Sunday, January 3, 2021

Wonder Woman 1984

To say that I wasn't expecting this film to be what it was might be an understatement. Wonder Woman 1984 was delayed, delayed, and delayed. First by so-called "quality" issues, and then by a global pandemic. It was originally supposed to come out in December of last year, but , due to the aforementioned issues, wound up being pushed back an entire year. Why, then, does this film appear as if it were rushed out the door?

2017's Wonder Woman was a  smash success at the box-office, grossing nearly a billion dollars in theaters alone. Due to a number of factors, I never wound up reviewing it, but suffice to say that, aside from the issues I had with the movie's ending, and an incredibly awkward sex-scene between Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The same cannot be said for this film.   Aside from a stupid ending with a big dumb villain fight out of literally nowhere, (An ending director Patty Jenkins has since divulged was pushed on her by Warner Bros.) Wonder Woman was an incredibly tight  movie that wasted very little time moving itself along, and the consequences of the film rang through into the events of 2016's Batman v Superman, with no real contradictions between the two movies. The same cannot be said for Wonder Woman 1984. The film has no point, no consequences, no real start, and no real ending.  To say that one could skip it and miss nothing would not be an understatement.  The shared universe of  the DCEU would entirely benefit from the excision of this movie, and I intend to show why.

The film starts with a flashback to Themyscira, Diana's homeland. Why? Because something young Diana is told in this sequence returns later on in the film apropos of nothing. Child Diana (Lilly Aspell) participates in an athletic competition that , allegedly, is incredibly difficult.  And yet, Diana manages to handle almost all of the competition  against seasoned adults, until she gets knocked off her  horse, and winds up taking a shortcut to get back on the path. Which is, apparently, cheating, despite the fact that she  was knocked off her horse by what I can only assume was a poorly-maintained tree. She gets plenty of scoldings for this act. Now, I can't be the only one who was reminded of the obstacle course scene from 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, can I?  It's not just the fact that Diana is a small competitor and the others are larger, the course itself starts off similar to the one from The First Avenger. Except that Steve Rogers failed at nearly every turn, because he was physically inferior to the other soldiers, and Diana succeeds at almost every hurdle, despite being approximately ten. Also, I don't know who was doing stunt-work on this film, but there are times when  it looks like they pasted Lilly Aspell's face onto a much wider body,  which is the first sign of special effects  that will persist throughout this movie.

Then, there's an action sequence between Diana and a trio of robbers, who, by all rights, should have been subdued in like two minutes, because she's Wonder Woman, and they're just out-of-shape schmucks with guns, but apparently we needed to add another five minutes of runtime to this two and a half hour movie for... Some reason.  After she finishes with the robbers, she throws them three stories off the top of a mall onto a police car, where they don't appear any worse for wear, despite the fact that they should probably be dead.   Can anyone tell me why Diana is, all of a sudden acting more reckless than Batfleck? No? We're just moving on? Okay.

So after that pointless scene, we find out that Diana lives in Washington DC, and works at the Smithsonian, with  Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), who's like Electro from The Amazing Spider-Man 2 if his man-crush was on Peter Parker instead of Spider-Man, and if Electro had starred in a terrible Ghostbusters remake four years prior and was channeling his character from that for the entire early stages of the performance.  Now, the reason I say that the mall robbery scene was entirely pointless is because it only serves to set up a scene later where Barbara and Diana try to figure out where some of the stolen artifacts robbed from the store came from, which is literally explained away in a single line of dialogue.  One of the artifacts grants wishes, but takes something from you when the wish is granted. It's later described as a "Monkey's Paw," effect, but the Monkey's Paw wasn't a bargain for something you had, it was about corrupting the wish so that it turned against the wisher in some way, or didn't turn out as expected. This isn't really the same thing, the wish just takes something from the wisher in exchange, without even laying out terms ahead of time, as tends to be the case with Faustian bargains in fiction.  Later, it's revealed that the Duke of Deception, Dolos, created the artifact, and that would have been a prime time to mention his connection with Ares, the villain from the previous film, but to my recollection, they either don't mention it, or gloss over it. Regardless, this object grants Diana the wish of bringing back Steve Trevor, and Barbara's wish of being like Diana.  Both of these come with caveats, obviously, and Barbara eventually gets more than she bargained for, gaining powers equal to that of Wonder Woman. Then, someone claiming to be Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) shows up there, steals the artifact, and wishes that he would gain the power of the artifact itself. The rest of the film is spent with Diana and Steve trying to play catchup with Max, while Barbara mostly just piddles around DC until she discovers that Diana wants to neutralize the wishes, at which point Barbara forms an impromptu partnership with  Lord to try and shore up his position so she can remain strong, powerful, and charismatic, instead of being a clumsy dweep who doesn't know how to wash her hair. I know it's supposed to be the '80s, but come on. 

Speaking of it being the '80s, Wonder Woman 1984 appears to have raided Captain America's unused "man out of time" jokes and scenarios, because it spends way too long on Steve Trevor getting used to the 1980s. Oh, yeah. I should also mention that Steve Trevor isn't actually "back to life." His spirit was implanted in the body of some dude, and, at first, they put Chris Pine in baggy clothing, and stick a pillow down his shirt to make him seem out of shape, but after a while, they just gave up on trying to make him not look like ripped Chris Pine. Also, the old-age makeup they used on Chris in this movie is god-awful, with the grey in his hair looking ESPECIALLY fake, and even changing positions at times, likely an artifact of the reshoots.

Back to the plot, Maxwell Lord eventually uses his wish power to try and take over the world, as you do, and tries to grant everyone a wish, and does, somehow. He does this to try and repair his body, because being the human wish-machine, his body starts deteriorating. For some reason. He hijacks some super-secret technology that can impose a signal on everything in the world that can display a signal... Somehow. You know, when the Kryptonians did that in Man of Steel, I thought that was a bit far-fetched, but I could believe it, because they were super-advanced beings from space.  This is just a tad absurd, to the point where I think someone might have legitimately not been paying attention when bringing this script into production. Somehow, this lets him grant wishes to everyone on the planet, despite them not being able to touch him to get their wishes granted, and lets him turn into some kind of pseudo-super-being. Diana then uses her lasso on him, gets him to renounce his wish, and everything goes back to normal, making the entire two and a half hour runtime of this movie completely pointless.  It's like someone read all of the criticism of how the first movie ended, and took entirely the wrong message from that. "Okay, you think it should end without a fight? I'll make that happen!" Even though this plotline was so empty, it might as well have not happened at all.

There are a few things from the plot I didn't mention that I'll briefly touch on now, such as the fact that Steve being brought back was at the cost of Diana's powers. Not all at once, just slowly, over time, so we can have a plot.  Barbara's wish sapped her humanity, though she's also given a second wish with an explanation that makes no real sense. I could understand if Maxwell Lord's rules for the wish were somehow different to the artifacts, but the way he phrases it, it makes it sound like he can just break the rules however he wants, despite the fact that they showed him being limited to one wish a person previously. Also, Barbara's second wish turns her into an anthropomorphic cheetah, so we can have an excuse to say that Cheetah is in this movie. Diana also learns how to fly, out of nowhere, and turns a jet that she and Steve steal invisible, also out of nowhere. They steal the jet to get to Cairo to intercept Lord, where Diana apparently forgets that she has bulletproof bracelets, and decides to use her lasso to grab them out of thin air. Additionally, Diana's sword and shield are nowhere to be found, despite the fact that she has a both in BvS and Justice League, and her shield was still intact  at the end of the previous movie. That shield would've come in handy a few times, but instead, Steve has to use a tea tray as a shield, and Diana whirls the Lasso of Hestia fast enough it acts like a shield. Against bullets. When the one thing everyone knows about Wonder Woman is that she has bullet-deflecting bracelets. That she used for just that purpose in three other movies so far. Hell, she used the bracelets against Doomsday's heat-vision in BvS, what the hell is she forgetting to use them now, for?

As far as the plot goes, I think that's about it, in terms of criticisms. Now for the characters, starting with Maxwell Lord. Fans of the comics will know that Maxwell Lord is most well-known as a successful businessman from multiple generations of Lords, and having been instrumental in the founding of the Justice League. As this movie takes place while Clark Kent is four, Bruce Wayne is fourteen, and Arthur Curry, Barry Allen, and  Victor Stone  haven't even been born, that latter part is obviously not happening. Instead, he's a commercial spokesman, entrepreneur, and (sort of) scam-artist. Really, at this rate, why not just call him something else? He has no connection to the character from the comics, all you're doing is making up a new character and slapping a  familiar name onto him, much like they did with Cheetah.  Rather than following any of the comic versions of the character, they instead decided to play Nutty Professor with her and reuse the ancient trope of the nerd becoming cool, with plenty of influence from Sam Raimi's 2002 Spider-Man film. Lynda Carter also makes an appearance as Asteria, a character who has no importance other than a stupid piece of fanservice in the end credits, and for an armor that gets briefly used in one fight and then thrown the hell away, with no real information on how Diana found the armor. I'm not gonna lie, her cameo made me a little bit angry, because it felt like DC was dangling keys in front of my face, and I could see the DCEU slipping into the same fanservice traps of the Arrowverse, where they make constant references to things that they think the fans remember as opposed to making filmic statements. It's the difference between asking "Hey, remember this?" and stating  "You will remember this." And that's it for characters, everyone else is either returning, or doesn't matter. Aside from the guy they have playing Ronald Reagan (Stuart Milligan), who looks nothing like the former President of the United States. 

