Category Archives: FILM REVIEW

Review – Bad Boys for Life

FILM REVIEWBAD BOYS FOR LIFEWith Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Joe Pantoliano, Jacob Scipio, Vanessa Hudgens. Written by Chris Bremner and Peter Craig and Joe Carnahan. Directed by Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah. Rated R for strong bloody violence, language throughout, sexual references, and brief drug use. 123 minutes.

bad_boys_for_life_ver2Was there really this huge demand for another “Bad Boys” movie? Consider that a 25-year-old who went to see the original hit film in 1995 is now at or near 50. Its stars – Will Smith and Martin Lawrence – are 25 years older as well. Indeed, Lawrence’s character of Marcus Burnett seems to have morphed into the Danny Glover character from the “Lethal Weapon” movies as he becomes a grandfather and wants to retire.

In BAD BOYS FOR LIFE, it’s been 17 years since “Bad Boys II,” which means that Lawrence and Smith are following the path of action stars like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in trying to revitalize careers by playing action roles that they long should have outgrown. Smith, at 51, and Lawrence, 54, aren’t exactly senior citizens, but they both seem past their sell-by date for this kind of movie. It says something that the movie is being dumped in January (the last film was a summer release).

The story involves Armando (Jacob Scipio) who has been sent to Miami from Mexico by his mother Isabel (Kate del Castillo) to avenge the death of his father. He’s been killing those responsible for the drug kingpin’s demise, but Mike Lowery (Smith) survives. Thus, much of the film consists of action set pieces, car chases, and Mike deciding that there’s no reason that a police detective has to abide by any sort of rules in seeking out the perpetrators.

The film is an uneasy mix of violent action, comedy, and maudlin drama. The film veers from goofiness to people being shot or otherwise violently killed to Mike or Marcus having an emotional moment. There’s a twist in the story – not revealed here – that comes across as contrived, even if it serves to set us up for yet another sequel. Whether that film ever happens will likely depend on the box office returns of this one.

In jumping between Miami and Mexico City, the film offers some colorful locations but fails to engage us in the concerns of either of its lead characters. That’s fatal since its success depends on us actually caring about where it ends up. The death of one of the supporting characters does resonate – briefly – but only because the actor gives the movie’s most engaging performance.

To be fair, after a lot of action scenes that are the cinematic equivalent of fast food, the set piece in the climax involving a showdown in an abandoned multistory hotel is impressive. It’s the moment where the filmmakers light up the screen figuratively and literally. It’s not enough to save the film, but it is an exciting sequence on its own.

Those who are invested in the series will no doubt want to see it, but if you haven’t even thought about these characters since 2003, watching “Bad Boys For Life” will feel like going to a high school reunion and running into people whose names and faces are, at best, dim memories.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Underwater

. With Kristen Stewart, Vincent Cassel, John Gallagher Jr., Jessica Henwick, T.J. Miller. Written by Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad. Directed by William Eubank. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and terror, brief strong language. 95 minutes.

The uninspiringly titled, wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am aquatic misadventure UNDERWATER gets right down to business in its opening scene. No sooner have we watched Kristen Stewart’s Sigourney 2.0 rescue a stray spider from a sink drain while brushing her teeth (see folks, she’s kind) than the entire undersea oil rig she’s been working on for months begins collapsing upon itself in a watery cacophony of twisted metal. Stewart and the crew have been drilling seven miles down, at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. What could have caused this catastrophe? An earthquake, or something worse? (Spoiler: It’s something worse.)

An ideal January junk-food quickie like this knows we’ve already seen “Alien,” “The Abyss,” “Gravity” and all the other films from which it’s shamelessly stealing, so there’s no reason to fart around wasting everybody’s time with exposition or character development. Shot in 2017, “Underwater” has been kicking around the Fox/Disney release slate for some time and the final product feels edited down from a longer, more ambitious and presumably less propulsive picture. I think I like it better this way. Introductions are made on the fly while crucial information is often ADR-ed as the movie hustles along the ocean floor from one derivative but no less spine-tingling set-piece to another.

The secret weapon here of course is Stewart, and the chance to see the “Twilight” teen turned international art cinema icon battling nasty sea monsters in some slick schlock. Wearing a bleach-blonde buzz-cut and a bomber jacket over a sports bra, Stewart goes all in on the androgyny chic, showing no signs of slumming as she applies her trademark, inverted-Brando millennial murmurings to the screenplay’s stock scenarios. (I loved watching her in this.) Gallic maniac Vincent Cassel delivers a surprisingly tender turn as the doomed craft’s avuncular captain, and as they strap into their pressurized mech suits its easy to imagine these two sharing a downtime chuckle about how far they’ve strayed from the Cannes Croisette.

