Star Wars: Never tell me the spoilers!

Beware!!!

Stay away if you do not want to read spoilers.

See our spoiler-free review if you have not seen this film!!

(Though if you haven’t seen it by now, come on, what are you doing?)

Be sure to comment any points I may have left out.

So it is the long awaited arrival of the second installment of the new Star Wars Trilogy. There has been a large amount of hype for The Last Jedi and unfortunately for me I allowed myself to be dragged into the chaotic chorus of high expectations. After a nostalgic and interesting setup in The Force Awakens, an unrelated yet enjoyable Rogue One, and a tasty exhilarating trailer (with Porg goodness) I think we can all agree we were expecting good things. I, however, was less than fulfilled and found myself severely disappointed and close to anger on leaving the cinema. Probably not helped by the fact that my friends and I had been to the double-bill feature and had left the cinema at 3am after being there since 9pm!

Before I get into a laboured account of the negatives let’s start with something positive…

THE PORGS

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A Porg stows away on the Millennium Falcon

Yes they may be unnecessary and not at all relevant but it was an inventive solution to a problem and a creative reflection of the true location. Ahch-To, aka Skellig Michael, is just off the Southern Coast of Ireland and was the perfect location for the remote Jedi monasteries, what with the abandoned monasteries already present on the Island that were once home to Christian monks some 700-800 years ago.

Also present on the Island at certain times of year were PUFFINS! As the Island is a nature reserve, it would be wrong to remove the vast number of birds (not to mention logistically incredibly difficult), and to digitally erase the native birds would be hugely time consuming; so it was decided that they would have to roll with it and create a new indigenous species. Just like on the island, these birds get EVERYWHERE in the film (but thankfully not to an annoyingly obnoxious level) and even have an actually funny interaction with Chewbacca when he tries to eat one of them.

REY AND KYLO

This storyline was genuinely intriguing as you have a bridge between two characters who are still unsure of their paths and roles in the upcoming story (aren’t we all).

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Friends or Foes?

Each is trying to win the other to their side, while being slightly confused as to whether they are light or dark themselves. A mind bridge is created between the two characters by Supreme Leader Snoke, an ingenious plot to lead Rey to them and turn her to the dark side. Rey falls for this and seeks Kylo out as she still sees good in him. This plan back fires on Snoke, resulting in his death and an impressive fight scene between Kylo and Rey, and the Praetorian Guards. I personally enjoyed this fight, the style being a favourite of mine, mainly because of the way Rey and Kylo interact and fight alongside one another against the guards (however tentative the link between the two and how little they know of each other’s fighting style). Ultimately, they go their separate ways and leave the arc open to perhaps continue in Episode IX

YODA

I liked it! Some people said he looked weird but I was glad to see him, being my favourite Star Wars character. Not only that, he is still schooling Luke even after being “dead” for decades and pushes him past this nihilistic stage of his life. Still the most subtle and natural laughs in the film and humbly awesome.

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Forever the Master

Well that’s me being nice…moving on!

SUPERMAN/MARY POPPINS/LEIA ORGANA

Right, I get she is force sensitive and there may be precedent for this scene in other obscure pieces of lore, games or series. But COME ON? Really? Also, I get this was filmed before she passed away (RIP, love and respect) but I really thought this was going to be it for Leia in the film. And it could have been so beautiful! I could feel myself tearing up as she gracefully floated through space in a dignified end to a powerful and forever rebellious character. But then she reached out her hand and force pulled herself back?!!? To a door that was not an airlock!! Which did not seem to bother anyone?! Except shields blah blah. NO! Some may say that it was an interesting twist and wasn’t expected but I believe it was just Disney rubbish and I wholeheartedly disagree with this scene. Not only that, now Leia’s death will either be reduced to a minor mention in the opening scrolling text, or some hurried and heavily CGI’d scene in Episode IX. I just can’t…

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I know Carrie, I know

SLOWEST. CHASE. EVER

I think this was just a plot device whose sole purpose was to legitimise a pointless, convoluted and bloated sub-plot. I’ll get to this. A very long and drawn out plot device. Which also included an unnecessary deception from Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) again, purely a device to allow Finn and Rose to go on their redundant side-mission. They could have evacuated the ship and headed to Crait while the Vice-Admiral light-speed destroyed the First Order fleet, giving more time for a battle on the surface of Crait. This could have allowed more speeder vs. AT-AT battle, a ground siege of the base, and a more interesting utilisation of Phasma. Again, I’ll get to this. 

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Laura Dern does look stunning though!

