Get Out (Spoiler-Free + Deep Dive Plot Analysis)

FYI: This critique is split into two sections: a spoiler-free review followed by a deep-dive plot analysis, which does contain some spoilers. A spoiler warning will precede any sections which have spoilers.

Spoiler-Free Review

Horror movies and I don’t normally get along. I empathize deeply with characters, I am VERY easily startled, and I kind of believe in ghosts (it is what it is). So when it comes to supernatural horror films with tons of jump scares, I. just. can’t. do it. I saw the trailer of Lights Out, and that one minute trailer ALONE scared the hell out of me so I didn’t bother with the other 60+ minutes of it. Sorry, not sorry. Hell, even regular, non-horror suspense thrillers make my heart race and leave me physically exhausted at the end of the film. (Surprisingly, extreme gore or psycho serial killers don’t have the same effect on me, and I still find myself excited to watch those films. Fear is a weird thing.)

When I heard about Get Out, I knew it was going to be a suspenseful, race-based horror. I am a huge a fan of Key and Peele and have enjoyed watching their work in the past, but I had never seen the more serious side of Jordan Peele, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew I hadn’t seen anything like it, and I knew that my friends were just foaming at the mouth to talk about it — even ones who were openly as averse to horror films as I was. I decided, based on these initial reviews, that suffering through a scary film was possibly going to be worth it.

Pardon my French, but holy hell was this movie worth it.

Before I begin, let me get statement about race relations off my chest:

Corporate America, Hollywood, and people in power all claim to promote diversity by emphasizing blindness to race. However, emphasizing racial blindness also intentionally uses privilege to ignore problems that cannot be ignored by people of color.

Jordan Peele has given us this riveting masterpiece that makes palpable the feelings of fear, anxiety, and uncertainty that can plague young people of color. Where Hollywood tends to keep silent, Peele pulls the curtains back and forces us to gaze upon scenes in all their awkward, cringeworthy glory. The film is very clearly not a comedy film, but Peele’s creative voice still comes through: it’s a self-aware and gripping all at the same time. It’s terrifying but still manages to elicit belly laughter from the audience.

All of the characters, whether they were main, supporting, or auxiliary, are expertly cast; and the acting, down to the facial idiosyncrasy, is completely on point. Daniel Kaluuya puts on a incredible performance as the protagonist Chris Washington – an amateur photographer living in Brooklyn who meets the parents of his Nice White Girlfriend (TM), Rose Armitage (played by Allison Williams). Every scene, line, and shot in the movie is expertly crafted, brings meaning to the film, and helps build the film to a terrifying and heart-racing crescendo.

Get Out is nuanced, intricate, and ominous from start to finish. I honestly couldn’t find a single thing wrong with the film, and I imagine that, when I watch this movie a second time, I will find so many new and interesting subtleties that I didn’t see the first time, which will only bring more richness and more character to an already magnificent film.

Before I give away the rest of the plot I will present my score: A+ 

Everyone needs to see this film. Everyone.

*Spoiler Alert* Deep-Dive Plot Analysis

What I loved most about Get Out was its ability to tell, through a lens of horror, a very honest and realistic perspective of racism. During the entire movie, we do not see a single overt act of racism.  To many people, the idea of racism is an antiquated one – where someone chases a person of color with a pickaxe saying racial slurs and insults. But the reality of racism is that it is far more subtle and runs much deeper than any of us can imagine. What is most terrifying is not the certain knowledge that there’s a crazy racist in the family, but the persistent uncertainty of all the bad things that might happen because of a person’s race, and not knowing how bad things might get.

This movie is a long and detailed analogy of the reality of the person of color in America – the burden of truth rests in the hands of the person who is most affected and victimized. When we look at the other black characters and their idiosyncrasies, while, literally, they are an illustration of a black person who is physically unable to express their fear & their literal paralysis, they are also an allegory of disenfranchised people’s inability to communicate their needs and fears safely. Only when a “flash of light” acts to “wake them up” do we see them act like themselves for a moment. Each of these black characters is surrounded by a sea of “whiteness” which acts to suppress and silence their actual desires in favor of their placid contribution to the world.

In the case of this film, the contribution is literally their physical bodies as “host” to the whims and desires of a white person.

We harp a lot on cultural appropriation, but this film is about BODILY appropriation and a lack of bodily autonomy (something minority women in particular can relate to on a visceral level). There is such a vile and blatant disregard for the autonomy of black people in favor of using what is perceived to be most valuable about them. There’s such a deep sense of heartbreaking isolation and hopelessness that Chris experiences in the hypnosis chamber: no one, not even his girlfriend, is on his side, and he is forced to confront his aggressors and enemies by his own willpower, his own ingenuity, and with violent force. This is how it feels to fight a battle to which no one wants to pay attention.

