It was not going to take much to improve on “The Last Jedi.” In my review for Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga, I noted that ‘The best thing going for “The Last Jedi” is that its visuals are as good as or better than all the other films.’ In the finale to the entire saga, “The Rise of Skywalker” improves on its predecessor.
After handing the reins to Rian Johnson (who helmed the brilliant “Knives Out” this year) for Episode VIII, J.J. Abrams returns for Episode IX. Johnson demonstrated a flair for action scenes in “The Last Jedi”, but not much else.
Abrams, while not having to deal with the troubling ‘mid-trilogy film,’ takes all the best parts about Star Wars and creates a satisfying denouement.
There is one fifteen minute sequence about halfway through that brings the entire series together. In collecting old friends and new, Abrams beautifully intertwines reminders of the glory of Star Wars. As someone not born when the original trilogy began, I still have more affinity for those characters than any introduced in later installments. Yet, for those whose primary Star Wars experiences are in the 21st century, does that sequence just represent a break from the story they are there to see? Or does it mean anything more, as it does to older fans?
Therein is the fundamental problem of a FORTY-year old franchise. Generations of fans can adore it, but is it possible for anyone to fully grasp the significance of its closing chapter? B
In 2010, Clint Eastwood became an octagenarian. He then set about celebrating his 80s by directing eight movies during the next decade! There were some hits (“American Sniper” and “Sully”), and one giant miss (“15:17 to Paris”).
He spent most of his time telling stories about real-life heroes. His latest, “Richard Jewell”, tells a story about a would-be hero turned suspect.
Jewell, an authority-obsessed security guard working at the Atlanta Olympics Centennial Park in 1996, found a suspicious package. Not long after he convinced officers to clear people from the ongoing concert, the bomb went off.
Initially hailed as a hero for his efforts, he soon was the FBI’s number one suspect. Relative newcomer Paul Walter Hauser expertly captures Jewell’s attitude of subdued acquiescence. All Jewell wants is to be respected by those in law enforcement, yet he digs himself in deeper on account of his desires.
A who’s who of actors play the secondary characters: Kathy Bates is heartbreaking as Jewell’s overwhelmed mother, Sam Rockwell is excellent as Jewell’s friend and lawyer, Jon Hamm is at his smarmiest as the underhanded FBI agent in charge, and Olivia Wilde is a spunky, unscrupulous reporter.
Jewell is a man caught in a moment our country would unfortunately forget. In 2020, there are signs everywhere telling us to report suspicious packages. For Richard Jewell, doing so in 1996 taught everyone an important lesson. You do not have to be a hero to save lives. A-
Top 10 TV of 2019
3. The Deuce
5. The Orville
6. Star Trek: Discovery
8. Mr. Robot
9. Silicon Valley
Jeff Mellinger is a screen writer and film buff. He holds a BA in Film Studies and an MFA in film production. He lives in Concord. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.