Let’s Talk About The Rise of Skywalker

Let’s Talk About is more or less a transcript of a conversation that Kevin and I have about particular movies. While it is not an actual transcript, since we have long since moved past talking on the phone, think of it as a giant text message thread between two friends. Also, these posts often contain SPOILERS, so don’t continue unless you’ve seen the movie in question or just don’t care about having things ruined for you. You’ve been warned.

Jesse: So Kevin, let me set the scene for you: we were both fans of The Last Jedi, wanted to see how Disney built off of the plot threads in that movie and in our own ways were each anticipating the release of The Rise of Skywalker. We saw it at different times (because life is like that) and were not able to discuss our thoughts with each other until very recently. Finally, we shared our opinions and I believe the consensus was… disappointment. Crushing disappointment.

Am I off the mark there or does that sum it up pretty well?

Kevin: That sums it up pretty well and for all the disappointment I felt I can’t imagine how bad it was for you. Personally I’m a guy who likes Star Warsas in, I have watched every movie at least once but could never do a complete rewatch, I’ve dabbled in Star Wars video games a couple of times, and I also beat you and your fiancée at a Star Wars board game one time.

But for you, you’re a BIG Star Wars guy. So big you know all the intricacies of the convoluted Clone Wars TV show that I will never understand even with you breaking it down to me over and over (somehow Samurai Jack is involved? I don’t know).

My crushing disappointment stems from story telling and how poorly J.J. Abrams executed the end of the saga from a character point-of-view. But for you this is another crushing disappointment in a fandom that you’ve been a part of since before you could pronounce ‘midi-chlorian’.

So please walk me through your initial reaction to The Rise of the Skywalker, were you incensed? Did you let the hate flow through you? Did you choke someone with the force?!

Jesse: I attempted a force choke but ultimately just wound up choking on my Sour Patch Kids. Instant karma for trying to use the dark side.

After we saw the movie, I was walking back to the parking lot with my fiance and her friend, and we were discussing all of the ways that the story and script could have been improved. It was disheartening to me how easily we were coming up with ideas that sounded a lot better than what we wound up getting. And you know what, that happens with Star Wars sometimes. For all of the joy and awe that it brings to our lives, every once in awhile we get a big old steaming turd. That’s just the way it is.

But that doesn’t change the fact that I remain perplexed how poorly Disney planned out this trilogy from start to finish. Can you give me any insight as to what the hell they were thinking?

Kevin: I’ve worked on a myriad of group projects in college and now in my career and they all have one thing in common: they end in disaster. At this point I’m shocked any group of people can come together to create something as simple as a 30 second commercial, let alone an entire space opera.

However, the biggest difference between my work projects and this little Star Wars thing? Billion of dollars. Disney invested heavily in the Star Wars franchise. It’s literally a pillar of their new streaming service, a key attraction to their amusement parks and integral in keeping the attention of the next generation of kids.

That’s the most perplexing part. It reminds me of the disappointment of the Game of Thrones finale (which I never saw). I don’t understand how something so important could be completely mishandled when you have creative geniuses, all of the money in the world and a huge library of source material at your disposal! Maybe there was too much of it all. Too much money, too many hands in the cookie jar, too much pressure.

I imagine it’s like landing the Millennium Falcon: it looks easy but if there’s too many people yelling at Han or he’s trying to land on a ledge on Mustafar (had to look that up, the volcanic planet that Obi-Wan and Anakin fought on), then it becomes a lot harder!

I can’t explain it but to me the biggest error was not locking in the same creative mind to oversee this new trilogy. Maybe over the years we will get some insight into why the directors changed from Abrams to Rian Johnson and back to Abrahms. Or why there isn’t a Kevin Feige-MCU role that ensures the universe is consistent and of high quality.

Until then, please divulge your main points of contention with the ending of the Skywalker saga. You alluded to issues with the story and the script but what specifically ruined the movie for you?

Jesse: The funny part is that despite all of my disagreements with where the narrative was heading, I was willing to see it through to the endAs someone who loved The Last Jedi, I recognize that there are a lot of Star Wars fans who felt let down by that movie (to put it mildly). Maybe the shoe was on the other foot this time and I was one of the detractors of something that a lot of other people really enjoyed. Just because my opinion is different doesn’t mean the film was without merit.

But then we got to that ending and everything completely unraveled. Palpetine was strong enough to disable an ENTIRE FLEET of capital ships, but couldn’t stop Rey from killing him after she got a “pep talk” from a bunch of dead Jedi. Ben Solo apparently lost the ability to speak when he turned back to the light side of the Force, leaving Adam Driver very little to work with when trying to convey that arc (which I thought he did admirably given the circumstances). And then after Palpetine was defeated (again, rather easily), The Rise of Skywalker decided to try its hand at a Romeo & Juliet type ending in the most cringeworthy way possible.

