Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With Halloween season upon us, I have been trying to see more horror films and dedicate most of my blog and @moviegrapevine Instagram account to horror related material. However, I have to make an exception for some of the new trailers we received recently. There was a false alarm concerning the Infinity War trailer but we still got new footage for Pacific Rim: Uprising and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

I will give Pacific Rim its due, but this blog post will be devoted to The Last Jedi. You can check out some of my other posts for my expanded thoughts on Episode VII. As a quick recap, I will say that I enjoyed the film but was bothered by the fact that it was a rehash of Episode IV. Finn was marketed as the next Jedi character and instead he ends up mostly being comic relief. I liked Rey and actually didn’t heed the complaints about her being a Mary Sue as much as most people did. If people actually compared this film to the original trilogy, they would realize that Luke had similar skills at the beginning of his arch. He was a pilot, mechanic and was also a protégé when it came to his use of the force. Then again, this is the age where the inclusion of minority and/or female characters is always criticized because it’s part of a liberal “agenda”, while the disproportionate dominance of white males on screen is perfectly natural.

Let’s start the discussion of this trailer with another one of the most divisive elements from Episode VII. Kylo Ren was a character that many people either loved or hated. To some he was a conflicted character with an inner battle between dark and light, to others he was just a lame, geeky-looking, emo, Darth Vader wannabe. I was one of the former, so I am excited to see how his character grows.

The previous trailer showed us a shattered Kylo Ren mask and this trailer shows Ren smashing it, seemingly leaving that persona behind. However, Ben isn’t done with the dark side yet. He started his quest to kill his past when he killed Han Solo and it looks like he decided to go full circle and take out Princess Leia as well. Like before, Ben appears conflicted, but we know that inner turmoil won’t be enough to stop him from doing what he deems necessary to join the dark side. In many ways, he is a wannabe. Someone who isn’t truly as menacing or evil as he wants to be, but I think it actually makes his character more interesting. Vader was a tragic character as well, someone whose emotional pain led him down a path of darkness, before he redeemed himself and rejoined the light.

After Carrie Fisher’s passing it was made clear that Leia would not be present in Episode IX. We know her character is coming to an end in this film but she may not die by Kylo Ren’s hands. Seeing Princess Leia on screen for the last time will be a bittersweet moment but let’s hope her end is just as momentous as her beginning.

Moving on from one of the franchise’s most famous characters, let’s talk about Finn. John Boyega has previously stated that Finn will have a more substantive role in the The Last Jedi, basically saying that a character who starts off as a consummate badass is a boring one. I guess Rey haters will agree. We’re definitely seeing more badass this time around, starting with the suit. Then there’s the fight with Phasma, the woman who controlled him when he was just FN-2187.

Apparently Boyega has stated that Finn isn’t 100% on the side of the resistance, which brings up some questions about his role in this film. In one shot of the trailer we see other people with his suit among the Stormtroopers, maybe he is undercover? In The Force Awakens Finn was close to abandoning the resistance, maybe he decides to do so again and something pulls him back.

Rey played a part in bringing Finn back last time, and maybe she’ll do so now. What I loved most about this trailer is that it brings up one of the biggest issues that many fans had with A Force Awakens. Rey’s raw power in the first film bothered plenty of people and here we see that her power links her to Kylo Ren. It’s implied Luke abandons her as a teacher due to his fear of her power, which was only mirrored by one other student, likely Kylo Ren.

People will still hate Rey for her power but I think this presents an interesting dynamic that gives a more logical reason for her to reach out to Ben. The revered figure who was supposed to guide her (apparently) abandoned her and one of her few friends appears to be separated from her. Will Rey bring Ben closer to the light or will he lead her closer to darkness? In the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens fan theories were replete with dark side Rey and Jedi Kylo Ren, maybe the fans were actually onto something.

Although we get more of Luke in this trailer, his character is still hidden compared to the others. The two trailers make it clear he’s attacked at one point. He’s kneeling in front of a burning building in one shot in the first trailer, and climbing out of wreckage from a burning building in this trailer. Maybe this attack is what forces him out of isolation, since someone apparently finds out where he is. Could it be that Rey either betrays him or ends up leading someone else to him? Or these shots could be backstory showing the destruction of the Jedi Temple, which was alluded to in previous films.

