Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Attack of the clones
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – Film Review

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewen McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: Set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, when a separatist movement  threatens to create trouble for the Republic, the Jedi Knights along with Senator Amidala move to ensure the Republic’s survival, but a growing threat is emerging in the form of a clone army…

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

Review: When it came to the creation of these prequels, surely every single Star Wars fan on the face of the planet must have been wondering what brilliance could the creator of this awesome universe throw at us? Our first answer was the horrendously disappointing The Phantom MenaceSo when a sequel came along, audiences possibly hoped that Lucas would realise his mistakes, listen to the feedback, and give us something much more closer to the original trilogy. But yet again, the hopes were dashed with another bloated CGI filled mess, with very little substance to it, and the standard of writing? Improve it did not.

In the first prequel, there was a lot of sitting around and talking, but not enough action to get the excitement going, it became hopelessly tedious with some horrific dialogue, and it’s unfortunate that this poorly written dialogue hasn’t gone away. The plot, of sorts, focuses on the Separatist movement and their plan to leave the Republic, led by the mysterious Count Dooku. Lucas really tries to make this plot really interesting but it doesn’t wash unfortunately, because it wasn’t the big selling point of the prequels, that being Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. In addition to this less than interesting plot with the Separatists, we have an even less interesting love story between Anakin and Padme, and these scenes are just cringe worthy to the absolute maximum. What makes these scenes even worse is Hayden Christensen’s acting as a grown up Anakin and the delivery of some of his dialogue, is just horrendous. Once again Lucas’s poor script doesn’t help but it doesn’t take away from Christensen’s poor delivery of his lines, and while Natalie Portman isn’t much better, she does have an Academy Award to her name, Christensen does not. Go figure…

The emotion that ran throughout the original trilogy is again severely lacking in this film with the completely uninteresting plot and while interest does grow in the latter stages of the film, once the Jedi finally get off their bums and decide to do something to help. The action scenes in this film do offer more but they’re yet again mired by the ridiculous overuse of CGI which like the previous film is so ridiculously apparent it almost hurts your eyes while you watch. The absence of Star Wars sets sticks out like a sore thumb and Lucas once again tries to overload the viewer with CGI, forgetting that there’s a fine balance between great CGI and great storytelling, which again baffles as he mastered that with the very first film we got in the franchise! There are some decent characters in this film too, but again like with Phantom Menace, they’re barely utilised before we have a chance to explore their potential, namely one Jango Fett, father to the awesome Boba Fett, except here he’s not so awesome, he’s another whiny little brat kid, kind of like how Anakin was in the first movie, and in many ways like Anakin is here.

Also introduced is Count Dooku, played by the late and great Sir Christopher Lee. His performance was decent and his character is explored a bit more and there is a bit more action involved with his character to boost the excitement, but again it’s over before it really has a chance to get going. John Williams’ score remains as awesome as it always has been but the film is once again bogged down by poor writing, even poorer acting from certain individuals, and terrible TERRIBLE romantic dialogue, and more CGI overload that again does nothing to enhance and or improve upon the very weak story that we are presented with here, which was just not what audiences wanted to see. It was yet again a terrific opportunity squandered and resulted in CGI overkill.

Yet again weighed down by a poor script with some appallingly bad dialogue and even worse acting, lessons were not learnt from Episode I and the CGI is just as noticeable and dated as its predecessor, but it somehow manages to be worse, even with less Jar Jar Binks.

D+

 

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Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

the-phantom-menace-poster
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewen McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: When the planet of Naboo comes under attack from the sinister Trade Federation, it falls to two Jedi Knights, and a mysterious young boy to try and solve the conflict.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Review: Back in the 1970s, in 1977 to be precise a film was released that would later go on to redefine not only the science fiction genre, but films in general. A film that would go on to have two successful sequels and remain insanely popular to this day.This film is of course Star Wars, and the man behind this remarkable feat of cinematic brilliance was George Lucas. Therefore when plans were announced to expand on this universe with a prequel trilogy, fans must have been overjoyed, and excitement built. However, ultimately their excitement and anticipation was misplaced.

The first film had the immediate sense of intrigue and excitement, and you would have thought that the creator of this universe would recapture that immediately. Yet right from the opening credit crawl, something just doesn’t feel right. This is not the Star Wars movie we were looking for, it is trying to be a part of the much loved franchise and although it technically is, it just feels hopelessly out of place. The first three films had great writing, some terrific characters, and some brilliant action scenes and combined great use of practical as well as visual effects, but virtually none of that is employed here, with some stilted dialogue and some horrendously written characters.

