MoviePass Adventures: Month 4

Month 4 of my adventures of MoviePass and picked up the pace in seeing films in the theater:

1.) Mary and the Witch’s Flower

Based on the story “The Little Broomstick” by Mary Stewart, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is the first film from Studio Ponoc but in it’s DNA is a Studio Ghibli film.  The director Hiromasa Yonebayash previously directed The Secret World of Arrietty and When Marnie Was There and this film has that same kind of heart and visuals.  This film feels like a mashup of When Marnie Was There, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle. This is the next era of animated films as a spiritual successor to the Ghibli dynasty.

2.) Ferdinand

Based on the children’s book “The Story of Ferdinand”, Ferdinand is about this large bull named Ferdinand who everyone expects to be this fighter but he doesn’t want to fight.  It was a really fun little film.  The voice cast was entertaining and had a lot of laughs.  It was very enjoyable.

3.) The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman is based on the life of P.T. Barnum, who helped create and run one of the biggest circuses in the country.  Ironic that the film released shortly after the Barnum & Bailey Circus shut down.  Anyway, I liked the film.  I’m usually hit or miss with musicals but this one I enjoyed.  The songs fit the story & overall had a good story.

4) 12 Strong

Based on a true story, 12 Strong tells the story of the first military group that went to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban after 9/11.  There’s a really strong cast that includes Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena & Rob Riggle.  This was a really good film and enjoyed it a lot.

5.) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

A “sequel” (probably better to call it a spiritual successor) to the first Jumanji film, this one takes the Jumanji board game and turns it into a video game.  Four teenagers find the game during detention and get drawn into the game and in order to get out have to break the curse and save Jumanji.  Very funny film with good action sequences.  It tells its own story while giving nods to the original film.  Worth checking out.

6.) The Post

Based on the true story of the “Pentagon Papers” and the release of them to the media specifically involving the Washington Post newspaper.  It was an okay film.  They had a good cast that did a good job.  It just wasn’t as compelling a film to me as other films set in that time period.

7.) The 15:17 to Paris

This film is based on the true story of three friends (played by their real life counterparts) who help stop a terrorist attack on a train from Amsterdam to Paris.  Directed by Clint Eastwood, it looks at the event as well as the lives of the three friends growing up out in California.  It was a good film.  There was some editing that was kinda off at times but overall I enjoyed.  For not being actors, the three guys did a good job.

8.) Forever My Girl

This film tells the story of a country music superstar who left his fiance at the altar 8 years prior who finds his way back to the same small town and trying to win back the heart of his ex as well as the daughter he never knew he had.  It’s a nice film and for a romantic film it’s pretty good.

9.) Black Panther

The latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Black Panther continues the story of T’Challa, king of Wakanda and superhero Black Panther as he deals with ruling his people as well as dealing with the troubles that come from outside and inside.  I thought this was a really great film.  The humor in it was way better than the last MCU film Thor: Ragnarok because it wasn’t forced or wasn’t trying for humor every 5 minutes.  The action was great (another great job by director Ryan Coogler) and overall told a really great story.

 

Total films seen overall with MoviePass: 23

 

 

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MoviePass Adventures: Month 3

Month 3 of my adventures of MoviePass and unfortunately there was a lack of usage due to weather and health.  But did get my first repeat viewing along with another new film (Hopefully will get more viewing in during the next month):

1.) Wonder (second viewing)

This was a repeat viewing (first watched it last month). This is the first film not named Star Wars that I went to see again in the theater in a long time.  This has become one of my favorite films ever.

2) Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is based on the true story of Sir Winston Churchill and his first month or so as prime minister during the middle of World War II.  It essentially looks at May of 1940 which was one of the toughest times for the British Empire and how Churchill tried to deal with becoming prime minister in such a time.  Gary Oldman is spot on as Churchill.  It was a really good film and it’s a good one to watch after watching Dunkirk which is also during this time period.

