Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Image is property of Paramount and Hasbro studios

Transformers: Dark of the Moon – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a  Transformer ship crashes on the Moon back in the height of the Cold War, triggering the Space Race, it possesses technology that could prove pivotal to the fates of both humanity and the Transformers themselves

Review: When you launch a live action franchise that is based off a hugely popular toy series, it’s almost a certainty that you will get people into the cinemas to see said films and the studio will make a nice juicy profit from these movies. However, you still have to make a good film that will ensure audiences keep coming on back once you decide to make sequels right?

Well not always as it happens, because even if you have one fun enough popcorn flick, but then that’s followed up with to put it mildly, a really disappointing follow-up, it creates the dilemma as to whether the audiences will return for a third film, under the same creative team as the previous two? Well yes as it turns out cos Hollywood does like to make those sequels, and the popularity of the Transformers franchise certainly compelled people back to the cinema, and thankfully this time director Michael Bay listened somewhat to the complaints that people had with Revenge of the Fallen, but not all of them.

In the wake of the previous movie Sam, now with new squeeze Carly (Huntington-Whiteley) is looking for fulfilment after having saved the world twice from the Decepticons, but of course those dastardly Decepticons are by no means willing to wave the white flag in their mission to conquer Earth yet, with their plot hinging around the Transformer ship that crashes onto our Moon carrying in it the former leader of the Autobots Sentinel Prime (Nimoy) and a transformer technology that if the Decepticons get their hands on it, is bad news for humanity as you would expect, and Earth becomes Transformers Bayhem once again.

Chicago has seen better days…

For a franchise that has Transformers in the title, you would like to see a lot more focus on the bots rather than the humans, but for around the first hour, we see Sam struggle in a pretty tedious job rather than see Autobots and Decepticons laying it down, and it’s all just not very interesting, even with a good highway chase thrown in there. However, after Sam learns of a sinister plot that involves the aforementioned Transformer ship that crashed on the Moon, and its subsequent ramifications, the film does begin to pick up the pace a lot. Yet the journey getting there is not exactly enjoyable as you feel like there are some scenes that could have been left on the editing room floor.

It’s when we reach the third act and the city of Chicago has endured a bit of damage that the film really hits its brightest spots and its Autobots v Decepticons Round 3. Bay certainly likes to film his actions scenes with a lot of explosions and here he does so once more. Visually Michael Bay does make some impressive fight scenes and while they are fun to watch, there is not enough substance in them to justify the rather long running time.

The film doesn’t really boast much in the way of top notch acting talent too unfortunately. LaBeouf was watchable for the first film but here his appeal has just fizzled away, Huntington-Whiteley, while being much better than her predecessor isn’t exactly giving an award worthy calibre performance, McDormand as the new Government MVP and Patrick Demspey as the primary antagonist do offer some great performances, but it is the best of a bad bunch. It is a shame that there can be a truly great Transformers movie in there somewhere, and the first film was almighty close to achieving that, but with subsequent films, Bay did not build upon what he had achieved the first time around, and while the end product this time around is not awful, it is a mishmash of robotic mayhem thrown in with some inane human drama.

Throwing up nothing that you haven’t seen before, but considerably improving on what its predecessor gave us with some impressive visuals and action, that are weighed down by indifferent acting and a shaky script.

 

Posted in Film Feature

Star Wars: Top 5 Imperial Officers of the Empire

Written by Dominic Evans

We all know the stories of the “Rebel scum” in a galaxy far, far away, but what of the achievements and accomplishments of the Imperial Officers of the Empire? The bad guys we love to hate! Who were the officers who fought those insurgents, maintained order to the galaxy through fear and helped stabilise the first Galactic Empire? It would have been impossible for Emperor Palpatine and Lord Vader alone to maintain control and security, and I don’t think you would see the Sith undertaking any of the admin work! Prepare the single reactor ignition… You may fire when ready!

5. Colonel Yularen

 

Blink while watching the first meeting of the high ranking Imperial personnel aboard the first Death Star in A New Hope and you will miss him. The old man of experience (donning a crisp white tunic) began his Star Wars story as an unnamed background character that first got his name through a customisable card game! Wulff Yularen has since been handed a rich backstory.

Beginning as an admiral in the Republic Navy, he served gallantly in the Clone Wars, commanding a Cruiser while serving General Anakin Skywalker. A man who respects command and an admirer of bravery and public duty, Yularen became Colonel of the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) at the rise of the Empire, exposing instances of sedition in the Imperial Senate and later identifying and rooting out rebel spies. One adventure (season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels) had him on board the Chimaera with a blue-faced, red-eyed Chiss, exposing the rebel spy known as “Fulcrum”, Agent Kallus.

His presence was demanded on the Death Star to allay concerns of the station’s security because those pesky Rogue One Rebels stole the battle station’s technical plans. Colonel Wulff Yularen perished on board the Death Star on its destruction at the Battle of Yavin.

4.Grand General Tagge

“If the Rebels have obtained a complete technical readout of this battle station it is possible –however unlikely – that they might find a weakness and exploit it”.

General Cassio Tagge, General and Chief of the Imperial Army, was the only Imperial that took the threat posed by the Rebels seriously, following the theft of the Death Star plans. How right he was! In A New Hope, during the joint chiefs meeting, Tagge’s concerns about the Rebels building support in the Imperial Senate were dismissed heavily by Admiral Motti (who was thereafter choked out by Darth Vader who found “his lack of faith disturbing”). Tagge was not aboard the Death Star upon its destruction (as he was investigating Princess Leia’s false claims of a Rebel base on Dantooine) and was later praised for his foresight by the Emperor himself. He was promoted to Grand General and placed in charge of the Imperial military, charged with the Imperial’s expansion of the Outer Rim.

