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.

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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

 

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The Last Jedi, It Disappoints

The Force Awakens was a nostalgic action packed throwback, that helped the franchise get back on track, following the thoroughly underwhelming Prequel trilogy from the Early 00’s. Since then, we’ve also had the well acclaimed spin-off, Rogue One. So expectations were sky high for the latest instalment in the saga, Episode VIII, The Last Jedi.

One of the biggest criticism of TFA was the fact it stuck pretty close to its guns, and essentially, it was a rehash of the story from A New Hope, with a fresh coat of paint. In all fairness, it was a safety first approach,  but it payed off, but with the sequel, the studio would have to be brave and shake things up.  To keep this spoiler free, this review will be pretty concise!

TLJ carries on straight after the end of TFA, as Rey (Daisy Ridley) tracks down the reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In search for the guidance she requires to help the resistance fight off the imminent threat of the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), and a bemused Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), having suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Rey last time around.

What TLJ does right, it does supremely well.  The space battles as always are stunning to watch, the opening scenes of the resistance taking down a dreadnought,  not only shows us the underdog nature of this war, but also the morbid consequences that follow even after the battle has been won. The final act, that takes place on the salt plains of Crait is a visual treat. Star Wars is a franchise that rarely uses blood, so the red marks left on the surface of the plains makes it a great method to show the brutality of the situation without resorting to the red stuff!

The dynamic between Rey & Kylo is intriguing throughout the film, both of our characters are conflicted in their own ways,  and seeing them try to understand each others motivations adds a new layer to a story trying to play it different.  Luke is also another highlight of the show, Mark Hamill has always been the one who engages the most with his fans regarding Star Wars, even to this day he still loves the fact he is Luke Skywalker! The battle scenes are as strong as ever, though the light-saber action is a bit on the downside here, the show down in Snoke’s throne room is wonderfully choreographed and shot. There is also a surprising cameo from a well loved character from Star Wars past, which will have the fans smiling.

This movie has been controversial to say the least,  with fans having a far more scathing assessment than the largely positive critic reviews. To be honest, there are several flaws that really do effect the enjoyment of the movie. To avoid any big spoilers, these will be listed in a vague way, to avoid revealing too much of the story! The whole Finn & Rose arch feels very unnecessary, a way to simply pad out the already bloated run time. Finn is also reduced to very much a side character,  which is a shame, considering how charismatic John Boyega is.  There are several plot points from TFA that just seem to disappear,  Rian Johnson, taking over from J J Abrams, seems to have struggled to weave the two movies together seamlessly. There are also decisions made by the some characters that really make no sense,  seemingly only done to create another plot narrative, such as Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), whose peculiar decision making serves no real purpose apart from creating tension.

Overall, I found TLJ a bit disappointing, The usual Star Wars shine is there, with its outlandish characters, charm and familiarity.  TFA may have been some more of the same, but it still provided the audience with enjoyment, and a tidy plot.  TLJ is unfortunately riddled with plot holes, character motivations and frankly some bizarre scenes (to be discussed in the spoiler review!).

 

2016: what we enjoyed!

2016 has been another busy year for movies, in no particular order, here are some of the films that stood out for me this last calendar year! Just a note, these are films that I managed to watch myself, so some films may have been left out! If there is something you think deserves a shout out, do leave a comment 🙂


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10 Cloverfield Lane

10 Cloverfield Lane was a film that could have worked without the Cloverfield name, as it’s a vastly different film from the 2008 monster movie. What we got a spectacularly intense thriller. The film is essentially set entirely in one location, as we follow Michelle, who happens to be held captive in an underground bunker by stranger. He says that he saved her, and the world outside has been attacked. Is he telling the truth? Or is he just a madman with issues? John Goodman steals the show with his intimidating performance as the captor. It’s a game of cat and mouse, can she trust him, and should she make a run for it? Is it really dangerous outside? A fantastic movie!


