Saturday, 16 December 2017

IN THEATRES: The Last Jedi & Better Watch Out

 As a band of rebels fight a last-ditch battle to save the galaxy from an evil empire, a young woman goes in search of the one man who can bring hope to their cause...

It is rare nowadays to watch a big movie that manages to get the fundamentals right: story, character, and tone. There is always a sense of lack in certain areas (Spider-Man: Homecoming's weak character arc; Rogue One's more egregious lack of cohesive character or plot development). The Last Jedi is that rare beast that manages to feel like a fully developed dramatic narrative, with characters who grow and a story that has stakes and feels of a piece with itself.

Technically it is a middle part in a trilogy, but the best thing about this movie is that writer-director Rian Johnson does not care. He does not care about the plot strands and teasers from the previous movie, because those things are immaterial to the story he is telling. He takes all these hanging threads and elegantly ties them off. The Last Jedi does not feel like a sequel or an episode in a cinematic universe: it feels singular, and complete.

It also finds ways to take old concepts that have become esoteric and finds ways to deepen them, and to give them a universal applicability that feels almost... spiritual. There is a sense of empathy to the way that Johnson interrogates the concept of the Force, and strips it of the aristocratic, pseudo-science mumbo jumbo that George Lucas turned it into. In the original movie, the force did not require a bloodline -  it felt like something elemental that anyone can tap into. Johnson takes the concept back to that, but then finds a way to make it mean something. By the end of the movie, it is clear that the Force does not belong to a select few - it is for everyone.

Johnson deserves credit for coming up with a new plot that does not feel like a re-hash. This one actually feels like the first real 'sci-fi' premise this series has had, with a ticking clock scenario that forces characters to make real life-and-death choices. The move becomes a running (and shooting) debate about the true meaning of heroism, and that is often different from what it means to make the right choice.    

 It does everything you expect, but with an intelligence and wit the franchise has lacked since the original trilogy. You get great new characters (Kelly Marie Tran's Rose is the standout), set pieces that do not outstay their welcome (and don't feel like weightless CGI) and some fun world-building great world-building.

There is a sense at the end of this movie that the slate has been wiped clean. Sure, there can be another movie, but The Last Jedi never feels like it's saving anything for later. Everything is set up and paid off. The creative team behind the sequel will have a lot of hard work to do to try and match this.

Better Watch Out
So there's this asshole kid who really wants to bang his babysitter see? And so he and his friend/whipping boy come up with a plan to get her to fall for him by staging a home invasion. Great!

The message of this movie is that horror comedies are really hard to pull off. And it starts with the premise.

This movie is based on the POV of a 13-year-old psychopath who is trying to gaslight his babysitter into sleeping with him. To do this he is willing to kidnap her and (spoilers) kill the people who care about her.

If you cannot tell, I fucking hated this movie. Above and beyond the fact that it is neither scary or funny, there is a fundamental nastiness to the story, particularly in terms of gender relations, that does not work for comedy.

There appears to be a modicum of irony to the opening scenes between Luke (Levi Miller) and Garrett (Ed Oxenbould) as they talk about his crush on Ashley (Olivia DeJonge), but there is no real sense of critique or understanding of the expectations constructed by men toward female sexuality. There is no sense of awareness to the film. It just wants to push some taboos by having the villains as the baby-sat rather than external threats (ala Michael Myers in Halloween).

The movie wants to be Home Alone with Macauly Culkin's character from The Good Son. But the scenario the filmmakers have come up, with its creepy sexual undercurrent, requires a nuance and delicate touch that this film does not have.

As our villain, Levi Miller is a one-note bully who comes across as more whiney and petulant than a master manipulator. These kinds of movies require a charismatic villain with at least a degree of pathos for us to connect with. Take Tragedy Girls, which balances a high bodycount with a story about two best friends trying to figure out what their relationship means when they start to become famous. Luke is just a one-note psycho, with his only unique feature being that he is 13 years old.

I spent the entire movie trying to figure out if the filmmakers were trying to make some kind of commentary about rape culture and male entitlement about women's bodies, but I came out stumped. It is just an empty exercise in trying to be extreme, but with no real style or wit to make it worth watching.

Boring, stupid and nasty, Better Watch Out is an empty vessel of a movie.


My theatre


Rogue One review

Tragedy Girls review

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