Star Wars: The Last Jedi – official trailer reaction

So sort of surprisingly, we got a new Last Jedi trailer following New York Comic Con and well hey, a new Star Wars trailer is always welcome, anyway let’s get right in. We open to Supreme leader snoke talking about someone (probably…. Kylo Ren I imagine), as he and the first order march into somewhere, that looks quite like the Jedi hideout place look was in.

Rey utilises Lukes lightsaber and hands it to him, doing some training of her own with Luke by her side and she’s powerful all right, enough to sort of surprise Luke it seems (maybe Snoke was talking about Rey?) but what do you know, Luke is a bit scared of her because of her power and potential to go the Dark side and with Vaders and Kylo Rens pasts, who would blame him. Is this Luke turning his back on Rey already? The First Order attacks a rebel fleet and Kylo Ren seemingly is about to out General Leia.

War and conflict seem to be major themes here and speaking of returning characters, Finn and the Chrometrooper are both back and they duke it out, while some new weird but cool looking aliens debut, including a plushy thing and some ice wolves (on the planet the AT-ATs are attacking maybe). And finally we do see Lord Snoke up close and he is talking to an incapacitated Rey as he does some force stuff on her, maybe he’s trying to influence her or something along those lines…. And the final shot is Rey asking for guidance on what she needs to do, sure she’s talking to Luke right…. Nope, she’s talking to Kylo Ren, wait what? Is she going to the dark side just like that? All because Luke rejected her in a way?

It’s very strange but intriguing, I think Rey isn’t straight up evil but she’s a bit confused and just wants guidance from somewhere, Luke being reluctant makes sense but if he abandons Rey altogether, it seems a bit out of character (though he is thinking of Kylo Ren), so yeah interesting stuff, a pretty dark trailer for what is set to be a dark but intriguing film. Luke wants the Jedi to end and won’t train Rey seemingly, Rey seems to want to join with Kylo Ren and the First Order is back. I can’t wait to see it!

War For The Planet Of The Apes – review

Matt Reeves directs the third and final instalment in the new Apes franchise as we follow Caesar and his followers as they contend to survive against an encroaching human army, set on wiping them out for good, the film stars Any Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Amiah Miller, Tery Notary and Toby Kebell.

I’ve always found the Apes films an intriguing premise and idea, though my levels of interest in specific films hasn’t been that high. this recent trilogy has gotten my interest and I’ve followed the series with a fair level of engagement, the final entry in the trilogy understandably looked a bit darker, with a sense of finality about it and Matt Reeves brings a mature, dark themed touch to it. Much in line with the themes present in Rise and Dawn preceding War and that’s no easy feat, having to sort of humanise a film with half of its cast being motion capture CGI and having to empathise with apes is a hard task but it is quite effectively achieved.

In a big way due to some stellar CG, with the most photo realistic apes/primates I’ve seen on the big screen and in part due to some of the Apes characterization, namely in the moral but conflicted Caesar, very human in his actions and persona and played excellently by the stalwart Andy Serkis. The film generally has strong performances and Caesars moral, stoic leadership is brought into stark contrast with the brutal, dogmatic Colonel played by Woody Harrelson. Harrelson is a great fit for the role and brings into question humanity in general with some of the things he does and this further brings conflicting views as you watch in terms of who you should be rooting for, though I don’t think that’s the point of the film and you’ve probably made up your mind on whose side your own by this point in the trilogy.

More to the point is just the sheer portrayal of war and its brutality in this case, the apes representing the less technologically advanced ‘people’ at war with a superior power, though the Apes have intelligence, can ride horses and use weapons, they’re obviously still up against it but they soldier on and try to survive. This makes their plight easy to empathise with, though it’s interesting to see that not even all of the apes are necessarily on Caesars side as we know with the now dead Koba, prime antagonist to Caesar in previous films and still, some apes choose to side with humans, which makes for interesting moral choices that Caesar and his followers have to follow. Choices that I didn’t expect to see but choices that are present in war itself, highlighting how ugly and dark it can be. Ultimately War for the planet of the apes is an engaging  and emotionally gripping ride both for the remaining humans and for Caesar, with well done dramatic moments, tense action and an intriguing look at the morality and driving force for fighting on either side of the war.

7/10

. Well done dramatic moments

. Strong performances

.

Life – review

So it’s finally come to this, I’m reviewing Life, no not the abstract concept but the sci-fi thriller film that came out a few months ago, directed by Daniel Espinosa, the story following a select crew aboard the ISS who come into contact with the first alien life form discovered, though they discover that may not be a great thing, the film stars Jake Gylenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds and Hiroyuki Sanada.

