Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Attack of the clones
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – 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 10 years after The Phantom Menace, when a separatist movement  threatens to create trouble for the Republic, the Jedi Knights along with Senator Amidala move to ensure the Republic’s survival, but a growing threat is emerging in the form of a clone army…

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

Review: When it came to the creation of these prequels, surely every single Star Wars fan on the face of the planet must have been wondering what brilliance could the creator of this awesome universe throw at us? Our first answer was the horrendously disappointing The Phantom MenaceSo when a sequel came along, audiences possibly hoped that Lucas would realise his mistakes, listen to the feedback, and give us something much more closer to the original trilogy. But yet again, the hopes were dashed with another bloated CGI filled mess, with very little substance to it, and the standard of writing? Improve it did not.

In the first prequel, there was a lot of sitting around and talking, but not enough action to get the excitement going, it became hopelessly tedious with some horrific dialogue, and it’s unfortunate that this poorly written dialogue hasn’t gone away. The plot, of sorts, focuses on the Separatist movement and their plan to leave the Republic, led by the mysterious Count Dooku. Lucas really tries to make this plot really interesting but it doesn’t wash unfortunately, because it wasn’t the big selling point of the prequels, that being Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. In addition to this less than interesting plot with the Separatists, we have an even less interesting love story between Anakin and Padme, and these scenes are just cringe worthy to the absolute maximum. What makes these scenes even worse is Hayden Christensen’s acting as a grown up Anakin and the delivery of some of his dialogue, is just horrendous. Once again Lucas’s poor script doesn’t help but it doesn’t take away from Christensen’s poor delivery of his lines, and while Natalie Portman isn’t much better, she does have an Academy Award to her name, Christensen does not. Go figure…

The emotion that ran throughout the original trilogy is again severely lacking in this film with the completely uninteresting plot and while interest does grow in the latter stages of the film, once the Jedi finally get off their bums and decide to do something to help. The action scenes in this film do offer more but they’re yet again mired by the ridiculous overuse of CGI which like the previous film is so ridiculously apparent it almost hurts your eyes while you watch. The absence of Star Wars sets sticks out like a sore thumb and Lucas once again tries to overload the viewer with CGI, forgetting that there’s a fine balance between great CGI and great storytelling, which again baffles as he mastered that with the very first film we got in the franchise! There are some decent characters in this film too, but again like with Phantom Menace, they’re barely utilised before we have a chance to explore their potential, namely one Jango Fett, father to the awesome Boba Fett, except here he’s not so awesome, he’s another whiny little brat kid, kind of like how Anakin was in the first movie, and in many ways like Anakin is here.

Also introduced is Count Dooku, played by the late and great Sir Christopher Lee. His performance was decent and his character is explored a bit more and there is a bit more action involved with his character to boost the excitement, but again it’s over before it really has a chance to get going. John Williams’ score remains as awesome as it always has been but the film is once again bogged down by poor writing, even poorer acting from certain individuals, and terrible TERRIBLE romantic dialogue, and more CGI overload that again does nothing to enhance and or improve upon the very weak story that we are presented with here, which was just not what audiences wanted to see. It was yet again a terrific opportunity squandered and resulted in CGI overkill.

Yet again weighed down by a poor script with some appallingly bad dialogue and even worse acting, lessons were not learnt from Episode I and the CGI is just as noticeable and dated as its predecessor, but it somehow manages to be worse, even with less Jar Jar Binks.

D+

 

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

the-phantom-menace-poster
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewen McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: When the planet of Naboo comes under attack from the sinister Trade Federation, it falls to two Jedi Knights, and a mysterious young boy to try and solve the conflict.

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

 

Review: Back in the 1970s, in 1977 to be precise a film was released that would later go on to redefine not only the science fiction genre, but films in general. A film that would go on to have two successful sequels and remain insanely popular to this day.This film is of course Star Wars, and the man behind this remarkable feat of cinematic brilliance was George Lucas. Therefore when plans were announced to expand on this universe with a prequel trilogy, fans must have been overjoyed, and excitement built. However, ultimately their excitement and anticipation was misplaced.