Even at the end of the film, when he’s finally gotten out of the house, confronted all of the aggressors and even gotten a new peer on his side, a police car arrives, and we don’t feel relief. We know the trope that it looks like, and we know that, if events follow the sequence they so often follow in real life – Chris might die or go to jail, and — worse (and very often the reality), the actual criminal and racist goes scot-free.

This is what makes Get Out so compelling and so thought-provoking. Yes, it is insane that any white person wants to take any person and use that person’s body for their gain without that person’s permission. THAT IS NUTS. That is not realistic or okay. (As an aside, I don’t think I’ll ever want to be hypnotized in my life after this godforsaken movie). But what is most moving to me is, at the beginning of the film, what scares us most is what a crazy racist psycho family can do to an innocent man. At the end of the film, what scares us most is that a very well-meaning governmental body will prosecute the very person who needs us most. And when it doesn’t – when a friend is on his side, and the truth is revealed for what it is – that’s when finally we feel truly triumphant.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Fact: Every time a Star Wars movie comes out, Ryan and I go to the movies at least three times. We did this for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and managed to do just that for Rogue One. It took me a while to get around to writing this, between travel, the holidays, and having little to no cell phone reception, but hopefully this review ends up helpful or insightful to you, whoever you are.

As an aside: I’ve split this post into two sections: a spoiler-free overview, and a more nitty gritty section with spoilers abound. I’ll warn you when we get to that point.

An Overview (Spoiler-Free)

Rogue One takes on a much darker tone than previous Star Wars films, and, despite its PG-13 rating, packs a hell of a lot of punch. This movie, in my opinion, is the glue that we’ve always needed for the Star Wars saga. If we were to look solely at the original trilogy, starting with A New Hope, we get a very jarring introduction to the Star Wars universe. We immediately meet a princess lady, this dude in a mask who breathes funny, and some dude named Obi-Wan… which is a lot to take in if you’re meeting Star Wars for the first time. The only prologue we end up getting is the opening crawl. In case you forgot about the opening crawl to A New Hope, here’s what it said:

It is a period of civil war.
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.

Pursued by the Empire’s
sinister agents, Princess
Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people and restore
freedom to the galaxy….

Rogue One tells the story between the lines of that opening crawl, and provides some much needed context for the original trilogy.

The original Star Wars trilogy had very black & white characters and plot lines. The Empire and the Sith were evil, the Rebel Alliance and the Jedi were good, and that was more or less where conversations on the conflict ended. The godforsaken prequels tried to give more context to the growing political discontent, but let’s face it, we all fell asleep during those parts of the movies, and it all fell flat.

Instead of using lengthy and terrible political discourse, Rogue One uses very few, but excellent and poignant lines to put forth the political positions of both the Empire & Rebel Alliance alike. In fact, this whole film has excellently written dialogue in the sense that it meets two qualifications: provides context to the past gaps, and stays true to the Star Wars saga. However, where Rogue One excels in brevity, it lacks in character development.

With that said, I still love this film, because this film was never about the characters. This film is a prologue of bigger things to come (and holy hell, is it an intense and breathtaking prologue, at that). It is part war movie, part space opera. And as weird as that sounds, it does not disappoint one bit.

Before I go onto my spoilers, I will give my verdicts. 

The new definitive ranking of Star Wars films

  1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)*
  2. V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
  4. IV – A New Hope (1977)
  5. VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
  6. I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
  7. III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  8. II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

* Yes, I realize that technically Rogue One isn’t part of the Skywalker saga, but it’s so integral to the Skywalker plot that it’s worth grouping them all here.

My Score: A

Things I Loved & Hated (Spoilers Ahead!)

First off, I’ve heard a lot of critics bash the musical score. I get it. It’s not John Williams. It’s not familiar. But if you take a minute to listen to the soundtrack independently of the film, it is very clear that, objectively, it is beautiful. It is hauntingly beautiful. It gives me chills. Seriously, take a listen:

There are also very obvious nods to many of the original themes. For example, this one right here offers a teaser of the Imperial March. This plays when Darth Vader busts into the room and f*cks everyone’s sh*t up, basically — also, side note: this is easily my favorite scene in the whole movie. Small teasers like this give the people just enough of a nostalgia to psyche out folks (like me).

Anyway, I firmly believe the score is not the problem. Where there might be a disconnect is the use of the score during certain scenes or otherwise a lack of a deep and substantial emotional connection to each of the characters. The music attempts to tug at the heartstrings, but my investment in the characters (with the exception of Chirrut and K-2SO) wasn’t as strong. If we want to compare, The Force Awakens did character development much more effectively, but probably by necessity, as the beginning of the next trilogy.

However, we still get heart-wrenching moments, like when Cassian kills an innocent informant in an effort to protect the Rebel Alliance. What this movie does better than all the other Star Wars films is demonstrate the gray ethical zone that comes with rebellions. They aren’t clean-cut or filled with pure good. There are, many times, controversial acts and harmful consequences. In Rogue One, we see a true rebellion, in all of its ugly glory.

