Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

rogueone_onesheetaThe opening titles of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977/1997) is a major handicap for Rogue One – they let slip ending of the film – so there is no escaping the films ending but as the old saying goes (“it’s not where you are going but how you get there”) Rogue One has opportunity to throw up a few surprises.

In short, Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebellion recover the Death Star plans. We have never been given details of this happened before. The setting of the film has given writers a great opportunity to introduce new characters and also to provide more background to some more familiar faces. There are subtle references to “what is to come” in the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Moments where you honestly think to yourself “Isn’t that [Insert Character]?”. This is fun, but what is interesting is the differences to the other films.

The special effects are exceptional as you would expect for a Star Wars film. All the sets are densely layered full with lots of details – the transformation of Canary Wharf underground station is unbelievable.

For a Disney film, this is quite a departure. Rogue One is darker and more violent than you may expect – it is a war film. You may be shocked by some of the actions and motivations of the characters of the Rebellion. This I feel is refreshing and reflects reality and ugly truth we must face about humanity.

In the original trilogy, the Rebellion are full of Heroes, fighting the good fight against the evil Galactic Empire. But in reality – as we have seen through TV during the civil war in Syria – a rebellion is dirty business and although it is hard to understand at the end of the day and when you appear to have no hope, you may begin to believe that the ends justify the means. Now on to the new characters…

Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn Erso, is a little underwhelming at times in my opinion. In a film universe, where the heroes are force wielding Jedi, a princess and a dashing rouge, she is an ordinary girl and understandably she has a lot to live up to. I think this expectation may have hindered her performance.

I would love to have seen more of a back story for Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). There are moments where we begin to scratch the surface of a tired soldier but we don’t get chance to go any further, as we are rushed off to a new star system. I feel is a he had a darker past to explore, and believe this was a missed opportunity.

Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen – who play Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus respectively – are fantastic and its again disappointing that we don’t see more of them on screen. Disney, if you read this you should do a TV series about them – The Adventures of Baze and Chirrut!

My only criticism of the film is that the pace of the story is simply to fast. All Star Wars film have a fast pace (ignoring parts of Episode’s I-III) bur Rogue One did not need to have a fast pace and I cannot think of a reason why it has to be fast paced. This may have impacted Felicity Jones performance and contributed to the lack of screen time and character development mentioned above.

The pace of the film is likely the product of the re-shoots. I am also left wondering what was left on the cutting room floor and what did the re-shoots change about the film? We may never fully know the real reasons for the re-shoots but I hope those scenes make it onto the deleted scenes for the Blu-Ray/DVD release.

What Rogue One does really well is to show the potentail of the Star Wars Universe to tell a differnet story and I am excited about the possibity for new films and TV series.

Gareth Edwards has gone a long a way since making Monsters (2010). Monsters was an amazing accomplishment for an independent film. He has done a good job with Rogue One but I get the feeling that he is would be a more confident and comfortable director without a bunch studio executives looking over his shoulder.

3.8 / 5 – A good film. However, the pace of the film is just a little to quick and this makes the film feel more like Episode 3.5 rather than a stand alone film.

Rey’s Parents – My Theory

Well, I am watching Star Wars The Force Awakens and I just blew my own mind! I have come up with a theory to who Rey parents are…well at least her dad.

LorSanTekkaI think Rey’s dad is…Lor San Tekka. If you don’t remember him, he is the guy who gives Poe the missing piece of the map to find Luke at the start of the film before being killed by Kylo Ren.

I don’t know how I though about it but it came to me…like a force vision I guess [sic]. I then checked the bio of the character and thought about the comments J.J. Abrams said over the last week and the potential plot potentials. So lets discuss the “clues”.

Bio – Lor San Tekka (according to starwarswikia) is a human explorer and member of the Church of the Force. He apparently helped Luke during the Rebellion (after Endor) and lives now on Jakku. He would be the right age to be her Rey’s dad and hiding ‘in plain sight’ might not be as silly as you think, as she was young when she was abandoned and maybe he looked after her/watched over her from a far.

As Lor knows Luke and worked with the New Republic, it would also be safe to assume Leia know him (and Rey) too and that explain the hug Leia gave Rey!

It may also explain why Luke’s lightsabre ‘reached out’ to her as she knew Luke (she was probably a baby when he met her) and the “Force” knew she would find him. Her ability with the “Force” could be the result of the level of spirituality that Lor found, in the Church of the Force.

