STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – Review (Spoiler Free & Spoiler Filled)

It’s here! THE LAST JEDI is finally here!

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Naturally, my family and I were in line for the first showing then I went to see it in 3D this morning. Yes, like a true Star Wars nut, I saw the movie twice before it had been out for 24 hours. Since everyone knows that Santa shits in the stockings of people who support spoilers, I’ll split this review into two parts: spoiler-free and spoiler-filled. The latter portion will have much more substance because it’ll be a challenge to write much about it without getting into specifics. There won’t be any spoiler pictures either in case someone accidentally scrolls too far. If you read beyond my warnings, then that’s on you.

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Spoiler-Free Review

Rian Johnson’s first entry into the Star Wars saga takes place immediately after the events of THE FORCE AWAKENS. Even though the two films are remarkably different, the connective tissue between them is undeniable. The bulk of characters are familiar with a few new additions. Introducing new characters into such a widely defined universe is a challenging feat. Shortchanging character development is difficult to avoid in this scenario, yet, I feel like THE LAST JEDI gave an appropriate amount of attention to everyone who needed it. Visuals in the movie are absolutely stunning. The bar for visual effects has always been high for Star Wars but this installment features breathtaking scenes from start to finish.

One refreshing factor throughout the film is a prevalence of laugh-out-loud moments that never felt forced or misplaced. Reviewer curmudgeons have predictably denounced the humor and certain “risks” taken by Johnson. I feel strongly that the aspects they’re speaking against are what make this the best of the Star Wars movies. That’s right, I said it…. My second viewing today cemented my opinion that THE LAST JEDI narrowly tops EMPIRE as the best Star Wars film. It has humor and ample heart. My stomach bubbled with anxiety for some characters while ‘the feels’ tugged at my tear ducts in other moments. No movie is perfect, but this lifelong Star Wars fan feels like THE LAST JEDI comes pretty darn close.

My final review of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is 9.89 out of 10.

HERE COME THE SPOILERS!

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FINAL WARNING FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SEEN THE LAST JEDI

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Spoiler-Filled Review

I think I’ll break this into bullet points because if you’re reading this it means you’ve hopefully watched the film (if not then SHAME ON YOU). Assuming you have watched it, I don’t need to rehash the plot because it’s been circling your thoughts ever since you left the theater. So we’ll call these “review points” which are in no particular order other than how they pop into my brain as I try to remember to movie.

