All Of The Flaws With The Last Jedi (Cross Talk EP 33)

It turns out that I love the new Star Wars movie.

I realize that this is not a popular opinion, and yeah I review movies regularly, and yeah that puts me into the camp of critic rather then enthusiast, but I really want you to hear me out on this one dear readers. Yes, the movie has been critically acclaimed for honouring the tradition of Star Wars films, but consider this point – as Chris says in this weeks episode of Cross Talk, “it’s a movie that is greater then the sum of it’s parts.”

By ripping apart the seams of the legacy we have, Rian Johnson has forced us to re-evaluate our love affair with nostalgia and the future-past aesthetic of a galaxy, far, far away. It looks like Star Wars, it sounds like Star Wars, but the humour is contemporary, and the story challenges the audience with new ideas about the Jedi, the Force, Luke Skywalker, and all of things that made this fiction so entertaining in the first place.

But I love this movie not because the movie was a good movie. To be perfectly honest, as a movie, it fails in so many different ways. Yes, it was entertaining at times, and it had some really interesting inclusions in it, but I also agree with Mike that it’s horribly flawed in it’s presentation, there are too many loose threads, and the upending of everything from Episode VII towards the end of Episode VIII will leave general audiences frustrated.

When I think about it, I’m not entirely sure how this trilogy is going to right all of the wrongs of the prequels.

And yet, I do love it. Despite all of it’s flaws, The Last Jedi is challenging all of the dogmatic ideas about The Force, and it presented a completely different version of Luke Skywalker then we were expecting. Plus, I think it redeems Episode I, II, and III. Not because they are better by comparison, but because Disney is doing a really interesting thing with it’s culling of the Star Wars canon (I’ll save that for another day).

In brief, this movie is very interesting. And if you don’t believe me, it’s time to look at all of the flaws with The Last Jedi. And this is episode thirty three of Cross Talk.

theories Summarized

You can’t expect a movie franchise universe to be perfect, because the challenge of a film director is to live somewhere between honouring what came before, and adding something new. Where art fails (movies, music, fashion , etc.) is when authors erase everything you know and love. That is when I can completely understand why fans would be disappointed, and with a movie like Star Wars, the fan base is so large that there will be strong opinions.

And as a true fan of these movies, I admit I treat them like a child, I love them no matter what they do, which is why I can still love it. Even when it does things I don’t agree with.

One final theory – you should totally like the video if you enjoyed it, leave a comment if you have some thoughts, and subscribe if you want to see more from us! Your support lets us know what we are doing right.

And come back tomorrow if you want to read my thoughts on the new 54.40 album.I.

Tim!

Fire Taming Business (Only The Brave review)

Tragedy and comedy are supposed to be the two major themes in theatre. This movies takes the former route, but somewhere inside of it’s themes, it finds an honest story that doesn’t suffer from ill-gotten sentiment.

 

Only The Brave (2017)

Cast: Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, Taylor Kitsch, Andie MacDowell
Director: Joseph Kosinski
released on blu-ray February 6, 2018
******** 8/10

IMDB: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%, Audience Score 92%
The Guardian: ***/*****

Joseph Kosinski is American television and film director who is known for his work with computer technology. His directorial debut came from the critically panned Disney sequel Tron: Legacy, which believe-it-or-not, I actually enjoyed. He also worked on the less intelligent copy-cat of Moon – Oblivion, starring Tom Cruise.

Thankfully for the majority of audiences, Kosinski brought it back to reality with his third film Only The Brave.

Taken from IMDB (credit: Kenneth Chisholm) and modified…

In 2007 Prescott, Arizona, Eric Marsh (Josh Brolin) of the Prescott Fire Department is frustrated fighting forest fires when the Type 1 or “Hotshot” front line forest fire fighting crews from afar overrule his operational suggestions to his area’s sorrow. To change that, Marsh gets approval from the Mayor (Jeff Bridges) to attempt to organize an unprecedented certified municipal-based Hotshot crew for Prescott. To that end, Marsh needs new recruits, which includes the young wastrel, Brendan McDonough (Miles Teller), to undergo the rigorous training and qualification testing for the most dangerous of fire fighting duty. Along the way, the new team meets the challenge and the hailed Granite Mountain Hotshots are born. In doing so, all the men, especially McDonough, are changed as new experience and maturity is achieved in fire-forged camaraderie. All this is put to the test in 2013 with the notorious Yarnell Hill Fire that will demand efforts and sacrifices no one can ignore.