The first film had the immediate sense of intrigue and excitement, and you would have thought that the creator of this universe would recapture that immediately. Yet right from the opening credit crawl, something just doesn’t feel right. This is not the Star Wars movie we were looking for, it is trying to be a part of the much loved franchise and although it technically is, it just feels hopelessly out of place. The first three films had great writing, some terrific characters, and some brilliant action scenes and combined great use of practical as well as visual effects, but virtually none of that is employed here, with some stilted dialogue and some horrendously written characters.

It is worth wondering when watching this film, is this the director who created this universe with his 1977 masterpiece? The main plot revolves around peace treaties, and political squabbling. It just doesn’t boast the excitement of the original trilogy, or have that emotional punch towards the climax, and the writing is absolutely nowhere near the level of quality that was on show in the original trilogy (for the most part.)It is almost painful to watch at times watching these characters devoid of any emotional connection to the audience. The film struggles to retain interest in the story, which in parts is down to the horrendous overuse of CGI. There is so much on show here it is once again painfully apparent that some shots were done on a computer, and the lack of quality written characters, despite some considerable talent in front of the camera, shows the real weaknesses in Lucas’ script, which is evident with what many believe is one of the worst characters ever put to film: JAR JAR BINKS!!!

Right from the off, this creature instantaneously irritates, with his nonsensical actions as well as his dialogue and he is just downright infuriating to watch. Also annoying, but not quite to the level of Mr Binks is the introduction of Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. The big selling point of the prequels is to watch Anakin turn from the good Anakin to the evil Darth Vader, but he spends the majority of the movie moaning and it’s just painful to watch, particularly because Jake Lloyd does not give a good performance at all, but then again with the script by Lucas being as bad as it is, it doesn’t help him shine. Vader is one of the most iconic villains in film history and his back story is just ruined by this terrible performance. The absence of the emotional connection for the film is seriously damaging and the overuse of the CGI particularly in some of the action sequences is so noticeable that it hurts your eyes while you watch. It’s like being fed with the same food day in and day out, after a while you’re going to get bored, and the effects are a bore at times. The effects do not hold up in parts and they add nothing of substance to the movie.

With all that said, there are some, but not many plus points, namely the John Williams score remains as excellent as it always has been. There are some cool scenes such as the Pod racing sequence, and there is a very cool character in Darth Maul. In addition he is part of what is probably the best scene in the movie, the light sabre duel between him, Qui Gonn and Obi Wan. But yet again, there is frustration as Darth Maul has has very little screentime and is ultimately killed off before we had a chance to see what he could really do. It is ultimately a shame that after 3 near perfect movies, and a 16 year interval between Return of the Jedi and this, this is the end product. It’s a real shame because with the advancement in the effects at the time, there was scope for greatness, but this fritters away into a gigantic CGI and effects heavy mess.

With a poor script, and a frustrating over-reliance on CGI, as well as some truly atrocious acting and characters, this was such a missed opportunity to expand on the brilliance of the original trilogy, but instead chose a path of mind numbing mediocrity. 

C-

Posted in Film Feature

Top 10: Most Anticipated Autumn/Winter Films (2015-2016)

oscar 2016 season

Summer movie season is officially over, and we now enter Oscar season territory, the time when studios release their films that they hope will be celebrating come Oscar season next February . There has been some great cinema so far this year, but there’s some very interesting pictures on the schedule. So without further ado, I give you my 10 most anticipated films of the next few months.

First up I have a few honourable mentions. The first of these is The Danish Girl, this is a new film from Tom Hooper, director of The King’s Speech and Les Miserables, winner of 4 and 3 Oscars respectively, and this looks like it has lots of awards potential with Eddie Redmayne being strongly tipped to get a second Oscar in succession. The second is Steve Jobs, the second film attempting to tell the story of the legendary Apple CEO. The first Jobs film with Ashton Kutcher I have not seen but it did not get the best reception, however with Aaron Sorkin on screenplay duties and Danny Boyle behind the camera, there is scope for greatness. The Good Dinosaur, this summer’s Inside Out is my favourite film of the year thus far, and thus Pixar could be on a roll with two original pieces of work this year. Last but not least is Joy. Despite having one of my favourite actresses in Jennifer Lawrence, I am not entirely sold just yet, and although David O Russell is in the director’s chair, the teaser didn’t blow my mind, but I remain hopeful given David O Russell’s track record of previous films with J Law. With that done it’s time for the top 10 and we start with:

10. Bridge of Spies

Tom Hanks (left) stars in Steven Spielberg's (right) Untitled Cold War spy thriller, which is the true story of James Donovan, an attorney who finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA sends him on the near-impossible mission to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.

