Star Wars: The Last Jedi

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MStar Wars: The Last Jedi

Directed by: Rian Johnson

Written by: Rian Johnson

Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas

Music by: John Williams

Cinematography by: Steve Yedlin

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Frank Oz, Billie Laurd, Joonas Suotamo, Amanda Lawrence, Jimmy Vee, Brian Herring and Dave Chapman.  

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, there was the best episode of Star Wars made to date…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Episode VIII) is epic people!

This film has everything: fantasy, drama and conflict and betrayal and action with lightsaber fights that last just long enough…

And I was surprisingly emotional through-out the film with General (Princess) Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) filmed and thankfully not animated so she looked so real and so there.

It was such a pleasure to see Carrie Fisher up on the big screen for the final time… See what I mean about emotional?!Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director and writer, Rian Johnson has spent a lot of time getting the detail of the story right.  There’s new characters mixed with old that keep the story interesting with the familiar and the excitement of seeing new critters adding to the lightness and wonder of this visual story.

Rian Johnson also wrote and directed, Looper (2012) and has brought that same attention to the script here, revealing layer upon layer of story to take the audience on a journey totally unexpected.

And I liked how the film was set both in space and on land – the effects of space fantastic on the big screen and the grounding of seeing the ocean crash into rocks and the salty sand of the desert kicking up red dust visually surprising.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The island where the previous episode, The Force Awakens, leaves us with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is expanded upon, the thought put into the vastness of the landscape impressive with new sea creatures and those cute Porgs (that look like a cross between a penguin and a puffin) alongside old favourites like Chewbacca.

This episode sees the story unfold around the never ceasing Resistance as they fight The First Order led by Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis) as he takes hold of the universe.  The final threads of the Resistance making that final last stand with Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeking the return of the equally resistant Luke Skywalker hiding on his island after losing all faith when his student and best friend and sister’s son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turns to the Dark Side.Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Adam Driver has really grown into his role as Kylo Ren (the highlight for me) – the film taking time to explore this new character, making him as deep and fascinating as Darth Vader.

But like life, there’s dark and there’s light.  There’s good and bad in everyone – the conflict of the Force in Luke and Rey and Kylo adding to an otherwise action and suspenseful film.

And, for me, the most suspenseful Star Wars so far.

The Last Jedi is a further exploration into the Dark Side giving this episode a sharper edge and depth – the fantasy element making the story more griping and thought-provoking than the usual Sci-Fi weight of the previous instalments.

And the timing of the story was perfect.  The twists in the tale, many.

Prepare for an epic experience: it’s a long one (2h 33m) but well worth the journey.

Blade Runner 2049

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MA 15+Blade Runner 2049

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay Written by: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

Story By: Hampton Fancher

Based on Characters from the Novel: ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ Written by: Philip K. Dick

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Music Composed by: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch

Produced by: Andrew a. Kosove, Broderick Johnson, Bud Yorkin, Cynthia Yorkin

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Carla Juri, Lennie James, with Dave Bautista and Jared Leto.

Atmospheric and quietly menacing.

Based on characters from the novel, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ (written by Philip K. Dick), screenplay writer, Hampton Fancher (with Michael Green) has returned with Blade Runner 2049:  the highly anticipated sequel directed by Denis Villeneuve.

The future is bleak with the population moving off-world on the back of replicant labour – a new version of replicant that/who obeys without question.

The conflict of using ‘that’ or ‘who’ sums up the film’s question: Are replicants just soulless machines? Or the evolution of a new species?Blade Runner 2049

After the EMP detonation that caused a global blackout in 2022, the replicants who pre-date the chaos and have no end-dates are hunted and retired by blade runners.

From the opening scene the quiet absorbs you into a world intensely over-populated and dark.

Set in LA, the feeling of over-population extends to the entire Earth; the realisation that nature has lost.  Humans dominate the world and the replicants are slaves.

But the line is blurring.

As the human, blade runner enforcer, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) states, we’re all looking for something that’s real.

***

With all the chaos of people and city and technology, you’d expect noise, but there’s a deep silence to this film.

The soundtrack is a vibrating menace that drives the dark mood of the film allowing a simplicity to each scene while creating depth in the subtleties. Blade Runner 2049

Controversy surrounds the composition of the score with Jóhann Jóhannsson (who previously collaborated with Villeneuve on “Prisoners,” “Sicario,” and “Arrival”) being replaced by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch.  See article here.

