Why THE LAST JEDI is Terrible…in Detail

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Ever since it was released in December 2017, I’ve wanted to write a review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This film was so bad – not just because of its construction and execution, but because of what it has done to fundamental parts of the Star Wars franchise and mythos – not to mention the schism it created with the franchise’s loyal fanbase.

I really wanted to break down all the minutiae of why The Last Jedi is awful – if for nothing but my own catharsis. But I hesitated because I had a lot going on personally and professionally at the time and several other people who are much more talented than myself have done a better job of explaining why The Last Jedi doesn’t work than I ever could.

At first, I thought that Red Letter Media’s take on The Last Jedi was the best – both their initial review as well as their “Plinkett Review.” RLM is a favorite of mine because they take the time to explain exactly why a film doesn’t work and have actual examples to back up their claims. Their dissections of the Star Wars prequel films, in particular, are a master class in bad storytelling.

But then, I saw this two-part, three-plus-hour piece of brilliance from HackFraud Media. They were obviously riffing on RLM’s Plinkett reviews, which is pretty funny in and of itself. But this review went into even more detail than the exceptional RLM version – taking apart all the film’s absurd characterizations, lazy storytelling, half-baked subversions, and long-term damage done to the saga itself in a clinical, profound, and entertaining way.

Just a warning that, like RLM, there is some profanity.

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The Living Masters of Film Music

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Who doesn’t love a good film score?

Writing music for film is a true art form. At its best, film music enhances the story and fills the screen (and by extension, the viewer) with emotion. The actors and the lines provide the context, but the score is where the real emotion lies. It can make our hearts race with anxiousness, share in the triumph of the protagonist, feel the love between a couple, and so much more.

It is also a collaborative effort – a collaboration between the composer and the vision of the director. The best composers compliment the director’s action and drama on screen. Not calling attention to their work, but letting it work in tandem with each scene – perfectly balanced, as a certain mad Titan is prone to say.

A great score can also elevate the movie to heights the writer and director never dreamed. Even the pedigree of a categorically bad film is raised slightly because of the astounding amount of dramatic wind the music puts in the sagging story’s flimsy sails.

It may be a bit daring to say that film music can sometimes bring home the emotional theme to a story. In my personal experience, I have often had the spiritual theme to a film I’m reviewing revealed to me by remembering the music.

Over the past three months, I’ve enjoyed a free trial of Apple Music, the iTunes streaming service. It’s quite good with lots of variety. Not sure if I’m going to continue the service. But this trial enabled me to listen to a variety of film scores from some of my favorite composers. It really got me thinking about who the greatest composers are today.

So as a thought exercise, here’s my list of the ten greatest living film composers. Continue reading

Top 10 of 2018

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2018 was one of the most difficult years to formulate a top ten – not because there weren’t any good movies. There were too many good movies. Most of the films that came out last year were enjoyable to one degree or another. I’ve managed to get my list down, but as I see more films from 2018, it may change many times over.

The same holds true for a bottom five. Partially, it’s because I don’t like spending my limited movie budget on films I know I’m not going to like. But it’s also because there were a lot of good movies that I found something enjoyable in even my lowest-rated films.

So here are both my bottom five and top ten of 2018.

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Peanuts, Franklin, and Sincere Diversity

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Fifty years ago, Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz introduced the character Franklin into his now-iconic comic strip. This was a significant moment in Peanuts history, as the strip had never had a black character before. Since that first appearance, Franklin became a regular member of Charlie Brown’s circle of friends – an acute and hilarious observer of the rest of the gang’s many foibles and idiosyncrasies, while also having some of his own. He would also be featured in most of the Peanuts animated television specials and films (up to and including The Peanuts Movie in 2015).

The story of just how Franklin became a part of Peanuts is really amazing in its own humble way. Like the Peanuts strip itself, it’s a story that is simple but so profound. And we today can learn a lot from how Charles Schulz integrated the character into the cast.

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On Memorial Day

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“O beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved and mercy more than life!
America! America!
May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,
And every gain divine!”

Every Memorial Day, I think back to my visit to Arlington National Cemetery – just standing there amongst the graves in reverent silence. It’s one of the most special experiences of my life. The graves seemed to go on forever – dotting the bright green landscape with pillars of white. To think that every one of those men had a family, a mother, a father, more than likely children and a wife.

America is great country, idea, and culture worth fighting, and if need be, dying for. One need only look at the hills of Arlington for proof of that. It is that noble American spirit that has also sent our fighting men and women to die for the liberation of other nations and peoples around the world.

If you find yourself ever doubting the truth of American nobility and greatness, please go visit Arlington. It really puts things into perspective and humbles the spirit. There are many Americans, especially the younger ones, who unfortunately have a poor outlook on this nation – and that’s really sad.

They don’t realize how good they have it, and just how many people have fought and died so they can live a life of peace, where the only daily struggle they have is what type of coffee they’ll have at Starbucks.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice on Memorial Day and every day. Their struggle has enabled us to live the American life they never will.