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Film Review: The Rise of Skywalker was great, actually

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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

As the internet battles over whether The Last Jedi was the best way for the series to go (nearly 2 years later), The Rise of Skywalker has finally hit theaters and ended the 9 movie Star Wars series. There were ups and there were downs, but the battle between Jedi and Sith has come to a close.

J.J. Abrams brought a thoughtful conclusion to the series that wrapped up most loose-ends and provided closure on a number of pressing questions, while still leaving some storylines wide-open for any future adaptations or side stories. The ride to the end was an emotional one that Rey (Daisy Ridley) played well. I felt the emotions take over me numerous times as she struggled with her final mission.

The original Star Wars trilogy was a story of family and friendship. The bond between Luke, Leia, and Han Solo is found in the new cast and despite being sent on different paths in The Last Jedi, its comforting to see the gang join back up for the last battle against the dark side.

The Last Jedi actually did a good job of helping Finn and Rey grow into their new personas and J.J. Abrams did a great job of working in what happened in TLJ into The Rise of Skywalker instead of completely undoing what happened in the last installment, like Rian Johnson did to The Force Awakens. The continuity issues created in the last movie create a time crunch that does make the movie a non-stop action and emotion journey, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Critics pan this as a move to undo what Johnson did in the prior installment, which they found to be a breath of fresh air from light saber battles and space battles, but that’s what Star Wars is. People complaining about Jedis and light sabers should probably find another movie to watch in their free time like Knives Out.

Star Wars has a loyal fan base that Lucasfilm massively upset in the prior installment that set Jedi trees on fire and brought Yoda in to tell fans to shut up and let their childhoods go. Disney decided to reverse course after Solo bombed at the box office and go back to the fans and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Star Wars is a Skywalker family story. From Anakin Skywalker to Ben Solo, they are the fabric and lore that make Star Wars core. The Rise of Skywalker rightfully celebrates that with an all-star ensemble from the past and further pushes the new cast into their future.

There are parallels to the past, but also notable changes that show growth and change in the force. I was most impressed again with Kylo Ren or Ben Solo. He went from a spoiled brat in the first movie to someone I could finally empathize with. His tragic circumstances and lonely life are far from the direct family he comes from, but well-connected to his grandfather Anakin Skywalker who shamefully destroyed all the love and family he had in his life trying to save his love. Ben makes a different choice and the galaxy is better for it.

Throughout all of The Rise of Skywalker, life and death are constantly in the balance. The Star Destroyer kill machines destroy entire planets, while the cast all fight for their own survival in one way or another. Not everyone is victorious, but despite all the challenges, what the audience gets is a true story that has a beginning, middle, and end. That was no easy task for someone handed a story where everything means nothing and all the meaning from the first part of the trilogy was erased, but J.J. Abrams successfully delivered that.

In a way the movie does feel like all the fan predictions come to life in one way or another (minus the Jar Jar Binks is Snoke theory), but all the processes that lead there make sense from a story telling point of view and are explained in ways that are both reasonable and rational.

In contrast, the prior installment was often irrational and threw complete chaos into the trilogy. Some people may view that as art, but it is actually just bad storytelling. The blame for this mostly rests on Lucasfilm who did not creatively control the projects and allowed them to spin out of control. That’s the only local explanation for having Snoke introduced a villain and somehow ending with Palpatine as the big bad guy (non-fans probably don’t even know who he is).

The explanation of Palpatine as the bad force that existed all along makes sense to anyone who has ever finished a long series in an anime, where the big bad is actually just reincarnations of prior villains – the dark energy is just moving between bodies and constantly coming to kill off the heroes until it is finally vanquished. Palpatine is both creepy and convincing as an all powerful bad guy. When he first appeared I was shook.

