Film 365

The Craft: Legacy

Movie Details:

Title: The Craft: Legacy
Director: Zoe Lister-Jones
Writer(s): Zoe Lister-Jones, Peter Filardi (based on characters created by)
Starring: Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, Zoey Luna, Michelle Monaghan, and David Duchovny
Production: Columbia Pictures, Blumhouse Productions, & Red Wagon Entertainment
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Release date: 28 October 2020
Run time: 90 mins
Rated: PG-13
Rating: 3 stars

Product Description:

In Blumhouse’s continuation of the cult hit The Craft, an eclectic foursome of aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers. (via: Amazon)

Continue reading “The Craft: Legacy”
Film 365

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SPOILERS!!!)

Rian Johnson has calmed my fears about this Star Wars trilogy and the future (Skywalker-less) trilogy of which he’ll be at the helm. While The Last Jedi isn’t perfect, it blows the prequels, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One out of the water. If not already, it won’t be a surprise if this film isn’t cemented as the best of the Star Wars franchise.

Last JediThere’s a lot going on in the movie and we’re introduced to a few new players that I hope to see more of in the future (be it in film or in novel). Rose Tico adds new flare into Finn’s life (and an unnecessary love-triangle between Finn and Rey).  Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo isn’t a generic Leia copy. And while her character is underplayed in the film, her heroics aren’t. The film also keeps up with tradition of downplaying fan favorite characters. Captain Phasma and Maz come to mind.

All in all, the film surpasses expectations and delights its audience. I fear what destruction J.J. Abrams will bring upon the franchise with his return for Episode IX.

Now that that’s out of the way, let me touch upon things that stood out for me in The Last JediWarning: There are spoilers.

Leia & the Force

“You have that power too… The Force is strong in my family,” Luke breaks it down for Leia on Endor just before he turns himself over to the Empire. “My father has it. I have it. My sister has it.” We’ve never seen Leia use the Force despite her knowing he possesses the power to do so. There is a small moment in The Force Awakens when Han dies at the hand of their son that she felt a disturbance, but one could also write that off as the intuition of someone you love passing. I made that mistake and am glad I did. Had I realized the truth, the moment in The Last Jedi would have been ruined.

After conflicted Kylo decides not to fire on his mother’s ship, two TIE fighters take the lead. Blasting everyone on the bridge into deep space. Many deaths happen (I’ll get to that later). Leia, surprisingly, isn’t one of them. Instead, we see her unconscious body floating in the serene quite of the vacuum. That is until her eyes snap awake and she “reaches out.” The Resistance will not go quietly into that good night, First Order!

Yoda, Man.

When footage of Rey’s training was released, the internet exploded with theories that she was being trained by Master Yoda. They came to this conclusion because of a small figure perched on top of some rocks. (I just saw more rocks.)

We are treated to a Yoda cameo, though. When Luke is dead set on destroying the Jedi Order for good by destroying the tree that houses the sacred texts. As if to call his bluff, Yoda’s Force ghost appears before him. Luke, of course, cannot bring himself to destroy the sacred tree. Not one to take his bullshit, Yoda calls down lightning and strikes the tree himself. While it’s later revealed that Rey stole the books before she boarded the Falcon to meet up with Kylo Ren, Luke isn’t aware of it. And whether he’s in the known before the end is up for discussion (though, yes, I’d say).

The moment calls back to Yoda’s words in Revenge of the Sith after fighting Palpatine – “Failed, I have.” Luke explains to Rey that the legacy of the Jedi has been failure. Perhaps, Yoda agreed. Perhaps, he knew what Rey had done (again, yes, I’d say). But, in that moment, as Luke and Yoda watch the tree burn, there’s peace. As if both know how it’ll all play out.

Snoke Isn’t Half the Sith

Little is still known about the Supreme Leader, but I’m sure that’ll change in time. The extended universe is bound to cover it now. And I wonder if the block on Rey’s location was an act of Luke or, rather, an act of Yoda. Despite his depiction of being the strongest in the galaxy during Luke’s absence, he still doesn’t see the munity brewing before him. Even when his apprentice betrays him to save Rey.

While the death of Snoke didn’t surprise me (we all knew this was going to happen, right? That Kylo wouldn’t be under his thumb for long, right?), the way it carried out offered so much more than we were previous led to believe. Kylo is much stronger than we formerly understood. Especially if he could hide his betrayal with resolved conflict.

Anakin 2.0

Previous statement aside, Kylo still bugs the shit out of me. I expected temper tantrums from Anakin 2.0 and I was rewarded for doing so. Not sure what is in store for Kylo in Episode IX, but it’s clear that his rage will be his undoing.