Now it's time for the technical aspects of the film. This movie has some of the worst editing I have seen out of a Hollywood film in a LONG time. Continuity errors between shots are rampant, and it's stuff that's obvious enough that it should've been noticed, but small enough that  they could've been fixed  without much effort, like hands being open in one shot, but closed in the next. It reminds me of the editing issues in Iron Man 2 and Captain Marvel. Then there are CGI composite shots, like when Wonder Woman is running, or flying, and it legitimately looks worse than Superman: The Movie from 1978. Man of Steel was seven years ago, and when watching that film, you really would believe a man could fly. Wonder Woman 1984 has flying  and running shots that barely look better than the effects work in Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. The running shot(s) remind me of bad greenscreen composites seen in goofy YouTube videos, and for a  two-hundred million dollar film, that's a bad sign. Additionally, Diana's suit seems to change textures and coloration between sequences of the movie that take place less than a week apart, despite her taking care of her armor. And her armor also looks more vibrant now than it did when it was new, back in the first movie, so I'm not really sure what's up with that. There are patches where her armor appears to be trying to become the same shades it was in BvS and Justice League, but the colors just don't seem to match up. Then we come to various glowing effects, ranging from glowing screens, to the Lasso of Hestia, where the glow looks like something you'd see on a TV show in the late '80s/early '90s. Again, despite the fact that this film was delayed by over a year, it looks and feels like a rush-job. Additionally, and this may just be an issue on HBO Max, but there are times when the audio mixing has a strange buzzing sound, as if the audio is peaking, but isn't, if that makes any sense? Also, there are several places where the ADR either doesn't sync correctly, or isn't mixed properly, as if the dialogue is sort of floating above the rest of the mix, rather than being part of a unified soundscape.

Before wrapping  up this review, I'd like to take some time to talk about  Wonder Woman 1984's score, composed by the maestro of the DCEU himself,  Hans Zimmer.  I've seen people saying that his score pretty much  carries this film, and I have to agree with them in that regard. Zimmer's score lives up to the other DCEU scores he and JunkieXL have composed, as well as slotting in fairly well with the also excellent Wonder Woman score composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams. One major criticism I have is that, during the speech Diana gives at the climax, rather than a piece of original music, the film just pastes in a section of A Beautiful Lie from the BvS score. A Beautiful Lie is best known as the DCEU theme for Ben Affleck's Batman, and as such, has no place in a story that  doesn't even come close to featuring the character. I was honestly baffled by this choice of music, it sounded as if they'd accidentally left a temp-track in the mix.

Some of the issues with this film may stem from a change in staff. The original story team, consisting of Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs is nowhere to be found, as are the original designers, at least in the roles they performed on the first movie. Zack is still producing, but Geoff Johns and Patty Jenkins  wrote the script with Dave Callaham. I've never particularly cared for Geoff Johns's screenwriting, personally, and I've never seen any of the previous films Jenkins wrote, so I can't comment on the general quality of her writing. I will say that not writing any feature films since  her 2003 feature-film directorial debut,  Monster,  is probably a bad sign, though.  Granted, this script was also written by the architect of the DCEU's destruction, Geoff Johns, and a guy I've never heard of, but who apparently worked on The Expendables, which had a god-awful script with many of the same problems as this film, and 2005's Doom, which wasn't particularly great. Wikipedia also claims he did uncredited rewrites on Ant-Man,  and he apparently wrote the story for the 2014 Godzilla film, which I thoroughly enjoyed, and given the writers guild's rules on crediting, the three writers have to have written at least a third of the script apiece to get credit, so this could be everyone's fault. Honestly, I'm not prepared to lay the blame on any one individual. All I can say is that, if this script made its way onto my desk, it'd be easier for me to just dip the entire thing in red ink and make them start again than to try and figure out what I'd keep from it. 

All in all, this film is one of the weakest installments of the DCEU thus far. The script meanders from place to place aimlessly, and ultimately winds up mattering even less than the last arc of Dragon Ball Super in the grand scheme of things, all the while creating plotholes in previous films in the franchise. The only thing it really has going for it is more interactions between Steve Trevor and Diana, and Hans Zimmer's score. I haven't yet had a chance to see Shazam or Birds of Prey, but, from what I've seen of them, they're not exactly that great, either. 'tis a shame.  I give Wonder Woman 1984 a 3/10.


Image from

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What is The Indestructible Shoe?

So, I've seen a lot of video ads on Facebook for something called "The Indestructible Shoe," and, as I was about to need a new pair of boots, I contacted the company via their eMail address, and asked them to send me a pair of their work-boots they call "Hype Brown." Then, they sent me a tracking-number that never updated, and I gave up on them ever arriving, because they shipped out from China. Then, around a month and a half later, approximately a month or so ago, a box turned up, purporting to be from somewhere in California, with the pair of boots I was promised in it. Since then, I've been checking then out in many ways, and they're... Not great. For one thing, on the website, they're wildly overpriced for a product that I immediately found for half the cost on AliExpress. They also wear very quickly. I was hoping to have to come back to these boots throughout the year, but I don't know if they'll last six months, at this rate.
One of the first signs was the fact that the soles are made of a VERY soft rubber. Great for gripping, but it wears down quick, and stains incredibly easily when exposed to any kind of dark dirt, or powder. The second sign was a pair of cheap foam-insoles that I tried, and then immediately discarded for the Dr. Scholl's inserts I wind up putting in every pair of boots. Third was the fact that there's no branding on these boots at all, and the only text information was incredibly faint, and looked to be wearing off, to the point where I couldn't read it, even when the boots were new. I could vaguely make out numbers that might have been American sizing for the show, but as my inserts barely even fit in the boots, I have to wonder if these are, indeed, a Size 13. Incidentally, that was why I chose the brown boots over the yellow, because I've noticed that, between my enormous feet and the bright-yellow coloring of some boots, I wind up looking like a character from Kingdom Hearts.
Just under a week after getting these boots, the included "Waterproof and oil-resistant laces" for the right boot broke, and around a week later, the ones on the left boot broke, too. Granted, they're called "indestructible shoes" not "indestructible laces," but still. This flaw appears to be facilitated by sharp edges on the bottom of the eyelets. Another thing to note, is that these shoelaces are terrible, regardless. They actually undermine the alleged "waterproof" nature of these boots, which was a primary selling-point, from my perspective. After I replaced the laces with better ones, I no longer experienced as many leaks when the water-line came roughly to the tongue of the boots, but there were still a few. Then the replacement laces in the right boot broke again. Granted, those laces were older than some, I've used them as replacement laces in my last pair of Brahmas, but they only lasted three weeks, and I'm used to getting at least six months of use out of replacement laces before they snap too short to be usable. I've replaced them with a good set of military boot-laces that should outlast these boots, and I'll be sure to report back on their condition in the next installment of what is apparently called the "Indestructible Shoe Challenge."
Speaking of the tongues, the lining on the tongues of both boots is peeling away, and it looks and feels like cheap nylon. The overall construction of the boots feels thin, and cheap, without much in the way of the rugged construction I've come to expect from proper work-boots. There's really no insulation of note, and as such, no real padding in the boots, leading to the flimsiest feel I've had from any boot, including some of the cheapest ones I've seen at Wal-Mart. The collar of the shaft is fairly tight at first, but it can get worked-out fairly easily, which is something of a plus, I suppose.

Something I noticed about the tread is that there are bits of the rubber that hand off of the edges, and my initial prediction was that they would be the first casualties of the eventual wear of the boots, and I was right. They started chipping off within three weeks. Another thing to note, is that the tread is incredibly shallow. Great for not getting big clumps of dirt caught in the tread, but not so great for long-term reliability. Shallow tread will go bald faster than deep tread will, in my experience, and, as such, reduces the useably safe lifespan of any shoe, especially something that needs to grip and support weight, like a work-boot does.
One of the many, many claims made on both the Indestructible Shoes website, and the AliExpress page where you can buy the exact same item for far cheaper, but still too much, in my opinion, is that the boot is specifically made to be resistant to punctures. The two pages have very different opinions on why, with the AliExpress page claiming that the Kevlar makes it puncture-resistant, and the Indestructible Shoes website claiming more vaguely that it's "military-grade material." Having tested it, I can confirm that it's puncture-proof as far as I've been able to tell, but that's not because of any "special materials." My nearly three-year-old Dickies boots also stood up to the tests, which were basically just me taking a board with screws and nails driven into it and stepping on it as hard as I was willing, and subsequently, whacking the sole of the boots with the same board repeatedly. No punctures noticeable on either one, and I have actually had some experience with accidentally stepping on upturned screws and nails with previous boots, both work-boots and hiking-boots, that I don't remember the brand-names of, and even the cheaper ones largely stood up, and prevented serious injury. So that's not particularly special. The waterproofing appears to be largely alright, up to a point, but I dispute the idea that this is any kind of leather. If it is, they've coated it with some sort of rubber, which may be part of the alleged "fireproofing" that I haven't been able to test, because I don't tend to run into sparks much in my daily routine, nor am I particularly eager to create some for the sake of this review, but I used to use a grinder while wearing my Dickies, and they were perfectly fine, despite not advertising that as a feature, to my knowledge. The steel-toes are good. They've taken a few good blows and various jostling without being dislodged and becoming uncomfortable, which I've had happen even with my good Dickies boots, but that may change in the future. 
Further claims are that the shoes feature some sort of high-tech insole with "3D arch support!" I can confirm that, not only do the cheap, foam inserts that come with the boots not have any arch-support, the heel-cup isn't any more padded, and the inserts are bare blue foam, not a green/yellow mixture with a black lining. The boots are, indeed, skid-proof. I've tested that, they're really good at gripping, but that's because of the really soft rubber, which causes entirely different issues. This is why Dickies used a two-part sole for their boots, at least, the ones I'm used to wearing. Harder rubber on the outside for support, softer in the middle to grip when necessary. I'm going to skip over the "wide steelhead" for now, and come back to it with the next picture. As for the "handmade craftsmanship," I'm not sure I buy that, since the stitching doesn't look like it was done by anything but a machine, but I could be wrong.