It would have been easy to just turn Kylo Ren into a loyal and submissive Vader clone, but his constant resistance against any form of control is refreshing. Kylo Ren is complex, but Ben Solo’s love for his mother is something that anyone can relate it. One of the moments in the Last Jedi that most struck me was the hesitation Kylo showed before his mother’s ship was destroyed. It was very human, no matter how strained we always feel a bond to the woman who gave birth to us. Kylo always felt beyond redemption or saving, but it was his mothers love that eventually led him to the light within in the Rise of Skywalker. Its in the nature of mothers to love their sons no matter what, and Leia spent her whole life believing in her son. That was very real.

Rey on the other hand is reminiscent of Luke Skywalker and is quite naive, but her friends and experiences help to strengthen her and make her a much more cunning person. She is the ultimate hero, willing to sacrifice anything to save her friends, but also wanting love, a family, and home.

Luke and Leia both take Rey under their wing throughout this trilogy and the ending of this movie so perfectly shows that family is the people that love you, not necessarily your blood. Rey’s loneliness in The Force Awakens and her timeless friendships and love at the end of The Rise of Skywalker show strong character development, growth, and a story well told. She has changed completely by the end and anyone who watched all three will feel that journey.

The Rise of Skywalker is also filled with plenty of laughs thanks to C-3PO, Poe Dameron, R2-D2, Chewbacca, and others in the cast. Although the storyline is very serious, it never becomes too serious to handle and the constant action helps to keep the movie from becoming too dramatic as well.

Although the movie is 142 minutes, they mostly breeze by and that is hard to say about many movies nowadays that waste time with pointless scenes and backstories that nobody wants to watch. The Rise of Skywalker is well-edited and seamlessly moves from one scene to the next. The Last Jedi noticeably wasted time with a ridiculous and laughably bad no fuel space chase as well as missions gone wrong with Poe, Rose, and Finn.

I personally would have loved some more scenes between Rey and Finn, its understandable that their paths are fundamentally different though. The Rise of Skywalker never fails to remind us that Rey is very important to Finn though and so is the force and resistance. This movie is about a war that has wrecked the lives of many including the main cast and the battle comes first.

Personally, I’ll go back to watch The Rise of Skywalker again and again. It’s a fitting ending for the series. Fans and critics can battle online, but there’s no denying that the laughably badly acted prequels have nothing on this trilogy that found its footing in the end.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Carlos Eats

December 24, 2019 |

NEW: Foodie app lets diners review restaurant dishes, build collections

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“What’s your favorite dish on the menu?” is probably one of the questions most asked by diners at restaurants to servers. Usually you’ll receive anywhere from an honest answer to a made-up promotional line that has been passed from management to server to encourage you to order something not commonly ordered or expensive.

Entire articles and publications are based around this simple question that many of us are constantly wondering about.

A new app called Foodie seeks to change that and provide a new tool for diners.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too. And you’ve got to talk about it to somebody who understands that kind of food.” –Kurt Vonnegut, Jailbird

The focus of Foodie is to help recommend top menu items to diners. Menu items are ranked in order of popularity with reviews and photos from users. Users can also build lists or collections to help diners find ideal restaurants for specific kinds of food.

As someone who personally spends 20-30 minutes trying to decide what to order (I’m extremely indecisive), Foodie can be a useful way to quickly navigate a new restaurant experience or discover what others are ordering.

The idea for Foodie came when Founder, Vaibhav Verma, wondered himself what to eat at restaurants in Chicago and realized how difficult it is to find that information on popular apps like Yelp or Tripadvisor. He decided to build an app to make it easier and help diners order the best dish on the menu.

Foodie has fully launched in San Francisco and Chicago and is now having events around the city including at numerous bubble tea shops around the city with plans for future expansion in other cities around the country.

Popular restaurants and cafes such as Kitchen Story and Boba Guys can be found on the app.

Using Foodie is as simple as pulling up a business and looking at the list of top dishes to help you decide what to order. Foodie currently has 198,000 ratings, 3,281 restaurants, and 256,000 dishes listed inside the app with more on the way.

The usefulness of the app will depend on how this growth occurs for diners, a simple request button can help put add restaurants into the app with a reasonable time frame.

