Friday, January 12, 2018

What I Watched in December

I'm surprised that there haven't been more big screen at adaptations of some of Agatha Christie's more famous novels over the past few decades. As soon as I heard that Kenneth Branagh was planning to adapt MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS for a new feature film I was kind of amazed that it had been over 40 years since the last time someone had done so. I would think that there would be enough interest in such a thing for there to be a new version of this tale told on the screen every 20 years, give or take. But then again, maybe it's a good idea in the age of home video to let the story lay low long enough for the general audience to forget that they might already know the solution to the central mystery. Regardless, this adaptation of the story is fantastic. I love this twisty tale and the stunning cinematography is worth the price of admission all on it's own. The fantastic cast brings energy to the proceedings and the movie moves along very well even if the occasionally artificially goosed pace seems a little out of place in at least one spot. Branagh is a fine director and is an excellent Poirot, finally bring his magnificent mustache to the screen in it's gargantuan glory. I very much look forward to the sequel film of Death on the Nile whenever it appears.

I think that I am no longer the correct audience for a Star Wars film. As a matter of fact, I think I may not have been the correct audience for a Star Wars film for about 20 years. Of the three Disney produce Star Wars films in the past 3 years I've liked only one of them and it's the one that doesn't have an Episode number in it's title.

THE LAST JEDI has turned out to be a very divisive film for fans and I can completely understand. I used to count myself as a Star Wars fan but, having grown up much more attached to Star Trek, Star Wars has always seemed a little too tied to Fantasy for me to really feel wholly attached. This new film continues that - as it should, I suppose - but there might just be something about this universe that makes it so artificial that I can no longer care about it. Everything about the barely-there story of this feature feels like it's there for some reason other than to tell a tale. It's like a series of slightly connected segments or television episodes meant to evoke recognition or nostalgia instead of creating something new. 

That being said, I did enjoy about 30 to 40 minutes of THE LAST JEDI. The entire confrontation with Snoke, the large-scale lightsaber battle all the way up through the splitting of the lightsaber between Rey and Kylo Ren was a fascinating and well done film sequence. It's the film's most well handled action sequence with understandable emotional reasons for the actions taken wrapped in colorful and vividly cinematic skill . It really is great but all it accomplishes for me is to point toward the next film where I guess we'll end this dance of powerful Force users -hopefully. Also admirable is the theme of leaving the past behind so as to carve out new ideas and new stories in an attempt to forge new movies that aren't beholden (and I would say crippled) by adherence to the shape and form of the original trilogy. Do we really need to keep 90% of these film's dialog as bad as the 1977 original? Really? Do we?  

It is both the stylistic and structural holdovers from the original trilogy that make the Last Jedi such an uninspired and weak experience overall. For all the talk of forging a new path, this movie feels dragged down by holding onto the past. That's the only excuse for that extended Casino World/Cantina sequence. Talk about needing to leave things in the past!


SPLIT (2017)- 8 (rewatch)
WEREWOLF & THE YETI (1975) - 7 (rewatch on Blu-Ray)
GHOST STORY OF YOTSUYA (1959) - 7 (Japanese spectral vengeance)
SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954)- 8 (rewatch)
BRIGADOON (1954) - 7
AT SWORD'S POINT (1952)- 5
THE SIGN OF ZORRO (1958)- 5 (Disney TV show cut into feature)
SANTA CLAUS (1959) - 4
BRIGHT (20117) - 5
CYBORG 2087 (1966) - 5 (cheap but interesting SF)
THE FOX WITH A VELVET TAIL (1971) - 8 (excellent if slow thriller)

No comments: