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The Force Frustrations: Working Through The Disappointments of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Matt and Jared, both Star Wars fans very much excited for The Last Jedi, reckon with their overall mixed response to the film.



I’m going to keep this brief, because so much of what will eventually come from our coverage on The Last Jedi won’t be. But to just quickly give an introduction to what you will (at the very least) start reading — last night I got the chance to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It was one of my most anticipated entertainment milestones of 2017, and I went into the movie with extreme excitement for what I was going to watch. I was a big fan of The Force Awakens, and couldn’t wait to see what would become of the characters I so quickly fell in love with, and the story that, while far from perfect, had me very much interested in the future of this saga.

Some two-and-a-half-hours later, I walked out of the theater just feeling sad — I was not a fan of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And, if we’re being completely honest here, that kind of broke my heart. Hoping to work out why my reaction to the film was so negative, I turned to the internet, and fellow Freshly Popped Culture contributor Jared Russo. Jared and I are both big Star Wars fans and, as I quickly realized through our conversation, he too had his fair share of problems with the movie. So we did the only thing we could do: we talked it the fuck out.

Below is a chat between Jared and I, built off of a Twitter DM feed we bounced around in for about a dozen hours. The opinions we shared were still very much raw and fresh (we both had only seen the film mere hours before), and more refined thoughts will hopefully hit the website in the coming days. But, for now, here’s our initial reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Beware, this is a COMPLETELY SPOILER FILLED conversation, so really don’t read it until after you see the film. Also, all tweets and links embedded in the article were also inserted into the chat itself, just for clarity’s sake. In any case, enjoy. Or, at the very least, bask in our bafflement that was so much of The Last Jedi.

Matthew: 🙁

Jared: I’m more positive, but I’m also conflicted. Like Kylo Ren.

Matthew: Was Kylo Ren conflicted? I couldn’t tell the 50 times it was told to me. I still enjoyed a good amount of the movie, but the things I didn’t enjoy I REALLY didn’t enjoy. But we’ve gone over my weird distaste for Rian Johnson, so maybe this was inevitable. I really hoped this would be the one to turn it around though…

Jared: I think this is the worst thing he’s done, but you’re nuts for not liking his other work.

Matthew: I liked (though didn’t love) Brick! And “Ozymandias” is perfection, I’ll give him that. But The Brothers Bloom and Looper left me super cold, with Looper especially reminding me so much of this one (in that it had so much potential, but squanders it the more it goes along.) Ultimately, did you like this one than The Force Awakens? Or are you still trying to think through it? Both film’s had lots of issues, but I don’t think there was anything nearly as disappointing in The Force Awaken than in The Last Jedi.

Jared: I have to see The Last Jedi again to tell you, it’s tone and structure is so weird that it left me more conflicted than anything.

Matthew: Being someone who just ranted with friends for four hours about all the disappointing things that happened in it, my choice is pretty clear. But there is a lot to parse through, that’s true.

Jared: Wait, you have friends? ZING.

Matthew: Ouch, you got me there.

Jared: I will say this: I am still confounded by it and, definitely need to see it again, I can’t get the movie out of my head, which are words I never thought I would say about a Star Wars movie, to be fair.

Matthew: I’ll agree with that. I’ve been thinking and writing and talking about it for hours.

Jared: The movie ends up just feeling like a big fever dream, really.

Matthew: It’s just so…much. And the fact that both film’s take place in, like, two weeks MAX is nuts. It’s weird they don’t give any time for the action of this movie to breath. It leaves you overwhelmed, in ways both good and bad.

Jared: Maybe on the second viewing I’ll have a better grip on it and get over some stuff I was wondering about. Like how did everyone find out her parents were nobodies? How would Kylo Ren possibly know that information.

Matthew: …The Force?

Jared: This movie kind of broke every rule of the Force, and just made up all sorts of things about it which often just made my theater laugh.

Matthew: Although that was one decision I loved! If you read through my previous article, you would know I was rooting for that. Makes her character arc better, even if other things in this film made it worse in certain ways or, at the very least, didn’t give it the time of day it deserved. And speaking of things that made people laugh…OMG, THE FLOATING LEIA SCENE.

Jared: Yeah, that and everyone kept yelling “KISS!” at the Kylo and Rey scenes.

Matthew: Boy, the sexualization that people feel for those two is..something. The internet especially is adding a weird romantic current to this movie that I for one just want to roll my eyes at. Anywho, my theater mostly just clapped. AT EVERYTHING.

Jared: Mine too.

