Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Dark times. The Resistance is hanging by a thread. The loss of the Republic has General Leia’s band of fighters in a corner and with limited resources and allies beyond reach, hope is dwindling.

Despite the destruction of Starkiller Base, the First Order is poised to seize military control of the galaxy and they are hot on the Resistance’s heels ready to snuff them out. General Leia’s last hope is the return of her brother, Luke Skywalker, the Last Jedi, to spark hope renewed and unite the galaxy against Snoke’s tyrannical rule.

Rey finally meets the legendary Jedi Master face-to-face, resolute to urge him back into the fight but her first encounter with Skywalker results in a door slammed in her face. Rey must convince Luke that the Jedi are not meant to die out; Luke and the Jedi Order are needed in the galaxy now more than ever.

I’ve waited so long for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. I went into the theater with a clear and serious mind, free of expectation ready to take whatever writer/director Rian Johnson threw at me. This was hands down, the best Star Wars movie I’ve ever seen!


Image by LucasFilm

Johnson promised to take this franchise in a direction that has never been explored, used techniques that have never been seen, turn the franchise to a very dark and somber place while still retaining the delight and wonders a galaxy far, far away had to offer and Johnson hit a grand slam! (Most of) The questions I had after watching The Force Awakens, were answered in this film, we saw the young trope of characters including Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren take their own journeys to become characters to take over for the old guard of Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo, some of the events that took place in the film stretched credulity but it’s Star Wars! This franchise was built on stretching the imagination and showing audiences the world over ideas and concepts that have never been seen before! I was immersed in everything this film had to show me and it was an emotional ride!

After seeing this film, my excitement for Rian Johnson’s standalone Star Wars trilogy was not only reinvigorated but heightened! Disney and LucasFilm assuredly put their faith in the right man, regardless of what he intends to do with these movies. He did a stupendous job writing and directing The Last Jedi!

We saw the characters of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Joonas Suotamo, Jimmy Vee evolve to become stronger, more anchoring figures in the Star Wars franchise, essentially carrying the torch that was passed down to them from Mark Hamill, the late Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, James Earl Jones and so on, and players such as Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Benecio Del Toro, Frank Oz and Lupita Nyong’o make their mark on this franchise, the performances in total were very good.

The visual effects were outstanding, John Williams’ score and composition for this movie? What more can I say about Williams’ legendary career and the mark he has made on these films? Steve Yedlin’s cinematography was awesome, Bob Ducsay’s editing did a grand job at piecing this film together although, it did feel elongated in the final act, Rich Heinrichs’ production design was gorgeous, the art direction was superb and the set decoration courtesy of Richard Roberts was on point, Michael Kaplan’s costume design and the makeup department did a superb job!

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was a remarkable achievement. It put your emotions through the ringer, it messed with your mind in parts, it answered some questions, it was an amazing adventure, it allowed audiences to say goodbye to Carrie Fisher, it brought hope to the future and if the opportunity presented itself, I would see it again just for the sheer pleasure of it all!

Now, the ball is back in J.J. Abrams’ court. How, oh how is he going to bring this new trilogy full circle with Episode IX?ūü§Ē


Movie of the Week: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

My most anticipated film of the year arrives in theaters this week and all I can do to contain my excitement is breathe. Just breathe. The First Order and the Resistance have sustained heavy losses in the aftermath of The Force Awakens but Rey has gained a major victory. The scavenger from Jakku has taken her first steps into a larger world and she is on her way to continue down her path, which leads her to the mythic Luke Skywalker himself. The battle between the light and darkness wages on and Rey must pull Luke out of the shadows and into the light, both figuratively and literally. This is the movie the entire galaxy has waited for. This is Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

Director: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Starring: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Benecio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Jimmy Vee and Lupita Nyong’o.