Ah the classic cautrionary tale about Alien life, it feels so familiar now that the average person would probably be a bit scared if we ever did find alien life in real life but this is a fictional story so *phew*. Anyway Life takes a pretty modern approach to things in the way it presents its story, aboard the ISS and with not too many straight up sci-fi  aspects, the story isn’t really set too far in the future (if at all) and feels almost believable, aside the crew discovering an alien life form so conveniently. What I do like about the film is it’s no holds barred approach to things, it’s quite raw and more science heavy than science fiction and that made for a nice change to the alien Vs space crew trope, so no laser pistols here (though lasers are always cool).

This strong science approach has its limits though and without spoiling things further, let’s just say the plot gets progressively sillier in my view, despite the writing generally being decent as things devolve into generic space thriller territory, the film doesn’t really try to d anything different, new or exciting which is why you probably never saw it or completely forgot about it if you did. But another positive is the acting, it’s actually pretty good to be fair with some cop class actors in the evergreen Jake Gylenhaal and the brilliant Rebecca Ferguson, arguably both of them being a bit wasted on a pretty lackluster film, they still do give a good effort and help elevate a pretty bland story.

The problem with Life is that it rushes into generic thriller territory all too comfortably without trying any attempt at nuance or standing out and fair enough, maybe there wasn’t any intention to make a point or be thought provoking with the story and that’s okay but a little more time to build suspense around the alien would have been welcome. The result is a pretty generic story that feels all too familiar, with predictable plot points and a plot that gets worse as it goes along.

5.5/10

. Plot is by the numbers, predictable

. Story feels weirdly rushed

. Has some decent performances

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – review

Matthew Vaughn directs the return to the world of Kingsman, as we follow Eggsy and Merlin, out of resources and seemingly allies after their headquarters is destroyed by a mysterious attack, they head to the USA to team up with the Statesmen, their American counterparts to take on a megalomaniac with nefarious plans. The film stars Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Channing Tatum, Pedro Pascal, Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Hannah Alstrom, Sophie Cookson and Elton John.

Often lewd, unapologetic-ly brash but unrelentingly entertaining, Kingsman makes its return with very familiar style and this time around, everything is turned up to 100, the action is fast and furious and right away you’re thrown into the tone and pace of the plot, which is a tad frantic but the good kind of frantic, with the sort of borderline cartoony action style that Matthew Vaugh shoots in for some scenes. This may be off putting to some in terms of the frequency of such scenes in the film but if makes for some pretty flashy set pieces with great choreography.

And make no mistake, the film is big and bold – it is set mostly in America after all and with the Statesmen comes new gadgets, new characters and new threats of course and while it would normally feel cliché to shoehorn in more characters to expand the world in a sequel, the new characters introduced from the Statesmen are great, namely Tequila (Channing Tatum) and Whiskey (Pedro Pascal), each spy being named after alcohol. They’re both pretty great in their roles but Pascal especially is pretty memorable as the Lasso twirling Whiskey and to expand on the performances a bit more, everyone’s quite good in fact, Mark Strong is again brilliant as the ever calm and collected Merlin, meanwhile Taron Egerton brings another strong performance as Eggsy, while the returning Colin Firth is fantastic as Harry but going into more details would spoil things a bit too much.

That being said, the characters interactions are great, especially between the Kingsman and Statesemen, culutral differences and all and there are some pretty fantastic dramatic moments peppered through the story, making for great bridging scenes and slowing the often frantic pacing down but not to a crawl as important plot points keep things moving in an interesting way, the film still has its lewd moments for sure but it feels a bit more mature at the same time. Touching on issues like mental health and drug use, with an often repeated line narrative about illegal drugs and the war on drugs being a major plot point and a well worked in one I feel, the argument actually sort of makes sense and it also feels very relevant and current in relation to real society, so touché writers. Another thing I really enjoyed about the film apart from the great action is the irreverence again present in the film, Eggsy is the street kid turned gentlemen spy but he’s still a street kid at heart and he shows it in how he talks to people and reacts to situations that he’s in. And being confronted with hard to deal with situations, he reacts like any normal person would and not like a ruthless, clinocal spy *Cough*James Bond* and these qualities further endear him and make him easy to sympathise with.

Ultimately Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a tad ridiculous, over the top, frantic but still just very entertaining at its score, being the bigger, bolder sequel in a few regards but still retaining the quirky, irreverent humour that made the first film such a hit, the plot may not be as tight as The Secret Service but it’s still a thrilling, engaging romp of a film nonetheless with a nice touch of well done dramatic moments.

