Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So, I haven’t written anything here for a while, mainly because I lost interest. I was reviewing Game of Thrones episodes, and if anyone has seen those they may notice I stop reviewing after episode 4, this is no accident, because the rest of the season highly irritated me and I couldn’t stomach the process of saying, ‘this is wrong, this is wrong, oh and this is wrong too”. However, here I present another review, about one of the most divisive movies of the year. Why is it one of the most divisive movies of the year? I have no idea, but if I were to guess political extremist hacks on both sides are over-analysing what is in fact a pretty standard, inoffensive space adventure film that just so happens to be called ‘Star Wars’.

If I could sum up Star Wars: The Last Jedi, in one sentence it would be, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi subverts expectations, a little too often”. So did I like the movie? Yes. Do I think it’s the greatest thing ever? No. This movie reminds me a lot of Return of the Jedi, half of the movie is pointless and goes nowhere, and thus should’ve been cut, and the other half is gold.

So where do I start, positives or negatives? A few little nitpicks out of the way first. This movie also had a similar style to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and no, not just for that one scene. Oh yeah, that reminds me, I must give a big fat SPOILER WARNING from here on out, you have been warned, if you scroll past this I take no responsibility.

This movie, like Guardians, overdoes the humour at times, and no the humour itself is not the problem, the problem is that it undercuts serious moments that should be left to breathe. The climax of the film cuts back and forth between the ground battle (a serious tone), and Chewie and the porgs for comic relief. This is not the right time for comedy, but whatever, it’s just a nitpick. Oh and yes, porgs are cute.

The golden heart of this movie is in the arcs of Luke, Rey and Kylo Ren. Her connection to him, and Luke in the middle. I can’t help but feel Tumblr is going to love this aspect of the movie for entirely different reasons. The excess fat on the steak, however, comes in the form of the Finn and Rose subplot. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this is in this movie. It honestly feels like an episode of a sitcom like the Simpsons, you have the ‘A’ story, and a ‘B’ story that doesn’t effect story ‘A’ at all. What I mean by this is the lack of consequence or impact from these plot threads, and this isn’t the only one. All this side quest does is get Finn and Rose onto the First Order ship, and shoehorn in a chemistry-less romance that’s capped off by one of the most awkward kisses I’ve ever seen in a film. Here’s the problem though, this could’ve been achieved through other means. It’s a plot about animal rights – got it. It’s a plot about the war machine, and how both sides do shady things – got it. How is this at all relevant to the story though? This movie goes for almost 3 hours, the longest Star Wars film ever, did it really need to be this long? The rule of thumb is, if it’s not necessary, cut it. This plot takes up a large chunk of the middle of the movie and doesn’t yield enough impact to justify it’s existence.

This leads me to Poe’s mutiny. Why is this in the movie? I’m asking myself this question a lot. I said earlier how this movie subverts expectations too much. I’ve seen a lot of people complain about Snoke not being an important character, dying half way through this movie, or that Rey isn’t a member of any important family, no relation to anyone that we know. To that I say, those a good changes though. This trilogy is clearly about Rey and Kylo, Snoke is just a plot device, our expectations have been subverted in an interesting way. Same can be said about Rey, people were theorising from the moment The Force Awakens dropped, only to find out in this movie everyone was wrong. This is a curve ball and I love it. The mutiny on the other hand doesn’t yield consequence, positive or negative. He lives, he doesn’t get punished, his mutiny doesn’t change the plan, it has no impact on the story at all, which is a shame because Poe is a really fun character. I could nitpick again and complain about how the replacement commander after Leia goes into a coma should’ve just told everyone what their plan is, this on the other hand is a massive blotch on the entire movie.

These two subplots are ultimately pointless, chewing up time which could’ve been spent elsewhere. I would’ve loved more time with Rey on Luke’s island, learning more mysteries of the Force. All of that was gold, the connection to Kylo, etc. Perhaps there could’ve been more focus on the First Order – Rebellion chase.

