Tag Archives: Disney

Who are the Mystery Men?

Besides the nod to The New York Dolls, this article is really about Mystery Men, the best superhero film you have never heard about.

Super-heroic spoof

Flight and invulnerability, spandex outfits and ludicrous sidekicks. The concepts of superheroes are childhood fantasies which crumble in the adult world. In the goofy bedlam of Mystery Men’s Champion City, reality reveals superheroes to be losers, oddballs and dreamers. Instead of scowling vigilantes, powerful gods and aliens, the ‘Mystery Men’ are ordinary people pretending to be something more, except for the odd possessed bowling bowl and potent flatulence. Therein lies the wonderful magic of Mystery Men, it looks at itself and superheroes and laughs at the joke.

Released in 1999, the immediate target of Mystery Men’s lampooning is the vaudevillian gaudiness of the Batman films under Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher. Beyond that Mystery Men satirises dystopian films of the 1980s and 1990’s. Champion City’s architecture nods to the mega metropolis of Blade Runner’s Los Angeles, while the film’s aesthetic of old and new technologies living aside each other mimics Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and 12 Monkeys. The gags come from the inherent silliness of superheroes and super villains which Mystery Men exaggerates with a gleefully deadpan take. The real source of laughter lies in the ‘Mystery Men’ of the film; Mr.Furious (Ben Stiller) who has slightly mild anger issues, the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) a mystic knife thrower haphazardly flinging forks and sometimes spoons and The Shoveler (William.H.Macy) who tackles crime with a shovel.

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The Shoveler is confronted by his wife

The ‘Mystery Men’

Later bolstered by new members, the ‘Mystery Men’ remain endearingly hopeless underdogs stood against villains who break the rules of comic books. In an odd premonition of Christopher Nolan’s Bruce Wayne, Mystery Men’s director Kinka Usher opens up the vulnerability of his superheroes. This vulnerability is not an Achilles heel but the humanity behind the mask or the shovel. Mystery Men, at its deepest level, concerns men and women dreaming of making it big but struggling against their own ordinariness and doubting whether they can save the day. All of us at some point have shared that fear of being ordinary, of questioning how we are different from everyone else in the crowd.

A film before its time

Created before the Marvel-Disney conveyor belt of melodramatic superhero films was even conceived, Mystery Men’s teasing of the genre has made it a refreshing tonic for the staple of today’s box office. Even if you are oblivious to the litany of D.C and Marvel films, Mystery Men’s is objectively funny. Neil Cuthbert alongside Bob Burden, creator of The Flaming Carrot Comics which inspired Mystery Men, crafted a script brimming with hilarious sound bytes. A personal favourite is the Shoveler’s statement to his wife that;

‘God gave me a gift…I shovel well, I shovel very well.’

It is shame that Mystery Men, given its inexhaustible quotability, came out before the YouTube age ushered in highlight reels of comedy films which propelled Anchorman to universal popularity. Alongside the excellent writing are cast whose calibre is something to behold. The initial trio of Ben Stiller, William.H.Macy and Hank Azaria as Mr.Furious, The Shoveler and the Blue Raja are a powerhouse boosted by the later additions of Paul Reubens as The Spleen and Jaeneane Garofalo as Baby Bowler. The list of actors goes on but most importantly Tom Waits plays mad scientist Dr.Heller who cooks up non-lethal weapons in an abandoned circus full of mannequins and chickens. Somehow I think Tom Waits had no difficulty in playing his role. Plus if you want more Tom Waits the DVD copy of Mystery Men has a wonderful deleted scene of Dr.Heller flirting with retirees. Bonus appearances are Eddie Izzard as leader of a disco gang Toni P and Cee Lo Green as a minor gang member.

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Tony P (Eddie Izzard)

Being his only feature film to date, director Kinka Usher brings the attentive detail of creating commercials to Mystery Men.  The result is a trove of gags in the film’s environment; from a retirement home’s bar being stocked with prescription medication to the Shoveler’s trophy cabinet for his weapon of choice. Mystery Men just gets better the more often you watch and the harder you look.