In short, this was one of my favourite trailers of 2017 and I am hoping the film lives up to the hype. I am worried that the trailer possibly spoiled too much but that is my only gripe. We got more of the action, more of the characters and AT-M6s (different from the AT-AT’s in Empire). Or you can just call them Robot Camels.

Alive: Part II

For any new readers or those who haven’t trawled the archives, I have begun working on my fourth book again. It is a continuation of the werewolf story I told in the third, “Alive”.

Due to numerous things I am looking into at the moment, especially hunting for a new place, my time has become more limited and I’ve had some trouble writing one page a day as I originally intended. Now I aim to write an extra page a day for everyone missed (e.g. miss 5 days, write 5 pages the next day). I began working on “Alive: Part II” months ago, beginning with writing 500 words a day. I continued with this pace for a few weeks until I eventually stopped, due to a tighter schedule and excuses on my part. I realize that I can’t use a busy schedule as an excuse not to write. One week without writing can quickly morph into months. I originally intended to finish a draft of Part II  by the end of this year, but that will likely have to be moved to March 2018. I now realize that committing to a smaller amount and staying consistent can still pay bigger dividends than aiming higher and falling off earlier.

I began watching Hemlock Grove recently, mainly because I wanted to see more of Bill Skarsgard after his performance in It.  The plot involving a vampire (Skarsgard) and a werewolf teaming up to investigate a series of grisly murders was also appealing. Basically, it seemed like an awesome concept that Twilight could have been if it wasn’t bogged down by teen love and Mormon wish fulfillment.

I nearly gave up on the show, mainly due to the acting. Skarsgard has apparently developed a lot as an actor since the show’s first season at least. Famke Janssen’s performance is hampered by an English accent that either comes and goes, or is just overdone. Four episodes in, and one of the strongest actors is the actor who plays the werewolf, Landon Liboiron. Hearing about the mythos again actually motivated me to make sure that I stick to the task of completing Alive: Part II. The transformation scene is also a memorable and painful looking one that makes me wish I could have thought of it first.

Hemlock Grove fortunately is focusing on its fantasy mythos early on in the series instead of the high school drama that the character’s ages lends itself to. I’ll stick with the series and see how it goes, and will probably revisit for inspiration as I try to craft a werewolf story that someone aside from myself will also read and enjoy one day.

What Horror Movie Scared You The Most?

I don’t think my costume will be as awesome as @prince.deguzman’s but I’ll try.

Halloween season is upon us, and I have already embraced it. I watched Sinister yesterday, a film with great performances and a lot of creepy scenes. Spoilers Below.

Interestingly, the creepiest scenes in this film don’t directly come from the supernatural villain, Bughuul or Mr. Boogie. What is terrifying is what he makes his child surrogates do to their families.

These tapes are by far the most terrifying thing about the film, although Bughuul’s mask is definitely creepy. The ending to the film is perfect and since the sequel wasn’t as well received, I’ll avoid it and leave the first film untainted in my mind.

I have never been a huge horror fan, mostly because I probably scare more easy than the true fanatics, but It may have rekindled my interest in them. It was my first time seeing a horror film in theaters and the atmosphere in the theatre added another dimension to the experience. With that in mind, I wanted to reflect on the film that scared me the most when I was a child: Darkness Falls (2003).

As one reviewer put it, “The movie’s cleverest notion is its demonization of a benign childhood phantom.” In this film, the Tooth Fairy is not a ghost who simply takes a child’s tooth when they lose it. She is a vengeful spirit who will kill any child who sees her when they visit her. The reason for her hate? She was hanged by the townspeople of the eponymous town when they believed she kidnapped two children. She was already known by the Tooth Fairy at this time since she would give gold coins to children who lost their teeth. After Matilda is hanged, the two children are found and the townspeople bury her body and wash their hands of their crime.

After a house fire, Matilda’s face was disfigured and she would wear a white porcelain mask to hide it. Hence her supernatural form also sports a creepy porcelain mask.