After the Battle of Yavin, due to the increasing disappointment the Emperor had in Vader, the part-man, part-machine was placed under Tagge’s command. Tagge was an effective and methodical analyst who was very critical of “Tarkin’s Folly” (the Death Star). He pondered on the amount of Super Star Destroyers the Empire could have built instead. Frightening thought! Commander of the Annihilator, Tagge’s power and authority grew, but so did his overconfidence. Holding the well-known Imperial trait, his arrogance blinded his belief that he could wield Vader as his own personal attack dog. How wrong he was after being so right! Vader ultimately killed Tagge the second after he was demoted following an attempted coup.

3. Director Krennic

Cunning. Ambitious. Unpredictable. Volatile. Devoid of compassion, mercy and regard for innocent lives. A working-class man who rose through Imperial ranks thanks to his ruthlessness to earn respect, his determination to make a name for himself and his born-given talent of being a master manipulator. Orson Krennic, Director of the Advanced Weapons Research division of the Imperial militarily and think-tank behind the might of the Death Star, ultimately fell under his own arrogance and obsessions. He was also the only man in the Empire who insisted on wearing a white cape!

After rising to the fore within the Republic Corps of Engineers, following his education within the exclusive Galactic Republic’s Future Program (where he met Galen Erso, the man behind the exhaust port), Krennic manipulated Galen into advancing the research on weaponising kyber crystals for the Death Star’s energy weapon. Working beyond his command, Krennic single-handedly orchestrated the creation of the battle station, utilising smugglers across the galaxy to supply the precious resources, turning them over to the Empire once finished. He was well-known for possessing memorable sarcastic tones: “Oh, look! Here’s Lyra. Back from the dead. It’s a miracle” when Lyra Erso appears with a blaster after Galen had said she died, and “Are we blind?!” following explosions across Scarif.

However, his downfall begun and ended with his grand rival, Grand Moff Tarkin. Krennic cunningly sprung a long-fought battle on Tarkin in the Salient system while he advanced Project Celestial Power behind his back to gain more favour with the Emperor. It therefore came as a shock to him, following the successful test on Jedha City, that Tarkin now claimed responsibility of the Death Star: “We stand here amidst MY achievement! NOT yours!“. Director Krennic was summoned to Vader’s castle on Mustafar in Rogue One. Obsessed with retaining control, he used this as a last-ditch attempt to manipulate Vader into organising an audience with the Emperor so as to recognise his achievements, despite his great fear of the mysterious Dark Lord. Even after being choked by the Force, knowing that he was still in charge of the Death Star’s operations brought a beaming smile to his face. He met his end (choking on his own aspirations!) at the Battle of Scarif, where Tarkin deployed the Death Star to eliminate the Empire base before the plans were extracted by the Rogue One Rebels. Krennic was ultimately killed by his obsession; somewhat poetic! I guess you now know why there was an empty chair at the joint chief meeting in A New Hope.

2. Grand Admiral Thrawn

“To defeat an enemy, you must know them. Not simply their battle tactics, but their history, philosophy, art”.

His name is Mitth’raw’nuruodo. Who? More commonly known as Grand Admiral Thrawn (the blue-skinned, red-eyed Chiss who made his debut in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels), ultimate commander of the Chimaera . He was the only alien within the Empire’s chain of command that was exclusively made up of humans. He is THE master of strategy, tactics and war through the deconstruction of his enemies’ art. Art?! Thrawn’s obsession was based on the notion that in order to truly defeat one’s enemy, one must be mindful of the importance of understanding an enemy’s culture, art and philosophy, allowing him to delve into the psyche of the people he wished to destroy. Being a brilliant military strategist earned him countless victories over smugglers, spies, pirates and that pesky Rebellion. Because of his successes in utterly wiping out his opponents, Thrawn was not known to the rebellion at large, something he used to his advantage: “I will start my operations […] and pull the rebels apart piece by piece. They will be the architects of their own destruction”.

To gain access to the Empire, Thrawn faked his exile and bamboozled Stormtroopers into taking him before the Emperor (although his true purpose was to deduce the Empire’s potential might as an ally in combating the impending doom emanating from the Unknown Regions –theorised to be the threat of Snoke!). Thrawn’s ingenuity and tactical prowess caught the attention of the Emperor as well as his knowledge of the Unknown Regions (a dangerous and unchartered area of space where the Emperor believed to be the location of secret discoveries of the dark side). Thrawn’s knowledge was in part used to travel there, where the Empire’s remnants re-organised into the First Order.

His calm and collected demeanour, as well as his suave and sophisticated mannerisms masked his ambition and ruthlessness: “I do not require glory, only results for the Emperor”. The obsession with total annihilation of his enemies makes him very dangerous and his ultimate future is yet to be determined (season 4 of Star Wars: Rebels will map that out). But, where he has efficient and effective tactical precision, brilliant military prowess and considerable skill in hand-to-hand combat in the bucket loads, he has a great gap: political astuteness (believing it not to necessary in his attempt of perfecting the art of war). He therefore lost out on #1 to someone who had the entire package…

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1. Grand Moff Tarkin

The measuring stick for all Imperial Officers to follow. The poster boy! The perfect blend of ambition, ruthlessness, tactical and military prowess and arrogance which allowed him to shape his legacy within the Galactic Empire. Born into a wealthy family on Eriadu, Wilhuff Tarkin from the age of 11 was sent on his own into the untamed Carrion Plateau at months at a time to hone his predatory skills. To Tarkin, respect, discipline and obedience were of the utmost importance, and he learnt that everything could be taken away from him in a blink of an eye, even if he had spent a lifetime trying to obtain it. Life to Tarkin was a constant struggle for survival.