I suppose Holdo’s light-speed attack came as a last minute realisation moment to save the fleet, and I will also submit that it was a visually impressive and made for an emotional scene. BUT even the prospect of an 18 hour snail-paced space chase when it was first mentioned made many people in the audience groan. It drew the pace of the film to a grinding halt and just seemed to me like a bit of a half-baked idea in order to give Finn a quest of his own. Speaking of which…

CANTO BIGHT SUB-PLOT

During the slowest chase in history Poe, Finn and Rose formulate a plan to find an individual named the Code-Breaker, stow aboard the First Order ship and destroy the tracking device inhibiting the Resistance fleet’s escape. Finn and Rose travel to Canto Bight for what turns out to be more of moral journey for Finn; as well as a display of the subtle effects of living under a fascist First Order and how easy it is to spread hope through the galaxy. I do understand the relevance of this scene and when Finn does take a closer look at his extravagant surroundings to the injustice lingering just beneath the surface it does pluck on a few heart strings. However, the execution felt forced, the message rushed and probably did not require as much dialogue as we were given, which collectively dampens the intended impact.

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Look closer

After exploring the casino settlement for a while, they manage to get themselves arrested ultimately due to a parking violation. In their cell they meet DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who they dismiss as some hack criminal. They escape with the help of children, fathiers (space horses), BB-8 and DJ who they then decide to bring along in place of the Code-Breaker. This backfires when DJ betrays them to the First Order, teaching them a valuable lesson about a) trusting strangers they meet in prison cells, and b) about the people who play both sides in war. The First Order Dreadnought is fortuitously destroyed seconds before Finn and Rose are to be executed, allowing a short face-off between Finn and Phasma. This is a gross misuse of both Benicio Del Toro and Phasma; who, although we were promised a grander role for this bad-ass Storm Trooper captain, was barely used and swiftly removed.

FINN AND ROSE

They had ZERO chemistry! And yet she decides to save Finn’s life and confess her love to him? No. Just no. He started out as a deserter and has a change of heart, wait…doesn’t that sort of happen in The Force Awakens? No, it’s all for Rey, always. Could we have a little character development please? The justification for most of his heroic actions is so that Rey is able to return to a safe and protected rebellion. Up until he calls himself “rebel scum”. I must admit I chuckled. Regardless, none of this explains why Rose would inexplicably fall in love with him. They never show anything resembling attraction to one another and yet she sacrifices herself to stop him from sacrificing himself. It felt forced and like so much of their storyline, unnecessary.

WASTED TALENT AND CHARACTERS 

I have touched upon a couple of these points already but I think I should re-visit them in a little more detail. As the sub-title suggests, this film has failed to utilise both actors and characters that were presented to it. Top of the list for me, personally, was Supreme Leader Snoke. He could have been an immensely superior bad guy, resembling the Palpatine/Darth Sidious kind of presence; and yet, we learned nothing of his history, back-story or motivations. What makes this even more disappointing is that Andy Serkis gives a great performance, typical for his calibre. The scene where he finally meets Rey is interesting, he was at least given the chance to display some of his own power and I liked that he had orchestrated the mind bridge between Kylo and Rey. He’s a more stable villain than Kylo Ren and is way more sinister in my opinion. But he is killed-off in an instant in a way that an all powerful being should have seen. No matter how sneaky Kylo was being. 

Speaking of Kylo Ren, I believe this character has so much potential but in both episodes VII and VIII he is a little whiny for my taste. I understand that he is conflicted about whether he is light or dark, but he could be played as a little less emo-teenager; having tantrums and hissy fits doth not make a Supreme Leader. I also understand that this is likely down to script and direction rather than Adam Driver’s portrayal, which is very good given the material he has received.

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Captain of Chrome

Another First Order character to lose out in this film was Captain Phasma, Rian Johnson has inexplicably risen her from the jaws of trash compactor only to give her an insufficient amount of screen time and a second apparent death. The new films are quite saturated with antagonists, what with Snoke (Darth Sidious), Kylo Ren (Darth Vader), General Hux (Grand Moff Tarkin), Phasma (Boba Fett?) is more in the background but then why hype up the character so much? Why put a prominent actress under the mask? And not just for the lulz like with the Princes and Daniel Craig. It was just a waste of quite a sinister, mysterious character, a great actress, and a waste of bringing her back.

DJ
Still more screen time than in the movie

Moving swiftly through to the next underused talent, Benicio Del Toro as “DJ”. Firstly, DJ isn’t even the “Codebreaker” Finn and Rose were sent to find, they decide that it would be a GREAT idea to recruit a man they meet in a prison cell and are then SHOCKED when he eventually betrays them to the First Order. Showing once and for all that War is an endless cycle with an area of grey between the opposing sides full of indifferent people profiting from the spoils. Although this is a great a message and something we haven’t seen before in the Star Wars movies, the creators could have focused more on the character’s back-story, motivations and given Del Toro more room to actually perform, rather than the over-edited scenes of Canto Bight we were actually exposed to. Again, I get the relevance of Canto Bight in Finn’s development from “I must help Rey” to “Rebel Scum”; but this could have been done using DJ as the “Codebreaker” to perhaps further delve into the deference, corruption and greed seen in that Casino town. But then where would we fit in space-horse racing?