Sadly, Mystery Men followed its titular heroes and shuffled into obscurity after a release met with poor box office sales and poor critical responses. The story does sag in the middle but the reason for Mystery Men’s failure was it took superheroes, a thing Americans hold so earnestly as a reflection of themselves, and thumbed its nose at them.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below;

 

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

Rating: 4 out of 5 (excellent)

Synopsis: Solo charts the life of Star Wars’ favourite smuggler Han Solo before he became the rogue viewers fell in love with during A New Hope. 

Never has a better spin-off been found in a galaxy far far away. Solo is a swashbuckling adventure of daring-do and oddball characters who bring liveliness and levity to a franchise which can fixate too much on good versus evil. Hopping between the dives of the galaxy and other dangerous corners Solo is a great film to let yourself switch off and simply enjoy, despite Disney’s interference.

Suffering from a tortured development process and a last minute change of director leading to effectively a remade film,  the odds have not favoured Solo. The film’s real misfortune is to follow behind the polemical Star Wars: The Last Jedi and bear the brunt of fan backlash to Disney’s guidance of the franchise. Tragically for a film fated to receive poor opinion among fans, Solo is by accident the most innovative Star Wars instalment since Disney bought the mantel from George Lucas. The Marvel-Disney formula is a false arc constructing a story filled with danger whose consequences will change the axis of the universe . The reality is that each ending changes nothing and none of the heroes ever suffer a price.

More so than in either the original or prequel trilogy, Star Wars under Disney has developed the same hollow self-aggrandising displayed by the Marvel franchise. In stark contrast Solo’s protagonist is at the mercy of larger events while his actions are of little consequence to the galaxy beyond. Ultimately Solo is a great heist film set in the Star Wars’ universe, and it would have even better if Disney had let it be just that. Sadly Disney’s compulsion to weave Solo into Star Wars lore and sound out a possible sequel jars with everything else. Disney threads Easter eggs both obvious and obscure into the Marvel and Star Wars films to generate fan speculation about immediate and future films. In Solo Disney reaches a new level of glibness with its scavenger hunt, placing throwaway comments about The Clone Wars T.V show and letting the camera linger over props from prior Star Wars films. Worst of all is a central part of Solo’s story stemming from a  contextual comment in A New Hope. Instead of using Han Solo as a springboard for something new, Disney loops events from the original trilogy with a fixated neatness to answer questions few fans probably asked about. To someone who has been a Star Wars fan since childhood, Disney’s visible attempts in Solo to generate further speculation, interest and hopefully money out of the franchise grates against Solo’s otherwise decent story.

Since reviewing Doctor Strange I have had the pleasure of reviewing a few of Disney’s offspring in both the Marvel and Star Wars universes. My opinion on Disney’s works is that they are often problematic stories propped by excellent casts. Although Solo’s plot problems are not significant, they are helped by a very robust cast. Woody Harrelson as Thomas Beckett, Han Solo’s reluctant mentor, is a safe pair of hands and Paul Bettany is convincingly villainous as the crime lord Dryden Vos. Plus Bettany really rocks Dryden Vos’ black cape. Emilia Clarke was surprisingly good as Han Solo’s conflicted love interest Qi’ra. Given Clarke’s fame stemming from only her Game of Thrones role and her past involvement in box office flops, I was somewhat worried as to her performance. The fears were unfounded while Alden Ehrenreich is very good in depicting his own version of Han Solo. Gone is the gritty sardonic demeanour of Ford’s character, replaced by a naivete alongside some good comedic timing and quips.

