100 Movies Bucket List: 3 Idiots

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

Once upon a time I was traveling through Southeast Asia on a quest to find myself. Well actually I was on a quest to travel around Southeast Asia and I wasn’t thinking about much else but I was young and looking to connect with the world outside of the suburbs of Colorado.

During my travels my wife and I made a lot of new friends. Most were ex-pats (ex-patriots, AKA extended travelers from the USA), others were from Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and a few were from Southeast Asia. I wanted to connect with this region so obviously the few from Southeast Asia were my favorite (yes I pick favorites among my friends! Jesse is currently trending up so good for him.)

One such friend was from India. She told us stories of the wars her country had fought in, the struggles her family had endured to survive, and all of her favorite Bollywood movies. Yes we would often transition from the most haunting stories of war to her favorite Bollywood actor seamlessly. Travel friends are funny like that, you feel an instant connection and you have to pack your entire life story and personality into a constrained amount of time.

I remember her recommending 3 Idiots, a coming-of-age Bollywood film. At the time I wasn’t aware of how large of an impact this movie made in the film industry. Based on the name I assumed it was the Indian version of Dumb and Dumber except with three dummies instead of two.

I was very wrong. Unfortunately I didn’t pursue her recommendation, I put it on a list that has since been lost. Thankfully due to another friend (Jesse, you see why he’s moving up the rankings?) and his ‘100 Movies Bucket List’ project the recommendation was given another chance of life.

I’m profoundly grateful as 3 Idiots is an absolute delight. Despite being near three hours long the heart and fun never let up in this beautiful film. And as far as an introduction to Bollywood? Well let’s just say 3 Idiots piqued my interest in Indian film as Old Boy piqued my interest in Korean film. Albeit with far less blood and psychological fuckery.

3 Idiots is a typical coming-of-age story with a traditional collegiate setting that follows three young men as they attempt to survive the unrelenting pressure of a prestigious engineering school. And while the story hits all the usual beats it has a freshness to it thanks to the natural charisma from the wise-beyond-his-years lead in Rancho (played by Aamir Khan who plays a teenage character despite being in his 40’s during filming).

The film is also distinct because it has a secondary timeline, ten years in the future, that provides the audience with a natural fulfillment. Typically the joy behind a coming-of-age story is seeing a young protagonist grow into themselves and then by the end you are ready to let them go in to the world alone because you know they will thrive. It’s like being a parent to a fictional character. But in this film we actually get to see the people they become, in some instances, before we see their collegiate journey. Even better we see them in their grown state while they are on another journey in the present timeline which provides further growth! It’s a beautiful touch that teaches humans are constantly learning even outside of their formative years.

Perhaps that’s why the film resonated with me so much. I may not be Indian nor smart enough to be an engineer but the characters and the story still spoke to me. The two journeys the characters go on, with one journey explicitly shaping who they are in the other, is relatable no matter who you are, especially as you get older and more reflective and you realize how much of an impact your past has on your present and future.

Cheesy as it is the memory of a simple act, in this case a movie recommendation, by a travel friend from another country allowed my mind to jump back to the time my wife and I traversed the great region of Southeast Asia. And the recommendation coming back to me six years later allowed me to connect the dots of my own journey from a wandering 20-something in Bangkok to the present day 30-year-old living in Brooklyn. I discovered I have been in my own coming-of-age story this whole time and it reminded me there is always more to learn.

100 Movies Bucket List: Life of Brian

100 Movies Bucket List was a poster given to Jesse by his sister on Christmas 2019. We are committed to watching all of these movies and writing about them. We have no idea how long this will take. What even is time during the quarantine? And sometimes, these posts will include spoilers. Just a friendly warning from two friendly guys.

“Its been a rough year so far” will probably wind up being the most understated and repetitive statement of 2020. With all the uncertainty in the world and the negative impact that COVID-19 is having on all of our lives, it can be hard to keep your chin up and carry on through your normal day to day. Probably because none of this is normal and we all feel a bit powerless as we wait to see how the rest of the year is going to shape up.

Which brings me to Life of Brian. Our main character (shocking, but his name is Brian) finds himself in a variety of situations that are completely out of his control and mostly to his detriment. Just to name a few, he is mistaken as a messiah, taken on a ride in a spaceship with some aliens and ultimately finds himself condemned to die via crucifixion. Yes, there are aliens and messiahs and crucifixions all in the same movie and if that sounds absurd to you, it’s on purpose. Give the Monty Python boys their due: they don’t hold anything back and unapologetically stay true to their style of humor. Also, those set designs are on point.