CONTINUITY DOES NOT EXIST

J. J. Abrams gave us a nostalgic return to the Star Wars franchise with The Force Awakens in 2015; although many people criticised it due to it’s uncanny resemblance to the Episode IV plot (doesn’t seem so bad now does it?), I very much enjoyed this instalment and many times found myself squealing and fan-girling in my seat. Unfortunately, Rian Johnson has decided to ignore most of what the previous film gave us and almost create a stand-alone movie.

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First Order be like… “Meh, didn’t like that base anymore anyway. Just gonna bring up this mega-fleet and Dreadnoughts we never mentioned”.

The fact that the Resistance destroyed the Star-Killer Base in The Force Awakens seems to be of little consequence to the First Order, as they are now chasing the Resistance to the ends of the galaxy. This is a recurring theme even within The Last Jedi, even though Holdo destroys much of the First Order fleet with her light-speed attack, the First Order still have an army with which they can launch a ground assault on Crait. Furthermore, we still aren’t really sure where the First Order have come from and why they arose. Sure we have the maniacal ramblings and speeches from General Hux in both films, and the Opening Crawl text describes them as “risen from the ashes of the Empire”, but no real explanation as to where they came from and how they have amassed apparently infinite numbers of followers in just 30 years since the Empire was destroyed. If you read a little bit deeper in to the story outside the movies, you find out that Hux’s father was part of the previous Imperial movement as an overseeing officer at Arkanis Academy. But you need to look online or watch the Star Wars Rebels series to find out any of this.

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It’s OK Rey, we’re sad too

This sort of comes under both continuity and characters but I decided to put it here as it’s another example of Rian Johnson’s complete disregard for the events of The Force Awakens. Rey’s parents. Her family was introduced as a mysterious enigma, a premise that had the fan theories going wild all over the internet. Is she a Solo? Is she a Skywalker? Is it going to be another obscure character from the numerous films, literature, games, or series? Nope. They’re nobody. But we all knew that in our hearts, right? I, like so many other people, hope that Kylo was lying so that he might destabilise her and draw her to his side. Please J. J. Abrams??

 

I wanna just circle back to Phasma for one second. A trash compactor?! But it’s OK! She’s fine! The chrome suit is just that strong! It will probably save from that fire too…

DO YOU REMEMBER EPISODES IV, V AND VI? DO YOU? DO YOU?!

There are quite a few of these so I’m going to bullet points these:

  • Rebels have been found by first order and are escaping their base aka Hoth
  • Ahch-Too aka Degoba
  • Black hole on Ahch-Too aka dark tree on Degoba
    • Rey sees her reflection, Luke sees himself in Vader
  • “I feel the good in you” spoken by Luke to Vader and Rey to Kylo
  • Obi-Wan, A New Hope – “If you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine”. Luke, The Last Jedi – Pretty much the same thing
  • The Emperor, Return of the Jedi – “Come, boy, see for yourself. From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end of your insignificant rebellion”. Pretty much the same as Snoke’s scene with Rey where he tells her to watch the destruction of the Resistance.

LUKE

Over the last few weeks we’ve heard a lot about whether Mark Hamill loved or hated the film. Also seen a couple of “Not my Luke Skywalker” posts.

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“What the hell did I just read?”

I didn’t hate the character entirely, again these points go across sections so I made a special section, but I didn’t appreciate the injection of comedy and the very uncomfortable space-cow scene. It also seems strange to me that he can be so trusting and sure of the good in Vader during the original trilogy, but toys with murdering Ben Solo (before Kylo) because he’s sees a little darkness. The real issue we’ve had is the inconsistency; in The Force Awakens, we are told that Luke left a map behind so that the Resistance can find him if they find themselves in great need. But now he acts stubborn and obstructive when he is found by Rey. I understand why he would be reluctant to train Rey (at this point I turned to my friend and said “Too old, yes, too old to begin the training” nearly right) but he should be more supportive of the Resistance. I see the shift from Hero to Hope they are going for in this film, but it doesn’t quite match up with The Force Awakens, and will it progress into Episode IX?

Last but not least SPOILER Luke’s death. It was very creative the way they hinted at his projection by not leaving the red indentations on the planet Crait; however, would it have been cooler if Luke had actually been there? Sure there might be a timing issue (how’d he get there so fast?! A la Batman in Dark Knight Rises) but if he’d have actually deflected that attack it would have been an incredible display of power! Or, if he’d had projected himself, then NOT died, that would also have been good. I think him allowing Kylo Ren to defeat him would have been way too similar to Obi-Wan in A New Hope.

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Overall, I guess you could say I was disappointed. The Last Jedi looks and feels like a Star Wars movie but lacks conviction, continuity and emotion.

Looking forward to the next movie, in the immortal words of Master Yoda: Failure is our greatest teacher.

