Soldado Unravels…★★★

Incredibly intense and wonderfully filmed, Sicario was one of the stand out films of 2015.  The success of the original meant a sequel was inevitable, but without the influence of Denis Villeneuve and leading lady Emily Blunt, can this installment match the heights of the original?

Sicario : Day of the Soldado, directed this time, by Taylor Sheridan, follows CIA agent Graver (Brolin) as he once again enlists the assistance of rogue operative Alejandro (Del Toro) to destabilize the Mexican drug cartels, who are suspected of smuggling in terrorists across the US border. They aim to accomplish this by staging the kidnapping  of the young daughter (Moner) of the cartel kingpin, and in effect, creating a civil war.

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The opening and middle chapters of the movie are still as potent as the original.  The film mixes the bloody violence and brutal nature of the cartels, with the meticulous nature of our agents well. Brolin who is having a very successful summer, is as fierce as ever. And Benicio Del Toro is the same mysterious, magnetic hitman from before. Although the film loses the character the audience could relate with (Blunt from Sicario), our duo as strong enough to keep her loss to a minimum. Isabela Moner, who yet again plays another young character with her namesake (after her role in The Last Knight!) also gives a great performance as a young girl caught up as the innocent pawn in a government covert operation.

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As the plot starts starts to come together towards the climax, is when things really start to fall off. It was reported that the original screenplay was changed, and the film loses its traction it begins with. The plot starts to leave far to many gaps, and character decisions that really go against their previous actions. Alejandro, who was a ruthless assassin, willing to kill children, suddenly develops paternal like behavior, in hardly any time. We also never really know who the true antagonist is, the cartels? The US government? It’s obvious to see that this is a part 2 of 3, leaving a bit too much unexplained for the third chapter. The operation itself rather falls apart way to quickly, for something that was planned with laser precision. Unfortunately the film makes decisions that feel like a cop out, where the first was praised for the gutsy decisions the script took.

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The tension and suspense the film creates is still on point. There are moments in the movie you will honestly want to look away. The Beast, the daunting, yet iconic soundtrack from the original returns, and when it starts intensifying, the tension cranks all the way up! The ambush scene is magnificently shot, and comes out of nowhere!

Soldado is not a match to the original, but the characters are more than strong enough to carry the film onto the obvious third installment. Sadly it does feel like filler, but maybe after the final chapter, Soldado will look better in hindsight.


 

*THE BEAST INTENSIFIES* 

Fallen Kingdom / Review

Jurassic World was a triumphant return back to the big screen for the Jurassic Park franchise, after a 14 year hiatus since Jurassic Park 3JW received not only glowing reviews, but took in a staggering $1.6bn at the box office, so no pressure on the sequel….

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by J.A. Bayona, brings back our leading duo Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) & Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), as they return to Isla Nublar, to coordinate a rescue mission lead by Benjamin Lockwood, the former business partner of John Hammond, o save our reptilian inhabitants from a volcanic fate.

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Essentially, the movie is what you expect from a huge Summer blockbuster, it’s an impressive spectacle, dazzling CGI, hugely thrilling and comedic banter. But it does fail with its story, as the plot regresses back to the usual weaponized dinosaurs arch we have already seen.

The chemistry between our leads is far more cohesive here, their interactions feel less forced than it did in JW, FK gives them far more to do, and they break out of the typecasts they had in the first one. Claire is far more interesting as the head of a Dinosaur conservation group, rather than the dull, cold, career focused executive. The film also makes firm point regarding the boots she now wears, after the heels debacle from the last film!  They are joined on their adventure by fellow conservation staff members’ Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a sassy and sharp witted veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the systems analyst, his character does grate a lot, as he is pretty much reduced to the petrified screaming comic relief, though he does tone it down over the course of the movie, Zia is far more tolerable as a character.

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The dinosaurs are of course the reason why we’re here! Blue, the surviving member of Owen’s raptor squad is back, and has a leading role! The film can be split into 2, the island rescue, and back at the Lockwood mansion. The island scenes are amazing to watch, the CGI is as always stunning, and the inevitable fate of the island does lead to a frankly very emotional scene as our heroes make their escape. The big gun for this film is another hybrid creation, the Indoraptor, the cross between the Indominus Rex from JW, and a raptor. It of course escapes, and stalks our protagonists as they attempt to stop the plans of our villain. In all honestly, the Indoraptor does not feel like anything special, and still gets outshone by the T-Rex. Although Blue is still an enjoyable addition to the Jurassic clan, it has rather subdued the wicked nature of the deadly Velociraptors from movies past, now seeming more like a charming sidekick, than its previous iterations.

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The villain of the story is where things start to fall apart, who is simply a generic suit who just wants to get rich quick. It’s pretty obvious from the start who is the underlying antagonist, and it really does hurt the plot. While it is a fresh change to take the adventure away from the island setting, the weaponized dinosaurs storyline still feels ridiculous, in a film containing dinosaurs! The final 3rd of the does’ drag on for a tad too long, as our heroes are stalked through the mansion by the genetic raptor, if could have been concluded far more swiftly. There is also a ridiculous twist regarding the granddaughter of the mansion, which is utterly brushed over by the characters, and feels like a contrived plot device for the films end. The Mosasaurus, the gigantic ocean beast, which featured in the trailers, was seriously underused.

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Fallen Kingdom does feel far more unique than its predecessor, JW felt like a simple remake of the original JP, whereas FK stands alone far better, with a far more warming duo and change of scenery. It’s not an outstanding outing, but fans of the last film will have no reason to not enjoy this!

Infinity War:Destiny Arrives

After 10 years of anticipation and endless movies, the big one is finally here,  with so much to talk about, we’ve broken down our *(Spoiler -Free!) review into the key points, enjoy 🙂


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The Villain

The MCU has had a horrid track record for villains, barring Loki, the string of antagonists in several movies such as GotG, all 3 Ironman movies, Thor: The Dark World, all suffered from being a lousy foil. Though as of late, things have started to look far better. The Vulture (Spiderman Homecoming) and especially Killmonger (Black Panther) were great bad guys. Thanos has had very little screen time, apart from a few minutes now and again, or an end credit scene. But here, Thanos not only possesses the power to destroy pretty much any one of our heroes at will, he also has a clear plan in his head. As crazy as he may be, he believes what he is doing is for the greater good, and not just doing it for the cliche world combination etc. This is very much a Thanos movie, and Josh Brolin does an immense job bring such gravitas to a CGI villain! He also throws a moon as a weapon……..


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The Chemistry

It’s what fans have been waiting for, how awesome it would be to finally see all their favourite heroes from across all the movies finally getting together. The results, are as hilarious as you would expect, from a franchise that delivers fantastic humour. Ironman & Doctor Strange, both sarcastic, and confident of themselves, deliver excellent wit, as they constantly exchange one liners.  Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, comedy gold! Rocket & Thor have a surprisingly endearing relationship, which you would not have guessed at the start. All out heroes get their moment to shine, but Drax, Mantis & Banner offer the best when it comes to the comic relief.  There are so many memorable lines from various characters, that they will be quoted for a long time!


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The Action

Without spoiling too much, the action delivers. Considering the sheer number of participants, it could have got very shambolic. The stand out scenes include the showdown on Titan, the surprise late night train station entrance to make the save, and the obvious Wakada battle Basically, anytime the now legendary Avengers music kicks in!  As immense as the Wakada war is, it does get a bit too much at times, with the sheer number of disposable alien fodder being used to overwhelm the heroes.


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The Black Order

Or the ‘Children of Thanos’, as they are also called, are the henchmen that support the Mad Titan on his quest. They are supposed to act as some sort of viable opponents to the Avengers, as they work in the shadows to help Thanos gather all the stones.  But unfortunately, we don’t really know much of them, and barely even bother to remember all their names (Proxima Midnight sounds cool, but like, that’s about it).  Ebony Maw, out evil sorcerer is actually one of the more interesting of the clan, as worthy rival to Doctor Strange, but the rest? Thoroughly underused, and utterly forgettable.


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The Plot

Essentially we have 4 story arcs that are woven together overly this huge run time. Credit has to go to the Russo Brothers for together such an epic tale. You have the ‘Space’ team out on the home planet of Thanos, Titan.  The ‘Wakanda’ team, who hold the battle lines down on Earth. Thanos himself has an intriguing storyline as we follow his journey, and finally Thor head out into the depths of Space, for his own agenda.  It is a lot, but that’s to be expected, it’s also a great way to isolate the gigantic cast into smaller teams, rather than throwing all 40+ cast members onto the screen.  Though this also means some characters don’t have as much screen time as you would think, Captain America is no way near as prominent as you would think here. But the story does deliver, and sure packs a lot of emotional hits. As the plots slowly start to merge towards the end, it all pays off, speaking of…..

The Ending

Well……..didn’t see that coming. And I’ll leave it at just that!


Overall, Infinity War is a tribute to the legacy of the MCU, after 10 years and 18 movies. This is a film that fans will adore, the plus 2hr runtime will breeze by, as you are caught up in all the drama. But the film isn’t for everyone, casual fans may still be able to enjoy it, but it will for sure drag on.

 

 

 

 

Tomb Raider, A Steady Reboot

The Tomb Raider franchise has gone through a rejuvenation of late, following the superbly gritty video game reboots, Tomb Raider (2013) & Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). These games take place at the start of her adventures, featuring , a younger, more fragile Lara Croft. As opposed to the confident & sexy version many are accustomed too.

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With her dad going missing, presumed dead, on an expedition, Lara (Alicia Vikander), attempts to carry on with her life without resorting to the vast financial aid that she could access with a simple signature. As this would mean for her to accept her fathers death. But the appearance of a relic provides her with a clue, that things may not have been as they appeared on the surface, and takes her on a voyage out to the Far East.

Video game movies seem to be a cursed project, even away from the cheesy 90s releases that the industry still carries the scars of, recent attempts such as Assassins’ Creed & Warcraft have been critical failures. But I’m glad to say, Tomb Raider is an honest adaptation of it’s source, while going off script enough to not make it a like for like copy.

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The similarities between the game and movie are more cosmetic if anything. Lara is still a young rookie, who is way out of her comfort zone, having to adapt in the face of death. You also have the hidden Japanese island of Yamatai, where the body of the mythical figure of Himiko resides, which is where the plot mainly focuses on. This is pretty much what the movie borrows from the game, the rest are worked around those points. You have Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a sailor, who joins Lara on her journey in exchange for a hefty wad of cash. Ren is a character the audience can warm too, and thankfully the film does not force a romance between the two. Lara’s father (Dominic West) plays a far bigger role here, than the game, and it does feel very cliched, using the ‘daddy issues’ story. It does grate a bit, but the resolution of that arch plays off surprisingly well. Walton Goggins, our antagonist, is wonderfully menacing as the dastardly Vogel. Every time he shows up, you wish him the worst! A great sign of a well played villain.

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Where the film shines brightest are the survival scenes & solo combat. This version of Lara takes a physical battering in the games, and Vikander here goes through a lot too, she also looks the part , in fine physical shape, as one must be in such an intense physical role. When she’s not falling off trees, or flying through debris, she’s being impaled by branches. There is a lot of yelling and grunting in pain! It makes the character seem far more vulnerable and endearing. The game has a rather satisfying use of the Bow, and it features a lot here too! The legendary Ice Axe also makes an appearance!

The film still has some big flaws. They have changed a fair part of the Himiko backstory, the game goes down a far more supernatural route, whereas the film plays it far more safe. The film also fails to really show much of Lara’s backstory, apart from her sparring sessions, it’s a huge leap of faith to believe that suddenly, she has the skills to survive out in the wilderness, we don’t see much of her exploration/survival skills beforehand. The moment when she does make her first kill is rather underwhelming here, where in the game, it was a pivotal moment for her as a person, and having to accept what she had done. Here, the moment is all to brief, and suddenly cuts back to the main story. The missing Father story line has been played over many a times, and would have been more intriguing had they used another plot device to drive the story on.

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Tomb Raider does play it safe here, and you can tell, with its rather generic and cliched story. But judging it as a video game adaptation, it’s done a perfectly good job. Vikander is excellent as Croft, and Lu Ren is a great partner for her future travels. If you’re a fan of the games, you will enjoy this adaptation, while it’s no where near are deep or immersive as the games, but that’s to be expected, having to cut the massive adventure into a single feature length film. It doesn’t do anything too new, but it should do enough to merit a second outing.

The Commuter / No Delays Here

After being tasked by a mysterious woman to track down a specific person on an evening commuter train, Michael MacCauley (Nesson) is in a race against time to unravel this conspiracy, or risk danger not just to himself, but his family as well.

