In the year of our Ford 2019, trying to make sense of people’s wildly divergent Star Wars opinions opens up a murky frontier of epistemological questions that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters now, only complicates all the more. Epistemology concerns the nature of knowledge and justified belief. I believe that people believe what they believe when they share their Star Wars opinions but I often wonder how they acquired those opinions in the first place. There’s a precedent for Jedi mind tricks in the Star Wars universe and it leaves me questioning whether some opinions were planted in people’s minds, Kenobi-style, or whether they were genuine reactions that people formed on their own. Like, “Hey, have you Change.org petitioners perchance been inceptioned by the Kremlin?” Or, “Hmm. You journos been getting all chummy with Rian Johnson, listening to him sing subliminal karaoke at film festival bars?”
Discussing Disney’s sequel Star Wars trilogy online is like venturing into a mad minefield decorated with the same bad blood as George Lucas’s prequel trilogy. As the young Lando Calrissian tells us in his Grammy-winning music video: this is America. When J.J. Abrams stepped back into the director’s chair for The Rise of Skywalker, there was always the lingering fear that a big ol’ landmine was planted right under that chair, just waiting to detonate. In 2015, Abrams rescued the franchise, restoring its cultural clout with the $2 billion success of The Force Awakens. Now, he’s essentially trying to re-rescue the franchise from a re-polluted water cooler. This translates visually when The Rise of Skywalker introduces an ocean moon that’s polluted with the wreckage of the second Death Star.
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The Expanse fans weren’t the only people who rejoiced when Amazon saved the much-loved series from SYFY’s cancellation; the cast and crew, who have a strong bond with their fans, were ecstatic as well, and eager to take the show to new places. “It’s exciting for us as actors and also for fans to get a new version of their favorite show,” Dominique Tipper, who plays Naomi Nagata on the series, told /Film. “Obviously it still has all the things you know and love, and the characters you know and love. But there is a widening of perspective.”
Tipper’s description is an apt one—The Expanse is thriving in its new home. Not only has Amazon Prime Video given the show significant promotion in the lead-up to the drop of Season 4 on December 12th (a day earlier than advertised, no less), but also in terms of the quality of the actual show. If you haven’t watched the new season yet, check out /Film’s non-spoiler review from a couple weeks ago, which explores why this season is just as good as the ones before it, if not better.
If you watched all ten episodes, however, read on for a spoiler-full take on some of the major occurrences of the fourth season. This is your final warning: spoilers abound below, so read on at your own risk.
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Time will be kind to Doctor Sleep, a bold, audacious, unapologetically sentimental horror film. The box office returns are paltry, and the film itself has its fair share of problems. And yet, Mike Flanagan‘s tender adaptation of Stephen King‘s novel shines because it’s so committed to embracing emotion. Stanley Kubrick’s cold, unfeeling, excellent The Shining jettisoned the sentimentality so prevalent in King’s work. Doctor Sleep attempts to reconcile this with Kubrick’s legacy.
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Netflix’s The King is a reverse Hobbit: instead of adapting one book into three movies, it adapts three plays into one film. Shorn of Shakespearean dialogue, this loose retelling of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V gets by on character and plot. Timothée Chalamet brings a brooding intensity to the Henry V role, which sees him following in the footsteps of classically trained luminaries like Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Kenneth Branagh. That he can hold his own as a screen presence, even in comparison to thespians such as those, bodes well for his starring role in next year’s Dune.
The King also reunites director David Michôd with Joel Edgerton and Ben Mendolsohn, two actors who broke out internationally after appearing in Michôd’s 2010 Australian crime drama, Animal Kingdom. Edgerton serves as Michôd’s co-writer here, just as he did for the 2014 dystopian outback Western, The Rover, starring Guy Pearce. Michôd brings back Robert Pattinson from that movie; like Chalamet, Pattinson is no stranger to heartthrob status, and he’s set to headline a future tentpole (just a little movie called The Batman).
The King arrives in a post-Game of Thrones landscape where at-home audiences have become inured to watching court intrigue play out in medieval settings. Yet its source material predates Game of Thrones by centuries. Writer George R.R. Martin drew from the same period of history as Shakespeare’s Henriad, the cycle of plays that this movie partially adapts. Among other things, The King depicts the muddy hell of the Battle of Agincourt, the original inspiration for the Battle of the Bastards. This may not be Westeros, but war is still bloody and mud underfoot is an apt symbol for the innocence-to-experience arc that Chalamet’s conflicted prince undergoes as he dons his father’s crown and enters the moral quagmire of adulthood.
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The biggest compliment one can pay El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie is to say that it doesn’t detract from the legacy of one of the greatest television shows of all time. We knew we were in good hands with Vince Gilligan. Better Call Saul has proven that he, as a showrunner, knows how to play in the Breaking Bad sandbox again without destroying the castle he built before. Now, for the first time, Gilligan has stepped behind the camera as a movie director as he checks back in on the character of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and shows us what happened to him following the events of Breaking Bad.
El Camino also takes us on a trip down memory lane with Jesse, flashing back to some unseen episodes from his past as he embarks on a new Neo-Western adventure in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The stakes this time are simple: Jesse needs to get the hell out of Dodge. The police have flagged him as a “person of interest” in a local massacre and he’s also dealing with post-traumatic stress. What follows is a two-hour Netflix movie with all the event-filled turns of Breaking Bad. It’s an epilogue to the series that occasionally detours down some narrative cul-de-sacs where familiar faces lurk. Buckle your seatbelts and let’s take our own spoiler-filled ride through El Camino.