If you agree, disagree, or think I’ve missed something, be sure to leave a comment and follow our Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Porgs story: Star Wars’ Official Site

 

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Rewind Review: The Shining (1980) Returns to Cinemas

Adaptations and reboots of Stephen King’s work are popular right now, what with The Dark Tower, It, and Gerald’s Game recently released and with many others in development. Plus, with it being Halloween it only makes sense to revisit one of the frequently listed scariest movies of all time.

heres johnny
Heeeeere’s Johnny! 

Look up any “Scariest Movies of All Time” list and you can bet that The Shining will be floating near the top, along with many adaptations from Stephen King. Combine “the master of horror” with Kubrick’s genius, it’s really no surprise this film has such a cult following; and after seeing it for the first time just a few days ago, it did not disappoint.

Before the film, we watched  “Work and Play: a short film about The Shining (2017)” directed by Matt Wells for Park Circus. This documentary investigates the creative process and incredible efforts behind this unique movie; intense research into the horror genre, the innovative use of the newly developed “Steadicam”, and a look into the personal musings of Kubrick and his views on film-making.

Featured in the documentary are: Lisa and Louise Burns (The Grady Twins), Garrett Brown (inventor and operator of the Steadicam), Diane Johnson (co-screenwriter on The Shining), Katharina Kubrick (Stanley Kubrick’s daughter) and Jan Harlan (Kubrick’s producing partner and brother-in-law).

Kubrick
“It’s easy to make movie…but to make a great film is a miracle.”

If you want to watch something with tension and suspense on Halloween, then The Shining is for you. The music is really stand out for me, combining rapid high pitched strings with slow and deep brass makes you believe something terrifying is about to happen. The long Steadicam shots of corridors, the set and environment make it seem that something may jump out. The music and camera shots were eerie and surprisingly good at building suspense; I could feel myself tensing up and even jumping a little at the changes in instrumentation.

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Shelley Duvall at The Overlook Hotel

Of course, I cannot overlook the incredible acting of Jack Nicholson. His long, dead-eyed shots, creepy mannerisms, and seriously animated eyebrows, portrayed complete insanity with little to no motive or justification required. And he’s not the only one, many of the characters you meet throughout the movie are played in a seriously creepy manner.

If like me you haven’t seen this film before, the short version is Jack Nicholson plays “Jack Torrance” who gets a job as caretaker at The Overlook Hotel  over the winter months during closed season. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and his son Danny (Danny Lloyd) but the isolation, and something in the hotel’s past, makes Jack lose his mind and turn on his family.

Nicholson is great at being terrifying and Lloyd is good at being terrified, but I was not completely convinced by Duvall. A few things she does seem quite smart and resourceful in a pretty hopeless situation; however, her tone seemed forced and vacant, and she seemed to have little control over her limbs as she ran aimlessly around the hotel. Also, Nicholson gets a lot of praise for this film but I also think Lloyd was very good! He’s a very young boy but plays this part with maturity and intelligence.

Ignoring what I thought of Duvall’s portrayal, which I can probably attribute to the age of the film, this is a great scary movie that will really mess with your mind and the accompanied short is very interesting. I  would highly recommend re-visiting this film this Halloween if you can, and be sure to get there in time for the short! And remember….All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy!

The Shining is in cinemas across the UK on 31 October 2017 accompanied by short film “Work and Play: A Short Film about The Shining” (Director Matt Wells).

Film credit: http://www.parkcircus.com/films/21530-the-shining.

Image credits: © 1980 Warner Bros. Inc. All Rights Reserved. Images courtesy of Park Circus/Warner Bros.

Throwback: Blade Runner (1982)

With the sequel releasing next month it’s about time we took a look back at the original, loosely adapted from the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick; who also wrote Minority Report and Total Recall.

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Hitting cinemas 35 years ago, Blade Runner was described as neo-noir science-fiction directed by the fantastic sci-fi pro Ridley Scott. Set 2019, we see a very different version of Los Angeles, a dark and dystopian city that has descended into decay. The Tyrell Corporation has manufactured androids known as “replicants”, indistinguishable from human adults, to work on off-world colonies. However, if any of these replicants attempt to return to Earth they are assassinated (or “retired”) by police operatives known as “Blade Runners”. Harrison Ford plays ex-Blade Runner “Rick Deckard” who takes one last job to hunt down 4 escaped replicants. During his investigation he meets “Rachael”, played by Sean Young, an advanced replicant who displays human emotion and makes him question the future, his attitude towards replicants and what it means to be human.

Replicants are made with a restricted life span, all Roy (Rutger Hauer), Pris (Daryl Hannah), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy) and Leon (Brion James) want is to live and love. Rachael even believes herself to be human until Deckard performs the “Voight-Kampff” test on her and is told that her memories are only implants taken from Tyrell’s niece. Though this story is interesting I was more intrigued by the way the story was told. I enjoy the noir style and luckily for this film Harrison Ford’s voice lends itself well to narration. The interactions between Deckard and Rachael made me a little uncomfortable, which I normally put down to being a different time period, though it could be another example of how humans believe they can use artificial intelligence for their own advantage and self indulgence.

