Star Wars: The Last Jedi – A Spoiler Free Review

Hello there,

Time to end my blog haitus. While work is still pretty insane (the last week before the holidays is upcoming), I’m done term one of my Masters program, and I have more time to dedicate to reading (yahoo!) and writing. Of course, Star Wars brings out the writer in me, because I need somewhere to put down all my emotional thoughts about the new film, Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. My review will be completely spoiler free, but if you’ve seen it and wish to discuss elements and aspects of it with me further, send me a private message.

First and foremost, to true Star Wars addicts like myself, I really recommend watching it twice. The first time I watched it, I came out exhausted from the anxiety I had going in; anxiety caused from excitement and also expectation. This caused a bit of a “crash” post-film that made it hard to process. After watching it again tonight, there is so much more I appreciate about it. It really took the second viewing to get a good feel for it, in its entirety.

The movie wasn’t perfect, by any means. There are a lot of character developments that I have serious issues with. My issues that I had regarding the character Phasma in The Force Awakens reign more true this time around. After reading her backstory in the book ‘Phasma’, I just don’t the way she’s made out to be in the film. It doesn’t fit.

Another problem I had was with some consistency errors (again, I’ll discuss this in a private message if you’d like to talk about it further), and a scene with Leia that, to me, was just stupid.

Apart from the aforementioned, this movie was spectacular. It was touching, it was raw, it was funny (the humour reminded me of the heart and hilarity in the original trilogies), and cinematically, it was just mindblowing. There were two scenes in particular that really stood out to me: the throne room scene and all the fighting that took place on the salt planet. Absolutely outstanding. There are not enough words I can say to sing the praises of those moments in the film. Whoever decided on the design and effects of the salt planet needs a hell of a raise.

I really appreciated the development of both Rey and Kylo Ren. Their character development was so authentic and emotional, in their own very unique ways. Adam Driver was phenomenal.

Rian Johnson’s film had me on the edge of my seat, had me gasping, and had me continuously surprised. He definitely took this trilogy in a new and yet familiar direction, and I appreciate what he did. I understand why Star Wars fans might be torn on this, but if they take a moment to appreciate it as a film on it’s own, they can’t deny that it is one of the most amazing cinematic feats.

Pay attention to the final scene; I think there’s some clue into what Rian Johnson will create in the new trilogy.

I gave this movie an 88% after my first viewing, and while I noticed more things that I loved about it the second time around, I still think that an 88% is a fair representation of the film (I would give The Force Awakens a 92%, just an FYI). Despite me rating TFA higher than TLJ, I think I might like this movie more. I have to watch it a few more times to truly find out. In the meantime, I’ll emerge myself in the worlds in literature that is from the ‘Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ release.

Have any questions, comments, thoughts? Share below (spoiler free) or send me a message if you’d like to discuss this further!

xo
C

20171216-005137.jpg

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — a Short Review

Hey there,

I’m a Star Wars fanatic. I’m probably one of the biggest you know. My usernames across the board are ‘Darth Claudia’. I have a Mandalorian symbol tattooed on me (among other Star Wars references scattered about). I own enough Star Wars themed clothing to wear a different outfit every day. My bookshelves are stacked with Star Wars novels and reference books. I even have a handful of Star Wars toys sitting on those shelves. It’s safe to say that my love of Star Wars is a bit of an obsession.

And so, you can imagine that I was very excited for Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, and may believe that my review of the movie would have bias, clouded by my endless love for this universe. I’ll get as honest as I can be about the movie without sharing spoilers…

First and foremost, this movie didn’t feel like a Star Wars episode movie. I understand that it wasn’t meant to be, but it showed in a number of ways. I described it as being a very long live action episode of Clone Wars.

