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ESJ's Movie Project - Wookies, Beatles, and Lions edition

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ESJ's Movie Project

July 19 · Issue #22 · View online
I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

After last week’s newsletter, I got an email from my high school friend Zach, who’s among our readers — he suggested that, mixed reviews be damned, I should go see the new what-if-everyone-forgot-the-Beatles movie Yesterday. And I did! You can find the review of that below, but this is a good reminder to tell you that if you have any recommendations for movies I should see (in the theater or at home), please send them my way. I make no promises that I will watch them, or soon, but I’m always open to ideas! Just reply to this email if you have a suggestion.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Pictured: The original squad.
I had the great privilege to watch STAR WARS last Friday night with a crowd of hundreds in San Francisco’s Dolores Park. As a preface to my mini-review, let me just say that this was a fun, refreshing way to view a movie I’ve seen dozens of times. The audience cheered for the big character entrances, laughed at the cheesy lines, and many of them even came in costume — some with lightsabers.
Pictured: A short time ago, in a public park not so far away...
Now, the actual review: Even after all the sequels, prequels, and controversial re-edits, STAR WARS is still delightful, and still the standard-bearer for all escapist entertainment. The action scenes thrill and the dialogue charms — a credit to the huge, incredible team that made it. It’s trendy to be cynical about this series and its impact on corporation-controlled popular culture. But seeing the original movie with a crowd reminded me of everything that was good about it in the first place. Recommended, of course.
Yesterday
Pictured: Himesh Patel and that guy from Game of Thrones.
I really wanted to like YESTERDAY, which has an amazing premise: What if everyone suddenly forgot about the Beatles except for one guy? Unfortunately, after a promising start, the movie can’t decide if it wants to be a romcom, a satire of the music business, or a celebration of the Beatles’ music. There is one truly lovely scene that I won’t spoil, but for most of the runtime, I was left wanting more.
Camelot
Pictured: King Arthur and, uh, Lady Gaga?
CAMELOT is an earnest, gaudy, and occasionally clever musical, but its pacing is all over the place — some scenes drag on forever, while other crucial developments in the story of King Arthur happen offscreen. The result doesn’t resemble an epic tale so much as a jumbled mess. Richard Harris, in particular, seems to have been miscast. His attempted singing makes me appreciate Russell Crowe’s performance in the Les Misérables movie.
Pixar Short Films
I’m not going to write a full review of each of these, but during some downtime this week, I watched through two DVD collections of Pixar’s short films — the first volume, which 1984-2006, and the third volume, which covers 2014-2017. If you can only see one, I’d recommend the first volume because you really get to see the evolution of the art form, although some of my all-time favorite shorts are on the later edition.
Here are the ones I saw that are definitely worth tracking down, especially if you missed them in theaters:

  • Luxo Jr. (1986)
  • Geri’s Game (1997)
  • For the Birds (2000)
  • The Blue Umbrella (2013)
  • Riley’s First Date? (2015)
  • Piper (2016)
  • Bao (2018)
The Lion King
Pictured: Beyoncé and Donald Glover dressed up as lion statues.
I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about seeing another live-action Disney remake, even though the last one turned out better than I expected. And I was especially apprehensive because a) I like the original Lion King better than the original Aladdin; and b) there were a TON of bad reviews for this one. But I have a rule about not dissing movies I haven’t seen, so off to the theater I went.
THE LION KING is, like all the other remakes, not “necessary.” For much of the runtime, it is an unoriginal, inferior copy of the 1994 classic. And most of the dialogue scenes fall flat because the characters are far less emotive than their animated counterparts.
However: Did I have a good time at the movies on Thursday night? Yeah, I did! The non-talky bits are gorgeous to look at, the songs are still catchy as hell, and Billy Eichner is a superior, scene-stealing Timon. Even though my skepticism was justified, I’m glad I saw this movie.
Not that anyone asked, but here’s my ranking of the live-action Disney remakes that I’ve seen:

  1. Aladdin
  2. The Lion King
  3. Beauty and the Beast
  4. The Jungle Book
  5. 101 Dalmatians (are we counting this one?)
Every New Movie I've Seen in 2019 (So Far), Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. Booksmart
  2. If Beale Street Could Talk
  3. Us
  4. Free Solo
  5. Avengers: Endgame
  6. Amazing Grace
  7. The Favourite
  8. Long Shot
  9. The Wife
  10. The Art of Self-Defense
  11. Toy Story 4
  12. Apollo 11
  13. Shoplifters
  14. The Last Black Man In San Francisco
  15. Aladdin
  16. Spider-Man: Far From Home
  17. Green Book
  18. Slut in a Good Way
  19. Always Be My Maybe
  20. Cold War
  21. Rocketman
  22. Roma
  23. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  24. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
  25. On the Basis of Sex
  26. Shazam!
  27. The Lion King
  28. Fighting With My Family
  29. They Shall Not Grow Old
  30. Yesterday
  31. Mary Poppins Returns
  32. Captain Marvel
  33. Minding the Gap
  34. Tolkien
  35. The Biggest Little Farm
  36. Alita: Battle Angel
  37. The Dead Don’t Die
  38. Stan & Ollie
  39. Vice
  40. Bohemian Rhapsody
  41. Aquaman
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