Foodie is not the first app to provide to provide a focus on dishes, but the focus on quality of dishes is different from prior ideas such as Foodspotting (now owned by OpenTable) and Instagram which primarily feature images with sometimes little to no information about how good a dish actually is.

An intuitive search feature allows you to search for a specific type of menu item or dish and find reviews about it. Currently the app is growing its user-base, therefore this is certainly a feature that will become more useful as more users adopt the app and begin plugging in reviews, but the feature has plenty of potential.

Foodie can also work as a food journal or diary where you can keep track of what you’re eating, save that your profile, and follow what other people are eating. Reviews are shorter thanks to the focus around specific dishes instead of a full restaurant review, making it simpler to keep track of and easy to dive into other reviewers thoughts.

Foodie is available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

On the restaurant business side, Foodie is providing analytics of restaurant reviews and analysis of why restaurants are receiving reviews of certain dishes. Those analytics reports are currently available free of charge for interested restaurants as they get the app running.

For more information about Foodie visit them online at thefoodieapp.com.

Carlos Eats

March 14, 2019 |

Product Review: Hangover Over

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Full disclosure: I was sent a package of Hangover Over for a product review from the manufacturer. These opinions are my own and do not reflect Hangover Over or any affiliates.

Recently I connected with the owners of Hangover Over on Instagram for a product review. They shipped me the product to try for my readers.

I am always down to try a product that can help prevent hangovers, having had many myself during the college years of my life.

Hangover Over seeks to use activated charcoal, Vitamin C, B Vitamin Complex, Electrolytes, Vitamin D, White Willow Bark, and Valerian Root Extract to achieve this goal of detoxing the body.

Ingredients:
Activated Charcoal 250 mg
Vitamin C. 600 mg
B complex (the whole B complex B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, B12)
Electrolytes (4 of the 5)
Calcium
Magnesium, potassium, and sodium
Vitamin D 1000 units
White Willow Bark 325 mg
Valerian Root Extract 300 mg

Most people interested in health products have probably heard of these ingredients as they aren’t exactly a secret. I have personally never used activated charcoal for a detox, but decided to give this a shot.

As far as taste is concerned, it certainly tastes like a health product. Hangover Over uses mango and orange flavors. It also uses a small amount of sugar (3 grams) and splenda for added flavor.

I think I would prefer a more banana-like taste to the product, just to make it a little better to drink. Still it wasn’t half-bad for all the vitamins and ingredients inside.

I don’t even think a fruit flavor is necessarily needed for taste and would be really interested to see what sort of future flavors appear for a product like this. Perhaps something with coconut would also help support the health message around this product. The owners are currently working on their second flavor at this time.

The main active ingredient in Hangover Over is activated charcoal, which is still being studied by medical researchers but has been used recently to help remove toxins from people with various illnesses or poisoning including things like malaria.

White Willow Bark is supposed to work similar to aspirin and it really makes sense to include in a hangover drink if you’re trying to avoid pain the next day. Likes all things it is best in moderation.

Valerian Root is meant to induce sleep and reduce anxiety. Anyone who has ever had a hangover knows sleep is one of the keys to fighting off a day after drinking. Anyone who has drank Gatorade to try and stop a hangover knows electrolytes are a key to re-hydrating the body.

Hangover Over is meant to be taken as a response to drinking and less as a daily supplement or product. No more than 3 bottles should be taken with 24 hours. People taking it should consult their doctor if they have pre-existing conditions or are pregnant/nursing children.

As far as Hangover Over’s background, it was created by two women from Florida.

Maria Lafalce has worked in the healthcare field as an RN for 10 years and always wondered why more products weren’t available with these ingredient that can help people detox. Her business partner, Linda Pinzon, is a life-long friend and MBA graduate that lives in Miami. Both of them know each other from living in Colombia and they are both Florida residents now and entrepreneurs to boot.

A 4-pack of Hangover Over retails for $ 29.99 as is being sold online and in-stores.

