Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Capsule Review (NO spoilers, promise!):

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is Episode VIII of the Star Wars Saga, and it picks up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens  left off, continuing the story and turning it in a new direction. In The Force Awakens, they had to re-acquaint us with the galaxy from Far, Far Away to get the ball rolling. Good thing BB-8 is one! The Last Jedi builds and improves on it, in many ways. It’s an excellent film that made me giddy, just like the original trilogy of films did. This is my favorite film of the year. Do go see it.

Words of warning – there is the Star Wars level of violence. Also, it’s a long film, clocking in at 2 hours, 32 minutes. Do what you have to before it starts, and you will be rewarded.




Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

The film picks up immediately after the end of The Force Awakens. Finn (John Boyega) is in a coma. The First Order is hot on the trail of the Resistance, led by General Organa (Carrie Fisher). Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke, and wants him to return to help, but he flat out refuses. Why?  Well, I could tell you, but you should see yourself. Meanwhile, The Resistance is having a liiiittle trouble escaping. Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has some ideas, and Finn wakes up from his coma, and starts thinking of a way out. Not so fast, Finn!

So much to discuss, but I can’t say more about the story. I expect that many people will see it several times, just to take it all in. You’ve got your dazzling special effects. You’ve got your John Williams score. You’ve got a good story with a bit of unpredictability. Oh yes, and Porgs – you’ve seen them in the trailer. I’ll stop there. There are a few moments of humor that seem ‘forced’, pun intended, but some of them work, and the others are barely a whisper against the wind of this entertaining movie.

As mentioned, The Last Jedi has a long run time. A lot happens, and the story doesn’t feel stuffed with filler. You will realize that there are some parallels to The Empire Strikes Back, but not nearly as many as there were between The Force Awakens and A New Hope. The story feels real, and the acting befits the story. I was impressed more than once that they were able to take the Star Wars saga to new heights.

Chances are that I’ll see it again, soon.



Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is not your typical Hollywood fare, and is better for it. A woman, Mildred (Francis McDormand), pays to rent three billboards on a road to her town, and uses them to shame the local police for not solving her daughter’s brutal murder. Her hope is that something will be done. Of course, nothing is that simple.

This film is reasonably close to a Coen Brothers film. It’s a slice of small town life with some unpleasant sensibilities. It’s violent at times, and therefore not recommended for the faint of heart.

It is interesting, and worth a look if you don’t want the same old story, told exactly how you’d want or expect it. I recommend it for people who want something different.

Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

Mildred lives with her son, and is trying to get some justice. Most understand her anguish, but the police certainly do not appreciate her approach. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is frustrated, too, but he’s got his own issues to deal with. Deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) is a wildcard, has his own issues with rage and racism, and is specifically annoyed with what Mildred’s done.

The story is refreshingly unpredictable, which makes it even more satisfying, to me. There are a handful of supporting characters, and they all seem properly fleshed out – they don’t exist just to contribute to the main characters’ stories. There’s a reasonable balance of pain, sincerity, and uncomfortable levity, all of which humanize these people more.

The movie is best left discovered by watching, so I won’t speak more of the plot. I like this movie a lot, and if you’re in the right frame of mind to enjoy it, I think you will, too.

A Bad Moms Christmas (2017)

Capsule Review (Minimal spoilers):

A Bad Moms Christmas is a sequel to last year’s surprise success, Bad Moms. The gist of that film focused on Amy (Mila Kunis) and her frustration about trying to be the perfect mom. Along the way down, she meets up with Kiki (Kristen Bell) and Carla (Kathryn Hahn), who resolve to accept their lack of perfection and just go with the flow.

It’s a year later, and Christmastime is upon us. Amy commits to having a low-key Christmas, when her mother and father, Ruth and Hank (Christine Baranski and Peter Gallagher) show up for Christmas, as do Kiki and Carla’s moms, Sandy and Isis (Cheryl Hines and Susan Sarandon). Each mother drives their daughter crazy, in different ways. This is the year it all comes to a head.

It’s a passable film, if formulaic. There are a couple laughs here and there, but it’s not enough. You don’t need to see this in theaters, and can definitely wait until it’s on cable.


Standard Review (with minor plot spoilers):

This film hits most of the same notes as the first.  The three women resolve not to let their mothers get to them, but, as you are all aware, family has its own special way of getting under your skin.

Amy and Ruth are the center of this film. Ruth is striving to be a variation of Martha Stewart, and trying to impose her will on Amy. Christine Baranski plays a slightly softer motherly role than she plays as Leonard’s mom on The Big Bang Theory, and it kind of works. The problem is the story. It’s too close to the original, overlaid on a Christmas theme. It goes for Schmaltz and gets there in a standard way. The resolution is as you’d expect.

There is a good and funny/awkward scene Carla has with one of her spa clients, and it helps to set up some of the later bits in the film.

This film also gets dinged for mentioning the pseudo-Christmas movie, Love Actually, which I personally hate. (Just consider the women with substantial roles, and how their stories turn out, and you’ll understand why I’m not a fan. But, I digress).

Don’t bother rushing to see this film. While it definitely passes the Bechdel Test, it’s not unique enough of a filmgoing experience to make it a must-see. If it’s any indication, I was the only person in the theater.