Whether or not that appeals to you is going to go a long way in determining how you feel about Life of Brian, and if you agree that it should be on any 100 movie bucket list. And while it may be partially due to the times we live in, here’s one part that resonated with me:

Yes, that is Eric Idle breaking into song and convincing all his fellow doomed companions, Brian included, to always look on the bright side of life. “If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.” The sentiment is obvious, but it’s the execution and the people delivering it that makes it work so well. If Brian can sing and face death with a smile after the unfair hand that life dealt him, why can’t everyone else?

And for those who might object by saying, “Well, that worked then but there’s no way audiences would buy that these days,” here’s Idle performing the song again back in 2010.

Everyone in attendance sings along in unison to an absurd song from an absurd film about how absurd life really is, and that we can’t change that. But you can change your perspective and how you cope with it. I found that to be a refreshingly positive message. Life of Brian was streaming on Netflix as recently as the last few weeks, so if you’re sitting at home and feeling pretty down about the state of the world and all of your favorite events being cancelled, see if Monty Python can give you a little pick me up.

They certainly provided me with one.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Kevin: Why hello there friends, family, and enemies! How are your self-quarantine days going? Does each day feel like a month to anyone else?! Of course it does! We are all miserable together.

Here at Flimsy Film Critics we like to focus on the silver lining and while it’s pretty tough to find a positive in a literally deathly situation, we are still trying to enjoy our time at home. I’ve been practicing my handstands while hanging out with my best friend (social distancing doesn’t apply to married couples right?). And we have also sat through quite a few movies.

Which brings me to the main point of this post. My friend Jesse had a great idea to keep ourselves entertained through this unprecedented time. Jesse, what is the great idea and how are you holding up during these strange times?

Jesse: Introverts were made for quarantines, Kevin. Staying at home, ignoring the outside world and spending time on all of the hobbies that we love and never have time for? This is OUR moment! That being said, I do miss my family and friends. And sports. I REALLY miss sports.

But like you said, we’re all about the silver linings. My sister gave me a poster for Christmas titled, “100 Movies Scratch Off Bucket List.” As you can likely surmise, it is a poster with a list of 100 movies, but it also features a little scratch off picture for after you watch each movie. It’s a pretty cool novelty for a film fanatic like me and a much more interesting way to check things off a list.

Anyway, I suggested to Kevin that since we’re all under quarantine and have all this extra time on our hands, why not attack this list together, watch all these movies and make a series where we write about it? Kevin either actually liked the idea or he’s being really nice because he doesn’t want to stifle my creativity. Either way, it’s much appreciated, my friend.

So what about this series are you looking forward to, Kevin? Are you chomping at the bit to share how overrated some of these movies are or are you genuinely looking forward to seeing some of them for the first time?

Kevin: I’m looking forward to you watching Oldboy, the top-notch Korean film that will leave you absolutely shook. You won’t be able to forget it! I’m also looking forward to the act of crossing off so many classic films on my movie bucket list. There’s movies on here that I should have seen already that I am ashamed I haven’t like Casablanca, Scarface, and The Goonies. Plus, crossing things off lists is very satisfying.

There is something I am not looking forward though. The dark secret behind this “100” Movies Bucket List is there are actually 104 movies because it lumps in the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and the original Star Wars trilogy together. That means I will have to attempt to get through Lord of the Rings, something I have failed many times in the past. I think at this point my official watch history is I fell asleep during the first one, skipped the second one, and begrudgingly sat through the entirety of the third one in a theater. I got up multiple times thinking it was over only to realize the movie had a lot of fakeout endings. As you know I’m not too good with the whole middle earth genre (still never planning to catch up on Game of Thrones) so this will be a painful experience to say the least.

I’m going to assume you will enjoy my suffering but what else are you looking forward to? And how should we go about this project? Should we each watch every movie (we are quarantined after all) or should we divide and conquer?

Jesse: I really love the idea of us each watching every movie on that list. One thing this quarantine has taught me is that there are plenty of ways for you to connect with people without actually seeing them. And while tackling 104 movies together seems rather daunting, we aren’t doing much else at the moment and even when all of this is over, that still gives us plenty to post about in the post-quarantine world. On top of all that, it sounds like you’re going to need some moral support to get through Lord of the Rings. I got you pal!

What say you, Kevin? Are you ready to embark on this grand adventure with me? And what should we be looking for and paying attention to as we rewatch the 104 greatest films of all-time (according to a random movie poster)?