7/10

. Great action set pieces

. Intriguing plot points, twists and turns

. Certain lewd moments may turn viewers off

October film preview

So here we are, getting into the nitty gritty of 2017, with 3 months of the year remaining now as we get into the build up to awards season, there are few big ‘uns on the way and here are a few:

Blade Runner 2049 – released on the 6th of October

Directed by Denis Vilenuve

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Dave Bautista, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas.

Sequel to the iconic Bladerunner, sees a new young new blade runner track down the infamous Rick Deckard who has not been seen for 30 years.

 

Happy Death Day – released on the 13th of OCtober

Directed by Christopher Landon

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews.

Mystery thriller following a college student who must relive the terrifying day of her murder, finding out new details until she finds out who the killer is.

 

The Foreigner – released on the 13th of October

Directed by Martin Campbell

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy and Michael McElHatton.

A humble man unrelentingly seeks revenge and justice after his daughter is killed in a terrorist attack, seeking information on the bombers identity, he engages with a government worker in an intricate back and forth game as he hunts for the truth.

 

The Snowman – released on the 13th of October

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Chloe Sevigny.

Mystery crime thriller set around a detective investigating a disappearance of a woman which saw her scarf tied mysteriously around a snowman, as well as other murders again tied to the use of snowmen.

 

Jigsaw – released on the 27th of October

Directed by Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig

Starring: Laura Vandervoort, Tobin Bell, Brittanny Allen.

After bodies turn up in cities with gruesome murders tied to them, investigating takes place, tying them to John Kramer however the Jigsaw killer has been dead for 10 years…. or so we think.

Free Fire – review

Free Fire is a crime drama directed by Ben Wheatley, set in in 1978 Boston, as two gangs show up to a warehouse for an arms deal, the film stars Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, Michael Smiley and Cillian Murphy.

One of the most positively any fims I’ve seen in a while, Free Fire is actually a breath of fresh air for the somewhat tired crime genre, the final result is something expected but still enjoyable nonetheless and with a pretty great cast to kick things into gear, you know you’re in for a bit of a ride. The films set up feels very familiar with gangs meeting for an arms deal and what could possibly go wrong…. well things would be a bit dull with a familiar set up and generic by the numbers plot but what makes the film in essence, is its strong, distinct characters. Helmed by some quite good writing and that quirky, late 70s aesthetic to the characters outfits.

Said characters are played well by character actors like Sharlto Copley, hamming it up as a short tempered South African arms dealer, he feels very natural in the role as a mouthy yet prim and proper individual and it makes for some great scenes playing off other characters like Ord (Armie Hammer) who is every bit the suave, confident and assured straight dealer with Hammer seemingly enjoying himself quite a bit. Meanwhile characters in the Irish gang are themselves distinct and strong willed, especially with the foul tempered Frank (Michael Smiley), the performances actually surprised me to be honest as I wasn’t expecting anything outstanding from the story but there were some fairly strong performances present.

The action is gritty, a tad gory but never needlessly so I feel, not to the level of say Green Room or Reservoir Dogs (the film Free Fire) will naturally be compared to but make no mistake, the film is fairly bloody and that may be one of the weaker points of the film for me, only because the over the top, extended action ends up making the film feel like an extended Family guy sket. And the final third is definitely the weakest part to the film in my opinion. Indeed the film ends up like a family guy sket or a Tarantino lite film. It’s Tarantino lite because it’s nowhere near as heavy on the extended dialogue or references or as well written but similar in terms of the single setting, long takes and over the top action, this may prove a joy to watch for some or a poor homage for others – namely an homage to Tarantino films.

But for what it’s worth, the film does what it does fairly well, it’s entertaining, engaging and chock full of strong, interesting characters fun, wacky interactions and a plot that keeps you on your toes, simplicity is the key here and it works for the most part, though if you’re expecting any depth or a heavy amount of story, you’ll probably be disappointed.

7/10

. Well shot action

. Strong performances, engaging characters

. Final third may feel a bit too over the top

The Lego Batman movie – review

The caped crusader gets his latest outing.. now in Lego form, in The Lego Batman Movie, direted by Chris Mckay, Batman, Gothams protector tackles a new issue, among others after accidentally adopting a son (Robin), the film stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Susan Benett, Zach Galifinakis, Jenny Slate, Conan O’Brien, Doug Benson and Billy Dee Williams.

