CVIndependent

Fri04102020

Last updateFri, 03 Apr 2020 5pm

The Best!

1. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino said a lot of interesting things while promoting this movie, including a threat that he would only be directing one more film after this (and he’s backing away from that being his R-rated Star Trek idea, to the surprise of absolutely no one). So … depending on what he does next, this could be the last “big” movie from QT. If so, I’d say it’s a fitting finish. It’s also the best movie of the year.

2. Uncut Gems: Adam Sandler goes full-throttle nuts in what is easily the best performance within the best film of his career.

3. Midsommar: The horror genre had a banner year thanks in part to Ari Aster, who took terror out of the night and put it in broad daylight for this warped breakup movie. Florence Pugh—who gets my vote for Performer of the Year thanks to this, Little Women and Fighting With My Family—has established herself as a sure bet.

4. The Lighthouse: While this is more of a psychological thriller, there’s plenty of horror in watching farty Willem Dafoe and squirmy Robert Pattinson driving each other crazy on a remote island during a lighthouse-watch stint.

5. Marriage Story: Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver break hearts in Noah Baumbach’s best movie to date, courtesy of Netflix.

6. 1917: Director Sam Mendes delivers perhaps his best film yet, about two British World War I soldiers trying to save 1,600 men before they advance into a German trap. It’s done to look like one continuous shot … and done well. This won a couple of Golden Globes, and while the Golden Globes are idiotic, 1917 is definitely award-worthy.

7. Waves: Startling performances all around and a tremendous visual flair make Waves a solid step forward for director Trey Edward Shults (It Comes at Night). Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison Jr. (also great in this year’s Luce) sparkle in this film.

8. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The year’s most heartwarming story, with Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers, and director Marielle Heller creating sweet vibes.

9. Honey Boy: Shia LaBeouf returned with a vengeance this year, supplying both the screenplay and a gripping performance as his own dad in this autobiographical take on his pre-adolescent and teen years. Talk about public therapy. (The film was produced by Amazon and will be streaming soon.)

10. Us: As I said above, horror had a nice year, and Jordan Peele continues his march away from comedy toward scariness with this chilling doppelganger thriller.


The Worst!

1. Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker: The Force Awakens was written by Lawrence Kasdan, the guy who wrote The Empire Strikes Back. This one was co-written by J.J. Abrams and the meathead hack who penned Batman v Superman. That’s right: They handed the storytelling power for one of cinema’s all-time-great storylines to the man who crapped that monstrosity out of his computer. You thought the Return of the Jedi Ewok hoedown was a bad conclusion to the first trilogy? Well, say hello to Palpatine’s Hellraiser Disco Rave Extravaganza.

2. Rambo: Last Blood: It’s been fun seeing Rocky again in the Creed films. As for Sylvester Stallone’s other HGH-enhanced alter ego, the last two efforts in the series have seen … let’s say, diminishing returns, as his hair got shorter (just like Samson in the Bible!).

3. Glass: Just when M. Night Shyamalan was starting to restore my faith in his abilities, he unleashes this, a case study in how not to invent a movie franchise on the fly.

4. Cats: So I was watching this and just trying to survive. Suddenly, things picked up a bit when a song that actually contained a pretty melody sprang from the speakers. Turns out it was the song Taylor Swift wrote, a blossoming flower in the middle of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sewage dump. Taylor came out of the sky later in the film as a CGI human-cat monster and tried to save the movie, but all was lost by then.

5. Yesterday: I just couldn’t get behind this movie. The central character is a plagiarist asshole, and I hated his renditions of Beatles music. Stay home, and listen to the reissue of Abbey Road.

6. Dumbo/The Lion King/Aladdin: While Aladdin was just slightly bad, Dumbo was terrible, and The Lion King was a complete waste of time. Disney, I love you, but you have to stop with this nonsense. Don’t worry; you will still make money. Hell, the amount of dough I drop on coffee mugs in your souvenir stores rivals what these stupid movies made.

7. Hellboy: Maybe they should’ve let David Harbour be funnier in the title role? He kicked comedy ass when he hosted Saturday Night Live. But here, he’s a total dud as Ron Perlman’s replacement.