There might have been a time where I thought he’d turn to the light and join the fight, but that was extinguished the moment he guided lightsaber to halve his master. And while he fought side-by-side Rey against the Elite Praetorian Guard, there wasn’t a shadow of doubt that the move was done selfishly.

Hux the Little Bitch

Or maybe General Hux.

To add to the list of annoying villains in movies. It would seem that Supreme Leader Snoke is terrible at selecting who will lead his First Order to victory.

Hux comes off a child who begged his father for attention. And when he didn’t get it, killed his father and took his place. Still, there is some animosity between Hux and Kylo—after learning that Snoke was slain, Hux goes as far as thinking of just killing Kylo where he lay. I want to say that this sort of double crossing would be interesting to watch unfold, but how annoying would it be that the First Order is destroyed by itself?

Phasma Wasted (Again)

A moment of déjà vu hit me when the trailer for The Last Jedi was released. Again, we saw Captain Phasma in her shiny attire marching into battle. Surely, Rian Johnson would not tease us with the character only to give us a small, unsatisfactory helping. But he did just that. And while the fight between her and Finn swelled the climatic scene, it didn’t do favor for the character.

What we got instead was a glimpse of her humanity, something he failed to show in her origin story. And just as we think Finn would finish her off, the floor beneath her crumbles and she falls into the unknown. Once again, the fate of Phasma lingers in the air. Has she died? Is she floating in space? Or will she return to finish what she started in Episode IX (only to get a Boba Fett death?).

Luke vs. Kylo vs. Kenobi vs. Anakin/Vader

The rebirth of the Star Wars franchise owes a lot to nostalgia. The Force Awakens, despite argument, is a rehashing of A New Hope. And Rogue One is the events leading toward A New Hope. The Last Jedi doesn’t hold back on the nostalgia either. From the moment Luke steps out of the rebel base, Kylo orders his men to focus on their guns at his former master and uncle. When that fails, he decides to take matters into his own hands, and the two duel it out before the First Order while the Resistance escapes with the help of Rey, Chewie, R2, and a Porg.

The fight calls back two scenes, the battle between Anakin-turned-Vader and Obi Wan in Revenge of the Sith and the battle in A New Hope where Kenobi uses himself as a distraction which allows Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, and the droids escape.

The rage which carries Kylo’s lightsaber contrasted against the peaceful, yet strategic, dodges of Luke were a perfect choregraphed piece. And the moment Kylo’s saber passes through his old master, we’re given the sentiment of Kenobi’s peaceful acceptance.

Of course, Luke doesn’t die there. Because Luke was never there.

The Empire of the Trilogy

It’s too easy to call this the Empire of the new trilogy, but that’s what it’ll be seen as. This movie packed more of a punch than prequels and the two Disney helmed films. Like any good second volume in a franchise, the heroes lose but live to see another day. And that gives us something to look forward to in final volume of this trilogy.

This movie captures our hearts, pushes our emotions to the brink, and delivers more than it promises, regardless of its shortcomings.

Porgs & Canto Bight: Veganism & Human and Animal Rights

I am not a Vegan. I’m not a vegetarian. No one will mistake me for either. But I’ll be remised if I don’t point out the correlation between the way people treat each other and the way they treat animals. This is something we see as a flock of porgs watch Chewie cook and nearly eat one of their own on Ahch-To. And which we see again in Canto Bight, the Las Vegas of a galaxy far, far away. Where slavery still reins (though it’s not called slavery, is it?) and fathiers are treated cruelly by their handlers.

It’s a homage to the current class war that we still experience to this day. And if science fiction isn’t used as an analogy for our current situation, what use can it serve?

Our Heroes Have to Die

I was a little upset when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens. And I too felt the loss of Luke as he faded into the Force. And however they want to treat Carrie Fisher’s passing in Episode IX, I know there will be remorse for the loss of Leia.

But, our heroes have to die. Nothing is made clearer than that with the depiction of Luke in this film. Heroes don’t go into battle thinking they’d become legends to carry the weight of hope on their shoulders. The fact that none of the other Resistance answer their cries for help makes it just another burden for the hero to carry. Nobody wants that.

But Poe Dameron has it right. Rey, Finn, Rose, him, and all the other newcomers are the spark that will burn down the First Order. It’s not Luke. It’s not Han. It’s not Leia. It’s this new team of characters. Because our time has come and gone. It’s time that a new generation of nerds be indoctrinated into the Star Wars world. And they need their own characters to get them there.

J.J. Abrams is George Lucas (No, Not a Compliment)

Rian Johnson provided a better film than J.J. Abrams could ever fathom. The story was original and it pushed the audience to accept all that we saw in the screen. While it depended on our nostalgia, none of it was forced. Much like how Empire Strikes Back did well without Lucas, Star Wars flourishes without Abrams and his pointless mystery box.