Side note – There is also reference to a “sacred egg” when he was the with the Crèche. They believed ‘egg’ would hatch the salvation to the galaxy…Is Rey the egg?

-J.J. Abrams has helped spark a lot of speculation with these comments to EntertainmentWeekly : “Rey’s parents are not in Episode VII,” he told the audience. “So I can’t possibly say in this moment who they are. But I will say it is something that Rey thinks about, too.”

And then clarifies with this statement:“What I meant was that she doesn’t discover them in Episode VII. Not that they may not already be in her world.”

Now, these may seem contradictory but everyone seems to think “Rey” will meet her parents but what if they are dead (well her dad at least). Is this what he meant when he says “Not that they may not already be in her world”. This leads no to the last and I think from a  filmmakers perspective one of the most important…plot!

-Plot – My last part of the theory is best explained with a few short sentences and  rhetorical questions… Finn saw her Lor get killed on Jakku. He stood by and did nothing. What if Lor was her dad? What would happen if this ‘news’ came out? Would Rey trust Finn? Would she be angry? What would she do? How about Ren/Ben? Will she want revenge and maybe tempted to the dark side?

The above is a writers dream…certainly mine! And I cannot believe this was over looked as the dramatic potential is massive! And this would echo the Amidala/Anakain story – where she could not believe the “things” Anakin had done).

Well, thats my theory. A big part of this relies on the ‘biography’ that may be made up mind.

I am a geek yes. Who’s the mother? I don’t know…perhaps I have too much time on my hand…guess I need to watch it again! What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

The Revenant (2015)

The_Revenant_2015_film_posterWell, I have been very busy lately but decided to go to the cinema today and watch The Revenant. And I have to say the film is amazing. Very atmospheric and visceral.

Set in the 1823, where some trappers are hunting for pelts in the unsettled lands of North America. Over the course of the film we follow 4 groups/individuals as they live and survive in this dangerous land.

The main focus of the film is Hugh (played by Leonardo Di Caprio) who is a guide for the American trappers. They are attacked by some Native American Indians who are hunting them, looking for the daughter of their Chief, who they believe has been kidnaped by them. The trappers escape and decide to head home, but they are hunted by the indians.

Hugh is joined by his son, Hawk. Both have already had a tough life and through dreams/flashbacks we see glimpse of what they have come through. But what lies ahead of them is something else. After being mauled by a bear, Hugh watches his son get killed by a trapper (Fitzgerald) and then left for dead and half buried in a shallow grave – in the cold, wintery American wilderness – treks back to civilisation to find his revenge…I won’t spoil the rest of the film…

DiCaprio is brilliant. As he spends much of the film alone – trying to survive and make his way back to civilisation – he has a hard job but through out the film you feel engaged and connected to Hugh.

The Cinematography is amazing. Emmanuel Lubezki truly is a genius and I would love to him one day. I have had a look at his IMDB page most of the films he has worked on I have loved (especially the Malick film!). In The Revenant, the camera really helps make you feel like you were there and part of the action. The Indian’s attack at the start of the film for example. Breathtaking stuff!

I also have to mention the sound design. Along with the Cinematography, the sound truly helps makes the film immersive. There were times I thought I was in the wild wilderness – scared a bear would attack me! Sound is half the experience of a film and its great to see – and hear!

Iñárritu is arguably the best director in Hollywood at the moment. Following on from Birman (2014) he is sure to win more accolades. The film is going to do very well at the BAFTAs and the Oscars. I also believe that this is the year Leonardo DiCaprio finally gets his hands on a little gold statuette.

I also want to mention Tom Hardy (who plays Fitzgerald). I thought his performance was amazing – as we have come to expect from him. Is he the best British actor around at the moment?

To sum up. Best film of 2015 by a mile. Watch it.

Rating – 4.5/5

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Free)

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterSorry it has been a while, but the last few weeks have been chaos. However, I am back with a vengeance now…much like a beloved film franchise (see what I did there? haha)

Yes, Thursday 17th saw the return of Star Wars to the big screen in Episode VII – The Force Awakens. In Star Wars Episode IV, George Lucas also created a universe that was immersive and gorgeous in it’s authenticity. This continued through to Return of the Jedi. In the prequel’s, CGI took over t
o much and the universe did not feel ‘real’. There are other issues with the prequels…but that another story…However, in The Force Awakens the universe ‘feels real’. It’s a gorgeous film to watch.

