Film Review: Star Wars Episode 9 The Rise of Skywalker SPOILER FREE

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Here we are, the “Avengers Endgame” to the series that formed the childhood of billions of kids from the 70’s and 80’s.  But here’s something to ponder on as you read this review on the toilet at work (that’s right, your companies should pay YOU to poop):  After starting my new podcast, “Gutting the Sacred Cow” (If you like my reviews and standup comedy, enjoy other comedians coming onto the show and arguing why some of the most beloved, successful, or acclaimed films stink or are overrated.  Shameless plug over.   GTSC link on iTunes )  I’ve had to re-watch the latest Star Wars films and boy, this latest trilogy thus far is failing in the rewatchability department. The Force Awakens is like a watery lobster bisque with 4 big chunks of lobster but no real substance or base.  And the Last Jedi, wow.  Was I wrong when I wrote my initial review.  Man, that film has tons of faults compounded with a bunch of hard choices that had better pay off in 9.  Do they pay off? Well, see below and of course, no spoilers.  But before you do, go google Adam Driver as a Marine.  Kevin Pollak said his face looks like a cab with the doors open.  Hilarious.

JJ Abrams back at the director’s helm after Rian Johnson sent Last Jedi to the bottom of the discount DVD bin.  BTW, hearing the opening music and seeing the opening scroll really hit me as this is (for now) the END of the Skywalker story.  Also, it’s the last time we’ll hear anything new from John Williams as this was his final film.  And this man is without question the GREATEST film composer to have ever lived.  He’s on Mt Rushmore in the George Washington slot, zero debate allowed.

Kylo Ren finds his way to the Emperor; yes, that Emperor we loved from Return of the Jedi, and is told he has to kill Rey.  Now, let’s stop here.  Do we learn how in the living fuck he survived being thrown down a reactor AND THEN EXPLODING IN THE DEATH STAR?  We do not.  Which is problem number one for me, a BIG ONE.  How are we going to skate over one of the BEST villains in film history just magically reappears on a Sith planet that reminds me of the final battle in the last Matrix film?  BTW, a hidden planet of Sith?  Remember the rule of Sith?  There are only 2 at all times; no more, no less.  So less than 10 minutes, we’re pissing all over rules and skating past premises that need REAL explanation.  BTW, there are 2 sentences that mention the recently departed, Snoke.  Just two.  I’ll let that simmer with you for a few minutes.  How about some good news? Adam Driver thankfully puts his Kylo Ren back together so we don’t see his face as much in this film.

Rey has been training and became insanely strong in the Force, almost Jedi Knight status.  The Rebels are still a small band lead by CGI’ed Princess Leia.  Apparently, they had some unused footage of Carrie Fisher from Last Jedi and why not squeeze in a few scenes with her in the final chapter.  Rey and Kylo Ren continue to FaceTime via the Force as he taunts her with the knowledge of her parents and her lineage.  Their interactions are always good as he’s continuing to enlist her to join him and become part of the Dark Side.

My next complaint is when the both find their way to the Death Star ruins where Rey seeks out a tracker to find the planet of the Sith.  They battle it out (relax, you see them doing this in trailer where they’re soaking wet) and at the end of the battle, there’s a REAL problem with the result.  Not spoiling it but I completely disagreed with it.  I even leaned over to my buddy and said, “Nope.  But we know how this will play out later.”

There are a couple of surprises and appearances that are enjoyable but this film is mostly disjointed.  Too many new characters are introduced but I wish they spent the screen time interacting more with the established ones AND giving a modicum of backstory.  And DEFNINTELY not enough of Lando Calrissian!  We dig BDW and his Colt 45 million dollar smile out of retirement to have him in 3 or 4 scenes?  No thank you, I demand more of him; especially when original characters like Han Solo and Luke are dead.  Instead, we’re dealing with Poe and Finn who we never get to REALLY embrace and form a bond with.  We learn a LITTLE more about Poe as the crew goes to a planet to get a droid to hack 3PO’s memory and Poe runs into a former smuggler/lover.  But not enough where he or Finn makes anyone’s favorite character list.  Again, this recent trilogy did a watered down version from all aspects while trying to replicate the original.  With the exception of Rey and Ren, no characters have any layers.

