Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (2016)

We are blessed.

The world lost two very bright lights at the tail end of last year, and there is no way to watch this without thinking of that. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, mother and daughter, were involved in some of the most important films in the history of cinema, and their passing within a day of each other is already a legend in itself. But still, even in this loss, we are blessed.

The documentary, Bright Lights, is a glimpse into their day-to-day, living next to each other in California. As a film, it’s charming, if not meandering, but as a document of these two vibrant personalities, few shine brighter. Debbie tried for years to make a Hollywood museum and Carrie was an icon of mental health awareness, and the filmmakers touch on both of those. Perhaps unsurprisingly, though, the best moments of the film are the ones between them—the real, human exchanges—as well as the old home videos. The moments where we get a glimpse of how wonderful these humans really were together.

This film will give you a sense of what their loved ones are missing. Carrie’s wicked sense of humor. Debbie’s seemingly unsinkable optimism. Their literal presence.

I didn’t know them personally, and the odds are you didn’t either, and that is why I say we are blessed. We connected to these individuals through their work, through their films and writings and public appearances. And those will last forever. In a way, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds will always be available to the world exactly as they were. We are blessed to receive them in this way, and blessed to have had them in the first place.

Many of us will not sense a physical void where Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds used to be, although I have the deepest sympathies for those who will. I hope the world will give back to them what their loved ones gave the world.

This film is one final gift, sent with love from Carrie and Debbie.

3.5 Green

Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds is available on HBO Go.


New Light – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

[Editor’s Note: On occasion, my opinion of a film may change with another viewing. I might like it more, I might like it less. Either way, I will see it in a new light, and if I deem the shift worthy of attention, I will post about it. Spoilers follow.]

Okay, so maybe I was a little harsh.

When I first saw Rogue One, I was torn. Did I like it? Did I not? There were certainly aspects that I was critical of, such as the computer-generated characters of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, and those feelings of shock overcame my opinion of the film itself.

I saw the film in IMAX 3D first, which was part of the problem. Of course the late Peter Cushing would look animated in the larger format. In a standard theater, and with the nature of his likeness exposed, I could more easily suspend my disbelief.

Darth Vader’s line, “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director,” was still ridiculous, but it was the kind of ridiculous that I found hysterical this time around, so campy that I almost loved it. I still believe that his grand finale, where he slaughters all those Rebel soldiers, to be one of his finest in the entire series.

As to my final criticism, that of the messy storytelling in the first half of the film, I still remain reserved. It was much easier to appreciate this time, although the filmmakers just bounced around too much to make me truly comfortable.

Now, if we could just see what the film was like before the glaring reshoots, I’ll be truly happy. Seriously, the best parts of the trailers weren’t in the movie. As it stands, liking Rogue One is like raising a child (I imagine): if you expect it to be perfect, you’re going to be so disappointed, but if you accept that it’s going to have flaws you simply can’t change, you just might grow to like it.

So now, until I see it again and hate it, my new score for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story rests at a solid

2.5 Green

It’ll be in theaters for a while, if you want to see it again.