A movie that demands respect and candor from it’s audience, but also stands up to the challenge of telling an authentic story, with useful subplots and lots of agressive action from Mother Nature. Never have I ever felt more responsible to prevent forest fires then after watching this film, and that’s no dig against Smokey The Bear, but Josh Brolin has a commanding and grizzled appearance that no one dares mess with.

I also really enjoyed the evolution of the team as they worked towards Hot Shots certification, and best exemplified by the friendship arc between MacKenzie (Taylor Kitsch) and Brendan McDonough.

Pros: We get to see the bureaucracy of firefighting, how it’s employees personal lives are impacted, and emotional canvas of interactions. The bonds these men forged in those mountains are brought to life with sensibility and determination.

Cons: While the structure of the film is excellent, and the ending is just perfect, it gets to be tedious in the middle, and the supporting cast gets lost in the wilderness.

Runtime: 2 hours 14 minutes

Points of Interest:

Miles Teller is starting to come into his own as an actor, and being surrounded by veterans Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly, and Josh Brolin, you can really see how he is a much more convincing dramatic actor then say, Shia LaBeouf. Where the movie falls down is from a lack of real risk-taking with it’s characterizations, which is ironic, given the source material. This is a minor concern though, because of the amazing treatment of these real life heroes and their hometown.

theories Summarized

With all that said and done, I think Only The Brave is a worthy addition to any collection that wants and/or needs more biographies and natural disasters in the mix. Without spoiling the ending, it’s a powerful film and not one I will soon forget. And that’s no theory.

Speaking of unforgettable movies… Have you seen the original Oldboy from Park Chan-wook? This movies is seriously messed up, but it has such an original story, and is part of Chan-wooks vengeance trilogy. I’ll let Chris and Mike go over the details, because, whether you’ve seen it before and need a reminder, or it’s on your list, I’m thinking this recommendation will finally sway you to give it shot.

Yeah, the premise of being trapped in a hotel for fifteen years seems odd, but just wait for the twist – the violence will help you along the way. Check it out! And remember… Like! Comment! Subscribe!

Tim!

Instant Friendship (The Sheepdogs, Changing Colours review)

Blues rock has always had a soft spot in my heart. Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The White Stripes, The Black Keys, and so on and so forth. But what happens when you mix in the Canadian wilderness and hit blend – does the era of cool translate for our polite sensibilities?

 

 

The Sheepdogs – Changing Colours

released February 2, 2018
******** 8/10

The Sheepdogs are a Canadian blues rock band originally from Saskatoon and founded in 2006. Lead by singer and guitarist Ewan Currie, backed by his brother Shamus on keyboards, trombone and tambourine, Sam Corbett on drums, bassist Ryan Gullen, and Jimmy Bowskill on lead guitar. They have since recorded six studio-length albums, which is a pretty impressive schedule of one year on, on year off.

I have their third (2010’s Learn & Burn) and fourth (2012’s The Sheepdogs) albums in my own personal collection, but I believe they would benefit from proper and complete catalogue representation on timotheories.com.

Let me clarify.

Changing Colours is a great record, I wish it had shown up in those summer weeks of 2017 when all of my possessions were packed up, and I was living out of a room in my best friends house. That music would have carried me through those two hectic months. Up In Canada would’ve become my anthem, and I would even have petitioned for it to replace our national anthem! It’s that newsworthy. But you see, that’s the thing about Changing Colours, all of this record’s tracks have the capacity to be released as singles.

My personal favourites are I Ain’t Cool, You Got To Be A Man, and Run Baby Run, but there are seventeen well made tracks on this record. And so I wouldn’t be surprised to learn your personal favourites are different then mine. In fact, I would hope that was the case.