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One of the greatest improvised lines in film

Honestly, my attention did dip at certain points during the film, mostly during dialogue heavy scenes; so I can see why the critics may have been split in their opinions when it was first released. However, I enjoyed this film and it includes a variety of themes that are ambiguous enough to invoke different perceptions; exploring humanity, empathy, mortality, the emotional capacity of A.Is, the disparity between the different societies and the new and decaying areas of the city, human manipulation of genetic engineering, the omnipotent corporate power, manipulation of environment, and apparently some religious connotations that I’m always oblivious to. Also, it has to have been a massive influence for 2004’s “I, Robot” and other A.I related films.

And lastly, this line:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.” Roy Batty

Victoria and Abdul: Beautiful and True…..Mostly

This is a story that you might find difficult to believe. Adapted from a book written by Sharabani Basu, which is based on the journals of Abdul Karim recently discovered in India; we see an unlikely friendship develop between a common Indian Muslim man, and the Empress of India and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

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I personally don’t think there’s a cast or director out there who could have done a better job portraying this particular story. Dame Judi Dench (James Bond, Philomena, Mrs Brown) once again takes on the role of Queen Victoria, alongside Ali Fazal (Furious 7) as Abdul Karim; surrounded by other brilliant actors (Michael Gambon, Eddie Izzard, Tim Piggot-Smith, Olivia Williams) playing the members of the court disgusted and insulted by the development of this relationship. All led by the director Stephen Frears, who was present for a Q&A after the screening, his most recent successes include The Queen with Helen Mirren, Philomena with Judi Dench, and Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep.

The film begins in India and follows Abdul’s journey to England to be involved in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee; after some actions deemed highly inappropriate by the court, the Queen decides to keep Abdul close and begins to learn much about India and Islam from the man the court repeatedly referred to as “one of the Hindus”. She confides in Abdul, revealing her more vulnerable side to the audience, regarding her feelings towards her position and life in general. Although the beginning is quite humorous with many good laughs from both Dench and Fazal throughout, the film takes a darker path as we continue to learn about the Queen’s difficult life, and the court’s ignorance and prejudice against Abdul.

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The Queen’s household united against Abdul

It is a difficult time, with Muslim-led mutinies against British rule breaking out in India, and some deceptions by Abdul does not help his case against the accusations by the court and Prince Edward or “Bertie” (Eddie Izzard). Regardless, the Queen keeps him on as her “Munshi” (teacher), she describes herself as being truly happy for the first time in a long while, and likely as an intentional provocation. Despite numerous attempts to discredit Abdul and blackmail the Queen, Abdul was in the service of the Queen for the final 15 years of her life. This, along with many incidents in the film, appear to be close to the real events that took place over 100 years ago.

I believe that the performances in this film were emotive and believable. It was quite a different kind of performance from Eddie Izzard than what we are used to, but he gave a strong and compelling portrayal of the jealous heir to the throne. One character who may not get as much notoriety is that of Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), he is the other Muslim, Indian man involved in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. However, he is not lucky enough to have captured the Queen’s attention and is kept in England against his will and in detriment to his health. Nevertheless, he remains faithful to his Indian brethren despite attempts of the court to get him to disclose information about Abdul. Of course, Dench and Fazal are touching in their representations; you laugh when they laugh and you cry when they cry. You feel as amazed as Abdul does in his new experiences, and you feel as trapped and depressed as Victoria does as monarch.

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Ali Fazal, Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Frears (Director), Eddie Izzard.

The Q&A with Stephen Frears gave an interesting insight into the making of this film. He was very blunt and to the point in his answers, extremely matter of fact. We found out that it only took 10 weeks to complete filming and it was the first production allowed to film inside Osbourne House, a former Royal residence on the Isle of Wight. He admitted he enjoys making provocative films that test the waters and opinions of the time; despite this fact, we were told the actors were professional and generally of a liberal mindset, this meant the idea of pushing any boundaries or causing controversy did not phase anyone involved.

In conclusion, I highly recommend seeing this movie; it’s fun, silly and emotional, with stellar actors who perform to a high standard. The story is simple but not one that’s been told before, and will make you want to more about this beautiful, heart warming, and unlikely friendship.

Eat Locals: Laugh Out Loud Fun

Last weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere of the British made “Eat Locals” at FrightFest in Leicester Square. I met the director, producers and cast, and got to watch their hilarious creation.

With a low budget of just £1.6 million, you are not expecting “Tchaikovsky” as first-time director Jason Flemyng put it in our interview, you are expecting a fun piece of cinema lovingly put together by a group of friends. And that’s exactly what we got. After quite a sincere start, you soon realise that the actors are not taking themselves so seriously, creating a more laid back (and surprisingly realistic) environment than any other modern vampire movie you will have seen – until the violence commences.

