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.

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)

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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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