Now, as for the "Wide steelhead," I have to call bullshit on that, as I got an ingrown toenail on my right foot from these boots. Apologies for the image (And the carpet), but it was necessary to show exactly what the boots had done. Granted, I do think that the "steelhead" is a bit wider than on some boots, but, due to the fact that these boots are a bit shorter than standard American Size 13s, that kind of becomes moot. Proper medical attention, and further breaking-in of the boot has ensured that this issue has been resolved, but it doesn't change the fact that these so-called "Size 13" boots are around half a size too small, and Size 13 is the largest they come in, even on AliExpress, so if you're a tall guy, with big feet, you're out of luck, not that I'd recommend buying these boots, when you could literally go to anywhere that sells shoes and spend the same amount they're asking for on the Indestructible Shoes website, roughly $79.99 at time of writing, and buy a much better pair of Dickies, Nike, or other work or combat boots, or even the lesser AliExpress price of roughly $40. I will admit that the nail was a bit short on my big toe, but it was perfectly fine until the tightness of the boots started to irritate it.

There's also the matter of the blister I got on my left foot. Nothing too serious, but, since it happened while I was evaluating the boots, I figured I should mention it. It's mostly just a fairly thick patch of dead skin on my left big-toe, but it's not nothing, either. I've never had any pair of shoes give me as many injuries as these, no matter how minor, and my last pair of Brahma boots had actual metal wearing through the sole of the shoe, right next to my toes! Can you see why I'm not really that enthusiastic about recommending these?
Anyways, here's a size-comparison between my last pair of Dickies, and these "Indestructible Shoes." I butted up the heels together to match, and sure enough, the "Indestructible Shoes" are around 1/2 an inch shorter in length than the Dickies are. The mouth is also wider on the Dickies, but, bear in mind, those are around three years old, and are likely more stretched-out than they were when they were new, so that's not really a point of comparison. What IS a point of comparison is that the loops on the back are in entirely different places. The Dickies is lower, allowing you to loop overlong laces through them, as not to trip on the trailing ends. The "Indestructible Shoes" have them above the collar, making it very uncomfortable to loop overlong laces through them in such a way that keeps the laces comfortably tight.

Another issue is how quick these boots wear. This picture to the left was taken several weeks ago, and the noticeable wear has only gotten worse, since. I don't recall my Dickies, or Brahmas looking this bad by the first month or so of service, this was at least six months of wear to a typical pair of boots I'd buy. Granted, I hadn't yet tried to polish off some of the dust they'd accumulated from pressure-washing the sidewalk, so they look even worse than they should, but that doesn't take away from the fact that these once fairly impressive boots have lost their sheen in their first month of use. It usually takes eight, nine months for a pair of glossy-boots to need a polish, and for a matte pair to need... Whatever matte-boots need to make them look good. Is it brushing? Frankly, I don't care how they look as long as they still work, so I've never really looked into that. Regardless, there's no polishing out those scuffs on the toes, to my knowledge. 
Now, I've tried to keep the sole of the boot as level as possible in the next picture, because I need to show how much wear these have accumulated in their first month of use. You can tell from the unevenness of the rubber that it's worn more on one side than the other, which is a consequence of my natural gait. I've tried to fix it, and my feet don't turn out nearly as much as they used to, but if I turn my feet in perfectly straight, my knees get all kinked-up, and frankly, I've heard from a number of places, right or wrong, that trying to make your street perfectly-straight is terrible for balance and bad on your knees, but I digress. The point is, that this gives us a fairly decent method of comparison between the sole as it was when it was new-ish, and how much wear it has suffered. By my reckoning, there's maybe a quarter-inch difference in the height of the tread, from one side to the other, which is usually something seen around the six-month mark for boots with tougher soles. As this is a soft rubber, it was bound to wear faster, but I wasn't exactly expecting it to wear this quickly, and the rubber has worn worse since this picture was taken.

Speaking of wear, (and I apologize for the blurry picture, but I've tried retaking it, and this was the best I could get, which probably says more about the cameras I have access to, than anything else.) the tread has started to do this wrinkling thing that softer rubbers sometimes do when they're wearing severely. My Dickies still haven't done that, despite their age, and the Brahmas took a good year before they started showing this kind of wear. Long story short, I'm not holding out hope for these boots to last longer than maybe six months, which is a fairly short life-span for a roughly $80 pair of boots, I must say. 
All in all, I can't recommend these, and, as such, I will not be providing the affiliate link the seller of these gave me. They're just not worth your money, no matter how little you pay for them. I feel like I got ripped-off, and they sent me these for free.

Now, something you may have noticed in those promotional images is red or black tag featuring a pseudo-Supreme logo with the moniker "Fashion" on it. In the pictures to the left, you can see that the tag isn't on either side of the boot. Both boots lack this tag, and, as such, don't have any branding on them, whatsoever. Not on the soles, tongues, insoles, or anywhere. These boots have no branding on them at all. The closest thing I could find to any information about them were incredibly faint, illegible print on the tongue that was mostly worn-off before I even wore these boots. That print may have been size information, as I could vaguely make out what might have been a 13/48, but I'm not sure.
This also corresponds to the maximum size on the AliExpress page, giving even further proof that these are the boots from the AliExpress page.

The only place you can find any branding is on the box the shoes came in, which says "INDESTRUCTIBLE: CRAFTED FOR THE BATTLEFIELD," which I find myself disbelieving. I've got a friend who buys Nike combat boots for work-wear and paintball, and they've never, to my knowledge, worn out this fast in this short a period of time. One would hope that even the Chinese army would know better than to buy these for use on the battlefield. Also, if you zoom in on the box, this guy's wearing sneakers, not boots. Most proper shoeboxes from proper shoe companies have the contents printed on the outside, as well as the size.
Speaking of which, there's no color, size, or art number, whatever that is, filled into the boxes on either side of the shoebox. Everything you would expect from legitimate shoe companies is lacking on both the shoe, and the box. I'm not really sure that my boots were even the right size, and there's no way to really know based on the information on the boot, or the box. Even with the printing on the tongue, there's no way to be sure. At least if it was molded into the sole, like some shoe companies do, you could be pretty sure that your feet don't match with their sizing system, whatever their system may be. 

Now, let's take a look at the AliExpress page for these boots, and laugh at some bad English, shall we? You'll notice that in the screenshots I took from the Indestructible Shoes website, that their pictures are just cropped versions of the really weird ones from AliExpress, without even the decency to use source-images without the shadows at the top. This is true for all of them, by the way, even though some of the pictures have clean versions of the images lower down on the AliExpress page, although the uncropped version also has a pair of badly-photoshopped boots behind the legs, meaning that whoever put this together, and proofread the images before sending them to the site either didn't know what they were doing, or didn't care. Additionally, these boots are tied too loosely for the waterproofing to make any difference if it goes above the top of the toe.

Looking at these photos, I wonder why there's a black gradient at the top of the frame. Maybe it's to hide something? Why are there a pair of boots hovering behind this guy's thighs? Was this modeled  by a person, or a pair of sticks with jeans on them? The legs look too skinny to be human, or else they got someone who was positively tiny and under-nourished to model these. My calves fill up most of the mouth of the boot, so I know they didn't model these with someone who would probably be wearing these boots.
I also wonder why they posed a pair of empty boots on these railroad tracks? Though, given the fact that the boots are photoshopped behind the legs, I wouldn't be surprised if the people who made these pictures used a set of pictures of railroad tracks, and photoshopped the shoes in front of them. I can 100% say that the sparks in the claim about it being "Fire Resistant" are photoshopped. They have absolutely no reflection in the shiny, polished rail, which has a reflection of the boots in it, and they just flat-out don't look right. Maybe that's the reason for the gradient.
I'd like to know where these pictures were taken, just out of curiosity, because I'd like to know if they shot it on an in-service railroad or not. I'd think they wouldn't, but who knows? These shots are weird in places, like the shadows in the pictures to the left, and the texture in the second one. I don't know. I can say that, when these boots were new, they looked about as good as they did in the photos. Really, when they're new, they look pretty damn good, but they lose their luster quick.