Lastly and without getting into gory details, I hated the ending.  INSANELY anti-climactic.  The final battle had ZERO pathos like Return of the Jedi did.  You FELT for Luke as he learned Vader wanted to turn his sister.  You FELT for Vader as he weighed his decision to either serve the Emperor or save his son.  And that lightsaber battle in Jedi was just simply amazing.  This was much shorter than I felt was deserved.  And of course, the question still burns, what happened with Rey and her parents on Jakku?  After the reveal, I again turned to my buddy after the reveal and said, “Insanely fucking lazy.”  I was floored it came down to this decision because there is/was ZERO groundwork laid for this choice.  Sorry, here’s one spoiler, the Rebels win.  Like you didn’t think that was going to happen.  The final celebration scene felt muted.  I’ve seen more emotion from a night manager at Burger King closing up at 3 AM.  No one was REALLY stoked that the Empire was finally gone.  You see TWO Ewoks celebrating at the end of this one!  The ENTIRE VILLAGE ON ENDOR was hooping and hollering.  Statues fell when the Empire did.  Ships shooting off fireworks.  People dancing in the street.  Pure jubilation.  This felt like the last day of school instead of winning a massive battle.  Tons of unanswered questions or poor answers litter this film and that just doesn’t sit well with me.  But I’ll end this review with some good news: MUCH LESS ROSE than the Last Jedi.  She’s the 2nd worst character in the Star Wars Universe next to Jar Jar.

I definitely to rewatch this to fully digest everything but in short, I was very disappointed.  The critics were wrong, the people are right.

4.5 out of 10

Current order of Star Wars films (subject to change after I rewatch TROS)

  1. Star Wars
  2. Return of the Jedi
  3. Empire Strikes Back
  4. Rogue 1
  5. Revenge of the Sith-Severely underrated, people lump it in with the first 2 sequels when it should be separated from them.
  6. Attack of the Clones- the 2nd half is solid.  Whiny Anakin first half, awful.
  7. Force Awakens
  8. Rise of Skywalker
  9. Solo
  10. Last Jedi
  11. Phantom Menace-You take out Darth Maul and the final lightsaber scene, this film is a 2/10.

3 Film reviews: Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, and the Irishman

Oh, hi there you tickle monsters.  It’s been awhile since I had a film to review but let’s be honest, it’s been a collection of student films, garbage passion projects, and blatant cash grabs.  Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I saw 3 films that bear worth reviewing.  But before you read my critiques, why not download our new podcast, “Gutting the Sacred Cow.”  If you love movies and want to see other comedians try and trash well loved or successful films, you’ll love this.  We’re on iTunes, Iheartradio, Google play, Stitcher, Spreaker, and Spotify.

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Bottom line: if you hate Mr. Rogers, you’re a communist that needs to be immediately deported and then set afire in a cage while in transit to Burma.  He TRULY is the closest human to being faultless.  And if that theme music doesn’t bring an immediate tear to your eye, you’re more robotic than the T-1000 from T2 or the guy who played Oz from American Pie.  Tom Hanks, who can honestly do no wrong, plays a fantastic Fred Rogers.  If you don’t know his story, I’m not going over it now.  However, this film doesn’t make Mr. Rogers the focal point of this story.  It’s about the journalist assigned to do a small piece on him, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys).  Lloyd is dealing with his father (Chris Cooper who looks like Sebulba from Star Wars Episode 1.  Don’t believe me, google it) and Mr Rogers somehow gets Lloyd to open up about his tarnished relationship and of course, tries to help him.

If you didn’t see the outstanding documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, you better get off your ass and watch it.  Because you’re not going to get as much insight about Mr. Rogers in this film.  Although, I had a great laugh when Mr Rogers comes over to visit Lloyd’s ailing father and his sister’s new husband blurts out, “Are you a Navy Seal?”  That was one of the urban legends that was going around for years.  There are great Mr. Rogers moments: the opening show segment with Hanks walking in, singing the song, and flipping the shoes.  My eyes watered up and had the nostalgic smile a mile wide on my face.  You also see several show re-enactments with Hanks CGI’ed in that you may remember from the show or have seen in WYBMN.

This film is good but again, I’m not as interested in the journalist’s story as much as I am seeing Tom Hanks chew up scenery and seeing kids with disabilities have breakthroughs.  Who knows if the documentary didn’t alter the script for BDITN as they didn’t want two biographical stories in 2 years.  I wouldn’t have liked BDITN as much if there wasn’t the doc to get into the nitty gritty material.  This film is good, the doc is better.