Pros: This album is incredibly pleasant to listen to. It’s a summer album, that plays nice with the other seasons. AND they’ve managed to extend their range to incorporate more sonic safe choices then previous efforts.

Cons: A symptom of their musical stylings, they never quite shake the sounds of Crosby, Stills & Nash, The Beach Boys and a host of other sounds I’m sure you’ll recognize along the way. Proceed with caution if you hate drawing from the past.

Runtime: 49 minutes

Points of Interest: Newcomer Jimmy Bowskill officially joins the ranks of The Sheepdogs on this record. A band for the people, their bassist Ryan Gullen regularly polls the fanbase and observes which songs are getting the most streaming airplay, influencing what charts as a single.

These guys are absolutely guilty of making “good-time” music, and by pulling most of their influences from the safety net of 1970s rock and roll, they successfully emulate the sounds of the day, while pulling it into the present. It’s only slightly odd that despite a lack of originality in most places, I can’t help but enjoy what I’m listening to.

theories Summarized

Have you ever heard the theory that we’re drawn to certain types of people because of a natural chemistry and as such, those relationships typically last because of their familiarity? The Sheepdogs have that instant friendship quality, and while it might seem like a pure emulation of the past, I’ll argue instead that it’s a display of their immense talent. That they can match sounds of the past, but still maintain genuinely their own voice.

There is just something incredibly appealing to me about pared down music, it’s heartfelt, timeless and can be played no matter how you choose to spend your listening session(s). That’s why I thought transitioning from The Sheepdogs into a video review on Andrew Bird was an apt choice.

If you haven’t listened to the Echolocations series yet, you are in for a treat creative cuties.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review, watch the video and hopefully you’ve left a comment or two. If you liked what you saw, click on the like button, and even better, subscribe to the channel! Come back tomorrow for a film review about bravery and wildfires.

Tim!

Leave Me Alone (Leaving Thomas, Leaving Thomas review)

Not every album review can be a winner unfortunately, and while there’s nothing wrong with the old adage of you never know unless you try, I kind of wish I hadn’t given this week’s album a second thought.

 

 

Leaving Thomas – Leaving Thomas

released January 19, 2018
***** 5/10

Leaving Thomas are a Canadian country pop duo from Calgary (a neighbouring city in my province of Alberta). Annika Odegard and Bryton Udy have finally dropped their much anticipated self-titled EP, Leaving Thomas. It’s eight tracks in length make for a pretty hefty EP, but there is enough variety in the song choices that you can sit through it without too much issue. And I can see why their are gaining momentum throughout Canada and the United States, but unfortunately it’s kind of an uneven listen for me, with a lot of filler tracks and not enough chances taken.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to see a Canadian country duo getting lots of attention, but if track no. six is any indication, Best Adventure is far from it, and feels a little bit like your average middle of the summer radio jam. Which is probably why it’s one of the the first three singles released.

That said, Blame it On The Neon is where this EP really shines, it a good time for all involved and really showcases Annika’s vocals. You can easily see this song filling a stadium. And If This Is Love is a solid second runner up for best track, with all kinds of emotion, punctuated by the piano, it’s a incredibly deep ballad and something you’d expect from more seasoned performers.

The last of the singles, Waiting Kind of Girl, falls somewhere in the middle, with it’s interesting melodic structure and tempo. But man that chorus is just brutal to listen to. It’s way too on the nose, with rises and falls all over the place. And that percussion just hurts me.

I just wish the album was a bit longer, which would have made it a full-length album, and maybe there would have been some artist driven choices here, rather then the safety net of convention. You can tell this duo has a voice just waiting to break out, but musically they are playing it safe and boring. Unfortunately for us.

Pros: When they are connected, you can tell very clearly that Odegard and Udy are childhood friends that enjoy playing together and to each others strengths, and there is a sweetness to If This Is Love, which absolutely merits it’s inclusion.

Cons: I wish that Udy had a larger role in the vocal work, and that he played off of Odegard more often, because while she is the big sister to his little brother figure, sometimes youth can surprise you with energy and innovation. And I wish that Shame On Me had hit the cutting room floor. Yuck.