In the end Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a pretty mixed bag, of mountain highs and cavern lows. It has some of the best moments from the entire saga, but also has some of the most pointless. The stuff that was great sticks with me more, and so I give this movie a 7.5/10. The characters of Rey and Kylo are still the most intriguing, and what I’m looking forward to most in episode 9. I am however cautious about the hype, now that the old director has been fired in favour of bringing J. J. Abrams back, apparently over creative differences between the director and the studio. I really hope they continue with this change of pace and not go back to nostalgia. The Force Awakens gets a pass because it’s in part a reboot, it’s the only movie that gets a pass for retreading and nostalgia.

This movie however has become incredibly divisive, and I have no clue why. This is a Star Wars film, people should stop over-analysing it. It’s good, not great, certainly not bad. Better than the Force Awakens, miles better than Rogue One, and light years better than the trash prequels.

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McDonalds and the Philosopher’s Napkin

When I finished high school my first job was at McDonalds, an occupation many high school and university students have begun with. I envy those who went into retail as oppose to hospitality, the pay is around about the same, but the work is a lot less physical. That aside something I remember from my days a lowly register operator and french fry salter, something sticks out in my mind. This is something that people who’ve never worked in McDonalds might not realise until I point it out.

McDonalds has a policy regarding the number of napkins in a takeaway order. The rule, as I remember it, and still is, based on my recent visit to my local drive-through, is that for every food item a customer orders you receive one napkin. So in a standard Big Mac meal you receive two, one for the burger and one for the fries. Of course as you order more items that number grows.

Now I can understand why the policy exists but who honestly uses this many napkins? Has head office received enough suggestion to know not having napkins piss people off? I honestly feel like it’s a bit of a waste. I recently bought the 24 chicken mc’nugget deal for $10 (I think), good value I must say, I received two napkins, I suppose they figured the number of chicken nuggets justified an extra napkin. I got home, opened up the box and went to town, and yes, before you ask, I did feel guilty for eating the entire box. You know what happened to the napkins? They went unused.

So, to anyone who reads this, give me your opinion on the matter. Do you use the napkins given to you in takeaway bags? Do you think one per customer would suffice, or is one per food item a good policy?

Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 4: Spoils of War – Review

So… yeah… so the shortest episode of the season is the best episode of the season thus far. As oppose to episodes 2 and 3 there isn’t a whole lot wrong with this one, everything felt on point, no scene stretched reality too far. There were a few odd things here and there but nothing major wrong in the plot. I won’t talk about King’s Landing as nothing really changed from last episode.

Starting in Winterfell we get the first interaction between Bran and Littlefinger. Now, for those who haven’t read the books, the matter of who sent the Catspaw to kill Bran has been answered, but many question the credibility of the answer. George RR Martin did say that the mystery would be solved in the third book A Storm of Swords, the answer we were given just felt a bit odd, that’s all. The answer of course being Joffrey. Piecing it together from Jaime, Tyrion and Cersei, they all think it was Joffrey, and that he did it because one night after Bran’s fall, King Robert got drunk and suggested that they shouldn’t let the boy suffer and would be better off mercy killed. Now, if you find that explanation a bit unbelievable, you’re not the only one. Many people maintain that the answer is still to be revealed, the most likely candidate being Littlefinger. In the show at least, we’re being lead to believe it was Baelish, and it makes sense. Though, considering Bran’s abilities, Littlefinger should probably not lie to him. So this dagger, the show couldn’t be less subtle if they tried, call it a mcguffen, call it a Checkov’s Gun, it seems pretty obvious to me this dagger will be plot device in the near future. Considering how incompetent Baelish has been in the last two seasons, I think his story may be wrapping up. I don’t see him leaving this season alive.