It is worth wondering when watching this film, is this the director who created this universe with his 1977 masterpiece? The main plot revolves around peace treaties, and political squabbling. It just doesn’t boast the excitement of the original trilogy, or have that emotional punch towards the climax, and the writing is absolutely nowhere near the level of quality that was on show in the original trilogy (for the most part.)It is almost painful to watch at times watching these characters devoid of any emotional connection to the audience. The film struggles to retain interest in the story, which in parts is down to the horrendous overuse of CGI. There is so much on show here it is once again painfully apparent that some shots were done on a computer, and the lack of quality written characters, despite some considerable talent in front of the camera, shows the real weaknesses in Lucas’ script, which is evident with what many believe is one of the worst characters ever put to film: JAR JAR BINKS!!!

Right from the off, this creature instantaneously irritates, with his nonsensical actions as well as his dialogue and he is just downright infuriating to watch. Also annoying, but not quite to the level of Mr Binks is the introduction of Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. The big selling point of the prequels is to watch Anakin turn from the good Anakin to the evil Darth Vader, but he spends the majority of the movie moaning and it’s just painful to watch, particularly because Jake Lloyd does not give a good performance at all, but then again with the script by Lucas being as bad as it is, it doesn’t help him shine. Vader is one of the most iconic villains in film history and his back story is just ruined by this terrible performance. The absence of the emotional connection for the film is seriously damaging and the overuse of the CGI particularly in some of the action sequences is so noticeable that it hurts your eyes while you watch. It’s like being fed with the same food day in and day out, after a while you’re going to get bored, and the effects are a bore at times. The effects do not hold up in parts and they add nothing of substance to the movie.

With all that said, there are some, but not many plus points, namely the John Williams score remains as excellent as it always has been. There are some cool scenes such as the Pod racing sequence, and there is a very cool character in Darth Maul. In addition he is part of what is probably the best scene in the movie, the light sabre duel between him, Qui Gonn and Obi Wan. But yet again, there is frustration as Darth Maul has has very little screentime and is ultimately killed off before we had a chance to see what he could really do. It is ultimately a shame that after 3 near perfect movies, and a 16 year interval between Return of the Jedi and this, this is the end product. It’s a real shame because with the advancement in the effects at the time, there was scope for greatness, but this fritters away into a gigantic CGI and effects heavy mess.

With a poor script, and a frustrating over-reliance on CGI, as well as some truly atrocious acting and characters, this was such a missed opportunity to expand on the brilliance of the original trilogy, but instead chose a path of mind numbing mediocrity. 

C-

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Walk (2015)

the walk
Image rights belong to TriStar Productions, ImageMovers, LStar Capital, TriStar Pictures

The Walk – Film Review

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ben Kingsley, Charlotte Le Bon, James Badge Dale

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Synopsis: An account of the story of high wire artist Philippe Petit and his incredible and very dangerous mission to hang a high wire between the two towers of the World Trade Centre, and walk on it.

Review: For many people,  images of the old Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre will sadly be forever associated with the terrible events of September 11th 2001. And while the images of the atrocities of that day may never be vanquished from people’s minds, one must not forget that the buildings, whilst still under construction were at the centre of what has since been called “the artistic crime of the century,” when an insane French high wire artist strung a wire between the two buildings and walked on it, a distance of a whole 1,387 feet between man and a terrifying fall to the ground below.

The subject of this daring and somewhat mad story has already been the subject of James Marsh’s Oscar winning documentary Man on Wire. When asked why the awful events of 9/11 are not mentioned in his documentary Marsh said that the act by Petit was: “incredibly beautiful” and that it “would be unfair and wrong to infect his story with any mention, discussion or imagery of the Towers being destroyed.” With this film it is clear Zemeckis is going for a similar effect, it is almost a love letter to the buildings, to remember the Towers for what they were, and of course to retell the tale of Petit’s stunning feat. The big selling point of Zemeckis’s tale however, is to put the audience on that wire, to put you in his shoes when he took those first steps, and it does this with great effect.

The process to get to that point goes back to Petit’s days as a street performer in France,with Petit narrating the story atop the Statue of Liberty, and when he sees a picture of the towers, he has his Eureka! moment and sets about on his mission to walk on a wire between the buildings.  Along the way he recruits a number of people, most notably his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), the latter of whom helps him hone his craft as high wire artist. The pace of this first half of the movie is somewhat slow and overly long at times, but the interest is not lost. It is when we arrive in the Big Apple that the real planning begins, and the film turns into an exciting heist film, although nothing gets taken, except quite possibly the audience’s breath. The towers have been beautifully recreated by Zemeckis and his team, and when the mission to string the wire between the buildings is being carried out, it carries a lot of suspense with it, as the mission could have easily been over before it began.

Joseph Gordon Levitt certainly brings his usual charisma and charm to the role of Petit, except if you’re a man who has a mission to walk between two of the tallest buildings in the world, you’re going to have something of an ego, and unfortunately he does carry this ego, and at times, he can be an extremely obnoxious t**t, even when talking to his girlfriend who is doing everything she can to help him carry out his dream, and also to his team of assembled contributors. For the most part, JGL has the French accent on point, but there are times when it falters a little bit. Nevertheless, the story remains engaging and when we get to the act itself, it is truly majestic, incredible to behold and incredibly suspenseful although for the viewer who has a fear of heights, it might make it uncomfortable viewing.

With the most subtle of gestures it is clear that the film and filmmakers pay great respect to those who lost their lives during horrific events of 9/11, and indeed the film was dedicated to those who died that day. With that in mind, the film serves a reminder to the watching viewer, as the tagline reminds us” every dream begins with a single step,” and your dreams are obtainable also, even if they are as wacky and downright dangerous as Petit’s was.

With a somewhat slow opening, a film like this could easily dragged down to mediocrity, but JGL’s performance is of a solid standard, and with Zemeckis’s expert direction, the walk itself is truly spectacular to watch, particularly in IMAX 3D. 

b

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Martian (2015)

the martian
Image rights belong to Scott Free Productions, Kinberg Genre and 20th Century Fox

The Martian – Film Review

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kata Mara, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sebastian Stan

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: An astronaut is presumed dead after a deadly storm separates him from the rest of his crew. Yet after surviving the storm, he is alone on Mars and must use all the resources he can find to get back to Earth.

Review: The thought of being the only person on an alien world, with seemingly no means of getting off, and being one hundred and forty million miles from home, is one that would probably send most people in that situation absolutely bonkers, and give them a complete sense of hopelessness with very little chance of survival, and result in them frittering away the remainder of their days on the Red Planet. However, this is not applicable in the case of Mark Watney, who instead of that aforementioned feeling of impending doom, after he has been abandoned by his crew as he is presumed dead during a deadly storm, opts for one of upbeat and positive. In turn providing an extremely entertaining space adventure that fuses comedy and some intense moments brilliantly.

With his fourth entry into the science fiction genre, director Ridley Scott has produced a much needed return to form somewhat after his most recent run of films have been met with a less than positive response, namely Prometheus, Exodus and The Counselor.  The likes of Alien and Blade Runner showed that Scott knows the genre and knows how to pull it off in some style, and in what is almost a blend of Gravity and Interstellar produces a third another enthralling space adventure in as many years. Interestingly enough (spoiler alert for Interstellar!) Matt Damon who had a surprise cameo in the aforementioned film is back in a very similar situation to the one he found himself in Interstellar, but this time he is the man we’re rooting for, and he brings charisma and great humour to this role, so much so that you cannot help but want him to succeed and find his way home. With his situation looking increasingly bleak, he has to use his intelligence and his botanist skills to ensure his survival.

While The Martian battles to stay alive on the Red Planet, the focus alternates between the team at NASA who are working to try and bring him home alive, whilst dealing with the PR disaster that a man was left behind on a hostile world. Whilst at the same time, going back and forth with his crew mates who are solemnly making their way back to Earth, contemplating their supposedly fallen friend’s fate. The cast is quite extensive and filled with some big Hollywood names, with the likes of Jessica Chastain as the captain of the Mars mission, Jeff Daniels as NASA’s CEO, Chiwetel Ejiofor with his expert knowledge of the Red Planet and Sean Bean as a flight director. It’s a big scramble for these guys to get the materials they need to ensure that whatever they can do to get Mark Watney home, they will do it, but not without some bickering and disagreement along the way.

It takes some bravery to take a story like this in which one man is almost certainly staring death in the face and make it uniquely entertaining, but this film managed to do it and do it perfectly, thus props must go to screen writer Drew Goddard for that. Matt Damon effortlessly brings his unique brand of humour and charisma to the role, whilst using his ingenuity and remarkable intelligence to try and survive. Yet it is far from sunshine and rainbows all the time, as there are more than a few intense moments where our leading man is put in some more than perilous, potentially fatal situations.

The Mars scenery is beautifully recreated and the direction, as is more often than not the case with Scott, is excellent. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams is tremendous and adds plenty of suspense and drama along the way. The film does drag in places and could have maybe been cut down in parts, but nevertheless, it is a pleasure to see Scott truly back on top form and for Damon to once again remind us of his remarkable talent.

With a terrific (and large) ensemble cast, filled with the cream of the Hollywood crop, with a superb and humorous lead performance from Damon, to go along with a very witty screenplay, this is Scott’s best picture in some years.

a