Having to go to Google Images to get these pictures brings up a heap of night-light accompanied bedtimes. Since I was afraid of the dark I probably shouldn’t have watched this movie, but I wanted to show my step-dad I could handle it. I could not. It also didn’t help that he ran out of the bathroom with a white rag over his head right after we see this movie…douche.

Anyways, The Tooth Fairy’s only weakness is light, meaning she is omnipotent when in darkness. Hence, why I shouldn’t have seen this film if I was afraid of the dark. Darkness Falls is pretty much universally panned by critics but it is the concept itself that still sticks with me. To think that you are sleeping in the dark and hear something in your room, and to think that if you look at it it will kill you. Also to know that it will stalk you for the rest of your life, hence our protagonist who rarely leaves his house and always travels with flashlights.

It took a while for me to outgrow my fear of the film and looking up these images also brings those fear-stricken days back in all their glory.

What film scared you the most?

Binge Missions

As I start my weekend I was sitting in front of my tv, with Netflix up, wondering what show to watch. In a way, I felt like Don Jon: so many choices making it hard or near impossible to pick something.

Pictured above: Me, but with clothes, I guess.

I have been meaning to finish season seven of Suits for months now, along with season five of Bates Motel. Then I got sidetracked by season (or series) 3 of Luther, which I finished watching this week. Now the question is do I move onto four or try to find more time for all the other shows I have already started, such as season 2 of Attack on Titan.

Not to mention the ones I have been meaning to start for a while now, such as Rick and Morty, because all my friends talk about it. Or Hemlock Grove because of Bill Skarsgard, who nailed his role as Pennywise the Clown in It. 

Let’s not forget all the movies I want to watch as well. My appetite for horror has increased after It and I now want to see Sinister and The Strangers.

All of these shows and movies only scratch the surface. I accept that this is a first world problem at it’s finest. I also accept that I simply can’t, or shouldn’t, make enough time to see all of them.

Taking a Knee

This is an issue that I have wanted to talk about since I first heard about it, but hesitated to, since I did not know where to start. Colin Kaepernick’s initial protest back in 2016 attracted a great deal of attention, mostly hate from the alt-right and the horde of Americans living in the mirage of a post-racial America who ignore all signs to the contrary. The ones who argue that discussing racism is racist, but also go out of their way to defend racism from figures like President Trump.

Ben Shapiro is apparently one of the favoured mascots for racists nowadays. He is the perfect example of the new racism. Someone who is intelligent and articulate, not the typical redneck that far too many people think of when they envision a racist. He remains calm when he attacks “the left” and “liberals” (his words) and presents facts in such a way that someone who is already on his side, or on the fence, will eat them up. I decided to look up one of his videos since I wanted to hear thoughts from the other side.

Let’s look at one of the points he makes in this video. The title of this video makes it clear that the poster and most of the people who flock to it to comment, are already on Shapiro’s side. The like to dislike ratio of 36-3 also makes that clear.This is the selective exposure thesis at work, where the customizability of the Internet allows people to search for info that already appeals to their views.

5:34- 760 shootings by police this year according to the Washington Post, 9 of them of black people. In Shapiro’s words there is such as thing as police brutality that has nothing to do with race. Absolutely, I can agree.

Black people are about 13% of the population, so obviously it would be tough for as many of them to die when compared to white people. The issue is the percentage or chance of them getting killed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2017/

Now, these reports can be flawed because they require local law enforcement to voluntarily divulge this info. As this link shows, there is no government agency keeping track of these numbers. Local law enforcement must divulge it willingly, and only about half of the agencies do. So, the stats that Shapiro presents are skewed.

Let’s look at The Washington Post’s estimates for shootings of black people by cops from 2015 to present: 381 according to this same article.

Now if we go back to the studies Shapiro cited, the totals for 2015 to the present (for all shootings) equals 2688.

So according to the Washington Post’s stats 7% of the shootings were of unarmed black people. Let’s keep in mind that the estimate of 381 does not reflect any killings from 2017 so far.