We also get the long awaited return of Arya Stark to Winterfell. Right up, what’s the deal with Arya’s question to the guards? “Which Lady Stark?” What other Lady Stark could there be aside from Sansa and herself. Was this script looked over? We know that Arya knows Catelyn is dead, so what’s the deal here? All in all this doesn’t matter all that much, but it did take me out of the episode for a second. The reunion with Sansa has seen a bit of criticism as far as chemistry goes, as the two actresses are close friends, but I don’t really accept this argument. Both in the show and the books Sansa and Arya’s relationship is not one of mutual admiration to say the least. I found the reunion a little underwhelming, I admit, but not for the reasons others had. I was expecting more of a surprise from Sansa and a little less joking about the kill list. All in all, Winterfell was fairly good. I found the training scene between Brienne and Arya to be a little unbelievable, but I didn’t mind it that much. I suppose she was going easy on her. And kudos to Maisie Williams for fighting with her left hand all these years, that’s called commitment to the character folks.

gallery-1501973986-got.jpgNow to Dragonstone, and while I didn’t dislike these scenes, they were for me the least good of the episode. The show runners are not being subtle in their foreshadowing of a romance between Dany and Jon, and I must say, I find it a little weird. I’m not opposed to the idea, as long as neither of them end up on the Iron Throne at the end of the story, I’ll be happy. As far as this romance goes, it feels rushed, and the chemistry is not believable.  They’ve known each other for two episodes, and I know there are time jumps between episodes, but we, as the audience, can’t buy their romance if we don’t see their characters grow close on screen. As I said, this feels rushed. And who else half expected for there to be dragon eggs in the cave?

704_Battle_of_Tumbleton_4

And now we come to the final scene on the opposite side of the Blackwater. What begins with a sincere scene with Dickon Tarly, ends in a massacre. This ending sequence to the episode was quite simply, shocking. Honestly, I’m both surprised and a little disappointed  characters didn’t die in this battle. Bronn was certainly the MVP in this battle, but upon reflection, if he died in dragon fire, that would have sealed the deal on this episode being the best of the last two seasons. There needs to be a cost, and I can’t imagine a more memorable way to go than dragon fire. So many actors on the show have begged to go out this way and been refused. What could be more shocking to the viewers than a last second bait and switch, Jaime going in the water but having Bronn turned to ash, and blown away in the wind? Can you imagine the horrified faces and the people tweeting “I’m done with this show,” only to return next week to watch episode 5?

Best episode of the season thus far.

In one word: “Brutal”

Current placings

  1. 704: Spoils of War
  2. 701: Dragonstone
  3. 703: The Queen’s Justice
  4. 702: Stormborn

Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 2 and 3: Stormborn and The Queen’s Justice – Review

So episodes 2 and 3, how about that? Season 7 continues to be mixed. Some moments ring of season 1 and even of the books but in other areas it resonates with the groan moments of the past two years. So inconsistent to say the least. I couldn’t find the mojo to write up the episode 2 review last week so here’s 2 and 3 rolled into one.

Where episode 1 was quite philosophical, episodes 2 and 3 have moved the action along but as a cost of some of the larger themes of the story. The scene with Arya and Nymeria could have been one of the best scenes this season if it weren’t for the final moment and the show runners from over explaining a moment that is more powerful unexplained. The shoehorned in reference “that’s not you” to a season 1 conversation between Arya and Eddard, is not only clunky in the scene but leaved my friends, who I watched the episode with, perplexed. Something I’ve noticed with this show in the past few years, the best scenes are often the ones without dialogue. If they left this shoehorned line out the scene would have been far better. Arya’s story is not one that people should be rooting for, her moral compass is clearly compromised, people shouldn’t be cheering when she murders two people and bakes them into a pie, they should be shocked at her brutality. If this scene between her and Nymeria ended a few seconds earlier with the brokenhearted look on Arya’s face, the scene would have been perfect. The wolf not recognising her because she’s become a morally corrupt individual. Of course we know the practical reason, they want to spend more CGI money on dragons not direwolves. Still, this scene could have been far better.

