Friday, 27 December 2019

2019 in Review: Looking Back

My week-long 2019 in Review series of posts comes to an end today, but for the benefit of those just joining in, here is a quick recap. The series was started on Monday with a rundown of my favorite video games released during the year. This was followed by a rundown of my favorite TV shows on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I highlighted my favorite songs. And yesterday, I revealed my favorite movies. Today, we'll be looking back at some of the news and events that made the most impact this past year.


The United Kingdom's desire to leave the European Union really came to a head this past year. The British Exit, or Brexit as it is more popularly referred to, was a major talking point for the UK media all year long, as the UK government failed to come to an agreement over the terms of the exit, leading to multiple delays. All that would eventually result in the resignation of Theresa May as the Conservative Party leader, following several votes of no-confidence, and the appointment of Boris Johnson as the new prime minister. The country is currently set to leave the EU in early 2020 and I am here wondering, could Nigeria be allowed to take its place?


The UK wasn't the only one threatening to make an exit this past year, as it was announced in a joint statement by Disney and Sony that Spider-Man would also be leaving the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This was shortly following the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, and his appearance in the hugely popular MCU movie, Avengers: Endgame. The news was due to both companies failing to come to an agreement over the sharing of profits for the character's continued appearance in future movies. Thankfully, Spider-Man fans all over the world had made their displeasure known, prompting the two companies to come up with a new agreement that would ensure that the webslinger was going to remain in the MCU.


Not all fans were as civil as Spider-Man's this past year though. Toxic fan bases are nothing new, but there were some extremely vocal ones in 2019 who were out there making their current hatred for their favorite franchises known. I am talking about everything from Game of Thrones fans petitioning for Season 8 to be remade with "competent" writers, to Pokémon fans complaining about the lack of a National Pokédex in the latest Pokémon games, and of course, the Star Wars fans who believe Rian Johnson had ruined the franchise with his movie, The Last Jedi, and were fully prepared to blindly hate (or love?) The Rise of Skywalker as a result. Take a chill pill, guys. I understand the passion, but we must never forget that these are franchises that we should all be grateful to have in our lives in the first place.


Bringing things back home now, in terms of personal achievements and milestones within the year, there aren't really that many to talk about. I started the year with the goal of seeing at least 25 movies at the cinema, and I ended up seeing over 30, most of which I also wrote a review for. Not bad I guess, considering I had only managed to see half as many the year before. My appreciation of filmmaking is something I've never attempted to hide, and films themselves are something I view as more than mere entertainment. It is an art form, and if the only way I currently have to show support for that art form is by going to watch these movies and giving my critical evaluation of them afterwards, then continue to do so I will.

Another thing I managed to do in 2019 was produce my very first podcast. This is something I've had an interest in for many years now, but never felt I had the content or tools required to pursue. But I had thrown all caution to the wind, and channeled my love for Game of Thrones, which led to my weekly GoT spoiler discussions. A special shout out is in order for my co-host and fellow GoT enthusiast, Princewill from The Drunk Pen, who was always a real champ throughout the whole process. The production might have been barebones and the results not particularly stellar, but none of that can take away the sheer amount of fun we had putting the whole thing together.

Lastly, my fondest memories from 2019 are probably the ones I made during a trip to Dubai back in June. There were so many activities cramped into those 5 short days, and so many sights to see. But what I'll remember most fondly are the new friendships that were forged, friends who I still talk and interact with regularly till today. You know who you are, and I guess this is my way of saying thank you for being there, even when we'd thought we'd ghost each other the moment we got back home.


Happy New Year in advance everyone, and here's hoping that 2020 brings with it more of the things we love in the world, and none of the things we don't.

Thursday, 26 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite Movies

Us



Jordan Peele had made one hell of a directorial debut with his 2017 horror satire, Get Out, so of course expectations were high for his followup movie, Us. Marketed as a home invasion thriller with a twist, the movie not only lived up to those expectations, it very well surpassed, thereby cementing his position as one of the very best horror filmmakers in the world today.

Shazam



Fresh off the success of last year's billion-dollar-grossing Aquaman, the DCEU's Shazam is one of their only movies with an actual heart and soul. It works as a family comedy as much as it does a superhero origin story, which just goes to show what can be achieved when their primary concern isn't an overarching narrative and the worldbuilding required for that.

