Current Cinema

Review: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

SPOILER ALERT: This review contains details about the plot and the characters from Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Proceed at your own risk.


Daisy Ridley as Rey in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Image ©️ Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode of the Star Wars saga that began with George Lucas’ original film from 1977, hit theaters last week. The internet has been abuzz about the movie (to say the least; more on that at the end of the review). More importantly, the world has another Star Wars film to enjoy, dissect, and ponder upon. The fact that in 2017 we have yet another all-new Star Wars movie in theaters is a modern-day miracle which I definitely do not take for granted.

The new film begins right where 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII) left off. The evil First Order is still ruling the galaxy with an ever tighter grip, even after their Starkiller Base was destroyed by the Resistance fighters. Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) has been tasked by General Leia (in the late Carrie Fisher’s final time in the role) to go to the ancient Jedi temple on the planet of Ahch-To where her brother Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) has been in hiding for years to try to recruit him back into the fight and restore hope to the Resistance. As we saw in The Force Awakens, Rey arrives on the island, hands Luke his family lightsaber, and awaits for his response.

What follows is an unconventional, thought-provoking, emotional, surprising, and highly entertaining cinematic adventure. Writer and director Rian Johnson (and, clearly, the story group at Lucasfilm) made some bold and controversial choices for the film’s narrative and for all of Star Wars moving forward. And, frankly, as the stewards of the Star Wars universe, the choices were theirs to make.


Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Image ©️ Lucasfilm)

First, the decision to portray Luke Skywalker as a broken, bitter man was an unorthodox one. Devastated that his nephew Ben Solo (played by Adam Driver) turned to the dark side of the Force while under his tutelage, Luke carries a burden that completely shuts him down. He retreats from the Force and from life, existing in a state of numbness. When Rey shows up and basically wakes him up out of his deeply depressive condition, Luke has some decisions to make. Should he return to his sister Leia’s side and to the Resistance? Should he train Rey in the ways of the Jedi? Or should he continue on his current path of nothingness?

It’s difficult to watch your fictional childhood heroes go through a painful, and very human-like, trial. Yet, by making Luke more human, he ultimately becomes more heroic. After Luke re-opens himself to the Force, his Jedi master Yoda (again voiced by Frank Oz, and in puppet form!) visits him as a Force ghost and, in his inimitable style, frees Luke of the burden he’s been carrying. The burning of the Jedi tree and library looked to me like a representation of the Resistance symbol and, more importantly, of a Phoenix rising.


Kelly Marie Tran as Rose and John Boyega as Finn in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Image ©️ Lucasfilm)

Next, the “wars” part of Star Wars is in full force, so to speak, as the Resistance continues their losing battle against the First Order. After General Leia gets severely injured, Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern) takes her place. Hot-shot (and hot-headed) pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) clashes with her on how to run things. When it’s discovered that the First Order can track the Resistance fleet through light speed, Poe secretly sends former stormtrooper Finn (played by John Boyega) and Rose Tico (played by Kelly Marie Tran) on a dangerous mission to disable the tracker.

This subplot with Finn and Rose was also an interesting decision. While some (myself included, initially) might view this as a waste of time and space, upon further reflection, I believe this part of the storyline was crucial in Finn’s character arc of figuring out how he fits in to the overall picture of the Resistance. It helps him solidify what he believes in and what’s he willing to sacrifice for it. When the mysterious DJ (played by Benicio Del Toro), a rogue that Finn and Rose meet on the casino planet Canto Bight, teaches Finn about the complications of war and how both sides are buying weapons and machinery from the same people, Finn’s eyes are opened and he is able to make a more informed decision about how he wants to live his life.


Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI (Image ©️ Lucasfilm)

The most dynamic and interesting relationship in the film is between Ben Solo/Kylo Ren and Rey. Both characters are on parallel paths with different destinations. Kylo has chosen the path of the dark side of Force, while Rey continues to be a ray of light. When Supreme Leader Snoke (played in performance capture by Andy Serkis) uses the Force to bring the two of them together in multiple conversations and interactions during the course of the film, the chemistry between them is electric. The story effectively gives both characters the chance to switch alliances, so to speak, in a compelling way that furthers the storyline and shows what Rey and Kylo are truly made of. (And get ready for one of the coolest fight scenes in any Star Wars film when Rey and Kylo join forces for a moment to fight against Snoke’s Praetorian Guards.)

