To properly analyze Star Wars: The Last Jedi, you have to go beyond the trappings of fandom and look at the movie as a part of a larger product of Disney/Lucasfilm storytelling. Approaching this as anything other than a corporate juggernaut mainly concerned with moving merchandise and building the next generation of consumers will result in total anger, confusion, and regret. This might sound cynical and cold, but it’s only the acknowledgment that Hollywood cinema is big business and sometimes actual art will slip through the image factory despite their best efforts to curtail imagination and wonder.
I’m not saying The Last Jedi lacks imagination or wonder, but there’s definitely a middling corporate influence throughout the movie that simultaneously keeps the movie in an inoffensive zone of bland character moments while setting up Rian Jonhson’s long-term vision for the Star Wars franchise.
What makes The Last Jedi interesting, though, is that it deliberately erases the nostalgic underpinnings of the Star Wars saga being about the Skywalker clan. Now this is where you see a lot of online outrage regarding The Last Jedi (even when you remove the knee-jerk right-wing racist backlash to the movie being “too diverse“) with the main complaint is that it “feels different” than previous Star Wars films.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
Continue reading “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and Moving Beyond Nostalgic Ownership”
Star Trek has meant a lot to me as a fan of pop culture, science-fiction, and television. It also has meant everything to me as a human being.
My grandfather, who was a WWII veteran, likely served in a segregated unit in the war. He returned home to a nation still refusing to deal with Jim Crow and other societal injustice.
When I was a very young, I recall him watching various genre programs like Wild Wild West, Gunsmoke, Rat Patrol, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and countless other series. However, he especially loved Star Trek.
Continue reading “What Star Trek Meant for My Grandfather”
I’m examining Batman v Superman from the perspective of the ridiculous and (not) unprecedented fan “outrage” and critical overreaction.
First thing, let’s take a look at the phrase “confirmation bias.” Here’s the definition:
Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias, is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.
Simply put, if people desperately wish to cling onto or believe in a certain conclusion, there’s nothing in the universe that can change their mind. They will not entertain — nor have the ability to entertain — anything that falls outside of their way of thinking.
Continue reading “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Confirmation Bias”
Spectre wasn’t the disaster some reviewers claim but it’s certainly nowhere close to Casino Royale (a film I consider one of the greatest Bond films of all time behind Goldfinger, License to Kill, and For Your Eyes Only).
The problem with Spectre is the similar problem with much of mainstream franchise cinema: “safe” stories with play-it-safe-writing that reduces the cinematic experience to a minor distraction from a busy week instead of an exploration of ideas.
Continue reading “NOC Reviews Spectre: Playing it Safe with Bond”
Avengers: Age of Ultron was the perfect summer popcorn film. It’s a big, loud and frenetic superhero movie with a decent amount of heart.
[Ed. note: Not to mention the second biggest opening weekend in history. Who’s the first? The first Avengers movie, of course.]
The story was a bit shaky at times, but the performances were strong because of the cast chemistry and the trademark Joss Whedon banter. Meanwhile, the visuals were outstanding, the fight scenes were expertly choreographed, and there were a couple of interesting twists regarding one of the main characters.
Continue reading “NOC Reviews Avengers: Age of Ultron“
In honor of Black History Month, I will allow three days of free online screenings of the documentary Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century.
From Sunday, February 1 at 12:00am (EST) through Tuesday, February 3 at 11:59pm (EST) you’ll be able to watch the documentary free of charge!
Continue reading “‘Brave New Souls’ Free Online Screening for Black History Month”
Originally posted at The Fool’s Crusade
If you haven’t heard by now, Marvel Entertainment has announced a Black Panther movie and the Black geek community has gone bonkers with virtual high-fives and backflips about the fact that they’re finally getting a big-budget superhero movie with a Black lead.
I’ve never been a fan of the Black Panther (my favorite Black superhero from Marvel was Night Thrasher from the New Warriors) but I will definitely check out the movie when it is released.
One of the unforeseen developments since the announcement of the film is the fear that this will overshadow the efforts of Black indie creators because the Black genre fans out there will have gotten what they’ve always wanted from the Marvel/DC entertainment machine: recognition.
Continue reading “I’m Happy for Black Panther… However…”
Brave New Souls is a documentary I wrote, produced, and directed that explores the thoughts, goals, and inspirations of a new generation of Black creators in graphic novels, television, cinema, literature, and digital media. It was a very tough shoot as I did the camera work, sound recording, lighting, and directing ALL BY MYSELF! While the movie will be released on DVD in two weeks — on July 15 — for those that want to watch it via their smartphones, tablets, laptops, and home PCs, you can stream or download it as a high-quality, digital video right now at Gumroad for $7.99!
I wanted to take a moment to thank all the creators I worked with during the production of the documentary and share a few things I learned:
Continue reading “Things I Learned While Making the ‘Brave New Souls’ Documentary”
Saw Captain America: The Winter Soldier and really have nothing bad to say at all. There were a few issues with story logic but outside of minor nitpicks, I’d have to say this is as good as The Avengers and definitely the best “solo” Marvel Cinematic Universe movie to date.
The best way to describe this movie is “balanced.” It achieved an almost perfect balance between comic book-style action, humor, character development, and story sophistication. Taking a page from the Robert Ludlum/Tom Clancy school of 1970s-era Cold War espionage pop culture storytelling, The Winter Soldier (at the very least) establishes a formula for Marvel Studios that, if used repeatedly, should guarantee the cinematic dominance of Marvel IPs for the next generation.
Minor spoilers follow.
Continue reading “NOC Reviews ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’”
Now that I’ve had a day to process it, here’s my take on The Raid 2: Berandal. (Caution: there will be minor spoilers here.)
Let’s get the negatives out of the way — the only thing that (some ADHD-riddled folks) will complain about is the length and the subtitles. Also, a few cinephiles may not be happy about the recycled story concept — it’s a high-octane martial arts re-imagining of the outstanding Hong Kong police thriller Infernal Affairs that was later re-made into the Academy Award-winning Hollywood film The Departed. The plot and characters can get a little labyrinthine with the double-and-triple-crosses but that isn’t a complaint just a heads-up that this action film has a strong component of character development and interaction.
With that said, The Raid 2 picks up right after the end of the first movie and puts main character Rama (Iko Uwais) back into the mix as an undercover agent sent to bring down two Indonesian crime syndicates. I have to say, the acting in this movie is strong from top to bottom. You get to know each character and why they do what they do — and some of them are slimeballs but others are crimelords with a sense of honor and duty.
Continue reading “NOC Reviews The Raid 2“