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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Star Wars: The Last Jedi & Ferdinand

Dearest Blog: 'Tis the season where I never work a five-day week, so yesterday I took advantage of a Friday away from the office to beat the (worst) crowds to The Last Jedi and Ferdinand.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers, people are uber-sensitive about Star Wars I'm gonna say spare us all the stress and just don't read this until you've seen the movie. I might have a thought that hints at an idea that will utterly destroy your experience or something.
Normally I write in the order I see, but as a courtesy I'm going to drop Ferdinand first so parents who are wondering, "Should I take my kid to this?" don't have to wade through 2,000 words on why I've been in love with Luke Skywalker since I was ten before getting their answer.
A gentle bull called Ferdinand has to save himself and his friends from the bullfighter's ring and the Burger King.
Ferdinand is a cute, mostly benign kids' movie. I hesitate to call it a family movie because, really, there's not much here to entertain anyone over the age of ten...or most people over the age of ten, I guess, because I liked it well enough. Ferdinand's art and animation are merely decent, and the predictable story--while enjoyable--is certainly not on par with its most recent animated competition, the extraordinary Coco. A lively score from the brilliant John Powell works especially well with the film's brighter and more colorful bits. Wrestler John Cena isn't overtaxed in the lead, and, oddly, my screening seemed mostly filled with Cena fans, just one little kid among them. There's not much to say about the supporting crew other than Kate McKinnon is marginally less annoying than she was in Ghostbusters, and the animated David Tennant has WAY more lines than the animated David Tennant did in How to Train Your Dragon. To me some of Ferdinand's themes seem a little harsh for smaller kids. The film is pretty clear on what happens to the bulls, whether or not they make it to the ring, so if you still hope to feed your kids that Hamburger Helper on a busy night, maybe take a pass on this one. I don't have children and always assume kids of any age know more than I'd guess, but I also thought the language was somewhat crass for very young audiences, so, again, skip it if your kids aren't already at an age where everything "sucks."
Ferdinand runs 106 minutes and is rated PG for "rude humor, action, and some thematic elements."
Ferdinand is a passable kids' movie that offers little for the rest of the family...but I liked it. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Ferdinand gets five.
Fangirl points: David Tennant! Raul Esparza!
Okay, now onward to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
With hope all but lost, the Resistance seeks a new hope. Erm...hang on.......
When a property is as iconic as Star Wars, it's more important than usual to offer a disclaimer on where these opinions come from, because I feel like most opinions on such things come from more than whether or not the movie itself is any good. So...I was ten when the first Star Wars came out. If memory serves, it was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I fell in love with Luke Skywalker and have been in love with Luke Skywalker ever since. Thus, even though The Force Awakens is pretty universally well loved (and I, myself, loved much of it), it was also a bitter disappointment to me due to the lack of Luke. You can keep your Han. You can keep your Leia. For me it's all about Luke.
As advertised, The Last Jedi features a fair bit of Luke. Surly, difficult, fed up, conflicted, heroic Luke. Mark Hamill turns in an epic performance worthy of an epic installment in an epic series. Luke Skywalker, you remain my hero. The rest of the cast is great and terrible and a little bit in between. Kudos to John Boyega (who needs more to do) and Oscar Isaac, who engage with honesty and charisma. Of course Carrie Fisher is amazing, though her every appearance is a kick-in-the-gut reminder of what we've lost. Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux is a moustache-twirl away from a cartoon, but for my money is a more entertaining and menacing baddie than Kylo Ren, who always feels more like a kid sulking in his room with a comic book than a genuine threat to the galaxy. Much of that may have to do with Adam Driver, who is ineffective at portraying the conflict within this tormented character. Despite her closet full of awards, Laura Dern is about as exciting as a paper doll, and I'm only grateful her screen time is limited enough that it didn't ruin more of the movie for me. Annnnnnnd...Daisy Ridley is somewhere in between all that. Rey is so critical--both to Star Wars in particular and movies in general--sometimes I feel like the actor just doesn't do the character justice. 
The Last Jedi starts fast out of the gate, but suffers great lags across its bloated runtime. In addition to my usual complaints (really, there are only so many moves that are interesting and necessary in any fight or chase scene), there are a couple places where the picture drops asides that seem extraneous and could have been eliminated with no real damage to the end result. The effects and CGI look pretty great, and much of the film is simply stunning, visually. The action is exciting and often takes unexpected turns, and there's a good bit of humor that mostly hits the mark without feeling forced. It goes without saying that John Williams' score is once again the very definition of iconic. The Last Jedi does a fine job of giving new players their due, while never seeming to shaft the old favorites, then tying both together in such a way that fans can probably envision this series going on forever, passing the baton from one generation of rebels to the next.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi clocks in at a massive 152 minutes and is rated PG13 for "sequences of sci-fi action and violence."
The Last Jedi has won over critics, while leaving the fandom bitterly divided. I found a lot to love about it, but was left without the euphoria I expected when the end credits rolled. As always, though, I beg you, dear reader(s), not to let the Internet make up your mind about this movie. Get on out to the theater and see it for yourself. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Star Wars: The Last Jedi gets eight and a half, which includes one (1) bonus Weasley for having an actual Weasley in the cast.
Fangirl points: You guys...ADRIAN FREAKING EDMONDSON is in this movie!
Until next time...

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