For me, The Last Jedi was a continual wonder. The plot and decisions were logical yet unpredictable. The production design, art direction, and all special effects were top notch. If I have a complaint, the runtime of The Last Jedi was perhaps just a bit too long.

About the internet backlash surrounding the film, the New York Times has a nice summary about what’s been going on. I’m sorry that something as marvelous and miraculous as a new Star Wars movie has made people so angry and sad. I mostly just wish that people could evaluate something on its own merits rather than putting their individual expectations on something that they had no input in creating. And I wish for civility and decency in all online communications from all sides and from all viewpoints (myself included).

Go see The Last Jedi on the biggest screen possible, leave your preconceived notions at the door, and enjoy the ride.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Current Cinema

Lightning McQueen Made of More Lightning McQueens

I love this Lightning McQueen model currently on display at the Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung (aka the annual Frankfurt Auto Show) in Frankfurt, Germany. It’s made up of smaller die cast Lightning McQueens (and some yellow Cruz Ramirez die casts; not sure what other characters were used for the additional colors).

Here’s the original tweet.

Pixar Animation Studios’ Cars 3 is still playing in select theaters and is coming to Digital HD on October 24 and on Blu-ray on November 7. Go see it!

Current Cinema

“Cars 3” Premiere Pics

My invitation never arrived for last night’s Cars 3 premiere (haha), so I had to live vicariously through Instagram pics. The event took place in Anaheim, California at the Anaheim Convention Center and in Cars Land at Disney California Adventure. Cars 3 opens in theaters on Friday, July 16!

Jackson Storm!

A post shared by Armie Hammer (@armiehammer) on

We met #cars3 villain Jackson Storm. Not a bad sunset either 🌅 🚗

A post shared by Peter Sciretta (@slashfilm) on

What a fun night… everyone should see cars 3!

A post shared by Armie Hammer (@armiehammer) on

Current Cinema

2017 Oscar Movie Week

I think it’s a fun challenge to be able to see all of the films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar every year–and I also think it helps me with my Oscar night predictions, which I really love to fill out in a knowledgeable way. I bought an “Oscar Movie Week” pass from my local Cinemark this year in preparation for the 2017 Academy Awards. The pass provided access to see all nine feature films nominated for Best Picture this year along with a screening of the nominated short films in the Best Live Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film categories–all for $35.00 plus tax. Cinemark scheduled all nine films and the short compilation to show at least twice during the week of February 20-26. Since there were five of the nominated films I still hadn’t seen, the pass seemed like a good deal and I decided to go for it.

The experience was fun and, frankly, a bit exhausting (as ridiculous as that sounds), still I persevered with the hope that knowledge would be power when it came to my Oscar picks. Since I prefer to watch films on the big screen, it really was great to see some of these films that either came to our market late or films that I missed during their first theatrical run, even if they were films that I didn’t really want to see. (And thank goodness for the spendy but helpful Coca-Cola Freestyle machines at the refreshment stand to help keep me awake…)

The shorts categories always kill my Oscar picks. For years, I’ve been wanting to go to one of these Oscar-nominated short compilations that different theaters run, so I was glad to finally take advantage of that as part of my Oscar Movie Week pass. I was thinking that all of the shorts would be 10 minutes or less, but was I wrong. The running time to show the 10 shorts (five in each category) was four hours–no lie (with a three-minute break two-thirds of the way through). Four of the shorts clocked in at over 30 minutes each (when is a “short film” 30+ minutes?). So, while it was a fun idea, I think I will just try to catch the shorts on YouTube or in some other way next year rather than sitting through another marathon compilation. 

And after all of that film going and stewing over my Oscar picks, my picks still sucked (I only got 14 out of 24 correct…bleh). Not that I made any really bad choices; but it is just so difficult to predict what other people (in this case, The Academy) are going to do.

So, memo to me–don’t worry about any of this trying to outsmart my Oscar picks next year. Just enjoy going to the movies and take in the art and artistry that makes you love film in the first place.