Hangover Over is currently retailing at Armature Works at Inside the Box and is coming soon to Sparkman Wharf, PINCH Kitchen Miami, Liquivida Lounge Miami, The Hochstein Medspa Miami, Bulk Food Superstore in Sun City Center, and Tarascos Mexican Bar and Grill in Greenville, South Carolina.

Hangover Over is in the process of moving to using environmentally bottles that are 100% recyclable and works closely with Ecopazifico and 4Ocean.

Overall, this product has promise. I think more conclusive studies on activated charcoal may bring this product further into the limelight in the future, but I would watch this product if I were in the retail business.

You can visit their official website for more information at www.myhodrink.com

Carlos Eats

February 15, 2019 |

Review: WTR Pool & Grill Tampa

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Hello!! My name is Natalie Kass and I’m a fellow travel blogger based in Tampa (see: Journey to the East). Last week, Carlos invited me to experience WTR Grill’s new dinner menu debut. I made it just in time to snag some beautiful photos with the setting sun, and dinner began shortly thereafter.

Instagram Photo

As a Florida native, I’m very familiar with beach hotels/restaurants. In fact, I’ve visited this location twice before and never knew about WTR Grill because the space was totally unrecognizable. Beachside venues are made to be transformable so they can accommodate diverse events — from weddings, to concerts, to formal events — which is why I never noticed the restaurant side of it!

The general aesthetic of beachside venues are always “beach themed,” meaning, light blues, soft lighting, and beach artifacts as decor. Usually, you can only get what I call “beach food” which might include burgers, fries, and chicken tenders — strictly casual dining items. However, WTR Grill’s new dinner menu offers more sophisticated dining options like NY Strip and Steamed Snapper!

In my opinion, the aesthetic of WTR Grill does not accurately reflect the upscale dining experience they’re trying to sell. For example, there was a large, empty space in the middle of the restaurant and ship rope hanging from the ceilings.

If they want their space to be cohesive with their menu, I would suggest keeping it traditional and elegant: fill the empty space with tables lined with nice tablecloths (rather than keeping the tables bare), and remove the ship rope and perhaps replace with a lattice design.

The actual dinner was served in 3 courses with 3 dishes each. Here is my review of all the menu items:

First course:

  • Chef’s Soup of the Day — Cajun style soup with sausage and okra

This soup is perfect for cold weather. Chef Joe Garcia explained that it was one of his sous chef’s homemade recipes that had been in her family for generations — you can definitely taste the love! The Cajun broth itself is loaded with spices and anchors the rest of the ingredients. If Florida gets hit with another cold front — I’m going back for seconds.

  • Apple Panzanella Salad

I was most skeptical about this dish because I don’t usually like fruit mingling with my veggies, but this salad actually turned out to be one of my favorites of the night! The sweet apples and tangy dressing were perfectly balanced — I ended up having 2-3 portions!

  • Kale Caesar Salad

While I wasn’t a huge fan of the kale itself (it had a lot of dressing on it), I really liked the baked cheese and multigrain bread that came along with it. The baked cheese was similar to a soft, cheese cracker and the multigrain bread was freshly baked, but I would order these 2 items as an appetizer without the kale.

Second Course:

  • Crispy Brussel Sprouts

Whenever I roast brussel sprouts at home, they have this distinct “roasted” taste, so I was expecting that when I tried this dish. However, these brussel sprouts maintained their fresh, green color. Not only that, but the bacon accompanying it was high quality and delicious!

Out of all 3 appetizers, if I were trying to get my greens in for the night, I would choose the Apple Panzanella Salad.

  • Caribbean Shrimp Lettuce Wrap

I was really looking forward to this dish as I anticipated a “mango-chili-salsa” experience….but it just wasn’t. The lettuce made the wrap taste bitter, so I decided to ditch the lettuce and just eat the shrimp and glaze. Still, there could have been more flavor — whether in a sweeter mango or a spicier glaze.