That being said, Clone Wars is an amazing show, and the focus of the show is action, action, action. This movie had that. It was pretty much non-stop. But the thing I love most about Star Wars movies is the heart, is the dialogue and bonding that goes on between the action. I don’t want to watch Storm/Sand Troopers shoot at people for two hours, but that’s what this movie was. People continuously shooting at one another. (And people punching Troopers which somehow knocks them out as if they’re not wearing any armor at all, but I’ll ignore that in this review…)

I have heard reviewers and friends say that this was the “action movie” that Star Wars fans wanted, but no, I have to disagree. My Star Wars world has lightsabers in it. My battles have Jedis using the force against evil, and the Sith retaliating with the same strong force. This didn’t have Jedis or Sith. It had an almost-Jedi, who I actually found to be a pretty cool character, except for the filmmakers turning mantras and the practice of Jedi with mantras into a joke/silliness. If I wanted to watch a battle scene that includes humans vs. the enemy with guns, guns, and more guns (plus bombs), I would have turned on any other superhero action movie. My Star Wars universe has action that includes the force, and I saw five minutes of that (which were truly the best five minutes in the movie). “I’ve seen this in movies before,” was what I thought while watching two hours of fighting.

As I mentioned, heart and dialogue are what makes Star Wars films so special. The first twenty minutes of this movie had that and I was hooked in. It had me excited for what was to come. But then there was no more of that! I honestly didn’t feel attached to any of the characters (not even Jyn, though she was a pretty radical character), and I even forgot most of their names (actually, maybe all of them…). You don’t forget names in Star Wars films! Characters, even small ones, usually have such an impact and leave such an impression. These characters were cool, but not memorable. Some interactions were cool, but nothing exceptional. The only character who was truly memorable was A-2S0, who provided the only real comic relief in the movie and who interacted with other characters so authentically… and he was a robot.

The music also didn’t feel like a Star Wars film. Clone Wars does a great job with the music and when I’m watching the television show, I feel immersed in the world through the music the same way I do in the films. It gives me goosebumps.This film felt like it was trying too hard to capture the “Star Wars feel” that you get through John Williams’ brilliant work. It also had a main theme that played throughout was just horrendous and annoying. I worry about Williams’ age and what it means for the backbone of Star Wars films.

Another complaint I had with the film was that you have Darth Vader, who is scarier than he’s been in I don’t know how long, and then you have him make a pun about CHOKING!? WHAT?! WHATTTTT ARE YOU DOING?! That is stupidity I just can’t get down with.

Listen, this movie was a good in-between for the Episodes. It was exciting and I liked it a lot. But it wasn’t what I really expected and it wasn’t as good as it could have been. It was definitely a good attempt at sealing up a giant plot hole that George Lucas’ poor writing did, back in the day, but it didn’t feel the same way Star Wars makes me feel. It won’t be one that I see five times in the theatre, and through a lot of the fighting, all I could think of was, “I want to go home and watch Episode VII again…” I will add it to my collection, I appreciate it as a fan, but it simply wasn’t truly Star Wars.

Have you seen the Rogue One? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

xo
C

Last Minute Shopping – Local (Hamilton, Ontario) Shops to Check off the Last Things on Your List!

Hey there,

Two weeks to go until Christmas (and also Hanukkah!) and I bet you’re still looking for that last little something that’s unique and perfect for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list — am I right!? Well, for my Hamiltonians (or GTA-ers), here are the best last-minute stops in the city to make sure you’ve checked off that list with some real awesome goods!

James Street Bookseller

2016-11-26-03.18.19-2.jpg.jpg

Do I really need to talk about this store, again? Book lovers – or those buying for book lovers – rejoice! Here’s the perfect city stop to buy a really unique used book for that special someone on your list. Go in there without expectation and you’ll end up walking out with something really special and thoughtful for that hard-to-shop-for person on your list.

Pure Home Couture

2016-11-13-09.08.27-1.jpg.jpg

My favourite little French shop, located on Locke street. They make their fragranced products in-house so you know you’re getting locally made, small batch, high-quality stuff! Their perfumes are so divine, their candles are the best you’ll find (PERIOD), and let’s not forget that they have such unique pieces of home decor and decorations available. Get something Parisian and beautiful smelling for a special lady (or man!) in your life!