  • The technology of the First Order is totally bad ass. Seeing the Dreadnought at the beginning really set the tone for how screwed the Resistance is. The Star Killer Base was cool and all Snoke’s gargantuan ship the Supremacy is fantastic. I loved seeing how it dwarfed everything else on screen. Kylo Ren’s Tie Silencer definitely deserved more screen time than it got. Hopefully we’ll see him use it in a full-fledged space battle later.
  • Mark Hamill perfectly sold the current mindset we find Luke in. You could see the character we know and love beneath a tortured soul trying to hide from the world as much as he was hiding from himself.
  • The Porgs were great! Their various interactions were cute without being overused.
  • I’m glad they didn’t show a funeral for Han. His loss is still clearly felt (poor Chewie) while not being forced on us they way a funeral scene would.
  • All the various inhabitants of Ahch-To were fun. The Caretakers especially were entertaining. I can only imagine the many interactions Luke had with them where they merely tolerated his presence.
  • The bridging of Rey and Kylo Ren through the Force was interesting. At first I was resistant to the newer abilities we’re seeing from the Force (like Kylo’s mind reading and stopping a blaster bolt in TFA) but I’ve since warmed up to them. It’s especially interesting to think about once we learned that it was Snoke who connected the two. If he was that powerful, then what else could he do? On that note…
  • Snoke…. I’m torn here (no pun intended). I wasn’t expecting him to die in this film. As much as I’d like to hear more about the origins such a mysterious character, I appreciate that the mystery adds to the inherent terror a creature of his power-level deserves. It’s entirely possible that we’ll learn more about him in Episode IX but I doubt it. With that said, Marvel would be remiss if they pass up the opportunity to expand on his history with their comics.
  • I freakin’ love the Supreme Leader’s Praetorian guards. Everything from their red armor to their varied blade/energy weapons made them completely bad ass. I hope Kylo Ren hires a new batch for his time as Supreme Leader and invests in a generous workers comp program.
  • Another topic I’m torn on is the Canto Bight sequences… Story wise, they probably could have done without it even though it broke up the doom and gloom situation of the Resistance fleet. At the same time, it provided a nice contrast to the grungy Star Wars world we normally see. It was also neat to see the variety of creatures that count themselves among the Galaxy’s elite.
  • Holy shit, YODA! It was fantastic to have Frank Oz return as Yoda’s spunky Force ghost. His inclusion was a perfect surprise.
  • My least favorite part of the movie was the sequence where Leia gets blown into space. I get that it shows how strong her connection with the Force is, but, didn’t we already have a sense of that? I’m actually surprised Rian Johnson didn’t use the scene as a way to put her character to rest (a requirement that I wish wasn’t ever necessary).
  • I liked Admiral Holdo a lot. The character had a certain presence about her that was well suited to the unenviable task she was given. It helps that Laura Dern is a great actress (nice too because I met her!).
  • Rose was sweet. Her chemistry with Finn was believable. I’m excited to see how things evolve between them in the next movie!
  • The scene where Holdo jumps the Resistance cruiser to a kamikaze course through the First Order armada was breathtaking. Using silence and a different color scheme was a brilliant technique to show how unthinkably cataclysmic her heroic move ended up being. Fun fact – I’m guessing people bitched to theater management saying there was a problem with the audio because on my second viewing this morning I saw a sign outside the theater advising people that the movie contains a “creative silence” at some point. <insert eye roll>
  • I’m fine with the reveal that Rey’s parents were essentially no one. Not everyone needs to be part of some huge lineage. Part of the magic of Star Wars is the thought that anyone can rise to be a hero with the ability to impact the entire galaxy. With that in mind, why would Rey need to have some predictable heritage?
  • Crait is an amazing looking planet. I’ve never seen anything like the effect of red bursting from the white with every blaster strike. It was a proper homage to the Battle of Hoth while being beautifully unique at the same time.
  • The “David and Goliath” feeling that came from the Battle of Crait was fantastic. There was a palpable dread that came from seeing the Ski Speeders heading to the fearsome wall of AT-M6 walkers and the surprisingly smaller AT-AT’s at their feet.
  • “They really hate that ship!” Awesome moment.
  • General Hux is such a little bitch. It was fun to see him get thrown around by Snoke and Kylo.
  • Luke and Leia’s reunion was very sweet. It makes me sad that we’ll never get that again.
  • I was a bit baffled by portions of Luke’s Force projection distraction at first. On the second go around I watched closer and saw that he truly never connected with Kylo in any way during their fight. It makes sense in hindsight but on the initial-totally-overwhelmed viewing I missed it.
  • Did Luke HAVE to die? That was my one pre-viewing prediction that was correct. I understand why but mourn nonetheless… His ending was perfectly executed. It was meaningful, impactful, and above all, peaceful. Luke Skywalker deserved such an ending. He’d better be back later as a Force ghost!!
  • The ancient Jedi texts were NOT lost. I noticed it the first time and watched for it the second – the books in the drawer in the final scene when Finn gets a blanket for Rose had the same spines as the ones we see in the old Force tree library.
  • How great was that ending? It was hopeful with greater implications for the entire Star Wars universe. I’m excited to see what other Force-sensitive members of the downtrodden will rise to the spot light in the coming movies.
  • Bonus thought – see it in 3D. I really believe that it’s worth the ticket price. You’re not missing anything seeing it in standard definition (as my first viewing was) but the 3D adds a deserving depth the the spectacle.

So there you have it. Those are just some of my thoughts. I’m sure I’ll have more after the next time I see it (and there will be a next time!). Rian Johnson has earned his place at the helm of a new trilogy. I have faith he’ll deliver because like us, he’s a die hard fan.

There will always be haters. In the process of writing this I came across a few posts from people voicing opposition. I think any outcry we hear from fans turning against it really went into the theater ready to hate it. If you’re like me, and went in eager to adore it, then you’ll come out thrilled. After all, it’s STAR WARS at its best and this is a wondrous time to be a fan of these stories from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

What did you think of THE LAST JEDI? How do you rank it in the saga? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com.

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IT (2017) Spoiler-Free Movie Review

I firmly believe that Hollywood remakes are the scourge of creative filmmaking. We’ve seen this proven time and time again as creative properties are simply revisited for the sake of making a buck. Hollywood producers just can’t seem to leave well enough alone!

In comes the new take on Stephen King’s IT. The film faced constant pre-production and production obstacles that seemed to back up my feelings toward remakes prior to the film even being released. Now that I’ve seen the finished product I can confidently say that I’ve never been happier to be wrong!

