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STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER-With this newest trilogy, I normally returned multiple times to the theaters for a couple of reasons. One was that I wanted to see the films after my initial expectations had died down, and also because I actually enjoyed the films themselves. I mean STAR WARS is just as big now as it has always been, regardless of the lovers, the haters, and the in-betweeners. I saw THE FORCE AWAKENS four times, THE LAST JEDI TWICE, and THE RISE OF SKYWALKER only once. I still highly enjoy TFA, but TLJ has only gotten worse for me through multiple home viewings. It actually borderlines on boring and damn near pointless, to be honest. With THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, I honestly planned to see it again. However after a couple of weeks to think about it, I don't care if I ever see it again. I've spent enough money on Disney's halfassery (my word, copyrighted) for the forseeable future.
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is for lack of a more descriptive term, a big jumbled watchable mess. It doesn't honor any of its characters properly (aside from Carrie Fisher's), and it handles pre-established plotlines by lightly touching on them or completely ignoring them altogether. There are way too many characters, and very little for them to do except nod to a conversation and then step aside for another one's brief appearance. I don't hate what has been done here, but like a father who has been let down by his highly talented children, I'm just disappointed and ultimately underwhelmed. What's odd though, is that THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is never boring. It's a high energy distraction from all of the weak and lazy writing that tries to balance a story that never gets any justice. The character of Rey has advanced in such a short time to having full on FORCE UNLEASHED powers, that not even Yoda came close to having in EMPIRE. Oh, and the cheap, ten year old child writer's excuse for why she's so powerful, is laughable at best. She hasn't earned it throughout this series and nobody is going to convince me otherwise. Everybody else takes a back seat to her, and the whole thing suffers because of it. The only character who has remained consistently written this whole time is Kylo Ren. It just sucks that not enough was given to him after the events of TFA. The reasoning for the return of the Emperor was also mediocre. There was a really good story in there for him if capable hands had been involved. Instead, he's just the baddie of the moment, there to growl and look scary with little purpose than what was fed to us.
In spite of my irritations with this movie, I have to give props to Director J.J. Abrams for taking over the monumental task of keeping THE RISE OF SKYWALKER from crashing into complete irrelevance. He had to steer the storyline back onto the path that he established with TFA before Rian Johnson monkeywrenched it in TLJ, while also trying to please all of the fans in the process. I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been for him to attempt. Because this movie could have turned out far worse than it did. Now, if any of you enjoyed this film and all of the fan service that it provided, then I am truly happy for you. But for me, I hold STAR WARS to a certain standard, and if they are going to play scattershot with this iconic franchise, then I am unable to be so forgiving. Hell, despite its many flaws, George Lucas's prequel trilogy actually looks far more grounded and planned out than this one and, it always felt like STAR WARS. This one, not always. Now that this trilogy is over, I pray to the Gods of Life Day that those executives pull their collective heads out of each other's asses, find the right people for the job (THE MANDOLORIAN showrunners are a great example), and let them do what they do best; not try to give medals four decades later to cover up any current inadequacies.
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
PG-13 | 2h 22min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy | 20 December 2019 (USA)
The surviving members of the resistance face the First Order once again, and the legendary conflict between the Jedi and the Sith reaches its peak bringing the Skywalker saga to its end.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Writers: Chris Terrio (screenplay by), J.J. Abrams (screenplay by)
Stars: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver
RICHARD JEWELL-With films like J. EDGAR, JERSEY BOYS, AMERICAN SNIPER, SULLY, and THE 15:17 TO PARIS, it seems like Director Clint Eastwood has been on biopic kick for the past decade or so. Now those films were hit or miss (take your pick), and none of them showed poor quality filmmaking (sans the acting in 15:17), but films like THE MULE and GRAN TORINO had more relevant fun and stood out from the predictable tellings of a (Based On Real Events) motion picture. Of course RICHARD JEWELL is also a B.O.R.E. movie, however it stands out as something special for most involved, especially since it deals with somebody most of us have forgotten or never even knew about in the first place.
One of the first things that stood out to me about RICHARD JEWELL was how it begins. The film shows you right from the get-go what kind of a person Paul Walter Hauser is playing in the title character. He's kind, thoughtful, and just wants to help people out. That's important to reveal because the public, governmental, and media lynching of this guy gets as relentless as possible by 1990's standards. Paul Walter Hauser is becoming one of my favorite go-to guys for fat guy character actors. His performances in I, Tonya, Super Troopers 2, and BlacKkKlansman were all fun and major highlights of those films. Here, he gets more quiet and naive which almost makes him come off as a full grown child. It's endearing though, because the audience goes along with him and feels every knife that gets stabbed into his back along his journey. Aside from Joaquin Phoenix (who should be a shoe in for JOKER), Hauser deserves some serious recognition for his efforts here. Alongside Hauser's work, Kathy Bates as his Mother is also tearful to watch as well. She conveys what it's like to suffer through the joy of being the mother of a son that gets everything taken away after she already sees him as a hero. She doesn't give up on him, no matter how much it's breaking her down. Sam Rockwell as Jewell's lawyer, is refreshing and fun as a guy who doesn't take shit from anybody and tells it like it is. I've always loved Rockwell, and this just adds another level to his stack of awesomeness. Jon Hamm's take as an FBI agent is a good but strange one. He starts off as a regular guy with a difficult job, but as the story progresses, he becomes more and more of an opportunistic douche to the point where he leaves the film without a single redeeming quality aside from his award winning chin. Olivia Wilde as the slimy journalist who jumps at any opportunity to get dirt on Jewell, goes in the opposite direction as Hamm's. By the end, she sees what her profession has helped to do to an innocent man all for the sake of exposure.