As a young man, his devotion to service and loyalty meant that he (on the advice of his mentor, Naboo politician Sheev Palpatine) pursued a path in both law enforcement and government. During the Clone Wars, he served as a Republic Captain under Jedi Master Even Piell. He was captured by Separatists after the Battle of Murkhana and taken to Lola Sayu, home to the impenetrable prison known as the Citadel (designed to hold renegade Jedi), only to be rescued by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and Ashoka Tano. Tarkin was always sceptical about the Jedi fronting the Republic forces: “I find their tactics ineffective. The Jedi Code prevents them from going far enough to achieve victory, to do whatever it takes to win”.

At the birth of the Empire, Tarkin was one of its strongest supporters and helped consolidate control through the use of ruthless tactics, overseeing mass arrests and executions. Tarkin was elevated to Grand Moff (the Empire’s first) and became regional Governor of the Outer Rim after uncovering a conspiracy involving political dissidents in a “Route 66”-like team-up with Darth Vader. As Grand Moff, he did not tolerate failure and often had ineffectual officers executed. He also became one of the only people to have correctly deduced the identity of Vader.

After being suitably impressed with the successful demonstration of the destructive power of the Death Star as it devastated the Holy City of Jedha, Tarkin (with his chilling smirk) utilised his political astuteness and immediately assumed complete authority of the battle station, despite the boisterous protests of Director Krennic. He thereafter developed a simple and brutal philosophy: fear of the Death Star’s planet killing super-weapon would suppress all resistance to the Empire. Tarkin demonstrated his cold and calculating mannerisms by blowing up Alderaan to demonstrate its “full power”, despite learning the location of the Dantooine rebel base.

But, even with his brilliant military strategic mind and unparalleled devotion and ruthlessness to the Empire, Tarkin’s “Folly” ultimately blinded him: “Evacuate? In our moment of triumph? I think you over-estimate their chances!” Convinced of the battle station’s invulnerability until his end, Tarkin died on the Death Star, not solely because an unknown farm boy from the back water planet of Tatooine made the impossible shot, but because of his own arrogance.

So, after learning of the “heroics” of the most influential officers of the Empire, it is now over to you! Who is your favourite Imperial, and how would you rank them? Comment below! If you enjoyed reading this, please give the Facebook page a like and follow @ThrSilverScreen on Twitter.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wonder Woman (2017)

Image is property of DC Films and Warner Bros

Wonder Woman – Film Review

Cast:  Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston

Director:  Patty Jenkins

Synopsis: After an American pilot crashes near her home of Themyscira, and speaks of a deadly war gripping humanity, Amazonian Princess Diana decides to stand up and be counted, and bring an end to the war that threatens to devastate humanity.

Review: Right now, there can be little doubt that superhero/comic book films is a genre that is thriving at this moment in time. Yet despite this domination, one thing had always been missing from the genre particularly since its renaissance post 2008, and that is the remarkable lack of a female superhero driven flick. A film showing that a woman can be if she wants to be, an absolute badass who will absolutely not let any man dictate what she does or where she goes. It has been quite remarkable that it has taken this long, but better late than never, and one can hope that more will soon follow.

It would be fair to say that much was riding on this film to be a success, given that the DC Extended Universe has not enjoyed the best of starts. Man of Steel was received fairly warmly, but the same cannot be said for Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad. Though all had varying degrees of entertainment to them, it would be putting it mildly to say that there were a fair amount of naysayers for each of them. In turn, the DC Universe was struggling to get off the ground, but now that is about to change, thanks to our titular heroine. She had already graced our screens with her small but significant role in BVS (as well as being one of the film’s saving graces!) Now director Patty Jenkins goes back to show how she became the invincible warrior, a journey that takes her to our human world, and more specifically World War I.

Stealth mode…

Of course, she’s not alone in this fight, with love interest Steve Trevor (Pine) involved in a covert plot to retrieve some vital information, all the while Diana is thinking there are some sinister forces at work, leaving her eager to march into battle and defeat the evil that she believes is corrupting mankind. Continuing from where she left off Gadot is superb to watch in the role, she has the charisma and compassion that makes you want to root for her. Furthermore, when she’s being the absolute boss that we know she is in the heart of the First World War, it’s simply fantastic to watch. The studio had always wanted a female director and Jenkins proved herself to be the perfect choice, as the action scenes are directed faultlessly and are visually mesmerising to look at, aided superbly by the awesome score from Rupert Gregson-Williams.

As to be expected, the theme of female empowerment is strong throughout and Diana embodies that to a T (or should that be a W?) At a time when a woman’s place was inferior to that of a man, Diana is having none of that!  The chemistry between the two is what drives the movie forward. Humour is something that has become synonymous with the MCU and there’s plenty of good humour to be found here too. The plot is fast paced and gripping almost all of the time, yet when the third act arrives, this is where it begins to falter a little bit. It chooses to go down a route that is not exactly anything that we haven’t seen before. You would like to see studios try and avoid this somewhat cliched storytelling, but at least there are villains that are not completely disposable, unlike some of the MCU villains.