Let’s also ignore the strong possibility that the numbers are underrepresented, for blacks and as a whole. Okay, Mr. Shapiro let’s just say you win this argument. I’ll ignore any other statistics that argue blacks have a higher rate (not quantity) of deaths by police and go along with your argument.

Now let’s go to an issue that is even more central to the support and criticism of the new wave of kneeling protests in the NFL: Free speech.

 

This is the tool that is used to defend white supremacist websites and white supremacist rallies like the ones in Charlottesville. Yes, protesters carrying swastika and confederate flags are considered white supremacists. If you can’t wrap your head around that, then no amount of statistics or reasoned arguments I present will ever change your mind.

So a statue of a Confederate general is going to be torn down, and people use their free speech to protest. They protest against the removal of the statue of a figure who fought against his president and against the consolidation of a union. Sounds like a pretty divisive figure to me. Seems pretty disrespectful to the American flag since he rallied behind a different one. This general also seems pretty disrespectful to the veterans since his war with the President killed so many and rallied others behind the cause of continued slavery.

When it comes to Kaepernick’s successors, you would think Trump and his base would rush to support free speech. Maybe Trump will say that “many sides” are wrong. Instead, Trump said that football players who kneel should be fired. In Shapiro’s defense, he also denounced this statement as one that a government official should not make. However, Shapiro refuses to acknowledge that racism is a part of Trump’s repertoire or his appeal to his base.

To that point, let’s go back to this video from February 2016.

Jake Tapper initially asks Trump if he denounced the endorsement of David Duke and the KKK. Trump first says he knows nothing about David Duke and the KKK, he can’t denounce a group he doesn’t know. Fair enough.

Tapper then elaborates that he is talking about David Duke, former Grandwizard of the Klu Klux Klan.  Trump says he doesn’t know who David Duke is…right after getting the explanation. Tapper explains again and Trump repeats that he doesn’t know who David Duke is.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of American history will know what the Klu Klux Klan is, and if you hear someone was a former ____ of it, that implies they were a member. Tapper could not have been more clear with Trump, and it could not be more obvious that Trump just didn’t want to lose voters. Yet you can still find comments on this video defending Trump. It seems like nothing will stop racists from supporting someone who defends their views, but don’t you dare call them “racist”. Then you’re just being a social justice warrior.

How is this video not proof that Trump implicitly supports racists. How about all his comments about Muslims and Mexicans? Why is it so hard for the supposed intellectual conservatives to recognize that the world might not be post-racial when it comes to how minorities are treated?

As an epilogue, David Duke is no longer with the Klu Klux Klan but he is still active in their community. Read his response to Trump’s belated criticism of the alt-right protest in Charlottesville.

When I see white and black players and owners kneeling or locking arms together, I see the same unity that the right supposedly wants. The mindset of pretending racism doesn’t exist doesn’t solve anything. Athletes should be allowed to use their platform to protest, just like the alt-right can. They took a few minutes before a game to make a statement, much less time than the alt-right protest in Charlottesville did. Don’t act like your game or sport has to be ruined because you saw a sign of solidarity against racism. If that is enough to ruin your enjoyment of football, maybe the problem is you.

It Sequel

Regardless of your opinion about It, it’s box office success undeniably makes it a box office success. More than that, its box office success makes it the highest grossing R-Rated horror film (unadjusted for inflation) and is on track to become the biggest September/October release ever.

The sequel, which fans of the book knew was coming, is now set for an official release date of September 2019. The Losers Club will return as adults, 27 years after their first encounter with Pennywise. Check out the video below to hear the cast give their own fan castings for the adult versions of their characters.

This sort of box office success is something that can’t always be predicted. Some people are saying that the success of Stranger Things might have made people more interested in a 80s themed horror film centered around children. Maybe they are right, but let’s get this straight: It is not influenced by Stranger Things.

Stephen King is a popular author so I think some credit has to go to him, but I don’t know if this level of success can be solely attributed to his name. After all, how well did The Dark Tower do? Either way, It is now the biggest King horror film ever, even adjusted for inflation.

It’s release date was one that was devoid of too many other big name entries, staying clear of the summer season and avoiding the Christmas period as well.