Next: I loved every shot in this film. Scale was conveyed very well in new shots (both with size of the Death Star and with numbers of Imperial fighters), CGI was on-point with Grand Moff Tarkin and with young Princess Leia (RIP Carrie Fisher, we love you), OLD FOOTAGE WAS REUSED (seeing old shots of x-wing pilots made my heart happy), and some play with lighting made for incredible effects. There might be some weird “uncanny valley” effects with Tarkin (he doesn’t blink enough and barely moves his neck) but overall I have very few complaints. It’s worth noting that many trailer shots didn’t make it into the final cut of the film, which can be a little confusing, but honestly, the reshot lines are way better, so I’m not complaining.

Plot-wise, Rogue One offers a realistic foundation and logical story flow. Tarkin blows everything up, not out of a diabolical desire to destroy everything, but because, strategically, it makes total sense for him to do it. The amount of risk the Rebel Alliance had to face resulted in many logical consequences: a non-cheesy, unresolved disagreement among the Rebel Alliance council members (finally!), lots of mistrust within party lines, and (to put the worst spoiler out there) everyone dies! The stakes are so freakin’ high that it takes hundreds of people dying in order to accomplish such a seemingly trivial task, like stealing plans for a super-weapon. This all had the potential to be kind of George RR Martin-ish, or extra cheesy. But what we get instead is a gritty, heartbreaking series of events that act as stepping stones for the rest of the Star Wars films.

Only thing that really bugged me the most… SAW GERRERA’S LINES. AND THE EASE WITH WHICH HE JUST GIVES UP. UGH. But it’s not enough to make me hate the film.

To sum it all up into one sentence, Rogue One is the only prequel that anyone ever needs to see. It was incredible, and every time I watch it, I find more reasons to love it. It has become my favorite Star Wars film, and I’m sure I’ll be watching it again in the future. Highly recommend it, it’s worth every minute.

Suicide Squad (100% Certified Spoiler-Free)

T-Mobile hooked us up, yet again, with free tickets to a movie (woo!) and while I’d been looking forward to this movie all year, I was a bit disappointed to see that critics weren’t so enthused about it. Its Rotten Tomatoes score was a very rotten 26% (Though I’m really starting to lose faith in the whole system. Sausage Party is opening at 100% apparently? A movie whose trailer literally looks like a bad high school locker room movie idea? What the hell is going on?)

Anyway, I went into it a lot more apprehensively than I would have, several months prior. I wasn’t exactly sure how to feel about it, after all, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn’t really stellar for me either (and watching that a second time didn’t do it any favors either… felt even worse the second go-round). So this was going to make or break the DC film-verse for me.

My overall opinion? Definitely not rotten. What the hell, Rotten Tomatoes? Critics? Did you watch this movie with your eyes closed? Did you come in expecting a cinematic thriller with tons of grit and seriousness? It’s the SUICIDE SQUAD. It’s a team of rag-tag villains who literally do not give a f*ck about each other at the beginning of this movie. It’s a story about a bunch of self-serving ego-maniacs (and in the case of Harley Quinn, completely mentally unstable). And I guess that description about the plot kind of accurately describes the movie in a totally meta way.

So you have Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Diablo, Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Enchantress, plus Rick Flag and Katana leading this group of reckless and powerful anti-heroes. (Joker is thrown in there somewhere, you’ll find out.) I won’t reveal too much about plot, but some crazy, supernatural threat starts seriously stirring sh*t up (say that three times fast) and Amanda Waller puts this team together, against their will, to essentially send them to their deaths in an attempt to suppress said impossible-to-stop threat. They are exploited for their abilities/tenacity, and otherwise considered expendable by some higher-ups, given their unfortunate choices in life. (Wow, sounds like how our government treats our military… *sips tea* *moves on* ANYWAY…) Overall, I have to say the two stars of this movie were definitely Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller gets an honorable mention, because her character is very consistent with her conflicting personality in many of the comics.

There are some excellent head-nods to the original comics/cartoons, and, as a pretty big Harley Quinn fan, I love the way they did her origin story. As a whole, most of the characters got solid origin-story montages, and in a way that definitely served fans. This was, no doubt, a fan’s movie, and not a movie for critics (as evidenced by their harsh and unforgiving ratings).

I’m not saying this movie is perfect. There are definitely times when the movie could have stepped up a bit with plot and suspense and made it a bit more serious or intense. I wasn’t really on the edge of my seat THAT much. This is not an intense movie. This is a highly predictable movie. Good or bad as that may be.

That said.. I still felt that this movie didn’t deserve to get reamed by the critics as much as it should have. It’s a movie about the least-enthusiastic, worst possible candidates for superheroes you can possibly pick, and each character had their one-liners/charming traits down pat. The plot moved logically, and every loose end felt revisited and settled. I felt closure. It was well-cast, well-put-together, and… most importantly, far better than Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.