Avengers: Endgame



Event movies don't get much bigger than Avengers: Endgame, the followup to the MCU's immensely popular Avengers: Infinity War. Having the previous movie end the way it had pretty much guaranteed the new one would do one thing: get as many butts in theaters seats come opening weekend. And what an opening it was too, grossing over $1.2 billion worldwide in its first 5 days, before going on to become the highest grossing movie of all time.

Spider-Man: Far From Home



Leave it to the geniuses at Marvel Studios to followup one of the year's biggest releases with a smaller-scale offering, and still make it feel just as essential. But that was precisely what they did with Spider-Man: Far From Home, a movie that offered fans of the MCU their first glimpses at a post-Endgame universe.

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood



Quentin Tarantino remains one of the most talented filmmakers in Hollywood today. And for his ninth feature film, he'd decided to make a film that is as much about an era of filmmaking as it is about the events surrounding the Manson family murders. Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood is a love letter to the Golden Age of cinema, a movie that never ceases to be stunning to look at while paying respect to all that has come before.

Parasite



Speaking of talented filmmakers, Bong Joon-ho might have already proven his flair for the craft with films like Snowpiercer and Okja. But with the release of Parasite, a comparatively down-to-Earth tale that is as much a black comedy as it is social commentary, he has shown his mastery of its finer details as well. The movie is so brilliant in its intensity, so beautiful in its execution, that you'd be hard pressed to find a finer example of what quality filmmaking entails in 2019. Okay. I'll stop gushing now.

Joker



The Clown Prince of Crime finally received an origin story worthy of his large-than-life personality this year in the form of Todd Philip's standalone DC movie, Joker. Joaquin Phoenix has given a career-defining performance that captured the tortured mind of the Batman villian like never before. The fact that the film is also beautifully shot only further elevates its status as one of the very best comic book-based movies ever made.

The Irishman



Martin Scorcese might have caught a bit of heat this year for remarks that made light of the effort that goes into the standard superhero movie, but none of that can detract from the fact that his latest film, The Irishman, is as brilliant as a gangster movie can get. The film is anchored by great performances from heavy hitters, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, and the de-aging technology used to give credence to them as their younger selves simply needs to be seen.

Knives Out



Rian Johnson's Knives Out is about as far away from "a galaxy far, far away" as the director could possibly get, but yet the movie feels just as brilliant as his work in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It is a classic whodunnit with modern sensibilities that features Daniel Craig as one of the most eccentric sleuths to grace the big screen in this day and age. But credit must also be given to the ensemble cast as a whole, and a script that moves at a steady pace while still allowing viewers to piece together all the clues.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker



The Skywalker Sage comes to a somewhat satisfying end in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth film in the highly-beloved franchise. I couldn't possibly have this list of favorite movies without including what was clearly my most anticipated one heading into the year. I've seen it twice already at the cinemas, and had my mind blown by what I saw on both occasions, despite the film's many problems. So that should tell you all you need to know about its inclusion on this list.

And the winner is...

Parasite



I know I said I was done gushing about Parasite, but you'll have to indulge me for another minute here. This movie is bloody brilliant. Scratch that, the movie is about as bloody brilliant as bloody brilliant could get. No other movie had left me floored this past year the way I was after I first saw Parasite and the credits started rolling. It is a movie that says a lot in so little words, relying for the most part on its imagery to get its message across. And what breathtaking imagery it has too.

There is one particular shot that I keep going back to, of the youngest Kim daughter, perched on top of the toilet seat as she uses her bodyweight to hold back the flood waters threatening to gush out of its bowels. Everything from the way the scene was lit, to the framing of the shot, to the practical effects used, just echoes brilliance.

Okay. I'm done gushing for real now. Parasite is not only my favorite movie for 2019. It is also one of the decade's very best.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite Songs

Lil Nas X - Old Town Road



Country and rap collide in Old Town Road by Lil Nas X, a song that would become the biggest genre mashup of 2019. The debut single would not only receive a remix featuring country singer, Billy Rae Cyrus, but also eventually go on to top the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 19 consecutive weeks, as well as scoring Grammy nominations for Record of the Year, Best Music Video and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Juice WRLD - Robbery



Another mashup of genres that was a mainstay on my playlists this year was Juice WRLD's Robbery. The song is built around a haunting piano melody as the late rapper croons about yet another relationship gone awry. It is just one of several gems on his sophomore album, Death Race for Love, and now a part of his legacy following his tragic death after a drug overdose earlier this month.