Kevin: I am READY! Let’s do this and let’s make sure we review as many of these classics as possible because people want to know our opinions on movies that are already beloved right?

Things to look for? Maybe we will get in a fight over a few movies on the list. Maybe you’ll finally catch the Korean films bug that I caught. Maybe our relationships will slowly falter as we spend days of our lives watching movies from a random poster. There are so many possibilities!

And for those of you at home who want to watch along or see us progress, I have taken the liberty to translate the poster into a friendly excel/sheets document to view. Jesse and I have already marked which movies have seen. Are we going to rewatch those? Who the hell knows, stay tuned to find out!

So Jesse, what say we get this started this weekend? What will you dive into first? I’m thinking I might start with a modern like Moonlight mostly because I think I saw it was available on Netflix.

Jesse: Is it a cop out if I also say that Moonlight jumped out at me too? It’s even potentially a two for one, since it’s currently sitting on my movie shelf and I still haven’t watched it.

I’m convinced this is the way to go. Any last thoughts?

Kevin: My last thought, I wish you luck on this journey my friend. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility (to review as many of the 104 movies as possible). That’s how that quote goes right?

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, good reads and recommended films you might want to check out.

Hello again friends. We haven’t exactly lived up to the “Friday” portion of Friday Film Roundup, have we? Sorry about that. These are strange times and we’d be lying if we said that Covid-19 hadn’t impact our personal lives to some degree. Even so, we’re going to try and deliver a more consistent product. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

So join me on the very first Sunday edition of our Friday Roundup.

Reading

Last week I gave some recommendations that didn’t exactly consist of uplifting material. Let’s go the opposite way this week. I haven’t really been reading much in terms of film news lately, mainly because most of it is regarding delays of upcoming releases, but there is ample time right now for film analysis. One of my favorite reads is Roger Ebert’s first entry in his Great Movies collection. It will remind of you of two things: 1) Ebert understood the medium so well and was a hell of a writer, and 2) There a lot of great films just waiting for you to discover them, regardless of your age or preferences.

Recommendation to Watch

*61 – I mentioned last week that I’m going through a bit of a sports withdrawal. The Colorado Rockies aired a live stream of past Opening Day games on Friday and I absolutely had it on for a bit. Not the same, but I always look forward to baseball this time of year and you make do with what you have.

Which is why I recommend you check out *61. The retelling of Roger Maris’ and Mickey Mantle’s historic 1961 season was an HBO original film and I don’t believe ever saw the inside of a movie theater. For that reason, it doesn’t receive nearly as much love or attention as it deserves. And I suppose that’s fitting, considering the same could have been said of Maris at the time. *61 does come off as a little hokey, but director Billy Crystal deftly guides us through his personal recollection as a fan of the Yankees.

Let’s just say that sports fans and reporters didn’t need social media to make Maris’ life miserable back then.

What I’m Watching

Love is Blind – I can’t in good conscience recommend this to anyone. It’s arguably the most ridiculous thing I’ve watched on Netflix recently, and that’s saying something considering I sat through Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Single romantic hopefuls interact with the opposite sex and go on dates without ever leaving these “pods” that they stay in or seeing the person they’re dating. Yes, there’s literally a wall between them. They then have to decide whether they want to propose to that person and they don’t actually meet until after they agreed to get married. The kicker is that there’s then only FOUR weeks until their wedding, and that’s if their relationship doesn’t totally go off the rails in the meantime.

To an introvert like me, the mere idea of any of this is completely terrifying. It’s an insane concept and makes for some cringeworthy viewing. I guess in that way it’s like a car wreck: you just can’t look away.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

I asked Kevin about this last week and he seemed to imply that this was going to centered around I Am Legend. If that turns out to be the case, you guys saw it here first in my roundup last week. Totally my idea.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Yes, this is still coming. I wouldn’t share my neat movie poster with the world unless we were committed to writing about all of the movies on it. Stay tuned.

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, and recommended films you might want to check out.

Good afternoon friends! I hope you’re all hanging in there okay as we continue to weather the storm of these unprecedented circumstances. If there’s one thing that’s well-served for getting us through a quarantine, it’s watching movies. We’ll be here to continue providing new content that will hopefully distract you from how crazy things are right now.

So join me on a Saturday edition of our Friday Roundup.