My overall verdict? B+

Featured Image from Screenrant.com

Hamilton – An American Musical

Where do I even start with this musical?

I was excited about Hamilton (so excited that I was willing to shell out far more money than I was comfortable ever spending… via StubHub) and knew that this was probably the one day I’d be in New York under leisurely circumstances for quite a while. Call it a #yolo moment, or a #treatyoself moment, or whatever comforting phrase justifies spending that much on any single non-tangible thing. (Otherwise, that’s an expensive-ass Playbill…)

I came in having heard maybe half of one song (“My Shot”), and my overall grasp of American history, especially with regard to the American Revolutionary War, wasn’t exactly stellar. All I knew was that Hamilton had an incredible mixed minority cast, included rap & hip-hop, and most obviously, was about Alexander Hamilton. But it’s fair to say I came into Richard Rodgers theater more or less “cold.”

The verdict? It was thrilling. It was inspiring. It was American.

From the opening number, “Alexander Hamilton,” the whole audience was captivated. As soon as Javier Muñoz uttered his first line, the crowd was uncontainable. (By the way, if you’re bummed that you now see the musical with him as Alexander Hamilton instead of Lin Manuel Miranda… think again, because the dude’s worthy of the first couple, Jay-Z & Beyonce AND the actual First Couple, the Obama’s.)

You don’t have to like rap music or hip-hop to fall in love with Hamilton. It shines a light on a musical genre that has been stereotyped to oblivion. Every song is catchy and brilliant on its own, but when heard as a comprehensive collection, the songs are clearly interwoven threads of spectacular tapestry. I mean, there’s nothing to spoil since Alexander Hamilton’s biography has been written loads of times, but to spare you the emotional train-wreck, I’ll refrain from revealing the ending. However, the songs propel a compelling and moving story that takes you through the lives of Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr Jr., featuring Marquis du Lafayette, John Laurens, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington. The memories of these long-deceased founding fathers will certainly move you to tears.

I’m going to be brutally honest: Hamilton has an extremely simple stage, and nothing changes on the stage between Act I and II except maybe a staircase or two moves, and sometimes there are tables or chairs in the middle of the stage. It’s plain as heck… but far from boring. The true magic is magnificently crafted by incredible acting, a chorus of beautiful voices, stunning choreography, and awesome stage lighting (seriously, that dude doesn’t get enough credit… I wanted to high five him on the way out). Somehow, despite the limited set, the show is able to not just demonstrate the passage of time, but to play with and modify that perception of that time to provide “rewinds” and “slow-mo’s” that not only add theatrical value, but enhance the deep meaning of the story. And, of course, the lyrical genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda brings it all together.

If you told me two years ago that I would be excited about a musical that is 100% focused on politics, I would laugh in your face and say you’d have to pay me. I now eat those hypothetical words, because… by God, they’ve done it, and I have happily paid them. I have listened to the original cast soundtrack nearly every single day in the past 12 days since I’ve seen this musical. Some days, I listen to the album twice in a day. As someone who gets sick of music easily, this is unheard of. I have to admit… I have become absolutely spellbound by this musical, to the point of absurdity.

So… now that I’ve written this article that has forced me to look up synonyms for “magnificent,” “exciting,” and “stunning,” it’s obviously clear that the musical is thrilling. But I haven’t even touched why it’s inspiring and American. How can a musical even claim that it’s an “American” musical? How can it truly say that above all other Broadway smash hits?

Well, it can.

In short, Hamilton is a story about a man, pushed to the brink of poverty and surrounded by death, who immigrates to the United States to pursue a life greater than himself. It is a story of the American dream, personified through the journey of that ambitious man as he discovers what it truly means to have & leave behind a legacy. It is a story of the convictions of our founding fathers (told by a group of minority Americans) and an exploration of what it means to be (and become) an American.

My score? A++ (Oh? That’s not a score? Okay, fine, A+ it is then.)

As an aside, my favorite songs from the whole album are “The World Was Wide Enough” (because of the incredible spoken word) and “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”

Featured Image from www.hamiltonbroadway.com.

Sing Street

Sing Street - Band Lineup

We saw this movie by accident. We actually were hoping to catch an advanced screening of “The Nice Guys,” but by the time we realized the screening was the day prior, we were already finishing up our beer & dinner. So anyway, we made do with being in town, and decided to see “Sing Street.”

“Sing Street” is a musical comedy-drama that made it to Sundance Film Festival in January 2016. As of writing this article, it scores 96% on Rotten Tomatoes. I have to say, I agree.

Spoiler-Free Plot Synopsis

The movie takes place in 1985, in Dublin, Ireland (AKA the era of incredible music). The protagonist, Connor “Cosmo” Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a teenaged boy struggling to deal with his parents’ crumbling financial & emotional stability alongside his brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) and his sister, Ann (Kelly Thornton). His father, Robert (Aiden Gillen) and his mother, Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) argue often, but agree that in order to salvage their economic situation, Connor will transfer from his private school to a public school, called the Synge Street Catholic Boys School.