Ron Howard’s experience as a director shows throughout Solo. Howard’s approach in the film is economical, with every scene being a direct depiction of how the viewer should think and feel in that moment. Although the film is filled with the grandiose CGI scenes that are typical to blockbusters, Solo’s opening and later depiction of a planetary invasion truly drew me into the story. Another highlight was a standoff between Han Solo and company against some pirates which bristled with the tension of a Western gunfight. If Howard did re-direct Solo, he truly did rescue this film.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below;

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (Positive with No Spoilers)

Film Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Oscar Isaacs, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Domhall Gleeson, Laura Dern, Beneicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels

Synopsis: Immediately after The Force Awakens, the Galactic Republic is no more following the use of Starkiller Base’s superweapon. Hounded by the superior power of the First Order, the Resistance is a remnant struggling for survival. Against this backdrop, Rey (Daisy Ridley) struggles to adapt to her new powers despite finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

A film’s purpose is to push the audience, to guide us into the unexpected and therein find resonance with the tale. The Last Jedi does its job very well. Pushing the viewer between dismay and revelation, The Last Jedi leaves you in awe when the credits roll. Upending characters, uprooting expectations and ladened with twists, The Last Jedi is a stark contrast to The Force Awaken’s recycled nostalgia. The grandiose orchestra between good versus evil which has been Star War’s hallmark is sidelined. In its stead, The Last Jedi is a thread of different characters’ parallel journeys between the past and the future. Rian Johnson’s focus on characters moulds The Last Jedi into a film not seen before in Star Wars.  

A bold departure from the franchise’s foundations, The Last Jedi will be praised for its maturity and originality in the years to come. In the present, Rian Johnson’s choices will disgruntle and divide fans expecting a rehash. An absence of answers to questions raised two years ago will cause many, myself included, to feel cheated by differing degrees . Viewers of Looper will notice Rian Johnson’s repeated error of focusing on characters over plot details. This mistake pushes The Last Jedi to commit the worst sin of The Star Wars prequels, outright omissions and references to unknown past events which steal away much needed exposition. The differing fate of two major characters at The Last Jedi’s conclusion veers away from the rest of the film’s commitment to originality. Yet in the moment of viewing, all misgivings dissolve away in the rush of pure adventure amid a galaxy far, far away.

I watched the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. I remember The Return of the Jedi beginning as the tape unspooled in the machine. Luke Skywalker appeared and  I knew he would be victorious. Silent and collected, draped in the black attire of a Jedi, Skywalker emanated an invulnerability and a purpose regardless of his surroundings. The Last Jedi swipes away all certainties. Every character is conflicted, their purpose tested and their perceptions of the world ultimately changed. From Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) to Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi is a lesson taught across different characters about what strength, weakness, and success really mean. Through this lesson, the characters learn who they really are. Atop this moment of conviction or failure is layer of moral ambiguity alongside a willingness to kill off characters.

Despite the desperate times humour pervades The Last Jedi.  A lot of the gags bear Johnson’s hand as his previous film Looper does have its laughs. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron have their expected comedic moments but more unexpected jokes come from Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher). Leia’s interactions with Poe as both teacher and friend have their chuckles. Luke has the goofy kookiness of an exile which Yoda displayed in The Empire Strikes Back. Part of Luke’s comedy comes from Rian Johnson letting Mark Hamill be himself, especially when he interacts with his old droid companions.

From extras to old favourites, every actor and actress excels in their role. Adam Driver bears a menacing teenage angst as Kylo Ren, without wallowing in the self pity which rendered Anakin Skywalker needlessly morose. Some of my favourite moments in The Last Jedi were the exchanges between Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren. Unlike the originals which did not develop the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor; Snoke treates Kylo as a student, offering him kernels of wisdom between rebukes. Growing up watching Batman cartoons and others, only to discover Mark Hamill was behind many of the voices, proved to me that he was a great actor. The Last Jedi will prove to many beyond the cartoon world that Hamill is just as good as any major star today.