This woman means business…

After three attempts to get their Universe up and running, it was beginning to feel like time was running out for DC and this was last chance saloon for the DCEU to get going in order to stand a chance of facing up to the might of Marvel. While that is still a bit of a way off for the time being, it fell on Wonder Woman’s shoulders to deliver, and well she certainly delivered those goods, and in wonderful style too!

A truly wonderful origin story that delivers compelling characters, pulsating action sequences and a truly awesome lead performance from Gadot, the DCEU finally achieves a proper lift off.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Image is property of 20th Century Fox, Scott Free Productions and TSG Entertainment

Alien: Covenant – Film Review

Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo

Director:  Ridley Scott

Synopsis: The crew of the Covenant make course for a chartered planet that’s seemingly hospitable for humanity to colonise. Upon arrival however, they make a horrifying discovery that has them fighting for their lives…

Review: When you are the creator of a franchise that has made its mark on pop culture and was a game changer in the science fiction/horror genre, it always feels like there’s a certain amount of pressure when said director make a return to the franchise, as Ridley Scott certainly found out. The expectation that was on the shoulders of Ridley Scott when 2012’s Prometheus, the first film in a prequel series of events taking place before Scott’s 1979 classic. It was not the happiest of returns to the franchise for Scott, as the film’s divisive reaction can testify. However, for this newest instalment Scott decided to return to more familiar routes.

The year is 2104, and the crew of the Covenant are soundly asleep in their stasis chambers, destination planet Origae-6. Yet when disaster strikes and fatalities occur, newly appointed Captain Oram decides to change course and head for a new planet that looks perfect for them to colonise. But of course, once they land there and begin to have a look around, it’s not long before the crew realise something is very wrong and the members of the team are all locked in a desperate bid for survival against some Neomorphs who as to be expected, are looking to make a meal out of the crew, LITERALLY!

“Doctor, I think I might be a little unwell…”

Given that Scott is in many ways the founder of this franchise, it’s almost a given that the film will look visually mesmerising, and here he continues that trend. The production design and set direction are excellent, and the cinematography is all just wonderful to look at, but great visuals do not make a great film alone, you need to have some characters that you want to get on board with, and this is where the film falters a little bit. Many of the crew have so little development that you just don’t care about them, perhaps cos you know they’re just meat for the aliens. Thus you don’t have any sadness for the characters when they’re picked off. The death scenes are nowhere near as iconic, but Scott definitely throws in throwback moments that fans will undoubtedly enjoy. Chest popping death scene anyone?

That being said there are a few standout performances, most of all from Michael Fassbender in a dual role playing two versions of an android whose motivations you’re never quite sure whose side he’s really on. Katherine Waterston due to tragic circumstances at the film’s outset is fuelled by grief and anger, which makes her a character the audience can get on board with. When the shit goes down, she really delivers a wounded and powerful performance, in many ways, she’s the new Ripley, but not quite as badass, and Danny McBride really helps give the film a little sprinkle of humour.

I’ll make a meal out of you…

Much like Prometheus, the film’s script is a little choppy and does falter at times in the second act. You do get the feeling that there are certain plot points that perhaps ended up being edited out of the final product, but the overall script delivers a story that certainly fuses elements of Prometheus and the original Alien film in ways that should be appeasing to fans of the franchise. Whilst also bringing that  signature sci-fi gore that this franchise has become synonymous with. It’s similar in many ways to the films that have come before it, but as has been proven in the past, that is by no means a bad thing, and here it helps the film remain on course, and ensures it becomes a worthy addition to the franchise.

It doesn’t offer anything new to the franchise, but by fusing the best parts of Prometheus and Alien combined with an excellent dual performance from Fassbender, ensures it doesn’t become another disposable alien flick.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Image is property of Hasbro Studios, Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Ramón Rodríguez, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Tony Todd

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: After saving the world from the Decepticons, Sam (LaBeouf) tries to leave all that behind and go to college. However, due to some clues that are in his possession, the Decepticons are ferociously hunting Sam once more…

Review: The first live action foray into the world of live action talking robots, was certainly if anything a noisy affair. Lots of explosions thrown in with robots fighting in a human metropolis. If that for whatever reason, didn’t provide you with a couple of hours of some mindless dumb popcorn entertainment, chances are this sequel to Bay’s Transformers mayhem probably won’t tickle your fancy much either, as it serves up more of the same in many ways, but the results this time, are not nearly as pleasing to the eye as the first instalment.

With the Decepticons seemingly defeated, Sam Witwicky now seems determined to lead a normal life, by going to college. Unfortunately for him, his role in the Transformers Civil War is not yet over, as a clue to another ancient artefact’s location on Earth sees him become the target for the Decepticons once again, and cue again lots of explosions and a Transformer Civil War reignites on Earth once more. What Bay does well is the visual effects are once again excellent, and for what it’s worth the opening sequence is for the most part, extremely entertaining to watch. These scenes are scattered throughout the film, and they, along with Steve Jablonsky’s score, are undoubtedly the high points of this expensive metal extravaganza.

Bruised and beaten, but still the ultimate badass…

The problematic dialogue has unfortunately not gone away, there are times when it is painful to just watch once again. The chemistry between the lead characters is not awful but its paper thin at best. The plot, once again is completely ridiculous and it seems was once again nothing more than an afterthought in production. You go into these movies to see Autobots fight Decepticons, but that is almost second fiddle here, as the humans are the centre of the attention. As such when those humans are front and centre for the majority of the run time, it’s really frustrating, especially since screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have proven themselves to be capable screenwriters.