Here’s the thing: if you’re going to have Ben save Rey so they can finally be happy together and that’s where you wanted to go all along, then you need to own how cheesy that is and just freaking go for it. But when they had Ben die seconds later (because I guess the strain of reviving a fellow force user was too much?), I rolled my eyes at how stupid that was. My fiance busted out laughing. We couldn’t believe how sharply the film veered away from its desired course just because it wanted to throw a curveball, or show that there were consequences for everything that had happened up until that point. The same movie that made it perfectly clear it was disregarding the majority of the repercussions set up by The Last Jedi.

J.J. Abrams is a good director, Kevin. He’s been the mastermind behind a lot of quality material. I just can’t figure out why he was willing to sign off on any of this. Should we even cover the last couple scenes of the movie? Or shall we spare ourselves the pain?

Kevin: We can’t not cover the last couple of scenes. But we also can’t fully cover them because, frankly, a LOT of it doesn’t make any damn sense. Just trying to dissect the plot holes and decisions is a fool’s errand.

Alas we are fools so let’s try anyway. You broke down a lot of the questions around Emperor Palpatine, that he dispensed the fleet with ease but couldn’t stop Rey. But you didn’t even address the fact that, ya know, Palpatine was supposed to be dead and is suddenly back. The movie addresses that he is back from the dead in the opening scrawl but fails to mention how exactly and that he is, in fact, a clone (?!). We had to find out that vital information months afterwards in a novel.

In addition, Palpatine’s plan doesn’t make a lick of sense. He needs Rey to kill him in anger so he can transfer his spirit to her since his body is failing, but she refuses because, you know, he’s evil and she doesn’t want to be used for evil. She continues to refuse until he threatens to kill her friends. So now she has to choose between saving her friends by killing the evil dude, but won’t that only prove that she is evil and allow him to take control of her? How rigid is this clause of “kill your grandpa and his spirit will be passed on to you?” Does it have to be “murder out of anger only”? Does it not count because she is doing it for the love of her friends? Even if that is true there would definitely be anger involved because that’s how emotions work! She loves her friends AND is angry that her grandpa clone is trying to kill them. There isn’t one primary emotion that drives all choices, people are far more complex. So if she murders him to save her friends and his spirit does transfer then won’t his spirit in her body kill her friends anyway? And it would be all her fault because…she killed the bad dude? What in the fuck?

And then that plan fails (obviously) but now, suddenly, Palpatine CAN kill Rey and Ben and use his own withering body to become all powerful? And then Rey ends up killing Palpatine but sacrificing herself only to be saved by Ben. So…where does the Emperor’s evil spirit go? Did it dissolve into sand? Is that why Anakin hates sand?

Man this Sith inheritance thing is confusing as fuck. I’d need the galaxy’s greatest law firm to figure out his last will and testament.

Okay I’m sorry, I got a little lost in my ramblings there, but you see my point. They wanted to bring back the biggest bad guy in the galaxy but didn’t tell you how and didn’t make his plan succinct enough to understand. And on top of that they decide to completely disregard The Last Jedi and all of the character development for the strongest character of this trilogy in Rey.

As you know, in the prior film, Rey discovered that her ancestry wasn’t important. She came from nobody and it didn’t matter. Now all of a sudden we are thrown for a loop when Rey finds out not only is her bloodline “royal” but the clone of her grandfather is demanding she sacrifice her life for it. How in the world can you throw in such a dramatic twist and expect the audience to fear that Rey might give in to her dark side?

And that’s still not the worst part. The worst part, and absolutely the worst thing Star Wars has ever done (that includes Jar Jar Binks!) was the very last word of the last scene.

You know what I’m talking about Jesse and I feel like I’ve droned on and on. Why don’t you take over and describe the “Skywalker” scene and let me know if I’m crazy for loathing it more than Anakin hates evil emperor spirit sand.

Jesse: The most befuddling part about Palpatine’s return is that he announces it to the entire galaxy, via some sort of holographic voicemail. Why would you reveal that you’re not dead if your goal is absolute power and you could quickly seize it from an unsuspecting Resistance? I swear that man is his own worst enemy.

