Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (2016)

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Image is property of Lucasfilm Ltd and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rogue One: A Star Wars story – Film Review

Cast:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmad, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whittaker

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: Telling the tale of the brave rebels who upon hearing about the Empire’s construction of a deadly weapon capable of destroying entire planets, set out on a brave mission to find and steal the weapon’s plans.

Review: “There will be no episode 7” the words of one George Lucas back in 2005, and for a long time that looked as though Lucas’s stance would not change. This is of course until Disney came calling to the tune of 4 billion dollars, and last year Episode 7 did arrive courtesy of JJ Abrams and Disney. Of course Disney had no plans to stop at Episode 7, with as well as two films to complete the new trilogy, there would be as of right now, three anthology films to come as well, giving Star Wars fans across the galaxy one new film every year until 2020.

Of course, as Lucas himself found out, making a prequel or three can be a risky endeavour, so the new creative faces behind the resurgence of Star Wars decided to pitch a story that would not touch the existing saga, but one that would sit nicely between say a couple. In the case of Rogue One, it sits between Episodes III and IV, the focus is on a rag-tag group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Jones) who make a daring move for the plans to the lethal Death Star weapon. The franchise has boasted plenty of great action down the years, but rarely have they ever felt like it was truly Star WARS. Well enter director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy who really put the war in Star Wars and then some!

Edwards proved he could handle action well like he did in 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and here he demonstrates his considerable talents once again. The action particularly in the third act is utterly compelling and just brilliant to watch in all of its glory. It’s almost like Saving Private Ryan, but in Space! Much like what Abrams did with Awakens, the world Edwards has also created just looks and feels like Star Wars, with a few familiar faces in there brought incredibly to life by the wonder that is CGI but of course some new characters, all of whom are compelling to watch, but some are more developed than others. The cinematography too is tremendous, and much like Awakens, there is a great emphasis on the use of practical sets, and not relying on Green Screen, bonus points if you can spot the use of a London Underground station as an Imperial base!

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Image is property of Disney.

Jones is excellent as Jyn Erso, a character who has had a difficult past, but after a big discovery becomes personally connected with the story, she’s the lead and the most well developed, because she is a key part of the Imperial’s plans for reasons that will not be disclosed here, but there are others who absolutely shine as well. Cassian Andor (Luna) is excellent as the main support for Jyn, with Donnie Yen as a blind Rebel warrior at one with the force, and an absolute badass! Comic relief characters often come in droid shaped sizes, and this void is filled excellently by newbie K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Beyond these guys, the rest of the crew are a little bit light on character development, but the aforementioned trio certainly aren’t. On the flip side there’s one key new villain in Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic, almost your typical pantomime villain, who sneers at just about everyone and anything. Of course one Darth Vader makes his presence known once again, largely thanks to James Earl Jones’s booming voice and it’s an absolute joy to see one of cinema’s best ever villains back on the big screen.

Many took aim at Awakens  for being too similar to A New Hope. For sure there are some obvious visual nods and throwbacks, to please the fans, but ultimately given the poor reception of the prequels it was the safe route to have taken to launch the new trilogy. Of course Rogue One does do something similar with neat little visual nods to certain characters but by the time the enthralling third act arrives, gone are the Star Wars familiarities, it’s all out war in every sense of the word, with reminiscent shots of World War II and epic battles occurring on the beaches of this planet, and the CGI remains at a very high standard, with Michael Giacchino stepping in as a late replacement for Alexandre Desplat, delivering another superb score, the first not composed by John Williams.

For Disney, their colossal investment to take control of this franchise is certainly looking to be a wise decision, and one that is looking set to pay off big time. The studio raked in the cash following the release of Force Awakens. Although it’s unlikely that Rogue One will make the 2 billion The Force Awakens made, there’s every chance that Rogue One will make some serious cash. Right now, The Force is strong with this franchise, and the all powerful Disney machine in many ways resembles the Galactic Empire in terms of its sheer power, but Disney certainly doesn’t seem to have any plans to build a giant planet killing weapon!

This is everything the prequels should have been but really weren’t. It manages to strike a great balance between everything you know and love about this franchise, whilst also going in some exciting new directions.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Godzilla (2014)

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All image rights belong to Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros

Godzilla – Film Review 

Cast:  Bryan Cranston, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanbe, Elizabeth Olsen, Sally Hawkins, David Straitharn, Juliete Binoche

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: A retelling of the story of the world’s most famous monster. As an accident at a Japanese power plant leads to the discovery that mankind has been hiding some rather large secrets that represent a huge threat to humanity.

Review: When looking at the various incarnations of huge monsters that are ingrained in popular culture, Godzilla is for many people, one of the biggest and best that has ever been brought to the big screen. Ever since the original 1954 creature stomped into existence, we have seen cities get destroyed by large monsters right throught cinematic history. Godzilla has gone through several incarnations since and with the disappointment of the 1998 version, director Gareth Edwards would have probably felt the pressure to deliver the Godzilla movie that the fans want to see.

In this respect, the director of Monsters has hit the mark as we have a new version of the iconic monster that seems like it is hoping to be a throwback to the 1954 film, and bring a very realistic take on the King of the Monsters. A version that should atone from the horrors of the 1998 incarnation of the legendary character.  At the same time, the focus of the film is largely on the humans. The focus is what would be the consequences if a giant monster rose out of the ocean and threatened our very existence. It is a battle to stop these monsters from destroying everything the human race has ever known.

As the film’s focus is on the human struggle, we have our lead characters Ford Brody (Taylor-Johnson)with his wife Elle (Olsen)   and Ford’s father Joe (Cranston). The latter of which is convinced that humanity is holding some gargantuan secrets. Although he is not in the film a lot, when he is on screen, the Breaking Bad star is on superb form. He is a scene stealer, in particular with one of the very first scenes in the film, his emotion really shines through. While, his son Ford was almost emotionless and stoic at times. While the Ford family look for the answers to their past. In another corner,  we have an alliance of scientists and military, led by Ken Watanbe and David Straitharn, working together in order to try and understand the rather large problem and the best way to deal with it. Overall the human cast, without doubt, a talented group of actors, do a great job in portraying the horrific problem that has arisen.

With the focus being on the humans, Godzilla does not have a large amount of screen time in the film, and in that respect, some may walk away disappointed. However when he is on the screen, it is fantastic to watch. Edwards and his team certainly intended to create their  version one that honoured the original. The battle scenes with Godzilla are enthralling to watch and on several occasions there is the iconic Godzilla roar. These titanic duels are going down and buildings are being reduced to rubble. This new incarnation of the legendary Toho monster, truly is something to behold. There are plenty of other enthralling action scenes to get the heart pumping. That being said, with some scenes, it is set to show a clash of monsters that we paid to see. Instead it montages through the action, which may leave the audience somewhat disappointed. It would not be unreasonable to see lots of scenes with Godzilla battling and seeing cities get torn apart, but these are rare in number.

Despite the lack of screen time that Godzilla has, Gareth Edwards made a solid film that does give the iconic character the film that it deserves. The camera work  and directing, are both excellent. Equally as epic, is the score by Alexandre Desplat. The visual look of Godzilla is also superb and while the fight scenes you really wanted to see are few and far between, it is a strong, realistic take on what would happen from the perspective of mankind, if monsters suddenly rose out of the ocean and began to destroy humanity.

While there’s not as much Godzilla screen time as you might expect, with strong human characters and some fantastic action scenes, there is enough in this take on the King of the Monsters that should leave viewers roaring with delight.

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