Matthew: But then they clapped at Luke revealing himself as a Force Projection (a little bit silly development, I might add), and immediately let out frustrated groans when he died 30 seconds later. I laughed so hard.

And speaking of kissing from earlier, that last Rose/Finn scene sucked, right? So much unearned with that character/relationship.

Jared: Everything that Rose said before she died was hokey, and simply did not work.

The more I read about this movie, the more I dislike it, and I hate both myself and the internet for making me feel that way.

Matthew: That was me just thinking about it, really. And I am STUNNED at people calling it the best one, or whatever. For whatever it does right, it’s such a flawed movie, even just fundamentally. Ton of things that just don’t add up, or for whatever reason just doesn’t work.

Jared: Regardless, nothing touches those first two and nothing ever will. Return of the Jedi is the third best — don’t @ me.

Matthew: Revenge of the Sith is the third best. And DO @ me, cause I’ll defend that film and it’s stuffy ass self any day.

Jared: You’re insane.

Matthew: Also, working on a list about film’s problems. this what I got so far:

  • The Finn Rose Romance Is Awful
  • What was even the point of their story
  • Everyone fails, which gets kind of annoying
  • Snoke Meant Nothing, So Cool I Guess
  • Poe’s plot fizzles
  • Leia force flight, yuck
  • Luke’s death is unnecessary
  • Phasma death is a goddamn waste
  • Benicio del Toro is useless
  • That casino scene entirely is useless
  • Yoda scene is weird
  • It rushed as fuck, with the entire film being like two days max
  • The backstory still makes no sense, and no effort is made to illuminate ANYTHING at all about The Force Order, Knights of Ren, etc.
  • Snoke powers are hella inconsistent

Anything else you think I missed?

Jared: I don’t know, I don’t think Luke’s death wasn’t unnecessary, and BB-8 got shit done.

Matthew: BB8 was, no joke, the highlight of the film for me. He was great the whole way through.

Jared: Yeah, so he wasn’t a failure at least.

Matthew: Obvious hyperbole on notes I’ve merely jotted down. And, if you want to be technical, he was on the Finn/Rose mission, which failed horribly. But he definitely was the only one trying his best there!

Jared: He is really on pace to out-do R2 at this point, which is nuts to me. Also, more Poe, please. Everyone, just make him the leader of the rebels.

Matthew: To be fair, R2 has been given shit to do in these last two movies. His scene with Luke in this one was a high point, though. That “Binary Sunset/The Hologram” just works, man.

Jared: What was Luke’s third lesson? We only get to see two of them. Why was that a thing that dropped off? His second lesson was basically one big long rant anyways.

Matthew: I really wish they did more with Luke and Rey. It also sucks that Luke dies without ever reconciling with her. Their last scene they share is their big fight.

Jared: They could have done more with Rey in general, like I thought she would be trained to lift his x-wing out of the water ala Empire Strikes Back, but she just goes and lifts the rocks with no problem at all. There was no struggle in her training with the force. And Kylo Ren killed both Han fucking Solo and his master, like I have a lot of problems with him as a character…but Jesus, Adam Driver is the best actor in all these movies so far.

Matthew: They are all really good actors, and deserved more here IMHO. Mark Hamill especially really brought it big time.

Jared: A lot of the humor was very modern internet jokey stuff that like doesn’t fit with the other movies too, which bothered me.

Matthew: I was okay with the humor. I thought the first scene with Poe and Hux was really funny, and fit Poe’s character to that point.

Jared: And as much as Rian Johnson pushed his direction forward for the franchise, it’s lack of traditional feeling makes the whole thing so off for me, like I’m still wrapping my head around his blending of styles. I really need a second viewing.

Matthew: Yeah, I’ll be seeing it again, even if I disliked it the first time. But my problem is not only that it is a weird Star Wars movie, but it also is just a really shitty sequel to The Force Awakens. To people who didn’t like that movie, I’m sure that’s a pro. But everything Johnson did seemed to be spitting in the Face of what Abrams was setting up. Part of me wonders if Abrams agreed to come back NOT because Johnson made him excited about the trilogy, but because he was hoping to right the ship again on the story he set up. Then again, I feel like Abrams maybe didn’t have plans for the overarching story to begin with, which might speak more to the failures of the trilogy itself rather than just The Last Jedi.

Jared: I read in interviews J.J was so jealous of his script and was like “Damn, I gotta get back in there.” But listening to the score alone, this movie is aces compared to Force Awakens. John Williams, please be immortal for all of us.

This is the best summation of things so far, I think.