Villeneuve relies heavily on the soundtrack to create the underlying foreboding feeling of a dark future.  So, I can understand the importance of getting the soundtrack right for this film (and in his previous films) as it plays such an important part in telling the story.

Yet, it’s the imagery here as well.  Each scene is a perfectly made moment carefully crafted through shifting light reflecting off water, holograms sharing the same space as a piano, the falling rain and snow and the eyes of, K, as he’s stares while being brought back to baseline.  And Harrison Ford still has presence on screen returning as Rick Deckard.

Villeneuve’s craftsmanship has brought the story to the screen as only he can – his handling outclassing the script itself.  Fans of the first, Blade Runner will not be disappointed.

At one point I noticed how quiet it was in the cinema, realising no-one in the audience wanted to break the spell.

Ryan Gosling brings a needed impressive performance as the film rests heavily on the blade runner character, K.  He brings that silent strength – not so much in his words but the way he holds them, making you believe he’s there.

Under the direction of Villeneuve, Jared Leto as the replicant creator, Niander Wallace, gets the tone just right, the subtleties showing Wallace’s immoral character.

And that’s the quality of the film, subtle: complicated emotions yet, made to feel simple.  A kind of gentle unfolding with an underlying darkness driving life into the shadows, but the shadows fighting back, like life…

Ah, don’t you love it when a movie makes you feel all moody when you leave the cinema!

Blade Runner 2049 will appeal to more than sci-fi fans.

The quality of the cinematography, sound and setting alone make it a worth-while watch on the big screen.

Flatliners

GoMovieReviews Rating:
MFlatliners

Directed by: Niels Arden Oplev

Screenplay by: Ben Ripley

Story by: Peter Filardi

Produced by: Laurence Mark, Michael Douglas, Peter Safran

Starring: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland.

Reminiscent of the, Final Destination franchise, Flatliners is about the avoidance of death only to be haunted in the land of the living.

I was enthralled when watching the 1990 original of, Flatliners.

Directed by Joel Schumacher and staring the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt; I hadn’t ever seen a film like it: trainee doctors stopping the heart from beating, to flat line, causing death only to be brought back to life to research and record what happens after death.  Are there bright lights and vivid colours?  Is there comfort?  Is there life after death?Flatliners

The remake is based on the original story, written by Peter Filardi, but adapted to the screen by Ben Ripley (who also wrote the script for, Source Code (2011)).

And once again, we have five student doctors: Courtney (Ellen Page) as the seeker; Jamie (James Norton) the player, willing to take a ride no matter how wild; the previous fire-fighter, Ray (Diego Luna); Marlo (Nina Dobrey) the competitive; and Sophia (Kiersey Clemons) driven to burn-out by her pushy mother.  All on their neurology rotation, all willing to par-take in the exploration of death and what comes after.

What they don’t expect is the enhancement of their intelligence.  And the price paid as darkness follows, as their previous sins haunt them once brought back to life.

Director Niels Arden Oplev (Millennium: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and the pilot of, Mr. Robot) has modernised the story by focussing on getting the medical science right and updating the technology by setting the death and resurrection scenes in an abandoned bunker kept fully equipped in the basement of the hospital in case of natural disaster, epidemic break-outs or the end of the world.

The film rests on the belief it’s possible and believable to kill, record brain activity and observe neural function, to try to capture life after death, to then be resurrected.

And there’s suspense in watching those willing to die.Flatliners

I could poke holes and mention things like, why would a bunker of hospital equipment be left unused?  Yet calibrated, software fully up-to-date, with consumables all current (and not expired like the young doctors!)?

And really, why would a doctor risk hypoxic brain injury, let alone death, to go along with Courtney for a chance at fame?  Particularly the charming Jamie – although a risk taker, I wasn’t convinced such a personality would go so far…

All questions aside, Flatliners was still an interesting and scary movie.

Notably, the performance from Ellen Page, who carried the film through those questionable moments.

But what made the original such a believable film was the characters.

The equivalent of the precious Randy Steckle (Oliver Platt) – the only one who didn’t flatline in the original – was Ray.  Yet, instead of the comic relief from Steckle, Ray was the saviour of the group, but really it felt like he was just side-lined.

The effects of ghosts appearing in the shadows amongst the drownings, the bedcovers and under the sheets covering a hospital trolley were used well without being over the top, making the film scarier than expected.

But I wasn’t blown away with the remake.

The dialogue and characters of the original still holds up (even if Kevin Bacon’s haircut doesn’t).  Here, the focus is more on the medical compared to the original which was more philosophical, the students with a genuine interest in the afterlife.