“Underwater” was shot so long ago that disgraced comedian T.J. Miller plays the Bill Paxton comic relief role. A naturally unwelcome presence, during his introduction Miller calls Stewart “a flat-chested elfin creature” as if that were some sort of bad thing. (Then again, the whole trick with obnoxious characters like this is waiting to see what kind of grisly demise the filmmakers have cooked up for them. He gets a doozy.) Likewise stranded on the rig are a pair of moony-eyed lovers played by Jessica Henwick and John Gallagher Jr., along with Mamoudou Athie, who is the only black guy on the crew, so don’t get too attached.

The great cinematographer Bojan Bazelli (who’s worked with everybody from Abel Ferrara to Michael Bay) pushes the limitations of low-light digital, making striking use of luminescent beams swallowed up by the sickly green, underwater murk. I adored how the dive suits have small crescents of LED lights near their necks that frame the actors’ faces with the most lovely little shadings and patterns. But it’s exactly this kind of exacting detail work I worry will be massacred by the botched projection of modern multiplex screens. Not since Bradford Young’s boundary-pushing work on “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has a movie’s aesthetic been so prone to highlighting the weaknesses of current presentation standards.

(I had the pleasure of seeing “Underwater” via the pristine projection at Boston’s brand new, state-of-the-art ArcLight complex, but I can’t imagine how impossible it would be to try and follow the action with one of those cheapo AMC bulbs flickering and a 3D cap on the lens. Indeed, I’ve read quite a few reviews from other markets in which critics complained they could barely see what was going on. This reminded me of something I once heard about how The Rolling Stones used to test their final album mixes by playing them through the crappiest car radios they could find. Maybe cinematographers should do the same, holding test screenings at janky suburban mall theaters to see how their hard work is actually being viewed by the masses.)

“You have to take your pants off or the suit won’t fit,” Stewart advises the comely young Henwick while they’re putting on their dive gear. It’s one of those lines that lets you know these filmmakers and actors all knew exactly what they were doing here, providing the most hilariously transparent of excuses to get Stewart running around in her sports bra and Ripley-skivvies for the big finale. That’s the kind of movie “Underwater” is, and exactly what I wanted it to be.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – 1917

FILM REVIEW1917With Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch. Written by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Directed by Sam Mendes. Rated R for violence, some disturbing images, and language. 119 minutes.

1917 is impressive and engrossing for two reasons, one cinematic and the other thematic. And once you get over the impressive look of the film, you’re still caught up in the story of how war looks to someone actually fighting it. It’s a story that couldn’t be more timely.

Set during World War I, the plot is deceptively simple. The Germans have retreated and Colonel Mackenzie (Benedict Cumberbatch) is prepared to lead British troops in to take advantage of that. However, General Erin More (Colin Firth) has received intelligence that it’s a trap and needs to get word to MacKenzie. Since it involves going on foot through potentially enemy territory, the task falls to Blake and Schofield (Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay), two lance corporals. The movie then follows the two as they attempt to get the message through.

The key word is “follows.” Through some cinematic sleight-of-hand by director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins, the movie is presented as if it was shot in a single take. It wasn’t, but you won’t be able to see the seams. This technique has been used in several films whether for long sequences, as in the opening of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” (1958), or entire films, like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” (1948) and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s more recent “Birdman” (2014).

The effect is to make viewers feel as if they are experiencing the story in real time, with no editing out of the down times where nothing much seems to be happening. Since it’s wartime, there’s no guarantee that a moment of quiet might not be shattered in the next moment by the sound of gunfire giving us a taste of the tension and uncertainty of the lives of people in combat. There are also no guarantees for the success for the mission or whether the two soldiers will even survive it.

While the acting is solid, it’s not the point of the film. Cumberbatch and Firth appear briefly, and it is Chapman and MacKay who get the most screentime. Everyone seems to realize that, beyond wanting to live to see another day, these characters have no “arcs.” This is not about Blake and Schofield coming of age or realizing the futility of war. While treated respectfully, the filmmakers use them much as their commanding officers do, as a means to an end. It’s about what they go through, not about how who they are. We find ourselves racing through trenches and bombed out villages, avoiding sniper fire, and encountering the local non-combatant victims of war. The locations are as much a character as any of the people, demonstrating how even the land pays a price.