Only one character falls flat despite the actress’ great performance. The character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and her arc underscore my personal issue with The Last Jedi, that Rian Johnson’s voice is bookended by J.J.Abrams and Disney. The overlap creates a disjointed transition between two directors creating different films with no shared source material. Atop of this is Disney ultimately dictating events. Following a spectacular opening space battle which may be Johnson’s best visual work, Rose arrives. Throughout her arc, Rose exudes an artifice, a clear purpose to create emotion and add meaning. Despite the actress’ attempts Rose never feels genuine, feeling more like a mouthpiece for what we are supposed to feel rather being a real person. This is contrasted by DJ (Benecio Del Toro), a character introduced in the same plot who with fewer words, conveys what he is meant to yet still belongs to this universe. Rose’s conclusion and its effect on The Last Jedi, while building on Johnson’s themes, were an artificial insertion preparing for the final instalment. Rather than bind me closer to the story, Rose’s purpose as an emotional device intermittently brought back all disbelief.

Certain moments in The Last Jedi were clear attempts to prepare for episode IX, with one scene causing me to cackle and remember I was in a small cinema screen full of people requiring cough medicine. Beyond Rose are a lack of answers to mysteries from The Force Awakens. Major plot details gain no explanation and earlier details from prior films are overlooked. Yet The Last Jedi never feels threadbare. Johnson’s talent for characters and visual knack distracts from the flaws until the film ends.

Looper had a visual imagery grounded in the minute which weaved into the past and the future of the story. In The Last Jedi, Johnson’s attentiveness imbues Star Wars with a vividness close to Blade Runner. Surveying every payload in a rebel bomber during the opening battle immerses you in this grand scale event. Johnson’s use of wide angle lenses and inclusion of the actors’ full body in the frame gave lightsaber battles a fluid poetry. Never have these alien lands felt so real.

I am giving The Last Jedi 4 out of 5 stars. Rian Johnson had the onerous task of the new trilogy, to go beyond the old and forge something new. Star Wars is moving beyond George Lucas, transcending what we expect from the franchise. When episode IX releases, The Last Jedi can be praised as middle chapter in Star Wars’ new generation.

For those who have seen the film and disagree with my review, Hagood’s reaction was the complete opposite to mine. It can be read here.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Official Trailer]

Ok. Wow. WHAT. Those were my first thoughts after I first watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s official trailer. It is chock full of twists or what the trailer editors made us die-hard fans believe are plot twists. In this post I want to put down my thoughts and theories about what some of these twists could be, and then both Saul and I would love to hear your theories.

  1. During Snoke’s voice over, I came to wonder who is he speaking to? His words were, “When I found you, I saw RAW, untamed power and beyond that, something truly special.” During his monologue, the trailer mainly displays footage of Kylo. However, as Snoke’s words are echoing away, Rey appears, igniting her saber. We know from later in the trailer that Snoke and Rey finally meet and it appears Snoke tries to break her through torture. Why couldn’t Snoke’s speech actually be directed at Rey? Maybe he’s making it as he’s attempting to make her feel special since she sounds lost and seeking guidance. If you’re thinking “Snoke could not have ‘found her,’ she was on Jakku and after that she went to the find Luke. When could he have ‘found her.'” I’d reply, who put Rey on Jakku? Where did Rey come from? Who are her parents? Maybe Snoke is her father or creator much as Palpatine was Anakin’s likely creator. Or possibly Snoke stole Rey from her real parents and placed her on Jakku till he was ready to tap into her power. I admit this theory is far-fetched, so if Snoke was indeed speaking to Kylo, it sounds like he’s dressing down Kylo in disappointment. For instance, “You [Kylo] were so great when I found you, so full of potential. And you’ve done nothing with it.” Could this be the origin of Kylo’s return to the Light side? Maybe Snoke is favoring Rey over Kylo and drives Kylo back to Luke and draws Rey to him.
  2. Rey pleads to Luke: “Something. Inside me has always been there. But now it’s awake. And I need help.” We all know the Force is unbelievably strong in Rey after she dominated Kylo at the end of The Force Awakens. I believe it was in this fight that Rey realized her full power and even the existence of the Dark side, since hatred can be seen on her face after the defeats Kylo. Luke also quickly realizes her power and appears to abandon her because he doesn’t want to unleash that power like he did with Ben/Kylo. The trailer shows us the price of that mistake: his temple decimated in flames and his padawans slain. If Luke does abandon Rey, this act would be doubly powerful because she already felt disowned by her parents after they left her on Jakku and she’s begging Luke for guidance as a potential father-figure. Maybe this is the motivation for her turning to Kylo and possibly Snoke.