In short, you’re not crazy, Kevin. You can loathe that “Skywalker” scene all you want and I may even join you for a minute. First off, like most other plotlines in this movie, it doesn’t even make sense. Even if you consider that Rey considers the Skywalkers to be her family or that she was in love with Ben (which feels kind of like a stretch), she never married Ben. His last name isn’t even Skywalker, it’s Solo for heavens sake! She just took that name for herself and received approving looks from Luke and Leia’s force ghosts, so it must be all good. But what really bothers me about her taking that name is that it tells the audience that you don’t matter in the Star Wars universe unless you are a Skywalker, and it’s the only way that Rey could find meaning in her life. That’s right, forget making a name for yourself (and staying, “Just Rey”) and definitely don’t even think about trying to redeem the Palpatine legacy (you know, her ACTUAL family).

You know this movie didn’t sit well with us when we both go on rants about it. Overall, the problem with the last scene, and really the main issue with this entire movie, is that it didn’t really feel like a culmination of any of the arcs or story threads that had been set up in this trilogy. Instead, it came off as one giant apology from Disney to all of the fans who hated the first two films. Pissed that Snoke turned out to be a red herring? Hey, here’s Palpatine, who basically was Snoke all along! Didn’t like Luke Skywalker taking a unique stance on the Jedi’s place in the galaxy? Don’t worry, he was just kidding around and wants to apologize for offending your idea of who you think he should be. Not getting your Ewok fix from this new trilogy? Fear not, they’re making cameos before the credits roll in this one. The heroes will even celebrate in a forest at the end!

So instead of just rolling with the punches and trying to let this story follow its own natural trajectory, Abrams and Disney gave us a very mediocre and watered down version of Return of the Jedi. Mark Hamill did an interview when this movie came out and they asked him if this was going to be his last Star Wars movie. He bluntly replied, “I hope so.” To be honest Kevin, I agree with him. I don’t want to see another movie about these damn Skywalkers.

Am I being too harsh? Am I calling it like it is? And how likely am I to change my tune if they were to announce a new Skywalker trilogy tomorrow?

Kevin: I can’t speak for you but I know I would roll my eyes if they announced a new Skywalker trilogy. At this point I’m completely sour on the franchise as a whole. I still haven’t watched The Mandalorian, despite all accounts that it is great, because I’m so apathetic towards the universe now. I have no desire to go back and do a rewatch. I don’t even want to beat you in that board game again.

Of course I have said similar statements about the MCU recently so maybe I’m just looking for something fresh. Or for something that respects it’s characters and isn’t just a mindless cash grab. Lately I’ve focused my attention towards smaller or forgotten films and have found some gems like BuffaloedThe Master, and Midsommar. And maybe that is better than vocalizing my complaints about a 40 year old franchise. Maybe I should be lifting up other films that will only get a fraction of the attention but deserve it all.

What say you Jesse? What does your Star Wars fan future look like?

Jesse: I will always love Star Wars. Like a junkie who always goes back to what hooks him even after he’s cleaned himself up, eventually I make my way back to a galaxy far, far away. But I agree with you 100 percent that it is in desperate need of something fresh. It possesses such a rich and vast anthology of worlds, characters and stories that it seems criminal, if not outright lazy, to just keep going back to the well of what’s worked before. One reason I enjoyed The Mandalorian so much is that it tapped into that depth and showed us how much potential Star Wars has to continue capturing our imaginations.

And I truly hope Disney learns its lesson and doesn’t repeat past mistakes. I just wouldn’t put it past them to wait 20 years or so and then do ANOTHER trilogy about the Skywalker legacy. Will I watch it? Probably, but at a certain point you have to wonder how much Disney truly cares about Star Wars beyond the spectacle that it provides. It is a license to print money and always will be, and I just don’t know how hard they’ll actually try in the future when they already have those box office dollars in the bag.

As a fan, I guess the best you can do is vote with your wallet. Don’t automatically shell out cash for anything with the Star Wars brand on it. Maybe follow Kevin’s lead and focus on smaller films that badly need your money. Films like Sorry to Bother You (which, holy crap, is going to get some more coverage from me here in the near future).

Just remember, Kevin, the Force will be with you… always. Because I’m getting a rematch with you in that darn board game.

Star Wars: The Good, the Bad and the Kevin

Happy New Year everyone! My apologies for not producing more content recently. I don’t want to call it a New Years Resolution, but let’s see if I can’t crank out some more stuff for you guys this month, alright? Let’s begin by ranking the movies in a franchise that I’m sure all fans would agree with and that will cause no divided opinions whatsoever: Star Wars!

I recently rewatched every tale from a galaxy far, far away in order to prepare for The Rise of Skywalker. Most of it was fun, parts of it were excruciating and it was an important reminder that sometimes when it comes to the things you love, you have to take the good with the bad. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to do a post where I rank each film, talk about what I both liked and didn’t like for each one and then have Kevin chime in with some of his thoughts. I’m still sorting out how I feel about the conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, so we won’t get into that here. Maybe a future Let’s Talk About post, eh Kevin?