Outside of the school, he meets an attractive girl, Raphina (Lucy Boynton); and in a quickly-spun lie, he invites her to star in a music video for his band. Thus, he scrambles to assemble a band and forms Sing Street. In an effort to impress Raphina, and keep her from moving to London (as well as escape the stressors he experiences at home and at school) he writes several songs with the band, and embarks on a creative adventure and exploration of music and identity.

Review

What I loved most about this movie was its self-awareness. It actually reminded me of my own teenaged years, and how my idea of what was “cool” was heavily influenced by the music I enjoyed, and the people I respected. The film respected teenaged angst in a retrospective way, acknowledging it as an important formulating part of life; but the film also regularly stepped back to look at itself through the lens of absurdity. It also acknowledged what comes with the teenaged desire to “fit in” and “stand out” simultaneously — silly outfits, visions of grandeur, and the gawkiness that comes with inexperience.

“Sing Street” was a great reflection on youth, on creativity, and on using art as a means to cope with unpleasant realities. Each of the teens in the story had his/her own struggles, and all of them sought solace through the band and what it brought. Most importantly, it invigorated a sense of hope and opportunity. And when paired with an excellent soundtrack — including the likes of A-ha, The Cure, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, and others — it accomplished, with flying colors, a full experience of nostalgia.

To top it off, the imagery paired very well with much of the dialogue, and each shot artfully supported the narrative from Connor’s perspective. The original songs are also extremely catchy & perfect for the era (composed by writer/director Carney, 80s veteran composer Gary Clark, and Adam Levine). “Drive It Like You Stole It” in particular is bound to get stuck in your head forever, and “Girls” is also pretty phenomenal. If you don’t watch the movie, you’ll get a kick out of the soundtrack alone. Overall, I felt great about this movie, and I highly recommend it.

Score: A+

Captain America: Civil War (No Spoilers)

I’ve been doing this on my own personal Facebook for some time, but it has been long enough. It is now time for the inauguration of Unwelcome Reviews a series of completely unwarranted and informal reviews of movies, shows, and other entertainment (that I sometimes happen to see in theaters before other people do). How better to start us off than with the best comic superhero movie I’ve seen since Watchmen? Let’s begin. — TBF

First, we’ll start this review by talking about another movie (because, hell, since you’re already reading an unwelcome movie review, screw the rules). This movie enters the scene hot on the heels of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. To talk about either of these films in isolation of the other would be tantamount to pretending Han Solo’s death didn’t bother you (even if you saw it coming the whole time) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

(Hey, I said no spoilers for Captain America: Civil War, I didn’t specify all the other films. Also if you haven’t seen SW:TFA at this point, shame on you! Anyway, let’s continue.)

So why do I bring up Batman v. Superman? Because it was a superhero movie about two powerhouse characters that, under intense scrutiny, didn’t quite stun audiences in the way it could have. Zack Snyder did a phenomenal job, in my mind, of spinning a new flavor of darkness in Batfleck. (Also, can we just acknowledge how AWESOME Batfleck is? Anyway, reeling it back in since this is not a review of Batman v. Superman…) But I bring up that movie because it had the opportunity, with only two or three characters, to spin a thrilling and suspenseful plot, one with a deep theme of divinity vs. mortality, one that linked to impending doom from the cosmos, one that gave Batman enough conviction to kill the Man of Steel himself (or at least more compelling reason to not kill Superman than their goddamn moms’ first names)…. and it ultimately fell flat. Hints and clues were haphazardly scattered, and major plot holes left many viewers and fans unsatisfied, with more questions than answers (and not in the good way). I gave it a C, for being passable, and at least finishing off on a good note.

Enter Captain America: Civil War (with special thanks to the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam MWR and Navy Motion Pictures for hooking us up).

It is, above all else, an action movie with lots of explosions. That much, we expected. But what my husband Ryan and I did not expect was a well-crafted plot, nuanced character dialogue, and gripping battle sequences. The Russo Brothers could have failed even one character in the larger-than-a-Super-Bowl-line-up superhero faction. It would be so simple to overlook a detail. Surely, if Zack Snyder struggled with 3 heroes (plus the 3 cameos) then surely, a team of twelve wouldn’t possibly work. How could you possibly develop twelve characters while moving forward any plot at all, within a span of 2.5 hours.

The Russo Brothers did not fail us. Not one bit.

captain-america-civil-war-trailer-analysis-is-marvel-pulling-a-bait-and-switch-728043
Courtesy of moviepilot.com

My husband and I agreed – it was like ripping a comic book page and holding it to the light. Every shot was treated with care, and felt like it belonged on an physical paper spread. Struggle was emphasized; scale was enhanced; and the fights… good Lord, the fights. Black Widow fought like her namesake. Black Panther lived up to his name, landing cat-like and swiping with tenacity. Hell, even SPIDEY was done justice – he kicked major ass! I could literally just tally everyone up on this list, but the point is, every single character– from the one-liners, to the uniforms, to their M.O.’s, to every single punch that was thrown– was treated with respect, fully-fleshed, justified, and, surprisingly, not upstaged by the real stars of the show…

Now the question everyone has had — “Is it really a Civil War?” Does it live up to its very title, or has it been some well-deployed marketing hubris?