 

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Zootropolis / Zootopia

This was released here in the UK, around the same time as the nostalgic The Jungle Book, but the sheer originality of this movie just edges it in front! Following the adventure of a buddy cop duo, Disney once again delivers gold. Zootropolis is a film that both kids and adults can enjoy. Yes, it has all the usual Disney charm, bright colours, fun characters and vivid locations. The film also discusses deeper issues, such as racism & prejudice, something that really did surprise me when I watched it. The lead duo share great chemistry, and the film is filled with jokes (for both children and grownups!). A must watch!


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Moana

Moana is a film that most certainly deserved a lot more attention and marketing that it got. Seemingly forgotten in the late November/early December box office, and eclipsed by Rogue One, it was a curious decision to release it at that time. Personally, Moana is one of Disney’s finest animated films. It breaks away from the traditional princess storyline, instead focussing on saving the world. The ocean theme worked beautifully, the animation for the water is simply magnificent.  The characters are very charismatic, Moana is a determined, driven protagonist, and Dwayne Johnson does a stellar job as the wise cracking demi-god Maui. They play well off one another, and their interactions are great to see. Finally, the music is of course on point, especially the recurring main theme.


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Kubo and the Two Strings

It was a strong year for animated movies, as this list shows! What made Kubo stand out was the animation. The stop motion animation gave it a unique charm that combined well with its story. As one review online mentioned, it is pretty much The Legend of Zelda, if it was made into a film! Following the adventure of a young hero, to obtain the legendary items,  and save the world from evil! The casting was excellent for this, featuring the likes of Ralph Feinnes, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey & George Takei. It should be a strong contender for the Oscar for Best Animated Film; though it would do well to fight off the challenges from the Disney juggernauts.


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Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) race into battle against Iron Man’s group in “Captain America: Civil War.”

Captain America: Civil War

Well this was bound to be on here!! The biggest blockbuster of the year delivered after all the hype. Where Dawn of Justice failed, Civil War succeeded. The MCU has been building up over several years, and it all culminated here. It could have been easy to turn this movie into a complicated mess, considering the number of heroes involved, but they managed to blend them all in with the right quantity. The action scenes were amazing, the humour was typical Marvel, and the storyline was just as intriguing. The marketing for the film was based of choosing a side, but the film actually does very well to display both sides of the fight.  Also, the introduction of Black Panther and Spiderman was a win!


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Lights Out

It’s been a sensational year for horror fans, 2016 has seen several outstanding scares arrive at the big screen. Conjuring 2, Origins of Evil & Don’t Breathe were all great, but if I could only choose one, it would have to be Lights Out. Not only did it have a unique concept (spoilers alert, keep the lights on!) but it was one of the few films that didn’t fall into the trap of the usual horror film cliches! Shall I run back inside alone? Or get some help? We know how it works with most horror films, but they change it up here! Yes the backstory behind the ‘ghost’ was abit of a mess, but that shouldn’t take away from a well-made scare. Whereas Don’t Breathe & Conjuring 2 got slightly ridiculous near its finale, this film manages to stay on course.


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Rogue One

What’s left to be said about Rogue One? It’s our latest review, so feel free to check out our in-depth analysis elsewhere on our site! To keep it straight-forward for this, all I can say is that Rogue One has a high bar to clear after The Force Awakens, and it cleared it with ease! Yes it has its flaws, as does every film, it’s not perfect. It is however, a story that is essential to the Star Wars universe, with a fine ensemble cast, and a movie that is dramatically different to the other films in the franchise. The more mature and dark tone to the film really makes it stand out from the rest, and a cameo from a certain Star Wars legend is a treat for every fan!


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The Shallows

 A film that snuck under the radar during the Summer box office rush, but The Shallows was a highly enjoyable shark film! Films such as the Sharknado series have really taken the shine of Shark films, becoming more of a joke, than a serious threat. The Shallows takes the genre back to its roots, such as Jaws. The film follows a surfer stranded off the coast of a beach, being stalked by a vengeful shark! It’s a battle of wits, yes, the shark is a tad over the top, but it’s not Sharknado levels of ridicule. It’s also a beautiful film to look at; the location is stunning and the surfing shots are majestically executed. It may not have been the biggest movie this year, but one I most certainly enjoyed.