  • Smoked Salmon Dip

I, personally, am not a huge fan of Salmon or Lox sandwiches, which is what this dip reminded me of. I took one bite and decided it was not for me. For those who do like it, though, the dip was creamy and had lots of Salmon slices in it.

Third Course:

  • Pepper Crusted NY Strip Steak

When I used to work at a steakhouse, the chef taught me “If a steak is cooked right, you don’t have to put sauce on it!” Since then, I’ve never used A-1 sauce or any other kinds of sauces. Additionally, I usually order filets or sirloins, so I was excited to try a different cut. To my surprise, the strip came paired with a mushroom gravy which I decided to try “just for fun” — I am so glad I did because the gravy completes the steak! By itself, the steak was just okay (again, I prefer a filet or sirloin), but with the gravy? Amazing!!!! I would order the NY Strip again as long as it comes with the gravy.

  • Steamed Florida Snapper

Oddly enough, as a Floridian, I’m not a huge seafood fan. But when Chef Garcia explained that the Snapper was steamed with just a little bit of white wine and minimal spices, I decided I would try the fish. I was surprised by how much I liked this dish because I didn’t taste anything overly fishy at all! In fact, it tasted really clean. Additionally, the jasmine rice underneath was a nice touch because it soaked up all the flavor. As a non-seafood lover, I have been proven wrong and would definitely come back to order this.

  • Seafood Pasta (scallops / shrimp)

Usually when I eat a red-sauce pasta, I can taste the acidity from the tomato which is why I usually go for a creamy alfredo sauce. This seafood pasta, however, even though it was made with a red sauce, actually tasted sweet! I don’t know how they did it, all I know is that I went back for seconds! This dish is not overly fishy and it was my favorite dish of the night — I’ll be back soon to order it again.

Dessert:

  • Waffle Cone with Brownie & Ice Cream

The homemade waffle cone was crisp and not stale at all. I think the brownie inside was mixed with cookie dough because it wasn’t just a chocolate – it was chocolate, cookie, ice cream, and whipped cream all in one. I ate mine and my partner’s!

Overall, I enjoyed dining with a nice view of the Tampa Bay. I would most likely come back to WTR Grill after a day at the beach so I could enjoy something more sophisticated and creative than regular old “beach food!”

Restaurant Name: WTR Grill

Cuisine: American, Seafood

Neighborhood: Rocky Point

Address: 7700 W. Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, FL 33607

Phone Number: (813) 281-0566

Menu: http://wtrpool.com/pool-grill-menu/

Carlos Eats

February 11, 2019 |

Review: Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal

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I have been shopping for some new soups lately and came across Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal. I found the soup at Sprout’s Farmers Market on-sale for about $ 2.50 per can.

I was really surprised with how great the flavors were in this soup.

You can really taste the organic tomatoes, organic carrots, and organic red lentils and it isn’t spicy besides a little organic black pepper. I have a bit of spice sensitivity and I was just fine with this soup. The ingredients tasted rich and full of flavor. It tasted savory and I gobbled it down.

Many store-bought soups are too watery and that wasn’t my experience with this product.

I would recommend getting some Naan bread or pita bread on the side. This soup would pair well with any dish and was quite filling on its own. The soup also has no trans fat and like the rest of their line is Non-GMO as well as gluten-free, dairy-free, lactose-free, soy-free, corn-free, tree-nut free, vegan, and kosher. Their cans have non-BPA lining too.

The sodium level is 56% of your daily value or 1,360 milligrams with 2 servings or 1 can so if you’re watching your salt intake this soup may not be for you unless you’re going to balance the rest of your diet out. It is low sugar with only about 6 grams in a can.

I recommend Amy’s Organic Soups Golden Lentil Indian Dal. Great flavor and quality for the price.

Carlos Eats

November 14, 2018 |

Review: Coppertail Brewing S & V Kitchen a great place to eat and drink

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Full disclosure: I was invited to Coppertail Brewing for a complimentary menu tasting in exchange for my opinion of their menu. Opinions are my own and do not reflect Coppertail Brewing.

