I finished watching Season 2 a few weeks ago, so I've had a good time to process it. Like most people who have seen it, I really liked it, but have the same complaint as a lot of others do.
Stranger Things seemed to come out of nowhere back in 2016, and was one of Netflix's many mega-hits. It resonated with people due to its wonderful nostalgia factor, but also because it was a solid mystery, with some pretty great characters.
Season 2 adds a handful of new characters, and like the original players, they're very well cast. The show does a fantastic job of juggling so many characters all within the relatively tight confine of a smaller town. Almost instantly, the audience is sucked back into that wonderful creepy vibe that Stranger Things does so well. And I think this season does an even better job at digging into who these people are that are dealing with this horrible supernatural problem.
Though the show is well acted throughout, there is a standout. Millie Bobbi Brown, who is a such a terrific young talent, is given the most to work with, as her character, 11, has to deal with the outside world that she is unaccustomed to. However, this is the one part where the Duffer Brothers push it too far. They take 11 out of town in episode 7, and it doesn't work at all.
However, that's a small price to pay, for most of it works quite well. Yes, the CG effects still look a little underwhelming, and in key moments it does harm the believability. But through most of it, the terrific writing, acting, and cinematography make Season 2 a very fun and creepy ride. And the last major scene of the season is probably the best Stranger Things scene yet.
Stranger Things continues to deserve its massive critical acclaim. These kid actors rock. They are incredible. And never has a TV show so effectively brought back someone of my age to their youth.
If you haven't watched Stranger Things yet, do so now. It's one of Netflix's best shows. And that's saying something.
I'll mark the point where I start adding spoilers further on, below the safe stuff.
I saw the film at a midnight showing last night. Even though the reviews were very positive, I had low expectations, given my dislike of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Fortunately, it turns out at that The Last Jedi is much better written and directed than Episode VII.
The Last Jedi actually does what The Force Awakens failed to do: it decently develops these new characters which felt so flat in Episode VII. I had thought there was miscasting done in The Force Awakens, but I now realize I was wrong: these new actors just didn't have enough material to showcase their skills. I now dig Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren, whereas before I felt ambivalent about them all. And our new antagonist, Snoke—well he steals the show.
The Last Jedi is long, to the point of being a bit bloated. But most of the journeys are a lot of fun. There is humor mixed throughout, and most of it works. Where it doesn't, it's awful, because they stick it in some of the most serious points of the story. In that respect, I wish they would have learned from Rogue One, which benefited from keeping it serious.
One of the most awful parts of The Force Awakens was all the recycling of A New Hope that was done. There is some of that in The Last Jedi, but not enough to ruin the movie. And unlike The Force Awakens, the CG all looks good.
What The Last Jedi does best, is it effectively pushes characters into the struggle between the light and the dark side of the Force. Witnessing their internal battles with their identities in the mix of epic external battles is Star Wars done right.
And it needs to be mentioned: Mark Hamill's acting is superb.
I'd put The Last Jedi in the same territory as Rogue One, not as good as New Hope, or The Empire Strikes Back, but about as good as Return of the Jedi, and definitely better than the Clone Wars garbage trilogy.
Catch it in the theatre while you can.
Some things are just so dumb, they're hard to buy:
1. Why do bombers move so slow in space?
2. Why do bombs drop below the bombers in space?
3. Why are Rebel ships out of range of lasers from the Destroyers when they're still in visible range? What's exactly degrading these streams of photons in a vacuum? You can fire a laser and destroy a whole planet from space, but can't shoot a few ships that are a little ways out there?
4. What exactly was this BS that Rose and Finn figured out about the tracking?
5. If the Rebels were so close to an impenetrable base, why didn't they just go there in the first place?
6. How can there possibly be a wall considered impenetrable?
7. Why would Snoke allow himself to be killed so easily?
8. Why is Rey this incredibly powerful Jedi all of a sudden, and how did Rose become a first-class fighter pilot?
I can't believe they killed off Snoke. He was the best new character in ages, and they off him so easily like that? Off the flat characters and keep the good ones.
The entire side-trip to Vegas didn't fit the tone of the film at all. I would have rewritten and reshot that part with an entirely new concept. Benicio Del Toro's character was little more than a cheap stereotype.
I wouldn't have killed off Luke. Killing off a main character every episode in the trilogy is going to get very old.
Why is BB-8 still grossly underdeveloped after 2 films? We know who R2D2 and C3P0 are. BB-8 is pretty damn flat for being so round.
Even with all my complaints, I still loved the film. Rian Johnson did a stellar job with the writing and directing.
I'm actually looking forward to the third installation, and that's saying a lot, because after the first, I thought I'd never see another Star Wars film ever again.
I finally got around to watching the 2014 WW2 tank movie, starring Brad Pitt. I remember wanting to see the film at a theatre, but not getting around to it. Thinking it to be more grand of a film than it is, I'm not crushed that I saw it on Blu-ray.
I dig the concept: a medium-sized film about a new recruit joining a veteran tank crew, to face some of the fiercest action near the end of the war. Pitt plays the hardened veteran who started killing Nazis in Africa, and now must finish the job in Germany. His crew is tough but beat up, and has obviously aged decades in the few years they've fought. And now, in the last leg, they're forced to train a new guy.
The movie is contained, but in a decent way. Instead of massive battles, it's a handful of tanks against a couple other tanks, or a few hundred troops taking a town instead of thousands. Though it would have been nice to see the contrast between massive cinematic war scenes and those of a tight space within a tank, the film works fine in its non-huge scope, especially in an extended scene within an apartment in the ruins of a German town where the tank crew meet a couple of German ladies—a scene that is paced very well, and is written and acted in such a satisfactory way. It's in some of the slower moments that the film works best.
The different members of the crew are interesting, moderately well-developed characters, and you start feeling for them as they push through their horrific journey. I was hooked, waiting for the inevitable monster of a third act that would complete the film. But unfortunately, what played out in the last 30 minutes or so, was just far too unbelievable for me.
I still recommend the film. I think it's good. Brad Pitt, as usual, is great. But, it would have been much more satisfying for me had the third act been far more believable. I invested 100 minutes into the story, was hooked, and then the final thirty minutes played out, and I was left shaking my head.
I'm sure I'm a tougher critic on this sort of stuff than most. And budget may have had something to do with it. But, had the third act been a gem, this film would have gone down as classic. It just came up 30 minutes short.