I am here to say: Yes. It is a war. There is no question about it.

This is exactly why I chose the image you see above (courtesy of blastr.com). This film goes far beyond petty political discord. This film reaches deep into your heart and pulls out your deepest trust issues. Marvel hits us at a time when we can hardly bear to trust our politicians or our government, and it makes us ponder the meaning of trust altogether. It questions authority & control in a time when we, ourselves in real life, question authority and control. It makes us question what it means to be “right,” and at what cost we should grasp our righteousness. The Russo Brothers do all of this, and still have us, the common viewers, leaving the theaters thrilled with what we have seen, more committed fans than when we arrived.

My only gripe is a minor one, and it is a shared gripe that I have seen with other critiques — the villain was not as developed as he could have been. But honestly, what does the villain even matter when the biggest threat to friendship is itself?

My score? A f*cking PLUS (A+).

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (WITH SPOILERS)

I realized I have a bias for writing about movies that I like. So I need to fix this — here is a review of a movie I admit to not being a fan of.

I was very optimistic about this movie, to the point we watched it twice to make sure it was as bad the second time as it was the first (and I regret giving them my money so much). I have to admit that I was looking forward to “Batfleck.” But this movie did not deliver for me.

No joke, when I watched this movie, I felt like I was drunk. The irony being I didn’t drink while or before watching the film — but I felt like I watched the film through a haze, or like my memory and perception might be impaired. The film plot felt very incomplete, and while it had some entertainment value, I easily could have slept through parts of it and missed very little.

First of all, we get the backstory of Batman for those who have been living under a rock for the past several decades. Okay, I get it. The people need to know Batman’s tragic origin story. Later we see that origin story being a key turning point in plot, because basically, Batfleck loses his murder-boner when he hears his mom’s name: Martha. But honestly, good character development can be accomplished without writing a novella. Most of the good bits of Batman’s character arc can be found in Ben Affleck’s performance than in any flashback storytelling.

Superman also has very little to show with character development. We get a post-General Zod world in which Superman is both revered and feared for his alien powers, but otherwise we just see him getting into a bathtub with Lois Lane, fully clothed, like the weirdo that we already know he is. I don’t care how objectively attractive you make a superhero, you can’t make up for terrible storytelling. Henry Cavill, stop looking at us like that, you can’t distract us from your few terribly written lines! *tries to look away…*

Also on the side of female characters, Amy Adams added a little value to moving the story along I guess, providing the usual damsel in distress we expect to see in Superman movies, with some marginal help while Superman is getting kryptonite sprayed into his eyes  — but overall her involvement was rushed and incomplete. Gal Gadot, on the other hand, was beautiful and mysterious, though still left us with more questions than answers. I will also say her fight sequence is easily one of the better ones in the film. She did provide some movement, plot-wise, toward subsequent Justice League movies as well.

Lex Luthor was a rather underdeveloped villain. Many critics reamed Jesse Eisenberg’s performance, but honestly, even his character development seemed to have an apparent shred of depth and mystery compared to the shallow and basic character development of the main heroes. Jesse Eisenberg is good at portraying cerebral, self-centered geniuses, I guess (or maybe that’s just his face…).

Ben Affleck might be the only saving grace of this film. His performance as Bruce Wayne added the darkness and grit to the character that previous Christian Bale films could only attempt with the terrible voice emulator tool he supposedly had on his mask (what, was he belching into a mic or something?). Batfleck is brooding, obsessive, and angry, making us question whether Batman is truly a hero we want to get behind (which is the whole point of the movie).

Anyway, the two main superheroes literally stop killing each other because they are both orphans whose moms are both Martha’s. Maybe it was supposed to be a moment of profound bonding but, as Ryan put it, “brought the movie to a screeching halt.” And for a movie that is literally named after the two superheroes, it was disappointing to see the film’s climax completely ruin any enthusiasm you may have had for them. The movie did more service to the auxiliary characters than it ever did for the main ones.

I have not yet seen the extended version of the film, and I’m hoping that version closes up much of the plot holes. I think post-BvS Lex Luthor will be a lot more promising than the current one, and Batfleck will have a lot more to offer in the coming Justice League movies. I’m also really excited for Wonderwoman, and hope that Gal Gadot delivers on her character as well. For a crappy movie, it did surprisingly well at helping me get excited about every other DC movie. But probably not for the reason they had in mind. I want any possible better movie from the DC universe.