Film 365

Death Note

It’s not that I’m a major anime fan. I can honestly say that I prefer dubs over subs. Guess what I mean is, there is no pretension when it comes to my watching cartoons—doesn’t matter what country the animation originated. That doesn’t mean that the Netflix adaptation of the classic anime/manga Death Note didn’t send a shiver down my back the moment it was uttered into existence. I had hoped that the production team would try to keep it faithful to the source material. And if not that, maybe set in the same universe but deviating away from the original characters. Like how I once imagined a FLCL adaptation would work out (college was a strange time, kids).

death-note-netflix

It’s not just the whitewashing that got to me, though that’s a fatal epidemic running rampant in Hollywood these days. It’s the entire massacre of the source material. Nothing about this movie even echoed the genius behind the manga and anime. And that’s damning for Death Note fans everywhere.

Light Turner isn’t Light Yagami. While Turner is painted as some sort of high school genius—he’s caught helping other cheat for a fee—it’s never touched upon. Where Yagami was clean cut and pristine, Turner comes off more as the kid you’d buy your nickel bag from. And maybe not even that. Yagami’s sense of justice is what drove him to do terrible things; meanwhile, Turner is the epitome of pussy-whipped. Turner treats the Death Note like an twelve-inch cock, whipping it out to impress the girl at the first opportunity he has.  Yagami knew better. He kept it secret, hidden. Even when Misa turns up, he’s restrained.

On the subject of Misa—what’s with the Mia character? Her emotional acting range is the love child of Kirsten Stewart and Megan Fox. She’s a beauty—nice to look at, but less than a one-dimensional character. Misa’s motivation behind following Kira is adoration and admiration. Mia has no real motivation. There isn’t a backstory that makes her character meaningful. She serves no purpose other than someone the boys can fawn over.

L. Where do I even begin with L? Lakeith Stanfield isn’t the issue. He’s proven his acting ability in movies like Straight Outta Compton and Get Out. The problem isn’t his ability. L isn’t L. Not even a little bit. His emotions run wild, unlike his anime counterpart who’s collected and in control. Watching Light Yagami and L plan each step is watching a chess match between genius. Watching Light Turner and L doesn’t even get a checkers metaphor. There is no build up. There is no relationship. There is just blame and nothing more. The scene toward the climax, L goes as far as stealing a police cruiser to chase Turner through the streets with every intention of killing him. And it ends with L struggling against knowing what’s right and writing down Turner’s name on the single sheet torn from the Death Note.

Ryuk is—well—the white man’s version of the character. Most of his badassry is washed away. Dafoe’s voice acting doesn’t fail to send shivers of glee down the viewer’s back. But what we’re given isn’t the same apple-loving death god we all came to know and love. He even notices that Turner isn’t suited for the Death Note moments into his introduction.

There are a few inconsistencies throughout the film, but what movie isn’t full of them? It’s the over all destruction of the source material is what hammered the final nail in the coffin. We can’t just be mad at the whitewashing, though we should. We should always be mad at the whitewashing in any film. (I’m looking at you Ghost in the Shell.)

I do make a plea that Adam Wingard, Charley and Vlas Parlapanides, and Jeremy Slater never make another movie, music video, or even a YouTube video again. And that Netflix removes and destroys all copies of this film. So that it never has to waste the time of another viewer again.

Film 365 · Music

As I Walk Through the Valley

In high school, I lived vicariously through my friends. Anxiety was never a stranger. And I noticed early on that loud noise (no matter how enjoyable) and flashing lights triggered an uncomfortable experience for me. Instead of going to places like Trenton Point for their shows, I’d listen to the stories instead. I learned about bands like Vally Lemons and Inkbag (I later met band member Angela Ink years later when working on an article on the South Texas Rolleristas, a local roller derby team).

I experienced the action via recorded video tapes and mixed cassette tapes. Never first hand. In fact, my first concert was in college and it wasn’t for entertainment purposes but networking.*

In college, I met Ronnie Garza. We had a few classes together, but mostly we went to the same poetry events. Ronnie’s poetry was another level compared to what I wrote—shit, what I still write. We stayed in a somewhat sporadic contact (thank you, Facebook!) after college. I stopped attending poetry events. I became a father. I went through a terrible break up with Jeanna. There is a laundry list that I can give here, but the result is the same: I forced myself into exile. I needed a break from living my life on the stage (though, anyone who follows my social media knows that isn’t true – I mean, *motions to everything on the blog*).