Without further adieu, here are my rankings. Should probably mention we’ll be getting into spoilers, but some of these movies are near or over 20 years old. What are you waiting for?

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Are ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘Panic Room’ the Same Movie?

Jesse: So Kevin, I have one question for you before we start… why would anyone want to break in to Jodie Foster or Stephen Lang’s house?

Kevin: Depends on who you’re asking. If you’re asking Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, it’s to “save” an underage girl from her pimp. But if you’re asking Jared Leto in Panic Room, it’s for the dollar dollar bills. Or I guess I should say the old paper stocks that are worth millions of dollar dollar bills.

I will say as I rewatched Panic Room, for this specific blog idea of yours, I had fun toying with the idea that Panic Room is a secret sequel to Taxi Driver and it picks up with Jodie Foster’s character as a mother trying to protect her daughter. It almost works actually! Both movies are set in New York, both movies have men acting selfishly, and both have lots of blood. And it actually makes you appreciate Foster’s desire to keep her daughter safe even more, she’s trying to build her a better life than she had but men keep bursting in to screw everything up. If only De Niro came in for a cameo, he could have dropped her off in a taxi! I feel like this should be canon, can this be canon Jesse?

I apologize, this is quickly going from, ‘are Don’t Breathe and Panic Room the same movie’ to ‘is Panic Room a sequel to Taxi Driver?’ Don’t even get me started about my theory that Don’t Breathe could have been the second sequel in this trilogy had it been set in the 80’s/90’s!

Jesse: You just opened Pandora’s box about unrelated movies that are actually part of the same franchise. That might have to be a new series of ours. Stay tuned…

But for the sake of this concept, here are three elements of Panic Room and Don’t Breathe that I believe make them virtually indistinguishable from each other:

  1. Three robbers attempt to break into home in pursuit of those dolla dolla bills
  2. They believe the job will be effortless, but the owner proves to be more than a match for the intruders
  3. The thieves spend as much time in peril as the owner

Now while the two films differ in other ways, to me these three are fairly ironclad. You with me Kevin or do you think I’m way off the mark here?

Kevin: As someone who just signed a lease for a New York apartment, I actually think Panic Room serves as an allegory for the tough New York real estate market. Or really it’s about the existential crisis one has when they get a mortgage and settle down in an unsettling house. Really we could compare this film to, like, Amityville Horror.

Fine, I’m just being a brat. The films do have those generic things in common. But I’m fairly certain we could apply that filter to a number of films. Case in point, Home Alone:

  1. Two robbers instead of three. Fine, a minor difference.
  2. The robbers think the house is abandoned but find a wee young lad who they believe is no threat.
  3. The thieves spend more time in peril than the kid.

This reminds me of when you tried to create structured rules for what makes a Christmas movie and, somehow, Die Hard did not count. So should I expect a ‘What Makes a Break-In Movie’ this year?

Jesse: Only if we don’t already answer that question here. Home Alone is definitely a Christmas movie, by the way. Being a brat is kind of fun.

So I think what you’re trying to tell me is that I’m not looking deeply enough for similarities and am just lazily skimming the bare surface to try and prove my point. Or something like that. Maybe we should look at what they don’t have in common?

Kevin: Hmm okay let me skim through my notes…

Panic Room had floating title cards that looked like it came out of an early 2000’s superhero movie. It had the largest CGI budget for dust and feathers probably in the history of film (seriously the detail on the dust was unsettling). And it might be the only film in existence that drags AFTER Jared Leto dies.

Okay and Don’t Breathe opened with an old dude dragging the lifeless, bloody body of a girl down the street, a little different than a 2000’s superhero movie. No CGI of any dust particles that I can recall. And it got better after the character, who Jared Leto would have played, died. That dude sucked, he literally peed on the floor.

In all seriousness I think the biggest differences between the films is the genre. I see Panic Room as a strict thriller that plays with the themes of change and protecting our children while Don’t Breathe is much closer to horror with it’s tropes of an unkillable killer and young heroic survivor and speaks to themes closer related to poverty and breaking out of the life path you are given.

Plus Don’t Breathe did that thing where they set themselves up for a sequel explicitly, which I think reeks of desperation. Can you imagine if Panic Room ended on a shot of a seemingly innocuous bookshelf that swings open to reveal a new panic room and then panned out to a frightened Jodie Foster who proclaims, “not this shit again” while Kristen Stewart cocked a shotgun? Then we would be talking about how these two movies really are the same.

What do you think? Did I miss-genre the two movies?

Jesse: Yeah, that probably wouldn’t have played as well at the end of Panic Room. I also think you’re on to something with the CGI effects, which have aged poorly in my opinion.

