Snapshots - #42: Thor: Ragnarok, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, LBJ

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017), (♦♦♦♦½): Thor has saved earth twice by now and has, for the last two years, wandered the universe searching for infinity stones. He hasn't found any. He has, however, become prisoner of an enemy of Asgard, Surtur, who tells Thor that his visions of Asgard engulfed in flames is a premonition of Ragnarok—the destruction of Asgard, which is already in motion. Thor frees himself and arrives at home to find Loki sitting on the throne, passing as Odin, and neglecting his duties to protect the Nine Realms. With Odin's exile, Asgard's enemies have been reassembling, but Odin's death may just free Hela, a goddess against whom neither Thor nor Loki are enough.
It was in Thor: The Dark World where Loki, an antagonist, first threatened to steal the show. He became the villain that Marvel fandom loves to hate. While Loki is at his most charming in this film, the director, with the help of a sparkling screenplay, has very much exploited the great chemistry of t…

Snapshots - #39: Coco, Pitch Perfect 3, Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII



Coco (2017), (♦♦♦♦): Miguel, a young aspiring singer, is afraid to defy his family's forsaking of music. On the Día de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday to celebrate the dead, Miguel is, unwillingly, granted night passage to the Land of the Dead, where he meets his ancestors and gets valuable life lessons.


This Disney/Pixar production has great animation and music, is colorful, fun, has endearing characters (both living and dead). Coco also has meaningful lessons about the value of traditions, the importance of family, loyalty, and honoring one's ancestors, all in a very entertaining package. Don't let the fact that it is an animated movie deter you from enjoying this gem. Coco is a great story to ponder for kids and adults alike.


Pitch Perfect 3 (2017), (♦♦♦♦): The members of the a cappella singing sensation ‘The Bellas’ have graduated from college and are realizing that they suck big time at real life. They miss the singing, the mischief, and the camaraderie. The father of one of them, a big shot in the army, gets them a spot to sing on a USO tour through Europe. It isn't really a competition, or is it?

This is ‘The Bellas'’ final chapter, and they have gone out with a bang. I love their take on music's latest hits (always have), and the super goofy, awkward situations that prove that comedy can be done without the ubiquitous raunchiness so prevalent in the genre nowadays. In this installment, they incorporated a little bit of eye-rolling drama and action that give the film an extra kick because it is very tongue in cheek.

I know these films are not for everyone, but I have enjoyed them immensely. I'm going to miss these ladies' antics and their contagious beats. I can't wait to see what they do next, together or separate.


Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), (♦♦♦♦): First there was the Sith. Then came the Empire. And now, with Luke Skywalker—the last Jedi—vanished, the First Order has risen. Supreme Leader Snoke is leading his minions Kylo Ren—Master of the Knights of Ren, who has an alluring bloodline—, General Hux, and an army of stormtroopers against the Republic, for their support of the Resistance led by General Leia Organa.

Leia has sent Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, her best, to Jakku, to retrieve an encoded map that pinpoints the location of Luke Skywalker, but Kylo Ren launches an attack on Jakku, taking Dameron prisoner. Dameron's companion-droid, a small BB unit, gets away with the map and is accidentally found by a scavenger girl named Rey. A renegade stormtrooper named Finn, and Han Solo, safely deliver the BB droid to the Resistance, but Rey's fate is another matter altogether...

Drawing as source the mythology and characters of the original George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy, J.J. Abrams has seemingly integrated new characters and their respective backstory with the old ones we know and love, the good ones anyway, to create an intriguing concept that may, hopefully, be expanded—if they know how to mine it—as the franchise progresses. The special effects are more advanced, but, saved for the amazing cinematography, not that different from the ones we know, which I believe has been done on purpose to appeal to old fans as well as a new generation of moviegoers. The touch of light humor is definitely new, and there are plenty of action scenes to satisfy action junkies of any age. The politicking of the 'prequel trilogy' has been left behind, and good riddance.