Billie Eilish - bury a friend



American pop sensation Billie Eilish finally released her highly-anticipated debut album this year, which included instant classics like Bad Guy and All the Good Girls go to Hell. But of all the great songs featured on the album, my favorite one remains Bury a Friend, a track that gives the phrase "monster under the bed" a new meaning as it takes listeners into the darkest recesses of the 18-year-old's twisted mind.

Joeboy - Baby



Few songs were as ubiquitous on Nigerian radio stations and airwaves this past year as Baby by Joeboy. Okay, actually I can name a few, but not many of them could boast of the same kind of instant appeal. The song is so catchy, and the production so smooth, that you just can't help but dance and sing along to its lyrics about getting smitten with someone who seems larger than life itself.

Taylor Swift - You Need to Calm Down



Country singer turned pop star Taylor Swift was back this year with another pop banger, You Need to Calm Down. The earworm served as the second single from her seventh studio album, Lover, and in it she shows her support for the LGBTQ+ community while poking fun at its many detractors and opponents. The song would go on to earn her 9 nominations at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards, where it won the overall award for Video of the Year.

Slipknot - Solway Firth



I have been listening to Slipknot for quite sometime now, but 2019 would be the year that I finally considered myself a full-blown maggot, the official term for their fandom. And Solway Firth would be the song that prompted me to take that designation (as well as being the song to introduce me to the bloody and brilliant Amazon series, The Boys). Simply put, I don't believe I had headbanged as hard as I did the first time I heard this raging beast of a song.

blink-182 - Darkside



blink-182 released what was hands down their most emotionally "dark" record till date this past year, so I guess it is only appropriate that they have a song on it titled Darkside. Not to be confused with the side of the Force where Sith lords get their power or the DC comic book villain, the deliriously catchy song is actually about an unrequited love for a Goth chick and a disturbing willingness to follow her to the ends of the Earth.

Post Malone - Circles



I have a confession to make: I have never been a fan of Post Malone. This is despite the fact that he was featured in my list of favorite songs last year in the Tiesto & Dzeko collaboration, Jackie Chan, and he was half responsible for the best cut from the Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse OST, Sunflower. Well, all that changed this year the moment I heard Circles, a song so beautifully rendered and heartbreaking that it sticks with you for countless hours after you hear it.

Bring Me the Horizon - Ludens



Bring Me the Horizon might have pissed off a large portion of their fan base with the release of their pop-focused sixth studio album, Amo, but they've managed to bring a lot of them back into the fold with the unexpected release of Ludens. Featured on the soundtrack to the Hideo Kojima video game, Death Stranding, the electronica-infused song features what is arguably one of the best metal breakdowns witnessed all year, as odd as that sounds.

Goody Grace - Scumbag (feat. blink-182)



I have a YouTube recommendation to thank for discovering the immensely talented Goody Grace this year. The young Canadian singer is yet to release a debut album, but already has a varied collection of songs up on the platform that showcases his broad range of styles. Scumbag currently serves as his potential breakout single, a collaboration with aging rockers blink-182 that harkens back to the good old days of radio-friendly pop rock.

And the winner is...

Slipknot - Solway Firth



It had been 5 solid years since Slipknot had dropped an album. So you should understand when I say We Are Not Your Kind was easily one of the most anticipated musical releases of the year. And what a killer record it was too, an album that stands as not only one of my favorites (or more accurately THE favorite) for the year, but also marks one of their best (if not THE best) in their 20-year career. Solway Firth is a song that showcases the amount of growth the band has undergone in all that time, an album closer that perfectly exemplifies the spirit of experimentation featured on the album, all the while still managing to retain the same hard-hitting edge fans have come to expect.

PS: Merry Christmas everyone.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite TV Shows

Into The Badlands: Season 3



The second half of what would become the final season of Into the Badlands, AMC's post-apocalyptic martial arts series, aired earlier in the year. This was shortly after it was announced that the show would not be getting renewed for a fourth season. The season and show as a whole might have ended on a bit of a whimper compared to earlier outings, but all through its three-season run, it never ceased to dazzle with its tightly-choreographed fight scenes and incredible cinematography.

Game of Thrones: Season 8



The ending of Game of Thrones might have left long-time fans with a bitter after taste, but there is no denying the fact that the final season of the show was the most ambitious in its eight-season run. At the very least, it should be remembered for delivering unrivaled levels of spectacle in the two Miguel Sapochnik-directed episodes, The Longest Night and The Bells, and in the process raising the bar for what was once thought possible in a fantasy TV show.