Coppertail Brewing located in Ybor City has been serving food from the Stein & Vine Kitchen (known as S & V Kitchen for some time now). I visited recently to give the menu a taste. What I found was plenty of great food that paired well with their beer. How about that?

The meal started off with the potstickers. Potstickers are one of the things that you’ll find on plenty of menus but are often ruined. Sometimes they are soggy or fried too much. These were perfect – and it went perfect with an assortment of beers ranging from sours to lighter beers. The dish is seasonal and rotates on and off the menu, but to me it was good enough to be a regular item.

Then came the Drunken Shrimp made with Coppertail Unholy Trippel. I was a little skeptical of this dish when I first saw it, but oh my god this was the best sauce ever. I wanted to put it on everything. This is simply the best menu item they have and I will definitely be ordering this one in the future. They could sell this sauce…it’s that good. Yum.

From this beer flight there was some German inspiration and some sours mixed in. The BOMP! was by far the winner and I just had to have a glass of that with my food. Coppertail always has an interesting mixture of beers on the menu, but that BOMP is something special.

HECK YES.

Back to the food.

Stein and Vine has always had an arrangement of spicy burgers. This one packs the heat and I’d recommend tuning down the sauce if you’re heat sensitive. However those who love the heat will love this Sriracha Bomb. Burgers and beer makes perfect sense especially with summer coming – I’m hoping to see some more burger ideas on the menu for that!

Then there was the Schnitzel Sandwich. My favorite of the two entrees I tried. Schnitzel and German beer is just perfect. The price was fair and the portion was great. I was dipping my tator tots in that drunken shrimp sauce because ITS DELICIOUS. I am a fan of this sandwich and I hope it eventually would make its way to the standard menu. German food and beer just makes me happy.

Overall, the options at S & V Kitchen are excellent for Coppertail Brewing. There is definitely some culinary genius going on here and I think the more they incorporate the beer in the process the better! I’m a fan and can’t wait to go back soon for more.

Restaurant Name: S & V Kitchen at Coppertail Brewing

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 2601 East 2nd Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 247-1500

Website: http://coppertailbrewing.com/the-food-1/

Carlos Eats

March 4, 2018 |

Film Review – Maze Runner: The Death Cure

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Fans of the Maze Runner series were forced to wait quite some time for the conclusion to the series due to an unfortunate accident during filming, but will find The Death Cure to be a rewarding end to the journey.  The Death Cure has plenty of action, drama, and tears that will take audiences on a roller coaster for the final showdown with Wicked.

This is all aided by an excellent soundtrack by John Paesano who we may also know now due to Daredevil and The Defenders on Netflix.

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Like most dystopian series movies, the last arc is when the heroes go into the belly of the beast and all hell breaks loose. It brought back many memories of Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 for me, although the heroes and villains don’t seem to be as collected in the Maze Runner as they were in earlier movies and this movie is pure chaos from a storytelling perspective. It would be better not to try to think too hard or obvious plot holes exist.

Despite the lack of a completely fluid world, the characters in this film do develop and I found myself more attached to them as the series came to an end and their stories concluded, which is a credit to the acting in this film. Mutual suffering creating brotherhood and solidarity is present throughout this film as a powerful theme and I found myself moved by that.

My only complaint is that we didn’t get more dialogue of Ki Hong Lee as Minho in this film. That’s partly due to the plot. On the other hand, Kaya Scodelario really delivered as Teresa and for the first time I connected with her acting compared to the prior two movies.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Newt actually took up a large part of the film and I think this was an ode back to the book.

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Dylan O’Brien seemed different in this film compared to others in playing Thomas and as a darker film with more on the line than ever, he delivered quite well. The obvious aging due to the delay of the release of the film may have also helped give him a more mature and serious look that aided his performance.

The cinematography is beautiful and feels like a cross between The Hunger Games and a stripped down Blade Runner: 2049. A truly dark, sci-fi kind of world.