Overall Score: C (barely passable, but entertaining)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII) (+SPOILERS)

When I began to write my review for Rogue One, I came to the stunning realization that I failed to write a review for The Force Awakens. I probably need to retroactively write reviews for all the Star Wars movies, but given the importance of discussing a more recent Star Wars film while discussing Rogue One, I HAD TO FIX THIS.

I think we saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA) a solid five times. Before that point, I would say I was an average to sub-par Star Wars fan at best (unlike my husband Ryan, who is far more obsessed with Star Wars canon and the extended universe than I will ever be… he’s watched or been watching both The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows, read several books and comics… frankly, he should be writing this review). But once this movie came out… let’s just say that I and the entire Star Wars fanbase awoke, reinvigorated and ready to throw all their money at the franchise (…and we did).

Here are *some* of the records it shattered in the US:

  • Highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Avatar. The Force Awakens surpassed Avatar’s gross on January 6, 2016, taking 20 days to break the record. In comparison, Avatar took 318 days to reach its final gross, including the revenue it earned from a re-release in 2010.
  • Fastest to:
    • $100 million – 1 day.
    • $150 million – 2 days.
    • $200 million – 3 days.
    • $250 million – 4 days.
    • $300 million – 5 days.
    • $350 million – 6 days.
    • $400 million – 8 days.
    • $450 million – 9 days.
    • $500 million – 10 days.
    • $550 million – 11 days.
    • $600 million – 12 days.
    • $650 million – 14 days.
    • $700 million – 16 days.
    • $750 million – 18 days.
    • $800 million – 23 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.
    • $850 million – 31 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.
    • $900 million – 50 days. It was the first movie to reach that gross.

(Honestly, just look at the Wikipedia page, where I grabbed all these figures from. It’s broken a crap ton of records around the world. It’s nuts.)

Anyway, since it’s been a year since it came out, we’re going all in with the spoilers. if you haven’t seen the movie by now, that’s your own goddamn fault… but if you find yourself in this category, scroll to the bottom really fast to get my definitive Star Wars Movie ranking and movie score, be on your merry way to WATCH THE MOVIE AND UNSCREW THIS SITUATION YOU GOT YOURSELF IN.

Let’s begin!

JJ Abrams, creator of many amazing cinematic and television masterpieces, claimed  that the Star Wars saga is the franchise that inspired him to get into filmmaking. It was only fitting, then, that JJ took on the franchise and paved the way for the sequel trilogy. It’s pretty accurate to say that my expectations were pretty high, and I was a little nervous on whether Disney would deliver.

I was not disappointed.

The movie opens 30 years after The Return of the Jedi with Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow)  passing on the Star Wars equivalent of a USB stick to Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the amazing statement, “This will begin to make things right.” This quote is so perfect: a clear acknowledgement of the train-wreck of a prequel trilogy, and a promise of a brighter, less cringe-inducing future.

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“Shut your damn mouth Jar Jar, we’ve had enough.”

Poe Dameron, our modern Han Solo-esque figure, slash badass X-Wing pilot of our generation (and master of the beloved BB-8), fails at escaping the new overlords, and gives us our first glimpse into the new Star Wars world order (The First Order). We see stormtroopers loaded up in a troop carrier — a shot inspired by Saving Private Ryan– Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) stopping a freakin blaster beam in mid-transit (something we never even witnessed from Lord Vader), and a total massacre of a village. In these early moments of the film, we get a rich prologue, and incredible sense of scale and of the abilities of this new reincarnation of the Galactic Empire.

As a hilarious and completely unrelated aside about Adam Driver, DID YOU KNOW THERE’S A CAT OUT THERE WHO LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE HIM?

But seriously, can we just take a moment and appreciate this stage of evolution for the Star Wars franchise? This movie does an incredible job conveying scale, scope, and does it with compelling cinematography and emotionally captivating, nostalgic shots littered throughout the film. Part of this can be attributed to the technological advances in filmmaking, but it is clear, in every shot of this movie, the amount of passion, care, and love that went into the film.

I don’t know how else to say it, but John Williams will always have my heart. The score is beautiful, inspiring, and chilling, and when coupled with the cinematography and artfully crafted shots, magic happens. Space magic.

(The Force. Simply put.)

As for character development, TFA does a phenomenal job setting up the next stage of the Star Wars saga. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is the angsty young Sith lord we all needed after a having to tolerate Hayden Christensen for two more films than we all needed. He is conflicted, sulky, easily manipulated, in constant search of approval from a very creepy Supreme Leader Snoke.

anakin-skywalker-aka-darth-vader-the-world-of-star-wars-wallpaper-luke-skywalker-vader-darth-for-android-iphone-ipad-5-free-funny-lego-band-cool.jpg
“Do I make you uncomfortable?” Yes, you DID make us uncomfortable, Hayden.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) was also an excellent, dynamic protagonist who was easy to get behind and root for. We still have yet to learn who she is, but theories are abound (personally I’m leaning toward a Kenobi lineage, but we shall see). To be honest, of all the characters, Finn (John Boyega) was “most impressive.” He added depth, humor, and played well with all of the characters. Ultimately, Lawrence Kasdan orchestrated well-developed, intricate character storylines, and their lines were incredibly well-written to establish a lovable foundation for the episodes to come.