All in all, I wouldn't recommend buying these shoes. There are better alternatives that are the same price or less and are way better. I don't mean to sound like a shill for Dickies, but I've been wearing them for ten years, and only go through maybe one pair every three-ish years. Brahmas aren't as good, but they'll last for a year and a half, two years, even cheap ones. I can't speak for Brahma, but Dickies has boots on their website that are just as good as the ones you can get in most stores where they're sold, and they cost only slightly more than the ones on AliExpress do. If you're shopping for shoes, don't buy them from Facebook. Almost everything advertised on that website is either a scam of some sort, or a massive ripoff. I'll report back in a bit with more pictures and information. I plan to do at least one, maybe two more updates. I'll definitely try to check in when these boots finally buy the farm, and show exactly what went wrong that caused me to stop wearing them.

Photo credit(s) and sources:, (AliExpress archive page), (Indestructible Shoes website archive page for the Hype Brown model), and myself.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Originally written for

Spoiler warning.
Five years ago, the future of the Star Wars franchise was hopeful, and optimistic, and as  a fan of the franchise, I was  as well. Now I'm just tired. It's not that The Rise of Skywalker is a bad movie, by any means, but I can practically see J.J. Abrams' regret in every  scene of the film.  He probably didn't expect to be making this movie, since Colin Treverrow was originally slated to direct, and I'm going to bet that J.J. wanted to see what he'd come up with coming off the Episode VIII script.  I'm well on the record as not liking Episode VIII, and considering what J.J. had to do to even make this movie, it sure seems like he's losing his enthusiasm for it, as well. This film was put in such a bad position by easily correctable issues induced by the production of Episode VIII. For one thing, Princess Leia is the only character of the original trio who's still alive, despite Carrie Fisher being dead. This manifests as Leia having very little screentime, and her being killed-off rather unceremoniously. Normally, I'm not a fan of reshoots, but it wouldn't have been remotely difficult to edit Episode VIII to have Leia die, as she had a brush with death in that film, which, by all rights, should have killed her. It's not like the effects they used were bad, they hold up perfectly fine,  and whoever they got to voice-double Carrie Fisher is spot-on (If , indeed, they didn't feed archive audio into an AI or just reuse said archive audio the way they have a lot of archive footage), but the fact remains that Lucasfilm had more than enough time between Fisher's death, and the release of The Last Jedi to  perform the necessary reshoots. Indeed, that would have rectified one of the many issues I had with TLJ, that being, the Space-Leia scene. Instead, we have exactly what I feared would happen when they announced the plan to have Leia in the last film, most of her scenes are built around how they can use the footage they already had, leaving most of Leia's scenes fairly restricted in nature.   Some of the footage of Leia appears to be something akin to a DeepFake face-swapping technology, complete with the same strange facial animation on turning heads that currently plagues the Cats adaptation. One would think that Disney would have enough of a budget to  make this work well, and indeed, we've seen better effects in Rogue One, The Last Jedi, various Marvel movies, and even a couple of scenes in this film, as well. I suspect that any dodgy effects work may be down to the allegedly massive overhauls Episode IX has experienced during reshoots, as the film was rumored to involve time-travel at one point, and there have been numerous leaks of concepts and plot-points which appear to not have made their way into the movie which confirm some of my suspicions about the reshoots.
All of that aside, from a character and plot perspective, I like The Rise of Skywalker a hell of a lot more than The Last Jedi, although the two films share a handful of issues.  The Force-Teleportation and  other related powers introduced in TLJ have made their ways into this film, although Abrams  makes better use of them than Johnson did. The Last Jedi was very uncreative  in marrying its concepts with the film-making, and The Rise of Skywalker corrects that, allowing for proper integration of film and story.  Episode IX is also paced a hell of a lot better than Episode VIII was, and doesn't send characters off on pointless quests that take up far too much screen-time. Additionally, the dynamics of the three leads are finally cast against each other, and their  chemistry is brilliant. It's a shame that this is likely the last time Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley will share the screen as these characters.
Daisy Ridley's performance as Rey, as always, is my favorite part of the movie. John Boyega's and Oscar Isaac's performances as Finn and Poe  Dameron, respectively, are no slouches, but  I like Rey, and I have since the start of this trilogy. Their chemistry as an ensemble is absolutely amazing, and it's really a shame that the previous films had the trio separated for so long, as the actors and characters bounce off each other in a way that I haven't seen done this well since Firefly, or the original Avengers movie.  The First Order has also gotten their act together at last, finally feeling like a competent foe, as opposed to the bumbling, overly-enraged idiots they were in Episode VIII, or the practically cartoonish villains they were in Episode VII.  Between Kylo Ren/Ben Solo (Played by Adam Driver)'s reforged mask, the set-construction of their conference room, and the cinematography of  scenes featuring The First Order, they come off as competent and imposing, while not also feeling like they're ripping off scenes from the Original Trilogy. Then, they rip off scenes from the Original Trilogy, right down to stealing the OT's primary antagonist. Kylo Ren grabs a doubter by the throat  during a conference and smashes him against the  ceiling of the room, a much more violent and dynamic version of what Vader tended to do, but  the additions do nothing to disguise the fact that it is blatantly ripping off a similar scene from Episode IV (As if they didn't do that enough in Episode VII.)
As far as inter-film plagiarism goes, though, it's not nearly as prevalent or blatant as it was in The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi, although there's one rather obvious scene lifted from the end of Episode VI that we'll get to later. The main plot of the film concerns  tracking down and stopping The First Order from joining up with The Final Order in a final effort to conquer the galaxy.  The Final Order (Surely they mean "Last Command?") is Emperor Sheev Palpatine (Played by Ian McDiarmid)'s new Imperial fleet. Yes, Palpatine's back. No, they never explained why. It's heavily implied that Snoke (Played by Andy Serkis) was a puppet of Palpatine, although I don't think it's ever truly explained why he's back, although, given this already happened  over twenty years ago in the 14-issue series Star Wars: Dark Empire, and what we see in the film, and the preexisting technology in the Star Wars universe, one can easily infer that cloning was involved somewhere along the line. That's kind of this film's biggest problem, and one that it shares in common with Episode VII.  Any Star Wars fan familiar with the Expanded Universe (AKA Legends) will be able to pick out the influences  a mile away.  There's Dark Empire, Knights of the Old Republic, The Force Unleashed, The Jedi Academy Trilogy, good god, it seems like we keep going back to most of the same old influences that they've been taking from since the start of this trilogy.
Anyway, apparently Palpatine's been using the Vader voice from the melted helmet Kylo keeps around to manipulate him, and why he thinks Kylo won't turn on him like he did Snoke is beyond me, but old Sheev decides it's a good idea to offer Ben a fleet of Death Star-equipped Star Destroyers in exchange for killing Rey, who's apparently his granddaughter. We finally get a good look at Rey's parents, and indeed, Palpatine's biological son. This could have been worse, but it would have made far more sense for her to either just be someone unimportant who rose to the challenge, or to just make her Luke Skywalker (Played by Mark Hamill)'s daughter or Obi-Wan Kenobi (Played by Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness)'s granddaughter. Hell, you could have crossed the lines a bit, have one of her parents be a Kenobi and the other a Palpatine. There's more than enough chance that Obi-Wan might have had a kid with Satine Kryze back in the Clone Wars, although it's probably more likely for Rey to be a great-granddaughter than a granddaughter of either of them. Now, one might think "Doesn't that make Reylo  incest?" but it's not. Palpatine is  NOT Anakin Skywalker (Played by Hayden Christensen)'s biological father, and the original script for Revenge of the Sith is incredibly clear about this. Though that doesn't make their relationship any less strange.
After finding out Palpatine's still alive, the Resistance goes on a hunt for a way to locate him, heading first to some desert-planet that isn't Tatooine or Jakku, where Chewbacca (Played by Joonas Suotamo)gets captured by The Knights of Ren, and the gang finds a dagger  and meets Lando Calrissean (Played by Billy Dee Williams). They have to wipe C-3P0 (Played by Anthony Daniels)'s memory to get him to translate the message on the dagger, then they rescue Chewie and go to Endor, where they find the thing they need to find Palpatine, some kind of holocron thing. Then Kylo Ren shows up and breaks it with one hand. Rey mortally wounds him, but uses Force healing to save him, steals his ship, and returns to Ach-To to live as a hermit. There, Luke tells Rey to stop being Jake Skywalker and pilot the goddamn Eva X-Wing. An X-Wing still called "Red 5," which is a continuity issue I  didn't notice in Episode VIII, but has since been made  apparent. Anyone here remember Rogue Squadron? That was a thing as far back as The Empire Strikes Back. Luke's call-sign was "Rogue Leader" and Rogue Squadron remains a persistent aspect of the Disney Star Wars canon.  This error is inexcusable. It shows the distinct lack of care that has gone into the continuity of this trilogy, as if the entirety of Episode VIII wasn't proof enough that Kathleen Kennedy and the rest of Lucasfilm don't give a damn about the timeline.
After Kylo and Rey's showdown on Endor, Han Solo (Played by Harrison Ford) shows up in Ben's imagination, and Ben decides the best course of action would be to throw away his Lightsaber. Meanwhile, Rey leads what's left of the Resistance to Palpatine so they can take down the fleet. Palpatine then proceeds to rip off the ending scene of Return of the Jedi by showing Rey all of her friends dying.  Ben shows up, and is accosted by the Knights of Ren. This is a time when a Lightsaber might have come in handy, although, for the most part, Ben manages just fine without one.  I'm baffled as to why the Knights of Ren use traditional melee weapons, such as a halberd, mace, broadsword, etc, instead of Lightsabers or blasters.  Anyways, when it looks like Ben might lose, Rey teleports him the Skywalker Family Lightsaber, which he uses to kill the  Knights of Ren, and joins Rey in fighting Palpatine. Rey uses Leia's Lightsaber to fight Palpatine, though he drains their life-forces to power himself up, anyways. Then, all of the Jedi give Rey a pep-talk in her brain and she gets up and kills Palpatine, all while Lando leads in a ragtag fleet of people which includes none other than Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles. And then, Ben gets up from the hole Palpatine threw him down, and finds Rey either dead or mostly dead, uses Force heal on her, they kiss, then he dies and becomes a Force Ghost. Subsequently, his mother, who has been dead for most of the movie at that point, also disappears. Fortunately, they remember that you don't take your non-biological parts with you, unlike Rian Johnson, who apparently forgot Luke had a robotic hand. Then Rey takes the Skywalker saber to Tatooine with Leia's, and buries them in the sand, ignites her staff as a Lightsaber without having been shown to construct it, calls herself "Rey Skywalker" when someone asks her her name, and the credits roll.  I skipped a lot there, but that's the basic summary.
All in all, the film's good moments ring hollow, and I should like it a lot more than I do. At its best, it's excellent. At its worst, I know it's working around the failures of The Last Jedi, but everything else just feels unearned.  A decent chunk of the awesome moments of the film seem like they're just there, because this film is attempting to pick up the pieces of a trilogy shattered by its middle installment. The fanservice is a nice touch in most places, but does nothing to distract from the dumb choices the film makes that are entirely its fault and the faults of the people who made it, not the fault of Rian Johnson and Episode VIII.  Attempting to follow Episode VIII was always going to present issues, but they could have fixed so much if, for instance, Ben didn't throw away his Lightsaber. Granted, they  at least make it look fairly cool, but merely "looking cool" isn't an excuse.  Honestly, this film reminds me a lot of The Empire Strikes Back, in a bad way. If you'll recall my rankings of the Star Wars films from a few years ago, I don't particularly like The Empire Strikes Back, partially because I see it as a "style over substance" sort of film, and  The Rise of Skywalker is a textbook example of that. Not that there's no substance to be had. The characters are good, the dialogue is good, it's just the framework which the characters operate in that's the problem.
While a lot of problems could have been solved by changes to the preceding film, there are too many issues that could have been solved simply by writing this movie better. There are times when characters act dumb, there are times when they pull Force powers out of their asses,  the Knights of Ren could have been replaced with random Stormtroopers for all the importance they have to the plot, the Resistance just so happens to have horses (or whatever they were) with them when they make their assault on the star destroyer that can disable speeders. It's all just so convenient, and it makes me sad and tired. I was hoping for better than this. I overlooked some of the conveniences in Episode VII, but it's just too late in the game to be relying this heavily on coincidence. There are also a number of interesting angles which barely get used, such as Finn's Force sensitivity, which was hinted at in the previous films, being finally confirmed. Granted, part of the problem with that is probably down to reshoots  and deleted-scenes. Star Wars has this issue (an issue it shares with the MCU), where most of the deleted-scenes do nothing but improve the final film immensely, yet they're left on the cutting-room floor regardless, and I'm going to bet that with all the reshoots this movie went through,  it's almost a guarantee that something was left out that makes the entire movie click. As it stands, I enjoyed the film while watching it, but after I was done, I didn't really care.
In the end, I give Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker4/10. Could be better, could be worse, but outside of some interesting cinematography and visuals, there's nothing much special here.
A side note, and this doesn't really matter much regarding the quality of the movie, but I'd just like to point out that they've been using the Chrono Trigger font throughout most of the posters of the Sequel Trilogy. A similar font was used for the originals, but it was mainly used for the cast and crew, and Star Wars has since gained a standardized title font, which the Sequel Trilogy has never used, to my knowledge.