Matthew: On a completely nitpicky level, where the fuck did The First Order get the AT-AT’s they were using on the salt planet? Their fleet was decimated, and their main ship destroyed. Where did all the additional firepower come from? The vagueness surrounding everything to do with The First Order and the Knights of Ren was tough in TFA, but this was Johnson’s chance to provide some actual context for the group. instead, just left me even more confused about how powerful they are. The vagueness surrounding everything to do with The First Order and the Knights of Ren was tough in The Force Awakens, but this was Johnson’s chance to provide some actual context for the group. Instead, just left me even more confused about how powerful they are. It’s two movies in, and I still don’t know WTF even are The Knights of Ren. Are there others out there? Is it just Kylo now? What about the other lightsaber dude’s we saw with Kylo during the flashback in TFA? UGH, TOO MANY QUESTIONS FOR A TRILOGY WRAPPING UP IN ONE MORE INSTALLMENT.

Jared: I think I might be over Star Wars for a while. This should have been a home run for us, and it wasn’t and now I’m disappointed and underwhelmed by this entire thing. Things like Luke’s whole shoulder brush thing? It was just too much for me, man. You know what?

You should re-type this whole thing up and post it on the website.

Matthew: I’m using a lot of this to work out my thoughts for a bigger article. It’s been helpful — if there’s anything you can say about The Last Jedi, it’s that it lefts a lot to be talked about.

Jared: Just post this entire conversation cleaned up. #content.

Matthew: I might, I’ll go and think about it. Maybe post it as two Star Wars fans making the horrible realization they were disappointed by a movie they really expected to love?

Jared: Do it.

Matthew: And I will.

Porgs are still great. I will not disperage the porgs.

And I did. Stay tuned for more of our thoughts on The Last Jedi in the days ahead. Like I said, there is a lot to break down here, and this was very much just the start of it.

Also published on Medium.

Matthew Legarreta is the Editor and Owner of Freshly Popped Culture. A big ol' ball of movie, TV, and video game loving flesh, Matthew has been writing about pop culture for nearly a decade. Matthew also loves writing about himself in the third person, because it makes him feel important (or something.)


Disney Celebrates International Women’s Day By Giving Its Favorite Man, Jon Favreau, A Live-Action Star Wars TV Show




It’s no big secret that Disney is going in gung-ho on bringing new people into the Star Wars franchise. In the last year, we have seen over half a dozen people be given new movies and projects set within the series, as Lucasfilm slowly starts to build up what the future of this franchise will be following next year’s Star Wars: Episode IX. But while I say “people”, I probably should be more clear — white men. Disney has given the keys to the franchise solely to a bunch of middle-aged, white men.

Is this in and of itself some type of hiring sin? Eh, no, not really. And I don’t even blame Disney/Lucasfilm entirely for the situation — it’s clear that Kennedy and her cohorts are running scared a bit here, with a string of high profile, low experience collaborators causing headaches behind the scenes (Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, and Lord & Miller.) For that reason, they have been turning to experienced “sure things” to take the reigns of Star Wars, namely in the form of J.J. Abrams (who already did it in The Force Awakens!) Rian Johnson (who already did it in The Last Jedi!), Stephen Daldry (a prestige journeyman with twenty years of experience!), and Weiss/Benioff (they show-ran the most complicated series ever made, THEY ARE PROS!) And you know what the paradox is here? All the filmmakers with decades of experience and a reputation of being professionals are almost entirely — you guessed it! — white dudes.

Enter Jon Favreau. Disney is clearly a fan of the man ever since he gave them the first Iron Man (which in and of itself was a bit of a risky decision to give to him at the time…but I digress), and has worked with him again on massive hits like The Jungle Book and future GARGANTUAN hit The Lion King. They appear to like him, he appears to like them, and there are billions of dollars that prove the relationship works. So now Favreau is being given a pretty big role in Disney’s current crown jewel franchise — Star Wars.

Not the Star Wars project you might think, though. Rather than diving head first into the crowded realm of future Star Wars movies (occupied by at least one more saga film, two competing trilogies, and a whole bunch of individual “story” films), Favreau will apparently be helming the previously announced live-action TV series on Disney’s forthcoming streaming service. This was announced just earlier today on, alongside the expected statement from Kathleen Kennedy:

“I couldn’t be more excited about Jon coming on board to produce and write for the new direct-to-consumer platform. Jon brings the perfect mix of producing and writing talent, combined with a fluency in the Star Wars universe. This series will allow Jon the chance to work with a diverse group of writers and directors and give Lucasfilm the opportunity to build a robust talent base.”

And the expected outburst of excitement from Favreau:

“If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn’t have believed you. I can’t wait to embark upon this exciting adventure.”