A Star Wars film throws the audience into the story straight away. Lets take Episode IV A New Hope as an example. How many films start with a space battle? This is one reason why I have always loved Star Wars films, they are an adrenaline pumped thrill ride from start to finish.

The Force Awakens has a lot to live up to – nothing bigger than the expiation of millions of fans around the world. I think the the film more than deliver’s what the fans want. It cast’s off the issues the prequels have thanks to J.J. Abrams at the helm. He has chosen to shoot in 35mm/IMAX and has used his usual bag of in camera tricks (lens flare, shaky camera, dolly shots, snap zooms) to energise the audience and show us the remarkable world the story is set in.

I won’t give too much of the plot away but essentially after the Return of the Jedi, ‘The Empire’ have reformed as ‘The First Order‘ and want to control the galaxy. ‘The Rebellion‘, has become the ‘The Resistance‘ and like any fantasy film, some heroes need to go on a quest to save the day…

The audience are thrown into the story straight away from the very start of The Force Awakens. The story moves at a decent pace and this also keeps the audience engaged. There quieter scenes are punctuated with some genuine funny moments. Tension is also built up incredibly well and there are moments where the audience are genuinely left clutching their seats.

The film is fantastic – not perfect – but it’s everything you could hope for. It has action, laughs and shock twists. The cast are brilliant and the new characters really love up to the expectations and legacy of the ‘older’ generation. John Boyega particular impressed me in his role as Finn.

J.J. Abrams has used the same magic that he used to invigorate Star Trek here and it is extraordinary how the same ‘basic’ tricks work here. There is nothing new but what he does do is simply faultless as a director. Most directors would be scared to do what he has done with Star Trek but to then go an do it for Star Wars…Wow! What’s next…Indiana Jones (I sure hope so!)

However, the most important film about a Star Wars film – and the ultimate test of The Force Awakens – is the power that the original films had to make full grown men feel 12 years old again. The Force Awakens passes this test with flying colours.

If you are a Star Wars fan, you will love the film. If you are not a fan, go an watch it and you might understand all the hype. Even if you are not a fan to have no interest in Science Fiction, the film is with the ticket price as it is genially entertaining.

Episode VIII is released on 26th May 2017 – in 523 days time and I can’t wait. There are so many unanswered questions and I am sure there will be more plots twists and surprises too! And as a tantalising teaser for this, next Christmas we have the first of the Star Wars Anthology films being released – Rouge One – Directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters 2010 and, Godzilla 2014).

4.5/5 – Wow! OMG!! AMAZING!!!

The Curse of Steve Jobs…

It has been a busy few days at work so it has not been possible to get on here but I wanted to post something tonight after reading an article earlier.

I am a massive Apple fan and admire Steve Jobs and everyone at Apple for all the amazing stuff they do and create. So when I read the below I had to give my 2 cents about Steve Jobe (2015) being pulled from cinemas.

http://www.macrumors.com/2015/11/09/steve-jobs-movie-pulled-theaters/

I can’t comment on the film until I see it, but by all accounts its a well made and it is expected to do well at the Awards (after all it was written by the amazing Aaron Sorkin, directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle and Michael Fassbender is Steve Jobs). This is why I am surprised the film is doing so badly at the box office, However, I have a few ideas why…

Obviously, the main reason is that the film is up against SPECTRE (2015) and that is always going to be tough act to follow. The films audience is also likely to be in the 20s-40s and with the advent of Netflix and streaming video online we are less likely to go to the cinema as a generation.

Biographies and Biopics – being a niche subject in life and even more of a niche at the cinema – means many people won’t watch the film as they may feel it will be ‘boring’. Making Biopics are also hard as you have to find a part of someones life that is interesting enough and with some ‘creative license’ adapt it for an audience. See Churchill – The Hollywood Years (2004) for what NOT to do [sic].

Also, to the average person, many people do not understand or recognise Steve Jobs contribution to the world we live in. It’s only when you explain to someone that he ‘reminded’ (I won’t see invented) the concept of personal computing (e.g. a mouse, keyboard, monitor, a graphical UI etc) that someone realises how important he (and Apple) is…and that is before we get to the iMac, iPhone and iPad.

