The STAR WARS We Lost

I’ve been living in Star Wars the past few weeks. The Mandalorian on Disney+. Jedi: Fallen Order on the Xbox. A full franchise rewatch gearing up for the release of The Rise of Skywalker, including dipping into relevant episodes of Clone Wars and Rebels. My brain has been living in a galaxy far, far away, and perhaps the most amazing thing about returning there is realizing how much of the inane trivia is still in that old grey matter of mine. Side characters from the Prequels who were only named on toys or in books – I know their names. Aliens that pass through the frame for a second – I can tell you their species. I can point out how the events of Rebels sets up this moment or how Clone Wars established this piece of lore. I know less than some, but much more than others. I am full of Star Wars mythology. 

We were watching Rogue One the other night and I had a realization. Jyn and Cassian were making their way through Jedha City when they bumped into two aggressive jerks. “That’s Ponda Baba!” I said to my girlfriend. “Obi-Wan Kenobi is going to cut off his arm in Star Wars!”

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Witnessing The Unclaimed Dead

We stood, a hundred or so of us, jammed under a complex of blue tents in a thunderous downpour. This was real rain, not just LA rain, a driving rain that had turned the grass of the cemetery grounds into a sucking puddle of mud. 

At the center of the crowd, flanked by an underpowered speaker, was a small gathering of religious figures, clustered around a freshly dug grave. Inside the grave were the cremains of 1,457 people who had died in LA County in 2016 and remained unclaimed. The county held on to their mortal remains for three and, when no one was found or came forward to accept the ashes, they were buried in this small green space. We were all gathered there to put these people – our neighbors – to rest. 

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Does Grant Morrison’s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Give Us The Ending Of HBO’s WATCHMEN?

This will contain spoilers for All-Star Superman and Watchmen on HBO. Spoilers for Watchmen will only be for what has aired, as I don’t have access to screeners. 

We’re at the end of this season of Watchmen, HBO’s audacious sequel to the Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons masterpiece. I have a lot of feelings about the show (I’ve written a thousand words I’ll probably never publish about whether or not it was correct to answer a question Moore purposefully and thematically left unanswered in the comic. The show is very good, but as a huge fan of the comic (I have a Dr. Manhattan tattoo!) I get twitchy about some things), but in general it’s been absolutely amazing. 

What’s been most amazing about the show – so far – is how thematically and emotionally in line with Watchmen the comic it is, while at the same time seeming to push back on some of the comics’ initial thesis. Moore and Gibbons were doing a deconstruction in Watchmen, taking apart superheroes and displaying their fascism and perversion. He was taking the white adolescent male power fantasy and peeling away the veneer and showing the ugliness beneath it. But Damon Lindelof’s (and company) take on the sequel feels more like a reconstruction.

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KNIVES OUT: The Kindest Murder Mystery Ever

The first few paragraphs of this are spoiler free, but major spoilers do arrive.

Who knew murder could be so fun? More importantly, who knew murder could be so nice? Rian Johnson’s whodunnit, Knives Out, may be the singularly nicest and most kind murder mystery anyone has ever made, an Agatha Christie-style sleuthfest with kindness and love as its guiding principle. 

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The Ending Of THE IRISHMAN

As the headline indicates, this will mention the ending of The Irishman, but it won’t be too specific. It will, however, touch on the general events and tone of the end of the film as context . 

Yesterday I was talking to a guy who isn’t a movie guy. He’s a working class guy, likes to spend time at the gym, keeps himself busy. He doesn’t make a lot of time for movies or TV, but the holiday weekend being what it is – his family lives out of town – he found himself watching The Irishman on Netflix.

He didn’t watch it in one go. Even when he had nothing else happening he couldn’t sit still for the whole three and a half hours, so he watched it in chunks over a few days. And in the middle of the chunks he got news that his father was dying. His father was living alone and he had fallen, and he had laid in a puddle of his own vomit for two days. Now he was in hospice and dying. 

This guy didn’t tell me his whole relationship with his father, but he didn’t have to. It was on his face. It wasn’t an easy relationship. 

So this guy watches the end of The Irishman, puts on the last hour and figures he’ll get his mind off things. Except… well, if you’ve seen The Irishman you know it didn’t get his mind off things. Exact opposite, in fact. 

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Now That Tony Stark Is Dead, Maybe the MCU Can Get Progressive

Maybe Tony Stark died at the exact right moment. Maybe the spring of 2019 was the last time it was safe out there for a billionaire, and if he had survived into the current Democratic primary, which has made billionaires as much a target as President Trump, he would have come to understand Harvey Dent’s famous quote in The Dark Knight.

It’s almost hard to remember a time when Iron Man was a C-list superhero, but he was. He was essentially a runner-up, a superhero whose best known storyline was the one where he was too much of a drunk to keep being a superhero. But the vagaries of Hollywood are what they are, and Marvel Studios ended up with only the rights to their B and C-list heroes, and so they made an Iron Man movie. The rest, as they say, is history.

But it’s a weird history, one warped by the fact that Tony Stark is the founding member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That doesn’t reflect his status in the comics (or at least it didn’t, until recently) and it has led to a strange and unforeseen – and, I think, largely unacknowledged – imbalance in the MCU. One that, now that Tony is dead, can finally be corrected.

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THE MANDALORIAN Review

Never forget that George Lucas was ripping off a lot of stuff when he made Star Wars. This is vital, and it’s a part of Star Wars’ DNA. It is also, I believe, why the first episode of The Mandalorian works so damn well. 

See, modern Star Wars seems to be interested in aping old Star Wars as opposed to taking a page from the Lucas playbook and ripping off other movies. Star Wars, to borrow a phrase, is a place, and that means you can take other films and genres and easily drop them into a Star Wars milieu, which is exactly what The Mandalorian does. In this case it’s a Spaghetti/revisionist era Western plopped right into a world of blasters and Gonk droids, and it’s the chemical reaction between Star Wars and the genre that creates the beautiful fizz that makes the episode so damned enjoyable. 

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TERMINATOR: DARK FATE Is A Dreadful Deathblow To The Franchise

This review contains spoilers for the opening scene of the movie, which some people might prefer to experience fresh.

This movie made me feel old. Not because the leads of The Terminator have aged into their golden years; this is right and natural and makes me feel good. No, I watched Terminator: Dark Fate and felt old because I’ve been through this ridiculousness again and again and again and again – it’s yet another movie that is trying to cash in on the success and popularity of the first two Terminator films and yet doesn’t seem to have a functional idea of what made those movies work. The movie makes me feel old the same way watching yet another generation think they’re the ones who are going to make polyamory work makes me feel old – I’ve been around, I’ve seen this, I know it doesn’t end well.

Like the three previous failed attempts at restarting the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate has no idea what made The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day work. None at all. Like the previous three attempts – yes, there are twice as many efforts to restart this franchise as there are actually good entries in the franchise – this movie thinks that what we like are the robots, or maybe the time travel, and it definitely thinks what we like are big, metal-crashing set pieces. What it doesn’t understand is that The Terminator and T2 work not because of the scifi trappings or the action beats but because of everything in between them – the characters and the emotional story. This is why those two films are eternal, and why you’re possibly trying to remember what the previous three Terminator movies even were, or whether you saw them. 

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Why JOKER May Be The Defining Movie Of 2019

This contains spoilers for Joker.

They told us there would be death. It started with the first trailer, with people saying they weren’t interested in a movie that explained away a white man’s violence by showing him as a victim, and it continued with critics and journalists saying the film would be a beacon to violent incels, that it would spark shootings, that theaters would be dangerous places. The feedback loop of modern internet society was such that the fears of violence mashed up with knee-jerk trolling to create a liminal space where it was so unclear what was real and what was a joke that the FBI and US military issued advisories.

But nobody died. There have been some fights, but I’ll tell you as someone who has worked in movie theaters/movie theater adjacent jobs that this is not out of the ordinary. It’s just the movie itself that makes these fisticuffs newsworthy; I’ve seen people get into it at animated films. 

Instead of people dying, Joker has been a huge success. It’s the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time and it is approaching $1 billion in worldwide box office. It made more in its opening weekend than Justice League, a PG-13 straight down the middle movie, did in its opening weekend. It’s not just a hit, it’s a phenomenon, drawing people to a staircase in the Bronx down which Joker triumphantly dances in the film. 

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Berlanti Triumphant

Today Greg Berlanti’s DC journey has come full circle. The big announcement about HBOMax, Warner Bros’ entry into the overcrowded world of streaming services, included news about another Berlanti DC Comics show – he will be creating a Green Lantern series. That particular property is significant because it’s the one where Berlanti entered the DC Extended Universe… and it was a major failure.

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