My Favorite Films of 2017

I’m keeping up the yearly tradition of sharing my favorite films of the year and so here is my list of favorite films for 2017. They are in no particular order, just in the order that I can remember them from the beginning of the year until the end of the year:

Kong: Skull Island

This film both reintroduced King Kong back to the big screen but also set up future films involving Godzilla and that line of monsters.  There was a tremendous cast with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C. Reilly & John Goodman and a great version of Kong.  I have high hopes for this franchise after 2014 Godzilla and now this one.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

The sequel that did not disappoint.  I blogged earlier this year about this film and how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It advanced the story while at the same time developing the characters without losing the charm that made it special.  Another great Marvel film.

Wonder Woman

Probably the first really good film in the DC cinematic universe, Wonder Woman had that heart and hope.  Gal Gadot embodies the role of Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.  The film (which is set mainly in World War I era) has a similar feel to the first Captain America film (which is my favorite Captain America film).  Superhero films that have heart and hope are the best ones and Wonder Woman is one of those.

Cars 3

The third film in the Cars franchise (and in feel more a direct sequel to the first Cars film) Lightning McQueen has to deal not only with young upstarts but his own mortality as an athlete.  It has a lot of feels like the first film as well as tells a good story on its own.

The Hero

This is a film that stars Sam Elliott as an aging actor best known for a role decades earlier as “The Hero”.  It’s a film that deals with fame, mortality, loss, love and life.  I blogged earlier this year more in depth that goes into more detail.

Dunkirk

Set during the heart of World War II, Dunkirk tells the story of one of the biggest rescue missions in history.  The British army was trapped in the city of Dunkirk and it took 800 civilian ships to save the day.  Christopher Nolan directed the film and it covers the land see  and air aspects of this battle.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

The first Spider-Man film in the MCU, Spider-Man: Homecoming was really well done.  Going back to Peter Parker in high school along with having it be the “Tony Stark Redemption film” was a good touch by Marvel Studios.

Blade Runner 2049

The sequel to the 1982 film, Blade Runner 2049 is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen.  Starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, the film is set 30 years past the first film.  Like the first film, it asks what does it mean to be human?

Marshall

Based on the true story of Thurgood Marshall, Marshall looks into the life of the future Supreme Court judge when he was a trial lawyer and the case of a Connecticut man accused of rape and attempted murder.  Chadwick Boseman was at his best again and the rest of the cast including Josh Gad, Sterling K. Brown and Kate Hudson stood out as well.

 

Goodbye Christopher Robin

A film based on the life of writer A.A. Milne and his family, Goodbye Christopher Robin is probably one of the most poignant and bittersweet films I’ve seen.  I grew up (and still do) love Winnie the Pooh and all the characters of the Hundred Acre Woods.  This film shows the ups and downs of the creation of those characters and the lives of the family around that.

Wonder

Wonder is based on the book of the same name.  I will go on record and say it is one of my favorite films ever.  The story of the Pullman family is such a heartwarming film and the story it tells is so needed in this time.

Coco

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second Pixar film released this year, Coco is a story about family and finding one’s place in the world.  It is centered around the holiday of the Day of the Dead.  It is such a lovely story and another example of the Pixar charm.

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour looks into the right before and the first month of Sir Winston Churchill as prime minister of Great Britain.  Gary Oldman was spot on in the role of Churchill and the film as a whole was great storytelling.  It also fit in well with Dunkirk which also released this year since they both are set in this same timeframe.

MoviePass Adventures: Month 2

Into month number 2 of MoviePass and this time of year is great for films so ample opportunity to put it to use.  Here are the films I saw the second month of of having MoviePass:

1) Wonder

This film is based a novel and tells the story of Auggie Pullman and his family.  He’s a kid who’s just starting middle school and has had a lot to overcome and over the course of the film you see the impact that he has on everyone that comes in contact with him and vice versa.  This is one of the best films I’ve seen period.  Loved this film and would recommend it to everyone.

2) Coco

The next film in the long line of great Pixar films.  This one features the story of a young boy named Miguel who feels he’s a musician but his family doesn’t approve.  The film tells the story of family and following your dream.  It was really good and worth seeing in theaters.

3) The Man Who Invented Christmas

This film is a mix of “based on a true story” and a telling of the classic A Christmas Carol.  It tells the story of author Charles Dickens as he finds the inspiration to write the classic novel and how those characters mingle and intertwine with what’s going on in his life.  Christopher Plummer plays a great Ebenezer Scrooge and Dan Stevens is a wonderful Charles Dickens.  This is a great Christmas/holiday film to watch this season.