Oldtown thus far, has been a disappointment, and I’m forced to ask, why the f**k was Greyscale even included in the show? This apparent Checkov’s Gun was introduced back in season 3, and this is where it leads? A simple surgery and you’ve cured Greyscale, the deadliest disease in this fictional universe. And can we please recognise the ridiculousness of Jorah being healed enough the next day that he can just leave the Citadel a free man? Yes, the next day, the Archmaester says he had one more day and would then be shipped off to Valyria. He came back the next day and he was all healed. Now, I’m not sure if the show runners realise this but, generally speaking when you have a highly contagious disease that has no cure, even if you do survive they don’t let you just walk out the door the next day simply because you no longer show symptoms. Now sure, they need to move the narrative along, but why the hell did they even include this in the story at all?  Did they know where they were going with this? They had the foresight to cut Lady Stoneheart, Young Griff/Aegon, Jon Connington, Victarion Greyjoy and other artefacts like the Horn of Winter, why? I guess they figured they weren’t necessary to the story. Now, people can agree or disagree with their call on that, but if that’s the case that these characters and plot threads were dropped because they weren’t viewed as necessary, then why wasn’t Greyscale dropped, at least after Shireen. There was practically no point to this plot thread other than not killing Jorah off. I browsed the internet to see what people were saying about this and it looks like there are many annoyed, some people on Reddit are suggesting that Sam is going to get the disease now and cause a plague, or that the disease will play a role in the end of the story with the White Walkers/Others. Now, while that would be interesting, I’ve given up hope on this plot. I hope I’m wrong, but there you go. So what did the previous maester do to stuff up this procedure and give himself Greyscale? I bet he didn’t wear gloves.

Euron Greyjoy continues to be an overly crude cartoon character, but you know what, I’ve embraced this incarnation, I’ve accepted it. Sure, he’s not sublte… at all for a matter of fact, like he is in the book. Overall I don’t mind what they’ve done with the character, but the one thing they haven’t succeeded at with this character is make me fear him. He acts like a madman, which is entertaining sure, but book Euron is much, much more creepy.

I’ve never been one to dislike Daenerys, hbz-got-dany-jon-index-1501469319.jpgbut these episodes did it, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s entitlement. Having said that, the final scene with Dany and Jon in episode 3 was pretty good, their chemistry is believable. All in all, not much to comment on. The scenes at Dragonstone haven’t really moved me in anyway.

I’m finding myself routing for Cersei in these last two episodes. In the books Cersei really isn’t very smart, though she thinks she is. A Feast for Crows is essentially Cersei failing at everything and quickly going insane. While this is a weird departure from where the books at currently, I like it. She’s winning, 3-0 Cersei. That’s probably not going to last long, I know, given the preview for next week, cersei-lannister-759-1but it’s still good to see politics back in this show, and done well. And Lena Heady always brings her A-game. It doesn’t matter whether script isn’t great, she can make it great because she’s simply that good. Highlights include her scene in the dungeon with Ellaria Sand and the one remaining Sand Snake.

I am juggling the idea, as others have, that Tyrion is, either consciously or subconsciously, sabotaging Dany. These plans are awful. I understand the whole “let’s not burn King’s Landing” thing, but does anyone on Dany’s small council realise that besieging the city isn’t going to be any more endearing than taking the city by force, either way people die, the only difference between a siege and taking the city by force is the whether the death is fast or slow. And who will be the first to die? So instead of taking the city and winning the war in one battle with her superior forces and three dragons, Tyrion suggests splitting their strength in two, sailing one half to Dorne and back (despite the fact we saw the Dornish army sailing with Dany in the finale last year), and the other half all the way around to the opposite side of the Kingdom to take Casterly Rock. Why not just sail right down the Blackwater rush and take the city? Did Tyrion forget that he was in the Battle of Blackwater, that Stannis almost took the city with significantly less forces, no dragons, and were disadvantaged by wildfire? Taking Kings Landing would win them the war instantly, from there each castle would yield one by one. War won. Make me hand of the king, coach, I’m ready. So either Tyrion is really dumb or subconsciously sabotaging Dany’s invasion. Ehh… I need to move onto the positives before I get bogged down in this.

I’ll end on the highest note of the last two episodes, the final scene of episode 3. Jaime and Olenna Redwyne, two fantastic characters played by two fantastic actors. Now, sure the show has taken a huge departure with Jaime’s character, but he’s still enjoyable. Add in Diana Rigg and you’ve got the makings of a great scene, and it didn’t disappoint. Despite being beaten the Queen of Thorns lived up to her name and still got the last word. That takes the cake for me this season thus far.