Who would have thought that in 2017 we’d have lego films… no less Lego Batman films but here we are and it’s actually not a bad thing as things turn out, following the critical success of the Lego Movie which also featured Batman in and with the just released Lego Ninjago movie, Lego Batman retains much of the same irreverence and sense of humour from the first film in this series. With quirky, fast paced action that doesn’t take itself too seriously, which works to great comedic effect with the ever serious and introspective Batman, we see sides to the character we’ve never really seen with sides of Batman being exaggerated for humour, Will Arnetts’ Batman is arrogant, obsessed with abs and quick to disregard others.

This is obviously at odds with Batmans traditional selflessness, humility and so on but this is a comedy film and it does comedy well, anyway among the numerous good things the film does, the voice acting is a great feature, with a truly A-star cast, the actors really bring a high amount of enthusiasm to the role, with added gravitas with the likes of Billy Dee Williams and Ralph Fiennes who makes for an excellent Alfred. Arnett is great again as Batman, with the deep, gravelly voice we’ve come to know for modern depictions of Batman, coupled with bro humour and quirkyness, the film is great because it doesn’t take itself seriously and never tries to, despite some dramatic and emotional moments thrown in. It’s great to see several of the Bat family and Batman characters in general thrown into the mix and interacting with this version of Batman as well and it makes for good viewing because we’re seeing a very different depiction of Batman interact with said characters.

There’s also a great meta aspect to the story, as with The Lego Movie, referencing characters from other films even, as well as storylines and characters from Batmans universe, all down to the most ridiculous ones, to previous incarnations of Batman across the big screen, which was one of the funniest scenes in the film imo. It’s great to see the film both pay homage and reference Batmans history, acknowledging the ridiculous sides to the character and its mythos while stile praising and honouring him, y’know, because he’s Batman. The story also has a great flow to it, positively zipping by even at 104 minutes of runtime, the pacing is great and the action sequences are evenly spaed out, with well done dramatic moments to boot.

Believe it or not, The Lego Batman Movie is one of the best Batman films, being entertaining, engaging and an interesting study of Batmans psyche, it’s also just really funny and that’s probably why you saw it or will see it in the future, if you haven’t yet. (But trust me see it.)

7/10

. Brilliant voice acting, especially Ralph Fiennes, Will Arnett and Rosario Dawson

. Clever, funny referencing to Batmans history

. Great pacing, engaging story

The Hitmans’ Bodyguard – review

The Hitmans’ Bodyguard is a comedy action film directed by Patrick Hughes, as we follow Michael Bryce, professional bodyguard who’s tasked with escorting a notorious hitman to the Hague for a trial, the film stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L Jackson, Elodie Young and Gary Oldman.

Ah the good old buddy cop, well buddy hitman film in this case, a tried and true sub-genre that has seen mixed success over the years, we clearly get a lot less of them these days though and I think I know why, the straight man – crazy man pairing is played for the film with Kincaid (Samuel L Jackson) as the notorious, foul mouthed hitman while Ryan Reynolds is possibly playing against type as Michael Bryce, the straightman.

It’s an interesting mix of roles, though Sam Jackson is no stranger to action, gun slinging roles and though Reynolds is playing against type a bit, both lead actors roles feel very familiar and Reynolds essentially plays Ryan Reynolds, the same sort of quippy, fast talking dude which usually works but this time around fell a bit flat, not because Reynolds is bad in the film – he’s serviceable but the film just felt a bit by the numbers. I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular of course and anticipated a fairly cliché, silly plot but I was expecting some better, well worked humour, there’s a lot of action but unfortunately not a lot of good humour which did take my by surprise, especially with the two lead actors. That being said, there are some funny moments and Reynolds/Jacksons pairing in the way its presented is fairly funy to me

Anyway the action present is decent, a bit cartoony in actual fact but nothing spectacular, with mostly forgettable set pieces that act like bridging sequences between scenes, the story is naturally a bit action focused but doesn’t really make action the highlight, despite some fairly intense show downs. That hyper realistic, cartoony tone to the story is actually a bit of a downer in the long run, not allowing you to take the film seriously when it comes to the slower, more dramatic moments, knowing there’s a joke probably just around the corner.

Utimately the film is a bit of a wet blanket, not particularly that entertaining or funny, which were the main selling points of it I feel, with very familiar feeling roles for the lead actors but unfortunately not enough humorous moments for what could have been a funnier film.