Chernobyl



I very rarely go back to rewatch a show in its entirety right after completing it, but that was precisely what I had done with Chernobyl, a 5-part miniseries based on the true story of a nuclear reactor meltdown near the city of Pripyat in Ukraine. The historical drama features an ensemble cast that includes Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, and is renowned for its unparalleled storytelling that depicts the scandal and horror that surrounded the disaster in breathtaking detail.

Stranger Things: Season 3



The small town of Hawkins, Indiana was once again a victim of "strange" happenings this year in the third (and what is arguably the best) season of the Netflix original show, Stranger Things. This time around, Mike, Eleven, Dustin and the rest of the gang have to contend with not only the return of the otherworldly Mind Flyer, but a group of Russians running experiments and trying to reopen a portal to the Upside Down.

The Boys



Superhero TV shows are a dime a dozen these days, but take it from me, The Boys is unlike any other superhero show out there. Heck, it can hardly even be called a superhero show at all, since it focuses more on the lives of the people affected by so-called superheroics than the heroes themselves. And therein lies the beauty of this Amazon Original, a violent take on the superhero genre that subverts genre expectations at every turn.

Wu Assassins



Into the Badlands might have ended earlier in the year, but martial arts junkies can still get their fix in the form of Wu Assassins, a supernatural, martial arts extravaganza that stars The Raid's very own Iko Uwais. I'd almost lost my mind the day I'd found out such a show even existed, and I'd proceeded to binge the entire thing over the span of a weekend. Granted, the show is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else, with its decidedly cheap-looking special effects and a script that is barely serviceable at best.

Watchmen



Not to be confused with the Zack Synder movie of the same name (which I also loved by the way), this iteration of the Watchmen actually serves as a direct sequel to the graphic novel upon which that movie had been based. Set 30 years after the events of the comic book, the story follows a Detective Angela Abar (aka Sister Night) as she tries to unravel the mystery behind a cult group know as The Seventh Calvary after they openly declare war on the masked police officers of the Tulsa Police Department.

The Mandalorian



Two words: Baby Yoda. But aside from the inclusion of what is arguably the cutest 50-year-old baby put to film, The Mandalorian has a lot going for it, with high production values and some truly memorable characters and encounters. Set between the fall of the Empire and rise of the First Order, the Disney+ show was made in the style of an old western. Each episode follows the adventures of the titular Mandalorian, a bounty hunter that just can't seem to catch a break as he journeys across the galaxy with his green, googly-eyed ward in tow.

Rick & Morty: Season 4



The first half of the highly-anticipated fourth season of Rick & Morty just wrapped, but already it has left us with some of the funniest episodes in the show's entire run so far. I don't believe I'd laughed as hard all year as I did while watching the fantasy-themed episode with the horny dragons, or the most recent one with a planet of snakes that just discovered time travel. And with the remaining 5 episodes set to air sometime next year, this season is already shaping up to be the best one yet.

The Witcher



Based on the dark fantasy book series by Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher is a Netflix original show that stars Henry Cavil as Geralt of Rivia (the titular witcher), a monster hunter with supernatural abilities. I have only seen the first of its 8-episode first season, but I can already attest to the quality of its action and overall production. The show would surely appeal to anyone with an affinity for fantasy settings, and fans of the popular video game series, which were also based on the books.

And the winner is...

Watchmen



There was no shortage of superhero-based TV shows in 2019, but no other one managed to deliver the thrills and mystery we've come to expect from the genre like HBO's Watchmen. The decision to make the show a sequel to the comic book, rather than a straight-up adaptation, also lends it a sense of continuity not typically found in shows of this kind. It does a great job of filling in its backstory within the context of the show itself, for the benefit of those who haven't read the comics. But perhaps it is most remarkable for the way it explores themes and subject matters as delicate as racism and police brutality, all without coming across as preachy or heavy-handed. It is a show like none other, one that, in my opinion, stands as the current pinnacle of great storytelling.

Monday, 23 December 2019

2019 in Review: Favorite Games

It is time for another one of my Year in Review series of posts, a feature I run on this blog at the end of every calendar year. This started all the way back in 2011, and is something I'll most probably continue doing well into the foreseeable future. So between today and Friday, I'll be highlighting my favorite games, TV shows, music, movies and moments from 2019. So sit back, relax and join me as we start by highlighting some of the games that made waves and kept me occupied this past year.