I’m hoping this season becomes less mixed in a good way. I know I didn’t really touch on Winterfell but all in all, not much has happened since episode 1. Sure, Bran showed up but it’s not like anything significant has happened. The situation with Lewin’s letters and Littlefinger will obviously play a role going forward, but when a character like this has been reduced to this, that usually means he isn’t long for this world, and will be dead by season end.

Episode 2 in a word: “explosive”.

Episode 3 in a word: “thug-life”.

 

Game of Thrones, Season 7 Episode 1: Dragonstone – Review

They say that sons and daughters should not bare the responsibility of their parents sins. A very liberal, individualist, enlightenment principle. And this is the central theme of the season premiere, and to be honest – I love it.

The last two seasons of the HBO program have been hit and miss in the writing department, it is hard to imagine the nonsensical Sansa Season 5 and 6 arc, the Dornish plot, ‘Hold the Door’, and this episode are all part of the same show. Sometimes I question whether the show runners know the point of this story, sometimes they hit the nail on the head. This episode for me is mixed, but for the most part on the positive side. I’ll start with the negatives and finish with the positives. So spoilers from here on out.

The episode opens with Walder Frey holding a feast at the Twins for the entire Frey family. Now right of the bat you can see the conclusion of this scene coming from a mile away. Of course anyone who saw last years finale knows that Walder Frey is dead and that this is actually Arya with Walder’s face. What follows is something I could have done without, a) because it does not advance the plot in anyway, and b) the shock factor is completely ruined (would have been gratuitous anyway), as we have all seen the previous episode. And c) it contradicts the central theme pushed in all the other scenes. So the question remains, was the theme intentional, am I giving the writers too much credit?

Continuing with negatives (don’t worry the positives are up next), Euron Greyjoy. Now I’m going to start this with that old saying “in the books”. In the books Euron Greyjoy is definitely an antagonist and is probably the closest thing we have to a wholly evil character, yes, worse than Ramsay. He’s utterly insane but has a weird fear factor, a mysterious side, making him somewhat of a devil figure. Euron Greyjoy in the show is almost a parody, it’s that cliched. A boring, two dimensional, “moustache twirler”, nothing more, nothing less. Every scene with him is like a Disney movie. 

On to the positives. The individualist theme that children don’t inherit the sins of their parents, is prevelent throughout the episode. Dany is not her father, Tyrion is not his father, Jon Snow is not punishing the descendants of Houses Umber and Karstark for the sins of their fathers in the previous season. Here is where Jon shows some stones, making his stance on this issue clear to Sansa and the court. This one is actually out of Tywin Lannister’s playbook.

Joffrey, when your enemies defy you, you must serve them steel and fire. When they go to their knees, however, you must help them back to their feet. Elsewise no man will ever bend the knee to you. And any man who must say ‘I am the king’ is no true king at all.

– Tywin Lannister to Joffrey Baratheon, A Storm of Swords. Tyrion IV

Yes, I’m comparing that mopy bastard Jon Snow with the ruthless Tywin Lannister. It’s good to see some moral lessons and politics back in the show. This is continued with a heartwarming scene with some Lannister soldiers. We get our guest star Ed Sheeran singing a new Lannister ballad, less morbid than the Rains of Castamere. They kindly offer Arya some food, hesitant at first, she accepts. They sit around talking about each others lives. How one wants to go home to fish with his father in Lannisport, another’s wife is about to have a baby, and twist he hopes it will be a girl because according to him, a girl looks after he father in old age, a son is likely to die in someone else’s war. Contrast that with a lord who wants a son more because of the line of succession. The family name is survives through the son. This man is not a lord however, he is merely a soldier. He has no famous family name, he has no major holdings, he just wants a family. This scene drives home the importance of family, and by the looks of it convinces Arya to return home to Winterfell instead of going to Kings Landing to kill Cersei. We interestingly also get our first mention of the Dragon Pit. A massive building in Kings Landing where the Targaryens bred and housed their dragons. The pit was stormed by the small folk during the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of Dragons. It will be interesting to see where they take this, could it make its first appearance this season?