Kaza Wood Furniture

Who doesn’t like that natural wood look? Whether you’re looking for a piece of furniture or a wooden accent to make a bathroom, kitchen, dining room or living room truly stand out, or to have that talking-piece at the dinner table, Marcus Melo’s pieces are perfect. All wood is sustainably sourced and you know you’re getting a product that has a lot of time and love put into it. Kaza Wood Furniture pieces can be found at James North General Store (even their sign is made by them!) or you can contact Marcus directly through @kazawoodfurniture!

Nelle Stelle

2016-11-26-12.03.13-1.jpg.jpg

Located in the basement below Augusta Cafe, this local-artist general store has something for everyone on your list. Supporting Hamilton artists, as well as artists from the GTA, this store has jewellery, plants, pillows, candles… everything! A great one-stop shop for some unique pieces, in the city.

 

We all have those not-so-local products that we can’t help but love, only it’s a bit too late for shipping them over in time for Christmas… I can help you, in that department!

2016-11-30-07.41.22-1.jpg.jpg

Love Obvious States literary designs? Find their products at  Indigo/Chapters (prints can be found here), or the Penguin Toronto (more can be found here!) store that just opened up!

Love Out of Print Clothing but can’t handle those expensive conversion rates and crazy shipping prices? Find some of their amazing sweaters, t-shirts, socks and totes at Girl on the Wing in Hamilton! While you’re there, check out some of their amazing feminist wares and truly unique vintage pieces!

I hope my suggestions help you find that perfect little something for the special someone on your Christmas list!

Happy shopping!

xo
C

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them – a Short Movie Review

Hey there,

Movie reviews are not a thing I’m interested in getting into, but Fantastic Beasts totally calls for a spoiler-free review.

J.K. Rowling’s world became a big part of my life. I got the first books from my brother for Christmas, along with Harry Potter’s “textbooks” (Quidditch through the ages & Fantastic Beasts) when I was about ten years old. Unfortunately, other than a light read, I put those books down and didn’t touch them again until many years later. When I returned to the books, I was around 21 years old. While I watched the movies, often in theatres, they didn’t resonate with me as they should have. While re-reading the books, I told myself that each completed book would be rewarded with a movie of that book. Well, not only did the books captivate me, steal my heart, and destroy me in ways a book hadn’t done for a long time, the movie adaptions did the same, and so I was flying through books and movies like nobody’s business. And Harry Potter took over my life (bought merch, bought LEGOs, went to Wizarding World, was selected by Ollivander, etc).

And so, when you are that in love with a series and haven’t been immersed in that film world for a long time, something like Fantastic Beasts is a total blessing. As such, I went in there with immense excitement (and dressed in my Ravenclaw robes) and watched with eyes wide and mouth dropped. I was not disappointed.

Having read reviews before, I was slightly concerned with what I was hearing: a lot of filler and no plot. But I have to disagree with this. Fantastic Beasts wasn’t a book: it was a textbook, and, as such, Rowling had to help create a new world and story for her fans, using old lore. FB did just that. When you create a new storyline, it’s intent is to be captivating and that’s what FB did. I am already beyond excited for the second one! FB is like the prequel we HP fans never knew we needed or deserved.

I also thought the characters were beautifully developed. Again, Rowling was working from a blank slate beyond a name and a house (Newt is in Hufflepuff) and I felt Redmayne embodied the character in a wonderful way. This compassionate monster-hunter was an odd and educated and inquisitive Hufflepuff in every way. Tina wasn’t impressive but wasn’t bad, and Queenie and Jacob played off each other so well.  But let’s not forget the baddies, too  (no spoilers, so I won’t name names); very interesting in their own ways.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were some flaws.