What am I expecting to see?: Where to start? The Star Wars franchise holds a significant and special place in my heart but writer/director Rian Johnson promises that this film will forever change everything we think we know about Star Wars and take the franchise in a direction that has never been ventured before. I don’t even know if I’m ready for what’s coming but I am certain that whatever will come, The Last Jedi will shake me to the core.

Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

To be honest, I was going into War for the Planet of the Apes with an idea of what I was in for. Based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen and heard about the film up to that point, I thought audiences were going into a film where Caesar would be leading his species in an all out assault to preserve their survival against what is left of mankind, yet I was unprepared for what really was in store.


Image by 20th Century Fox

Essentially, War occurs two years post-Dawn and well distant from the events that transpired in Rise but not totally disconnected. After Caesar suffers an unimaginable loss that rocks him to his core, he takes it on himself to journey across the wintery wilds to find a man called The Colonel and kill him. Caesar is aided by his most trusted simian companions, Maurice, Luca and Rocket and pick up a few stragglers along the way in the peculiar Bad Ape and a mute girl who is later dubbed Nova; this journey to find the Colonel fills Caesar with inner turmoil to hold on to the principles he held so dear to him or embrace the darkness within himself to exact his vengeance, like Koba did. This inner battle within the first super ape is the War that takes center stage in the film.

Matt Reeves, the director and co-writer of the film, impressed me in bringing Caesar grand story to a stirring finish in the fashion that he did. Reeves and Mark Bomback have crafted a story with heavy biblical references to allow their protagonist to shine in the brightest way they could and truly cement his legacy as his story comes full circle.

Essentially, the Planet of the Apes franchise in its entirety is a story about hubris; how living creatures create their own undoing and there is a success in how this story, Caesar’s story, was told. In War, Caesar wrestles with his darkness brought on by immense grief, he suffers like Christ suffers, he led his species to freedom as Moses did, every action he takes in this movie, shapes the course of his future and the future of his apes and this story leaves a profound and thought-provoking experience with audiences and it resonates when they leave the theater.

I especially took pleasure in how the film handled Caesar’s relationship with Nova. Before the two meet, Caesar dives right into his inner demons to the point where he is almost apathetic, remorseless and bloodthirsty but Nova reminds him of the humanity inside him and how that humanity has kept him from becoming Koba; in a way that theme of humanity and hubris tied all of the films together.

Andy Serkis’ performance is once again, high caliber! The CGI visual effects are just a costume but he breathes life into his characters and audiences are taken for an emotional ride with his performance as Caesar. From the moment, Caesar makes his presence known in the picture, everyone becomes invested; Serkis commands the screen as this character and doesn’t let up for an instant!

Woody Harrelson is as good as I’ve ever seen him as the vicious and bloodthirsty Colonel. Steve Zahn is a hoot as Bad Ape, Amiah Miller is terrific as Nova, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Michael Adamthwaite, Gabriel Chavarria, Judy Greer, Ty Olsson, Sara Canning, Aleks Paunovic, Devyn Dalton, Max Lloyd-Jones, Alessandro Juiliani and Toby Kebbell were all outstanding in the roles they played.

Michael Giacchino’s score, Michael Seresin’s cinematography, James Chinlund’s production design, William Hoy and Stan Salfas’ editing were all very satisfying. The visual effects were as elite as you might see all year.

I went into War for the Planet of the Apes expecting something totally different but I was completely washed away by how emotionally resonating, thought-provoking and creatively assembled this movie was. You won’t be flat out excited by it, but you will be immersed in how Caesar cements his legacy and how his tale comes to a close.

The Planet of the Apes franchise finishes on a very strong note.

Movie of the Week: War For the Planet of the Apes

The epic conclusion to the legend that is Caesar is coming to a close this weekend. The first of the super-apes has inherited the sins of the wicked Koba and now what is left of mankind has dispatched a military force to quell the threat the apes possess. Caesar led his species to freedom in Rise, he did all that he could to maintain that peace in Dawn, but now that seems so long ago. For his home, his family, his future, Caesar has finally embraced the fact that now is the time to fight for his future and this is War. This is the war that will determine who is the superior species on Earth. This is the war that will shape the course of the future going forward. The War For the Planet of the Apes has begun!

