Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Image is property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  – Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Domnhall Gleeson,

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Following on from the events of The Force AwakensThe First Order is hot on the trails of the Resistance, while Rey seeks out the guidance of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

This review will be 100% spoiler free.

Review: Very few films manage to become such events that build anticipation and excitement among audiences quite like Star Wars does. Though for a long time (a decade to be exact) no new films were made in the Star Wars universe, it never lost that magic and majesty that it carries for so many people. Though that was unlikely to ever diminish, as 2015’s The Force Awakens came along, it was the film the franchise needed to revitalise itself and get the force flowing through it once more.

Picking up almost immediately after the events of Force Awakens, without divulging too much information, the First Order is now aggressively hunting The Resistance, which is to be expected after you blow up a significant asset, namely Starkiller Base. Meanwhile over on Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker has chosen to hide himself away, due to a horrible event that took place in the past, which doesn’t bode well for Rey, who is seeking Luke out to return a significant possession of his, and for help in honing her Jedi powers.

For many a big criticism of Abrams’s efforts was that it was just a rehash of A New Hope, and while it is not a shot for shot remake, it does undeniably heavily borrow elements of that film. The reception of the prequels and how different they were to the original trilogy meant that the decision to make the first chapter of the new trilogy feel like the film that started all this was a sound decision. However, taking over from Abrams, Rian Johnson continues on what Abrams built so successfully and gives another strong addition to the franchise that continues at the themes that almost every film before it has touched upon.

For many the greatest film in this celebrated franchise is The Empire Strikes Back, and justifiably so too. It took the characters and developed them in extremely unique ways, and it’s clear Johnson is going for a similar vibe, but this is not just a rehash of Empire, it crafts a story that needs to be told, taking the characters and taking them in certainly very intriguing directions. Conflicts are occurring both between the First Order and the Resistance and intense personal conflicts are raging inside some of the characters. Of the familiar faces, Daisy Ridley is once again superb as Rey, adding real intensity into her performance as she goes on a journey to discover the answers to the questions that we had about her last time out. John Boyega likewise as Finn, is certainly a very likeable presence, as is the roguish charm of Poe Dameron. Of the newcomers, Laura Dern has an authoritative presence alongside the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia.

On the flip side, there’s a lot going on with Kylo Ren too, which given the heinous crime he committed against his father is understandable. But even then, his character has a lot on his plate, just like many of the characters here. Though once again, the Skywalker siblings are key pieces in this puzzle. Having had a mere cameo last time around, Luke has a lot more to do this time around and given that so much has happened to him since he decided to adopt the hermit lifestyle, there’s much to be explored and Hamill is once again terrific in the role. Though there is an obvious element of sadness surrounding Leia and the passing of Carrie Fisher, in what will be her final turn in the role, she bows out tremendously. That being said there are some new characters who could have really done with more fleshing out, and some characters who were so frustratingly underutilised previously are still not given the time to shine.

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Though the story does move along at a steady pace, there are moments in particular around the second act that really slow the film down, and in some cases seem almost completely out of place and for some it might take them completely out of the film. That being said, that does not take away from the brilliant direction that Johnson puts into this. Sometimes a film can have the feel that it was almost directed by a committee, absolutely not the case here. The film looks immaculate and the action scenes are superbly well handled. There are some scenes that could have been omitted but there’s plenty of scenes that will get the adrenaline flowing.

A key task of any chapter two in a trilogy is to leave the audience desperately wanting more by the time the credits start to role, that criteria has been met. What Johnson crafts here is so well done it’s easy to see why Disney has given him the green light to make a new Star Wars trilogy unrelated to the current events of the saga, or so we are led to believe at this moment in time. The task of completing this story for these characters now reverts back to the man who introduced the world to them, and given that excitement and interest in this franchise is now likely to continue to the end of time, can we somehow make the jump into lightspeed to December 2019 already?

Continuing on the foundations laid by Force Awakens, The Last Jedi packs plenty of emotional punch, taking the characters in exciting directions and setting the stage for what should be an enthralling conclusion to this new trilogy.

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Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Detroit (2017)

Image is property of Annapurna Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Entertainment One

Detroit – Film Review

Cast: John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jason Mitchell, John Krasinski, Anthony Mackie, Hannah Murray

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Synopsis:  1967,Detroit, USA. With riots threatening to tear the community apart, Police enter a hotel on the hunt for a sniper, which leads to a horrifying ordeal for the residents.

Review: It kind of goes without saying that for a long time that in the United States of America, the issues of racism and police brutality have unfortunately been dominant in American society, and recent events in 2017 certainly indicate that these issues are very much prevalent in modern America, as relevant today as they were half a century ago. As such, to tackle such a tricky and emotional subject for a film requires a director whose previous films have shown she is not afraid to tackle such controversial subject matter, step forward Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow.

Her first film since Zero Dark Thirty, which focused on the hunt for Bin Laden, drew criticism for being almost pro-torture. Furthermore, controversy has arisen over whether Bigelow is the right director to tell this story, but given her immense directorial portfolio, this was never in doubt. However, right from the off, Bigelow throws you right into the heart of the riots and the tensions that were building right across America. With a screenplay from long time collaborator Mark Boal, the tension is there right from the first shot as you watch communities being torn asunder. There was a gritty, almost documentary like manner to which Bigelow told the story of Zero Dark Thirty, and here, she does replicates that method again to tell the story. The script is uncompromising and absolutely brutal when it wants to be. Yet the first act is a little choppy as we’re introduced to a lot of characters which means you’re unsure which characters to really focus on.

It’s at the film’s second act where things really start to get tense and scary. After a prank weapon is fired, the cops descend onto the Algiers Motel and several of the cops led by Philip Krauss (Poulter) begin to terrorise the frightened residents of the motel by demanding who it was that shot what they believed to be sniper fire. As time wears on and no one gives them any answers, the cops take matters into their own hands, and it is not pretty for those residents. The version of events displayed on screen are somewhat dramatised as it is not fully known what actually transpired that night, but Bigelow showed that when it comes to building tension, she is an absolute pro. This is unflinching storytelling and it makes you almost gawk at the screen in horror at what you are witnessing.

Everyone in the film delivers great performances but by far the most standout performance is that of Will Poulter’s Krauss. Right from the moment you meet this horrifyingly bigoted cop, you just know he is bad news for all who get in his path and that includes Algee Smith’s Larry, Anthony Mackie’s as Greene and John Boyega’s Melvin Dismukes a part time security guard who witnesses all of it. After that brutal second act, the film slows down to deliver a brutal gut punch in the third act, but the script could have done with a little bit of polishing to really hammer the point home as the third act does falter a little bit.

However, by the time the credits begin to roll, and the crux of the film reaches its audience, it really will make you sit up and take notice of the problems that have existed in America for the best part of half a century. In that time that you would have thought that humanity might have move forward from that point, that things are still far from perfect with innocent folk, quite often black people, losing their lives to severe unnecessary police brutality to this very moment. It will really give you plenty of food for thought. Though these events took place fifty years ago, there are messages in this movie that are incredibly still relevant in today’s society, and society needs to immediately sit up and take notice.

Uncompromisingly brutal, tense storytelling at its finest/scariest but told with authenticity and care that makes the film’s themes as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

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.

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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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