MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

written by David Steffen

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the 9th and final movie in the “main” numbered episodes of the Star Wars Franchise that largely centers around the rebels vs the Empire. Between this and the last movie a strange message has been broadcast which has the appearance of being Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDirmid), the leader of the Empire in the original trilogy. Is this a hoax or has Palpatine actually survived somehow? It all appears to be part of a plan to take the First Order revival of the empire to again make it a galaxy-spanning dictatorship. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the leader of the First Order rises to take his place at the helm of this new Empire.

Rey (Daisy Ridley), the last Jedi after the death of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the previous film, is trying to complete her Jedi training under the tutelage of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, who had passed away before filming but is present in the film through repurposed footage from The Force Awakens). Rey and her fellow soldiers in the war seek out an Imperial Wayfinder, the only way they know to find the stronghold where Palpatine has supposedly been revived.

While the previous movie Episode 8, The Last Jedi, was directed by Rian Johnson, this one returned to being directed by J.J. Abrams (who directed Episode 7, The Force Awakens). The contrast is stark. Although there was a lot to love about The Force Awakens (primarily the more diverse cast) the plot had been very rehashed, almost an exact copy of A New Hope with different characters swapped in. The Last Jedi was probably my favorite in the series because I felt like it took more risks, told new angles on stories that weren’t just exactly what any fan could have guessed–it was clearly aware of the history of the movies and it played with those expectations by setting something up that you think you know where it’s going, and then going a different way instead. The Rise of Skywalker, you could tell it was back in Abrams hands primarily because it again did not take any risks, and largely did pretty much what any fan could have guessed. It had its moments, there were big epic battles with flashy special effects and some solid character moments, but overall it ended up leaving me feeling unaffected rather than moved. It felt like Abrams was trying to undo some of the amazing work from the last movie by suddenly downplaying characters that had played a huge role in the last one, retconning moments from the last one that were big character developments and trying to turn them into something trivial. I was hoping for something much more moving for the final installment of the main series.

If you’re a Star Wars fan I would certainly not try to talk you out of seeing it! It is the final installment after all! But, for myself, I might never rewatch this one, while I would happily rewatch The Last Jedi every week.

MOVIE REVIEW: 10 Cloverfield Lane

written by David Steffen
10 Cloverfield Lane is a 2016 suspense movie published by Paramount Pictures.

After an argument, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) leaves her boyfriend and drives solo across Louisiana late at night.  After hearing reports on the radio of sweeping blackouts on the east coast, a pickup drives her off the road.

She wakes up in a cellar on a mattress on the floor, hooked up to an IV bag, and with a brace on her knee chained to the wall.  Soon she meets Howard (John Goodman), who claims to have rescued her from the side of the road and is nursing her back to health, and that he is keeping her there for her own good.  They’re in a fallout shelter under his farm, and he claims they’re both lucky to be there, because he says that war has broken out and the shelter is the only thing keeping them safe from the fallout.

He unchains her brace from the wall and lets her loose, and she tries to attack him to get loose but fails.  She meets the other resident of the shelter, Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), and find Henry’s oppressive rules laid over their life together there.  Is there really a war going on out there?  Can she and Emmett find a way to escape?  Is there anything to escape to?

If you’ve seen the movie Cloverfield  you might have some suspicion about what’s really really going on above ground, but the connection was so tenuous (only the similarity in name and knowing they were both J.J.Abrams movies.  I had that suspicion, but I also suspected that Abrams might’ve just chosen the title as a red herring so that you had to constantly wonder about what is going on up there.

Great suspense movie, and I was never sure where it was going.  John Goodman plays a solid villain, creepy and malevolent even while he puts on a guise of reasonability in between threats.  Excellent movie, high stakes, always kept me guessing.  It’s free to view on Amazon Prime.