattering, world-ending threat. The Pyms just want to get Janet back. Scott just wants to make amends. Sonny Burch (the only real villainous character in the movie) just wants to make some extra black-market money. And Bill Foster just wants Ghost to be stabilized. That’s really it. Nobody is going to try to take over the world. Nobody is trying to kill half of all life in the universe. It’s just a story about people trying to fix their families. And after 20-some Marvel movies about megalomaniacal villains trying to be the be-all-and-end-all, it’s pretty amazing that a very small, personal story like this can work so well in the superhero milieu.

Categories: Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Album Review: Cool Cool by Electric NoNo

Cool? Cool.

Cool? Cool.

Cool Cool by Electric NoNo (2018) ★★★½

What’s that? Are those the dulcet tones of the Cortese Brothers, Jared y Dominic, of Electric NoNo fame?

Nay, it can’t be, I say! For they released a collection of music naught but 18 months (or thereabouts ago). And everyone knows that it takes years and years and years and years for Electric NoNo to release new musics.

But my ears do not deceive me, nor do mine eyes: Electric NoNo have released two sets of music in two consecutive calendar years! I do declare: It’s a miracle there.

Yes, it’s true: here are six more songs of rock’n’roll goodness for us to… wait, only six songs? You mean this is just another EP, not a full-length album!

GOSH DANGIT ELECTRIC NONO! Why you gotta play me like that!?

Seriously, though, if your main complaint about a band is that they don’t release enough awesome music, then that’s pretty durned good.

Cool Cool pivots significantly from their previous release, Rain City Blue. Rain City Blue was a much spacier, more complicated EP. Cool Cool kind of strips all of that back so it’s just pure, fuzzed-up rock. And it makes sense; Rain City Blue was produced by the equally spacey and etherial Julia Massey, whereas Cool Cool was produced by Adam Prairie of the Hoot Hoots. Therefore it sounds much more like the Hoot Hoots than it does Julia Massey.

And it’s really very good rock. A standout is “Chased by Crows,” which Jared and Dom have been playing live for YEARS, so it’s nice to finally have a permanent record of it:

Strangely, the opening song of the album is Rain City Blue, which is the name of a different album. (??)

The finale, “Dreary Place,” is also a very good down-tempo ballad, which repeats just a single verse a few times. Anyone who lives in the Pacific Northwest will get a kick out of it.

The rest of the four songs are also very good, but none of them have the stand-out quality that, say, “Holiday” or “40 Foot Tall” (songs from Electric NoNo’s previous two EPs) have.

A minor quibble I have about Cool Cool is that (for my personal tastes) the guitars are mixed too quietly into the final mix. When you see Electric NoNo live, Jared’s guitar is right there in your freakin’ face. It’s like a second vocalist. But in Cool Cool there are some times where you have Jared singing right in your face and Dom banging the drums right behind him, but then it sounds like the guitar is being played by someone in the next room over. Maybe it got overproduced and washed out a little? I dunno, I ain’t no engineer or nuttin’.

So to conclude: too few songs, too-quiet guitar. Otherwise: excellent. Here’s the whole album to partake and enjoy:

Seriously, guys, you’ve been a band for about like years and you’ve only put out TWO full-length albums! C’mon, we’re starvin’ over here!

Categories: Music, Music Reviews, My Famous Friends, Reviews.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Movie Review: Moana (2016)

"…you know who you are."

“…you know who you are.”

Moana (2016) ★★★½

I could go on about how awesome it is to have a mainstream Disney fantasy film that isn’t about a European-style fantasy setting. But I’m sure there are people better qualified to write about that subject, and I’m sure they’ve written about it extensively, so you can go read those articles if you want. More important to me than the “importance” of a film is whether or not it’s a good film or not.

Thankfully, Moana is an excellent movie. And, Gods, what a beautiful film. Just frikkin’ gorgeous. Every frame is filled with visual wonder. I’m hard pressed to think of a film other than The Fall that is just this beautiful. The settings are surprisingly varied and all magnificent, the character design is incredibly appealing (and the skin on these characters is some of the best CGI that I’ve ever seen), and the animation expressive and just a joy to watch. There were many, many shots in the film that made me gasp.

This is definitely a Disney Princess®™© movie; it follows much of the structure and many of the beats of a lot of 80s & 90s Disney movies. But here is a Disney Princess®™© story in which BOTH of the princess’s parents are alive and there is absolutely NO romantic plotline in the film at all. So right off the bat we’re head-and-shoulders above the standard fare.

At times it does stick pretty close to the standard Disney narrative. For example, the second song in the movie is an “I Want” song to go with such classics as “Part of Your World,” “Belle,” “One Step,” “I Just Can’t Wait to Be King,” “Just Around the Riverbend,” “Almost There,” “Waiting for My Life to Begin,” “For the First Time in Forever,” etc. But by the Gods, “How Far I’ll Go” is one of the best versions of those songs in decades. And it’s up on the YouTubes! Just watch this and tell me it’s not actually moving (and not catchy as all heck).

There are also some unusual and interesting things going on in this song, like the fact that Moana is so conflicted about her desires. Usually the hero/heroine of Disney movies is pretty clear in what their goal is, but Moana is really torn. It’s just heart-wrenching the way she sing, slightly off-key, “What is wrong with me!?”

I should talk here about the voice acting. The finding of 14-year-old Auli’i Cravalho is one of the greatest coups that Disney has ever had in voice acting. She’s absolutely, 100% brilliant as Moana. And by the Gods her voice when she sings… I cannot put in words how it moves me. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was also an inspired choice to play the buffoonish blowhard demigod Maui. Though he isn’t nearly as good a singer as Auli’i, the filmmakers got an astonishing range out of his vocal performance and he holds his own singing his song.