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Arrival

This was an Alien invasion movie like no other. What we got with Arrival was a smart, cerebral drama, as opposed to the typical alien attack films that we get. Director Denis Villeneuve captures the movie is such a way, the invasion almost feels like a mystical experience, rather than an apocalyptic event. The key here is Language, and how powerful it is. It’s about the science, and not the shooting!  It makes a nice change, and an interesting twist on the Alien genre. Amy Adams delivers a powerful performance here, which should see her rewarded with at least an Oscar nomination come the New Year! It’s that good!

Rogue One ends 2016 in style!

The Force Awakens, managed to bring back the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy, together with making Star Wars a huge Box Office draw once again. Rogue One was announced as the first of a collection of stand-alone films, known as the Star Wars Anthology. The Force Awakens (TFA) strongly lent on the influences of past movies, but could Rogue One replicate its success without using past foundations to build upon?

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Rogue One is the story of an intrepid group of rebels, who attempt to steal the plans which would aid the resistance to take down the impending creation of the apocalyptic Death Star. Our protagonist, Jyn Erso (Jones) is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mikkleson), who as a child, witnesses her father being taken away by the Galactic Empire to assist the completion of the super-weapon. Several years in the future, fate has her confront the consequences of the father’s actions, and plans one final assault to save millions of lives.

She is joined by several resistance fighters, who are all willing to go into a battle against all the odd. Cassian Andor (Luna), a member of the Rebel Alliance together with his reprogrammed Imperial droid, K-2SO (Tudyk). Defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), who has the vital intel for the mission. Chirrut Imwe (Yen), a blind fighter, who believes that he has ‘The Force’ and his best friend, Baze Malbus (Wen), who provides the firepower and muscle for his blind friend!

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The biggest challenge facing director Gareth Edwards was to take a group of virtually unknown characters, and make them work in a Star Wars film with very little Jedi & Lightsabre action! The film even goes as far as skipping the iconic ‘opening crawl’ during the opening credits, nor does it have the triumphant John Williams score at the start. What’s important to know here, is that these heroes do not have ‘The Force’, they are not Jedis, nor do they have any kind of super-power to make them stand out from the crowd. They’re just a group of regular (in the grand scheme of Star Wars!) people.

What we get, and it’s a huge compliment to the director, is a wonderful addition to the franchise. It’s a departure from the norm, and that’s what makes this film shine brightest. The overall tone of the movie is very dark; death and tragedy are a big part of the film. Even the Stormtroopers look like they mean business! There’s just something about the black uniform that makes them feel that much more imposing.

The casting here was on point. Donnie Yen as the blind warrior was a master-stroke! Providing not just the fine choreographed fight scenes he is well known for, but also giving the film some of its more humorous moments. Speaking of humour, Tudyk is a show stealer as the Droid devoid of any empathy! Regardless of the situation, K-2SO will give his brutally honest opinion. It was also nice to see Riz Ahmed get a role differing from his usual typecast, which allowed him to show another side to his acting calibre.

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One casting decision that did raise a few eyebrows was to digitally recreate the late Peter Cushing to reprise his infamous role as Commander Tarkin. The director believed that only Cushing could portray the villain, as controversial as the decision was, we had to admit, that the CGI technology has come a long way! Considering Tarkin has a considerable amount of dialogue in the movie, it could have looked awkward, but the result is mightily impressive. Apart from the longer moments of dialogue, it shouldn’t bother viewers too much. There is also one brief cameo from another character CGIed to look like their selves from Episodes 4-6. It’s only a few seconds, but I believe it was worth it, the scene would not have had the same impact had it only been filmed from behind.