Director: Matt Reeves

Screenwriters: Matt Reeves and Mark Bomback

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Toby Kebbell, Judy Greer, Terry Notary, Max Lloyd-Jones, Gabriel Chavarria, Ty Olsson, Michael Adamthwaite and Devyn Dalton.

What am I expecting to see?: I have enjoyed this rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise thus far and from what I’ve heard regarding this film in the past few weeks, is that War For the Planet of the Apes is the best one yet and could be the best film to come out this summer! I expect this movie to do what every final installment in a trilogy should do: tie everything together and turn up the intensity another notch. I expect Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson to command the screen and this movie to be technically elite in every aspect. I’ve been looking forward to War for the Planet of the Apes for a long time.

It’s time for the Jedi…to end?! The Last Jedi trailer

The next chapter of a new generation is on the horizon. When last we left the Star Wars universe, the scavenger Rey was swept up into the fray between the First Order and the Resistance and at the center of this conflict was one individual: Luke Skywalker. The legendary Jedi Knight, who once proved pivotal in the overthrow of the sinister Galactic Empire, suddenly vanished in the galaxy’s most turbulent hour and the quest to locate him has delivered gains and losses on both sides. At the conclusion of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Rey made her way to come face-to-face with the mythic Skywalker and where this encounter goes from where the last film left off, forebodes a grim outcome. This is the teaser trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Vee, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Laura Dern, Benecio Del Toro, Billie Lourd, Gwendoline Christie and the late Carrie Fisher. The fate of the galaxy will be revealed on December 15, 2017.

Michael B. Jordan & Lupita Nyong’o to Join Black Panther

Image by Marvel

Chadwick Boseman over the years, has become a genuine talent to keep an eye on. Whether he was knocking it out of the park in 42 or making everyone dance with soul in Get on Up, he turned in a stellar performance. When I heard that he landed the role of Black Panther, I knew he would do good and in his debut as the character in Captain America: Civil War, he crushed it! Now he is in tandem with an amazing director in Ryan Coogler, formerly of Fruitvale Station and 2015’s highly acclaimed Creed. With Phase Three of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe in full swing, Marvel is working to fill the empty positions they have left and for Black Panther, this includes beginning to give Boseman supporting talent and boy they have started bringing in talent!

Image By gdcgraphics (Flickr), via Wikimedia Commons

Within a few days of each other, major stars have become attached to the upcoming superhero adventure. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o is in talks to join the film in an unspecified role. In addition to her Best Supporting Actress role in 12 Years a Slave, her credits also include her roles as Maz Kanata in Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and¬†Raksha in The Jungle Book, as well as successful run on Broadway. She is undoubtedly one of the hottest and most talented figures in the entertainment industry right now and news that she is in negotiations to join one of most looked forward to blockbusters in the coming future, just ramps up the anticipation for Black Panther. Yet the anticipation keeps on growing!

Image by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons

Ryan Coogler has worked with rising star Michael B. Jordan in both Fruitvale Station and Creed and now they are going for the trifecta, now that Jordan is set to reunite with Coogler since he has joined the film as well. The role is unspecified but sources claim that he could be a villain character. In addition to Fruitvale Station and Creed, Jordan is also known for his roles in Chronicle and has prior experience as a Marvel superhero already in Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, as Johnny Storm, a.k.a. The Human Torch.

Black Panther is starting to challenge Doctor Strange and Captain America: Civil War as Marvel’s most star-studded ensembles ever crafted. All that’s left is wondering if Andy Serkis is confirmed to¬†reprise his role as T’Challa’s adversary Ulysses Klaue, last seen in Age of Ultron, but news such as this is worth admiring. Black Panther is set to arrive in theaters on February 16, 2018.