Steven Spielberg’s follow up to his 2012 picture Lincoln, reuniting with Tom Hanks once again, set in the Cold War focusing on one man’s efforts to save a pilot trapped in the Soviet Union. The time period, the director and cast all look great so here’s hoping for more excellence from arguably the greatest director working today.

 

9. Everest

everest

It would be easy for a film like this to decide to shoot on green screen, as was the case (for obvious reasons) with 2013’s Gravity. But the fact that the crew actually went to some pretty dangerous, mountainous locations will definitely give this film a real authenticity, and here’s hoping that the story is just as enthralling because it looks like it will be.

 

8. Black Mass

black mass

Could this be the return to form for Johnny Depp? His films as of late have all been pretty much panned, the likes of Mortdecai and Transcendence come to mind, but in this picture, it definitely looks like it could be that much needed comeback for Depp and early reception is looking very promising indeed.

 

7. The Martian

the martian

Ridley Scott’s recent films have also not had the best of receptions. However, this film adapted from the hugely popular novel by Andy Weir also could be the return to form for the great British director. He knows the sci-fi genre well with Blade Runner, Alien and Prometheus. With Matt Damon in a role that bears a throwback to his role in last year’s Interstellar, so here’s hoping.

 

6. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2

mockingjay2

Katniss’s story will finally be brought to a close this November. Judging from the trailer, it looks like this will make up for the lack of action that left many audiences wanting in the first part, and if you’ve read the book, you know there is going to be some fireworks! Be prepared!

 

5. The Revenant

revenant

Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next film after his Oscar winning Birdman looks very intriguing with Leo DiCaprio in the lead role as a man who is after his comrades after being left for dead. The trailer alone boasts some astounding cinematography and this MIGHT just be the role that FINALLY lands DiCaprio that long overdue Academy Award. 

4. The Walk

WALK_INTL_1SHT_TSR_LK2_3DIMX3D_02.indd

“The artistic crime of the century,” what many people call Philip Petit’s remarkable feat as he tightrope walked between the two Twin Towers in 1974. With Robert Zemeckis on directing duties and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit, this will hopefully be an amazing cinematic experience that will get audiences on the edge of their seat.

 

3. The Hateful Eight

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

Mr Quentin Tarantino’s next film hit a bunch of production problems. It wasn’t happening at one time after a script leak, but it is and the teaser trailer is awesome. Teases that tension that Tarantino is brilliant at but does not reveal any major plot points. With a top notch cast including Sam Jackson, Bruce Dern and Kurt Russell, this could well be another great addition to the Tarantino filmography.

 

2. Spectre

spectre

The follow up to the phenomenally successful Skyfall, Sam Mendes is back as director and so too is Daniel Craig. This time we’re reuniting Bond with villainous organisation SPECTRE and the trailers so far have been awesome and with two time Oscar winning actor Christoph Waltz as the main antagonist, there’s every chance we could see the best Bond villain the franchise.

And my most anticipated movie of Autumn/Winter is:

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1: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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Are you surprised? Like many people I am a huge fan of this franchise and this film has got me extremely excited. When it was announced that a new trilogy was on the way I was a bit sceptical but with JJ Abrams as director, and the very talented cast they have assembled, with an exciting mix of Star Wars veterans and newcomers, I am sold. The trailers have been very intriguing and quite rightly everything is under close wraps. With JJ Abrams’ past work in reviving Star Trek as anything to go by, this should be the return to form that the Star Wars franchise needs, due to er, the unfortunate event of those prequels. The first of a new planned trilogy and with many more films on the slate, Star Wars isn’t going anywhere, and all the better for it.

There we have it, my top 10 most anticipated Autumn/ Winter films. What are your most anticipated movies of this upcoming Oscar season? Any movies on my list that you feel should not be on there? Comment below and tell me what you think. Or you can tweet me at @Martin_rich_91. We should be in for a great few months of cinema!