Image from

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Joker (2019)

    I know I haven't written a review in a long time and I've still got a rather long list of movies and games to get to, but to hell with it. I've been thinking about Joker a lot since I watched it and I'm damn well gonna talk about it, even though I haven't reviewed (or at least haven't published reviews) of the last few DC movies I've watched.
    Joker is one of those things that fell victim to a monstrously uninformed media outrage campaign, supposedly about "glorifying violence" and whether or not it would inspire violence itself, etc, which caused me to sigh in resignation upon hearing about it because I'm a gamer and anime-far, and I can remember a time before six months ago. When two of the hottest shows on TV were The Sopranos and Breaking Bad, series with protagonists who'd be villains in any other story. It doesn't help that most of the people spinning bullshit about Joker were doing so based solely on trailers and not having actually seen the movie. Having seen the movie myself, I determined (predictably) that everyone who claimed it would "inspire violence" were full of shit. Like Mortal Kombat, Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto and any number of other violent media subsequent or prior, the accusations lacked substantial credibility upon actually participating in the media in question. Besides, Eric Kilmonger and Thanos were both sympathetic villains and they haven't inspired people to take up their causes. No sane ones, anyway.
    And that's the crux of the matter, you're not going to inspire an otherwise normal person to violence, murder or genocide by depicting it in a movie. At worst, it'll inspire an absolute nutjob to something like that, but that's not the responsibility of the people who created the work. Whackos will find inspiration for their insanity in any medium, regardless of content, and that's especially ironic considering the context of this nontroversy, and the knee-jerk reactions only get more retarded the further into the film you get.
    Joker is about a potential origin for Batman's archrival, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, the titular Joker. Arthur is a mentally-unsound man who works as a clown by day and takes care of his ailing elderly mother by night. One day, which sign-spinning outside a store, some hooligans abscond with his sign and he tries to get it back. They lead him on a merry chase through the streets of Gotham before whacking him with the sign and beating him up. In response to this, one of Arthur's co-workers gives him a gun to defend himself, which later gets him fired when it falls out of his pants at a children's hospital. On his way back via the subway, Arthur gets picked-on and beaten up by a trio of rich assholes, whom he kills in self-defense. Well, the first two were self-defense, the last one he just runs down and shoots because fuck 'em. Not that someone who runs around on the subway assaulting random people gets much sympathy from me. And at this point, we're halfway into Arthur's body-count. Yes, that's right. Throughout this movie Joker only kills six people directly. Three in self-defense, and two more who one could argue kind of deserved it. The Joker kills fewer people in this movie than Batman does in The Lego Batman Movie. Yes, the R-rated drama kills fewer people than the lighthearted toy tie-in even with the additional five or so kills done by people other than The Joker.
    Anyway, the killings of the assholes, who happen to work for Thomas Wayne, causes something of a revolutionary uprising similar to that of the Batmen from The Dark Knight. A bunch of people don clown masks, makeup and attire and cause trouble. Arthur struggles with the consequences of what he's done, finds out Thomas Wayne might be his father, finds out he probably isn't and that his (Potentially) adoptive mother was abusive, delusional and somewhat psychotic (Which lends some credence to the idea that he might be the child of her and Thomas Wayne because he has delusions of his own that are explored throughout the movie in a similar fashion to Fight Club.) kills his mother, kills the guy who helped get him fired from his job, goes on the TV show of his hero who mocked him previously, kills him, gets arrested, and subsequently freed by his fanclub, and... Maybe locked up and evaluated? The ending is somewhat unclear.
    All in all, the film is very entertaining and the performance by Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic. The performance is somewhat unconventional, given that most interpretations of the character are more bombastic and deeper/raspier-voiced, though one can definitely see shades of Ledger's Joker towards the end of the film. I like the choice to make Arthur something of a soft-spoken introvert at the beginning of the film and have him transform into a more bombastic force of personality as the story progresses, it helps provide contrast between the pitiful creature he is at the beginning and the monster he becomes.
    Now, to break down the finer details of the plot and cast. First off, I generally like how the plot plays-out. If I was writing the film, I'd have placed Joker's "I used to think that my life was a tragedy...but now I's a (fucking) comedy." line more towards the end of the film, when he's on Murray Franklin's show, I feel like it would have had more punch there. Secondly, I like how after Arthur stopped taking his medication he becomes more lucid. Throughout the movie, Arthur has a few delusional experiences, and after he goes off his medications the delusions go away, implying that he actually becomes saner by degrees. In fact, I've subscribed to the concept that Joker has a form of hypersanity, where he is fully aware of the meaninglessness of death and existence within his world/universe/multiverse/etc, and as such really doesn't care about killing people, which feeds into an interesting idea about the shared delusions of the other characters in the futility of their own actions, given the fact that superhero comics always seem to press the "reset" button as soon as any of the so-called "permanent" consequences of a storyline become inconvenient.
    Now for the nitpicks. One of Arthur's delusions is that he has a love-interest in one Sophie Dumond, and while the realization that the version of her we see throughout the film is a mere phantasm, if she'd been real, and her actions more than a figment of Arthur's imagination, she could have functioned as his Harley Quinn, a mutually-corrupting force that drives him towards where he ends up at the end of the movie. For those not in the know, Harley Quinn is a character from Batman: The Animated Series who made it into the comics eventually. She's a former psychologist who was assigned to study The Joker, but wound up falling in love with him. Their relationship is somewhat one-sided in most depictions, with The Joker manipulating her affections for his own gain, but, at least in some continuities Harley eventually becomes, as Suicide Sqaud says, crazier than The Joker, going so far as to become one of the reasons he remains a mad mass-murderer. I understand why they didn't take this route, since it's more about the psyche of Arthur than anything else.
    Another issue is in the casting of Thomas, Martha, and Bruce Wayne, and Alfred Pennyworth. Gone are the most-recent actors to play the roles, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohen, Brendon Spink and Jeremy Irons, replaced by Brett Cullen, Carrie Louise Putrello, Dante Pereira-Olson, and Douglas Hodge respectively. Not that any of them do a bad job as their respective characters, but as the portrayal of Thomas Wayne is more of a charismatic, morally-ambiguous type, I would have preferred to see Morgan in the role. Though Cullen wasn't the first choice for the role either, as it was initially offered to Alec Baldwin, who I can see giving a much better performance in this role than Cullen did, not that Cullen's was bad. Indeed, Thomas Wayne in this movie appears to have been explicitly written for Baldwin, and his replacement even resembles him to a large degree. While I can't fault them for casting a similar actor when the one they wanted was unavailable as I have literally done that with a production of my own, I'm disappointed in the lack of crossover between this and the DCEU, even if Warner Bros. has basically killed it. Yes, this is probably a different universe entirely, but the film ends with a half-assed recreation of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and it feels like it was put there out of pure obligation rather than as a part of the actual vision of the film. Granted I am somewhat biased, but I felt like Zack Snyder did a way better job with the murder of the Waynes than almost anyone, even Christopher Nolan. Plus, recreating the Wayne's murder from Dawn of Justice would have added a bit of bittersweet irony to Bruce's quip about clowns in that movie, especially if the film ended with Arthur pulling the trigger on them rather than some random whackado in a Joker mask, though that would be getting a bit close to the origin-story from Tim Burton's Batman.
    I also have a bone to pick with Joker's portrayal of Alfred Pennyworth, as a man who barely fights back when Arthur grabs him in the film. Alfred is a badass in almost every portrayal of the character. I guess that's why they didn't get Jeremy Irons, because even if they de-aged him he'd still look like he could take Arthur in a throwdown. That brings me to another point about the casting, even if Brendon Spink was too old to play an appropriately-aged Bruce Wayne, everyone else could have reprised their roles. DC de-aged Temeura Morrison, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, and Patrick Wilson for Aquaman, they clearly have the technology to do so. Someone just didn't want to do it I guess.
    To the bleating morons who spun the bullshit about this film (Some of whom work for CNN, a sibling company of Warner Bros.) congratulations, you managed to make it even more popular. Don't know if that was intended or not, and I frankly don't care. If they legitimately thought their outrage would make the film less successful, they're idiots. A modicum of pattern recognition could have told you that. If this was some kind of guerilla marketing technique, then it's been a resounding success. Hell, even if WB were the ones started it, there were plenty of people who picked up the baton and ran with it legitimately.
    All in all, nitpicks aside, I heartily recommend Joker. It's interesting, deeply introspective, and darkly hilarious at times. Despite the quibbles, it deserves a 9.8* rating. I'll be back someday. Meanwhile, check out my latest work, Neon Genesis Evangelion Alternative Saga!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