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On the October 7, 2019 episode of /Film Daily, /Film editor-in-chief Peter Sciretta is joined by /Film managing editor Jacob Hall and writer Chris Evangelista to have a spoiler-filled discussion about Joker.
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Reading around online, it would be easy to go into into Joker with a list of talking points in your head before you had even seen the movie. Since its unprecedented win last month of the Venice Film Festival’s top prize, the latest comic book tentpole from Warner Bros. and DC Films has become highly politicized—to the point where the idea of it and what it represents is almost a separate thing from the movie itself. Film festival premieres take place in an online vacuum where larger cultural forces have not yet swept in to surround a movie and define it. On the other side of them comes the escalation (of movie opinions) that Commissioner Gordon warned about at the end of Batman Begins.
Whether it’s a case of critics comparing notes and/or the film telegraphing specific concepts, reviews of Joker have frequently invoked the same buzzwords, such as “incel” and “income inequality.” There’s a lot of hand-wringing, in negative reviews, about the movie’s lack of a clear message. Comparisons abound, across the boards, to the films of Martin Scorsese, while in the background, the shadow of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado shooting hangs over everything.
To be clear, it’s not without good reason that some of these talking points are out there, but now Joker is in theaters and general audiences have had a chance to square their own cinema experience against the pre-release media chatter. Members of the insane clown posse that is the Internet should probably brace themselves for the backlash to the backlash. However, until such time as a #ReleaseThePhillipsCut petition materializes, let’s not forget that there’s an actual movie with Joker’s name on it to be discussed.
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For much of his career, Brad Pitt has eschewed the path of the traditional leading man. A recent Buzzfeed article pegged Pitt as “a character actor trapped in a movie star’s body.” If you look back at his filmography, there’s a clear pattern of Pitt playing off other actors as a kind of co-lead or ensemble head. This summer, he did it with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. However, this pattern dates back at least twenty-five years, to when Pitt emerged as a full-fledged marquee name alongside Tom Cruise in Interview with the Vampire.
In Ad Astra, Pitt plays Roy McBride, an astronaut whose pulse rate never rises above 80 beats per minute. His journey to far-flung Neptune’s orbit to hopefully find his father and potentially stop an Earth-threatening antimatter surge positions itself as Apocalypse Now in space. Helmed by James Gray, Ad Astra is something of an anomaly, both in Pitt’s oeuvre and in the current blockbuster landscape. It’s a mid-budget movie based on an original idea, not an existing media property, and it doesn’t have a box office friendly director (like Pitt’s last collaborator, Quentin Tarantino) attached to it.
Seeing a film of that nature open the same day in theaters around the world is refreshing, but it does place a burden of expectation on Ad Astra, as its occasionally heavy-handed script peddles thoughtfulness with thrills in an event movie marketplace. The film’s title, which it never explains, is the Latin phrase for “to the stars.” Audiences no longer look to movie stars as reliable brands in and of themselves. Here, Pitt is on his own in a way he’s seldom been in his career. He can hold the screen, but can he elevate our heart rates?
To discuss that, we’ll be rocketing straight into spoiler territory in 3, 2, 1…
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It’s been 37 years since audiences first discovered the enchanting world of Thra, a mystical land filled with magic, evil, and hope. In Jim Henson’s 1982 film, The Dark Crystal, Thra was a broken place, ravaged by genocide, drained nearly to the point of extinction by the greed of the Skeskis, vulture-like creatures who had misappropriated the power of the Crystal of Truth in their power-hungry quest for domination and immortality.
In the film, the Skesis had wiped out the Gelflings, an elf-like species, by using the Crystal to drain the creatures of their very life force, or essence, in a bid to obtain eternal life. But the Skesis are dying, their emperor collapses into a heap of ash, and the Crystal has turned a dark purple, polluted by the Skesis, and in turn, polluting much of Thra. Outside of the dark and twisted husk of the Crystal Castle, where the Skesis reside, the land is blackened and cracked, pulsing with surges of electricity.
But how did Thra really come to such a dark chapter in its history? That’s where The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance comes in, coloring in the vast background and history that led to the events of the 1982 film. With Age of Resistance, Thra comes to exquisite life, expanding far beyond the confines of the Skesis’ castle, introducing a lush and varied land akin to that of Westeros or Middle-Earth, populated by not just two Gelfling, but seven different clans: The Dousan, The Drenchen, The Grottan, The Sifa, The Spriton, The Stonewood, and the Vapra.
Naturally, major spoilers are ahead.
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The first eight episodes of the much-hyped Carnival Row finally dropped on Amazon Prime Video last week, giving people a new, dark fantastical world to get lost in (read /Film’s non-spoiler review here). Fans of fantasy, noir Victorian tales, and Orlando Bloom will particularly enjoy the show, which creates an expansive and immersive world while also narrowing in on a mysterious set of murders in The Burgue, the Victorian London-esque setting where most of the events of the first season take place.
There’s a lot going on in the first season (arguably too much, especially in the last few episodes), but those that stick through to the end will be rewarded by some twists and surprises, including who (and what) is behind the gory deaths that Rycroft Philostrate (Orlando Bloom) is investigating. But perhaps what’s more intriguing is what remains unresolved at the end of the last episode.
Read on to get our spoiler-filled breakdown of the big moments from the first season, and what we can expect to see further explored in season 2. Naturally, spoilers abound below.
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