Putting aside the pure exhaustion I have to new Star Wars projects right now (TOO MANY), who the fucks idea was it to announce this news today of all days? It’s no big secret that the critical community at large (or Film Twitter, at the very least) has been giving Lucasfilm crap for their seeming dismissal of having more diverse voices behind the scenes. Warranted or not, the complaints about the lack of anyone but straight men being a creative force of the series is extremely prevalent. And if you’re facing backlash over not hiring women to do things…adding yet another man to your company on the damn day of appreciatiating woman just reads as a back slap at worse, and tone deaf at best. READ THE FUCKING ROOM, LUCASFILM.

Ignoring the exact date of the hiring, though, Favreau being announced for this is…fine, I guess. I am not nearly as enthusiastic on the guy’s filmography as some (or Disney, especially) seem to be, but his films are usually pretty good at least (unless they are Iron Man 2.) So this certainly isn’t the worst pick for a Star Wars project. That being said, choosing a guy with zero experience writing a TV series to write a TV series of this scale is a bit disappointing. There are plenty of fine, experienced showrunners out there — why give Jon Favreau, who has already cultivated success in his career a dozen times, yet another big project? Hiring Jon Favreau to do this Star Wars series is ignoring TV showrunners who are perhaps more suitable for the part, which puts his hiring as a “double whammy” of ignoring potentially better candidates, if you ask me.

Anyways, whatever — I’m just hoping that the next announcement of someone getting a Star Wars project is a little more unique, a little more interesting, and a little more diverse. Or, second option…don’t announce another Star Wars project for a while. I think we have plenty to mull around already, Lucasfilm.

Also published on Medium.

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Why Marvel Moved Up The Avengers: Infinity War Release Date

It was a win-win-win-win decision for the company, really.



The first weekend of May is considered the “start” of the summer movie season…but, in recent years, that has pretty much evolved to become the “Marvel movie” slot. Barring one exception in 2009 (the only year Marvel didn’t release a movie in the past decade), every year since 2007 has given us the release of a new film featuring a Marvel superhero in the first weekend of May. It’s become something of a tradition, one that wasn’t entirely surprising to see Marvel keep intact as it approached its tenth anniversary as a film studio. And with Avengers: Infinity War by far representing their largest and grandest project, the Marvel May slot seemed perfect for the film to have its grand debut. And for years, we’ve all been working off that assumption. Disney set a May 4, 2018 release date for the film some time ago, and there was no way they were going to change that.

Well, they just changed that.

But unlike most sudden release date changes, this one is A) minor and B) mostly a good thing. Instead of launching on May 4, Avengers: Infinity War will now hit theaters everywhere on April 27, abandoning the May month completely. Two months before the film’s release, it’s a bit of a shocking development, although Marvel had fun with it on Twitter, by way of (who else?) Robert Downey Jr.

Now obviously this was planned (Robert Downey Jr. didn’t just push Marvel to massively move the release date of its biggest film out of the blue — come on now), but what was the reasoning for Disney’s decision here? Well, a few things.

Number one? The film was already going to release on April 27 overseas, which is typical for a Marvel release (they almost always open internationally before coming to the States). So moving the release date for America only puts the film in line with the rest of the world, which is ultimately pretty smart: now Marvel and Disney can brag on April 30 about how the film made approximately $67 billion worldwide in its first weekend of release. It will look great, vanity wise.

And this also moves Infinity War away from Disney’s own Solo: A Star Wars Story, opening at the end of May. That’s not even to mention the recently moved Deadpool 2 on May 18, which was a surprisingly big threat to Infinity War’s legs. With a three week gap between the two, however, Infinity War is now in the clear in terms of maximum, immediate revenue (all that really matters in Hollywood in this day and age.)

And as for first-weekend competetion, neither weekend poised much of a threat: nothing was playing on May 4, sure, but the only thing on April 27 was a Paula Patton thriller entitled Traffik, a horror movie called Bad Samaritan starring David Tennant, and comedy I Feel Pretty from Amy Schumer. The latter film already moved back a week to April 20, and neither of the others will make much of a dent on pop culture, so Marvel had nothing to fear with placing Infinity War against them.

Finally, the move will also cut off the threat of spoilers reaching America before the majority of the country gets to see the film. That hasn’t been too much of a threat for other Marvel releases like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok (both opened overseas a week earlier)…but Infinity War is different. It’s rumored to make some massive changes to the state of the MCU and the characters in it, and I’m sure Kevin Feige would prefer people witnessed such developments in the theater, rather than on Twitter.