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Left to right: Freema Agyman (Angel), Vincent Regan (The Duke), Charlie Cox (Henry), Eve Myles (Vanessa), Annette Crosbie (Alice)

In a quiet country farmhouse, 8 British vampire overlords have met to discuss matters of feeding quotas and territories. Following the death of one of their own, they will also decide whether to turn or kill poor, unwitting Sebastian (Billy Cook); led to the farmhouse by sexy vamp Vanessa (Eve Myles). Before they can carry out their verdict, the vampires are interrupted by a team of Elite vampire-killers sent by the Vatican and under orders from Captain Bingham (Robert Portal) and Larousse (Mackenzie Crook), chaos and blood shed ensues.

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Eve Myles as sexy cougar “Vanessa”, leading Sebastian astray. 

The dialogue in the vampire meeting is natural but quite serious (with a slightly eerie and ominous soundtrack), making reference to some current events and expressing a few opinions on such matters (from a vampire perspective of course). The conversation devolves into quite a grim scenario, but with the introduction of Sebastian humour is injected into these scenes. This is later followed by what sounds like a pretty horrific scene between the vampires and some soldiers. This variety of scenes display a contrast of character and a breadth of acting ability; they attempt to be both modern, civilised individuals, and the viscous vampires they are. Others are just viscous vampires *cough*Tony Curran*cough*.

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Left to Right: Vincent Regan (The Duke), Henry (Charlie Cox), Angel (Freema Agyeman), Alice (Annette Crosbie), Thomas (Jordan Long), Peter Boniface (Tony Curran). 

 

Converse to Tony Curran’s crazy portrayal of vampire “Peter Boniface”; Charlie Cox, having been temporarily poached from Netflix and Marvel, plays a slightly softer vampire than some of the others. His character “Henry” is a vampire who refuses to feed on humans,  and tries to keep the peace between his fellow vampires and keep young Sebastian alive during the battle.  Between martial arts proficient Chen (Lukaz Leong) and sweet old Alice (Annette Crosbie) with an assault rifle, there’s plenty of action for everyone to sink their teeth into. And with Jason Statham directing the fights, it maintains a good level of ridiculousness.

You grow to seriously dislike “Captain Bingham” and “Larousse”, which is always key to making good villains and gets you rooting for the vampires; however, even though he was on their side, I liked “18” (Johnny Palmiero). He was terrified of the vampires and sympathetic to the Thatchers (Dexter Fletcher and Ruth Jones) who own the farmhouse, both of which make him smart and a good person, which I like.

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Bingham (Robert Portal)

There’s a few twists and little surprises, and many, many, MANY laughs. Everyone in the cinema was laughing along, cheering for their friends when they came on screen, and woo-ing whenever anyone did anything cool. Eve Myles was sat in front of me and believe me she was LOVING every minute of it. 

If you want something that is easy and fun to watch, and are a fan of something a little silly, you definitely need to watch this film. But ensure you begin with no expectation of this being a masterpiece of film making. The cast and crew have clearly had a fantastic time making this and we all had an awesome time watching it with them.

It’s also nice to meet people who you’ve been watching on screen for years and find out they’re genuinely nice, funny people.

And Jason, as promised, I think I’ve been pretty nice 😉

Check out the Live coverage and interviews here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYUi79fR1no

 

 

American Made: It’s Just Fine

Sure it’s based on a true story which sets some limits, but a change of pace here and there would have been much appreciated.

american-made

This is the story of Barry Seal (played by Tom Cruise), a tired TWA pilot recruited by CIA agent ‘Schafer’ (Domhnall Gleeson) to run reconnaissance flights in Central and South America. Over the course of the movie Seal evolves into gun runner, drug smuggler for the Medellin cartel, and informant for the DEA. Through all this Barry and his wife Lucy (Sarah Wright) raise a family and contribute to their community. As you can imagine, juggling so many jobs, things start to fall apart.

You’d hope that a film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Doug Liman (responsible for such action-packed flicks like The Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper, Fair Game, and Edge of Tomorrow) would have some excitement and good action. Especially if that movie is about a guy simultaneously working for the CIA, DEA and Escobar. Unfortunately, in my opinion, there was a lot lacking in terms of pace, excitement and much emotion of any kind. I left the cinema not really filming anything, but not quite feeling like it had been a waste of time.

The story is an interesting one and the actors play the characters well, there’s even a few decent laughs thrown in; but the film itself had no dynamics, it seemed to sit at the same level throughout. I can’t fault the actors for their portrayal, they were smart and most importantly believable; especially Sarah Wright as the wife, she was often skeptical of her husbands behaviour and was pretty vocal about it until he told her the truth.

More than likely it’s the script that has no flavour and lacks the changes in pace to make this film a little more intriguing. Unfortunately, in this case the story of Barry Seal has been narrated, but not really told.

Still better than The Mummy though….

Atomic Blonde goes Nuclear

Atomic Blonde has the espionage of Bond and the action of John Wick; with Charlize Theron portraying the stone cold, cool-as-ice, and stunningly sexy agent Lorraine Broughton.