Making Flatliners (2017) intriguing but nowhere near as good as the original.

Wonder Woman

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MWonder Woman

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Screenplay by: Allan Heinberg

Story: Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg and Jason Fuchs

Produced by:  Charles Roven, Deborah Snyder, Zack Snyder and Richard Suckle

Executive Producers: Stephen Jones, Geoff Johns, Jon Berg, Wesley Coller and Rebecca Steel Roven

Starring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Lucy Davis, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Eugene Brave Rock and Said Taghmaoui.

With the couple ahead in line, kissing.  Just a quick smooch, but often.  Making that, kissy-kissy, sucky-wet sound, constantly.  Perhaps out of nerves or because they’d just found each other and were terrified the other would disappear if they didn’t lock lips and suck the air out of each other’s mouths every 30 seconds…

You can probably tell I wasn’t in the mood for a romance.

And unfortunately Wonder Woman wasn’t all Amazons and action, there was romance here with love interest, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American World War I fighter pilot who finds himself in the Amazonian magical world of Themyscira while being chased by the Germans.

Which brings me to the classic Wonder Woman guitar rift.  You’ll recognise it when you hear it and it does add to that cringe.

But that’s all I have to complain about.

Overall, Wonder Woman was a well-thought and executed film.

The story of Diana (Gal Gadot), growing up in Themyscira allowed a beautiful setting of crystal clear blue waters and souring cliffs, and women warriors fighting from pure white horses with long braids falling down their backs.  This magical place allowed the story of the gods to be shown like a moving painting brought to life to then shift to WWI and all the shock and tragedy of death.

After hearing of the violence, Diana vows to fight in the war to bring peace, as she was trained to do.  All very dramatic.

But the addition of humour made the film for me, particularly Charlie (Ewan Bremner), the Scottish marksman suffering from shell shock and Etta Candy (Lucy Davis) the ever reliable, can-do secretary.  I was constantly tickled by Etta Candy’s humour and the writing here is to be commended.  As is the story of the film.

There’s a slow build.  And yes, it felt like a lengthy movie, understandably at 2 hours and 21 minutes.  But the time spent on building the momentum was worth it.  There’s plenty of action and funny bits so as the story developed, the further I was pulled in.

So even with a bit of cheese and romance, I found the character, Steve Trevor better than expected, and more down-to-Earth (just can’t resist a pun) then James T. Kirk played by Chris Pine in the recent Star Trek films (but hey, I liked those films too), and that comes down to the fantastic script.

There was a tug and pull of the lasso for some depth into human nature.  But like the above statement, it was somewhat half-hearted.  Wonder Woman is more about how Diana evolves into a superhero.

By playing with the time sequences and using clever camera work and images (like the moving painting montage), the film is given a bit of spice.  It’s always good to see something different as it keeps the attention.  Because wow, there have just been so many superhero movies that the trickery of the director becomes the point of difference; Patty Jenkins succeeding here with help from director of photography Matthew Jensen.

I wasn’t blown away but this is a quality film with the resurrection of a fantastic character who we’re left in no doubt will return in the very near future.

Passengers

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MPassengers

Directed by: Morten Tyldum

Written by: Jon Spaihts

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen; Laurence Fishburne.

A love story set in space.

I saw the spaceship and the fantastic attention to detail (by award winning Guy Hendrix (Inception)) where each part of the ship is designed to take the audience into a place where androids like Arthur (Michael Sheen) tend bar and people are put to sleep for 120 years so they can migrate to a distant planet.

But more than anything, Passengers is a story about journalist Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) and mechanic Jim (Chris Pratt), falling in love.

I’m thankful the two lead characters were well-cast and well-beautiful because Passengers is a cheese-fest.

Sci-fi fans will be disappointed with the focus on a love story and I was disappointed because the story was a simple one.

 

On his way from immigrating from Earth to Homeland II, Jim is woken up from his hibernation 90 years too early.

The film asks the question, What would you do if you were alone in space for the rest of your life?

When Jim meets Aurora, they fall in love (of course).  Two people stranded together isn’t so bad when they have each other.  Until they realise there’s something critically wrong with the ship.

If bodacious bodies are your thing, Jen and Chris give you an eyeful.  And I
really have to find out who the clothing designer is because the outfits and shoes are to die for.  See here for interview with designer Jamy Temime. Not that the character, Aurora is happy about being on a floating prison where the destination will never be reached because she’ll be dead by then.