Reading

The fiance and I recently started watching the Watchmen TV series (which we’ll get to in a bit), but Kevin piqued my curiosity when he told me that the show uses the graphic novel as canon, rather than Zack Snyder’s 2009 film adaptation. I grabbed Alan Moore’s masterpiece off of my shelf, flipped through a few pages, started reading and haven’t been able to stop. Beyond just being a fan, I find a measure of odd comfort in immersing myself into a story about superheroes in the face of Armageddon.

So if you’re weird like me, I would definitely recommend giving Watchmen a try if you haven’t read it before. The Dark Knight ReturnsThe Road1984 and Old Man Logan are a few others that I’m fond of, and if reading isn’t your thing, there are film adaptations of all of those. Enjoy!

Recommendation to Watch

When done right, the threat of mankind’s extinction makes for some riveting stories, and Children of Men absolutely gets it right. This somewhat forgotten classic is available to rent on Prime Video. Here’s the trailer if you want to decide whether or not it’s worth a few bucks:

What I’m Watching

Watchmen – A faithful continuation of the beloved graphic novel. A standalone series that doesn’t require its audience to be familiar with the source material, but winks and nods at those who do. It’s not often you get an adaptation that checks both of these boxes. Two episodes in, Watchmen does. I’ll see if that changes or not as I get through the series.

Hook – Recently added to Netflix, this childhood favorite seemed like a no brainer to help kill some time during the quarantine. The fiance was thrilled when she saw it as an option. We took the trip back to Steven Spielberg’s Neverland and while the nostalgia factor will always make that a worthwhile voyage, there is absolutely no way that this film would be well-received today. Sexual innuendos in a movie about Peter Pan? The social media police would burn Spielberg to the ground if he tried that again.

But hey, maybe I’m overthinking it. Give it a watch and see if you agree.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

It’s possible that Kevin just wanted to do something less obvious, but if he’s looking for a New York movie with an apocalyptic setting, he could do a lot worse than I Am Legend. It’s also possible he already figured this out and has a different post coming for you soon!

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

We are still planning on introducing this. Be on the lookout for it next week.

Bought It Before I Watched It: Arrival

Bought It Before I Watched It is a series dedicated to all of the blu-rays that Jesse purchased without seeing the movie first. He then watches said movie and writes a post about whether he wasted his money or not. He also interviews himself and tries not to come off as pretentious or patronizing. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

What did I buy Arrival?

Aside from being a critically acclaimed film about an alien invasion? That will earn a bought it before I watched it from me pretty much every time. However, in this case I was mainly intrigued because Arrival was helmed by Denis Villeneuve, one of the best filmmakers working today. Certain directors become so accomplished that all I need is to see their name attached to a movie and I’m hooked. Scorsese, Tarantino and Nolan are a few good examples of that.

I believe that Villeneuve belongs in the same company.

What did I think?

I knew going in that Arrival wasn’t your typical “aliens have come to Earth movie,” much to the chagrin of audiences with the predisposition that it would be another Independence Day. An actual criticism of a review I read (after I saw the film, of course) is that, “Arrival is a mystery masquerading as a summer blockbuster.” I feel sorry for anyone who felt that way, because while Arrival definitely weaves a mysterious web around its narrative, it certainly doesn’t lack for drama or tension and doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not. This is why I prefer to go into new movies blind, if possible, and just let the story play out as it was supposed to.

In short, I thought it was another excellent showcase of Villeneuve’s talents, and featured a particularly nuanced performance from Amy Adams. Personally, I thought it was refreshing that the hero wasn’t trying to blow all the aliens up, per normal.

Do you regret buying it?

Absolutely not. Villeneuve never lets me down. Every one of his films is different enough to stand out from the others, but the story always remains taut throughout and the visuals leave an indelible impression on me every time. Any new work from him will always be an instant purchase from me.

How often will you come back to it?

I definitely want to see it again. One idea that we’ve kicked around here is to highlight specific actors and directors, watch their most famous and underrated work and then provide you with some analysis on how these films impacted and inspired us, among other things. If we ever pull the trigger on that concept, Villeneuve will definitely be on that list.

Any parting thoughts?

Enemy with Jake Gyllenhaal is another Villeneuve blu-ray that I purchased before I saw it. Considering I still haven’t gotten to it yet, and that I just waxed poetically over how much of a Villeneuve fanboy I am, that’s going to have to be one of the upcoming entries for this series. Stay tuned.

Friday Film Roundup

Our Friday Film Roundup is an attempt to share what we are reading, watching, and listening to as we head into the weekend. We plan on sharing major film news, interesting film essays/videos, and recommended films you might want to check out.