Good word of mouth gave It legs, avoiding some of the big drops from weekend to weekend that help to sustain its numbers.

The question that looms over my mind is if the sequel can replicate or even surpass this success. Like Kingsman a certain idea might manage to capture people’s attention a certain way, making the first time a special one that any successor can’t live up to. Of course, we know a second movie is needed to tell the story. Fans of the book will be there for the second. From what I have read online, people who have read the book are more accepting of the new It than the people who only know this property from the 1990 miniseries.

With that said, I hope that this sequel gets a bigger budget. Some subpar CGI tainted some of the better moments in this film and hopefully the studio has more faith in the project, and hopefully that increased faith is rewarded with more box office success.

Tomb Raider Trailer

I got my Xbox One earlier this year, and one of the free games I was able to download for it was Rise of the Tomb Raider. I remember the old video games, which I played with friends a lot as a child but this was the first Tomb Raider game I played in the post PS2 era. The story was somewhat generic but actually offered some interesting developments and the gameplay was great, making the game a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the gameplay experience was somewhat ruined by a known glitch trapping me in one stage of the game, leaving the options of quitting or starting over. I refused to start over. Although my memories of the game are somewhat tainted it still managed to make me more excited for this film.

If the general buzz proves anything, it is that Tomb Raider fans are just as attached to Angelina Jolie as Croft as horror fans are attached to Tim Curry as Pennywise. Yes, Vikander’s boobs are smaller and she has a slimmer figure. Why? Because this version of Croft is based on the recent video game, not the old games with plentiful polygon boobs.

Boobs do not define the character. I can’t believe I have to say that.

We know Croft’s father disappeared and that she has now found his clues that lead to an ancient city. Actually an ancient city is not specifically referenced in the trailer, but if the movie is following the game roughly then an ancient city might be the goal. An organization called Trinity seeks to beat Croft to her goal. Now, I definitely can’t say that any criticism of this trailer is unjustified.

A lot of the plot elements seem cliched so far, and I don’t remember them being AS generic in the video game. As I remember there was no location called the “Devil’s Sea”. Dialogue like “The fate of humanity is now in your hands” definitely doesn’t help. We have slo-mo shots and weak CGI in a lot of places. I always hope the CGI will look better by the time a film is released, but I have hoped in vain many times. Let’s not forget the slo-mo jump across a long gap, which no longer dazzles like it used to. Since this is just a trailer, I am hoping some of the more interesting plot elements from the game still make their way in, such as Croft’s allegiance with a Native community that Trinity invades.

I almost forgot about the stigma of video game films, which is why I avoided listening to other people’s thoughts before writing my own. I didn’t want to let the “Academy Award Winner Alicia Vikander” title impress me, since plenty of great actors end up taking roles in horrible films or even television shows. Remember Forest Whitaker’s short lived stint with Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour? However, I have to say that the rest of the cast does interest me. Walton Goggins is a stand out in just about any movie or tv show he touches, with roles ranging from Sheriff Chris Mannix in Hateful Eight to Venus Van Dam in Sons of Anarchy. We have Daniel Wu, who is a BAMF in Into the Badlands, along with his fellow co-star Nick Frost.

Pictured above: Daniel Wu being a BAMF.

The cast itself actually excited me more than any of the intended eye candy. As fans, we always hope that the cast is a sign of something: material that was too great to be rejected. However, we’re not that naive anymore. Actors will take big roles in bad movies for the paycheque or the exposure. I’m not sure if I will see this film in theatres but I will definitely see it for the cast it offers. We have yet to get a great video game movie, but I hope that this can be a decent one.

What are your thoughts on the new Tomb Raider adaptation?

The Punisher

Daredevil’s second season was met with a more mixed reception than the first. There was criticism levied at the plot, which brought in more of the mystical elements from the comics, in contrast to a first season that was more realistic (realistic is relative with comic book adaptations). I personally detested the love story between Karen and Matt, which there was absolutely no indication of in the first season. One thing that many people loved, and probably wanted more of, was The Punisher.