Ultimately, there’s nothing all that fishy here about the move. It’s only a week, but it could end up helping the film quite a bit in the long run. And if it means we get to see this movie seven days earlier than expected, I’m sure I’m not the only one who will take this offering with little reservations.

Also published on Medium.

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Disney Is Rebooting The Muppets (Yes, Again) And A Whole Bunch of Other Dormant Properties For Their New Streaming Service

Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Father of the Bride, The Parent Trap, the concept of time itself. You know, the usual.



Disney has conquered mainstream Hollywood. That is an undeniable fact, if you ask me — between their Marvel and Star Wars output (not to mention their live action remakes, animated films, and projects from Pixar), Disney seems to be the only big studio thriving in the modern age. But as much as that seems like a compliment to Disney, it’s also something of a dour note for the industry overall — things are rough for theatrical film, for a variety of reasons. But perhaps the most substantial one is competition from the world of cable, Broadcast, and (especially) streaming outlets. When you are routinely getting things of the same (if not better) quality out of TV and streaming, why even go to the theater? The question is baffling to me (because it’s a movie theater, that’s why!), but not for the majority of Americans — ticket sales are the worst they have been in decades, as people would rather get their entertainment fix by staying at home and watching Netflix.

And Disney knows this. They are content with having conquered the ashes of traditional Hollywood, but they aren’t idiots — the media landscape is changing, and they want to be just as viable in the new one as a Netflix or HBO. So they are creating their own streaming service, and taking the battle for entertainment supremacy to Netflix in a big way.

But in building their new streaming outlet, I was rather curious how Disney planned to convince people to subscribe to their service when there were dozens more out there competing for the same eyeballs (and monthly set of dollar bills.) Well, today we got a pretty big hint in how Disney plans to build out their streaming portfolio and, no surprise, it’s taking advantage of their biggest asset: all the well-liked shit they have made and/or acquired over the last century. Brands are king for Disney, and they very much seem to be putting those at the forefront as they dive into this new frontier. Call it a safety blanket if you want (I will: it’s a safety blanket), but it has served Disney well in the last decade, so
…reboot time it is!

Of course, many of Disney’s bigger properties have already been rebooted or remade on the big screen, leading the selections for their streaming stuff to be a bit lower tier. The biggest property announced today for the potential reboot treatment is The Muppets, who Disney acquired from The Jim Henson Company back in 2004, and have since been left scratching their heads at what exactly to do with it. Things seemed great at first when the Jason Segal-led reboot film managed to enliven the love for the franchise, and perform pretty great at the box office to boot. But then Muppets Most Wanted came out and, despite being a whole lotta fun, underwhelmed at the box office. It seemed The Muppets would not be the blockbuster franchise Disney was hoping for.

Rebooting The Muppets

So they transferred the property back to TV, relaunching a new series simply entitled The Muppets. This series had a promising hook (basically The Muppets meets 30 Rock, through the mockumentary lens of The Office) but it failed to get an audience on ABC and, quite frankly, wasn’t even all that good to begin with. Then a whole controversy broke out when longtime puppeteer/Kermit the Frog voice actor Steve Whitmire was fired from working on the property. He argued that Disney’s plans for the character was against what Henson would have stood for. They argued he was a shitty worker who didn’t play well with others, and everyone else was glad to be rid of him. The truth probably rests somewhere in between the two stances, but that didn’t make the controversy anymore crippling for The Muppet brand. They laid low for a year or so, only popping up to make wacky promotional videos and the like for the franchises’ various social media pages.

But apparently, Disney still thinks they can make this thing work in a big way, as The Hollywood Reporter confirms the Mouse House intends to bring the property to their new streaming service. Which, by the way, could use a name pronto. I’m tiring of just calling it “their new streaming service.” Judging by what they seem to want to put on it, maybe simply “Reboot” will do?

Kidding aside, The Muppets isn’t the only reboot Disney plans to anchor the service with. Also in the mix according to THR is film properties like Honey I Shrunk the Kids (you, know the Rick Moranis movie about shrinking kids), Father of the Bride (you know, the Steve Martin movie about being the father of the bride), and The Parent Trap (you know, the Lindsay Lohan movie about trapping parents.) This is in addition to previously announced reboot fodder like High School Musical and The Mighty Ducks which, yeah, were all certainly things at one point in time. They have name value, and that’s all that matters to the house that Micky Mouse built!  At least there will be some top shelve franchise extinctions from brands like Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar’s Monster’s Inc. And, who knows, maybe an original property might sneak its way in there!

…But no promises.

Also published on Medium.

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