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A quick mention regarding a spoiler from the trailers. Yes, Darth Vader does appear in Rogue One! James Earl Jones once again reprises one of the most iconic roles in all cinema! His presence in the movie is minimalist, only appearing in 3 scenes. The last of which is simply outstanding, and will leave all fans in awe! From a critical standpoint, does he really need to be in this film? Not really, like the Joker from Suicide Squad, his role could have been removed entirely. But unlike Suicide Squad, the decision to put him in was justified just for his final appearance!

So we have a dramatic storyline, a likable bunch of heroes and a new sense of danger not seen before in any SW move before, but what’s going against the film?

One criticism has to be that compared to TFA, the characters here are just not as memorable.  Even after just one film, Rey, Finn & Poe had a chemistry that the characters here just did not have.  We also didn’t get enough time to build up each of the team. Why did Rook decide to defect? The reason is never fully explained. Baze & Chirrut are just stumbled upon and join the team a few scenes later.  The film takes a while to get going, and it would have been better to use some of that time to give the team abit more of a backstory.  Another point to mention is that several scenes from the trailer were removed in the final cut. Will these scenes be in the extended edition? Or were they simply edited in to tempt viewers? Regardless, it’s become a worrying trend recently in Hollywood.

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With those gripes aside, Rogue One may have entered the year very late, but it’s already laid a marker in being the best film of the year. The supporting cast, including the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker & Ben Mendelsohn, all deliver stellar performances. TFA was impressive, but it did lack a spark of originality, it was more of a tribute to the films from before, also relying on bringing back past characters to help. What Rogue One manages to do is create a brand new film, without any major assistance. It also answers a burning question fans have been asking ever since A New Hope, which actually makes this film rather important in Star Wars lore!

Is it the best film if the year? Personally, Captain America : Civil War takes that crown. But Rogue One pushes it mighty close! Go and see it now!

 

 

 

On Set : In Japan

 

After spending a week or so, over 9000km away in the land of the rising sun. I thought I would share a few of my holiday photos here. Be it famous locations from movies, or just any movie related snap I happened to take! So enjoy! Maybe we can make this a feature whenever one of us go overseas! 😀


Neon Tokyo, It’s bound to appear in any film that is shot in Tokyo. Shibuya District is area that many film fans will recognise instantly! With all its buildings lit up like Christmas  and the legions of buzzing crowds, it’s synonymous with metropolitan Japan. It’s the go to backdrop for Tokyo nightlife in movies! It’s very prominent in The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift and also appears in Lost in Translation, The Grudge and Kill Bill Vol 1 to name a few. Usually in the ‘staring out the back seat of a taxi’ scenes they love to shoot!

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The tower that has been on the receiving end of several attacks from Godzilla & Co. It does get destroyed a lot! The iconic Tokyo Tower is a common sight in the backdrop of any film shot in Tokyo. Like how the Eiffel Tower always appears in any Parisian scene, regardless of where in Paris the film is being filmed!

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We found an antiques store in the markets of Osaka, they was selling these posters/scrolls of classical films from back in the days. A lot of Samurai that’s for sure! Loved the vintage feel to these!

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Capsule Machines are all the rage over there, found this awesome Harry Potter version! Shame I had no coins on me at the time to get one as a memento! I noticed that the Harry Potter franchise is absolutely massive there.

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Some great Star Wars wooden dolls in Kyoto! Frozen also sneaking into the shot! A bit pricey though…………

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A cinema! Apart from Girl On The Train, no idea what their showing!!…………


A DC movie stand in one of the many department stores, on the Suicide Squad hype!

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Although not the exact location, but the bamboo groves in Kyoto are most definitely reminiscent of the memorable Bamboo forest scene from House of Flying Daggers.

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After a couple of hours drive west from the capital, we arrived in Kyoto. The old capital of the county, and filled with so much charm! There’s are no shortages of temples and shrines here. The 2005 film ‘Memoirs of a Geisha‘ had a few scenes in Kyoto, using the majestic Kiyomizu Dera Temple (Top) and the iconic red gate tunnels at Fushimi Inaro Shrine (Bottom)

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