Review: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Image by LucasFilm

Allow me to start by saying that the Star Wars franchise will always hold a special place in my heart. A staple in my childhood memories were sitting in front of my television mesmerized by the original trilogy on VHS and as a film enthusiast, critic and lifelong fan of the Star Wars franchise, I could not pass up the opportunity to see a new generation take the controls of the Millennium Falcon and make their mark in a galaxy far, far away.

Essentially, the plot for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is relatively simple to follow. Thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire and while the Resistance fights to keep the ideals of the Old Republic alive, both sides are looking for a particular individual: Luke Skywalker.

Enrapt in the quest to find the last Jedi is a defecting Storm Trooper named Finn, a droid named BB-8, Poe Dameron, one of the Resistance’s most talented pilots, a scavenger named Rey, legends Han Solo and his Wookie BFF Chewbacca, and Luke’s sister, Princess-turned-General Leia Organa all representing the light side of the Force. The Dark Side also searches for Skywalker spearheaded by Kylo Ren, General Hux, Captain Phasma and Supreme Leader Snoke orchestrating everything from behind the scenes.

Image By David Shankbone (flickr), via Wikimedia Commons

Certainly writers Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt and director J.J. Abrams wielded a fine and exciting installment to the Star Wars legacy but ultimately I left with more questions than I came in with. The Force Awakens was unnecessary; there was no need to make this movie and the upcoming sequels that will follow because the central plot for Star Wars involving Anakin Skywalker and his ultimate Sith-destroying destiny is finished but leave it to Disney to simply wring every dime out of any property they get their hands on.

From all of the details, promos, trailers, and pressers I’ve gleaned from The Force Awakens I had questions going in like how did Anakin’s lightsaber get to (wherever you will find out about in this movie [I’m not spoiling a damn thing so find out when you see it]) from the depths of Bespin, why didn’t the Rebellion move quickly to reestablish the Republic, how is Supreme Leader Snoke associated with the Dark Side of the Force, where has Luke been all this time? Some questions were answered, and a surprise or two was thrown in but at the end of the film I had more questions like what is (a particular character)’s connection to the Force and Kylo Ren, is¬†(another character)¬†going to be okay, what happened to Captain Phasma, did Hux and Kylo survive? I saw a lot of plotholes in this movie.

I think this was a typical blockbuster designed to dazzle fans of the franchise with as many X-Wings, aliens, lightspeed sequences, lightsaber duels as possible to appease their cinematic Star Wars fixes but the central plot lacked an anchor; I could say that the central point of the film is to find Luke but by introducing the new members of the cast and reintroducing the old guard, it felt as though The Force Awakens took every scenic route on the map to get to its destination.

I definitely got a kick out of seeing Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels back as Luke, Han, Chewy, Leia, C3Po and R2-D2 again and I thought the new additions to the Star Wars family including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Oscar Isaac,¬†Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o and Max von Sydow did a good job considering the material they were given. I felt that the script was a little unfair to some of the characters though like Christie’s Captain Phasma,¬†Isaac’s¬†Poe Dameron¬†and Nyongo’s Maz Kanata.

Daniel Mindel’s cinematography, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey’s editing, Rick Carter and Darren Gilford’s production design, the art direction, Michael Kaplan’s costume designs; everything technical about this film were all crafted to make this as much Star Wars as possible with the cherries on top being the beautiful visual effects and John Williams’ iconic score.

I will be frank: I liked Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I truly did enjoy it, but the only things I took into the theater with me is my curiosity and questions. The curiosity about how J.J. Abrams could add to George Lucas’ signature legacy was sated but ultimately I still had questions that I would have liked to see answered before the credits started rolling and my mind shifted to Episode VIII and the first chapter of the Anthology series titled Rogue One.

I liked The Force Awakens but it wasn’t strong enough by my standards, still I would encourage others to see it.