But no, you didn’t miss-genre them. If anything you right-genred them and emphatically answered, “No!” to the question, “Are they the same movie?” It may also be the least amount of time it took you to prove me wrong. Simply put, these films can’t be the same if they aren’t in the same genre and if they hit on different themes. To your point, Panic Room gets virtually all of its tension and suspense from the situation itself. Don’t Breathe throws in a lot of jump scares and seems determined to build up Stephen Lang as the next unstoppable horror movie monster. It’s a different approach to similar premises, although I would argue that Panic Room remains the better crafted and tightly paced film.

Did I throw in the towel too quickly here, Kevin? Or do you have further evidence to back up your points?

Kevin: I will admit I knew I would win this round, however I did expect you to put up a greater fight. I feel like I’m Jared Leto in Panic Room and the guy who reminded me of Jared Leto in Don’t Breathe. I’m aggressively trying to fight you on this and you’re like Forest Whitaker in Panic Room, “alright this was a bad idea, can we just leave?” In either scenario I end up dead but at least I was right!

I have to admit, even though your thesis was proven wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching Panic Room (not so much with Don’t Breathe). I wrote about two pages of notes with quips and observations. Let me leave you with my favorite and then you can wrap this up as you wish (hopefully you wrap it up but leave for the possibility of a sequel because I enjoy winning arguments). Anyway, here is the best joke that I couldn’t work into this article:

Kristen Stewart learned Morse Code from Titanic? Too bad she didn’t learn to jump off a sinking ship!

Yes, that was a jab at Twilight, and yes it was seven years too late.

Jesse: The joke’s on you, because I never saw Twilight, so that went completely over my head. Also, if you really are Jared Leto in this scenario, don’t do a flip when you get shot in the head and killed. It’ll just make you look silly.

Let’s Talk About, Going to the Movies

Kevin: Jesse, a good chunk of our friendship has revolved around hanging out at places that serve to be distractions, that is, entertaining distractions. We probably didn’t speak a word to each other, outside of hushed voices, in person from the years 2008-2013 because we would only hang out at the movie theater. Sometimes I wonder if we were forced to speak with each other away from a dark, quiet room if we would straight-up hate each other and not get along.

Okay, probably not, our friendship has survived my move to the east coast so I imagine if we truly hated each other, we wouldn’t text every day. Nevertheless going to the movies with friends is a rite of passage for us American folk. Typically the cinema is one of the first places preteens and teens gather to socialize away from their parents. It’s where first dates happen and birthday parties are held where inside jokes and memories are formed.

Just off the top of my head I have numerous significant memories at the theaters. I remember my father taking me to The Phantom Menace hoping I would get the Star Wars bug (I did). I remember begging my parents to let me invite two of my friends to see Kung Pow: Enter the Fist for my 12th birthday (you’re welcome Eric Brown and Jeffrey Whatever-your-last-name-was). I remember sneaking into The Hangover with my eventual wife because we were waiting for Up to start next door, and I remember regretting leaving the former for the latter. I remember watching the first Avengers with you and a handful of our friends, blown away at the culmination of five years worth of movies (ha, so naive).

Since my movie theater experience growing up was always a social activity, I saw my theater attendance drop as I graduated college and moved away from my family and friends. But now, as I approach my thirties, I have found myself in a movie theater renaissance. I have discovered the magic of going to a movie theater alone where I can take up extra room, not worry about if my friends are enjoying the experience and I can arrive whenever I want. In the past year I’ve experimented with Moviepass, which allowed me to see a few gems but mostly just stole my money and I’ve memorized the discounted days at different chains. Overall I’ve paid, probably, way too much money to sit in a dark room with a giant screen for movies I loved, movies I hated and movies that made me say, “what the fuck?”.

It’s been a great ride for me, I’ve rediscovered the benefits of a theater, mostly that it allows me to actually focus on the movie instead of get distracted by my phone or the dishes that need to be done.

I bring all this up because you recently wrote about how you paid roughly $200 (might be an exaggeration) to stream a movie instead of support your local theater. What do you have to say for yourself? And how would you explain yourself to 22-year-old Jesse?

Jesse: The funny thing is that streaming instead of supporting became a trend when I was around the age of 22. I’d probably just tell myself, “Hey man, that new thing you discovered? It ain’t going away anytime soon… also, you’ll meet the love of your life in about five years, so you can save all that money you were going to spend on other girls.”

