Christmas Inheritance – Review

Christmas Inheritance is another of Netflix’s entries into the Christmas movie market for 2017. Before ‘party heiress’ Ellen Langford can inherit her father’s gift business, she must deliver a special Christmas card to her dad’s former partner in Snow Falls, the small town where the company began. It’s here she learns the true meaning of Christmas and in turn the values of the company, through earning her keep in the town.

Sounds pretty straightforward and tacky? Well, you’d be right. But that’s not a bad thing – I enjoyed this movie more than A Christmas Prince. It is a simple film that doesn’t push for any twists or turns and that makes it easy to follow. Of course, you can see how this ends from a mile out but isn’t that what Christmas movies are about? Isn’t that the true meaning of Christmas?

The film stars Eliza Taylor whom you may recognise from her TV roles as Janae in Neighbours and Clarke in The 100 (but I will always remember her as one of my childhood crushes, Rosie from The Sleepover Club) and Jake Lacy (who, I don’t know,  he was in Season 9 of the Office? Maybe you’d recognise him from that?). Both fill the requirements for their roles and don’t stand out from anyone else in the film so I guess, they were good leads? The only other notable actor in this film is Andie MacDowell who serves as the heart of the film and I liked her in that role.

There is very little else of note to review here. The movie isn’t bad, it’s nice and it will most likely fly under the radar with A Christmas Prince hogging a lot of the limelight as the ‘Best Worst Christmas Movie’. Christmas Inheritance is almost a pallet cleanser after watching something so awful. It brings you back to a nice middle ground.

Christmas Inheritance: Average

PS: Eliza Taylor beats Rose McIver any day!

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Review

This review contains spoilers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been out for a few days now and it’s time to give a more full review on it. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your warning to not read this post.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is very satisfying however, there were a few things that I didn’t like. Some parts of the film, particularly a few of the bits of humour and some of the choices some of the characters made weren’t my favourites, there are even some scenes that I felt didn’t quite belong. The film is a culmination of every Star Wars film that has come before it, like previous entries, you feel that ‘poetic rhyming’ the franchise is said to have. By that, I mean this film is definitely not like The Force Awakens, in which the whole thing felt very ‘A New Hope’. No, this film takes little hints and vibes from the whole of the Star Wars saga. As well as drawing in (in my opinion) similarities from other big franchises like Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica and Lord of the Rings.

The Last Jedi picks up almost straight after Episode VII, the First Order retaliates after the destruction of Starkiller Base, heading straight for the Resistance base in the middle of the new band of rebel’s evacuation. This leads to a cool space battle with a dash of humour thrown in. I say dash, it’s pretty full on and hammy – a lot of people are not going to enjoy the humour in this film. The Resistance escapes and moves to their next stop in the storyline, which also happens to be the last stop because the next plot point is a doozy. The First Order track them through hyperspace which results in a ‘chase’ scene for the majority of the film. Imagine two cruise ships on the sea, both with the same engines, propellers etc. both going full throttle – not exactly thrilling. Yet, somehow it works and towards the end of the film, there is a dramatic payoff that is probably one of my favourite scenes.

We’ll come back to the chase between the Raddus and the Supremacy later on. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) learns what has happened to Luke (Mark Hamill), why he is on the planet Ahch-To (the planet we find him on in The Force Awakens) and she seeks to learn the ways of the force. Luke Skywalker’s arc is an interesting one. He is reluctant to train Rey as he believes that the Jedi and their teachings are not the answer to the Galaxy’s problems. I can see why there was a bit of a cloud hanging over Rian Johnson’s choices from Mark Hamill’s point of view. He is definitely not the Luke Skywalker from the ‘Legends’ material. But I can see that this is how he has ended up and I don’t mind that. The dynamic between Luke and Rey (Mark and Daisy) was strong and I thought that it was the most interesting of the character combinations. Most interesting, but not the best… No, that goes to Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), over the course of the film their force connections across the galaxy are so good and fun! Their teamwork in taking down the Praetorian Guards after the murder of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) was another one of those great scenes in the film.