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Luke realizing Rey’s full power and potential for both Good and Evil

3. Kylo’s words, “Let the past die. Kill it,” intrigued me. This voice over occurred as he was supposedly speeding towards Leia’s flagship with a payload of torpedoes to kill her. I say supposedly because there were so many cuts that it’s impossible to know if Leia was actually on the ship Kylo was targeting. I believe, this voice over, once again, could be aimed at someone else at a completely different moment in the movie. Who is Kylo talking to? Luke? Leia? Snoke? Rey? I’m wagering he’s talking to Rey and attempting to sway her to the Dark side. I’d be curious if he was talking to Snoke. If it were Snoke, which past does Kylo mean? His past with his parents, Han & Leia, his time with Luke at the temple, or his Dark side tutelage under Snoke with the Knights of Ren? If he’s talking about his time in the Light with Han, Leia, and Luke then that means he’s just continuing down the path of the Dark side after murdering his father in The Force Awakens. He probably is considering blowing up Leia if that’s the case. If he’s talking about his time as Snoke’s apprentice then he could be renouncing his Darkness and returning to the Light. Smashing his helmet could be Kylo’s rejection of his attempts to turn to the Dark side. However, this action could also portray his hatred for his grandfather, Vader, who he was trying to mimic with the helmet. Maybe Snoke told him he ended up turning to the Light as he was dying and this enraged Kylo so much that he wanted to kill his past. There is not enough information in the trailer for us to know which path Kylo chooses, and I applaud Disney for not giving us any more.

4. My favorite line from the trailer was Luke’s. He said it as he was on his back, speaking to someone above him. My guess is that it’s Rey who is about to leave Luke. He warns her, “This is not going to go the way you think.” This statement harkens back to The Empire Strikes Back when Luke left Dagobah to fight Vader in Cloud City and save his friends. Yoda and Obi-Wan both warn Luke he is not ready to face Vader. I think this line is Luke warning Rey that whatever “this” is, that she is ill-prepared. Maybe she’s going to face Kylo or maybe it’s Snoke. In Empire, Vader tried to tempt Luke to the Dark in Cloud City. Maybe whoever Rey faces will make the same attempt, but will Rey be strong enough to stay with the Light? The ending of the trailer gives a deafening no as Kylo extends his hand.

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The new The Last Jedi poster released yesterday with the trailer

I will end there. Each time I rewatch the trailer another tid-bit or line catches my eye or ear. Frankly, there is too little information for any of us to draw definite conclusions about the plot or outcomes of The Last Jedi. I am so happy Disney, Lucasfilm, Rian Johnson, and Kathleen Kennedy refused to give us fans much more than this.