This leads me to Kings Landing. Aside from my issues with the Euron character, these scenes were good, they certainly didn’t stand out, these were really just setting the stage. Jaime continues to be the stand out character despite the deviation from the book. The seeds of distrust with Cersei are growing, better late then never. This of course began back at the end of A Storm of Swords and the two continued to grow apart in A Feast for Crows

All in all, a solid episode. The best premiere in years, miles better than the season six premier “The Red Woman”, which probably takes gold for the worst episode thus far. It’s a great start to the season and makes me hopeful that Dan and Dave have been paying attention to the criticism in the last two years, learning and returning the show to its roots. Things are looking up.

In one word: “Warm”

(Ironic given that Winter has come) 

FOOTNOTE: If You Want to be Awe Indpired

Hitchens speech transcript:

I’m not as I was. Some of you I’d urgently felt I ought to do while saying, and one mustn’t repine or relate to self pity about that, but at this present moment I have to say. I feel very envious of someone who’s young and active and starting out in this argument.

Just think of the extraordinary things that are happening to us. Go for example to the Smithsonian museum, To the new hall of human origins, magnificently curated and new in exhibition. Which Shows among other things the branch, or branches along which perhaps three, certainly three, maybe four if you count Indonesia, humanoid shall we say anthropoid species, died out, not very long ago within measurable distance of 75, 000 years or so possibly destroyed by us possibly not, we don’t know. We know they decorated their graves, we think they probably had language ability, we don’t know if they had souls, I’m sorry I cant help you there But I so envy those who could glimpse.

I’ve only mentioned three or four of the things that have magnetized and charmed and gratified me to think about in the recent past, and how much I hope that each of you form some such ambition this evening and carries it forward, In the meantime, we had the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would just abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours but we have to begin by repudiating all such claims grand rabbi’s, chief ayatollahs, infallible popes, the peddlers or surrogate and mutant quasi political religion and worship.

The dear leader, the great leader, we have no need for any of this, and looking at them and their record and the pathos of their supporters I realize that it is they who are the grand imposers and my own imposture this evening was mild by comparison, Thank you very much.

If You Want to be Awe Inspired

In times of confusion and vulnerability there is nothing quite like something awe inspiring. Something that reminds you that in this cold, dark; possibly infinite universe, that you have the power to change yourself, a power that no one else can give to you. People find this notion scary, that there is no fate, that there is no divine purpose, but honestly I couldn’t think of anything more awe inspiring. Scary – yes, but still awe inspiring. The knowledge that you can choose your own path, your own purpose. It’s often in these confusing moments that we look to religious figures; to a deity. To something inhuman, something or someone not susceptible to the flaws of the homo sapien. Something perfect, but there is no beauty in perfection, there is nothing awe inspiring about perfection.

Recently another pre-human fossil has been discovered, this time in Europe, a discovery that is rewriting human history. What is truely awe inspiring of other fossils we’ve found is that we’ve found them in burial sites. These common ancestors look so familiar but yet so alien at the same time. Will these new findings lead to similar revelations on human behaviour? Time will tell. One day I hope to see the Hall of Human Origin at the Smithsonian Museum, that would be awe inspiring, to see the branches of human kind. They commemorated their dead with grave decorations, and likely had language of their own. So like us, yet so alien. The time outlasts us all.

In this sombre mood, in this time of confusion, I look to a man who inspires me, the late Christopher Hitchens. A hero for lack of a better term, as he himself would say. Specifically the final public speech he ever gave, that is what awe inspires me.

“In the meantime, we had the same job we always had, to say as thinking people and as humans that there are no final solutions, there is no absolute truth, there is no supreme leader, there is no totalitarian solution, that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would just abandon your critical faculties the world of idiotic bliss can be yours”

Christopher Hitchens – 13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011

It’s been several years since he passed, in his memory I’d like to share the classic Dylan Thomas poem.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.