8. Mary Magdalene: Jesus was a lot of things, but super-boring wasn’t one of them. This pretentious slog was just an excuse for Joaquin Phoenix to hang out with girlfriend Rooney Mara and get paid.

9. The Dirt: The only thing cool about watching this shitshow was the knowledge that Mötley Crüe was over as a band. Now comes the news that those fucksticks will be touring again, which takes away any good vibe that could be experienced watching this.

10. The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot: Some critics had the audacity to call this Sam Elliott film one of the year’s best. To those folks, I say: Mushrooms can apparently be a fun recreational drug sometimes, but you shouldn’t take them when you are writing your reviews or operating a band saw.

While they didn’t make the year’s Top 10 worst list, boos go out to Godzilla: King of the Monsters for being soul crushingly dull, and Joker, perhaps the year’s most overrated mediocre film. I was very excited for both … almost as excited as I was for the new Star Wars.

Screw you, J.J. Abrams!!!

Published in Previews and Features

Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker is a disastrous, soulless squandering of the good will built up by The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.

Director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy should’ve stepped back after producing this rancid film and realized that this franchise deserved a better sendoff. They should’ve eaten the dollars and started over. True fans would’ve waited for a real movie. But sadly, here it is, the last chapter in the Skywalker saga—a chapter that had me longing for The Star Wars Holiday Special in favor of it.

Let me give you some thoughts as the anger flows through me like the Dark Side of the Force. The first hour is virtually unwatchable—fast and furious, but with no editing flow and no sense of purpose other than to get you to the next scene. Fans looking for answers or meaningful storytelling will not only be bewildered, but pissed off. It’s now pretty clear that Abrams and friends had no firm plans when they laid out this trilogy: They were making this crap up as they went along.

The Force Awakens, also directed by Abrams, was a promising start. Heck, I will call it a classic. Then The Last Jedi happened, with Rian Johnson getting permission to go off the reservation with his storytelling—and he most certainly did. Some of the plotting choices in Jedi were odd, but at least that movie was a decent film that felt like a Star Wars movie, even if it was peppered with some laughably bad moments.

The Rise of Skywalker is a laughably bad movie peppered with occasional moments that don’t suck as much as the rest of the others.

The most regretful moment in Star Wars history stands as Princess Leia using the Force to float through deep space and save herself in The Last Jedi. Allowing the character to survive paved the way for what happens here, as “the last performance” of the great Carrie Fisher is cobbled together from outtakes—stuff that was originally meant for the cutting-room floor. It’s awkward; it’s obvious. It reminds of the way Blake Edwards insulted the late Peter Sellers with the posthumously released, and equally terrible, Trail of the Pink Panther.

For the first two trilogies, George Lucas, love him or not, had a solid story plan. He tweaked it along the way, but he governed over what was happening like a mad dictator, even when he wasn’t directing. There was a certain uniformity to the series. After Awakens, Disney and Abrams made the bold choice to hand the storytelling over to Johnson for Jedi (not unlike Lucas giving up directing control for the original trilogy)—and then they second-guessed their own bravery. The Rise of Skywalker is an unabashed Abrams apology for “missteps” of The Last Jedi, rendering the second film a complete joke, and doing everything it can to win back the fans that may have gotten disenchanted, continuity be damned. Some fans were displeased, but that didn’t mean they wanted the spine removed from one of their favorite movie-going experiences in favor of a Star Wars Happy Times mix tape.

As for the return of Emperor Palpatine, his footage plays like a bad Hellraiser sequel. If Palpatine would have had a presence or influence in the two preceding movies, his presence here might’ve made sense. Instead, the sound of his cackle reeks of storytelling desperation. And don’t get me started on the Death Star wreckage.

My advice: Pretend this movie never happened. Allow hologram Luke Skywalker facing down Kylo Ren in Jedi to be the end of the “Skywalker Saga,” and skip this one. Watch the superior The Mandalorian, and use the soul-healing powers of Baby Yoda on Disney+, along with the upcoming Obi Wan series, as your Star Wars fix.

Yeah, I know you are still going to see The Rise of Skywalker. I can’t stop you. This film is a debacle that no movie reviewer can prevent.

Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is now playing at theaters across the valley, in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews