Marriage Story Review: Incredible Performances.

5 stars
I honestly thought that after Joker there was no 2019 film that could provide a performance that would rival Joaquin Phoenix’s.
However, after finally watching Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story on Netflix, I can say he now has some stiff competition.
Every single actor does an incredible job in this film, which follows a couple going through a divorce and trying to make things easy for their son, only for their divorce proceedings to escalate.
Both Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver are flawless as Nicole and Charlie Barber and are natural Oscar contenders, especially Driver who blew me away in so many scenes, like the one where he gives an impassioned song.

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The scene where Charlie sings in front of a group of his friends is my favourite of the film.

Again, if Joker had been released any other year then Driver would have an Oscar in the bag with this performance.
Complimenting the actors’ performances is the character writing for both Charlie and Nicole, with the film showing both of them to be flawed people who the audience can sympathize with and decide who is more at fault for the failure of their marriage.
And it’s not just the actors that are great but the cinematography as well with both long, extended takes and quick cuts being utilized to for dramatic and thematic effect perfectly.

The closing of the gate shots coming together to create a fantastic scene. 

Baumbach did an amazing job directing this film.
The only minor criticism I can think of is that it did take me a little bit to relate to Charlie and Nicole because of their celebrity status, which initially felt slightly alienating.
But, this issue I was having did quickly dissipate because of how the story and character arcs played out, along with the great the performances and cinematography so I can hardly fault the film.
Marriage Story is an emotional, highly crafted film that is definitely one of the best of the year.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Review – More Like The Rise of Retcons.

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The reactions to Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy have been… interesting to say the least.
It constantly feels like the extreme fans are at one another’s throats with each subsequent movie.
Personally, I enjoyed the first two films in this new trilogy.
I still love The Force Awakens, with it being my third favourite movie in the saga, next to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.
As for The Last Jedi, I thought it was a great film when I first watched it but, upon multiple rewatches, it became clear that it did have a lot of issues.
Even so, I enjoy the film but, sadly, the same cannot be said for The Rise of Skywalker, once again directed by J.J Abrams.
The funny thing is that this review was initially supposed to be positive but I quickly realised that I was writing down more negatives than positives about the film so it did not constitute being called a good film.
I would say that The Rise of Skywalker is the most flawed installment in this new trilogy.
Right from the start, I knew we were in trouble because the opening crawl details things that we should have been shown rather than told.
Following this, the first act is a complete mess that feels completely lacking in soul.
I found it incredibly difficult to care as the central characters of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) jumped from planet to planet, searching for a MacGuffin.
Even worse, when Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is sent by a somehow alive Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to kill Rey it causes the movie to deliver a whole bunch of retcons to try and undo all of the twists in The Last Jedi that many vocal fans had issue with.
The most evident of these is Palpatine himself.
With Snoke gone, they just shoehorned in Palpatine with absolutely no setup.

Palpatine basically serves as the replacement big bad guy after Snoke and it is blatantly obvious that his return was not planned.

And that is my big problem with this new trilogy.
Disney clearly had absolutely no plan when making these films and it creates a story that just doesn’t connect into a cohesive whole.
Look at the prequels.
Those films may be worse than these ones but George Lucas did have a plan on where the story would go.
Granted, he did not do a good job at adapting this plan but he still had one.
However, I will not say that The Rise of Skywalker is awful.
What saves the film from that is that it does get better after the first act and this is in no small part to the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren.
Kylo Ren is the best character in this trilogy and Adam Driver does an amazing job as him.
Although, I personally did not care for where their connection went at the end because it seemed kind of pointless.
Another positive is Princess Leia, with this film serving as a fitting goodbye to Carrie Fisher who tragically passed away.
She is put into the film using archived footage and it feels very respectful.

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Carrie Fisher got a meaningful sendoff in this film.

What does not feel respectful is the treatment of characters like Finn and Rose.
Finn got dealt a bad hand after The Force Awakens where his arc was repeated in The Last Jedi and is virtually nonexistent here but it is Rose’s actor Kelly Marie Tran who I feel the most sorry for.
She got a big role in the The Last Jedi but was not well received and got so much hate, some of it racially motivated, that it forced her off social media, and now she is pushed into a role as a side character in this film.
You could remove Rose from The Rise of Skywalker entirely and nothing would change.
Another jarring thing is the spy subplot in this film, which was completely pointless and felt like it was created to adapt to changes made in The Last Jedi, just like everything else.
Aside from Kylo Ren, his connection with Rey and the treatment of Leia, there are only a few other things I can say I liked about this movie.
One is the action, which is fun as always but with no standout moment, and some of the jokes that did land.

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There was one joke between C3PO and R2D2 that had me burst out into laughter.

Other than this, though, The Rise of Skywalker is a mess that does not flow well with the other two films in this trilogy.
If only those running the whole thing like Kathleen Kennedy had put their foot down and tried to put together a plan for creating a cohesive story.
At the very least this should have been done after The Force Awakens. 
In conclusion, I will say I consider The Force Awakens to be a great film, The Last Jedi to be a good film with a lot of problems, and The Rise of Skywalker to be a mess with only a few redeeming qualities, all coming together to create a story that just does not flow.
On the bright side, at least this new trilogy is not as bad as the prequels.