Barely released at the end of 2019 (for awards consideration), “1917” becomes the first must-see movie of 2020.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Just Mercy

FILM REVIEWJUST MERCYWith Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx , Brie Larson, Rafe Spall, Tim Blake Nelson. Written by Destin Daniel Cretton & Andrew Lanham. Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton. Rated PG-13 for thematic content including some racial epithets. 136 minutes.

JUST MERCY has everything going for it. Based on a true story, it is about how lawyer Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) takes on the case of Walter “Johnny D.” McMillan (Jamie Foxx) who sits on death row in Alabama, awaiting execution for a crime he did not commit. This cuts right to the heart of the debate over capital punishment: can we accept the state executing some people who may be innocent in order to protect the public? Why, then, is the film such a disappointment?

It’s not the cast. Jordan follows in the footsteps of Sidney Poitier (in “In the Heat of the Night”), as an African-American man from the North navigating a racist system in Alabama. He gathers evidence that shows that McMillan’s trial was flawed in not calling witnesses who would have testified he was nowhere near where the murder took place. He finds a a witness (Tim Blake Nelson) who did testify subsequently recants and admits he was coerced into lying under oath. However, neither the prosecutor nor the courts seem interested in doing justice. Jordan is tightly coiled as he suffers indignities and setbacks but remains committed to his cause.

Likewise, Foxx plays McMillan as a man caught up in a system where he knows the deck is stacked against him, and yet finds common ground with the young attorney wanting to fight on his behalf. He gets emotional moments – such as getting to see his family after a court appearance – without going over the top. When he does lose it at one point it’s not only justified but seems to a release of all the anger that he’s kept pent up. Brie Larson has less to do as Eva Ansley, McMillan’s partner in what became the Equal Justice Initiative. She’s there as a sounding board, helper, and moral support, but we don’t get to know her as we do with Stevenson and McMillan.

The problem is that director Destin Daniel Cretton – who adapted the script with Andrew Lanham from Stevenson’s book – has absolutely no sense of how to make this story interesting. The movie proceeds at a leaden pace draining the drama from much of narrative. It’s almost as if he’s internalized the attitude of many of the film’s characters to stoically endure the racism and injustice in hopes of a better outcome. When McMillan’s son explodes in anger against a judge who ignores the evidence in the case it’s a rare instance where we can see that it’s blood and not ice water flowing through the veins of these characters.

Although Cretton attracted some attention for his first feature, “Short Term 12” (2013) – which also starred Larson – his next film – “The Glass Castle” (2017) had the same problems “Just Mercy” has: too long, a meandering narrative, and a talented cast left to their own devices. The story of McMillan (who died in 2013) and Stevenson deserved much better than what they get here.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Little Women

FILM REVIEWLITTLE WOMENWith Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Chris Cooper, Meryl Streep. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig. Rated PG for thematic elements and brief smoking. 134 minutes.

little_women_ver10LITTLE WOMEN, Louisa May Alcott’s novel about the four March sisters coming of age in mid-19th century New England, is a classic of popular literature and one that has inspired numerous adaptations for film and TV. Greta Gerwig’s new version is an impressive response to the question whether we really needed another one.

For those coming in fresh, the story centers on Jo March (Saoirse Ronan), Meg (Emma Watson), Amy (Florence Pugh), and Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and their mother Marmee (Laura Dern), who are trying to keep the home fires buring while their father (Bob Odenkirk) is off at war. Each has their own story, with Jo wanting to be a writer, Meg falling in love, Amy wanting to paint, and Meg wanting to play the piano. Gerwig gives us insight into the characters by not presenting the narrative in a linear fashion but letting us see how the women they are becoming were formed in their childhood.

Money is tight in the March household, but Marmee teaches the girls that there are people far worse off than they and ought to help those less fortunate. In turn we see some of the wealthier people in their lives helping them, from the benevolent neighbor Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper) to the sharp-tongued Aunt March (Meryl Streep), a wealthy widow who seems to determined to help one of the sisters… after a fashion.

While the film is gorgeous to look at, from the simple March household to some of the grander homes and locations, it is the finely-etched characters brought to life by a strong ensemble cast that ensures the film’s success. The four young actresses bring to life the four sisters in ways where each stands out in her own way and yet also provides able support for the others. Two of them (Ronan and Pugh) may find themselves on Oscar ballots, as will several of the veteran cast members. Streep, of course, is nearly always a delight to watch, but Dern and Cooper deliver performances that, coincidentally, are stark contrasts to their turns in other current films. Dern, playing the moral anchor to the March family, is also the ruthless divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story” while Cooper’s genial presence here is the mirror image of his father who abandoned his family in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

Perhaps the reason “Little Women” has remained popular as a book and on screen, is that it presents a variety of role models of women making their way in the world in both traditional and non-traditional roles who do so without compromising their own values. Whether it’s the best version or not can be debated by others. What’s certain, though, is that this is simply the latest one and, most assuredly, not the last.