Runtime: 28 minutes

Points of Interest: Odegard is two years older then Udy, and they first meet as children during a biblical stage production. They reconnected at the Calgary Stampede 2012 where they were both competitors in a talent search, but it wasn’t until a rained out BBQ that they decided to play 90’s country together and then things clicked.

There is some serious potential with this pop country duo, but it won’t get them into a position of prominence playing it safe. So for now I’ll be leaving Leaving Thomas on the shelf, with hopes that it isn’t nostalgia but success that demands another listen from them.

theories Summarized

I don’t think  you should buy this album or pick up a digital copy, but I do think you should listen to a handful of the tracks and make up your mind to investigate further. Maybe you’ll be more forgiving of the EP that have been, either way Leaving Thomas won’t be leaving the scene anytime soon, and hopefully they take the feedback with a grain of salt.

That said, I am happy to announce another first for timotheories, and an excellent album for you to consider listening to. Grizzly Bear’s Painted Ruins is well worth a spin, and their democratic brand of music is refreshing. Don’t Believe me? Just watch what Brendon Greene and I have to say about the matter.

I hope you enjoyed our first ever Sound Culture video review, but if you did, can you do us a favour and subscribe, comment and like the video? We appreciate your continued support dear readers.

Tim!

I Won’t Stop, I’m Gonna Work Harder (Stronger review)

I will never claim to be an expert on sociology, politics or any of the major social sciences, but I’m acutely aware of their importance, and I hope that by providing reviews on films like Stronger, my voice can contribute towards a positive world view, curbing hate and reducing ignorance about these kinds of social issues.

The movie does a pretty damn good job too though.

 

Stronger (2017)

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson
Director: David Gordon Green
released on blu-ray December 19, 2017
********** 10/10

IMDB: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%, Audience Score 82%
The Guardian: ****/*****

David Gordon Green is an American filmmaker, best known for films like Joe, Prince Avalanche, George Washington, and All the Real Girls. He’s also done some pretty bad comedies – The Sitter, Your Highness, Pineapple Express. Thankfully, Stronger fits nicely into the biography drama camp, where Green can really shine and do his coming of age (enlightenment) thing well. That said, I just read that he is going to direct the next Halloween instalment with Danny McBride, so maybe he’s still figuring out his film identity.

He could take some notes from his characterization of Jeff Bauman…

Taken from Wikipedia and modified…

Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a well-intentioned but underachieving Boston native who works at the deli counter of a Costco and lives in a small two-bedroom apartment with his alcoholic mother, Patty (Miranda Richardson). One day at the local bar, Jeff runs into his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany), who is attracted to his kindness and charm but finds herself constantly frustrated by his lack of commitment. After learning that Erin is running in the Boston Marathon to raise money for the hospital she works at, Jeff asks every patron in the bar to donate and then promises Erin he’ll wait at the finish line for her with a big sign.

The day of the Marathon, Jeff scrambles to make it to the finish line on time but reaches it just before Erin reaches the finish line. As she approaches a bomb goes off right where Jeff is standing. After being rushed to a hospital, both of Jeff’s legs are amputated above the knee. When he regains consciousness, Jeff tells his brother that he saw the bomber before the explosion. Patty calls the FBI, and Jeff is able to give them a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Local authorities capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev days later, and Jeff is hailed as a hero.

Jeff struggles to adjust to his condition as well as his newfound fame. Patty books several interviews and constantly surrounds Jeff with news reporters during his rehab sessions which Erin, who has since rekindled with Jeff, objects. Jeff and his family are invited to the Stanley Cup Finals by the Boston Bruins who ask Jeff to wave the flag during the game’s opening ceremony. The crowd triggers traumatic flashbacks from Jeff, and he breaks down in the elevator. Erin comforts him and insists he talk to his family about the fragility of his mental state and the impact his newfound exposure is having on it. Later that night they make love for the first time since his injury.

