Movie reviews


I thought only Leia and Tarkin were CGI “Masks” and the others were either recasts (Mon Mothma) or archival footage (some fo the fighter pilot check-ins were unused footage from A New Hope!


Ever since being the bleeding eye guy in the Bond film, I can’t not see him as that guy. But, yeah, I agree that he did a good job as not entirely bad, which considering his usual type-casting, was a surprise.


Mon Mothma was definitely a recast. If I recall that actress was supposed to play her in Episode III but those scenes were cut.


I enjoyed it. I feel like it was shot differently from the “main sequence” Star Wars films: More like it took a page from modern war movies with a bit of shakey-cam (but not a ridiculous amount) and similar. I think it reinforces that these aren’t heroes with insane amounts of plot armor like the main movies.

[spoiler]I liked the new characters. Star Wars has a history of borrowing from Asian cinema for plots, action sequences, etc. This time they just imported the ‘blind warrior monk’ with minimal tweaking, and he fit surprisingly well. Loved his buddy with a BFG and one of the few good guys to wear armor in the series.

K2 is great! He needs to be in a short with Marvin from HHGG.[/spoiler]


I finally saw Rogue One w/ dakson Sunday night.

This is the prequel that ANH deserved. The last 20 minutes especially, when you realize what’s happening and how tightly it ties back into it.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of things flew over dakson’s head. The important conversation with Bail Organa (he’s never seen the Lucas prequels, so that’s understandable), the throwaway line “hey, did you hear they finally retired the T-15”, the “we’re wanted men” duo, and several other nuggets.

Leia’s CGI mask was too uncanny valley for me. Tarkin was outstanding, I kept looking for tells but couldn’t find anything.

[spoiler]I thought the ground portions of the final battle were very reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan.

After the movie, dakson kept asking what happened to Jyn and Cassian. After I explained and he finally got it, he said “so they all sacrificed themselves?” A bunch of stuff flew over his head but I’m impressed that he caught onto that and understood that.[/spoiler]


I would love to see someone edit the final 10 minutes of Rogue One and the first scene of ANH together and throw it on YouTube. The continuity…


Many Bothans died to bring us this information.


That was Empire Strikes Back with intel on Death Star #2.


Shit. You know, it didn’t sound right to me when I said it.


They don’t line up perfectly. My theory is there should be an assumed week or two between the two movies. Leia’s claim in ANH (I don’t need to spoiler Star Wars Episode 4, do I?) of being on a diplomatic mission was flimsy in the original… It’s even flimsier after you watch Rogue One and the revelation that the Princess’s ship had just fled from a battle with Vader and the fleet.

Again, it’s “fixed” enough in my mind if I assume they jumped around for a week or two.


Actually it was Return of the Jedi.


From what I’ve read on scifi.stackexchange, it’s more like several hours, maybe a couple days between the R1 & ANH.

As for the diplomatic mission claim, did the Tantive IV crew realize that the guy who just boarded them was the same guy that did the thing in the place because of the other thing? Maybe they thought they could fool him?


I’ve heard that, but then again my personal Star Wars canon is that most trips take hours if not days.

An interesting concept is how “known” Vader is in the Rebellion era. It seems quite possible he spends a lot of time in his lava world bachelor pad relaxing in his tank. I think there’s been some appearances in the new Extended Universe stuff, but maybe he’s basically a boogey-man to the universe-at-large. ANH is interesting when you look at some of the dialog: He’s definitely seen as an archaic vestige of the old order by Tarkin, who treats him like he’s over him. It seems like with no Jedi around to personally deal with, Vader may have been fading into obscurity until the Rebellion brings a couple force-sensitives onto the stage.


You are correct, sir. I will go crawl back under my rock now…


I’m back from seeing Ghost in the Shell.

Basic concept for those who don’t know what it’s about is technology has advanced enough that people have come to see it as an advantage to have cybernetic implants of various types. For example, one advantage is being able to speed-learn a foreign language in seconds. But with all that technology and always-on connection means that someone with the right motivation and right technology can gain access to the most fundamental part of you.

We’re just now experiencing some of the problems that you get with that deep of integration, such as remote monitoring of vehicles that doesn’t get shut off when it’s sold to a new owner, being able to gain access to a car’s system remotely and being able to read RFID data from further away than what was intended.

In the future represented by the movie, technology’s everywhere. Skyscraper-sized advertisements. Who needs plain old paint when we can use interactive holograms for marking streets and highways? Black market and shady enhancement dealers.

To deal with the new problems that came with the new technology, there’s Section 9, a specialized anti-terrorism bureau. Amongst the members is Major. She refers to herself by that as a name rather than as a rank, though the Wikipedia entry uses it as a rank. Major is the first full-body cybernetically-enhanced person, with her brain being the only biological component.

In the pursuit of the person who was able to hijack geisha bots and some people, Major learns there’s more to her past than she knew, and that leads her to question what it means to have a “ghost” in her “shell”: her mind versus her artificial body.

This version of Ghost in the Shell comes at a time when technology makes it possible to create complex and interactive environments that would have been very difficult or impossible to achieve with things like matte background paintings. It’s put to good use in the action sequences where Major is running along walls and employing her thermoptic camoflage. There’s also gritty areas where you don’t have those neon lights, holograms and advertisments.