The Boston Society of Film Critics has named this the best film of 2019.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books including Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Sean’s Take)

FILM REVIEWSTAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. With Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Ian McDiarmid. Written by Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action. 141 minutes.

There’s a story my mother loves to tell about when I was eight years old, coming home from a breathlessly anticipated outing with the neighborhood kids to see “Return of the Jedi.” Everyone else burst out of the station wagon, running around mimicking lightsaber fights and making pew-pew blaster noises while according to legend I glumly shrugged and said, “It was pretty good, I guess.” Looking back I think the then-final chapter of George Lucas’ beloved space opera was probably the first time I’d ever been disappointed in a movie, a feeling that as a “Star Wars” fan would grow to become something of a constant over the years.

J.J. Abrams’ STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is yet another final installment of the Skywalker saga, by my count the third “last Star Wars movie” I’ve gone to see and this one’s not so much disappointing as it is actively, outright terrible. Nothing in this picture makes any sense. It’s got one of those insanely over-convoluted plots where everybody’s running to get a thing they need that tells them where to go to get some other thing they need (in this case, one of those glowing doohickeys apparently on loan from Disney’s Marvel division) and then when they get there somebody explains why what they were doing isn’t working so they have to go get something else– and it just all makes you long for clean lines, cause and effect, characters going from A to B. Like maybe, go rescue the princess from the space fortress and blow it up? Or perhaps, go to a planet full of teddy bears and turn off the deflector shield so you can blow up the replacement space fortress?

I really can’t explain what anybody was doing most of the time during “The Rise of Skywalker,” but we learn in the opening crawl that the ugly Emperor who Darth Vader threw down a hole in the Death Star right before it exploded 36 years and seven “Star Wars” movies ago is somehow still alive and well and also secretly responsible for the events of the previous two sequels. He instructs Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren to go kill Daisy Ridley’s fetching Jedi-in-training Rey, but the Emperor doesn’t really want him to kill her and anyway Kylo’s had kind of a crush on Rey ever since she slashed his face with a lightsaber a couple movies ago so this all gets pretty complicated, if not particularly edifying.

Meanwhile, what’s left of the Rebel Alliance (or the Resistance, as they’re now called) learns of an even bigger, crazier threat to the fate of the universe than anything they faced in the last two movies, so there’s a lot of running around and forced conviviality between Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe. The screenplay constantly makes a huge deal about what close friends these three have become over the course of all their exciting adventures together even though two of them didn’t meet until the final scene of the previous picture.

Competing for screen time are our old pals C-3P0, R2-D2, BB-8 and even Billy Dee Williams’ Lando Calrissian is back for this round. There are also several deeply unsettling scenes featuring the late Carrie Fisher, creepily cobbled together with digital trickery and unused footage from the earlier films. (Remember in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” when Carl Reiner edited Steve Martin into scenes from old Humphrey Bogart and Jimmy Cagney movies? It’s something like that, only less convincing.) It grossed me out, to be honest, cutting and pasting lines Fisher delivered out of context and slapping them into scenes written years after her death. It feels to me like a violation of her integrity as an actress, inventing in the editing room a performance she never would have delivered in such a flat, disjointed fashion. (The eyelines don’t even match.)

As we’re watching a J.J. Abrams movie, all of this happens in an incredible hurry. The first hour of “The Rise of Skywalker” feels like it’s being played on fast-forward, our characters racing from planet to planet so quickly while randomly running into old friends so often that this galaxy far, far away feels smaller than the suburb I grew up in. Abrams can’t even be bothered with establishing shots, slamming you from one scene to the next in medium close-up medias res. The film boasts some fine production design and never once slows down for long enough to let you look at it. A lightsaber battle on a sea of roaring waves is the lone moment of visual grandeur, and even that’s cut far too quickly to appreciate the choreography.

The elephant in the room here is that they accidentally made a real movie last time. Say what you will about Rian Johnson’s “The Last Jedi” – and if you spend any time online you know people haven’t shut up about it for the past two years – the movie took some big swings at challenging a viewer’s preconceptions and the subtext carried with it a sharp level of autocritique with regard to “the sacred Jedi texts,” et al. I think it’s a great work of popular art and one of the few franchise blockbusters worth taking seriously. So of course J.J. Abrams was brought back on board to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.

