Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Image is property of Lucasfilm and Disney

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Domnhall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, Richard E. Grant, Keri Russell, Kelly Marie Tran, Billy Dee Williams

Director: J.J Abrams

Synopsis: The First Order, under the leadership of Kylo Ren, seeks to consolidate its power following the deaths of Luke Skywalker and Leader Snoke. Meanwhile Rey leads the rest of the Resistance in a bid to restore peace in the Galaxy…

This review will be 100% spoiler free

Review: For over four decades, ever since a little film called Star Wars was unleashed on the world, it became this massive pop culture phenomenon, with an immeasurable, ever-lasting impact on the world of entertainment. Several times over the last few decades, we have seen this franchise take its supposed final bow. First came 1983, then in 2005, closing out the prequel trilogy after two lacklustre preceding films. Following Disney’s overtaking of the franchise, a new trilogy came into being. Four years since this trilogy blasted its way into existence, the time has come for it, and The Skywalker Saga, to take its proper final bow, in rather disappointing fashion.

Having lost instrumental figures following the events of The Last Jedi, both The Resistance and the First Order are seeking to take advantage of the power vacuum in the Galaxy and vanquish the other side once and for all. This galactic power struggle is thrown into further chaos when a mysterious entity, of a terrible foe long since thought to be dead, is threatening to unleash a new terror upon the Galaxy to ensure that the Dark Side will triumph once and for all.

It is not exactly news to anyone who has followed this franchise over the years that after The Force Awkakens chose to play things safe for the reintroduction to this franchise, The Last Jedi made some bold choices in a bid to try and take the franchise forward. In so doing, it caused an enormous divide among fans upon its release. Therefore having retaken the reins from Johnson, the onus was on JJ Abrams to steer this ship home, but it definitely hasn’t come home in one piece. The screenplay from Abrams and Chris Terrio feels very haphazardly put together, giving the impression that a slew of ideas were thrown at the wall and  meshed together, which produced decidedly mixed results. Having managed to craft a pretty airtight script for The Force Awakens, it’s extremely perplexing how the script this time around is full of what feels like unnecessary side quests, consequently feeling rather unfocused.

What’s worse is that some of the dialogue borders on prequel level of how cringe-inducing it is. To add further insult to injury, the directions that some of the characters go in are just completely baffling, and in some cases, are borderline insulting. In the wake of the backlash that was directed at TLJ, all the promising potential that TLJ offered is firmly discarded. All the intriguing plot points put forward are retconned in favour of a script that just for want of a better word, was nothing more than pandering to try and get the fans back onside following The Last Jedi. Favouring appeasement of the fans over bold and creative storytelling feels like an enormous cop-out, and could set a worrying precedent.

This isn’t to say that the whole thing is a complete waste of time, as Abrams brings his usual visual panache to the direction and the lightsabre battles that are present are exhilarating to watch, and for all of the story’s faults, there was potential there. Yet, for all that technical marvel, nothing shown here remotely represents an improvement on what came before it, and everything feels completely inconsequential. Therefore credit where credit’s due as all of the principal cast do excellent jobs reprising their roles, in spite of the less than stellar material they were given to work with, all. The leading lights are once again, Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who by far and away are giving the best performances in the film.

It’s fantastic to see Billy Dee Williams reprise his role as Lando Calrissian but he is frustratingly given sparse to do, and same goes for the rest of the new crop of supporting characters, none of whom are remotely memorable in the slightest, apart from Richard E Grant’s brilliant turn as a First Order officer. Completing the arc of General Leia cannot have been easy considering Carrie Fisher’s tragic passing. However, through the use of archived footage, which surprisingly fits into the story fairly seamlessly, credit can be taken for giving this beloved character a satisfying concluding arc, one that is not a slap in the face to the fans.

No matter what you feel about the preceding two films in in this franchise, they represented the opportunity for the franchise to go in some bold new directions. Thus, to see that all ultimately get thrown away in favour of the direction they did go in is extremely disappointing. For a franchise that has meant so much to so many people throughout the decades, everything was in place for Abrams to wrap up this trilogy in triumphant fashion, but unfortunately, stick the landing, it does not.

While offering some exciting moments, the Skywalker saga ultimately wraps up with what is, comfortably, the weakest film in the trilogy. A disappointment not felt in the galaxy since the days of the Prequel trilogy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Productions and K/O Paper Products

Star Trek Into Darkness – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: When Starfleet comes under attack, the crew of the Enterprise are challenged to apprehend the culprit, a man who goes by the name of John Harrison, a man who is on his personal mission of vengeance.

Review: JJ Abrams certainly undertook his own almost five year mission when it came to his work with the Star Trek franchise. After directing its enormously successful 2009 reboot, and with a little break in between in which he directed 2011’s Super 8, the director sat back down in the Star Trek director’s chair once again for its 2013 sequel. Under his guidance, the franchise returned to prosperity with the first movie in the rebooted franchise, and this installment of the franchise certainly helped to continue that trend.