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Overall, The Death Cure is a well-deserved conclusion to the series for fans. It has just enough to let a casual audience ride it through, but is more fulfilling to audiences already attached to the characters who can understand the struggles they have survived. It is worth a visit to the theater.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

Carlos Eats

January 27, 2018 |

Film Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. There were numerous unexpected great films this year though and in the end Star Wars: The Last Jedi was good, but not great.

During my first viewing of the film, I was overwhelmed with all the things happening. The Last Jedi had multiple intertwining plots that ironically ended up taking us nowhere by the end. A second-viewing providing more clarity and focus to me.

Let’s start off with the good: Kylo Ren. When I saw The Force Awakens in 2015, I was unimpressed with Kylo Ren. He was that typical Disney Channel star. Completely whiny. Annoying. Lacks depth. We knew he was “conflicted”, but without clarifications from Abrams – it wasn’t clear why this kid was throwing tantrums every 5 minutes and why any of it should matter to the audience. The Darth Vader wannabe. The Last Jedi developed Kylo Ren better.

This film humanizes Kylo Ren. When he hesitates to kill his mother. When you realize he is really lonely and feels abandoned by his family. When he suggests that he wants to run away from who he is to be someone else. Those are things people can relate to much more than just crying all the time about your daddy issues that nobody wants to hear. He is still terrible, but at least now you can understand why.

Rey wants to believe in Kylo Ren switching sides and by the time you get to their epic fight scene with Snoke and his bodyguards, some part of you wants to believe Kylo Ren too. It takes acting skill to be able to mislead an audience in that kind of way. I wanted to believe.

Then he throws away all your hope puts it in a trash can. That’s actually a good metaphor for The Last Jedi.

The Last Jedi takes all your expectations for a Star Wars sequel and throws them all away. The entire legacy and history literally goes up in flames. Rian Johnson brought back Yoda in a play to get fans to let the past go and move on from the Star Wars they once knew.

Star Wars without Jedi isn’t Star Wars though. People go to the movies to watch light saber battles. They love the Skywalker family. They have poured billions of dollars of support into it. Would you really pay to go see a movie without them? Disney is testing the field for this in The Last Jedi and it was divisive as evidenced by the abysmal Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score that is miraculously now worse than the prequels.

There is nothing worse than having a creator disrespect something you love and if watching Han Solo die in The Force Awakens was difficult, The Last Jedi turns the dial to 100.

Luke Skywalker further exemplifies this wish to exit the history and legacy of Star Wars. Luke like his father Anakin were the basis for all things Star Wars. We have known Luke as a force for good, who never stops believing in the power of good. The dude didn’t even get a girlfriend because he was too busy saving the universe.

The Last Jedi almost feels like a fan-fiction tale where Luke is now an angry, hermit man. Luke abandoned his family, friends, and the universe. This isn’t the Luke we know. His final battle with Kylo Ren ends up being both epic and then disappointing when he survives all the attacks and we find out he isn’t actually there. The moment of hope we get for him and the film quickly ends when he dies right afterward and just vanishes into the sunset.

For the second time – audiences are forced to watch an icon who survived an epic war in the original trilogy go down without any real struggle. It’s frankly insulting. It probably would have been better to never introduce those characters back if they were going to die in this kind of way. I’m sure the lead characters could have been developed without staining the legacy that brought them here.

This brings us to Luke’s successor: Rey. The Force Awakens set the audience up to believe Rey has an epic life planned ahead. She went from wandering alone on Jakku to befriending Han Solo, Princess Leia, and even training with Luke Skywalker in one movie. Then The Last Jedi throws the entire thing out the window.

Kylo tells Rey that she is a Nobody. Irrelevant. Running against pretty much everything that The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi has led us to believe. Is that inspiring? Not really. We’ve been following a nobody with a lightsaber who has no legacy and no real mission. She has received no real training. Her allies are pretty much decimated. Now what? The movie never tells us.

Now to the numerous plot holes in The Last Jedi. There are many.