Just as Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” was a beat-for-beat remake of the 1977 “Star Wars” (we refuse to call it “A New Hope” in this household), “The Rise of Skywalker” eventually settles into such a “Return of the Jedi” redux it might as well end with cheap firecrackers and “Yub Nub,” plus the the added insult of walking back or outright erasing pretty much everything fanboys found threatening about Johnson’s film.

There’s a palpable petulance with which Abrams brings back that stupid “Spaceballs” helmet Kylo Ren smashed in his first scene of “The Last Jedi,” and the film’s dismissive sidelining of Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico feels particularly egregious given the way racist hordes of young male “fans” chased her off social media. Worst is that Abrams fatally undoes Johnson’s most promising revelation regarding Rey’s parentage, negating his idea that the Force belongs to everyone and not just semi-incestuous members of dynastic bloodlines. Alas we’re back to the monomyth again and old, tiresome prophecies about chosen ones who will bring balance and everyone in this entire universe is fucking related.

“The Last Jedi” tried to open up the world a little bit. However you may feel about the casino sequence – and I go back and forth on it—Johnson was at least trying to show us something new instead of just slavishly reenacting your favorite scenes from a movie you loved when you were a little kid. Following “The Last Jedi” by bringing back the Emperor is like when Sylvester Stallone looked at the miracle Ryan Coogler made with “Creed” and said, “Yo, let’s do it again with Dolph Lundgren!”

“The Rise of Skywalker” is a work of creative stasis and profoundly limited imagination. Eight-year-old future critics will probably spend the holidays smiling weakly and telling their moms “it was pretty good, I guess,” while the rest of us consider that it might finally be time to put away these childish things.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 1.5 out of 5.Over the past twenty years, Sean Burns’ reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in WBUR’s The ARTery, Philadelphia Weekly, The Improper Bostonian, Metro, The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and He stashes them all at Spliced Personality.

Review – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Dan’s Take)

FILM REVIEWSTAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKERWith Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Ian McDiarmid, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams. Written by Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams. Directed by J.J. Abrams. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action. 141 minutes.

star_wars_the_rise_of_skywalker_ver2The release of the original “Star Wars” in May 1977 was a game-changer for moviegoers and for Hollywood. The release of STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, the final chapter of the nine-film “Skywalker Saga” entertains and will satisfy many fans, but will not linger in the memory. After the climax of Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame,” the stakes here seem a bit of a letdown. It’s unlikely that this is what was intended when George Lucas launched the enterprise more than 42 years ago.

During the opening crawl, we’re told that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) appears to be alive and is pulling the strings to crush the rebel Resistance. General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher in repurposed outtakes from the two previous films) has been training Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is soon out on a crucial mission with Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) along with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels). It’s a bit of a shaggy dog story as they move from planet to planet, with only two plot points that matter.

First, Rey has to confront and resolve the psychic bond she has with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who is in charge of the First Order, the successor to Darth Vader and the evil Empire in the earlier films. It takes up a lot of the film’s running time and makes little sense, even in terms of the fantasy world of the series. Second, we have to get to the final end of the war that has driven the series featuring both an epic space battle and a showdown with Palpatine.

None of the newer cast members have the panache of Fisher, Mark Hamill, or Harrison Ford from the original Trilogy, although Billy Dee Williams – reprising his role as Lando Calrissian from “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) – gives it a go. Ridley and Driver get to pout and brood and strike poses, but never fully engage us. A number of veterans of the series make appearances on screen or, in one scene, on the soundtrack. However, it is the use of Carrie Fisher here that proves to be a major flaw. Leia is a key figure in the series and Fisher was, arguably, irreplaceable, but the use of archival footage, CGI, and body doubles is awkward and obvious. In scenes where Leia is supposed to be speaking with other characters, we are reminded of her absence more than her presence.

Of course fans will want to see it, whether to embrace it or criticize it, but it’s not likely to lead to demands to continue the story of the surviving characters. More likely if “Star Wars” continues, it will be in one-off spinoffs like “Rogue One” (2016) or the current streaming series “The Mandalorian.” “The Rise of Skywalker” may not be the worst of the series, but there is this: with all the shout-outs to the previous films, at least there’s no sign of Jar Jar Binks.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books including Jar Jar Binks Must Die. His latest novel is Father of the Bride of Frankenstein. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.