Fair or not, I partially blame you for the decline of my theater attendance. None of our friends in Denver go to the movies anymore, save for our buddy Michael McManus, who is free once every two months (you have a good reason, Michael, I’m just making a point). If you hadn’t moved to the other side of the country, I’d undoubtedly be going more often. But it’s not all your fault Kevin. The truth is I’m reluctant to fork over the money for anything other than a Marvel or Star Wars movie. Does that make me cheap? Am I lazy for not taking a page out of your book and seeking out the discount theaters? Probably a little of both.

So go ahead man. Tell me how crazy I am to co-manage a film blog with you and not watch more movies the way they were meant to be seen.

Kevin: In your defense you do spend the majority of your budget on purchasing things called ‘DVDs’. Which I guess is some sort of physical disc that you can use to magically watch movies? So you get a pass.

You also get a pass because it is actually kind of ridiculous to go to a movie theater these days. It’s expensive unless you do your diligence and aim for discounts. For the price of one movie you can subscribe to Netflix or Hulu or Disney Takes Over the World (I think that’s the name of their new service right?) or any of the seemingly endless streaming options. Plus when you get to the movies they gouge you for a bucket of butter (with some popcorn thrown in). And on top of that they make you sit through OVER 20 minutes of previews. I get annoyed at a five second ad before a YouTube video, how do I handle 20 minutes of ads for movies I probably have little desire to see?

Besides that, I live in NYC now which means everyone claps at the end of every movie. Apparently that’s a thing here. I’ve been to five or six movies of all different genre types and the only similarity they shared was people clapping at the end. This confounds me Jesse, confounds! I’ve never seen you clap at the end of a movie so you’re with me on this right?

Jesse: I’m totally with you. It’s one of those weird things that people do because they want to acknowledge how they’re feeling, even though the actors and filmmakers aren’t there to hear them. You see a similar reaction from sports fans who yell at their team as they watch the game on TV. Of course, I am guilty of the latter, so what do I know? I would assume that New Yorkers always clap because as with all things, they are a little more vocal about expressing their opinions.

And maybe that’s part of the appeal of going to the theater. You visit or move to a new city and want to take in something familiar, but view it in a different light. If a crowd is respectful, they can elevate and alter the movie going experience in a way that can’t be replicated at home.

So what say you Kevin? Have the New York theaters given you a new experience, or do you just wish they would stop applauding?

Kevin: First of all, clapping at the TV for a sports game is something different, there’s randomness involved in the live spectacle for a non-scripted sports event (sorry WWE), anything can happen and the story is literally unfolding before you so it makes sense to get caught up in the spectacle. But with movies everything is scripted so I don’t feel the need to cheer because every moment is intentional and planned out. Even if the filmmakers plan it out so you do cheer just feels inorganic.

The same can be said at a play or musical but those performances are live and the actors can actually hear you and bask in the adoration. Brad Pitt can’t hear you when you cheer him on as he (removed for spoilers because Jesse still hasn’t seen Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) or when he (again removed for spoilers because Jesse hates the theater experience now).

But to me there is something special about going to the theater no matter where I’m at. For you the something special experience is still buying physical copies. Neither of us can explain it but it’s probably due to a combination of nostalgia and other strange psychological factors (our mutual friend Michael likens my enjoyment of the theater to the theory that we secretly desire to be back in our mother’s womb, Michael is a weird dude).

The New York theaters have only validated by enjoyment. I’ve gone to a movie here because the humidity in July was too much to handle and I needed to be in a cool room for a couple of hours. I’ve gone to escape the endless crowds only to learn that the same endless crowds end up filling entire theaters for nearly every showing. I’ve made new friends and we met up for a movie. I’ve made small talk with other movie goers who enjoy going alone. I’ve heard clapping, screams, and laughter. I even witnessed someone stand up and tell a person they’re an asshole for eating their popcorn too loudly.

The New York theater experience is just like the rest of New York, it’s typically loud, dirty, and crowded and it often ends with a great story to tell later. But as unique as it is I find myself coming back not because it’s new but because it’s familiar. And it offers what every theater in my life has offered, an escape from the outside world and into one full of endless possibilities.

Let’s Talk About Avengers: Endgame

(Update: As of May 29, 2019, Endgame is the second highest grossing film of all-time worldwide. You’ve got some ground to make up there, DC)

We’re back again with another entry in our “Let’s Talk About” series. It feels like we’ve done more of these for Marvel movies than anything else. I’m not sure if that’s true or not (Kevin will rake me over the coals for not double-checking), but it probably has something to do with the fact that we started this blog in 2013. The Avengers was almost a year old at that point and the MCU had grown into a juggernaut that owned the box office and earned all the praise from critics. Even Thor: The Dark World did well later that year, scoring the largest opening weekend in November ever for a Disney movie (that I did look up).

