Month: December 2015

‘SPECTRE’ film review

For reasons unknown, I never got round to publishing this, but I wrote it right after I saw Spectre in the middle of November, so it is still a fresh review from a fresh perspective, just not for your eyes for about a month…

Spectre may the worst of all the Daniel Craig James Bond movies, even worse than Quantum of Solace. That’s not to say that either of the two are bad, but Skyfall and Casino Royale were fantastic, so by comparison they are extremely disappointing.

It’s a shame because Spectre does many things right. The cold opening was a very strong start with impressive cinematography and score, and the story was told through minimal dialogue.

The acting is great, the stunts and action scenes are incredible. There’s even a pair of satisfying Michael Bay explosions.

Spectre tries to tie its plot to the other Daniel Craig movies, and that’s where problems start.

The Sony leak revealed there was concerns about the film being over budget, and the word “over” describes this movie in many ways. It’s over budget, over long, overly convoluted, and at times even feels overdone. At other times it’s undercooked, many story elements aren’t explained adequately. I watched Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace a few days before watching Spectre, and if I hadn’t I would have not understood the references, especially to Vesper from the first movie, who still seems to be there without actually being there.

Another example of this is the previous M who passed away in the last movie. Bond partakes in an unofficial mission that she asked him to do in a video she left.

The writing is quite predictable. Of course Bond is going to disobey orders to stand down from duty. Of course that order is going to be made, and of course they are going to want him back by the end of it.

The two villains are simply not memorable. C is in a power struggle with the new M. C wants to replace the 00 program with Nine Eyes, which is a mass surveillance operation involving nine countries. Blofeld is Bond’s step brother, who seems to harbour some resentment towards Bond’s relationship with Blofeld’s actual father, which is why he killed him and started Spectre. He apparently is responsible for all the bad things that have happened to Bond in the last few movies.

Lea Seydoux is a great actress but she’s back to damsel in distress and has daddy issues. She falls in love with Bond, naturally. Worst part is when they make a big scene when she decides to dramatically walk away, and you just know that something is going to happen to her. And of course, she becomes a hostage.

The movie goes on for bloody ages, about two and a half hours. Even Avengers: Age of Ultron was easier to understand. Quantum of Solace was equally incomprehensible, but at least that movie was under two hours.

There’s parts of a great movie here, but unfortunately some bad decisions and writing lets it down. Bond fans will still get a kick out of Daniel Craig’s acting, the action, the score and that magnificent opening scene.

Rating: 3/5.
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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ film review

There’s been a theme in many of the reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, that being the phrase “Star Wars is back!”, but I can’t think of anything that better describes that feeling across the world this week.

In short: just go see it. Star Wars fan or not, Episode VII is a great movie. I actually consider my feelings indifferent towards the Star Wars franchise, but even I dug the hell out of this and can’t wait until Part 8. The fact that the trailers and pre-release material merely teased the characters, plots and themes, rather than outright spoil the movie, as the Batman v Superman trailer seems to, you’re better off watching this right now and reading as little about it as possible.

If you’re reading this and haven’t seen it yet, why the hell not? Here’s the rating, go see it, and if you have, read onwards.

Rating: 4.5/5.

Okay, MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW. You have been warned.

Wow.

JJ Abrams and the cast and crew did exactly what this movie had to be, and what they said it would be. It’s a movie for Star Wars fans. The fans still bitter about Jar Jar Binks and rough sand. Fans who saw hope in the pretty decent third prequel. Fans who have memories of seeing the very first movie back in the late ’70s and have been obsessed ever since. Being a fan himself, Abrams knew exactly what he had to do. Cut down on the CGI, bring back the practical sets, have a good script, give us some brilliant acting and then hit us in the face with spectacle. It’s an instant classic Star Wars for the modern fans.

My first worry for this movie was whether the returning veterans were going to overstay their welcome, making it tough for the new cast members to find their own voice…kinda like Scrubs Season 9 (yes that’s what we’re going with…). But that’s not the case at all. The story is about new leads being wrapped in the affairs of the old cast, but their personalities and conflicts are set in stone from their very first appearances.  This is despite the opening space crawl almost implying that the entire story is about Luke Skywalker going missing.

The trailers, teasers and even the poster deliberately fooled us. Observing the film’s entire marketing campaign, you’d think that Finn is a Jedi, but Rey using The Force becomes a key spoiler that hopefully wasn’t ruined for you.

The acting, one of the major elements that took down the prequels, is thankfully strong in this one. Daisy Ridley plays an exciting lead in Rey, up to the task of any challenge. And yes, they made her a damnsel in distress and then have her save herself, so that’s a good thing! Finn (the sweaty John Boyega) seemed to turn to the light side fairly quickly, but his words in the trailer alone gave him a backstory and a personal justification for his actions. You have to root for him – he doesn’t even have a name at the beginning!

Then you have BB-8, who I initially thought would be a derivative of R2-D2, and it is a little bit. They must have tried so hard to avoid an annoying Jar Jar Binks character, and they succeeded, because BB-8 becomes one of the best parts of the movie. There’s some good humour in this movie and this droid becomes a very important part of it, and I almost forgot about how important he is to the plot.

Adam Driver as Kyo Ren in a way seemed like a lightweight., but by the end you’ll both fear and hate him. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) I assume is the third lead protagonist, but will most likely have a bigger role in the upcoming movies in contrast to this one where he shows up and acts cool for a bit. I guess they wanted more time to service Harrison Ford’s last hurrah as Han Solo, who plays a much bigger role than both Leia or Luke.

While this is a fan service film, JJ Abrams should be commended for taking incredibly bold decisions. Perhaps it seemed too easy to make Kylo Ren the son of Han and Leia, but then to have Ben KILL his father. As I said earlier, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, but that still got to me. I know that long time fans, some who saw the original Star Wars back in the 70s, just had their whole world lit up when they heard “Chewie, we’re home”, and then destroyed in one foul swoop. That took guts.

Force Awakens is for the fans, but doesn’t play it safe. Some may think it’s just derivative of A New Hope, and maybe that’s a fair argument. I don’t think that was a huge issue this time…BUT,  if the next movie becomes just Empire Strikes Back with Luke Yodaing Rey… That, on the other hand, would be lame, but I have high hopes.

Force Awakens got the fans back on board, and for me, now I’m one of those hardcore fans. I may not buy a Star Wars mug, but I look forward to the next two parts. I’ll even watch the spin off movies.

Star Wars is in safe hands for the future, but for now, the Force is strong in this one.