As for original characters, Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) do an incredible job establishing continuity, no matter how many years have passed since their last moments on screen together. Their performances are flawless. Harrison Ford especially, despite his reluctance to redo his earlier roles, delivered a heart-wrenching and convincing Han Solo from the beginning until the death of the beloved character. His commitment to the role was obvious and incredibly moving.

Plot-wise, I would say TFA does a decent job, but obviously pandered to fans by providing a plot that aligned very closely to the original trilogy. The “bigger Deathstar” Starkiller Base felt somewhat regurgitated. Han dying also harkened back to the “I am your father” storyline. That said, my heart broke just as much, regardless how early I saw it coming with Han.

With plot, character development, and cinematography combined – I give TFA tons of props. In concert, all of these make for a nostalgic and enthralling roller coaster of emotion. Where TFA falls short in originality, it makes up in excellent storytelling. All things considered, Episode VII ranks in my top 3 favorite Star Wars films. It still doesn’t beat my feels while watching The Empire Strikes Back, but it gets pretty damn close.

(You made it past the spoilers, good job!)

After watching The Force Awakens, this is my definitive ranking of movies in the Star Wars saga, from best to worst:

  1. V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  2. VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
  3. IV – A New Hope (1977)
  4. VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
  5. I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
  6. III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  7. II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

I loved this movie, I loved the characters, I love the plot, as revisited as it felt. It was like eating my favorite food of all time, but this time prepared by a master chef. Familiar, delicious, but exciting as hell all the same. I would devour this movie again in a heartbeat.

Score: A

4/8/15 — The Day I Became a Real Fan of Lost

As an aside, this has been retroactively added into “Unwelcome Reviews” since it is, technically, a TV series review. – TBF

Ryan and I have been watching every episode of Lost on Netflix, as late bloomers to the series, and happened to land on the series finale on “Lost Day,” 4/8/15 (As you may already know, those numbers are 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42). Would you consider this Fate or coincidence? I’ll go with Fate. So it was only right to celebrate the day by watching it. Every nail-biting second of the finale had me convinced that the ending would leave me unsatisfied, that I would forever be cursing the Lost producers and never watch another series by them ever again. But I was pleasantly surprised, and had a surprising amount of closure.

Now, I’m about to go into some literary analysis (television analysis?) and will include some spoilers, so don’t read on if you ever plan to watch the series (which I wholeheartedly recommend). Otherwise, if you already have watched it, read on!

I know some people hated the finale. I am keenly aware that not every question was answered; not every t was crossed or i, dotted. But in a way, I think that’s a lot like life, which is precisely the message that the makers of Lost were trying to convey. Nonetheless, those questions will haunt me forever and I will be reading every analysis of Lost I can find from here on out, but I don’t think it ruined the series for me.

Lost, for me, identified two kinds of people in this world: Those who seek meaning in what they do, and those who take everything for its factual value. Those who read books for the subtext, and those who read the cliff-notes. Those who believe in greater things than them, and those who believe in themselves. While there was no specific religious leaning, I think that Lost is a commentary about modern spirituality. Hell, the show ENDED on an all-faith church/temple (well, definitely church, but what can you do, Hollywood is diluted with white Christians). By the way, CHRISTIAN SHEPHERD? Tell me that name wasn’t a hint at the show’s clear direction.

Biases toward Christianity aside, I like that Lost focused on how people have a choice to believe what they want to believe — they can decide to focus on oddities like the smoke monster, the polar bear, why the hell some people were immortal; or they can focus on each character’s development and journey. Sure, call it a “cop out for explaining the real thing” but even if they did explain the mythical science and the reason for everything, would we be satisfied? Would we see a point? Would we leave having gained any insight other than the science of electromagnetism?

My favorite part of all of this is Desmond’s insistence that none of this matters, and that no matter what happens they’ll end up in a place where they can be with their loved ones and leave the Island behind. We find out later that he meant the afterlife. Ultimately, it does matter that you had formative experiences with important people, but it’s not the outcome that matters so much as it is the community of people you build around yourself. That is what you take with you, and what will carry you through the rest of the petty details.

As I said, though, Lost gives you a choice. You can decide, instead, to look at the science. To try to understand every facet of this mythical island and know all there is to know about it. Yeah, it would be interesting, but also would never end. The questions continue to arise as you are there, and even once you are dead. But I think we all know which option they feel would bring the most value to your life.

Welp, I never thought it would happen, but I am a real fan now, and appreciate every single flashback and every single ounce of character development. I appreciate the weird crap too, because I can’t get enough sci-fi in my life, but it’s much more than that.