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IT is a startling and visually gripping tale with more heart than any horror movie should possess. The film triumphs largely because of a brilliant cast both young and old. So much of the positive press is focused on Bill Skarsgård’s portrayal of Pennywise (more on that in a moment) but the ‘Losers Club’ deserves just as much praise. A movie/book/anything works when you actually care about the characters in it. In this case, the tension and scares worked because it was so easy to become invested in the kids. Each of the ‘Losers’ had a believable chemistry where viewers could sense that the kids are actual friends. Their playful banter brought a lightheartedness to the story that was needed to break up the dread while giving each young actor an individualized character identity.

Then there’s Pennywise…. can I just say – holy shit! Bill Skarsgård magnificently created an homage to Tim Curry’s portrayal while firmly cementing his own version of the character in horror history. I can’t think of a personalized reimagining that’s worked this well since Heath Ledger took on the Joker. Skarsgård’s Pennywise wasn’t just a creepy clown that sometimes showed his monstrous side, but rather, he is a deranged malevolence that twitched and growled under a thinly veiled clown facade. He managed to be funny, quirky, and unpredictably terrifying across every moment of screen time.

The glue that held this film perfectly in place was certainly the vision of director Andrés Muschietti. Muschietti made it clear that this half of the story was meant to be told from the perspective of the kids. Kids experience things, especially fear, differently than adults. We saw this as the settings they entered may have looked creepy from the outside, then on the inside they became cavernous nightmares just as a child might view it. This was a subtle technique that allowed the audience to connect with the trials and tribulations of the Losers Club on an even deeper level. Casting of the minor adult characters added to this as well since they were all terrible people, if not a sort of monster themselves, as a kid might view them to be.

So if you’re reading this and haven’t seen IT, do yourself a favor and go! It’s a thrilling experience that will stick with you long after the 2 hour and 15 minute runtime. All of the buzz you’ve heard is well deserved. Hollywood desperately needed a reminder as to why horror should be taken seriously and they found IT!

My final review of IT (2017) is 9.5 out of 10.

What did you think of IT? What’s your favorite recent horror film? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com.

jolly nathanThe Belligerent Barnes

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STOP WORRYING about Star Wars!

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Yesterday the news broke that Colin Trevorrow has “parted ways” with Disney and won’t be directing Star Wars Episode IX. Since then, my regular internet stomping grounds have been ripe with commentary. The consensus, from what I’ve been able to stomach, is that Trevorrow’s removal is a sign that Star Wars is in trouble. To those outspoken critics I say – shut the hell up already!

I’m more confident now than ever before that our holy space epic is in very good hands. At the time of this writing, Rian Johnson is reported to be the frontrunner to take over on the last installment in the current trilogy. Let’s assume there’s truth to that report (and I hope there is)… Think about it for a moment – Disney wants the director of Episode VIII to direct Episode IX. That is an unenviable job that the bazillion dollar monopoly wouldn’t trust anyone with unless they have confidence in what will be delivered. The powers at be in the Mouse House have seen Johnson’s Last Jedi and their preference to keep the same director meaning they really liked what they saw! How could that not be seen as a good thing?

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Security moments before escorting Colin Trevorrow off the studio lot

Perhaps this had nothing to do with the Jurassic World director’s take on how the trilogy would end – it’s probably more likely that they were so fond of Rian Johnson’s work that they wanted him to see it through. He’s already got a mega-blockbuster-to-be under his belt with the saga and is an incredibly likeable diehard fan. Through filming Last Jedi he’s already developed a rapport with the cast/crew while possessing an intimate perspective of the story arc. If Disney has any hope of hitting the May 2019 release (without possible reduction in quality) then it makes sense for the film to be piloted by someone as freshly tenured in the galaxy far, far away as Johnson. That’s just smart, logical business.

I think this situation is much different from the recent debacle with Han Solo. It sounds like the Phil Lord and Chris Miller were simply headed in the wrong direction. Regardless of Disney’s desire to bring directorial diversity to Star Wars, a universal familiarity is absolutely required to mesh with the legacy that has formed over the last 40 years. Gareth Edwards brought a very different type of movie with Rogue One while still allowing it to feel like Star Wars. Frankly, Ron Howard is an ideal fit to right the ship and I’m still confident it’ll be great.

That’s the thing, we need to be confident that Disney will deliver. Even the most hating of haters out there can admit that the franchise has been in spectacular hands AT LEAST compared to the prequel trilogy days. Disney has delivered worthy entries and has the means to continue doing just that. Whatever news breaks between now and the release of ANY one of these films will not change the reality that I’ll be in line with my family for the first showing.