The anti-hero featured heavily in the marketing and Jon Bernthal nailed his performance, before becoming more scarce in the latter half of the season. With the success (ratings wise) of DD season 2 and the reception for The Punisher it was obvious that he would likely get his own spinoff.

Today we got our first trailer for the show, a short but sweet teaser of what is to come. In short, I can’t wait for this show to come out and I am somewhat annoyed that Netflix has yet to reveal the exact release date. Fortunately, there isn’t that much time left in 2017 so it is coming out sooner, rather than later.

Firstly, this trailer doesn’t give away too much of the plot. DD season 2 introduced us to the conspiracy that Frank is a part of, a plan by government agencies to kill him so that certain secrets remain buried. As much as I am looking forward to Frank taking on the government, like some of the arcs in Punisher Max, I have to say this conspiracy is the one part of the Netflix punisher mythos I didn’t like. In the series, District Attorney Reyes admits that they were conducting a sting on a gang meeting in Central Park. Reyes chose not to clear the area in order to avoid tipping off criminals and this ultimately impacted Castle when the gangs caught on to the ruse.

The comics I’ve read so far that detail Frank’s origin, from Year One to the Max series (2004 and 2010), depict his family’s death as a simple issue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His family stumbles across a mob hit and the mob decides to eliminate witnesses. This sense of randomness and chaos is what made his family’s death so tragic. I think Frank’s vendetta against criminals as a whole makes more sense if he lost his family to something much more senseless than a sting gone wrong. However, Frank’s battles against other government agencies (from the looks of this trailer) could lead to some interesting overlap from the Punisher Max (2004) comics, which are gems for Punisher comics and comics as a whole.

With that said, the costume is actually my only other negative on display in this trailer. It doesn’t look terrible, and still gets the skull right, but I feel like the suit would look better with a different design for the vest itself. However, this is a relatively minor complaint since the show will hopefully have more to offer than a great wardrobe.

While Kevin Feige says the MCU films will never be dark, the Netflix shows have been a different story. The Punisher looks to continue that trend with the brutal headshots crammed into the two minutes of footage. I found some of the hand-to-hand fight scenes lacking in Iron Fist and Defenders, even for the characters who are supposed to be skilled martial artists. The choreography was weak and I’m hoping Frank’s style of combat will lend itself to some entertaining shootouts and some hand-to-hand fights as well. He is not as skilled a fighter as Daredevil but his fists are still deadly.

This trailer shows us a glimpse of Karen Page, who I feel has way more chemistry with Frank than she has with Daredevil.

Some of the most interesting subplots in the Punisher Max (2004) series was how the police reacted to Frank’s Killings. It is implied local police implicitly supported his actions, by never making serious moves to bring him in. Although they detested what he did on principle, they knew he was an unmatched deterrent against crime. The last scenes in the trailer, focusing on a group of detectives, makes me wonder if this series will also explore Frank’s actions from the other side.

Overall, this series is my most anticipated for the rest of the year and I have high hopes that it will deliver and possibly surpass Daredevil Season 1 as my favourite Marvel Netflix show.

Kingsman, Justice League and The Last Jedi

Now that I have seen It, these films are my most anticipated blockbusters for the rest of the year.  I thought I would take this post to discuss some of my hopes (and worries) for each film. The films are listed in the order of their release dates, not by anticipation. The Last Jedi is my most anticipated, with Kingsman second and Justice League third.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service

I thought the first Kingsman looked somewhat generic when I saw the first trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a witty, well-paced, action-packed deconstruction and parody of the Bond films and spy films as a whole. Taron Egerton gave us an amazing performance as “Eggsy” and Colin Firth had a believable turn as an action hero with plenty of gravitas. Whenever I watch Liam Neeson’s jilted choreography in Taken 2 my mind comes back to this film as an example of how to execute an action scene with an older actor.

Between the action, the performances, the attacks on spy cliches etc., Kingsman was a film that felt like a rare treasure. That is why I was not excited to hear about a sequel. I was worried that the sequel would not be able to capture the magic of the first. The trailers have given me some hope but I can’t completely ignore the voice in my head that tells me this film might feel like a cheap cash grab.