These are all valid reasons but there is one more reason that I believe has to be considered. I believe Steve Jobs (2015) has fallen to the curse of Steve Jobs. In life, Steve was divisive person – people liked him or they didn’t. Apple is the same – you are either an Apple “fan” or not. You have an iPhone or you don’t. I believe this divisiveness, has contributed to poor showing at the box office.

People are not lining up to watch the film is because they have heard all the stories about him and don’t think the film will be their cup of tea. They don’t care about his ‘story’, what he or Apple accomplished – as they don’t have iPhones? [sic] I like this reason as it seems poetic, the perfect metaphor for Steve’s life!

Steve courted controversy his whole life by being rebellious, a little cruel, passionate and being a perfectionist. People like this, are hard to like and to get on with. But as the Apple ‘Think Different’ advertising campaign illustrated those types of people  “change things”. It is also true that these types of people can alienate the people around them and those on the outside will either agree or disagree with them.

It could also be the way the film has been written, focusing on snapshots of Steve’s life over many years (Jobs (2013) tried to tell his story up to his from the formation of Apple to his return) perhaps, if the film was written around a ‘real time’ setting…a meeting with Steve and his design team, showing his brilliance with a touch of narcissism and dash cruelness? It would be more engaging and show the us ‘real’ Steve? That is how I would have done it.

Jobs (2013) did not do a good enough job maybe Steve Jobs (2015) has problems trying to get an the audience and perhaps we have to wait until Steve Jobs version 3.0 to get the film ‘everyone wants’ but I firmly believe Steve’s story has to be told as it is extraordinary.

Macbeth (2015)

Another film that I also got chance to see recently was Justin Kurzel’s MacbethMacbeth_2015_poster starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. I am quite a big fan of adaptations of William Shakespeare play’s (Coriolanus 2011 buy Ralph Fiennes is unmissable) and I have been very excited about this version.

The adaptation uses enough of the plot from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth but takes a few liberties for creative licence for the screen. The visuals are brilliant in the film, I loved the fight scenes and especially the ‘magical’ slow motions moments that focus in tranced Macbeth – very moody. The landscapes of Scotland (and England) used for the backdrop’s are brutal and harsh, the perfect metaphor for the thirst for power that Macbeth and his wife has upon learning of his ‘destiny’.

I am a massive fan of the production design used in the film, some of the scenes looked more like simple set-ups for the stage with just a handful of props. This allows the audience to focus no the performances and the dialogues- but the scenes are not ‘too empty’.

The performance of Macbeth by Fassbender is amazing. He really captures all sides of Macbeth’s character and ‘owns’ the scenes he is in. Marion Cotillard is also impressive but in this adaptation her demise is secondary and played off-screen (she turns up dead in bed). This is a little disappointing.

Some of the supporting cast’s performances are not brilliant to be honest (I had trouble understanding some of the accents attempted by some cast members). I don’t see this as an issue as they simply do not have enough time but in the end. But this is part due to the focus of the film being on Macbeth.

4/5 – Definitely worth a watch and a must for all fans of Shakespeare.

Spectre (2015)

159409048_f52678So last week, I managed to go and see and Spectre and I was really impressed.

The action sequences are really top class. I thought the Opening sequence in Mexico City set around the Day of the Dead was amazing.I also liked all the references to previous Bond films (I lost count at how many there were!). I also liked all the Roger Moore Bond one-liners littered through out the film.

The story itself that leads Bond on this adventure of self-discovery is well crafted and there is a sense a small sense of mystery – despite the audience ‘knowing’ where it is ultimately leading. However, the the “connection to Bond’s past” I feel was rushed and could have been explored more.

I think the whole cast were amazing but was disappointed at the rather ‘small’ role given to Monica Bellucci. I felt she deserved a much larger part, considering how talented she is. Daniel Craig may not be everyones favourite Bond be he has made this role his own and added new depths to the character. If this is his last outing (I personally think he will do 1 more) then the next actor to take on the role has big boots to fill.

Sam Mendes has been brilliant for Bond and has raised the bar for spy films in general. He has taken the Bond legacy and mixed it with a potent amount of realism and fast paced action of the ‘Bounce’ films.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that Sam Smith’s theme song really works with the tone and theme of the film.
4.5/5 – Great film but I think the back story between Bond and Oberhauser could have been explored more.