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Benicio del Toro’s character, DJ

Personally, I still have plenty of questions. Like what did Snoke mean by “Fulfill your destiny.”? How does he know what Rey’s destiny is? Where was Benicio del Toro’s character, DJ? Where will Laura Dern’s character, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, fit in? What planet does the bad ass battle take place with the new AT-AT’s and the Mad Max land speeders? Why is Finn back in First Order fatigues? What is the spark that Poe is talking about? A trailer is supposed to raise such questions without providing answers. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t hypothesize and make our own plots and theories. Saul and I would love to hear yours. Please leave them in the comments below.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Spider-Man Homecoming

Movie Score4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Donald Glover, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Hannibal Buress, Laura Harrier, & Tony Revolori

Director: Jon Watts

Synopsis: The mutated spider has already bit Peter Parker and transformed him into Spider-Man. The movie commences a few months after Spidey disarmed Captain America. While technically part of the Avengers, Peter has to remain in Queens, fighting petty criminals because Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) commanded him to lay low and be “a friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man.”  Frustrated with such limitations, Peter sets off to fight “serious crime” in order to prove his worth as an Avenger to Tony and his assistant, Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau). On this quest, Peter discovers Adrian Toomes/The Vulture/Birdman (Michael Keaton), a former construction contractor, who is now scavenging and selling alien weaponry from The Avengers invasion on the black market. After seeing the destruction such weapons are capable of, Peter sets out to defeat The Vulture whilst balancing a normal high school life. A great movie ensues.

Heading into the movie, I felt disappointed. A week early, I had read a review that stated Spider-Man Homecoming was purely a franchise building machine with only small moments of humor and few redeeming qualities. Ladies and gentlemen, friends, families, and readers, let me be the first and hopefully not the last to tell you the aforementioned review was wrong.

The movie’s teenage characters were my favorite part (besides the villain Toomes). Tom Holland phenomenally portrayed Peter Parker. I’m so glad he did not try to emulate Toby Maguire’s sniveling, wimpy version of Peter. Instead, Holland imbues Peter with humorous and nerdy, yet subtly cool, qualities. Together with Jacob Batalon’s hilarious character, Ned, the two form a wonderful duo who made me laugh a lot more than I expected. Normally, six screenwriters on one film signals trouble, but in this one the writers created and gave Ned and Peter some fantastic quips. However, they didn’t hoard all the best lines for the main characters. Zendaya’s hipster Michelle several great lines. I wish they had also decided to make Michelle a more prominent character since she stole all her scenes.

Like Zendaya, Keaton, of course, killed all his scenes. However, what made me love his character and the movie was not just his quality acting. It was also his character and his motives. Toomes began the movie as just an honest construction worker trying to take advantage of a good business opportunity: governmental contracts to help rebuild a destroyed New York City after the Chitauri army wrecks it in The Avengers. However, after losing the contract when the government discovers the power of the Chitauri weapons and asserts control over the reconstruction. This move leaves Toomes in a precarious position as he took out large loans to gather the men and equipment needed to take on such a job. Therefore, in order to support his family and his men’s families, he starts finding, fixing, and selling the alien weaponry on the black market.

I enjoyed Toomes because he was not a master villain trying to take over the world à la Loki. Instead, he was just a man doing whatever it takes to make ends meet and live the American dream. In an interesting conversation with Peter, Toomes asks him, what’s the difference between what he does and Tony Stark selling arms to the armies of the world. Such a question enters a fantastic grey area that Marvel likes to venture into and have successfully done so far like in The Winter Soldier and Civil War.  The question stumps Peter and it stumped me.

Target Audience: Teenagers, Marvel/DC/Disney lovers, and middle age adults. I’m counting out people over 50 based on my dad’s groans when he saw the trailer and children because the Vulture can, at times, be fearsome.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

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Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Shamefully Poor

Directors: Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandburg

Cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom (rumored), Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, & David Wenham

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales comes out on my birthday. May 26 has seen the release of many great summer blockbusters, including a few Star War films. Thankfully, this year I will be in India, where I will hopefully not be near a theater playing this movie.

Disney is really scraping the bottom of the (rum) barrel with this fifth installment in the Pirates franchise. The trailer proclaims that this is Jack Sparrow’s “Final Adventure.” I certainly hope their statement is true.