Abrams certainly understood that what makes Star Trek is the relationship between Kirk and Spock. Despite being friends, they still have their differences and come to several disagreements which threaten to tear them apart. This is until a very frightening threat emerges against Starfleet in the form of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character, a man we initially know as just John Harrison, but if you have seen the movie, you know that he is hiding some secrets about his true identity. The first film suffered from a lack of a really compelling villain. However with Cumberbatch, there was no chance of that repeating as he is electric to watch. His work in the Hobbit movies certainly showed he has a very menacing and sinister way of delivering his lines, and he was completely compelling to watch, as he battles with the Enterprise, it makes for some really entertaining moments.

Although Cumberbatch steals the show, the Enterprise crew certainly also show their credentials once again, with Chris Pine remaining excellent as Kirk. Much like Cumberbatch, he is very compelling to watch, and even more so when the two of them clash. In addition, Zachary Quinto and Zoe Saldana certainly command more screen time than the others, with Simon Pegg once again providing the comic relief as Scotty. The acting remained of a very stellar quality and the action remains just as exciting here as it was in the first movie. Abrams once again demonstrated his tremendous skills when it came to the action sequences. Once scene in particular that takes place on the Klingon home-world shows Abrams at his best. The film never stops, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman back on script duties do some tremendous work to provide newer fans of the franchise to enjoy, whilst also throwing things in there that should satisfy every Trekkie on the planet.

The prosperity returned to the franchise under Abrams’s tutelage and direction without a doubt, despite what some Trekkies may tell you. The movie has suffered over the years and was voted the worst film in the franchise, yet it provides plenty of entertainment for everyone to enjoy. Although he moved on to direct this franchise’s great rival in Star Wars, it is hard to argue against the terrific job Abrams has done for the franchise, he brought it back to prominence and at the end of his four year mission, he has vacated the chair, and certainly left the franchise in a better position than when he found it, of that there is no question.

Certain Trekkies will undoubtedly argue otherwise, but this chapter continues from where the first film left off, with great action sequences, a really deep and emotional story and a tremendous performance from Cumberbatch as the antagonist. Live long and prosper indeed!

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Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Trek (2009)

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Image rights belong to Paramount Pictures, Bad Robot Productions and Spyglass Entertainment

Star Trek – Film Review

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, Karl Urban, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy

Director: JJ Abrams

Synopsis: James Tiberius Kirk is a young man with seemingly no future ahead of him, until he is persuaded to join Starfleet and follow in the footsteps of his father.

Review: Reboots certainly are a very common occurrence in Hollywood movies these days, with every popular franchise getting one. So of course, it was only a matter of time until Star Trek underwent the reboot treatment. A franchise that has endured the test of time, and has had its fair share of setbacks and disappointments. Seven years after 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis was released,  fresh after directing the third Mission Impossible Movie, JJ Abrams came on board, sat in the director’s chair and fired this franchise into warp speed and in very impressive style too.

The film focuses on a young James T Kirk, a man who is sort of on the road to nowhere and likes gets into a few fights. He is looking for something to give his life significance and meaning and he eventually finds this in Starfleet. Also arriving on the Starfleet scene is the Vulcan Spock, who due to his human mother is almost looked down upon by his fellow Vulcans. Through this the two of them form an understanding of what it’s like to be cast aside, and a friendship of sorts, is formed, but it’s not without its problems. With the timeline in this movie dramatically altered, Abrams almost gives himself a clean slate to work from, but he also knew how to make this reboot work and work well. Yes it is cool to see ships travel at Warp Speed and to see impressive planets, but at its heart, Star Trek is a franchise that focuses on its characters, as the brilliant pairing of William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy demonstrated in the older films.

The new cast certainly give credit where credit’s due, but they all make the roles their own. Special mentions must go to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. Much like Messrs Shatner and Nimoy, the pair of them are brilliant in the roles of Kirk and Spock respectively. They may bicker and clash about almost anything they can, but there is a connection, a mutual admiration in many ways between them. Also great is Karl Ubran as Dr Leonard McCoy AKA Bones. He gives off that typical Karl Ubran gruffness, and he is a little bit grumpy for sure, but there is sincerity and depth to his performance, as is just about everyone else. Star Trek is nothing without the crew of the Enterprise and this crew all give very fine performances, and you enjoy watching them work.

Abrams certainly showed with MI that he knows how to handle action, and here he displays it once again. The action is glorious to watch and there’s plenty of it too. From the epic clash in the opening sequence to a enthralling space jump sequence that is packed with his trademark lens flares in more than a few scenes. One could certainly never accuse Abrams of lacking style. He brings a very exciting style to the way he directs and it works very well for the film.  However, the main thing dragging this movie down is the villain Nero played by Eric Bana. He looks menacing enough for sure, but he is in many ways a throw away villain, and will not leave the viewer with a lasting impression when the credits begin to role.

That being said, despite his predisposition to the Star Wars Franchise, Abrams gave the Trekkies just what they needed after seven years. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, along with Abrams certainly set out to please the fans, and bring new people on board to the franchise, and they certainly did just that! It was just about the perfect start for this new Star Trek franchise with all phasers set to thrill!

A really smart reboot with brilliant acting from Pine and Quinto, with some great action scenes and superb direction from Abrams. The more than five year mission to get here was certainly worth it!

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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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