There has never been a greater time to be a Star Wars fan!

What do you think? Do you have faith in Disney’s plan? Sound off in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com.

jolly nathanThe Belligerent Barnes

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Death Note – 2017 Film Review

Before we begin, I feel it is important to confess that I’m not a manga fan at all and have little desire to give any anime the chance I probably should. With that disclaimer in place, I still felt like giving the new Netflix adaptation of the popular manga a shot. So was it worth my time?

 

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Death Note – directed by Adam Wingard

 

My overall impression that was really difficult to shake was a resounding “meh”. The story in interesting enough – a ‘death god’ by the name of Ryuk chooses an awkward teen to be in possession of a powerful book that can bring about the very specific demise of anyone who the holder of the book writes inside. All the person writing the name needs is their full name and to visualize their face. It’s an interesting concept that seemed perfect for the Netflix outlet. There’s plenty of blood, twists, turns, and enough to keep your attention.

Interestingly enough, the biggest fault of the movie is also its biggest strength: casting. I could not stand the lead actor Nat Wolff who played the angsty teen Light Turner. He didn’t seem like a high school student at all – if anything, he seemed like a creep posing as a student. That, combined with his over-the-top reactions and facial expressions, were very distracting almost immediately. The semi-antagonist in the story, ‘L’ played by Lakeith Stanfield, was more tolerable yet still quirky to the point of being off putting. I’ll excuse the L character since that quirkiness is largely what his character was supposed to be however poorly paced his introduction ended up being.

I mentioned that casting was also its strength and that’s entirely thanks to the choice of Willem Dafoe to voice Ryuk. It was honestly this choice that kept me watching the film being he brought so much creepy life to the shadowy death god. I’m glad they kept Ryuk mostly to the shadows because it upped his creepy factor tenfold. The Leftovers Margaret Qualley was also rather good as Mia Sutton; I wish she’d been the focus rather than the intolerable Light Turner. Shea Whigham played a very believable father to Light and maintained that fun, socially blunt charm that he typically puts into characters (I saw a lot of similarities to his character in Kong Skull Island).

Perhaps it was the choice of director that hurt this films quality. Adam Wingard isn’t terrible but his resume is filled with ‘meh’ horror films: Blair Witch, V/H/S, You’re Next, etc. His cinematography focus is very self-indulgent in that he’ll spend too much time showing plates falling during a chase or small things that do little more than distract from the story. I get that he tried to maintain a certain artsy style yet I believe it was at the expense of the film’s pacing.

All in all, it’s not a bad movie but it’s also not a great movie. The latter half definitely becomes more interested so it’s worth sticking out to see things sort of wrap up. If they do another movie I hope it’s without Light’s character because that could make it worth revisiting.

 

My final rating of Death Note (2017) is a 6.3 out of 10.

 

What’s your favorite manga/anime adaptation? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure

In today’s market, we have a plethora of option’s when it comes to action figures. Consumers have a variety of different price point options from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars. Along with higher price points we also have gotten better quality and detail. I personally do collect action figures. I tend to gravitate to the action figures with a bit more detail associated with them. With Hot Toys; you will definitely get a very life like figure, but you will also take a hit to your wallet easily spending $300-$1000. Unfortunately, I have responsibilities to keep…kids gotta eat you know. That being said you can always find a happy medium. Today I will offer a review for Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure.

 

I have had this figure on pre-order for almost 5 months since I saw this pop up on EntertainmentEarth.com (Great site that has all things geek/nerd to buy). I am a fan of all things Batman, but that being said I am a harsh critic of comics and merchandise that comes out with Batman’s likeness. The price is extremely manageable at $54.99 before tax. The figure stands almost 6 inches tall (5 9/10 inch). In the package you will receive an optional head, 5 sets of hands, 2 bat-a-rang’s, 1 grappling-gun, and 1 bomb-gun. There are an amazing 21 points of articulation on this figure. You also get a very large bendable cape that keeps the spirit and feel from the Christopher Nolan trilogy; when Batman glides from building to building. The detail on this figure is very impressive. You can see areas where SH Figuarts was attempting to represent the carbon fiber and body armor. Where the figure fell a bit short was the very large side holster for the grappling gun. Also, the “shoulder pads” on the figure came off very easily when moving the arms around. Lastly, when replacing the head and hands, I was worried a few times that I was going to break the little piece connecting the neck to the head and the hand to the arm; felt like I was gonna snap it off.