There was a scene with a rhino-creature which was, disappointingly, completely unnecessary and total filler. Remove that scene, and the movie would have survived. Remove that scene, and the movie would still have magic. Remove that scene and we still understand Newt’s quirks. Remove that scene and viewers will still understand how powerful some creatures can be. Why they didn’t put that scene on the cutting room floor was beyond me.

Also, this world feels different than HP’s world, and while that’s not necessarily a flaw, it could be a disappointment for fans. HP’s world was one filled with wonder, discovery,  strength and resilience in difficult times, and about feeling loved when you’ve always felt alone. That’s because it was a story from the perspective of a child and not an adult. HP’s feelings resonated with us because we have felt them too, we understand those emotions a lot more as adults, and we loved the nostalgia that it stirred within us. HP’s stories introduced us to this new world and allowed us to grow and discover it with Harry and his friends.

This story feels different because it is different. Being from the perspective of an adult, the magical world changes. It’s no longer a story of discovery, of growth, or of overcoming obstacles, but of better understanding the world we’ve already grown in. It’s about expanding upon the lore and magic we may not have seen or understood yet, and giving us an action adventure to go along with it. It’s meant to thrill us and have us on the edge of our seats without wondering or asking questions about the magical world – since we already understand and love it. Fantastic Beasts assumes we know Rowling’s world like the back of our hand, and lets us experience it from an adult Wizard’s perspective.

But Newt Scamander is just as carefree, youthful, and curious as a child, so the sense of wonder he ignites in you still exists as you watch this movie. But again, it just feels different. Perhaps when we are given the chance to see Ilvermony and gaze upon its majestic castle walls, we’ll get those true wonderment “feels” again.

A lot of people went into these movies expecting Harry Potter, but let’s not forget that a lot of those movies are really not that good; they’re just tied emotionally to a world that HP fans know and love and so we can’t let go of them or call them anything but amazing.

FB was amazing. Because of advancements in film, they were able to take “our” world and expand upon it in new and outstanding ways and make it look better than it ever has. If you don’t expect HP but you’re ready for magic and lore, and you’re ready to be back in Rowling’s universe, then there is no doubt you’ll love FB as I did.

My only other complaint is the choice of actor for a major character. He’s an amazing actor and I know he’ll fill the role really well, but I don’t respect him or his actions outside of film, and it irks me to indirectly support him by watching these movies… But I said this would be spoiler-free so I won’t say much more than that.

Have you watched FB? What did you think!? Let me know in the comments below!

xo
C

Book Review #8 – Pride & Prejudice Manga Edition

Hey there,

I received an advanced copy of this novel. My review is in no way influenced by this.

Pride & Prejudice in a manga format was immensely exciting to me! But to adapt Jane Austen’s awesome novel into an edition such as this was an ambitious one.

I found the text and dialogue chosen to be appropriate and to tell the story in a smooth and easy-to-read format. I flew through this book with little difficulty grasping the story’s progression. I found the art/illustrations of the characters to be quite beautiful. But, despite it being a manga (and, as such, the next being expected), I found the exaggeration of character drawings and the “Japanese style” emotions displayed with sweaty foreheads, chubby characters having meltdowns, lines of expression around bodies of characters to symbolize movement and jumping in excitement or panic, and some of the way that the protagonist’s’ self-thought was shown to be very silly. Pride & Prejudice is such a classy, sophisticated, and romantic novel, and it could have been adapted in manga format without getting silly and ridiculous.

I think for someone who is unfamiliar with Jane Austen’s writing or feels a bit threatened by the text, this manga edition is a great introduction to her story, Pride & Prejudice. I will definitely recommend this to a few students who know of Austen but never felt inclined to read her works. It’s on the right track but overall didn’t impress me too much.

Overall:
2/5
Pros: lovely illustrations, nice and easy flow, good introduction to Austen
Cons: ridiculous “manga” art that doesn’t fit with the story, didn’t add to the story in any way (I prefer reading the novel)