Now it’s time to look at my least favourite plot points – almost everything involving Finn (John Boyega). While the setting of the planet Cantonica and the city, Canto Bight were interesting, nothing that happened in that setting was of any use or importance. Finn may have had a bit of character progression where he might have learned to stop trying to run away but other than that, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), ‘DJ’ (Benicio Del Toro), getting aboard the Supremacy, fighting and killing Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), it was all in the end, pointless and pretty uninteresting. On that too, one of the main issues people had in The Force Awakens was the lack of screen time for Captain Phasma. How did they address that in this film? They gave her less. The running with the Fathiers (space horses) was probably my least favourite scene in the entire film (worse than ‘Super-Leia’, more on that soon), it felt so much like a Harry Potter scene and the John Williams score didn’t help that either. As great as the score was, it added to the Harry Potter vibe. The film improved a lot more after Finn and Rose left Canto Bight.

Onboard the Raddus (the Resistance’s flagship), the heads of the Resistance are trying to work out how to escape the First Order when BOOM! Two TIE fighters blast the bridge and everyone is sucked out into the cold, dark vacuum of space. Admiral Ackbar, General Leia, almost the entire leadership is gone. That is until Leia (Carrie Fisher in her last on-screen appearance) uses the force and pulls her self back into the ship in a scene that can best be described as ‘Super-Leia’. Now I didn’t hate this scene. I didn’t love it either. There were definitely some ways I would have changed the scene to make it a little less corny while still keeping the ‘Leia uses the force to save herself’ element. Hell, all you need to do is cut out the shot where she opens her eyes and the whole scene is more believable. While we’re on the Raddus and the topic of believability, Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) is an unnecessarily complex character. She chooses to not share basic information with Poe (Oscar Issac) that leads to his mutiny. Only for him to be the one to announce to the audience that she can be trusted just before she drives the Raddus straight through the Supremacy and the First Order fleet. That being said, that scene and the sound design especially in it. Breath-taking. It feels like for that brief moment, all the air is sucked out of the cinema and you’re just watching something truly amazing.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a lot to process. One recommendation I will make, this movie does need to be seen a few times to comprehend it all. It amazed me. I often write that one of my favourite parts of a film is when you think you’ve got the plot pretty much worked out and it goes in a completely different direction. There are many moments like this in The Last Jedi. Plenty of fan-service while also taking the thousands upon thousands of hours fan spent speculating who Snoke is and who Rey’s parents were and throws them out an airlock.

My score hasn’t changed since the first review.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Above Average

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Spoiler Free Review

This is a Spoiler-Free Review. My plan is to do a spoiler review after watching this film again and go more in depth with the story. Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes many expectations of fans after The Force Awakens and turns them on their heads it takes risks and goes in a direction that Star Wars has been before.

The Last Jedi picks up almost straight after Episode VII, the First Order retaliates after the destruction of Starkiller Base, heading straight for the Resistance base in the middle of the new band of rebel’s evacuation. Meanwhile Rey learns what has happened to Luke, why he is on the planet Ahch-To (the planet we find him on in The Force Awakens) and she seeks to learn the ways of the force.

We see our beloved characters from the original trilogy, Luke and Leia and our new heroes from this trilogy, Finn, Rey and Poe. In these characters we see better more rounded performances, Carrie Fisher especially doesn’t feel as rusty as she did in the last chapter and Luke Skywalker returns to the screen in the best way possible. I feel Finn and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) were sent on a mission mostly because Star Wars expects all characters to be doing something. That being said Rey and Poe have a lot to do, both characters have a lot of screen time and I felt very invested in them. On the darker side, our villains, the leaders of First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren and General Hux, in a similar way to the heroes, are treated very well and I was very happy to see where these characters’ roles went. No actors dropped the ball in this film. Stand outs for me were Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.