Speaking of Maui’s song… it is also very familiar to the structure of Disney movies: the introduction of a magical character who sings a song with very surreal visuals. In fact, it seems Maui and the Genie from Aladdin appear in their respective movies at almost the exact same minute mark.

The only things preventing Moana from garnering a full four stars from me are the facts that it doesn’t quite go far enough in breaking the mold of the Disney movie structure, even though it is one of the best versions of that structure. Also, there are a bit too many sidekicks. Moana has a pig (which thankfully stays on the island for most of the movie) and a chicken; Maui has an animated tattoo; and the ocean itself makes a mute-but-expressive tendril that acts as a sidekick. Thankfully all the sidekicks are mute, but they don’t really add anything to the story (other than the ocean making it impossible for Maui to ditch Moana). Also, the chicken (voiced, astonishingly, by Alan Tudyk) is legitimately hilarous, so there’s that. Seriously, so cluckin’ funny. And THANK THE GODS THE PIG DID NOT MAKE IT ON THE BOAT. I can think of few things that would have been worse than a film with two main characters and FOUR sidekicks…

Also-also there is a “Han Solo moment” that was so disgustingly, obviously telegraphed that I groaned the moment I realized it was being set up. Just, come on! It was SO FRIKKIN’ OBVIOUS.

But other than those minor quibbles this film is a legitimate masterpiece. I found it personally much more emotionally moving than Frozen. All the songs in it are just magnificent. It has some wonderful surprises in it. It is seriously fascinating to watch a Disney movie that has no real villain in it. And <spoiler>I just love love love a film that is obviously building to a big action climax, but then realizes that action is a false victory and the real victory is achieved WITH A SONG.</spoiler>

I plan on owning this movie and watching it many, many times. I think Te Ka is too scary for my sensitive three-year-old daughter right now, but I am chomping at the bit to introduce her to a strong, weak, feisty, scared, stubborn, empathic heroine in Moana. Faafetai mo se tifaga matagofie.

Categories: Featured Posts, Movie Reviews, Reviews.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) ★★★½

There are a lot of things to really love about Rogue One. It turns away from the high-opera, swashbuckling theatrics of the magical Skywalker family and their ilk and looks at the people who work behind the scenes of their heroics. The grunts of the Star Wars world, if you will; intelligence agents, freighter pilots, on-the-ground resistance fighters, people just trying to survive in a galaxy gone mad. As such it has a much different feel that the main Star Wars series.

Let’s face it, the Star Wars movies have basically been overblown Saturday morning cartoons. Sure there’s some great subtext and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces, but come on. You’ve got wizards and princesses knights and silly jesters droids. But in Rogue One you get a real feel for how this universe actually functions for regular people.

I also really loved how it played up the ambiguity of using violence to fight evil. The Rebellion, which in Episodes IV-VI is held up as this shining beacon of hope, and the ultimate force of good against the evil of the Empire. But the Rebellion has Cassian do some really awful things (including straight-up murder someone as his first act in the movie), and it turns out a lot of the people in the Rebellion are complete assholes and cowards who condone some really bad things in the name of good. It’s a fascinating slippery-slope peek behind the curtain that I thought was great. No heroes are perfect, and no movements are devoid of evil.

I enjoyed the ensemble cast; it ends up being a fun group of merry outsiders kinda like Robin Hood’s merry men. They don’t all get a lot of character development apart from Jyn and Cassian, but their characterizations are strong enough that you get who they are quickly and you like them. Shining star among them is the reprogrammed murderbot K-2SO, who is definitely one of the good guys now but who just can’t help but let that murderbot programming be simmering right under the surface. Most of the movie’s funniest moments are because of K-2. Alan Tudyk (who was also the voice of the robots in I, Robot) is becoming one of my favorite voice actors (look him up in the last five Disney movies). Also as a side note: wasn’t it nice to see such a diverse cast? Anyway…

There are a couple of minor action sequences in the first couple acts of the movie, but really it all just builds to a masterful third act action climax. There are so many things going on in this climax, but it is scripted and edited masterfully so that you’re never confused where anyone is or what they’re supposed to be doing (or what their current obstacle is). The space battles above the planet are top-notch. We know that this plan is successful because the opening crawl of Episode IV says it is (“Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.”), but we don’t know how it was done or at what cost, so there is a surprising amount of suspense.

That said, the pacing of the first act of the movie (not counting the prologue, which is great) is f★★ked up. It bounces from scene to scene with no context and no introduction. The exposition is awkward and weird. You don’t know who characters are. Things happen for no known reason. What the heck was with that “truth monster” thing that Saw Guerrera uses? What was that doing in the movie at all? People spend way too much time talking about other people doing stuff instead of just showing us those people as they do stuff (“Did you hear an imperial pilot defected?” “I heard an imperial pilot defected!”). It doesn’t finally settle into a cohesive rhythm until Jyn ends up on Jedha.

There is also the matter of a seemingly important plot thread being dropped with no consequence. Jyn et al are going to rescue Jyn’s father, until some asshole in the Rebellion gives Cassian a countermanding order: to kill Jyn’s father. And eventually Jyn’s father is killed by the Rebellion, and Jyn learns that this asshole ordered his death and does… nothing. It’s immediately dropped and never mentioned again. It just seemed really bizarre to have that sub-plot in this movie at all.

But this is still a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It’s a grittier (I hate using that word but it applies here), more grounded Star Wars movie in which the heroes have to use guile and pluck and damnable determination to win instead of magic and mythology. It is a worthy entry into the ouvre. I plan on owning it to watch at my leisure.

Categories: Movie Reviews.