Good morning! It’s been a rough week for the world to say the least. We are all stuck inside, away from human interaction and fresh air, forced to spend our time watching movies and TV shows. So really not much different than the norm for some of us.

In all seriousness it’s a difficult time but it’s important we all stay inside and stay safe. So sit back and relax as much as you can and maybe binge that TV show you’ve been waiting to jump into.

Reading:

Not a lot of fun reading right now. And it’s difficult to escape the Corona Virus so let’s just lean into it. SlashFilm has a couple of great resources, one sad, another a small silver lining in all of this mess. First is a tracker of all the cancellations in Hollywood which shows we will feel the impact of this hard time for many months. The second is a list of all the early digital releases so you can safely watch new movies in your home.

And while we are on the subject, Vulture has a breakdown of how COVID could impact the future of the TV industry.

Watching:

Recommendation:

I splurged and actually paid to rent a digital movie (In this pandemic?! Mr. Money Bags over here am I right?). That movie was the Best Picture Oscar winning Parasite and it was 100% worth the money. If you’re on the fence about this movie go ahead and splurge and then watch this great video essay on YouTube (or one of the other million video essays about this movie):

And if you can’t get enough Korean cinema, check out The Handmaiden (streaming on Prime Video), a twisted and thrilling movie that you will not forget.

What I’m Watching:

I thought I would take this section to provide a mini self-quarantine movie diary:

Outbreak – cliche of me to watch this movie right now but come on, Contagion cost money to rent and Outbreak was right there on Netflix. Yes it’s a movie about a deadly virus that gets to the USA. Probably not something you want to watch to escape our reality. However it is a nice 90s throwback that has Dustin Hoffman running around all over the place trying to make the government take him seriously. At first I thought it was unrealistic that the people in power wouldn’t take a viral threat seriously…and then I remembered our president did exactly that. Watch only if you want to reminisce about a time none of this movie felt realistic.

Parasite – I wrote about this above but let me emphasize, watch this film. And then dive into all the Korean films you might have missed (Okja, Old Boy, The Handmaiden).

Mr. Right – Do you love Anna Kendrick? You should, she’s hilarious. Do you love Sam Rockwell? Probably, he’s a well-regarded actor with diverse roles. Then watch this mindless movie and try not to think about it too much. Currently on Netflix

Red Sparrow – I’ll admit I was “working” from home during this movie so I missed a lot of small details. My wife enjoyed it and wanted to rewatch it despite admitting it’s been done before and she had trouble accepting Jennifer Lawrence in the role. Intense and uncomfortable for much of the film, if you watch it make sure to pay attention.

Three Identical Strangers – I don’t watch many documentaries but this one caught my eye. Three young men discover they are triplets separated at birth. What starts as a fun and unbelievable story slowly unravels into dark and astonishing territory. Watch this if you love documentaries, crazy stories, and scientific research. Currently on Hulu

After – One of those teenage romance stories that you hate yourself for watching but can’t stop. Tessa Young is a young (subtle) and sheltered woman with a stable relationship who goes to college and finds herself intrigued by a young man who is dark and mysterious. This story goes exactly how you expect it to but is sweet enough to have on in the background and then not admit to anyone that you watched it. Currently on Netflix.

First Girl I Loved – Another movie about teenagers and love and honestly you can skip this one. Sure it’s nice to see representation for a budding lesbian relationship but this movie is problematic as the plot centers around inappropriate attempts to out two young girls. Don’t get me wrong, that is a serious issue and should be explored in a movie but this film doesn’t delve into why it’s problematic, in fact it doesn’t even bring it up as an issue, it just uses outing as a plot device. It’s on Hulu if you want to check it out but again I don’t recommend it.

Upcoming Flimsy Film Posts:

Welcome to New York: Mystery Film

I’m not sure which movie I want to write about yet but I want to return to this series. Maybe one with an apocalypse twist as New York is a ghost town right now.

Bought It Before I watched It: Jesse Arrives to Arrival

Apparently Jesse hasn’t seen Arrival yet. Which is weird, I thought anyone with a film blog was required to have seen, and loved, that movie. I guess he snuck through. I look forward to his thoughts.

Let’s Talk About: 100 Movies Bucket List

Jesse and I are going to introduce a new quarantine friendly series of posts where we aim to watch every movie on a 100 Movie Bucket List that his sister gifted him. We will introduce the list and discuss what we are excited to tackle.