Before I begin, you might notice some glaring omissions from my list of games. Games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Death Stranding and most notably, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. This is because my PS4 hard drive had crashed earlier in the year, and I haven't been bothered to get a replacement ever since. Blame it on the stunning library of games on the Nintendo Switch I guess. I hope to get around to playing these games someday, but for now, here are the games I'd spent the better part of the year playing.

Resident Evil 2 Remake



Capcom kicked off what was to be an incredible year for gaming all the way back in January with the release of Resident Evil 2, a remake of its classic survival horror game originally released in 1998. The third-person action-adventure game puts players in the shoes of Claire Redfield and Leon Kennedy, a police officer who must navigate the horrors of a zombie outbreak on his very first day on the job. The game adopts the same over-the-shoulder camera that was popularized in Resident Evil 4, while boasting some truly drop-dead visuals that bring its eerie locales to life like never before.

Apex Legends



EA and Respawn Entertainment pulled a Beyoncé so to speak when they shadow dropped their free-to-play Battle Royale game, Apex Legends. It became one of the fastest growing online games of all time, amassing more than 25 million players by the end of its first week alone. The game had some interesting traversal options like ziplining, which helped differentiate it from the likes of Fortnite. But it was perhaps most notable for the implementation of a ping system, which allowed teammates to communicate frequently used messages and information by simply pointing to an in-game object or area and selecting the appropriate ping.

Devil May Cry 5



Capcom continued its winning streak with Devil Mary Cry 5, the latest entry in its hack and slash series. This time around, players get to choose between series veterans Dante and Nero, as well as newcomer, V, each one boasting a unique fighting style and approach to combat. Much like RE2 Remake, the game uses the RE engine, which really helped make the over-the-top action in its cutscenes and gameplay pop like never before. And it all ran at a buttery smooth 60 frames per second, making it one of the definitive hack and slash fighting experiences out there.

Super Mario Maker 2



The Wii U might not have marked Nintendo's finest hour in the console wars, but it did produce some truly exceptional games during its lifetime. One of those games was Super Mario Maker, a video game that allowed players to create their very own Super Mario levels and share them with others. Super Mario Maker 2 carries over that same crowdsourced mentality, but also comes bundled in with some of the most creative Super Mario levels in a newly-added story mode, making it a must-own for all Nintendo Switch owners looking to get their 2D platforming fix.

Cadence of Hyrule: Crypt of the NecroDancer Featuring The Legend of Zelda



What do you get when you cross The Legend of Zelda, a rhythm game, a roguelike and some truly killer tunes? You get Cadence of Hyrule, that's what. Developed by Brace Yourself Games, it is a game that marks the first (and probably only) time Nintendo would be licensing one of its biggest IPs to an indie developer. And I'm sure glad that they did, because the game has a very addictive gameplay loop that involves hopping around its grid-based, randomly-generated levels in time with the aforementioned killer tunes, which are all renditions of classic The Legend of Zelda themes.

Untitled Goose Game



I don't believe I was as excited to play any one game this past year the way I was excited to play Untitled Goose Game. Ever since it was first unveiled in 2017, the game had endeared players with its promise of letting them wreak all manner of havoc in a quiet English village, as a goose of all things. It turns out the finished product was just as gratifying as we'd expected, and the game would go on to become an internet sensations as it managed to make its way into the mainstream media.

The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening



The second remake to be featured in my list of favorites, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was a beautifully-rendered top-down, action-adventure game developed by Greezo for the Nintendo Switch. Unlike the RE2 remake though, Link's Awakening was a faithful recreation of the original Game Boy game from 1993, for better or worse, shunning modern gameplay and quality of life improvements in favor of a more classic feel. It is also the second The Legend of Zelda game to be featured on my list, so I guess you could say this was a good year for Zelda fans.

Sayonara Wild Hearts



It is hard to describe Sayonora Wild Hearts. I guess at its core you should say it was a visual album that also happened to be a rhythm game, "a pop album video game" as its developers, Simogo, would call it. But what perhaps sets it apart from anything else I can think of is its striking visuals and fast, ever-evolving gameplay that finds you riding a skateboard one second, then has you flying while fighting a giant, winged dragon the next. It also doesn't hurt that its music is actually quite good on its own terms, provided you are into some electronic pop that is.