While The Last Jedi is very satisfying, there were a few things that I didn’t like. Some parts of the film, particularly a few of the bits of humour and some of the choices some of the characters made weren’t my favourites, there are even some scenes that I felt didn’t quite belong. However at this point, after just seeing the film, they are pretty insignificant to the highlights. The film is a culmination of every Star Wars film that has come before it, like previous entries, you feel that ‘poetic rhyming’ the franchise is said to have. By that, I mean this film is definitely not like The Force Awakens, in which the whole thing felt very A New Hope. No, this film takes little hints and vibes from the whole of the Star Wars saga. As well as drawing in (in my opinion) similarities from other big franchises like Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica and Lord of the Rings.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a lot to process. I have only just seen this film at the time of writing this and I plan to see it again in the next few days. That is one recommendation I will make, this movie does need to be seen a few times to comprehend it all. It amazed me. I often write that one of my favourite parts of a film is when you think you’ve got the plot pretty much worked out and it goes in a completely different direction. There are many moments like this in The Last Jedi.

It’s been a long road to The Last Jedi but it is where Star Wars goes next that is so much more interesting because of this film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Above Average

Okja – Review

A heart-warming commentary on the food industry and one girl’s fight to save her best friend, Okja is step forward in digital release films.

Okja is a Netflix production by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho. The film revolves around Okja, a Super Pig born from the first genetically modified Super Pig and raised by a farmer and his grand-daughter, Mija, in the South Korean mountains as part of an experiment/competition. After ten years, the Mirando Corporation – the owners of the Super Pig program come to take Okja, who has become the best Super Pig, and turn her in to food.

Mija follows the company to a holding facility to free her friend, she meets and is aided by the A.L.F. (Animal Liberation Front) who are trying to expose Mirando for the injustices and crimes they have committed against the Super Pigs.

Ahn Seo-hyun delivers a fantastic performance as Mija, a strong and brave character, and portrays the love and the connection between her and Okja beautifully.

Paul Dano plays Jay, the leader of the A.L.F and brings some nice complexities to his character. There is something about Jay and the A.L.F (including Steven Yeun, Lily Collins, Daniel Henshall and Devon Bostick) that felt very Wes Anderson-esque, the characters all had their little quirks yet were all committed to the cause. The animal rights group at some points felt like they were in a different movie, something slightly hyper-realistic.

Tilda Swinton plays Mirando Corporation CEO, Lucy Mirando a slightly bizarre character who is driven to make this Super Pig scheme of hers succeed. Swinton has an amazing diversity in the many characters she plays, Lucy Mirando is no exception. She was a character that felt like she was never quite real and that’s the point. She has a facade of a caring and exciting CEO but behind closed doors wants only to differentiate herself from her father and her sister and will lie and bumble her way to that goal.

Now lets get to one of the standouts of Okja, Jake Gyllenhaal as Dr. Johnny Wilcox. At the inception of the Super Pig Program, Johnny Wilcox, a TV star zoologist was attached to work with the farmers and eventually judge who would be crowned the best Super Pig. Now, ten years later, he has fallen out of the spotlight and is now a washed up pawn for the Mirando Corporation who has had to make some moral compromises in the time he has worked for the company. Towards the end of the film, the reality really sets in on Wilcox bringing out a perfect example of why Gyllenhaal should play the Joker in the DCEU instead of Jared Leto.

The visual effects used to make Okja were fantastic, It was believable for majority of the film. She’s a cute Super Pig, so are her friends, the Super Pigs are sweet and passive creatures, which makes the Mirando Corporation’s practices all the more heartbreaking.

Okja is a unique film that wants you to think about where your food comes from and see through the spin that multi-national corporations try to sell you. With out revealing too much about the plot of the film, it’s also an example that while these companies may hit road blocks, the corporate machine can still carry on.

This film was produced by Netflix and has faced some criticism from traditional cinemas and critics before the film had even been seen.