Bought It Before I Watched It: Sorry to Bother You

Bought It Before I Watched It is a series dedicated to all of the blu-rays that Jesse purchased without seeing the movie first. He then watches said movie and writes a post about whether he wasted his money or not. He also interviews himself and tries not to come off as pretentious or patronizing. Sometimes that’s easier said than done.

Why did I buy Sorry to Bother You?

I did this thing in 2018 where I closely monitored the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes for all new films that were released. If one had a high score, I did some research on it and if I was intrigued by the plot and the talent involved, I made a note to pick it up when it came out on blu-ray. I suppose my logic is that it’s easier for me to support these films that way than going to the theaters, which may not even make any sense.

Sorry to Bother You was one that fell into this category.

What did I think?

That’s a very difficult question to answer. Kevin wrote a banger of a piece when he saw it and I could tell that I was in for something different. There’s just no preparing you for HOW different this one is until you actually witness it for yourself. But Kevin was correct in saying that Sorry to Bother You is a film you can’t shake. Regardless of how you personally feel about the plot and everything that ensues, it bores its way into your brain and remains there for days after. Weeks even.

It likely takes a rewatch or two to try and fully grasp everything. And even then, I don’t know if you can fully comprehend how squarely you get leveled by all the social commentary.

Do you regret buying it?

Not at all. I never kick myself for adding a unique film to my collection. Maybe it’s not quite my cup of tea or maybe I’m a little put off at first, but we need movies like this to keep finding their way onto our screens. I have nothing against more popular films. I adore the MCU. It’s just that for every smash hit like Avengers: Endgame, there are hundreds of new movies that fall completely under the radar and go unnoticed by popular culture. And so many of them have a daring voice and crave to be heard and seen.

How often will you come back to it?

I honestly have no idea. I’m of the belief that films evolve and change for us as we make our way through our lives. Right now, Sorry to Bother You is a weird, well-made piece of art that I admire, but we aren’t exactly going steady yet. Five years from now? I could declare this the most underrated film of the 2010’s. I have no freaking idea.

Any parting thoughts?

If your dream is to one day make films, be part of films or if you just like watching something weird every now and then for the hell of it. you have to check out Sorry to Bother You. I can’t say that you won’t regret it, but I think that’s part of the appeal. It has and will impact people in different ways, and you just won’t know until you give it a shot.

Onward: Another Feather in Pixar’s Cap

When you think of Pixar, you imagine a crowd pleasing formula: likable heroes, relatable plights and accessible humor for the whole family. You also imagine success. Years and years of success.

And to be fair, most of that is well-deserved. Pixar is the standard bearer of quality animation in film and every time you think they can’t possibly top themselves again, they set the bar just a little bit higher. But with that success also comes the added benefit of a box office safety net. The lesser Pixar entries often perform far better than they should and are typically bulletproof from too much criticism.

Which brings us to Onward. Two elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, embark on a magical quest with their deceased father’s legs to complete a spell that will bring his whole body back for one day. If that was weird to read, trust me that it felt weird to type and it all makes for a zany tale of medieval creatures living their lives in the modern world. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt are likable actors who fit their characters like a glove and there lies a certain sort of charm about embracing magic and the fantastical over our convenient technology.

All of this is to say that I rather enjoyed Onward. I’d definitely watch it again and will probably buy it at some point, despite the fact that it is sure to be available on Disney+ the second it ends its run in theaters. I just don’t know that it lives up to the Pixar standard so much as it benefits from being made by Pixar. Maybe I’m not making much sense here, so lets try a comparison.

Kubo and the Two Strings was one of the more groundbreaking animated films I’ve seen in the past five years. It featured a stellar voice cast, LAIKA’s unique style and some neat twists that I didn’t see coming. Yet in two weeks, Onward has already surpassed Kubo’s total earnings at the box office and has a higher audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Is there another reason why that’s the case beyond the simple fact that Pixar made one but not the other?

To be fair, this is more of a commentary on how people are more likely to trust their hard earned cash to an established brand than take a risk on something unfamiliar. We recently ran a piece here about going to the movies and why audiences are more inclined to stay at home and catch something on Netflix. Pixar, and really Disney as a whole, is one of the few studios immune to the convenience of streaming. The irony of it all is that I’m the one who wrote this, but yet I didn’t think twice about paying to see Onward in the theater.

I have no idea how well my point came across here. I’m a fan of this movie. I guess I just wish that every film that deserved it received guaranteed success.

(For the record, Onward‘s $45 million opening weekend is considered low for the studio. That’s still almost as much as Kubo earned in total in North America).

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.