6/10

. Plot is by the numbers, dull

. Film just isn’t that funny, though Reynolds and Jackson are great

. Action feels weightless, lacks impact

It Comes At Night – review

Trey Edward Shults directs It Comes At Night, a film centred on a small family living in the middle of the woods, trying to keep themselves safe from a mysterious illness, their equilibrium is disrupted by the appearance of another man and his family, the film stars Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough and Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Cerebral, psychological horror in the vein of Z for Zachariah, this film follows a similar set up but with a somewhat paranoid family living in a remote cabin in the woods, which is the set up for so many horror films in days gone by. Anyway the film works with simplicity and implied, insinuated horror, less can sometimes can be more and in this case, it works but doing it is risky as the simplistic approach to storytelling and world building can be either be an abject failure or a big success, with not many films falling in between.

What works for It Comes At Night is its components, with a very small, intimate cast, the performances needed to be on point and they are, the stalwart Joel Edgerton is utterly convincing in his role as Paul, a paranoid but caring father who is wary of anything from the outside world, he’s married to Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and they have one child Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr), who’s a teenager, a bit more trusting of the outside world and clearly wanting for a bit of fun and to possibly get outside. Meanwhile the side characters give some pretty great, naturalistic performances from bonding to arguing, they feel like very real people and it’s a credit to the good writing.

Going outside is the problem however, with an unknown threat lurking outside the cabin and seemingly causing a mysterious illness, somewhat frustratingly we don’t necessarily get all questions answered and the story is really kept between the small, main cast but without really getting to see the threat explicitly, we’re forced to use our imagination.

This is where a film and director will either lose their audience or keep them engaged but I remain engaged, how much of the events are ambiguous, are certain characters just overly paranoid? The questions are all interesting and they’re carried by an engaging plot that’s filled with a lot more drama and action than I anticipated actually and while there are some slower moments, they don’t take up huge swathes of the plot and the visceral nature of the story has events happening that are enthralling and gripping. Simply enough, not knowing the full details keeps the mysterious outside pretty terrifying and you put yourself in the shoes of the characters inside, you don’t know what’s out there and fear of the unknown remains a key, primal human fear. With the great cinematography in the film helping to emphasize tension in certain scenes, from giving us character perspectives to using long shots for scenes with extended dialogue for example. Ultimately It Comes At Night isn’t for everyone but for what it does, it does well, remaining a psychologically teasing horror film with some great acting and just as good cinematography, all of your questions about the story won’t be answered but the journey is well worth it.

7/10

. Has some strong performances, great writing to make naturalistic dialogue and interactions

. Great cinematography

The Dark Tower – review

Nikolaj Arcel directs The Dark Tower, an adaptation of a story from Stephen Kings famous series of the same name, set in modern day New York and also in an alternate reality, plagued by The Man In Black who wants to bring down an important tower to wreak havoc on both worlds, the only thing in his way is the last Gunslinger, the film stars Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor, Dennis Haysbert.

On the face of it, The Dark Tower sounds pretty intriguing, dark towers, a man in black, magical powers, the trailer really sold the film imo but upon execution, you realise that a lot more effort probably should have gone into its production and for a quick summary, the film feels a lot more like either an entry point to a series/trilogy or a TV film to be honest, with a lot of story being crammed into a tiny 90 minute runtime. And funnily enough, this is a time for a big blockbuster film that exposition was badly needed, for people unfamiliar with The Dark Tower which is quite a lot of people as it turns out, without any real explanation aside from a few lines thrown loosely, who were the gunslingers? What is the man in black, why does he have powers? What is the dark tower?

And that’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure more questions came to mind for viewers while watching and frustratingly not a lot of them really get addressed, you’re thrust into the story as a viewer and things just are, which is a shame because the world itself is interesting but could have used more context, oh there are just portals to the alternate reality that has existed alongside Earth in random places, okay….. how? Where did they come from? Who are these people who work for the Man in Black? The lack of context also doesn’t help with how the film comes across, with everything just feeling a bit rushed with a lot of story crammed into the allocated runtime,

Anyway, annoyances aside, the film is ambitious, to take on this story for a 90 minute runtime for one and the performances are good, Idris Elbra is good as Roland, a stoic, heroic protagonist who faces off against McConaughey the menacing Man in black, who does carry genuine menace about him I feel and the action, while nothing spectacular is bit cool with some inventive set pieces in the plot. But ultimately The Dark tower is just a bit of a wet blanket, not making much of an impact and nowhere near the impact it could and really should have made, with an inherently rushed plot that would have worked logically far better as TV series or a trilogy and not a standalone film.

6/10

. Lack of context for the world or plot points makes the world seem poorly constructed

. Plot feels way too rushed