Liam Neeson and low budget action movies always prove to be an enjoyable time. You pretty know what you will get, what to expect, and how the story will pan out. Neeson has already wreaked havoc on a plane in 2014’s Non-Stop, this time, his kicking ass and speaking intensely on phones (it’s a trend in his films!) on a train, in The Commuter.

The Commuter is a perfectly satisfactory feature length movie. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who had also taken charge of the aforementioned, Non-Stop and The Shallows, a thrilling shark attack film. Pretty much the entire story take place on the train, and the film can be divided into two parts. The opening and middle chapters are more focused on the mystery of who he must find, tracking down various clues to help him locate the target. It’s a nice concept, and considering it’s a busy New York commute, the train is packed with a range of people, all of which could be who he must find. It’s a nice change of pace, from the action packed finale, and even has the audience constantly guessing who it may be.

In my opinion, the deduction parts of The Commuter, are its strongest moments, you do have the occasional action and fights, but they are really just there to stop it getting a bit to mellow for a Neeson movie! The finale is a lot of the typical over the top action and CGI fest that you would expect, the intensity is ramped up by a hundred, and it gets pretty messy at times. Though Neeson is still pretty adept at looking far more dangerous than most people at the age of 65, the special effects are pretty obvious. The train crash from the trailers still looks as laughably bad in the final cut!

Liam Neeson obviously holds this movie together, but Vera Farmiga as the calculating Joanna, who is pulling the strings on board, and Patrick Wilson, as Michael’s colleague, Murph. Both add a bit of shine to the film. And it’s always good to see Jonathan Banks, of Breaking Bad fame making an appearance too!

The Commuter is a straight forward movie, it’s not amazing, nor is it awfully bad. If you’re a fan of the Neeson style thrills and dangers than The Commuter won’t leave you feeling short changed. At under 2 hours, it doesn’t drag on either. If you got nothing to do, and want to catch a decent film, this is worth a watch, otherwise, just wait for it to come out on demand!

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

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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.

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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

 

Jumanji Roars

When Jumanji : Welcome To The Jungle, was announced, it was met with much derision from fans. Was this really necessary? Will it ruin the fond memories of the original starring Robin Williams? Jumanji, unlike Dwayne Johnson’s previous attempt to revive some 90s nostalgia, Baywatch, Jumanji :Welcome To The Jungle is an exuberant joy ride from start till end!

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Dwayne Johnson in JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

The story here has been shifted to the current millennial age,  and in order to fit this time, the Jumanji board game has become a retro video game, basically evolving to survive in a time when board games are of little interest! Our protagonists, whom are all the usual high school stereotypes, end up digging out the video game while being thrown into detention together.  The twist here though, is unlike the original, where the game came to them, here, they get sucked into the game!

To make things even more interesting, our students end up in the bodies of the avatars they selected for the game. Spencer (Alex Wolff), the nerdy gamer is now in the body of Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Johnson), a 6″5, 250lb hero, with no real weaknesses. Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain), the school jock, is the diminutive Franklin “Mouse” Finbar (Hart), who is essentially Bravestone’s assistant. Bethany (Madison Iseman), the selfie obsessed cheerleader, ends up as she says ‘a middle aged fat man’ in Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon (Black).  Martha, our shy, introverted teen, is now the confident & dangerous Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan).

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The story is simple, get the Jaguar’s Eye, a magical gem, back to its resting place, to save the jungle, though it’s not as east as it may seem. Each of them are limited to 3 lives, and not only is the jungle trying to kill them, but the villainous Van Pelt (Cannavale) is also in a deadly pursuit of the gem.

The body swapping angle is really what makes this film shine.  With most of our all star cast playing roles that they don’t play. The Rock, is someone who is the opposite of the charismatic mountain of muscle that he is. Jack Black is having a blast playing the bratty teen diva, and Gillan is still an insecure teenage, even though in the game she is a beautiful lady who can also kill you swiftly with her deadly martial arts skills! It’s really only Kevin Hart doing his usual routine, but even then, his interactions with Johnson is golden. Finbar, who in reality,  is the athletic, tall, confident jock,  has to come to terms that in the game, he really is none of that, and it’s in fact Spencer, who he looks down upon, who is the real hero.  All four of the cast work great, and really excels the movie to something more memorable.

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Kevin Hart stars in JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

The video game plot also adds plenty of laughs for all the gamers out there. From NPCs, cut scenes,  and character strength & weaknesses, there are various little details that give the film a charming gloss.  This really makes the film stand out from the original, so they really cannot be compared directly.