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Set during the fall of the Berlin War in 1989, though not related to this historic event whatsoever, we follow MI6 Agent Lorraine Broughton in her journey to Berlin to investigate the murder of fellow agent James Gasciogne (Sam Hargrave) and to locate “The List”. As in many Cold War spy thrillers, “The List” is a piece of microfilm containing the names of all allied field agents active in the Soviet Union and, in true Bond style, the microfilm is hidden in a wristwatch. Unfortunately, things start going wrong for Lorraine as soon as the her killer heels touch the ground, but people soon find out she is a force to be reckoned with. Lorraine’s contact in Berlin is MI6 agent and station chief David Percival (James McAvoy) who seems to have adapted to his environment a little too well, being described in the film as “feral”, and has his own rules and motives.

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Friend or foe?

The narrative is a re-telling of the events that took place in Berlin by Lorraine in an debriefing led by MI6 executive Eric Gray (Toby Jones) and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). Throughout the film we are thrown, both seamlessly and abruptly, between Berlin and the London interrogation room, the questions posed to Lorraine driving the story forward and building doubt and suspicion regarding everyone’s intentions.

Atomic Blond debrief

In stark contrast to the seriousness of other cold war and general spy thrillers, and even the background and plot of this film, David Leitch has used a combination of very stylistic components to create an entertaining, anarchistic and glam rock atmosphere. The garish neon lights, spray paint screen annotations, breaking the fourth wall, a steamy lesbian affair, a new wave score, and bold outfits give a lighter edge to this violent and bloody thriller. This style is reminiscent of films made in the ’90s depicting anarchy, disregard for rules or an anti-establishment message.

The contrast extends down to the counterculture depicted on both sides of the Berlin wall. In the West, everyone is free to dress and drink as they please, whereas, in the East, we see youths being punished for partying, the inevitable rebellion and revolution. This is reflected in Lorraine’s image as well as the atmosphere; in the West her dress and make-up is bold, provocative and punk, in the East she switches the sheer blonde for brunette and dresses plainly with minimal make-up.

The soundtrack is as killer as Theron; tracks from the likes of David Bowie, Kanye West, The Clash, Queen, Public Enemy, Health and New Order give the film power and emotion. What is particularly interesting is the use of the original song, plus a reprisal using a cover in a later scene with a very different mood. At some points this reinforced the direction of the plot, descents into chaos, loss of control and stings of emotion. With the help of composer and music supervisor Tyler Bates (composer for John Wick), Leitch has put together a playlist that compliments the non-verbal storytelling occurring in much of the film and reflects the environment and rebellion of the period.

Atomic Blonde (2017)
Yes, that’s a hose and a saucepan

As well as a killer soundtrack, this film has absolutely brutal action sequences. David Leitch’s stunt background explains the satisfaction I got from watching those scenes; he has been stunt man, double, coordinator and co-director for a number of action-heavy films (Fight Club, 300, Bourne films, Matrix films, John Wick, and the upcoming Deadpool 2). The realism Leitch has injected here is impressive and effective; Theron insisted that she do as many of the stunts as legally permitted, training for months on her strength, wrestling and Muay Thai, and even getting a couple of sparring sessions in with Keanu Reeves!! Her style is what you would expect for a woman fighting men two to three times her size, the participants get tired as you would expect when you’re getting your ass kicked that hard, and people get horrific injuries, including Lorraine. We even see her emerge from an ice bath, battered, bloody and bruised, and no make-up to hide the swollen, blackened eye she received during the course of her Berlin antics. These are the consequences of her profession and entering heavy hand-to-hand combat. One of these scenes is around 7 minutes long and actually shot in continuity, this means no time to alter make-up, re-adjust wigs, or apply any extra effects, which is why I expect the characters look so exhausted and a complete mess by the end; but all this just augments the realism of the scene.

The supporting roles around Lorraine help to reveal distinct attributes of her character; with Gray, Kurzfeld and Percival she is cold and steely, she does not trust anyone and does not play nice. Even with the stasi officer, code name “Spyglass” (Eddie Marsan), Lorraine has to protect and escort out East Berlin, she remains icy and emotionless in order to properly do her job. Conversely, the young and innocent French intelligence agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella) brings out a more honest vulnerable side to Lorraine. Originally, the french agent was male in the graphic novel “The Coldest City” that Atomic Blonde is based on, Leitch agreed that the gender flip was a good move and makes the story a little more provocative which he describes as integral for his vision for his solo directorial debut.

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Still gorgeous

Overall this movie is a hit for me; with exciting action, bold fashion and music, great comedic timing and funny quips. It’s true that the storyline is a little generic and you do have to pay attention to make sure you understand what is going on and who’s betraying who, but it’s clear that Leitch’s focus was the style of the retelling. In his own words, he wanted to be fresh, provocative and reinvent the “stuffy” cold war spy movie. It sounds like Theron really enjoyed this role, saying that it was her perfect female protagonist, regardless of how many times she puked in training or how many teeth she cracked. She owned this part and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her kick-ass.