As well as the bland humans, well they’re ably supported by some equally bland new Bots. Of course Optimus is his usual Peter Cullen-voiced badass self and the not so talkative Bumblebee. The rest apart from Ironhide are not nearly as developed as the aforementioned robots in disguise, thus rendering them big and uninteresting pieces of tin. Two robots that are not uninteresting, but for all the wrong reasons, are The Twins. Annoying and just offensive, it’s a pity they didn’t end up in the scrapheap of the editing room. In the Decepticon corner however, there is the eponymous Fallen who wants to do what Megatron did, and that is essentially destroy the human race, with a really absurd way of doing so. Bay’s style of editing is carried over from the first movie, and while it does have its merits to the way he frames his action scenes, it could quite possibly be migraine inducing.

It had its flaws but Bay had the platform to build on what he achieved from the first one and make a meaningful sequel. From quite the considerable production budget, the end result is certainly bigger in scale, but better it most certainly isn’t. There’s enjoyment to be had, as such it’s not a complete car crash, but  it’s not far off. Ultimately it is one colourful and noisy mess that doesn’t add anything new to the franchise. Instead it takes the problems of the first film, and just makes them that so much more noticeable.

Nothing more than meets the eye to be found here, a messy and absurd script is slightly compensated by some good effects, but even they become extremely tiresome after a while.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Transformers (2007)

Image is property of Dreamworks Pictures and Paramount Pictures

Transformers – Film Review

Cast:  Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel, Rachael Taylor, John Turturro, Peter Cullen

Director:  Michael Bay

Synopsis: When a teenager buys his first car, which turns out to be a Transformer, he gets dragged into an ancient war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, and a battle for humanity’s survival.

Review: Making an adaption of a popular toy franchise, one that has been around since the mid 1980s, would seem like a safe bet for cinematic greatness. After all, when said franchise has spawned a plethora of spin off TV shows and an animated movie among other things, that have had a very loyal fan-base down the years, it was always bound to get the live action film treatment, and a popular toy franchise fused with live action must equal greatness, right? Well, not quite.

As this is a tale of two factions of alien robots, disguising themselves as regular Earth vehicles, doing battle over a transformer cube artefact, this is very much a popcorn flick where you leave your brain at the door. No thought-provoking themes to be found here, just sit back and watch at the metallic mayhem that director Michael Bay throws at you, which should for the most part leave you very well entertained as it truly is breathless stuff at times. There is a plot, of sorts, but it’s all pretty much irrelevant once we arrive at what we signed up for. Basically, the Autobots and Decepticons battling for possession of this cube, set in human territory, and Sam Witwicky (LaBoeuf) is at the centre of this fight.

Not your regular bunch of vehicles…

Bay certainly likes to tell his stories with some explosions, or ten, and when its all out Transformer Battle Royale, in a scrappy fight to the death, it certainly is pulsating stuff. Bay certainly favours quick cut editing, and it is used to great effect here. What is also truly excellent is the CGI, especially when the robots are transforming, it all looks absolutely superb.  What’s not as interesting however is the bits in between with some of the human characters. LeBoeuf is interesting enough as the human lead, even if he is a bit of a dork. The chemistry between him and and Mikaela Banes (Fox) is shaky at first to say the least, it’s not the best it could be, but it’s not the worst that’s ever been put to screen, although some of the initial dialogue between the two is just uncomfortable to watch, for all concerned. Leading the military contingent is Josh Duhamel’s Major Lennox, who certainly carries the most charisma amongst all of the human contingent.

Despite a mixed bag of human characters, the action that Bay delivers is more than enough to leave the viewer satisfied. Casting the OG voice of Optimus Prime Peter Cullen to reprise his role was a smart move to win over the fans, as Cullen’s deep voice brings an aura of authority to Optimus which being the leader of the Autobots, is kind of important. Similarly, as he is no stranger to playing bad guys, Hugo Weaving as the voice of the Decepticon big gun Megatron, another superb choice. Many of the Decepticons are in many ways very disposable, but in terms of the Autobots, there’s a good contingent of memorable friendly bots that you definitely want to root for.

It may not be perfect, in fact some of it is extremely cheesy, but when the action is this good, that’s really what matters as that is precisely what you sign up for. For fans of the original, they might have some nitpicks, but it cannot be denied that Bay delivers the sort of dumb, loud popcorn entertainment that you want from this sort of film, and Steve Jablonsky’s brilliant score complements it perfectly. There’s nothing more than meets the eye about this,it is big, loud and ridiculous fun and it does what it exactly says on the tin.

The script was clearly not high on the agenda of the production team, and it didn’t need to be, as Bay delivers precisely the sort of popcorn entertainment that you signed up for.

Posted in 1990-1999, 2000-2009, 2010-2019, Film Feature

Ranking the Star Wars movies

Image is property of Lucasfilm

Is there a franchise across the galaxy that has made such an impact on popular culture than Star Wars? Right from its inception in 1977, it has seeped its way into almost any and every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that a good four decades after the first film was released in cinemas, it has continued to enjoy almost unparalleled levels of popularity. You ask anyone you meet on the street if they know Star Wars, it would be quite incredible if you encountered someone who genuinely has no idea what the hell you’re on about.