Finn and Rose go on a pointless mission that leads nowhere and actually ends up making things worse for the Rebels. The relationship between the two feels forced and their journey hardly has anything to do with the rest of the movie.

Poe Dameron only really brings value in the first few minutes of the movie. His intertwining storyline with Finn is uninspiring and his arguments with the Rebels are also boring. This movie may have had the least epic battles in space of any Stars Wars movie and that is disappointing. The final battle Poe was in was shockingly unexciting. If you compare this to Rogue One it is a world of difference.

Luke Skywalker hardly trains Rey. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi both emphasize this island that Luke lives on often and pan across the island regularly, but the events on the island are almost irrelevant. Rey hardly gets 3 lessons from Luke but nearly an hour there. She could have had her telepathic conversations with Kylo while actually doing something interesting somewhere else. At least she takes the Jedi books with her.

The spaceship chase plot is as boring as it is ridiculous. It feels quite like a bad episode of television. The numerous explanations for why the storyline even exists are confusing as heck. The First Order can track ships in lightspeed? The Rebels have no fuel, but just enough to last almost the entire film? Leia has an escape plan – or does she? Poe is taking over the ship, but then isn’t? In the end none of it matters because pretty much the entire Rebel group is eliminated by the time they reach Crait. The entire space chase could have been 20 minutes instead of 2 hours and the scenes of Crait could have instead lead to an epic showdown with Snoke if this movie was edited correctly.

The botched Snoke death is really interesting. Kylo Ren and Rey kill off Snoke and his guards without much adieu. This can work in storylines where the ascending villain is actually a big bad (see The Defenders with Elektra). However, Kylo Ren is still just as weak and bratty as before and we just spent time humanizing him – not making him sinister. It isn’t clear what would make him into a villain you fear. The reason villains normally develop over time is to create sense of urgency for the audience that a big challenge is ahead.

Plot and pacing issues are spread throughout. These are things that you will notice more and more as you dissect this film.

Episode IX could spend time fixing many of the issues that Episode VIII created. That would be less time to enjoy a juicy ending to this trilogy though that might not recover from this filler episode.

Don’t get me wrong – this film is still watchable. The Last Jedi has great acting, cinematography, and a wonderful soundtrack. Unfortunately, this could have all been utilized better if the writing was better.

It doesn’t make it great. I watched the prequels afterwards to see if the fan anger matched up, I still believe the prequels are inferior to The Last Jedi. Mainly because the acting and casting is so hilariously bad in the prequels. The Last Jedi is not cheesy or badly acted, it just suffers from what seems to be a complete shift in the force that wasn’t clearly or correctly presented to the audience.

So – Does The Last Jedi take Star Wars to the next level of cinema? Not quite.

Score: 7 out 10


Carlos Eats

December 18, 2017 |

Product Review: Trader Joe’s Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend

Comments Off on Product Review: Trader Joe’s Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend

Recently I’ve been frequenting Trader Joe’s more often. I wish there were more locations in Tampa especially over in Brandon, but for now South Tampa is the place to go to grab some goods. The Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend inspired me to write a review because it was the first carrot juice I have enjoyed in a long time.

I have been searching for healthier juices to have at home and it is harder than you think to find a good juice at a reasonable price. Unfortunately many local grocery stores in Tampa overcharge for organic and healthy drink choices. I saw a carrot juice for about $ 9 last week – which is a ton of money where I live and higher than the minimum wage here.

This juice blend at Trader Joe’s is both affordable and delicious at $ 3.99 for 32 oz. The spices including an added organic black pepper give the blend a nice aftertaste and the organic lemon juice balances the blend.

We also added this blend to an organic orange juice we had in the fridge to add some sweetness, but the juice was great even without it.

Here is the nutritional information for this product:

Carrot Juice is also great for Vitamin A, antioxidants, maintaining cholesterol and blood sugar, among other things. Turmeric is known to have plenty of benefits.

I recommend this product!


Carlos Eats

September 25, 2017 |
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