Early last year, or late 2015, I ran into Amado Balderas at Barnes and Noble. After ducking out to use the restroom, I ran into Ronnie and we started talking about the project he was working with Charlie Vela. They wanted to make an in-depth documentary of the Valley music scene. He told us both (Amado later ventured to look for me) how they’re interviewing everyone who’s ever had a foot in the growth of this scene.

aiwttv

The film premiered at South by South West 2017. And, last night, it had its home premiere at the Edinburg City Auditorium. Looking at all those in attendance, it felt like a micro high school reunion. Former classmates to teachers stretched as far as the eye could see. Even in the documentary, I caught glimpses of people I knew attending the concerts. And I cringed at their attire. While mine hasn’t changed much, I still shudder to think of all the clothes I wore in high school.

Hearing the stories again (some for the first time), I remembered that feeling of my youth. Sitting in awe and experiencing these stories as if I were there. I felt the chill of recognition and nostalgia run up my spine. This film is essential for anyone who grew up in the Valley, as well as, those who are still growing up here. I strongly urge those who happen upon this post to head over to Netflix and request this film.

The documentary was followed by live performances of several South Texas bands. Only a few were familiar. Performing last night: Ralph & the Cruisers, Rio Jordan, DeZorah, Confused, and Panteon. (I’m gonna be completely honest, I was only interested in the last two bands.)

It took me a few years, but I finally attended one those concerts I heard so much about in high school.

Thank you, Ronnie and Charlie for making this movie.

* I attended a Christian concert as president of Sigma Tau Delta while trying to woo over the Campus Crusade for Christ to partake in our organization’s book drive. I didn’t have much fun, but at least there wasn’t any loud noises or flashing lights.
Film 365

Singles (1992)

  • Title: Singles
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Year: 1992
  • Starring: Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, and Matt Dillon
  • Studio/Production: Warner Bros; Atkinson/Knickerbocker Films
  • Synopsis: A group of twenty-something friends, most of whom live in the same apartment complex, search for love and success in grunge-era Seattle. (source)
  • Rating: 6.7/10 (IMDb)

I woke up one Sunday morning, back in the late 90s when I did things like go to church, and caught part of a movie whose title I never knew. As a freshmen in high school, my music world exploded with the assistance of friends. Most of the bands that entered my life stuck around all these years. Grunge music filled up my mixtapes—received and given. And any one of them could have made up the soundtrack to this movie.

Throughout the film, cameos by Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Chris Cornell (Soundgarden), and others grace the audience. Hell, even Tim Burton makes an appearance in the movie. It screams 1990s at the top of its lungs, and I guess that’s part of the reason I love it so much. Yet it fails to hold a cult classic status.

Like all movies that I enjoy from the 90s, Singles focuses heavily on twentysomethings having a difficult time being adults, managing relationships, chasing dreams, and falling in love. Specifically falling in love with the right person. Or becoming the right person for the right person.

It took me a few Sundays to watch the movie and to learn its name. You can watch it once or twice and forget about it. But the beauty of this movie is that one day, maybe ten years after you’ve seen it, you’re busy and work and you remember a line or a gag or an entire scene. It doesn’t have to be your favorite movie; it just wants you to get to know it again.

Also see: Reality Bites & High Fidelity

Film 365

200 Cigarettes (1999)

  • Title: 200 Cigarettes
  • Rated: R for strong language and sexual content.
  • Year: 1999
  • Starring: Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, Dave Chappelle, Guillermo Diaz, Angela Featherstone, Janeane Garofalo, Gaby Hoffmann, Kate Hudson, Courtney Love, Jay Mohr, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, and Paul Rudd.
  • Studio/Production: Paramount, MTV, Lakeshore.
  • Synopsis: A collection of twentysomethings try to cope with relationships, loneliness, desire and their individual neuroses. (source)
  • Ratings: 5.9/10 (IMDb)

I fell in love with this movie when Comedy Central played it ad nauseam one New Year’s Eve. And every year since then, I depended on the channel to catch a showing. That is before I decided to buy myself a copy. Like A Christmas Story marathon, I await all year to pop this movie into my player and watch the shit out of it. (No, I don’t marathon the film, though I have watched it twice today.)

200 Cigarettes has everything you’d expected from a holiday romantic comedy. The pent up feelings between two friends, falling in love with the wrong guy, finding love between strangers, an ensemble cast of famous faces, and the unexpected advice guru. Yet it plays in away that avoids becoming such trite, which was the problem for films like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day.

Released in 1999, an age before the term millennial was on the tips of tongues everywhere, the film transcends the test of time. Every character would fit in today’s cinematic storytelling world with a few tweaks to the costume design (the movie does take place in the early 80s). While the problems faced in the film are less than important (the old question of who are you kissing at midnight?), but aren’t all mild problems elaborated during our teens and 20s? But it reminds me to relax. Even when things seem dire, seem overbearing, and the neurosis of being alone sinks in—relax and learn to have a good time. And sometimes you need a yearly reminder of that lesson.