It will be good to see Colin Firth on screen again but I can’t help but feel like his character’s reappearance cheapens his death in the first film. I am excited to see Pedro Pascal, who is probably best known as Prince Oberyn on Game of Thrones. While I don’t usually like Channing Tatum, I find that he does well in comedic or semi-comedic roles like the one he will likely have here as Agent Tequila. To his credit, Tatum also had a surprisingly good serious turn in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

The action we’ve seen so far looks like it is doing its best to top the first, but I hope that the action isn’t the only thing that is better.

2. Justice League

Now, to say that the DCEU has had mixed reviews would be an understatement. Man of Steel got so much hate that even the editor of Rotten Tomatoes wondered why its rating was so low.  BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad both followed that up with even worse reviews, and then Wonder Woman mercifully gave the DCEU its first fresh film. I don’t judge a film purely by what others think but it is a fact that bad word of mouth can negatively affect a film’s earnings.  A slate of films deemed weak by the general public would definitely hamper Justice League.

One thing that has bothered me since I saw the Comic-Con teaser for this film was the seemingly drastic shift in tone. One-liners abound from every character, including a Barry Allen whose personality seems transplanted from Wally West (his nephew-in-law who also becomes The Flash). I don’t agree that Man of Steel or BvS were “dark and gritty” like a lot of people say. Like I’ve previously discussed the films are dark in comparison to the stable of light fair Marvel has pumped out since 2008 (with the exception of their Netflix shows). A comic book film that doesn’t have one-liners every five minutes becomes “depressing”, it lacks “fun”. This is regardless of whether fun fits the character or storyline. People might say this Marvel v DC is a conspiracy but answer me why the darker Marvel Netflix shows don’t get swarmed by the same comments complaining about their lack of “fun”. The Defenders is the lightest one so far and even that is still miles darker than anything the MCU has put on the silver screen.

All of this to say that I was worried the Justice League was being made with a conscious effort to throw in as many one-liners as possible and make it fun. Let’s not forget, Suicide Squad is more “fun” than BatmanvSuperman and it has a slightly lower RT score at the moment (25% to Bvs’s 27%).  Throwing in more music in post-production and writing plenty of jokes didn’t help it overcome its other issues. “Fun” isn’t enough to make a film good and a “dark” tone isn’t enough to make it bad.

Moving on.

I have no problem with special effects themselves but there are a lot of weak looking shots in the marketing so far. There are scenes where it is far too obvious that everything but the actors are computer generated. The floor, the backgrounds, the sky all look fake. Cyborg in particular looks terrible when he is directly beside any of the other members of the league. I don’t mean that they are just stylized a la 300, I mean they are just poorly rendered. I am hoping that the film looks better by the time it’s in theatres.

My hopes were high hearing about the Justice League finally making it to the big screen. I have rewatched the animated series numerous times and have unashamedly daydreamed of finally seeing this film. I can’t help but think that it would have been better to see some more solo films prior to this team-up, but I have to admit that this approach could have some benefits. Characters that were either not well known or respected before, such as Aquaman can shine in a team setting first, which will help to boost sales of their solo film. However, Marvel has to get credit for being able to build a great brand on the backs of characters that were relatively unpopular. Some people probably never though Iron Man or Captain America would be on Spider-Man’s level in terms of box office receipts but Marvel pulled that off.

Additionally, while I have a man crush on Jason Momoa I am worried that his acting will be a painful weak link in this film. If some of his other performances are any indication, we could be in for a painful two hours, especially if his character gets a lot of lines.

3. The Last Jedi

Last, but not least.

The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, but it did bring some new things to the table. Namely a continuation of our beloved characters from the original trilogy, along with Rey and Finn.

One of the things that bothered me most about TFA was the almost cruel bait and switch for Finn’s progression. He was marketed as another Jedi, and then ends up being comic relief that is incapacitated by the end of the film. John Boyega has said that Finn’s character will shine more in the sequel and I hope that’s true.

In true nerd fashion, Daisy Ridley quickly became my biggest celebrity crush. Fanboying aside, her performance was great and I was also able to ignore most of the Mary Sue complaints since her character progression almost mirrored Luke’s. However, her progression did draw more attention to the paltry one Finn received.