I enjoyed the movie, but I have a different perspective than what some other reviewers have had, as well as previous reactions to the casting of Scarlett Johansson.

A lot of fuss was made about “you should have a Japanese actress play this character” and “Scarlett’s another example of whitewashing movies”. But if you look at the original manga, the characters were drawn in different styles and nationalities. Here’s one of a new body Motoko had in one of the later stories. Does this look Japanese to you?

Also, I don’t really remember any fuss being made about the Danish actor who was chosen to play Batou, the Singaporean actor who was chosen to play Togusa, the British actor chosen to play Cutter or the American actor chosen to play Kuze.

In the context of the movie, things are all mixed together. Aramaki only speaks Japanese while everyone else speaks English. Enhancements are mixed in with bodies. People come from all over and work for companies that aren’t in their homeland. So why should the body Major inhabits make any difference?

Next, there’s the issue of how much of the anime was used as the basis for the live-action movie. The review over at Ars Technica kept comparing it to the anime, saying, “they didn’t do this, they left out that”.

Well, that’s what the movie is: a live-action adaptation of the anime, the manga and various other elements. If you want everything in the new version to be the same as what’s in the old version, go watch the old version. By definition, unless you’re trying to achieve a shot-for-shot remake, at least one thing is going to be different.

What would The Lord of the Rings have looked like as a live-action movie if Peter Jackson had been stuck with changing the original two movies into one movie because it was already too expensive to make? John Rogers, who created Leverage and The Librarians, posted a blog a decade ago where he said he took a stab at adapting Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and found out that a crucial character in the second book is essentially a space housewife. Anyone see Peeves in any of the Harry Potter movies? The Iron Giant has almost nothing in common with the book the character came from.

Any time you’re adapting someone else’s story, you have to make choices about what to leave in, what to leave out and what to change/combine/condense/etc.

It’s okay that it doesn’t cover exactly the same things as the anime or the manga. It draws on the past to say, “here’s another way to tell this story” so that both people who are familiar with it and those who aren’t have something new to experience.

I recommend that anyone who’s interested in seeing the movie bring that attitude with you: see what the movie can offer on its own rather than saying “It has to be like what we had before”. You’ll enjoy it more if you do.


Will you be my friend?


I saw Ghost in the Shell this weekend too. I’m not familiar with the manga or anime, so I didn’t go in with any preconceived notions. I have to say that I didn’t really like it, though. It seemed like they turned what could have been a rich story into Robocop.


I like your take on it. I read an article about it not making as much money as they hoped the first weekend, laying some of the blame on the folks who objected to casting Johansson. I was amused by the fact that one of the creative people involved with the series creation was pleased with the casting, while one of the publisher/marketing types was not. I have little to no interest in anime/comics/manga, so I was not destined to run right out to see it, but the promo someone posted here did pique my interest, so I’ll probably rent or stream it at some point.
Your other comments about people complaining about it not being identical to previous iterations are on point, too. Another example is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When they finally made it into a stand alone movie (after decades), it wasn’t line for line the same as the book or the BBC radio & TV productions… and that’s fine, though I’m sure some people were miffed about it. I enjoyed the movie. I’m pretty sure it did poorly at the box office, but that should have come as no surprise.
Aaand I got a phone call, so my train of thought got derailed, so I’ll just end it there.


Watched Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them over the weekend.

Really glad I watched it at home… being able to back up and replay let me catch lots of tidbits that were just throw out in passing.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the plot, but it was rich enough tp warrant the movie… not a just a story about the magical author, Newt Scamander, but also woven in there were bits about life in New York - magical and not, plus a little about the worldwide magical culture.

Worth the watch, and I’ve seen hints there will be more in this timeline.


I watched Arrival the other day. I had rented it from a streaming service, but not yet watched it. My mom mentioned that she watched it was disappointed… very meh. Anyway, she reminded me that I needed to watch it before my rental expired, which is good, because I was able to queue it up with only a few hours left available.

I don’t think there are any spoilers in here…
The movie wasn’t painfully horrible, but it definitely wasn’t awesome. While the ending was kind of disappointingly stupid, the worst thing for me was Forest Whitaker trying to talk with some kind of mystery accent that only resulted in half of what he said being unintelligible. Seriously, I had to turn on subtitles after his first couple of lines. (This isn’t the first movie in which he tries to pull off an accent for no apparent reason and the result is terrible.) The middle part of the movie was good-ish, and the end did explain the discombobulated parts throughout, but that doesn’t really atone the unexplained-until-the-end ‘flashback’-ey parts, nor the end result, at least for me. I think Amy Adams is freakin’ adorable, so looking at her for a couple hours is nice, and the only reason I would consider sitting through it again if, hypothetically, a friend was insistent on watching it. Apparently, Arrival was either based on or inspired by a short story, so maybe they didn’t have a lot to work with. Or maybe the short story was kind of lame, or doesn’t translate well into a movie. As an aside, I can’t think of a way that showing someone try to decipher a previously unknown language over a period of weeks (I’m guessing) could be made to be exciting, and they managed to make that aspect not painfully boring, so props for that!