Mystery Science Theater 3000 and its sequel The Return are wonderfully goofy and funny comedies, and the numerous musical numbers between the movies are often delightful.  So, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return -- Original Soundtrack should be a thing of wonder.  However...

This album begins very well, with plenty of music from the new series.  There's the new opening theme song.  We get a rap about kaiju from around the world.  There's a commercial for a dinosaur barbecue restaurant.  ("Jingle!")  Mark Hamill even appears, as a barker for a spectacular circus that he has to describe because it's held in the dark.  This is all very good, with plenty of laugh-out-loud songs.

Next, though, are instrumental songs from the new series.  These may have been useful during the skits, but the instrumentals aren't really amusing on their own.  And these songs take up about a third of the album!

The last third of the Original Soundtrack are some popular songs from the original series.  These would be great -- except these are also instrumental songs!  (Mary Jo Pehl almost sneaks back, but...)  Since the humor comes from the lyrics, these songs tease funny classic hits and pulls the rug out from under us.  Instead of giving us classic jokes, the album plays a cruel joke on the listener here.

I so wanted to like Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return -- Original Soundtrack, and the first third of non-instrumental songs is great.  But the bizarre inclusion of so many instrumental songs on a comedy album really brings things down.

Overall grade: C-
Reviewed by James Lynch



The war between good and evil continues, between outer-space ships and persuasion and temptation, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  This movie has its share of strengths, weaknesses, and some pretty substantial plot holes.

Following almost immediately from The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) meets up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to be trained as a Jedi.  He wants nothing to do with training, wishing that the whole Jedi tradition would just vanish.  He agrees to teach her three lessons, though.
Meanwhile, it looks like the entire Rebellion has been reduced to three large ships, which are slowly being pursued and attacked by several Imperial Destroyers.  Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) scored a victory against them almost solo, but his free-wheeling ways earn him the ire of both General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).  Somehow the First Order has found a way to track the Rebellion ships through hyperspace, when those ships are running out of fuel.  So Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) head off on a secret mission to get a codebreaker so the Rebellion fleet can sneak away.
And what about Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)?  He's still being humiliated by Snoke (Andy Serkis) and prone to fits of rage.  He's also in telepathic connection with Rey, and each of them are trying to bring the other over to their way of thinking.
If it sounds like there's a lot going in The Last Jedi, there is -- and the movie spends 2 1/2 hours going over it all.  We have plenty of space battles, lightsaber battles, and alien races (including the Ewok-replacing cute Porgs).  And yet, the movie didn't seem to capture the magic of the original films like The Force Awakens did.  We get one spaceship able to destroy the enemy almost single-handed, a ship able to depart from and return to a fleet under siege with no problem, and Luke wanting nothing to do with the Jedi yet teaching and training his successor.  Some of the action scenes are good, and there are even some emotional moments, but there were numerous times later in the movie when I was very ready for things to wrap up, and they kept going and going...  The Last Jedi isn't a bad movie, but it's certainly flawed.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch



Pixar has often dealt with families in its movies -- but what happens when you toss in the afterlife as well?  Coco is an entertaining, visually stunning movie about family, dreams, skeletons, and lots and lots of music.

The Rivera family hates music.  This began when a man left his wife and daughter Coco to pursue a career as a musician.  His face was removed from family photos, his wife learned to survive by making shoes, and since then the family has been shoemakers -- and hated all things musical.

Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) is a young boy living with his family and his silent and still grandmother Coco.  He wants to be a musician, building his own guitar and worshiping the late superstar Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt).  Miguel also feeds the stray dog Dante, who follows him around everywhere.  When Miguel's family finds out about his dream, they smash his guitar.  Miguel then believes his mysterious great-grandfather is Ernesto; and when Miguel goes to "borrow" Ernesto's guitar to compete in the talent show on Dia de los Muertos, Miguel (and Dante) wind up in the land of the deceased -- all of whom are skeletons.
Miguel's late relatives are upset because he knocked over the photo of his great-grandmother, preventing her from visiting her family.  He can be sent back with a wish from a relative -- but they add in that Miguel must give up music forever.  Miguel decides that his only change for returning and not losing his dreams is to get Ernesto to wish him back.  But Ernesto is very busy and hard to reach; and if Miguel doesn't return by sundown, he'll be trapped in the land of the dead forever.
While Miguel is pursued by his deceased relatives -- and their dragon-like spirit creature -- he gets help from an unusual source.  Hector (Gael Garcia Bernal) keeps trying to scam his way back to the land of the living, hoping to see his daughter one more time before he is forgotten.  (Spirits who are forgotten in the land of the living turn to dust and blow away.)  He'll help Miguel meet Ernesto, if Miguel brings Hector's photo back to the land of the living.

Coco is a delightful movie.  There's a strong Mexican theme through the movie, from the spectacular visuals to the frequent musical numbers.  The skeletons quickly go from scary to familiar; and in a nice twist, the skeletal spirits are more frightened by the living boy in their midst.  The movie has a few twists and surprised, and there's plenty of both humor and action.  Check out Coco!

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch