Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Toy Story (1995)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Studios
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Studios

Toy Story – Film Review

Cast: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, John Morris

Director: John Lasseter

Synopsis: Woody, a cowboy doll, is the leader of a group of toys that belong to a boy named Andy, but when a brand new Space toy called Buzz Lightyear arrives, and because a firm favourite of both Andy and the other toys, it creates a rift between the toys.

Review: Toys, we all played with them when we were kids, and chances are if you have had kids, or intend to, you will probably deal with toys all over again. And surely we have all wondered, what happened to our toys when we have left the room? Do they come alive and have thoughts of their own? Well if you have seen Toy Story, from the juggernauts of Disney and Pixar, chances are you might just have thought so at one point in your youth. This first collaboration between the two, with John Lasseter at the helm, was a match made in heaven, and while it was the first full length feature film to be fully computer animated, it has a claim to being the studio’s very best.

The story focuses on a group of toys, led by the jovial and upbeat Woody, who is the firm favourite of their owner Andy. This is until the arrival of the shiny and awesome Buzz Lightyear who becomes the centre of both Andy’s attention and the attention of all the other toys. Thus making Woody exceedingly jealous that he has been displaced as Andy’s favourite plaything. Even more so for poor Woody, is Buzz’s fixation that he’s not in fact a toy, but a Space Ranger charged with the protection of the Galaxy. It’s such a simple concept, but the story is outstanding with lots for kids to enjoy and plenty of adult references that will ensure watching parents get a good chuckle. What’s more, the voice acting is also first class.

Tom Hanks is sensational as the voice of Woody, providing calm and reason to the rest of the toys when they have an ever present fear of being replaced, whilst also showing authority over the other toys when he needs to. Tim Allen also is equally excellent as Buzz, Woody and Buzz are in many ways the polar opposites of toys, but this drives the movie on to the soaring heights that it does reach. The rest of the voice cast is also absolutely perfect from the somewhat aggressive Mr Potato Head, to the timid Rex.

The animation is also crisp, detailed and provides glorious viewing. Pixar set the benchmark for animated movies, and they’ve hit this mark, and then some time after time with lots of their feature films since Toy Story.  The debate as to the best Pixar film is one that in all probability many people have had, and it could be debated all day till the cows come home, but what is an indisputable fact, is Pixar’s maiden feature film revolutionised the genre of animated movies, etched itself into popular culture. It has themes of friendship and respect that we can all relate to, and is one of the best animated movies ever made.  To Infinity and Beyond, indeed.

In a word, perfect. From the voice acting, to the screenplay, to the animation, to the story. One for kids and adults to adore in equal measure, and deservedly so.

a

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Steve Jobs (2015)

steve jobs
Image is property of Legendary Pictures, Scott Rudin Productions, Mark Gordon Company, Universal Pictures

Steve Jobs – Film Review

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogan, Jeff Daniels

Director: Danny Boyle

Synopsis: An account of the founder of Apple Steve Jobs, focusing on three different points in his life, before the launch of 3 different new products.

Review: Chances are good that if you’re reading this, you have some sort of apple product at your home or in your office, be it an iPod, a Mac or an iPad. There’s little question the impact that Apple has had on this market, quite simply, it has revolutionised the industry. But with all the hype that surrounded the launch of these products, there were a few behind the scenes issues that confronted the company’s founder Steve Jobs, and this focuses on the challenges that he faced prior to the launches of these inventions, personal and political. The second film about the creator of Apple, and a film that does do the man some justice. It’s a tale of motivation, what pushes his buttons to bring these revolutionary products to market, and will they work?

With screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on board, a writer who managed to make a website about one of the biggest websites the world has ever seen, Facebook, insanely enjoyable and interesting. Similarly with the little details about numbers and maths behind a sport. He does provide once again some very fascinating and riveting dialogue as Steve Jobs battles with assistants and angry ex girlfriends about children that may or may not be his, or if the product launch is encountering a thousand and one problems, whilst also feuding with former employees who are demanding some of the credit for the products that Apple has created. The writing, as usual with Sorkin, is excellent. All of this stuff should sound very boring for many of us, but through brilliant writing, it could easily bore the audience to tears with a load of technical mumbo jumbo that could whizz over our heads, but it does not. That being said, with the film being dialogue driven, some of it does come off as less uninteresting than some other parts.

Therefore with mostly great screen-writing, you hopefully can expect some great acting, and everyone in this film is absolutely on point. Most of all is Michael Fassbender as the late Steve Jobs. He has the accent nailed, the look nailed, and he really gets into the role and plays him as tremendously well as someone with Fassbender’s insane talent can, and certainly much better than Ashton Kutcher did. Along with Fassbender, the rest of the cast also bring their A game. Kate Winslet as Jobs’ assistant and good friend Joanna Hoffman, who is supportive of Jobs while also frustrated at his stubbornness. Also venting his anger at Jobs is Steve Wozniak played by Seth Rogan who is unhappy that Jobs is not giving him credit where credit is due for what he believes is his contribution to the company of Apple.

The film is divided into three acts, each act set in a different time before Steve is unveiling different products and each act is shot in a different way, the earliest being on 16mm film, with the most recent act being filmed on digital. It was a very smart decision and reflected the way that the technology has changed as time passes through each act. However, despite the dialogue being very interesting, there are some parts that do drag, most notably the controversy between Jobs and a woman who is claiming that a girl is his daughter. It just feels a bit repetitive with her popping up every so often saying that Jobs owes her money for this, and for that, and it just gets a bit irksome. The technology behind these products is what is interesting but there’s just a bit too much focus on the family drama.

Nevertheless, the film remains very interesting to watch with some very good performances that could very well get some Oscar nominations for the acting and the writing. Boyle does a tremendous job with the directing as well, he gives everyone a chance to shine, from Jobs, to Wozniak, to Jeff Daniels’s John Sculley. It’s not quite on the level of The Social Network, or Moneyball in terms of a very riveting and very intriguing. Yet it does remain a very interesting and well acted dialogue driven movie, that gives its audience a glimpse into the life of the man who created one of the most successful companies the world has ever seen.

Despite some slow moments, the screenplay ensures the dialogue is for the most part very interesting, with assured direction, and the performances are all electric, that could get some awards nods.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens (2015)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Bad Robot Productions
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Bad Robot Productions

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens -Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: J.J. Abrams

This review is 100% spoiler free

Synopsis: Three decades have passed since the events of Return of the Jedi, from the ashes of the old Empire rises a new threat in the form of the First Order who threaten to unleash more tyranny on the galaxy. The key is the location of someone important who’s disappeared, with the Resistance, headed up by Leia Organa, also on the hunt for this vital information.

Review: It kind of goes without saying, that Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises the world of movies has ever seen, and when the announcement of three more films were coming to a galaxy near us, it was glorious news, and music to the ears of every fan of this franchise. With each little bit of information that was revealed, from the cast, to the director, to the trailers. Excitement and anticipation for this new Star Wars  film has been massive. So much so that some fans were afraid it would disappoint. Well fear not young padawans, because JJ Abrams and his writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, stayed on target to ensure this franchise has a much needed return to form.

The prequels, while they had some good points were ultimately a missed opportunity. The effects were there to make 3 more brilliant films in the wake of the original trilogy, but this opportunity was squandered. From the outset JJ Abrams wanted to return to practical effects, whilst obviously using CGI where necessary. What’s more the prequels suffered from a lack of an absorbing and engaging story.

ForceAwakens

With JJ being such a fan of the original, it is very apparent that he knew what the audience wanted, and the story, without straying into spoilers is very engaging and gripping to watch. There’s no nonsensical talks about treaties or whatever, it’s the sort of exciting driven plot that was so successful to create this beloved universe. From the off, it’s pulsating action that keeps the audience engaged from the first scene to the last scene. It’s everything we wanted from the prequels, which on the whole, the prequels failed to give us.

With the original trilogy, we got a great ensemble of characters that we liked and wanted to root for. Which somehow frittered away with the prequels, but once again there is a great batch of very interesting and developed characters. First of all we have Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on Jakku who through circumstances ends up being pursued by the villainous First Order along with John Boyega’s Finn, a stormtrooper gone rogue. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the Resistance’s best pilot. Flying the flag for the dark side is Adam Driver’s ominous Kylo Ren, and the sinister General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Andy Serkis’s mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.

All of the principle cast are electric in their roles but special mentions must go to Boyega and Ridley, especially Ridley. Almost an unknown prior to her casting, she gives such a powerful and real performance that her name will be remembered for a very long time to come. John Boyega, another relative unknown is another name that will reach into the stratosphere and beyond. Kylo Ren is an antagonist that definitely ranks as among the best the saga has seen, he’s very menacing and frightening, and his back story is very intriguing and dark in equal measure, with his motivations being very crystal clear.

The chemistry between new and old characters is also magnetic. You’d think that a newcomer like Ridley couldn’t stand up to someone like Harrison Ford, but she does and then some. Ford as Han Solo is his usual charming, arrogant self and even after all this time, he still absolutely owns the role, as does Carrie Fisher in her role as General Leia Organa, as she now calls herself. Throughout the film there are definite homages to the original trilogy, but they don’t come off as just downright rip offs at all. It’s all very well executed, from the direction to the effective use of practical effects. It’s no secret that the prequels were effects driven movies and the notion that these could drive the plot was one of their biggest mistakes, as such there were none of those mistakes repeated here. The effects help the story on but the core element of the story is very much driven by the characters and their journey.

With all that said, there is only really one major nitpick. For all the great characters that we got that were not downright infuriating to watch, some characters did not feel fully utilised and some were left somewhat underdeveloped. However, the mistakes of the past were not repeated, and Abrams has ensured that this new trilogy has got itself off to a near perfect start with an excellent cast, great screenplay, exciting action, solid use of practical and special effects where necessary. And of course Mr John Williams’s music is as brilliant as it always has been. The franchise is full light speed ahead now,  and all eyes will now be on Episode VIII, so it’s over to you Rian Johnson!

A return to form for Star Wars after the mishap of those prequelsexciting characters,  a terrific story with some truly compelling villains and a solid combination of practical and special effects. The new trilogy, off to a perfect start, it got!  Hmmmmmm.

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Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Return_of_the_jedi_old
Image rights belong to 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm Ltd

Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi – Film Review

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid

Director: Richard Marquand

Synopsis: With the Empire seemingly victorious, the small band of surviving rebels must retrieve Han Solo from Jabba the Hut, and prevent the Empire from claiming total victory over the Rebellion by destroying the Empire’s brand new Death Star battle station. While Luke is battling to try and restore his father to the good side.

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

 

 

Review: When the previous film in your franchise got pretty much everything right and made one of the best movies anyone has ever made ever, the sequel to said film was always going to have a very tough act to follow. Thus sadly for Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, it doesn’t live up to either The Empires Strikes Backnor George Lucas’s original. It does have its shortcomings, yet despite this, it does have something to say for itself. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had and it does wrap up the original trilogy nicely.

The Empire struck back hard in the last film, and aims to move in for the kill with the construction of a brand new Death Star in a bid to defeat the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Similarly, the Rebels seek to make a last ditch effort to destroy the Empire’s brand new battle station. All the while, following the revelation at the end of Empire, Luke is determined that he can bring his father back to the good side.  With Empire, the tone was understandably a lot more darker with the Empire claiming a glorious win over the rebels, Han Solo trapped in carbonite, Luke’s hand chopped off, and while that tone is maintained in numerous parts, there is a return to a bit more jovial and upbeat moods, starting with the scene in Jabba’s Palace.

R2D2 as a waiter, ridiculous music by some sort of 80s style pop band, dancing, it’s all a bit ridiculous at times, but you cannot help but laugh and smile, for the most part, as there are some more annoying changes (we’ll get to more of that later.) Unnecessary CGI creatures but they’re thankfully not on show for very long. The true introduction of Jabba the Hutt and he’s this slimy nasty slug like being that you just detest every time you see him on screen, and cheer when he duly gets strangled by Princess Leia in her slave outfit, which quite possibly make some people lose their minds. Criticism has been aimed at the fact that she’s being totally devalued and reduced to a sex object, which is fair enough but ultimately that is the point, and it’s one of many reasons to dislike Jabba.

It’s here that we come to the crux of the story. We have seen Luke transition from a whiny brat (remind you of anyone?) to an awesome badass Jedi, courtesy of Yoda, who we see again briefly who has some more vital information to part before he goes to “forever sleep.” The scene with Yoda is enjoyable and there is more humour to be found, but it is ultimately a bit too short. There could and should have been more scenes with our little green friend before his passing. His training complete he goes off to try and turn his father back to the good side, enter Emperor Palpatine, the one who is truly pulling Vader’s strings and the one who has overseen all the death and destruction in the Galaxy. Ian McDiarmid plays him brilliantly, from his posture, to the make up to his voice. Like Jabba there is something just abhorrently grotesque about him, but he provides some fascinating viewing with some more memorable dialogue, and another very emotional ending with Vader redeeming himself by saving Luke from being fried by the Emperor’s Force Lightning.

While all this is happening, the Rebels are preparing their attack on the second Death Star: from space in the Battle of Endor, and down on Endor itself with Han, Leia, Chewie and co aiming to take down the shield that is protecting the Death Star. All these scenes are very well handled but mainly the Battle of Endor. It doesn’t quite reach Battle of Hoth levels of awesomeness but it isn’t far away. Similarly, the ensuing battle on Endor is also thrilling, albeit the presence of those fuzzy bears, otherwise known as Ewoks, does irritate some, and it is easy to see why. Although cute and fuzzy, these bears do feel somewhat out of place, and the fact that they helped to topple the evil Empire with sticks and stones, does leave some scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Empire was spared from a lot of changes, just because it was so damn good, but Jedi has had some rather grating changes. The aforementioned CGI creatures in Jabba’s Palace. The stupid “noo” Vader makes when throwing the Emperor to his doom. The brilliance of that scene is that even though he has a mask on, you can see from the camera work that Vader is conflicted as he watches his son seemingly die in front of him. The addition of the stupid “noo” just ruins the greatness of the scene. But by far the most infuriating change is the replacing of Sebastian Shaw as the ghost Anakin right at the end, with the actor who played him in the prequels  (I refuse to even say his name.) With Obi Wan and Yoda in their older bodies, the change to make Anakin his younger self just makes ZERO sense.

But with all that said, there is still much to be enjoyed with the closing chapter of the original trilogy. John Williams’s score remains as perfect as ever, and there’s plenty of action to keep the pulses up right to the end, and it closed the book on the trilogy that remains to many one of the best trilogies ever put to film, and for good reason, because it deserves to be.

Not as good as Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back, and with probably the most amount of annoying later edition changes, but there’s still plenty to enjoy with some solid thrilling action, and a good deal of heart and emotion too. 

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Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

empire strikes back
Image rights belong to 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back –  Film Review

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams

Director: Irvin Kershner

Synopsis: With the Death Star being destroyed, the Empire and Darth Vader are out in pursuit of vengence against the Rebel Alliance. While Han and Leia fight the Empire, Luke goes off in search of a Jedi Master to become a Jedi. All the while Vader is in red hot pursuit of Luke.

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

Review: How on earth do you top a film that had a monumental impact on pop culture and changed cinema forever? That was the unenviable task facing the individuals on the production team of the sequel to George Lucas’s phenomenal film. Lucas himself opted not to direct the sequel and the role was passed down to Irvin Kershner. A daunting challenge, but one that he rose to in magnificent style as they helped to make what is, simply put, one of the greatest films of all time.

With Lucas’s first film, we got introduced to this glorious and vast world, as well as our group of fascinating and interesting characters that you came to care about deeply. With this second instalment of the original trilogy, it takes both of these and expands on both of them, giving even great depth and development to our protagonists as well as our antagonists, and all the while exploring whole new worlds within this already wide universe. It’s a sequel done right in just about every way imaginable from the script to the directing to the score. It is pure cinematic perfection.

As the film’s title may suggest, the tone of this instalment is considerably more darker right from the get go, with the Empire ruthlessly seeking out the Rebels after the Death Star’s destruction. Vader in particular, now with no more Grand Moff Tarkin to hold him back is mercilessly killing the generals who displease him or  if they make a grave error, then there is no hiding place. There is no patience nor compassion at all with Vader in his quest to hunt down Luke Skywalker, and this includes torturing Han just for the sake of luring Luke into a trap. It is this mercilessness and pure villainy, as well as his booming voice and his unique breathing, that makes him one of greatest villains in the history of cinema.

So many scenes in this film have since become iconic pieces of  film-making. For one the, Battle of Hoth with the iconic Imperial Walkers. The first film did boast some extraordinary special effects (before Lucas became obsessed with them) but here in Empire, the effects are just as good and in some cases better.  While there isn’t as much action as its predecessor, the action that is on show is as equally mesmerising as the first film. Effects that remain as solid today as they did upon the film’s release almost thirty-five years ago. For instance, the aforementioned Battle of Hoth, the asteroid field, the iconic battle between Luke and Vader, it’s all perfectly well executed. What’s more, this battle as well as boasting some very memorable dialogue, also includes what is quite possibly the greatest movie twist of all time,  in which Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father.  It’s brilliant, it’s memorable and it’s one of many reasons why this is the best movie in the franchise, and one of the best movies ever made.

The first film introduced us to our awesome ensemble cast, but it is here and through Lawrence Kasdan’s and Leigh Brackett’s screenplay this next chapter goes in a very different direction and goes in some very dark directions, that some directors may have baulked at. The relationships are tested to the extreme and our heroes are indeed in some very perilous predicaments. What’s more, this chapter introduces us to a handful of new and awesome characters, namely Yoda and Lando, The former, undoubtedly one of the best characters ever written, with some absolutely brilliant such as “do or do not, there is no try.” This among others are examples of lines which can and should be used by everyone in their lives at some point.

Can we really encase one of our main heroes in frozen carbonite and leave the film on a massive cliffhanger? Yes, yes they could. Can another one of our heroes have his hand chopped off and choose to fall voluntarily to his possible death? Again yes we can. It is bold and brave storytelling, but it is one of the many reasons that makes Empire Strikes Back so memorable. The film is littered with iconic dialogue, but none more so than the scene just before Han is put into carbonite. “I love you,” says Leia, and what should have been ” I love you too” was changed by Harrison Ford to “I know.” A master stroke by Ford and credit to the director for agreeing with the change as it is one of the most emotional moments of the original trilogy. John Williams’s score is again just perfection, and some of the best music ever written and composed for the big screen.

It is also the film with the least amount of change in it when compared with the rest of the trilogy. The bar was set very high following our introduction to this world, but Kershner and his team knocked it out of the park and in some style. There are no two ways about it, The Empire Strikes Back is cinematic gold.

Perfect in just about every way, from characters, script, action, effects, score. The best film in the franchise without a shadow of a doubt. 

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Posted in 1970-1979, Film Review

Star Wars (1977)

star-wars-iv-a-new-hope-poster1
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm Ltd and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars – Film Review

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: A young farmer gets recruited by an old Jedi along with two droids and a smuggler in a mission to stop the evil Galactic Empire from bringing death and destruction in the galaxy, and to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of the evil Darth Vader.

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

Review: If ever there was a debate on films that have left their marks on the film industry, and indeed the entertainment industry in general, you would be hard pressed to find a film that has had the extensive impact that a film that was released in 1977 did. This film is of course Star Wars, and its impact is almost immeasurable. From the revolutionary effects, to the wondrous score, to the exciting story and instantaneously memorable characters, not to mention knocking Spielberg’s Jaws out in terms of the box office. This film had everything a film fan could want, and it is easy to see why it is still loved by legions of fans across the world, and remains insanely popular, nearly forty years after it was first unleashed on the world.

Immediately, right from the off, the sheer scale of this universe is just mind blowing. With every hint of dialogue, the universe is grown and becomes more and more expansive. The iconic “In a galaxy far far away…” is fully realised as it is made to feel that this is a world in which you can go and visit, but ultimately you can’t (sob.) With the incredible world set up, we need our characters, and back when Lucas could write compelling and exciting characters and not have some whiny kid moaning about how much he hates something.

Although having said that our main hero, Luke does have this attitude to begin with, but through some tragic circumstances, he is changed and grows as a character.  Before long we meet a character who many (for good reason) see as one of the finest characters put to screen, Han Solo. A smuggler by trade, cocky, but awesome and a lot of fun to watch, and for the record, it has been said many times, but it’s worth saying again: Han DEFINITELY shot first! Of course, there are lots of other popular characters, the likes of Princess Leia,  Obi Wan Kenobi,  Chewbacca, R2D2, C3PO,  and all are played brilliantly by their respective actors in what is one of the greatest ensemble casts ever assembled. The connection between the audience and these characters is very strong, much like the force!

Of course with all the good characters, there are the villains. We have a character many consider to be one of the greatest and most iconic villains the world of film has ever seen, Darth Vader. Ruthless, menacing and very frightening, with the booming voice of James Earl Jones. However initially he is not top of the tree of the Dark Side, that honour belongs to Grand Moff Tarkin, brilliantly played by the late Peter Cushing, the man keeps Vader in check, preventing him from force choking everyone. All the while, the Empire is making their mark with the colossal Death Star they have constructed, that has the ability to devastate planets with just one shot, and the Rebel Alliance and their attempts to destroy this space station of terror.

The film boasts plenty of memorable scenes and lines, from “that’s no moon! It’s a space station!” to “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” to “I find your lack of faith disturbing!” With these great lines of dialogue, there are more than a few great scenes: Han VS Greedo, The Mos Eisley Cantina scene, Vader VS Obi Wan,  and the final Rebel Assault on the Death Star to name but a few. Iconic and brilliant film-making all round, with effects that still hold up today and will do for a very very long time to come. What is also iconic is John Williams’ score, so recognisable and so loved by all. Like all great scores, it adds so much to the events on screen, giving certain events so much more impact and make them that more memorable and iconic in equal measure.

For sure, since its release, there has been much tampering with the original theatrical release, and a lot of those changes have irked fans. For good reasons, there are some changes that just don’t make much sense, namely the Han VS Greedo scene, and the addition of a bunch of unnecessary CGI creatures that just add nothing to the plot. Yet for all of the unnecessary changes, the core elements of the film remain unchanged, and the film remains one of the most iconic pieces of film making ever. Even more so considering the problems that were experienced in the production of the film, with many wondering if all of the efforts were even going to come to fruition. They did, and in terrific style. Star Wars remains timeless, and it will probably remain so for decades and decades to come, even more so with the planned trilogy and spin off films that audiences have got coming their way over the next decade.

A classic in every sense of the word, great characters, exciting story, terrific action and an iconic score will ensure this film will never escape the galaxy that is popular culture.

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode III:Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Revenge f the sith
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – 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 three years after Attack of the Clones,  after Chancellor Palpatine is abducted by the sinister General Greivous, Anakin and Obi-Wan set out on  a mission to rescue him. All the while, feelings of doubt and darkness are creeping into Anakin’s consciousness.

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

Review: It was the big selling point of the whole Prequel trilogy when it was first announced that three new films were going to be made. The selling point being the transformation of one character’s turn from good to really REALLY bad. Therefore, after two really poor first chapters that were almost devoid of the action and drama that made the original trilogy the much beloved films they are. Fans must have wondered if there was any hope for this final instalment and thankfully it wasn’t a hat-trick of complete disasters, although it could have gone that way.

Immediately, the film certainly offers A LOT more than the previous two almost put together, with the CGI being much improved, and the action and light sabre scenes in particular being much more efficiently handled. It is engaging and interesting to watch and for a change, there is a coherent plot and story for the viewer to absorb and watch with interest, as we watch one man transform himself into arguably the greatest villain cinema has ever seen. Although the process getting there is a little bumpy and is in some ways a bit rushed, one minute he’s Anakin and then bang it’s “Arise, Lord Vader!” It was an extremely sudden change although it’s clear it had been building in him for a long time.

One of the main problems with the prequel trilogy is a lack of a compelling villain. With Darth Vader it was demonstrated how to make a villain effective across a trilogy but here with three individual villains for each movie, something is missing. General Grievous, while he is arguably the best of the villains in the prequel trilogy with his sinister voice and presence, he is again horrendously underutilised before being abruptly killed off, although the fight leading up to his demise was some of the best scenes we got in the prequels. Indeed there are many action scenes packed throughout the film that certainly provide a lot more enjoyment than the previous two films, with the opening battle scene actually boasting some incredible CGI, or the battle with the Wookies and the Droids on the awesome sounding planet of Kashyyyk.

Yet unfortunately like its predecessors, this film is again bogged down by some poor dialogue/acting/ screen-writing (delete where appropriate.) The most guilty offender here is once again Hayden Christensen. His performance is much better than the previous film, and there are no nonsensical lines about sand or whatever, but there are still some horrifically bad moments that make you wonder how they even ended up in the finished film. In addition, while the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin/Vader is undeniably cool, it is a little overlong and choreographed to a ridiculous amount of detail. The film isn’t completetely devoid of acting ability, but the likes of Ewan McGregor and Samuel L Jackson are the best of a bad bunch, with Natalie Portman again being a bit stilted in terms of her acting.

Overall the prequel trilogy, even though there are those who defend them rigorously will go down in history as such a missed opportunity. With the advancement in effects, there was a chance to create more excellence, but overall they really missed the mark. Yet for all their faults, they made a lot of money and ensured the franchise survived, although it could have been very different. But Revenge of the Sith is without a doubt the best of the trilogy, a compelling story, much more interesting action sequences and we get to see the birth of one of cinema’s most iconic villains, even if we now know what a stroppy little brat he was in parts before his turn. Thank you very much Mr Lucas (!)

Much improved from Episode 2 with a considerably more interesting plot and some more developed characters, but poor writing, acting and dialogue, once again bogs down this from reaching the soaring heights of the original trilogy. 

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 (2015)

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Image rights belong to Lionsgate and Color Force

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Julianne Moore, Jeffrey Wright, Natalie Dormer, Sam Claflin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields.

Director: Francis Lawrence

Synopsis: The war in Panem reaches its climax, as Katniss and her team, along with all of the districts of Panem prepare to launch a full out assault on the Capitol and President Snow, and to bring an end to tyranny that has plagued them for over 75 years.

Review: Another year, and another curtain falls for the (possible) last time an incredibly popular franchise, The Hunger Games. While many may feel this should have happened twelve months ago after the first part of Mockingjay, which while solid left fans a little bit wanting, as there was an aching desire for a lot more in the way of action. This closing instalment does bring said action, in considerable quantities. Yet it’s not all plain sailing, although for the most part, the odds are in the favour of this franchise.

Picking up where we left off, Katniss despite almost being murdered at the end of the last film, is preparing for her long awaited attack on the Capitol to hunt and kill President Snow. Very little time is wasted as the assembled crew battle their way into Panem and have to negotiate some sinister traps. Like in Catching Fire, director Francis Lawrence helms the action sequences extremely well and on the whole they do provide some exciting and nervy scenes as the team negotiate the mire that is the Capitol’s deserted and almost wasteland like streets. Yet for all the intense drama, there are a number of really impactful moments that hit hard in the book. Yet when put on the big screen, they are not as nearly as emotional or hard hitting as they should have been. We’ve spent three films with some of these characters, the emotional pay off should amount to more than it does.

Being the Oscar winner she is, a good Jennifer Lawrence performance is almost a given, and of course she’s as excellent as she has been right throughout the franchise’s beginnings. She clearly is carrying that deep trauma that has been effecting her by the events of the first three films, but at the same time she maintains that steely determination to carry out her goal “to make Snow pay for what he’s done.” Yet for Lawrence’s brilliance, the rest of the cast are not given much of a platform to shine, and some do get lost in the sea of the makeshift games of the Capitol. The cast is extensive with plenty of considerable talent in there from some of Hollywood’s biggest names, but not many show their quality, and in those rare moments that they do, it is fleeting, gone before it had a chance to really show itself.

You can tell that the film-makers were looking to honour the book in every way they can, and full credit for them for attempting that. However this extreme loyalty to the book means that the script unfortunately does suffer in places, with some very slow moments that drag on for longer than they need to. This gives weight to those who argued that the film should never have been split into two parts, and on the evidence of this final film, they may have a point. It’s not the fiery and astounding conclusion that some may have hoped for. However, there is still plenty here for hardcore fans to enjoy. The odds have been in their favour from the franchise’s beginning and it ends the series on a satisfying note.

An improvement on the first part, Part 2 delivers the action the fans were hoping to see, but there are shades of the problems that bogged down Part 1, while some of the important events do not have that emotional punch that they ought to.

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