Anywho, for a great many years it did look as though there was no force left in the world of Star Wars, since its creator George Lucas had originally planned for two trilogies. However, since Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, the franchise has enjoyed a new lease of life. The new trilogy is up and running and an anthology film is in the bag with many more planned. But the force has not always been strong with this franchise, and so it’s time to take a trip to a galaxy far far away and rate the Star Wars films from worst to best. Time to get started, and make that jump to hyperspace! Punch it Chewie!

8. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Read my original review here

The whole purpose of the prequel movies was to witness the transition of Anakin Skywalker from extraordinary Jedi to badass Sith, however he was far from a compelling character and here he’s nothing but a whiny pain in the arse! It is fair to say that Episode I wasn’t quite as well received as the 3 films that had come before it, so after some negative feedback you’d have thought George Lucas would have made some improvements in the 2nd outing in his prequel trilogy, and well in short he didn’t.

The dialogue is dreadful, with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman not possessing a single bit of chemistry between them just makes it so painful to watch. Romantic dialogue at its absolute worst. “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere” is a line that will live forever in film infamy. The film tries to make things exciting with Obi Wan’s adventure, but even that is just ridiculously bloated and nonsensical. At a point it just becomes a chore to finish the movie as you’re just not invested in the adventure one bit. Even with less of one of the most infuriating characters ever brought to screen, it’s an excruciating watch, even with some lightsabre battles involved.

7. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Read my original review here

Ahem, speaking of said infuriating character: JAR JAR BINKS. One word: WHYYYYYYYYY????? What on earth was Lucas thinking when he came up with the idea for this character ? He’s annoying to watch/listen to, and it’s not surprising that some thought the character was deeply offensive, regardless of whether he was written to be for children, he did not need to be so infuriating to watch. He’s perhaps the most hated movie character ever, and justifiably so too. But that’s just one facet of what’s wrong with The Phantom Menace. Right from the opening crawl, upon watching this, something is not right. Trade negotiations??!! Peace treaties??!! Star Wars, this is not!

Again just what was Lucas thinking?! When you watch this you wonder is this the same man who created this wondrous universe? Cos here it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Lucas clearly became drunk with CGI, as there’s a ton of it on show here, and while some scenes are cool, the majority of these effects are horrifically dated. The script, much like Clones, is also abysmal, as is the acting. What puts Phantom Menace above Clones is Duel of The Fates, Darth Maul and the ending lightsabre battle, cos that’s just cool, but it’s not enough to save the movie from the mediocre snoozefest it really is, and that’s an almighty shame.

6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Read my original review here

AT LAST! WAR! After two for the most part painful movies, we finally got the prequel movie we signed up for! Right from the opening space battle, we immediately get the feel of old school Star Wars, and the Clone Wars that we were promised. More importantly, we watch as the Dark Side gnaws away at Anakin, eventually leading to his full turn to the Dark Side. Rise, Lord Vader! Christensen is for the most part, much better here in his performance, but there are still some lines that are just painful to watch. But it must be said, the acting went up a couple of good pegs, largely courtesy of Ewan McGregor who really shines as Obi-Wan. Not more so in the destined duel between Master and Padawan. You really feel the emotion, the pain and anguish of these two former friends now ferociously trying to kill the other. It’s also much funnier than the first two movies, largely courtesy of R2D2.

The action is also much better, from the opening battle to the battle against General Grievous (also the best villain of the prequel trilogy). There’s a handful of some great battle scenes, such as Yoda VS Palpatine and the climactic battle between Obi Wan and the newly turned Lord Vader is certainly gripping, if a little overlong. But by far one of the most excruciating scenes to come out of the prequels was Order 66! It made any Star Wars fan’s stomach churn watching the grim destiny of the once highly lauded Jedi Order. Yet, there are some scenes that much like its predecessors are truly head scratching, dying of a broken heart? I mean, really? And that really dumb “Noooooooooo” right at the end, just well erm, no. No thank you Lucas. At least this film ended the trilogy and the franchise (or so we thought at the time) on a positive note.

5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Read my original review here

The one that originally closed the book on the franchise, and although in terms of quality it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessors, there was much enjoyment to be had in this final instalment of the original trilogy. The Battle of Endor is really well done and features one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history, courtesy of Admiral Ackbar (you know the one!). But the main focus of this tale is Luke’s mission to rescue his father from the evil Emperor’s clutches, and try and restore him to the good side. Their climactic final battle carries a lot of emotional weight, and is also very gripping to watch: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me”.

Now on the other hand, there’s the small matter of the Ewoks, you either love or you hate these little bears, but either way the idea of them being able to topple the Empire’s troops is a bit silly and very perplexing. That being said, despite these furry bears, Jedi has enough enjoyment in it to give the original trilogy the satisfying conclusion it really deserved, but as we know, this was not the final chapter in the adventures of the trinity: Luke, Han and Leia.

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Read my original review here

Despite being called “Star Wars”, there hadn’t really been a moment where these films really felt like proper war movies, this is of course until Rogue One blasted its way onto the big screen, in the first of the anthology films that Disney had been developing since it seized control of the franchise. Taking place right before Episode IV kicks off, the focus is on a group of rebels who make a daring mission to steal the plans for the Empire’s deadly planet destroying space station, the Death Star, and it really does bring the war element to the franchise in a way that we had not seen before.

No Jedi to be found here, and in Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso the franchise has another very compelling female lead (more on that later,) the assortment of characters that are recruited are enjoyable to watch, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe for instance, and new droid K2SO is VERY funny. Yet there is a bit of an irksome lack of development on some of these characters, aside from Jyn and the relationship she has with her father Galen. However, when we get to that third act, it is breathless entertainment, not to mention one of Darth Vader’s best ever moments in the franchise. It is a perfect companion piece to Episode IV.

3. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Read my original review here

There has perhaps been no movie this decade that carried more hype going into it than for the first Star Wars film since 2005. By this point, the franchise had now firmly made the decision to move forward with its own ideas, and as such Lucas’s suggestions were left by the wayside, much to his dislike. After the prequels had for the most part left fans vastly disappointed, much was riding on this film to match those lofty expectations, and for the most part, it delivered.

Now there has been much criticism hurled at this movie for being essentially a carbon copy of the original. While admittedly there are lots of visual nods and throwbacks, JJ Abrams and his team delivered a film and a story that felt so much more like a homage to those original movies we know and love. Rey is a very compelling and interesting character that is so effortlessly watchable in spite of the fact that we know so little about her, and given the fact she is the central character of the new trilogy, is critical. John Boyega also gives a top notch performance as FN-2187 (Sorry, I mean Finn), a Stormtrooper gone rogue and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron certainly carries that Han Solo esque aura about him.  Speaking of Han, this film gives him and Leia so much more backstory and fleshes their characters out in ways we hadn’t seen before.

In Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, the series has another superbly portrayed antagonist who in spite of knowing the bare minimum about his backstory (other than also being Ben Solo), is very compelling to watch in the same way that Rey is. He’s in many ways a wounded soul, but one you absolutely do not dare mess with. Some would even argue that he become most menacing when he removed his terrifying mask while interrogating Rey, placing his mask on the ashes of his Jedi victims, only to reveal a young boy, corrupted and twisted by the dark ways of the Force.

There’s flesh on the bones of these characters in a way that was pretty much non-existent across the prequel trilogy, thus you’re invested in them, leaving you wanting more. Also, the movie makes a bold choice by leaving the film on a cliffhanger. There are many questions that fans across the galaxy at this moment just do not know the answers to, which only generates more excitement and anticipation for the next instalment.

2. Episode IV: A New Hope

Read my original review here

The start of truly something special, a film that revolutionised the industry in pretty much every way, and created a franchise that to this day enjoys galactic world domination. It would be fair to say that there was something of a struggle to bring this to the big screen. Production problems, difficulties in funding the film, and even some cast members thought the film would be a massive failure. Mark Hamill commented that on the first day of filming in Tunisia, cameramen were laughing at his costume. How wrong they were!

Right from the opening moments, this film just captivates you, the effects at the time were dazzling and they still hold up to this day (well for the most part!). The characters are all very intriguing and much like The Force Awakens, you wanted to spend more time with these characters, characters who have left their mark on pop culture forever. Luke, initially a bit whiny, really grows into the role of the main protagonist. Han Solo is your cocky, brash but lovable smuggler, and in Princess Leia, you have a female protagonist that is up there with the very best that have ever been put to screen. Equally in Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, you have two of the most memorable antagonists cinema has seen.

Despite all the production problems, the struggles were not in vain, and the final product is cinematic gold in every sense. The start of a franchise that has reigned across the galaxy for decades now and will in all probability continue to do so for decades to come.

 1. Episode V: Empire Strikes Back

Read my original review here

Sequels have very much become a staple of modern cinema, sometimes they improve on their predecessor, and sometimes they just don’t. Empire is most definitely the former, in this instance, but it’s more than just a great sequel, it is one of the best films of all time. Period.

With the first film we got introduced to our key characters and at the same time, introduced to a plethora of planets to explore and a very intriguing and well told story to boot. This film takes those characters and develops their relationships in very unique ways, whilst also making plot choices that are bold to say the least. While the action in A New Hope was something to behold, here it is even better. The Battle of Hoth is mesmerising to watch, whilst the climatic final battle between Luke and Vader (who’s also an absolute boss with no Tarkin to hold him back) just mercilessly dropping his own men dead in the quest to find Luke. What’s more if you had no knowledge of the prequels (lucky bastards) as people in 1980 did, then the twist that happens in this battle is so well executed that you just never saw it coming.

The tone is also much MUCH darker, especially given the fates that befall some of our heroes, and the direction and the cinematography are just BEAUTIFUL to look at. There’s not a single thing wrong with this movie, and with the introduction of Yoda, you again have one of the best characters to have ever graced the silver screen, and some of the best cinematic insults too. It remains to this day the best film in the franchise, and it will take something truly special to beat it.

So, after making that jump though hyperspace through all of the major cinematic Star Wars films, it is now over to you! Which is your favourite Star Wars film, and how would you rank these films? Comment below and let me know! If you enjoyed reading this, I’d be very grateful if you gave my Facebook page a like and connect with me on Twitter: @ThrSilverScreen.

May the Force be With you all!

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Sicario (2015)

Image is property of Black Label Media, Thunder Road and Lionsgate

Sicario – Film Review

Cast:  Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Director:  Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.

Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.

The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.

Don’t get in this guy’s cross hairs…

Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.

Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?

With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.

Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Image is property of Marvel Studios

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2- Film Review

Cast:  Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Kurt Russell, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker

Director:  James Gunn

Synopsis: Whilst on an assignment for an alien race called the Sovereign, after the deal goes awry, the Guardians find themselves on the run, when they encounter a man who is claiming to be Star Lord’s father.

Review: It is fair to say that Marvel Studios certainly rolled the dice and took a big risk when they decided to green-light a full feature film about a crew of heroes that the vast majority of movie goers across the globe had no idea who they were. Many thought that this film would be the studio’s first mishap, and well we all know that simply wasn’t the case as the first film smashed all expectations and ensured that everyone knew their names, and rightly so, the Guardians became hot property.