I give it a 6.5/10

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How many “whodunits” have there been in recent memory?  Memento?  Pretty good.  Clue?  That was such a campy yet fun ride?  Too bad they’re remaking it.  LA Confidential? FANTASTIC.  Murder on the Orient Express (original and reboot SUCKED)?  So I was quite glad to see “Knives Out” invigorate the genre.  Great cast but you know what scared me?  Seeing Rian Johnson wrote and directed this.  Cause last we saw of ol RJ, he went out and gave us a C- Star Wars film in the Last Jedi.  He also did Looper which gives him some credibility back.  Was this worse than dinner theater murder mysteries?  Let’s find out.

Christopher Plummer plays Harlan Thrombey, who looks like he could’ve been one of the brothers from Trading Places.  Don’t worry, he doesn’t uses racial slurs.  Harlan is an uber successful mystery writer who after celebrating his 85th birthday, falls victim to murder.  His children and daughter in law all have had reason to off him as they’ve been cut out of his will.  But his caregiver/nurse, Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), suddenly finds herself as the sole benefactor of the will.  Daniel Craig is the detective hired by an unknown source to find out who did it. Zod from Superman, the mom from 6th sense, Laurie Strode, Captain America, and Sonny Crockett play the kids/in laws who are in question.

Obviously, I’m not getting into details to not spoil it but the cast perfectly hums along.  Daniel Craig was fantastic as the smarmy, know it all (most of the time detective) who really has a ball with this role.  You may figure out who did it (I did) but you’ll NEVER figure out the how or why.  I changed my logic at least 4 times and was still wrong.  And that’s why this film is amazing.  Anytime you get a layered story and can’t figure out AND buy the process/conclusion, it’s a fantastic investment of time.  Run, don’t walk, to see this film.  And then when you get out of the theater, download our latest episode of Gutting the Sacred Cow.

This film is fantastic, 8.5/10

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And now for one of the most anticipated films of 2019.  The last time we saw Scorsese, he got Margot Robbie topless several times in a film.  And we owe him a debt of gratitude for that.  But now he returns to the genre in which he created and inspired tons of knockoffs and a few winners.  The man who gave us Casino, Goodfellas, Mean Streets brings back several of the actors who shot to the stratosphere.  DeNiro, Pacino, AND he got Pesci out of retirement.  Can’t go wrong, right?  Well, let’s see.

First off, prepare yourself.  This is a 3.5 hour film.  But thankfully, you’re watching it at home now so you can pause to pee, get some food, or complain on social media about how long it is.  And for all of those who complain about the length, no one seemed to have a problem with Godfather 2 and that was 4 minutes shorter than this.  This is the story of Frank Sheeran (Robert Deniro, the man who hasn’t turned any film down since 2003), the guy who painted more houses than Dutch Boy.  Ba-dum, ching!  First things first: Scorsese CGIs all of the older actors and it’s sometimes quite amusing.  My FAVORITE part was when a “younger” DeNiro sloowwwwwly beats up a grocery store own.  I mean, it looks like he was in quicksand while giving the guy a beating.  DeNiro finds himself working for Russel Buffalino (Welcome back, Joe Pesci!),

DeNiro earns his stripes doing errands for Buffalino and eventually finds himself working with the Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).  Shoutout to my buddy Jeff Paul who has few scenes with Pacino as a one of his crew.  Hoffa climbs to power while bringing Sheeran along for the ride.  Blah, blah, blah, mob stuff happens.  But without question, my favorite scene is Pesci explaining to DeNiro why Hoffa has to go.  It’s quite reminiscent of the Goodfellas scene is when DeNiro gets the phone call that Tommy is dead.  And there’s nothing he can do about it.

Again, people are shitting on this for the length.  Does this lag at times?  You betcha.  Could they have cut some down?  Without question.  But this is almost a mini series in a film as it tells the entire tale of Sheeran.  This is a great switcharoo of roles; a more mellowed Pesci leads the pack and should be nominated for supporting actor.  I’ll never compare this to Goodfellas because that’s as close to a perfect film as you can get.  Is this better than Casino?  No.  Departed? Not really.  And is this a film you immediately stop changing channels when you see it on?  For me, not yet.  But this is good and if you like seeing a lot of the old gang together again, this is for you.  It’s solid and enjoyable.

I give it a 7/10.