4) The Mountain Between Us

The film, based on the novel of the same name, tells the story of two strangers who catch a charter flight.  That flight crash lands in the middle of the Rocky Mountains and the two depend on each other to survive out in the middle of nowhere.  It’s a visually stunning film and both Elba and Winslet carry the film as the two principal actors.  It was worth seeing on the big screen just for the outdoor/mountain shots.

(I thought I’d end up seeing more films but there was a stretch where there weren’t any major releases worth seeing due to The Last Jedi looming so it looks like month 3 will have more films to see)

Bittersweet Symphony: Thoughts on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I went and saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the saga this past Thursday night.  I wanted to wait a few days A) to avoid spoiling for others (warning there may be spoilers in this post) and B) to ruminate on my thoughts of the film.

I titled this post “Bittersweet Symphony”.  Those that may catch that reference it is the title of a 90s song.  And I think that title sums up my feelings on The Last Jedi.  On it’s own, it’s a really good film.  But in comparison to the previous film (The Force Awakens) and even more so the saga as a whole, it is very bittersweet.

This is no fault of director Rian Johnson.  He made his film and I was impressed (that was the word I immediately thought of when walking out of the theater) by the decisions that he made and the path he took.  On it’s own, this film immediately found and went its own path.  In the context of the third trilogy, it feels like in many ways it departed (good bad or indifferent) from what was established in the previous film.  A lot of people have brought up these thoughts (dismissing Rey’s parents as nobodies, killing off Snoke with no real explanation of who he is and how big a threat he is) as well as other thoughts (not explaining where a lot of the resistance leaders were after TFA, killing of Captain Phasma with little screentime, etc) It felt like Rian Johnson took a lot of TFA and just scrapped it to tell his own story.  Which is fine, it’s his right as a storyteller to do that.

Hence the bittersweet feeling.  As I kid, I dreamed about what episode VII, VIII & IX would be like.  As a teenager I heartily read through the Thrawn trilogy and the Dark Empire graphic novels and a lot of the EU (Expanded Universe) books.  Even though it seemed like there would never be that sequel trilogy, there was all this other media that told the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, Wedge and the rest.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas and went away from his treatment of the sequel trilogy (he had written up a treatment) and went their own path, I don’t think I realized it at the time but I especially do now.  We will never (unless that treatment is turned into novels/graphic novels) know what George Lucas had in mind for the further Skywalker adventures.  While we get these new films and such (which I’m not complaining about and I do enjoy in their own right) it is sad that the EU that I loved growing up is dismissed and more importantly that George Lucas, the man who dreamed up this universe, never got to finish the story.  That would be like C.S. Lewis not getting to write the last 3 books of The Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien not getting to finish The Lord of the Rings and someone else coming in to write those books.

I wonder if Disney wouldn’t have been better off just having Johnson direct this entire trilogy (like they’re doing with the new one after IX) than to come in after Abrams like he did and then discard a lot of things Abrams had developed.  Regardless, it is a film that has developed a lot of buzz (positive and negative) as the flashing “Opening weekend” lights have started to fade.

I am sure I will see it more times.  And I’m sure my thoughts and feelings about the film will continue to settle.  But I think the feeling of bittersweetness will stick around with this film (and I think in some ways it will do so with Episode IX as well).  I mentioned this before, for kids growing up, this is their Star Wars trilogy like for me the original trilogy was and for others the prequel trilogy.  They will view this trilogy differently from me and that’s okay.  For me, it reminds me of an “alternate timeline” and that somewhere else the EU or whatever Lucas had in mind are out there as well and are legitimate timelines of how the Star Wars saga continues.

There’s so much of a thought out there now that it’s extremes, you must absolutely love something or hate it.  That shouldn’t be the case.  People can have opinions (especially something subjective like movies and art) that cover a wide range of perspective.  When it comes to The Last Jedi, I can enjoy it as a film and still fill bittersweet about the story it tells in itself and the saga as a whole.