The trailer repeats the plot of the franchise’s predecessors: Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) running away from some half-dead man who is out to kill him. Javier Bardem’s character, Spanish Captain Salazar, could easily be exchanged for Geoffrey Rush’s skeletal-zombie Barbossa from the first film, or Bill Nighy’s mutated Davy Jones from Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End. Salazar looks like a mix between these two previous villains.

I would gladly open my wallet for Jack Sparrow if Disney put him on a different adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed the first film and liked the third one as they were different and fun. The second and fourth, Dead Man’s Chest On Stranger Tides, bored me because of their lacking plots, tired dialogue, and flat characters. I wanted to leave both. This movie, like those predecessors, looks fatigued.

The only part of the trailer that interested me was the introduction. I would love if this movie utilized a more historically accurate story instead of mystical elements and zombie villains. That would be a welcome change. Young Jack Sparrow looked like a stone-cold badass. I want more of him.

Sadly, it appears Disney is sticking to the formula that they know works. They’re even attempting to revive the Elizabeth Swan-Will Turner relationship without Kiera Knightley and Orlando Bloom. At least those two actors have the sense to stay away from a bad movie. It appears Johnny Depp either doesn’t care or needs the money to help maintain his stupidly opulent lifestyle.

I’m a HUGE Disney fan and I strongly believe it is a mistake to continue this franchise with such a recycled story. I hope that I’m wrong.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Super Bowl Trailers

THE BAD

Transformers: The Last Knight

The size of the paycheck Michael Bay sent to Hopkin’s agent in order to get him on Transformers: The Last Knight will be this film’s biggest reveal.

Potential sequel, if Hopkins stays on board, could be Silence of the Transformers: More Bayhem.

Pirates of the Caribbean 5: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Shiver me franchises, Disney is at it again (Pirates will be there 2nd of 5 sequels for 2017).

However, it does seem that this Pirates film may have a slightly darker tone.

With Orlando Bloom back, can Disney find Box Office treasure again?

Furious 7

Next sequel: Furious 8, Vin Diesel packs it in, gets a Prius, and dabbles in microbreweries along the East Coast.

THE GOOD

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I eagerly anticipate the return of Marvel’s best franchise so far, but this trailer did need a little more Groot.

Baywatch

Biggie, slow-motion, and some pretty funny jokes at Zac Efron’s expense, we’ll hold out hope.

Logan

Logan could be the pinnacle of the X-Men series so far, striking overtones that are reminiscent of The Road,  but hopefully without the whiff of cannibalism.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Cautiously optimistic

“Tale as old as time,” Ariana Grande sings in Beauty and the Beast‘s final trailer. Yes, it is a tale as old as 1991. Beauty and the Beast has been around my whole life, so, to me, that famous lyric rings true as I’m sure it will for most of Beauty and the Beast‘s target audience.

With its series of live-action remakes that include Alice in Wonderland (2010)Maleficent (2014)Cinderella (2015), The Jungle Book (2016), and Pete’s Dragon (2016), some might think Disney has struck upon a golden formula. However, such people might be looking back upon these movies with rose-colored glasses thanks to the astounding success of The Jungle Book because it wasn’t until that movie that Disney got things right.

In 2010, Disney started strong at the box-office with its first two remakes Alice and Maleficent. They both grossed $320M and $190M, respectively. However, critics shunned the films, assigning them the mediocre scores of 52% and 50%. In Disney’s more recent live-action attempts, Cinderella and Pete’s Dragon, the studio finally won over critics, enjoying scores of 83% and 86% on RottenTomatoes.com, respectively, but neither came close to the $360+ million box office success of Jungle Book nor the lesser successes of Alice and Maleficent. Jungle remedied these imbalances by both winning over critics (95% on RottenTomatoes.com) and bringing in its largest box-office performance in the live-action remake sector, which set up the studio for a record breaking year.