The Incredibles 2

Originally written for

    The Incredibles 2 has been teased ever since the cliffhanger at the end of The Incredibles back in 2004. I'm 21 years old at the time of writing, and it's been almost 14 years since the first movie in the series was released. I have literally been waiting for this film for two-thirds of my life. Finding Dory only took 13 years, Monsters University took 12 years, meanwhile Cars sees a new movie every 5-6 years. I have a DVD copy of the first movie I've been watching with my parents about every six months since it came out that's older than some of the children in the audience for this movie. It's become a family tradition to watch the first movie and I can quote back almost every line in the movie as rote. Needless to say, that makes me fairly qualified to tell you, the reader, whether or not this movie is any good. Thankfully it is. I wish we'd gotten it 11-12 years ago, but it's a solid installment and a worthy follow-up to one of my all-time favorite movies. Now we just have to hope it won't take another 14 years for them to make an Incredibles 3.
    Before we start talking about the movie, I'd like to go over my theater experience first. I try and keep comments about the theater experience out of the review, but there were a few egregious problems with the showing I went to at The Grand 18 in D'Iberville, Mississippi. First off, there was a string of commercials for apps and augmented reality games played with cellphones before the movie, and then when trailers started, they told everyone to put away their cell-phones. Then there was the fact that the screen had clearly been cleaned improperly as there was this shimmer effect I've begun to notice on a lot of poorly-maintained projection-screens. Then there's the fact that there was a speck of dirt on either the projector, the window the projector was projecting through, or there was a much larger spot of dirt on the projection screen itself. Not enough to be detrimental, but enough to be unprofessional. Add to that the fact that the recliner seating was a tad difficult to adjust properly and my theater experience wasn't quite perfect.

Spoiler warning for the movie.