Luigi's Mansion 3



There was clearly no shortage of first party, triple-A games on the Nintendo Switch in 2019. But of all the ones that were to be released this year, Luigi's Mansion 3 was the one that first caught my eye. Hands down, this is one of the best-looking games to grace the Nintendo Switch, and should stand as a benchmark to other developers for what can be done with the hardware. But going beyond the gorgeous visuals and fluid animations, the game is actually backed up by some very good gameplay which involves making your way through the multiple floors of a haunted hotel, each one with its own unique theme, while catching and battling some truly hilarious ghosts.

Pokémon Sword



Of all the games on this list, I don't believe there was any whose release was more controversial than the new pair of mainline Pokémon games, Pokémon Sword and Shield. Following its first reveal and subsequent announcement that not all Pokémon from previous generations would be featured in its regional Pokédex, fans had expressed concerns that developers, Game Freak, were not giving the game the amount of polish and effort it deserved. Good thing the actually game turned out alright though, and of all the games on this list, it is the only one I am still actively playing.

And the winner is...

Resident Evil 2 Remake



From the first moment I had stepped foot into the re-imagined halls of the Raccoon City Police Department, I could tell that RE2 Remake was going to be something special. This is beyond a doubt one of the best remakes of a video game ever made. Rather than just retell the same story from 1998, but in a fresh coat of paint, the game is a grounds-up re-imagining of the original that retains the same sense of dread while updating the formula with modern gameplay mechanics. Simply put, this is the new gold standard for all remakes going forward, and with Resident Evil 3 Remake coming in just a few short months, I guess it is high time I go get a new hard drive for my PS4.

Friday, 20 December 2019

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Movie Review)


Heading into 2019, there was truly only one movie I knew I absolutely had to see at all cost. And no, it was not Avengers: Endgame, as much as I loved that movie and Avengers: Infinity War before it. I am of course referring to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the ninth and what is currently being billed as the final installment of the decades-spanning Skywalker Saga. This was primarily because I had been so blown away by the previous installment, The Last Jedi, that the requisite two-year wait for the release of this one had felt unbearably long. Well, that wait is finally over and I am pleased to report that it was worth every second of it, at least to a degree.

Much of the film's plot had been kept under wraps leading up to its release, so I won't be discussing any story details beyond what was already shown in the trailers. To summarize then: the sith are back in the form of Emperor Palpatine. The First Order continues to spread its tyranny across the galaxy. The Resistance is still holding on to hope where there seems to be none, as their leader, General Leia Organa, helps Rey complete her Jedi training in preparation for the climactic showdown to come. That's the general premise of the film, but you're probably more curious to find out how all of that plays out on screen.

Well, there's a lot to love about Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, just as there is a lot that might not sit well with fans and casual audiences alike. It is hard to talk about any of them in specific details without going into spoiler territory. But I'll say this much: the movie is about as visually stunning as these movies can get, and the plot moves at an almost breakneck pace, doling out action setpiece after action setpiece. It is just a shame that the story holding it all together is not the best the series has seen, and some of the creative choices made, while bold and ambitious, felt forced, and their associated payoffs unearned.

My biggest gripe is how much the movie felt like an apology for The Last Jedi. This is especially frustrating for me because I frigging loved The Last Jedi, as divisive as it was, and I thought its director, Rian Johnson, had made some very interesting choices with the movie that was sure to take the entire Skywalker Saga into a bold, new direction. Alas, I was wrong, and for the first time I could truly feel the pain of this current trilogy not having a clearly mapped out endgame from the onset. It is obvious that J. J. Abrams had tried his hardest to please fans on both sides of the fence, while also smoothing over those narrative choices that didn't sit too well with audiences. But as we all already know, it is impossible to please everyone.

It was always going to be an herculean task, wrapping up the current trilogy while also delivering a fitting end to the much-beloved Skywalker Saga. The Rise of Skywalker is proof that it should've taken a whole lot more than one movie to do so, and definitely a lot more planning and proper foreshadowing. There were simply too many things going on in this one movie, so much so that I know I'd need to see it again just to try and unpack it all. The one thing I think the movie doesn't fail at though is in delivering the kind of fan service we've all come to expect from the franchise.

There were several moments during Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker where I totally geeked out as the theater screen was filled with pure, jaw-dropping spectacle. If you're a fan of the franchise and its storied history, then chances are you will find yourself geeking out as well. It might not be the best film in the just-concluded sequel trilogy, but as a celebration of the last 42 years of the Star Wars franchise as a whole, the film delivers in spades. And sometimes, that is the best a fan could hope for.