Now all eyes are on this movie, Beauty and the Beast. Can it continue Disney’s hot streak and recreate Jungle‘s balancing-act of critical/box-office success? Can it lead Disney on to another record breaking year with a pipeline full of possible hits that include: Guardians of the Galaxy 2Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesCars 3Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Like The Jungle Book, this movie’s source material is incredibly well-known by audiences. Something I didn’t know till just now, Beauty was more than just a critical darling, it snagged an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1992. Laughably, Beauty‘s final trailer openly reveals the first half of the movie’s plot, in chronological order. Disney’s lack of effort to conceal the plot signals that it also realizes how familiar its target audience is with the original film. I believe this familiarity along with its star-studded cast (I’m eager to see Ewan McGregor as Lumiere) will generate large opening weekend number’s even if critics deride the movie.

However, I firmly believe that in today’s age of RottenTomatoes dominance, a movie cannot become a blockbuster without winning over critics. On this point, I’m a little nervous. Bill Condon is directing it and his biggest films up to this point have been Dreamgirls and Mr. Holmes. While I enjoyed the latter, it wasn’t a knock-your-socks-off type of good. It was just a good flick. Also, I must mention that in 2014 Condon  directed the Benedict Cumberbatch bomb, The Fifth Estate. While Condon is a veteran director, he lacks the pedigree and success of past live-action directors (e. g. Cinderella‘s Kenneth Branagh or The Jungle Book‘s Jon Favreau) and the fact that he directed that garbage, The Fifth Estate, makes me uneasy.

With all this on my mind, I rewatched this final trailer for the third time and hearing “Tale as old as time” still pulled at my heartstrings. Let’s hope this movie is more than just a waltz down memory lane to revisit Disney’s golden-era.

By Hagood Grantham

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Teaser

star-wars-the-last-jedi

On January 23, 2017, almost a month after Disney’s release of Rogue One, the studio released the title of its next Star Wars film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Once again LucasFilm and Disney decide to keep in line with The Force Awakens and drop the episode connotation from the title.

We here at Title Roll Reviews are nervously excited about the new title. We hope that “The Last Jedi” refers to both Rey and Old Man Skywalker surviving the film since Jedi is both the plural and singular form of a lightside-warrior.

Rian Johnson (Looper) helms the film as both writer and director. Looking at the IMDB page for the movie humorously Tom Hardy is supposedly going to be a “Stormtrooper.” While we would dig this outcome, we doubt that Johnson will pull another major-Daniel Craig type cameo.

We are both looking forward to seeing Benicio Del Toro’s role in the movie, especially since the Star Wars films tend to get darker in their respective second chapters.

It will be exciting to see how The Last Jedi answers the questions raised in The Force Awakens about Snoke, the end of Luke’s revived Jedi academy, who the Knights of Ren are and where Rey comes from.

In order to succeed, The Last Jedi must overcome J.J. Abrams’ legacy of liberally borrowing elements of A New Hope‘s plot for The Force Awakens. By doing so, Abrams has set the new trilogy upon the same arc as the original films. The Jedi, once again, have been betrayed and destroyed. One Jedi remains that we know about (Obi-Wan), and a young person of unknown origin (Luke) wishes to become a Jedi. The Last Jedi  must steer away from The Force Awakens’ reliance on nostalgia and deliver a new tale. Failure to do so will render the new films so similar to their predecessors, that they will effectively be reboots.

Mr. Johnson’s first film, Looper, is a flawed but underappreciated film that deserves a second viewing by most people. The film revealed Johnson’s talent as writer and director through the movie’s reinvigoration of the concept of time travel with new ideas. At times, Johnson’s attempts in Looper did falter, but five years have passed since Looper’s release, giving Johnson time to hone his craft.

We are both confident that Johnson will deliver a bold departure for the Star Wars series due to his competency as sci-fi writer and director who creates plots replete with unorthodox concepts. After three prequels, a spin-off and a soft reboot, Star Wars needs to take a risk.

Disney will likely soon release a trailer for the movie in the coming weeks so check back here for that and may the Force be with you.