But you can see where I’m going with the description: it’s all about the visual aspect.  And the love story.  I kept on thinking, what if she gets pregnant?

Although a visually stunning film, Passengers fell flat when the storyline became a run-of-the-mill romance.

Products from Amazon.com

Arrival

GoMovieReviews Rating:
Rated: MArrival

Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

Screenplay by: Eric Heisserer

Based on the story: “Story of Your Life” written by Ted Chiang

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg.

Without giving too much away, Arrival is a unique movie experience where language is viewed as more than communication; where learning a different language changes our neural pathways to change the way we see, feel and think.

Director, Denis Villeneuve has given his Midas touch to a film that really could have fallen flat.

With the space ships, or Shells in the sky used as the only marketing tool,  I admit, I was worried.

But Arrival had a unique flavour that bent the mind in unexpected ways.

Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is a linguist contracted by the US government to attempt communication and translation of alien language.  With 12 Shells hovering over cities across the globe, each country attempts to figure out the purpose of the aliens’ visit.

I know, I know, not another alien movie.  But Arrival isn’t just an alien film.  The word, ‘alien’ was used once with Dr. Banks asking, ‘am I the only one using this word?’

And that gives you an idea of the beauty of this film.  There was a distinct lack of drivel.

I love how Villeneuve can get you right up with the characters, to feel the tension and emotion.

Anxiety is shown so well in this film.  And Amy Adams is to be commended.  Her strength, intelligence and femininity shone – Denis making the most of Amy’s blue-eyed goodness.  The insight Villeneuve has managed to show of Dr. Bank’s character is astounding.  If only for this aspect, I enjoyed the film.  Then combine the incredible story, soundtrack and pace with that extra flavour that makes the characters so believable, you’ve got a winning film.

The real surprise for me was Jeremy Renner as the physicist, Ian Donnelly.  I admit I’m not a fan of Renner.  He has played so many cringe worthy characters, I shudder to think.  But in the role of Ian Donnelly, and handled with the skill of Villeneuve, this quiet, thoughtful character resonated well as a support to Dr. Louise Banks.

This isn’t an action film, nor your typical sci-fi, and Arrival isn’t scary.  But the subtleties and suspense of the story kept me completely absorbed.

Arrival isn’t so much an alien film as an exploration into language and how it affects our view of the world.

Products from Amazon.com

Star Trek Beyond

GoMovieReviews Rating:

Director: Justin LinStar Trek Beyond

Story By: Gene Roddenberry

Screenplay: Simon Pegs, Doug Jung.

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba; Sofia Boutella.

There’s always a moral to a Star Trek story, and this time in, Star Trek Beyond, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is having a midlife crisis.

He’s been lost in space for too long and doesn’t know what he wants anymore.  He’s made the memory of his father proud; he’s the captain of the Enterprise.  But where do the steps towards his father end? And where does Kirk begin?

That’s what I like about the Star Trek franchise.  I like the characters and seeing how they deal with their struggles in life.

Interesting that Beyond is the third in the trilogy of the Re-boot series (the 13th Star Trek film) now coming to maturity, just like Capt. Kirk.

As always, there’s the difference in characters’ personality and culture.  I love Scotty the Scotsman and am really getting into the reluctant Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy (Karl Urban), the southern doctor.  And not just because he’s handsome, Bones makes me laugh.

And there’s always the running theme of unity, which is mostly what the Star Trek films are about.  The difference of the crew members and the strength of working together.

So yes, there’s a formula in the writing here, in the themes written for Star Trek, but that’s why we dig it, yeah?

What was new is the addition of the character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella) who looks to be a permanent fixture in future films.

And the visual effects just keep getting better with each Star Trek adventure.  See Ian Failes article for Inverse here: how-star-trek-changed-visual-effects-history.

Director Justin Lin has brought Peter Chiang on board to take a more scientific approach to the visual effects.  The realistic VFX (visual effects created by processes in which imagery is created and/or manipulated outside the context of a live action shot) go beyond (ha, ha) all expectation.

There are some amazing perspectives here that on the big screen kicked in my vertigo, so yeah, the visual effects are amazing.

I have to mention the sadness felt when realising I’ll never see Anton Yelchin as Chekov again.  See article about his passing here.  I’ll miss the innocence (although not as innocent with the ladies in, Beyond) and the genius Anton managed to give to the character, Chekov…

A few asides from crusty Bones, tracks to get the blood pumping and the feeling of being on a roller coaster, Star Trek Beyond adds up to a well-packaged, entertaining film.