If that piece of crap could do so well, the writing was on the wall that there was no stopping the MCU. To be fair, I own that piece of crap and that’s just another sign of how Marvel has us by the balls: I buy all of their movies, even if I don’t like them that much.

Kevin and I have certainly been fans this whole time and that’s why it seemed fitting that he just happened to be in Denver so that we could see Avengers: Endgame together. Marvel’s behemoth of a finale for its Infinity Saga promised to be epic. It promised to resolve years worth of storylines. But did it live up to the ridiculous level of hype surrounding it?

Now that everyone on the planet has checked this movie out, I think we are safe to dive into some spoilers and nitpick the shit out of this thing. Well, not really. We’re nicer than that and have compliments to give out too, but I promise you that nits will be picked.

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

 

Kevin: Alright Jesse, I conned you into another ‘Let’s Talk About’ blog. Honestly I only do these to get out of my responsibility of writing a review by myself. How does it feel to be Tom Sawyer’ed?

Jesse: That would imply that you tricked me into doing something unpleasant or laborious. Unless this is actually a chat about Spider-Man 3, I’m really excited to be here!

Wait, is this a chat about Spider-Man 3?

Kevin: It’s not. Unless you want to pretend we live in an alternate Spider-Verse where Spider-Man 3 was actually, you know, good. Alas, we do not, we live in the Spider-Verse that is constantly chasing the high of Spider-Man 2 and has so far given us an unnecessary reboot attempt to start a new cinematic universe, a successful attempt to work a rebooted Spider-Man into an existing cinematic universe, and a confusing attempt to start a new cinematic universe with Spider-Man’s greatest foe but without Spider-Man.

It’s been an awkward decade to be a Spider-Man fan to say the least. But being awkward is part of the charm of Spider-Man so I guess it fits. The good news is all of this awkwardness paid off and we finally got the Spider-Man, er Spider-Men…actually Spider-People…wait, Spider-Mammals that we deserve!

And listen, I know rankings are pointless and biased and overdone, so I won’t rank where Into the Spider-Verse falls in the franchise, I will just say this was simply the most fun I have EVER had with a Spider-Man movie. Is that a fair statement?

Jesse: Of course. This was a visual feast of a comic book movie, enhanced by an animation style that I don’t recall seeing before and a vibrant color palette that takes full advantage of the big screen. Throw in a banging soundtrack, a diverse and delightful voice cast and a refreshing origin story, and this was definitely the most fun that I had at a Spider-Man movie since Sam Raimi’s beloved second installment.

Most fun ever? My nostalgia for Spider-Man 2 fights me on that but how great is it that we even get to have that conversation? It only took 14 years.

From a pure enjoyment standpoint, what are some of the things about Into the Spider-Verse that give it the edge for you?

Kevin: The most fun part for me was the seemingly limitless potential of the Spider-Verse. As someone who went into the movie with limited knowledge of the pre-existing Spider-Verse, it was a ball to be thrown into so many wild and random alternate worlds. It opened up my imagination in a way that I haven’t felt since I was a kid who spent my free time drawing made-up versions of Yoshi (I’m positive I drew a Spider-Yoshi at some point).

On top of that, in addition to the visual feast you mentioned, the web slinging and battle scenes were off the charts. After years and years of the superhero movies hitting similar beats in their big action pieces, Into the Spider-Verse was a dose of fresh air. Especially the climatic battle at the end which was visually stunning and a hell of a lot of fun.

On top of that, the self-referential humor was top notch and not overly done. The entire ride from start-to-finish was a blast that you instantly want to re-watch.

I have to say my absolute favorite aspect of this movie might be the diversity it opened up to the superhero world. As someone who campaigned for Donald Glover to pick up the Spidey suit years ago, I am thrilled to see Marvel bring Miles Morales to the screen.

My question to you, seeing that this movie opened up our imaginations and paved the path for some much needed diversity, is where do you see this alternate universe thing going? Or more importantly, where do you want to see it go? Do you want a straight sequel that picks up where we left Miles? Do you want a spinoff battle royale between Spider-Ham and the Homer Simpson’s Spider-Pig? Or do you want Nicholas Cage to voice a trilogy of Spider-Man Noir?

Jesse: Oh I’m fully confident Sony will cash in on every opportunity to make more movies in this franchise. You can have more sequels with Miles, and you can have oddball spin-offs with Nicholas Cage or a showdown of Spider-Ham versus Spider-Pig. The LEGO movies milk the shit out of this formula.

With Tom Holland still portraying the live-action Spidey over in the MCU, and those movies likely making more money than any featuring yet another Spider-Man reboot at Sony would, my hunch is that Sony will want to keep it that way. In turn, I would expect they’ll do everything they can to build a franchise in the Spider-Verse.