Okja had its world premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2017. The film was met with boos, mixed with applause, during its premiere at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, once the Netflix logo appeared on screen and again during a technical glitch (which got the movie projected in an incorrect aspect ratio for its first seven minutes). The festival later issued an apology to the filmmakers. However, despite the studio’s negative response, the film itself received a four-minute standing ovation.

Wikipedia

This is a step in the right direction for digital releases, there are many more notable directors and studios getting behind this sort of release and we can expect to see more high-quality original films coming out on Netflix.

Okja is a nice film with a talented cast and a big heart. It has a message but doesn’t beat you over the head with it. Purely and simply, its a bout a young girl who will stop at nothing to save her best friend.

Okja: Above Average

The Mummy (2017) – Review

The first chapter in the rebooted Universal Monsters’ Dark Universe delivers a lot of set up and a bit of fun, but no real bang. The Mummy features Tom Cruise as Tom Cruise in a Tom Cruise movie that really wasn’t very Tom Cruise-y.

The Mummy is not a great film, but its fun. There’s enough action coupled with a little bit of mild horror and well-blow-average comedic levity to make it an OK popcorn flick to sit down and switch off. There’s not much to it.

Tom Cruise plays Nick Morton, a reconnaissance soldier that uses his job to pilfer and sell antiquities he finds in the Middle-East. During a mission he embarks on to find treasure he accidentally stumbles on an Ancient Egyptian tomb. Upon further investigation Annabelle Wallis’s character Jenny Halsey finds that the tomb was actually a prison holding a princess that seemed to have been scrubbed from history – Princess Ahmanet (played by Sofia Boutella).

Opening the prison has allowed her to return to power and escape. Ahmanet made a pact with Set, the God of Death, to bring him in to the physical world. In the past, she failed but now that she’s been released and now she wants to complete the ritual.

Cruise delivered an average performance, playing almost a caricature of himself. He pulled off some decent action sequences but nothing really stuck. Annabelle Wallis, brought nothing to the role of Jenny Halsey which had nothing in the script anyway, she was there to be a beautiful woman and barely a love interest for Nick. What she did provide was a link to the wider ‘Dark Universe’ through her job with Prodigium, enter Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Crowe brought probably one of the more outstanding performances of the lacklustre cast. He portrayed your pretty standard version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (yes, Hyde also makes an appearance), with just a sprinkling of an organisation leader, a la Nick Fury from S.H.I.E.L.D in the MCU. His is a role I’d like to see developed further in the future of the Dark Universe. Now that I’ve mentioned the word developed, I should mention that there is no character development in this film, it seemed to all fall by the way-side while they set-up the franchise.

Sofia Boutella has brought fantastic physicality in her roles in Kingsman: The Secret Service and Star Trek Beyond, her performance in The Mummy is no different. While she seems to never be a character with too much dialogue, what she does get to say isn’t bad. I’m not fluent in Ancient Egyptian but it sounded right (she also delivers about one line in English). She was a decent Mummy and provided a good looming threat.

The visual effects were pretty good, lots of sand and big sand storms, a bit of mummification and zombification and some Mercury which moved with a little too much life of its own in my opinion, but other than that I had no issues with it. Sound was good too but nothing stood out to me really.

The story flowed reasonably well providing a lot of exposition into not only the origins of The Mummy herself but really trying to push down your throat that this is the beginning of a new cinematic universe (just in case you haven’t worked that out yet). There was one plot point that seemed to break the in-universe rules they set up, but when you need something to happen and when you’re talking about a ‘world of Gods and Monsters’ you’re going to have to let some of these things slide.

The Mummy is a film its best to just switch off to and let it take you for a ride. The action in the film was enjoyable and the pacing was pretty good. One thing I want to praise the movie for is that it was only 107 minutes long! Though you could probably have thrown in an extra few lines of dialogue or a scene or two to either set up characters or show some development, I thought that the movie didn’t overstay it’s welcome. The mythology this film presented has piqued my interest in the Dark Universe (but that’s because I’m a sucker for Cannon), however the rest of the film was average, with nothing overly standing out.

The Mummy: Below Average