    As one would expect given the ending of The Incredibles, The Incredibles 2 picks up immediately after the first film's cliffhanger ending. The Incredibles and Frozone manage to take on The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) and win, but The Underminer escapes, The Incredibles (Bob, Helen, Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack Parr, played by Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Sarah Vowell, Huck Milner and Eli Fucile respectively) are picked up by the police because superheroism is still illegal, Frozone (AKA Lucius Best, played by Samuel L. Jackson) is given a business proposition by a superhero fanboy who isn't a complete psycho (Winston Deavor, played by Bob Odenkirk) and the guy Violet asked out, Tony gets his memory of her erased. The Superhero Relocation Program, which was established fifteen years prior to clean up superhero messes and keep heroes under wraps whenever possible, gets shut down, and the Parrs have two weeks to sort their situation out or they're homeless, since their house was blown up in the previous film. Fortunately for them, the offer Deavor extended to Frozone is extended to Bob and Helen as well, and the three of them go to Deavor's place where he introduces them to his sister, Evelyn (Catherine Keener) who invents the stuff his company sells and markets. The idea is to hire Helen to be the "pilot hero" to get the public convinced that Superheroes are a positive influence rather than a negative one. Bob, who's spent the last fifteen years seething over the stupidity of the public and government, is naturally cheesed by this. If one can recall the first film as well as I can, then one remembers how Bob jumped to do hero-work, because it's an inherent part of his being. He's supportive of his wife, but it gets to him that he's not out there doing hero-work. Granted, someone has to take care of the kids and that duty falls to him.
    Elastigirl is given a new suit and motorcycle for use in superhero work while Bob is stuck trying to figure out why they changed math and how to organize all of the children, which is pretty relevant for fans of the first movie since they're old enough to have kids of their own and wonder what the hell is going on with Common Core now. Which on reflection, is probably why this is in the movie at all.
Helen goes to one of the big cities to monitor crime and winds up stopping a runaway train hijacked by a new supervillain called "ScreenSlaver." ScreenSlaver uses hypnosis on the engineer to make him run the train backward, but Elastigirl manages to avert disaster. This grants her a lot of good press, and an interview with the local news. Meanwhile, Jack-Jack has a fight with a Raccoon and Bob finds out that Jack-Jack has powers. For those of you wondering why they didn't know he had powers, it's because he was too far up when he was going lead-baby, human-torch and demon-baby for them to see it properly, Kari probably got her memory erased of the entire incident, and Syndrome is dead, so nobody else really knew he had powers. Speaking of which, as part of the project, Winston lets the Parrs stay in one of his extra houses, a mansion I suspect he bought from Syndrome's estate-sale given the technologically-advanced gadgets, the secret entrances, the hidden trap-doors, and all of the other crap in the house. There's nothing in the movie to confirm or deny that, but it makes perfect sense.
    During the interview, ScreenSlaver hijacks the signal and the helicade of a foreign ambassador who was leaving the studio. Helen manages to save the Ambassador and the studio, then concocts a plan to track down ScreenSlaver with the help of some tech from Evelyn. She tracks him to his lair, and he puts up a pretty good fight, but Elastigirl apprehends him. Something I feel I should comment on is the fact that the theater had posted notices that the movie contained sequences of rapidly-flashing lights and I was not prepared for how rapidly they would be flashing. I'm normally unphased by strobe-effects in films and real life, but this gave me a headache to watch. I'd like to request that Pixar tone down the flashing for the home-media release, but I won't be too put-out if they don't. It's very brief, but for the number of times I know I'm going to watch this movie I get the distinct feeling that I'm either going to get used to it or it'll become the single most irritating part of the film that I'll dread every time I watch it.
    Elastigirl's capture of ScreenSlaver is celebrated, and helps to spur the re-legalization of superhero action. However, at the victory party, Helen starts analyzing the footage captured from her body-cam and realizes that ScreenSlaver had tapped into her bodycam, and may indeed have just been mind-controlled as well. Evelyn confirms this when she slaps mind-control goggles into Helen to keep her from breaking the story. I have to admit, I didn't see that one coming. I thought the brother was gonna be the villain.
    Evelyn explains that she basically sees her father's Superhero obsession as the thing that killed him, and she despises how her brother obsesses over them, and she sees the heroes as a crutch that humanity is expected to lean on when she thinks that humanity needs to move on otherwise we'll be held back. So she's basically Lex Luthor. I have a feeling that she and Syndrome would have gotten along very well.
One may also note some similarities between this scene and a scene from Fantastic 4, but since this is the better movie and indeed the better movie series and also Fox is soon going to be owned by Disney, there's not really much to say about that here.    She calls Bob to lure him to the ship the superheroism legalization accord will be signed on, so Bob calls Lucius to watch the kids while he goes after Helen. Evelyn sends a bunch of rookie heroes her brother found and she subsequently mind-controlled, to apprehend the kids, but between Lucius and Dash summoning Bob's Incredibile, the kids manage to escape, but Lucius gets mind-controlled. Bob faces off with Helen, but Evelyn uses the mind-control to catch Bob off-guard and mind-control him, so it's up to Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack to save the day.
    Evelyn has the Supers issue a threat to the world after the accords are signed, but Jack-Jack frees Helen and Helen frees Bob and Lucius. They face off with the other mind-controlled heroes, and Winston disables the mind-control screens on the boat. Helen takes out Evelyn while Bob and the kids stop the boat crashing into the city. Evelyn is arrested, and The Incredibles are hailed as heroes once more.
    If like me, you've waited a long time for this movie to come out, it may be worth seeing in theaters, but if you suspect you'll have a similar theater experience to the one I had, I'd recommend waiting for The Incredibles 2 to come out on 4K and spending what you would have spent on the tickets on that. It's easily as good as the first one, so one will certainly wish to watch it again and again, and unless you catch it at a dollar theater you're likely to pay just as much, if not more for tickets for the whole family as you would to just buy the 4K version. If you absolutely cannot wait, then go for it, but you'd probably be better off waiting for the 4K Blu-ray release.
Speaking of which, why exactly was The Incredibles $30 on 4K? It's a fourteen-year-old film that everyone owns on either DVD or 2K Blu-ray, so Disney shouldn't be expecting to make their typical amount on it. It's not like the old VHS releases, or the first DVD releases of most of their films, the remastering was already done back when they issued the DVD and Blu-ray versions. Why exactly do they think they'll make the asking price on this? For $30 I'll wait until it's discounted or stick with the DVD version I've had for the last fourteen years.
    All in all, this movie did everything it needed to as a sequel. It had new ideas left and right, wasn't just a straight carbon-copy of the first film with minute differences and managed to capture the heart and soul of the original. What they need to do now is make another movie before all of the actors are dead, because almost all of the cast is getting up there. That brings me to something I feel I should mention. Aside from Helen, Lucius, and The Underminer, the only voices that don't sound like they've changed are Dash and Dicker, the two who had to be recast because the voice actors were either too old or dead respectively. The returning cast sounds generally like they are who they're supposed to be, but Craig T. Nelson's voice has aged more audibly than Albert Brooks's had in Finding Dory, and Sarah Vowell sounded like she was straining to maintain her Violet voice throughout the first two-thirds of the film before settling back into the groove by the end of the film. In fact, Craig T. Nelson also sounded like he'd figured it out by the end as well and that made me wonder why they didn't go back and retake the rest of their lines. You know you could have just pushed it back another few months to clean up the voice-acting, right Disney? You made us wait fourteen freaking years for the movie as it was, you could have made us wait a little longer and we wouldn't have hated your guts any more than we already do. Although there's a reason for it being somewhat rushed, considering the fact that Toy Story 4 got pushed back and The Incredibles 2 had to fill its release-date. I'm actually surprised the shaky voices are the only problem with the movie given that it had to be released an entire year earlier than planned. I was somewhat disappointed there wasn't much Underminer in the movie, but I was satisfied with the film we got.
    As with the last film, Michael Giacchino's score is absolute perfection. Best work from Giacchino since his Doctor Strange score. Would definitely listen to on its own given the opportunity.
In the end, it's a solid installment that I wish I hadn't had to wait two-thirds of my life to see. As a suggestion, maybe they could make an animated TV series out of the Glory Days from the first movie? They briefly namechecked some of the events of the Glory Days, and I think there's a lot that could be gotten out of the pre-Relocation days. All I want is more of The Incredibles in my (and preferably the actors) lifetimes.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Originally written for
    Solo: A Star Wars Story is an odd duck of a movie, and continues a trend started by the previous standalone film in the series, Rogue One. Namely, a lot of reshoots. The difference between these two films is that Rogue One's director wasn't fired when the movie was mostly done and replaced by somebody else to shoot the remainder of the film, along with reshooting the entire rest of the film.
Despite this, Solo doesn't come off as a movie that's clearly been pieced together from a far different original vision. One would hope that eventually the original version of the film can be put out on home media, much like the original version of Superman 2 was. It might not be any good, but it'd make for a great special feature or something like that for the home version of the movie.
After The Last Jedi failed to capture the hearts and minds of the Star Wars fanbase, myself included, I was more hesitant than I would have normally been going into this film. Between the production issues, the fact that most of the contenders to play young Han Solo looked nothing like Harrison Ford, and the fact that it followed on from the single worst Star Wars film ever made, I was skeptical. But a lot of that skepticism was abated by the fact that the replacement director was none other than Ron Howard, a director I hold in high regard. Howard was George Lucas's original choice to direct the prequels, and I was glad to see him take up the reigns finally. If I was someone in charge at Lucasfilm or The Walt Disney Company, my first act would have been to immediately turn the sequels over to Ron Howard. Even when working with less than adequate material, Howard always manages to turn out a decent film. And I'm happy to say that's what he's done for Solo.
    Solo: A Star Wars Story at its most basic level is a compressed and heavily bastardized version of The Han Solo Trilogy, although by this point I'm not even remotely surprised to see plots, characters, and entire scenes lifted from the EU. This film is about as obvious with its plagiarism than The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were. Characters names are changed, and some of the fine details are different, but in the end, this movie is basically The Han Solo Trilogy given life as a film.
The performances from all involved are spot-on. Alden Ehrenreich imitates Harrison Ford's mannerisms as the dashing rogue Han Solo without missing a beat. His voice is slightly different than I would have expected, but considering this movie is set approximately fifteen years before the events of A New Hope, that's perfectly forgivable. Donald Glover though, manages to not only look, but sound his part as Lando Calrissean. I have to hand it to Glover, he did a damn good job as everyone's favorite scoundrel. The only complaint is that his hairdo is a little too different, a little too much like the haircut has in real life. Lando has curly, slicked hair in The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. He didn't have a right-angle cut into his hair. I don't know why this bugged me, maybe it was the fact that it looks a little too modern to fit in with the overall look of Star Wars as a franchise. Ehrenreich and Glover reportedly both consulted with Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams respectively when researching their roles, and both of them manage to capture the essence of their characters without actively seeming like impersonators. The other actors turn in good performances as well, especially Woody Harrelson, but there's a certain character who irritated the hell out of me and didn't even need to really be in the film, but that's spoiler territory.
Just listening to the score of this movie, I think it's got some of the best music out of the series in recent years. That may be due to the fact that it relies heavily upon previous musical cues, but even putting that aside, the music flows with the scenes the way the music flowed with the scenes in the first six films. There are a couple of tracks I find a bit odd, but the music is more memorable than it was in Rogue One and more unique than it was in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. This is likely due to the fact that the composer, John Powell, was a member of Remote Control Productions, the studio Hans Zimmer co-founded, and was a frequent collaborator with Zimmer and other members of the studio. Hans Zimmer is one of a very few composers who can give original Star Wars series composer John Williams a run for his money in terms of quality, and I think that the only better choice to do the score would have been Williams or Zimmer themselves. Maybe even together.
Spoilers for the movie and the books begin here.
The most obvious details of the movie that have been lifted from The Han Solo Trilogy are Han's backstory as a ruffian who escaped Correllia by joining the Empire, and eventually deserted to become a smuggler. The details differ in that Han's girlfriend, Qi'ra (played by Emilia Clark) comes up with him in the underworld rather than being an aristocrat, that the reason they're separated is because she gets caught when a corrupt Imperial soldier sells them out, and not because Han was being chivalrous, and the fact that Qi'ra is an unknown quantity with deep ties to Han, just like Han's girlfriend in the novels, Bria Theran. In fact, if they chopped out one of the characters that shows up later in the movie, they could have just called her Bria and nobody would have blinked an eye. In fact, this is something of a trend with Disney's Star Wars films, they tend to have too many characters. Not the way a Rolland Emmerich movie has too many characters, more like one or two extraneous characters along the way. Not unexpected from Star Wars, but at least in the past, previous films were aggressively edited and examined for extraneous scenes and characters. Yes, this did lead to a fairly important section of A New Hope being basically lost to time, but it also meant that there were never any subplots that didn't go anywhere, or characters who could have just been removed entirely.
The next major section of the film that has been altered from its source material is the fact that Lando cheats in his first game of Sabacc with Han when the Falcon is on the line. Lando's not exactly known for cheating, and in fact, didn't like cheaters at Sabacc. Not to mention the fact that cheating at Sabacc carries heavy fines in some parts of the galaxy, and the death sentence in others, making it heavily out of character for Lando to risk such consequences when he's known to only take risks when he has to, as demonstrated in Episode V when he joined the Rebellion. Why would he stick his neck out to win at a card game? In the books and previous movies, Lando was known as a man of his word, only breaking it when absolutely necessary. That was how Han won the Falcon in the trilogy, by holding Lando to his exact words. Hell, we've even seen this side of Lando recently in Star Wars Rebels. He's a scoundrel, a smooth talker, a wheeler and a dealer, a ruffian, but he's not a cheater and he never goes back on his word when both sides keep their end of the bargain. We'll come back to this later on.
Something which really irritated me about this film was that it started off with still screens of expositional text rather than the traditional title crawl. Unlike Rogue One, I could add a title crawl to Solo without even needing to edit the film much. Rogue One started off fairly quick, and despite the fact that it could have easily had one with a bit of editing, didn't really need one. This film on the other hand eschews series tradition much in the way The Clone Wars animated movie and series did, despite the fact that they'd greatly benefit from the added extra touch. At least The Clone Wars had the excuse of needing to communicate the setting and previous events to the audience quickly so as to fit into a half-hour timeslot, but Solo doesn't have that excuse because the text remains on screen for about as long as the equivalent title-crawl would have. If you're going to include text in the opening sequence to a Star Wars movie, make it crawl for god's sake!
All of that text has to exist to explain what Han is doing and why he wants to leave Correllia. Han and his girlfriend, Qi'ra work for some kind of snake creature stealing things. Han gets ambushed while on a job for the snake and barely escapes with his life, his enemy's speeder, and a piece of merchandise. Han manages to escape the den of thieves with Qi'ra, but rather than line up a black-market trader to get the full value for it and not having to rely on the corruption of Imperial forces, Han just trades the fuel to the Imperial official, which gets Qi'ra captured. Han joins the Imperial Academy to become a pilot, but for some reason becomes a foot soldier for the Imperial Navy due to being expelled from the Imperial Flight Academy. Okay. Not like that's something interesting we'd have liked to see. Even if it was only ten, fifteen, twenty minutes long it would have been cool to see. All it would take is a little bit of creative writing and direction, which I know the team behind this movie can do, and the smash-cut to the warzone would have still worked. In this scene, we find out the origins of Han's name. It's a nickname given to him by the Imperial Recruiter since he doesn't have a last name. Even though we find out he had parents and actually knew them.
In the warzone, Han meets Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) who's posing as an Imperial officer. Beckett manages to save Solo's unit and Solo pegs him and the other members of his crew as thieves when he notices a few things wrong with them. For one thing, Beckett's uniform is heavily damaged. The pilot, Rio Durant (Jon Favreau) is an alien, and Beckett's wife, Val (Thandie Newton) is quick to jump the gun. When Han calls them out and tries to get them to let him join them, Beckett gets the Imperials to toss Han into a cage with none other than Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) who Han convinces to help him escape. Compared to how they met in the books, this is more spectacular, but less meaningful. It's a lot like the Harry Potter films in that regard, but a lot better.
Han and Chewie escape the prison and join up with Beckett to help him rob a train. They mostly manage to pull the heist off, but a band of marauders try to hijack the train from them. Rio winds up being shot, so Han has to take the controls, and then Val dies blowing up the bridge and taking out the Imperial forces. Han winds up having to ditch the train car to save their necks, and gets chewed out by Beckett, since the product of the heist was promised to crime-lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) of the Crimson Dawn. Couldn't have been Prince Xizor of Black Sun? Oh well, whatever.
Beckett apologizes to Vos for losing the fuel, while Han runs into Qi'ra, who's Vos's... Wife? Right hand girl? Concubine? Hitwoman? I don't know.
Han suggests to Beckett and Vos that they steal unrefined fuel instead of refined fuel, since the fuel mines on Kessell will be easier to rob than another Imperial transport train. Since the unrefined fuel is unstable, they need to get a fast ship. Since the fastest ship in the galaxy is owned by Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) Han gets Qi'ra to front his buy-in to the Sabacc table Lando is playing at and manages to almost get the ship, but an awkward cutaway shows us that Lando used a Mission: Impossible gadget to swap out his cards. If they'd cut this shot out, and left the reveal for the end, it would have increased the impact of the final scene of the film. Then you've got the fact that Han basically had enough money to either buy a similar light freighter and modify it for the job, or pay Lando to rent the Falcon for the job and still have plenty left over to buy a ship. That's part of what makes this sequence kind of dumb, on top of Lando being out of character. The other part is the fact that they didn't show us many of the details of Sabac as a game. Han's clearly a card-shark, so if we got a bit of internal monologue like we did in the books, we might have more context. I know I'm basically asking Ron Howard to insert an episode or two of Yu-Gi-Oh! into a Star Wars movie, but The Last Jedi was two and a half hours long, if Ron Howard had made Solo three hours long I'd have still sat through it. Even if you allowed fifteen minutes each for the three years Han supposedly spent in the Imperial Academy, and fifteen more minutes for Sabacc, the movie would only be about five minutes longer than TLJ. Hell, if you cut out Lando's annoying droid sidekick you'd save about three minutes of the movie, maybe even more.
Lando's droid sidekick and navigator, L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) is one of the single most irritating characters in the entirety of film, right up there with Sam Witwicky and Lucas Flannery from the live-action Transformers movies. And like Lucas, I was incredibly glad when she died, despite the fact that the film clearly wants me to feel bad for Lando that his friend is dead. L3 loves to go on about droid's rights, something which nobody cares about and really didn't even need to be in the movie. We know droids are discriminated against in Star Wars, they've made it impeccably clear in every single film, book, game, and audio drama in the franchise. This kind of thing should have been a passing joke made by a side character, not a supporting character who's fairly important to the story. Not that she needed to be important to the story, since everything she does could have been done by a voiceless R2 unit, or a member of the crew. Not to mention the fact that she steals a bit of Han's thunder when she frees all of the slaves herself, which sort of undermines what Chewie owes Han since, in the book, Solo was the one who liberated the slaves, and Chewie's family in the process. Thankfully she's only around for a few minutes. Compared to L3, Rose Tico is actually important to the plot. And the most prominent comic-relief character in the series, Jar-Jar Binks is downright serious by comparison. At least he was integral to the plot, at least he couldn't have been replaced by Woody Harrelson and a better navicomputer. At least The Phantom Menace would have gone down drastically differently without him. At least Jar-Jar was funny and endearing. We already know about the plight of droids. Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, hell most of the installments in the series show how bad droids have it in a far more serious light. The punchlines suck and take away from the serious nature of the issue. Plus the character being irritating as all get-out doesn't help her cause. I don't even know why anyone thought this character up. One would hope that Phil Lorde and Chris Miller, the original directors of this film did something different with this character, but considering she's in and out fast, I guess I can't complain too much. One last strange thing about her character is that she seems to have a big crush on Lando that she's not hiding particularly well. She seems a bit too quick to say it won't work, and a bit too quick to say that a human/droid relationship can work. That was actually a somewhat funny joke, to be honest.
They load the fuel into the Falcon, but Lando is wounded and L3 is destroyed. Han tries to fly them out, but they stumble on an Imperial blockade. Solo takes the shortcut that lets him take the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, but they're ambushed by a space-monster. Han manages to get the monster stuck in one of the Maw Cluster black-holes by ejecting the Falcon's escape-pod. They plug L3's brain into the navicomputer to chart a course out of the Maw and a drop of the unrefined fuel to boost themselves out of the black-hole. They get the fuel refined, but the Marauders from the heist ambush them and Lando abandons them. For some reason, the marauders manage to convince Han to give them the fuel, but they still have to turn something over to Vos. So Han puts together a plan where the Marauders have an empty box as bait in case someone betrays the plan, and he can take the regular fuel in to Vos. Sure enough, Beckett sells them out to Vos, but Han and Qi'ra manage to fight him off, and Han kills Beckett in the best shot of the movie. Han expects Qi'ra to join him, but she takes Vos's ship to meet with her true boss, Darth Maul (Voiced by Samuel Witwer from The Clone Wars and Rebels, and physically portrayed by Ray Park, the actor who played him in The Phantom Menace) on Korriban. No I don't know why Maul is here, but I'm intrigued and wish to know more. Then Han and Chewie go back to Lando, Han steals the cards Lando used to cheat, and wins the Falcon with a Full Sabacc, roll credits.