So my answer to your question is basically “All of the Above.” Knowing how badly they’ve messed up this type of thing before, would you be worried at all about that happening again here?

Kevin: The only reason to not worry is because of how self-aware Into the Spider-Verse was. They poked fun at many of the mistakes the past Spider-Man movies have made form the endless reboots to emo dancing.

Still, movie franchises usually lose steam, they change writers, or directors. Or if they manage to keep the creative minds behind something so fresh, the freshness eventually wears off, or the creative people get lazy or run out of ideas.

However, these days Marvel’s image is so micromanaged that there isn’t much wiggle room to screw things up (Venom notwithstanding). I think the real question is, what will get old sooner, the endless Spider-Man franchise or the endless superhero movie genre?

Personally I foresee some great superhero fatigue following the release of Avengers: Endgame this year. And unfortunately the Into the Spider-Verse universe could be the victim of an apathetic audience.

Who am I kidding, I bet Disney is already lining up two sequels and three TV seasons straight-to-their-new-streaming-program. I bet we will drown in Spider-Mammals until no one can hear our muffled objections.

I digress, I loved this movie and it has given me hope that there is still juice to squeeze in the superhero genre. And this juice happens to be animated, fun, and all about Spider-Man so I couldn’t be more thrilled.

Now that you’ve soaked the movie in fully, what is your final ranking of all Spider-Man movies? Where does it fall in all of the superhero movies?

Jesse: Oh sure, you said it was pointless to rank these movies earlier, but now that’s up to me? I see how it is.

I won’t count Civil War or Infinity War, because Spidey was just a character included in a much larger scope, but everything else is fair game. Let’s get the garbage out of the way first:

7. Spider-Man 3

It’s fair to argue whether or not this is truly the worst of the bunch, but Spidey 3 was unquestionably the most disappointing movie-going experience of my life. Never before or since have I left a theater more bewildered, confused and desperately hoping for the flashy thingy from Men in Black so that I could forget everything.

6. The Amazing Spider-Man

5. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Behold this joke of a reboot featuring the “untold story” of Peter Parker’s origin, which is more or less the same story we already knew, just more convoluted and angsty. Because that’s what every movie in the early 2010’s needed right? More teenage angst!

I will say the second one makes me want to gouge my eyes out a little less, mainly because Andrew Garfield hinted that he could do the character more justice than the hopeless script and clueless studio allowed him to. But alas, it was not to be.

4. Spider-Man: Homecoming

Homecoming is the rice cooker of Spidey movies: does what it’s supposed to do and you can’t complain about the result, but it’s a little bland and definitely leaves you wanting more. Michael Keaton’s villainous turn as yet another costumed bird-man is the best reason for revisiting this one.

3. Spider-Man

Ah, the wonders of letting a campy director like Sam Raimi get his hands on a superhero movie and then leaving him to his own devices. This isn’t usually a style that’s allowed within this genre anymore, and that’s made the first Spidey flick of this millennium stand out more and more as time has gone on.

1B. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

1A: Spider-Man 2

I mentioned earlier that I can’t pick between these two. Having not seen either since my first viewing of Into the Spider-Verse, I don’t think it’s fair for me to try now, but I believe that either one would be worthy of the coveted no. 1 slot.

So what say you Kevin? Are you shaking your head at my logic or disappointed that I didn’t include Venom or the hilariously bad Spidey movie from when we were little kids? And any other final thoughts?

Kevin: I think you nailed it Jesse. However I might start claiming Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie of all time just so we can fight about it.

No final thoughts from me, I look forward to revisiting this topic after we see Avengers: Into the Avenger-verse in 2022.

Pegboards’ Sixth Annual NFL Mock Draft

Hello and welcome to Pegboards’ Sixth Annual NFL Mock Draft where the rules are made up and the picks don’t matter because we will be wrong 95% of the time.

Just like last year, we have pulled our “friends” Eric and Ryan into the mix to help us throw darts at the mock draft dart board. Why would we do this again, you ask? Is it because our friends added some much needed expertise and accurate predictions last year? Hahaha, no, of course not, it’s mostly because we are lazy (which you can tell by our never-ending lack of updates).

So here’s how it’s going to go, the draft order begins with myself, Kevin, and then it goes Ryan, Jesse and Eric. We were allowed to make trades and, spoiler alert, one of us actually did! Jesse and I will be providing most of the commentary for each pick. We will most likely use our pick’s commentary to praise ourselves and use their pick’s taking some deep shots at their character, intelligence, and overall self-esteem. So just normal, healthy friend stuff.

Without further ado, the Browns of Cleveland are on the clock… again. Just like last year.

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