Now well into Phase 3 of the giant Marvel machine, it was inevitable that our favourite bunch of lovable arseholes would get a new adventure. The first film was such a mystery, audiences had no idea what to expect going in. Thus given that so many loved what they saw the first time around, writer and director James Gunn decides to follow a similar route this time around, allowing these characters that we grew to love and laugh at, to develop their relationships. What’s more, they have some familial issues and any familial squabbling issues that may be brewing beneath the surface, and there’s a LOT of that going on this time.

The most lovable bunch of misfits in the Galaxy…

Though there’s some bickering, Gunn’s script packs humour in abundance. It has become almost a trademark of the MCU to this point but, this might just be the funniest film of the franchise to date. Everyone has their moment to shine, but in the case of some characters they get several moments to shine, looking at you Drax the Destroyer! Much like the first film, there’s a plethora of very memorable lines that will get those laughing muscles moving, and the story for the first act is extremely enthralling. The Guardians are all once again on excellent form, with the villainous Nebula given much more to do this time around, oh and yes Baby Groot is perhaps the most adorable little sentient plant being you’re maybe ever going to find on the silver screen.

Visually the film is just dripping with so much colour it’s wonderful to look at, and it packs some tremendous action scenes to accompany the superb visuals. Which in turn is also helped by the ensemble of music that makes up Awesome Mix Vol 2, which is just as catchy as its predecessor. However, that being said, not everything is nice to look at as there are points where it becomes extremely obvious that there’s a lot of CGI on screen. The villain was the thing that really let the first film down, and sadly yet again, the main villain (fear not no spoilers here!) is still something of a disappointment.

This individual in question is not as disposable as some previous MCU villains, but nowhere near as memorable as say Loki. Their motivations being a little perplexing, and once their intentions are known, the film meanders and goes from the sublime to the truly ridiculous, which given that this is a film with a talking tree and a genetically engineered raccoon, is quite an accomplishment! But yet again it does feel like a missed opportunity for Marvel to rectify the difficulties that they have had in bringing a truly compelling villain to the big screen, save for the God of Mischief of course.

Nevertheless, this sequel is a worthy companion piece to the original film, once its characters are front and centre. Choosing to walk a similar path that the first film went might seem boring and unadventurous to some, but when it is this entertaining and absolutely hilarious to watch, you can hardly blame Gunn and Marvel for sticking to what they know, cos that produced the goods the first time around.  This band of lovable misfits certainly remain an absolute blast of marvellous entertainment.

Not quite as enthralling as its predecessor, but this sequel packs the humour, the exhilarating action sequences, and yes another awesome soundtrack to boot.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Buena Vista Pictures

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl set sail in search of a chest that contains an item belonging to the ominous Davy Jones, but this item is also sought after by several other people, all of whom want this item for their own ends…

Review: Pirates, there’s something about these scallywags that cinema audiences certainly seem to like, and enjoy watching, as was evident by the phenomenal critical and commercial success that the first film in this franchise enjoyed. A sequel (or two, or three) was always going to happen. Sequels, however can be the equivalent of cursed treasure, in that if you get them wrong, it can place upon the preceding film a terrible curse that’s hard to shake off. Or it can be like finding a glorious stash of treasure that makes everyone rich and happy. In the case of Dead Man’s Chest, this is perhaps somewhere in between it’s not a curse, but it’s not a perfect stash of treasure either.

We begin when the wedding of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner is rudely interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander) who’s after one man, yes Captain Jack Sparrow of course! After the latter was allowed to escape by the hands of Will, Beckett condems the bride and groom to be to the hangman’s noose. Jack meanwhile is desperately seeking to avoid the debt that he owes Davy Jones (Nighy) and so begins a spiral of events that stretch out this film’s run time to an incredible two and a half hours, that really really could have been trimmed down in one or two places.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio do ensure that there is some fun to be had of course, but there’s quite a lot of meandering as this ship steers its way through some very exposition filled waters that threaten to run the film aground. A common path for sequels to sail, is to make the tone that bit more darker, and this is the route that this film chooses to take, and in doing so much of the wackiness and the fun that the first film brought is replaced by a more serious ominous tone, though the film doesn’t lack some very entertaining sequences that returning captain Gore Verbinski helms to a similar standard as he did with the first film.

The ominous is perhaps best exemplified by Davy Jones, though we don’t find out much about him and why he looks the way he does. Nighy brings a very menacing presence, that is aided by some truly excellent CGI. Being in this creature’s presence could cause even the bravest of souls to quiver in fear.  Though the CGI for some of his crew aboard The Flying Dutchman is very obvious, it is for the most part very well done and the recipient of the Oscar for Visual Effects. Despite the meandering script, there are some rather splendid action sequences to enjoy, and the acting across the board remains at a solid standard.

Not someone you want to mess with…

With Depp again on splendid form as Captain Jack, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley also in fine form reprising their roles as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Newcomers Stellan Skarsgård and Tom Hollander give the most memorable performances of the newcomers as Will’s father Bootstrap Bill and the pesky Cutler Beckett.  It’s not the swashbuckling adventure its predecessor was, but there’s more than enough rum on this ship to ensure it has the right amount of wind in its sails.

A choppy plot, coupled with some clunky dialogue could have resulted in an unpleasant shipwreck, but an ample amount of fun action ensures it’s steered home to a satisfying conclusion.