Spoilers end.

All in all, I liked this movie. I think it's well worth the sit if you had a bad taste in your mouth after the failure of The Last Jedi. It's kind of funny, since there are a few little things in this movie that make TLJ a bit more sensible, but not enough to redeem its failure. If you hated The Last Jedi because it crapped all over the legacy of the original trilogy, and every other film in the series that came before it, you'll find that this film doesn't do that quite as much. There's only one major aspect of the film I disagreed with, but overall I found it a very entertaining movie. And to the people who said that the audience needed to lower their expectations going in, you're wrong. This movie stands up alongside the other good Star Wars movies with its head held high. It's a bit shorter than its older siblings, but it's far and away better than The Last Jedi and Revenge of the Sith were. Don't lower your expectations going in, you'll be more than happy with this film if you've never read the superior books it's obviously based on. And if you have read the books it's based on, you might want to cut the movie a little slack. After all, the movie did have to be almost entirely reshot by a different director. Hell, they couldn't even keep the same guy playing the villain, Vos. Michael K. Williams played a far different version of Vos in the Lorde and Miller version of the movie, but the role had to be recast for the reshoots.
Despite the troubled production, this film turned out pretty good. It makes me wonder how Ron Howard would have handled the prequel trilogy, and indeed it makes me wonder why Disney didn't immediately turn the sequel trilogy over to him. Ron Howard did a better job picking up the broken pieces of a film someone else wrote than Rian Johnson did directing a movie he wrote. So go see this movie. Bring your friends. It's doing way worse at the box-office than it should, and I think that's to do with the fact that it's following on from last year's lackluster main installment. The final score I give for the movie is an 8.0*

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