My final rating Batman: The Dark Knight SH Figuarts Action Figure is 9.1 out of 10.

What do you collect? What price point do you try to stay with? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

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The Dull Knight

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Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 – by Tom Taylor

If you’re at all familiar with my reviews, you probably know that I’m a major fan of ‘one-shot’ comics. As fantastic as traditional comic book story arcs can be, there’s something refreshing about having the entirety of a story, albeit a short story, held within a single comic. It was a little bittersweet to hear that the long desired team up of Wolverine and the All-New Wolverine would be limited to one of these one shots. Regardless, with Tom Taylor at the helm of this issue I knew it would pack a bloody punch with every page.

I mentioned this comic ahead of time to my 7 year old daughter who is a huge Laura Kinney fan. She and I recently cosplayed as the theatrical Old Man Logan and Laura (go to my personal Instagram for the pic) so this particular issue was one we definitely had on our radar.

 

Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 Review

 

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Tom Taylor has a knack for the ‘less is more’ approach to his storytelling. He’s very good at letting things unfold without a dissertation to set up a story. This comic is a great example of this because it throws you right into the middle of Logan battling the undead ninjas of the Hand. Readers will have their attention immediately grabbed because, for once, this intense battle isn’t going in Wolverine’s favor and he’s moments away from losing for good. All the while there is very little narration offered – even though you’re not 100% sure what’s happening, it doesn’t matter because you are given the sense that things will fall into place in the coming pages. Jorge Molina’s artwork compliments this style quite well as readers are easily immersed in this desperate setting.

Fortunately for Logan, Laura (the All-New Wolverine) mysteriously appears and gracefully kicks copious amounts of undead ass. I absolutely loved how you’re treated to Logan’s thought process as he is just as awestruck by her ability. There’s no explanation why she’s there because it doesn’t matter – Wolverine needed help and his clone/daughter from the future supplied it fantastically.

The dialogue throughout the issue is top notch. Overall it’s effective yet subtle which makes for a smooth read. Interactions between the new and old Wolverine are exactly as they should be with Laura subverting normal tropes as she normally does with hints of Logan’s blunt charm.

As the pages progress you see that Logan is getting more and more hints as to his true connection with the mysterious Laura. This opens up some genuinely sweet moments between them before the story ends. It was very special for me to read this aloud with my daughter. It’s a thoughtful yet ass-kicking story that never veers into any excessive or over-the-top areas like it easily could have.

My final rating of Generations: Wolverine & All-New Wolverine #1 is a 9.6 out of 10.

What’s your favorite comic book one-shot? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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STAR WARS: Darth Vader #4 – by Charles Soule

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The August installment of Marvel’s new venture into the history of the Dark Lord of the Sith promised the confrontation that would award Vader his lightsaber, and it certainly delivered! After losing the first round to exiled Jedi Master, Kirak Infil’a, Vader was left in a state that might defeat any lesser villain. I do love how this comic has painted Vader as a vulnerable, headstrong, and stubborn character that hasn’t yet reached the levels of legendary evil we know him to be. His actions are fueled by unchecked rage that force innovation rather than the precision of a lightsaber.

 

Master Infil’a assumed he’d defeated the Sith and was preparing to set off on his new mission to rebuild the Jedi Order. At some point it would be neat for Marvel to produce a comic that explores an alternate timeline where he continues with this mission to link up with other Order 66 survivors like Yoda, Obi Wan, and Kanan Jarrus. Alas, Vader survived and came back ready to fight dirty. The comic comes to a head with Vader attacking the Jedi’s sense of nobility rather than another outright physical confrontation. Vader broke a water levee, thus killing scores of innocent people, just to get the edge on Infil’a to take his lightsaber and finish the job. It was a delightfully evil climax which furthered the divide between Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker.

 

My only complaint is along the same lines I had in my prior review of issue number two – this issue should have been combined with the one the preceded it. Marvel could have combined the first and second then third and fourth issues into two “mega-sized” editions that would have better maintained the tension without sacrificing cohesiveness to the story arch. Regardless, I absolutely adore how Marvel is treating this time period in my all-time favorite character’s history.

 

My final rating of STAR WARS: Darth Vader #4 by Charles Soule is a 8.8 out of 10.

What’s your favorite Star Wars comic? Let us know in the comments or email us directly at madnerddads@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow the blog and on Instagram to stay up to date!

jolly nathan The Belligerent Barnes

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