It has taken me several viewings, taking notes and all, to fully grasp the plot beyond the basics, and appreciate it, since it is key to understand what unfolds in Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. For best result, I saw both films back to back at least once. I wrote a mini-review of Episode VII: The Force Awakens back in (2015) giving it a three stars rating; I have changed my mind since and here is why: I didn't understand the story completely back then, though it is true that then it seemed like a perfect excuse of a movie to show off technical innovations achieved in the interim years, as well as an excuse to show some love for old characters, but that is only part of the picture. While The Force Awakens doesn't necessarily tread new ground, it lays the foundation for a new mythology, one in which there are, already, some intriguing mysteries to explore.



Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017), (♦♦♦♦): After the attack on the Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke, aided by his minions Kylo Ren and General Hux, has launched a plan to seize military control of the galaxy. The Resistance has held them off thus far, but now the lead ship of Snoke's Star Destroyers is able to track the Resistance's fleet at light speed. With depleting fuel reserves, and running out of options, Finn and a pilot named Rose conceive a daring plan.


Meanwhile, Rey has gone to find Jedi Master Luke Skywalker to inject the rebellion with hope, but Luke wants nothing to do with the Resistance, nor with the Force. He swore the Jedi order off after his most gifted student was won over by the dark side. Now Rey is in need of a teacher, for the Force is calling her, and he better steer her properly or history might repeat itself.

Three different subplots move inexorably to a shocking conclusion with the speed of a runaway train. All characters have found a purpose in this installment, thus not for one second one feels that any of the central characters are underused. There is plenty of action—so much so that at times it may feel like the story is scattered in too many directions—, cool gadgetry, odd creatures, fancy world building and settings to keeps us entertained for 2:30 hours. The humor, though still present, has been toned down quite a bit, and make no mistake, this entry in the franchise is dark.

If The Force Awakens more or less led us through the same familiar path, The Last Jedi has stretched the Star Wars mythology beyond recognition. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Comments

  1. You've been a very busy viewer. Your comment that the Star Wars story has been stretched beyond all recognition is very much to the point. Oh for the simpler tales of good versus evil told by the first three movies long ago in a world that now seems far, far away.

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    1. Well, stretching the franchise beyond recognition may not be a bad thing. Like I said, we'll have to wait and see where all that goes. What we can say for certain is that they torched the old myth to the ground, entirely and shamelessly. :-)

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  2. Thanks for this update on the Star Wars series. I have not kept up. I have been influenced by negative reviews. But you have done your homework and I admire that. I am curious though why you gave each movie 4 stars when you have quite a few objections to each movie. Did I read that wrong?

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    1. Well, Episode VII: The Force Awakens didn't make much sense when it was first released. Watching it followed by The Last Jedi it makes complete sense. My criticism of the former was that there was nothing new, but it was aesthetically consistent with the original trilogy. About Episode VIII, I said that it has stretched the franchise beyond recognition, but by no means (yet) I mean it as a criticism; I was merely pointing out that they have gone radically in a new direction and that the aftermath is still to be seen in the installments that follow. Neither were criticisms per se, just being balanced about the strengths and weaknesses of each. In both cases I liked them very much, hence the four stars rating. :-)

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  3. Carmen, I must enjoy the darker side because I enjoyed The Last Jedi even more than The Force Awakens, and I loved the darker, grittier Rogue One perhaps even more than both of them! :-D

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    1. I, too, enjoyed The Last Jedi more than The Force Awakens, most likely because everything made better sense. I did like Rogue One too but, unlike you, I found it funny. ;-)

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  4. I've seen all of these and enjoyed them all. Although the first 3 (original) Star Wars films are still my favourite. And, yep, I love Pitch Perfect.
    Lynn :D

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    1. Glad to know that I’m not alone in those tastes. 😌

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  5. I must admit I haven't followed The Star Wars franchise since the first three films from long ago, but I know my brother likes & follows them. I don't think I miss them though. As for Pitch Perfect, that Rebel Wilson is usually quite funny -- I still laugh at her role in Bridesmaids. It must be entertaining with Anna Kendrick as well. I haven't seen these movies, but I'm sure there are a few good laughs.

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    1. The Pitch Perfect trilogy is fun, though I like it because of the music. If you saw the original Star Wars trilogy, you saw the best the franchise has to offer. Purists usually prefer those first three films to everything else, though in my opinion, the “prequels” complement the originals rather well.

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