Patty books Jeff an interview with Oprah Winfrey without telling him causing Erin to speak up and tell her that the constant media attention is intensifying Jeff’s PTSD. After an argument between Patty and Erin, Jeff finally admits that he does not want to do any more interviews. Patty, disheartened, tells him that she only wishes for the world to see how amazing her son is. She soon begins enabling Jeff’s worst tendencies including his laziness and affinity for drinking. He begins missing physical therapy appointments due to long nights of drinking usually with Patty equally as drunk. Erin, who has since moved in, finds Patty blacked out on the couch and Jeff in a bathtub unconscious and covered in vomit. The next day she snaps at Patty for her selfishness and negligence before calling Jeff out for his self-pity and refusal to stand up to his mother. She storms off leaving Jeff and Patty to drive home alone.

That night, Jeff blows off Erin to drink with his brothers at a bar. Two patrons at the bar begin asking Jeff questions about the bombing insinuating that the event was a government conspiracy to start a war in Iran and Jeff was paid to look like a victim. Insulted Jeff and his brothers initiate a bar fight with the patrons. Erin picks him up later that night and tells him she’s pregnant. Jeff begins to panic and tells her he isn’t ready to be a father causing Erin to scold him for constantly running away from his problems. She leaves him in the car without removing his wheelchair from the trunk, enters their apartment, and packs her things. Jeff crawls to the apartment door and has a PTSD flashback of the bombing in its entirety.

Jeff meets with Carlos, a man who cared for him in the immediate aftermath of the bombing saving his life. Carlos tells him about his son, a marine who died in Iraq. After attempting suicide Carlos was forced to attend his son’s funeral in a stretcher. His younger son, unable to cope with the death of his older brother and the constant state of pain his father was in, killed himself. Carlos confides that saving Jeff helped him make peace with the death of his sons and the blame he placed upon himself because of them. Jeff begins to understand that his will to live in the face of adversity is what both comforts and inspires people. He stops drinking and begins to take his rehab more seriously. He leaves Erin a voicemail apologizing for his behavior finally taking full responsibility for his immaturity and fear of commitment. A few days later he and Carlos throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game where he meets Pedro Martinez. Erin watches at home and smiles. After the game dozens of people come up to Jeff and tell him how and why he has so heavily impacted their lives.

He and Erin meet at a diner where he walks with his prosthetics for the first time without assistance. He tells Erin he loves her, to which she replies “Good.” He grabs her hand and smiles.

It really does an excellent job of using a real story to showcase a survivor’s journey towards acceptance of his new life, and luckily for us, it hides very little of Bauman’s personal life. He has regular flashbacks of the bombing, his eyes hiding ghosts and his arms curled up in pain. His emotional voice often comes through girlfriend Erin, until the very end anyway.

Pros: It’s a series of moments but it never feels like a made for TV mini series, and Tatiana Maslany does an amazing job as the female lead. I hope to see more of her in the future.

Cons: I wish there weren’t patriotic shots of flags and orchestral music that hit your heart strings at key moments. A little obvious for my taste.

Runtime: 1 hour 59 minutes

Points of Interest:

Featuring some solid character actors performances on top of all the emotional core, Stronger is a film about a life examined, dissected, and reassembled, not whole, but as a sum of its parts. And it’s incredibly satisfying to watch a story about tragedy, without glossing over the ugly parts and managing to avoid cliche of overcoming adversity. Jeff Bauman is no hero, he only plays one on tv.

I only wish I had seen it in theatres, because I would have recommended the shit out of it way earlier on then I am now. So many bio pics attempt the impossible, being dramatic without overexerting themselves, and this story about an amputee does it one better. He’s a slob, self-destructive, and not morally sound either, but Bauman is surrounded by so many people just as flawed as him, you can’t help but root for a change in his heart.

theories Summarized

Overall this is a film that works incredibly hard at avoiding all the well known cliches, and it’s a cinematic treat to watch. I highly recommend you give it a shot, and set aside any preconceived notions you might have about triumph films, bio pics or Jake Gyllenhaal. This is a seriously good movie. And that’s not a theory.

Speaking of visual treats, have you seen The Grand Budapest Hotel? No, well check out this Watch Culture video in that case. And even if you have seen it, Mike and I have some great reminders of why this needs another viewing. I personally consider it to be Wes Anderson’s best. But tell us what you think! Leave a comment, share the video, and don’t forget to subscribe, for more great reviews.

Tim!