And as Theron’s costume designer Cindy Evans rightly said: “Yeah, because Bond could never do it—so you have to”.

Baby Driver: Need more than just a track

Director Edgar Wright (“The Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”) has masterfully intertwined the kick-ass soundtrack with the beat of the film in this crazy, and sometimes surprisingly violent, heist story. If only the characters meshed as successfully as the sound and cinematography.

The film follows extremely talented getaway driver and tinnitus sufferer “Baby” (Ansel Elgort) as he works off a debt to big criminal boss man “Doc” (Kevin Spacey). Along the way he meets a girl, “Debora” (Lily James), who has a similar quirky relationship with music as our lead, they immediately click and have plans to runaway together. But, of course, when Doc calls, Baby MUST answer if wants those he loves to live. And with the introduction of “Bats” (Jamie Foxx) into the crew, there is no end to the trouble they’re about to trigger.

The atmosphere to begin is very light hearted and funny; we are led to believe that a dangerous bank robbery is very serious business, until Baby starts miming vigorously along with his track. We are returned to reality when the car chases start and they are solid. The stunt drivers in this film are ridiculously on point, of course they had to be with this title and storyline. The camera flows fluently through the different shots and angles following the getaway car drift effortlessly through roads and alleys, and pulling off some absolutely stunning tricks. All the while staying on the beat of the track.

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Cool as a cucumber

Even walking down the street in this movie looks cool, continuing to stay in time with the music, Elgort is far removed from the whiny brother of Tris in the Divergent series. We even find he has a heart of gold, living with his deaf paraplegic friend Joseph (CJ Jones) who Baby assures the jobs are nearly done.

The insertion of Jamie Foxx leads the story down a darker path. Although I find his behaviour unnecessarily over the top, a common portrayal of slightly insane criminals in movies, he is a distinct contrast to the other somewhat one-dimensional characters and a necessary evil to change the course of the storyline. From this point the scenes get crazier and the violence bloodier, and all the while Elgort and James maintain their sweet romance.

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Why so insane?

I personally think that Jamie Foxx could easily have been replaced by Jon Bernthal, and it would have given Bernthal a bigger part in the movie instead of the rather redundant character of “Griff” he plays at the beginning. There’s not much to say about the other characters, we don’t know much about Baby’s love interest other than she will inexplicably follow Baby anywhere. “Buddy” (Jon Hamm) and “Darling” (Eliza Gonzalez) are a conventional criminal couple, crazy for each other and just crazy in general. And it’s evident that Kevin Spacey has a soft spot for Baby in the end.

This movie probably should have stuck with the light-hearted feel from the beginning, even with the guns and bloodshed, and the characters definitely could have done with a little more chemistry. That being said, if you want to a watch a heist movie with car chases, shoot-outs, a little romance, crazy criminals, and a sweet soundtrack to top it off, go and watch this now!

Even though I wasn’t a fan of Jamie Foxx in this movie, and this scene was in the trailer, it still made me giggle….

Tequila
Tequila!

‘The Girl on the Train’ Review

A collection of brilliant actors giving stunningly believable performances as characters locked in a confusing web of lies….. and Donna from ‘That 70’s Show’.

Of course, we have to begin with Emily Blunt, as she was just brilliant. I remember I first saw her in the ‘Devil Wears Prada’, I thought she was good but did not expect her to rise to the position that she has. She gave a convincing portrayal as an alcoholic, unstable, and seemingly obsessive ex-wife. She knows that something happened that Friday she blacked out, but what did she see and what did she do?

The male characters all had their own roles to play, Justin Theroux (ex-husband), Luke Evans (missing woman’s husband), and Edgar Ramirez (the shrink). All the actors in the film developed into credible suspects in the disappearance of Megan, played by Haley Bennett.

She gave the character an impressive combination of emotion and apathy, a difficult feat to pull off I imagine. A little bit of research has informed me that I first saw her in ‘Music & Lyrics’ in 2007. Since then she has been blowing up Hollywood and I expect we will see many more great performances from her in the future.

In terms of negative points, although the story kept me thinking and changing who I suspected throughout, by the time you have figured it out it feels as though the end is a little dragged out. It reminded me a little of the 2000 film ‘The Gift’; but rather than visions from clairvoyant Cate Blanchett, we see the visions of an alcoholic Emily Blunt. Finally, there wasn’t much room for character development in this film other than the balancing of Blunt’s mental and emotional state; however, I believe the story-line and the overall portrayal of characters as constants was more important in this kind of film.

Overall, I thought the plot was substantial with well placed flashbacks and restoration of memories. I reiterate the superb performances by all the actors involved, including supporting roles such as “The Man in the Suit”. I was pleasantly surprised when the film didn’t just blackout, but carried on to round off the story and leave any loose ends firmly tied. No cliffhangers begging a sequel in this case!!

Also, Donna from ‘That 70s Show’ made an appearance which made me giggle a little.

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