If I had anything bad to say about this film, I would have to acknowledge that RICHARD JEWELL ends fairly abruptly after the proper justice has been served. There's also a few missed opportunities here with the lack of interactions between Jewell and the victims of the bombing. It would've added an extra dose of heart in those regards. His relationship with his coworkers after the accusations are barely touched on at all, which I felt could have added to the overwhelming stress that he was going through. It's a shame that this movie is failing hard at the box office while computer generated singing snowmen and mediocrity from a galaxy far far away reign supreme over the mutiplexes. RICHARD JEWELL is Eastwood's best work in years and deserves way more recognition than it's getting, just like its title character.
Richard Jewell (2019)
R | 2h 11min | Biography, Crime, Drama | 13 December 2019 (USA)
American security guard Richard Jewell saves thousands of lives from an exploding bomb at the 1996 Olympics, but is vilified by journalists and the press who falsely reported that he was a terrorist.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writers: Marie Brenner (magazine article), Billy Ray (screenplay)
Stars: Paul Walter Hauser, Sam Rockwell, Brandon Stanley
UNCUT GEMS-Do you know what one of the most frustrating things about liking Adam Sandler is? It's that he has shown multiple times over his career that he is capable of delivering great comedic and even dramatic performances. You just have to sift through the shit that he's defecated over the last two decades to find some of the "GEMS". His lazy, "I don't feel like being here" approach lately (especially on Netflix) has been an insult to an otherwise entertaining resume. I will always have reservations about seeing any of his new films, even though I know that he's capable of so much more. With his latest film, I'll explain exactly why.
Pardon my rare yet occasionally appropriate profanity here, but FUCK YOU ADAM SANDLER!!! UNCUT GEMS shows exactly what we have been missing from this guy, which is the range and the balls to venture out from the predictable. This film adds to my disappointment with Sandler because it proves he can bring it when he really wants to. His character is such a charismatic, manipulative, piece of filth that if it were played by an unknown actor, I probably wouldn't have even a shred of concern for this guy's ordeals. Sandler's performance as Howard actually made me want to root for his role in spite how much he rips people off and alienates himself from his family and peers. Idina Menzel as his wife first comes off as some bitter old nag, until it becomes more than obvious that Howard has made her this way. She becomes fun to watch at times when you can fully understand that she's fed up with his shit and doesn't even see him as a man anymore. Lakeith Stanfield, Kevin Garnett, Julia Fox, Eric Bogosian, and Judd Hirsch all sprinkle something special into all of their scenes. The most surprising performance aside from Sandler's though, was from Keith Williams Richards in his first acting role. As a loan shark collector, Richards gives what I saw as a terrifying performance. His dark stares cut right through me as if he was actually going to jump off the screen and teach me a lesson. This guy plays a cold toughie better than most I've seen.
The Safdie Brothers have constructed a tense movie that barely lets up and builds to an extremely uneasy finish. I was feeling anxiety an hour afterwards. In my mind, that is effective storytelling. The offbeat musical score keeps UNCUT GEMS's style unique. The close ups and quick camera cutting makes for a claustrophobic experience that adds to the tension. Something as simple as a door buzzer is used to build up a scene's pressure to the point of explosion. Following Sandler around as he tries to make the perfect bet while avoiding all of his consequences, is impressive to watch. Even if he sometimes sounds like his longtime friend Peter Dante in the process ("Drive, monkey, drive!") I'm not sure if this is a multiple viewings type of movie for you, I just know that for me it was a rush the first time, but I never want to meet these characters again. Howard's world is ugly and no precious gem is ever gonna blind me from that fact.
Uncut Gems (2019)
R | 2h 15min | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 25 December 2019 (USA)
A charismatic New York City jeweler always on the lookout for the next big score makes a series of high-stakes bets that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. Howard must perform a precarious high-wire act, balancing business, family, and encroaching adversaries on all sides in his relentless pursuit of the ultimate win.
Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Stars: Mesfin Lamengo, Suin Zhi Hua-Hilton, Liang Wei-Hei Duncan