Rogue One actually helped to increase my anticipation for this film, giving us an exciting and different Star Wars story that could have become a cheap cash-in or a rehash.

With a different director on board for this film, and the successful box office run of TFA, I hope The Last Jedi will give us something new as well.

Luke Skywalker is back and although I found Mark Hamill’s acting somewhat weak in the original trilogy, he has developed greatly as a voice actor and film actor since his last outing in the Star Wars universe. Coincidentally, his most recent performance I can recall is in Kingsman.

It will be bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on screen for the last time, presumably with Princess Leia being killed off out of respect for the actor. I remember that one of my aunts passed away around the same time, and that I couldn’t help but think that it was a powerful testament to how death links us all. Let’s allow entertainment to link us as well.

Jennifer Lawrence, Trump and Freedom of Speech

I first saw a trailer for Mother in front of It, and although the odd trailer grabbed my attention I had no interest in seeing it due to Jennifer Lawrence. I watched the first Hunger Games film and Silver Linings Playbook, which made me a fan. Then I saw her performance in the newer X-Men films and the spell wore off. The films became the Mystique show simply due to Lawrence’s status and she was the weakest link when compared to the performances from actors like Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy.

All of this to say, that I am not a Jennifer Lawrence fan. When ads for Mother popped up on my twitter feed my curiosity got the better of me and I scrolled through the comments on the ad, eager to see what other people thought of the upcoming film. Lo and behold, the comments were swarmed with people “boycotting” Lawrence for comments she apparently made about Hurricane Irma and Trump..

Although there are plenty of people saying Lawrence thinks Trump caused Hurricane Irma, that just demonstrates how bias and/or a lack of reading comprehension can lead to misinformation. During an interview Lawrence said that Irma is one example of “Mother Nature’s rage, or wrath”. She advised that there is scientific evidence to support the argument that humans contribute to climate change and she said voting is one way to influence action on climate change.

So for those with poor reading comprehension: She means that a candidate like Trump, who believes climate change is a hoax, will enact policies that will further contribute to climate change. Did she say he caused Hurricane Irma? No. Anyway, there lies the latest source of online rage directed toward “liberal Hollywood”. The thesis of most of these statements was that actors should stay out of politics. I wasn’t able to retrieve the thread I initially came across but the one below has more examples of the backlash I am discussing.

This isn’t a new phenomenon: It is one I most recently discussed after David Harbour received a wave of criticism for his Stranger Things SAG acceptance speech, where he indirectly criticized Trump. Similar to the Lawrence backlash, most of the negative comments I have seen express disgust at actors daring to have a political opinion.

Actors and actresses are not dolls assembled to perform, and then tucked away until their next performance. Although the adoration they receive might make us forget, they are real people too. They care about their values and ideologies as much as the regular person does. Does that mean they should make all their films revolve around their personal beliefs? No, but it does mean they should be allowed to discuss these issues on public forums, just like every other American citizen is allowed to. Yes, they have more clout than the average person and people like to argue that is why it is dangerous for them to express their ideas. With that said, let me get to the crux of my argument.

If an actor or actress expresses political views I don’t agree with, I don’t fault them for having an opinion. I fault them for the views themselves. I don’t say “Oh they should stay out of politics”, I say “It’s a shame they support that candidate’s views…”.  I like to think it is a less hypocritical approach, since I would not despise an actor if they expressed political views I agree with. Would these Trump supporters be upset if Lawrence had made comments about what a great president he is? The same freedom of speech that people use to defend marching Neo-Nazis is the same freedom of speech being stripped from an actress who says climate change is real.

Some of the Twitter comments openly criticize Lawrence for attacking Trump, and I can actually respect those comments. I don’t agree, but I am happy to see less hypocrisy. Maybe some of the comments criticizing Lawrence are from people who genuinely don’t like actors discussing politics, whether they support the same ideologies or not. However, I have a strong feeling most of these people telling Lawrence to “stick to acting” just don’t like seeing freedom of speech used against them. They prefer when it is used against immigrants, Muslims and other minorities.