BlacKkKlansmen: Funny yet disturbing.

4 stars
“Dis joint is based upon some fo’ real, fo real sh*t” a title card reads as BlacKkKlansman starts.
This title card immediately sets up what is to come for the audience, in the hilarious, yet also disturbing, film directed by Spike Lee.
BlanKkKsman, like the title card states, it based off the true story about how the first African American police officer of Colorado Springs, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.
As implausible as this seems the police officer in question Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) achieved this by pretending to be a white man on the phone, while fellow an undercover cop pretended to be him in person.

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Washington and Adam Driver’s characters make a great team in their combined effort to infiltrate the KKK.

What follows is an oddly comedic take on the KKK, with the absurdity of their racist beliefs being put on full display.
This leads to numerous funny moments as Stallworth and his partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver) laugh behind the Klan’s back as they talk to them on the phone.
However, this film does not stray away from the disturbing aspects of the KKK, with one story that was told making me feel sick.
The film even managed to make pillow talk between a Klansman and his wife disturbing. However, even though the film does have a mixed tone with its both comedic and disturbing moments it juggles these moments very well for the most part.
One thing I really appreciated about this film though was how subtle it could be.
For instance, there was one scene where Stallworth is relaying a racist story over the phone to the leader of the KKK David Duke (Topher Grace) and it is heavily implied that this is based off racism Stallworth himself experience.

Stallworth and Duke.
A subtle moment between Stallworth and Duke shows how racism affected Stallworth himsllf in his childhood.

This is also a very politically charged movie, not only reflecting on the horrid racism of the 1960s but also the racism seen today.
There are even a few jabs at the Trump administration here and there.
The cinematography is also very well done and the only big criticism I have of the film is that its romance subplot gets cut off before it is resolved, although now I think about it, that may have been the point.
Overall BlacKkKlansman is a very well made film with both clever comedy and subtle moments.
It will leave you laughing at the ridiculousness of racism while also creeping you out about it.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, what’s with the hate?

4 and a half stars
I had such a great time watching The Last Jedi but afterwards I learnt that not everyone felt the same.
I went to see the movie with my family and my dad said he heard someone say the movie was disappointing after the it ended.
Originally, I was stunned at the backlash this movie was getting.
However, after thinking about it, I can see why people do not like this movie.
I personally do not agree with most of their criticisms but I can understand it.
That being said, I cannot understand the level of hatred that is being thrown at this movie, with many people saying it is garbage and worse than the prequels.
Really, The Last Jedi is worse than the prequels?
I highly disagree with this opinion and personally I think a lot of people are letting their  disappointment that the movie did not offer what they were expecting influence their opinions.
The story of The Last Jedi picks up immediately after The Force Awakens, with Rey meeting Luke and trying to convince him to return, Leia and the Resistance on the run from The First Order and Finn and newcomer Rose going on a mission to find something that can help the Resistance.
First of all, I really liked the performances in this movie, with Daisy Ridley, as Rey, and Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, being the standout actors.

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Daisy Ridley, as Rey, and Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren easily give the best performances of the film.

Then there is the story, which takes so many unexpected twist and turns that my jaw was constantly on the floor.
Now, a lot of people extremely disliked the twists the story took.
Rey’s backstory, Snoke’s role in the story and how Luke was portrayed, these are all common criticisms I hear about the film.
However, while I can understand why people see these as problems I do not.
Rey’s backstory was, believe or it not, the backstory I wanted her to have because of the implications the backstory has.
Although I was disappointed Snoke did not get a backstory, his role in the story was a great because it really shook things up in a good way.
As for Luke’s portrayal, it has been decades since Return of The Jedi so obviously Luke would have changed a lot since then, and Mark Hamill does a great job.

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Mark Hamill does a great job, returning as Luke Skywalker.

So while these things may have disappointing to some, they were not for me.
Another thing I really liked about the film was the action sequences.
There is a really great lightsabre duel about half an hour before the movie ends and it is one of the best in the entire series.
There were also some things I did not really like at first but, the more I think about them, I think they work in the grand scheme of things.
First there is the Casino storyline with Finn and Rose.
This storyline just does not feel like Star Wars.
It feels like we are watching a completely different movie.
However, after thinking about it, I realised it did contain some great messages about war that I really liked and it tied into the ending.
The final scene in the movie was also something I was unsure about at first.
It felt a little out of place at the time but, thinking back, it really sets up the story going forward.
But, there are still some problems.
Even though the Casino storyline was redeemable, it still did not feel like Star Wars.
Then there was Captain Phasma, played by Gwendoline Christie, who was built up to have a bigger role in this movie but is only in the movie for about ten minutes.
And I do not mean all her scenes combined add up to ten minutes, I literally mean she is consecutively in the movie for only ten minutes.
Captain Phasma is definitely the Bobba Fett of this trilogy.

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Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma

On top of this, there was a giant glaring plot hole with Laura Dern’s character.
However, other than that, I really liked this movie.
It is definitely one of the better Star Wars movie and does not deserve the level of hate it is getting.
I think this will turn out to be quite like The Empire Strikes Back, in a way.
A lot of people do not like it after seeing it but years from now they will come to enjoy and respect it… I hope.