The only thing that really does bring the movie down, is the laughably poor villain. Van Pelt really wasn’t needed, and could have been removed from the story altogether.  All it did was extend the run time, and remove the excitement from the film whenever it cut back to whatever he was up to. The story line would have worked perfectly well if it was a simple task of going from A to B, with the jungle trying to defeat you.  The villain was just a distraction, and never really proved a threat.  Villain aside, the film doesn’t really make the most out of the 3 lives gimmick, at no point, do you ever really fear for one of the main characters biting the dust, considering the menacing environment they are in.

Jumanji : Welcome To The Jungle is amusing holiday film, with a wonderful cast, humour, and surprisingly intense action scenes, it really is a blast. Only downside to it really is the mediocre villain, who helps bloat the movie to over two hours.  Even with that, the film pretty much stands on par with its 90s counterpart.

 

 

Thor Ragna-rocks!

The Thor franchise has been a mixed bag, the original movie, back in 2011 wasn’t the most entralling film, rather just a set up to bring Loki into the fold for The Avengers. While The Dark World a few years later was an improvement,  it never really felt like a vital part of the MCU , with an utterly forgettable villain.  Ragnarok, the final part of the trilogy has been by far the most captivating Thor adventure yet, with the trailers building up to a far more essential chapter of the story, with an ever so vibrant cast and aesthetic.

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Ragnarok picks up a few years after Age of Ultron. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is on the search for the infinity stones, to prevent the apocalyptic visions in his dreams, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), after leaving the scene following AoU, has ended up on an alien planet, and Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) now resides as King of Asgard (be it under disguise!). Things are cranked up several notches with the appearance of the omnipotent Hela (Cate Blanchett) , who’s return signifies the arrival of Ragnarok,  the  prophecy that states the destruction of Asgard.

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Thor Ragnarok has received massive critical acclaim, currently standing at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s well deserved.  Taika Waititi has woven a wonderful tale filled with humour, colour, action & drama.  Ragnarok, of all things, is one of the funniest movies of the year so far. Up there with Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of laughs per minute ! Be it Thor’s bickering with Loki or Hulk, Loki’s nervous behavior around Hulk or Hela’s disdain to pretty much everything, the film knocks out jokes throughout it’s entire run time. The supporting cast all have their moments too, but the star of the under-card has to be Korg (played by Waititi himself!), the alien guardian of Thor’s gladiatorial prison, whose non-nonchalant one liners will have the audience in stitches. Jeff Golblum is also absurdly entertaining as the peculiar Grandmaster.

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The humour aside, Ragnarok still possesses a story line that has vast consequences on the rest of the MCU. The threat is very much real, a threat which is perfectly captured by the introduction of Hela.  One of the biggest criticisms of the Marvel movies are it’s lack of villains,  but here, Hela is one of the most foreboding villains introduced so far. Being able to easily handle both Thor & Loki, and making small work of the Asgardian army.  With the gradual turn of Loki towards the side of good, it was vital to replace him with a suitable antagonist. The removal of Jane Foster, who fans never really cared for, being replaced by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson),  was a good move. Matching Thor up with someone who feels more suitable to his personality.

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Visually, Ragnarok is gorgeous to look at.  It’s simply vivid. The promotional artwork has displayed this change of direction, but the film looks so energetic. Saarkar, the planet is which our hero is stranded on, makes up a fair portion of the movie. A planet with is full of buzz and activity.  It’s colour palette is one similar to the zesty displays of Guardians franchise. Compare is to the previous 2 films, and it feels like a totally different franchise!

Though Ragnarok can be criticized for leaning on the side of comedy a bit too much, at times, all the jokes do feel overwhelming. It’s fair to say the character of Thor is seen  pretty much as a skull headed joke to everyone.  Thor seems to be the butt of most of everyone jokes, even random strangers on the street has a dig at him! Thor has always been one of the more light hearted characters, but it does go a bit too far from time to time.

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Ragnarok is certainly one of the most fun films of the year so far,  with the addition of new characters like the impressive Valkyrie & Korg, combined with the stellar cast, constant gags (”What are you, the God of Hammers?”), entertaining cameos, and a mighty villain. This may be one of the best Marvel movies yet.

 

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

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.

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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….

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