Incredibles 2 – Review

After fourteen years Disney and Pixar finally deliver on the sequel everyone wanted (sorry, not sorry Cars 2), Incredibles 2! Taking place straight after the end of The Incredibles feturing the newly assembled super-hero family face-off against Underminer, it feels as though we never left (that maybe because I watched the original the night before seeing this film). Incredibles 2 shifts focus from Robert Parr (aka Mr. Incredible) to his wife, Helen (aka Elastigirl), as she is now the bread-winner for the family aiding a corporate attempt to make super-heroes legal again. But in order to appeal to the public, she must go up against a new and mysterious threat, Screenslaver. (I would just like to take a minute to mention how awesome the super-villains names are in these stories, Bomb-voyage being my absolute favourite!)

Almost everyone involved in the original film returns, from the voice actors (with the exception of Spencer Fox, who voiced Dash, now voiced by Huck Milner, cause puberty sucks and Bud Luckey, who retired from acting in 2014 and died earlier this year, his character, Rick Dicker is now voiced by Johnathan Banks), to the producers, the composer, the editor as well as the writer, director and voice of Edna Mode herself, Brad Bird. I hope for many of those involved had a great time re-igniting the world of The Incredibles, because I know the audience will!

Speaking of that world, I adore the retro-futuristic style in this film more than in the last one. The animation is just so much more refined, a lot more depth in the image and everything is sharper. This is a given because Pixar has evolved in leaps and bounds but it might be a little jarring if your were to watch the movies back to back, and this movie is made for watching back to back. Its so refreshing to see a long awaited sequel to follow-up straight away and not take a ‘where are they now’ sort of storyline.

The film’s story is a little more complex then the last one with the B story taking more of a front seat. But the two stories are equally as interesting. Elastigirl’s story was interesting and rather intellectual despite the a pretty signposted and not very surprising twist and the rest of the family’s story, Robert trying to take care of all the kids problems, is the comic relief interwoven between. The cutting between some parts of the story were a little awkward towards the tipping point, almost like the changes between the stories didn’t work. But ultimately that was one of my only issues in the film.

Incredibles 2 is a sequel that was worth the 14-year-long wait. I wouldn’t say it is better than the original but as far as sequels go, it’s a lot better than most! The original characters are great, the new characters are so-so (cementing my love for the classic heroes), and the story is a fun, fast-paced continuation of the from The Incredibles. For any fan, its a must see. It again tells a better ‘Fantastic Four’ story than Fox Studios ever could.

Incredibles 2: Above Average

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Ready Player One – Review

Ready Player One is a fun, fast-paced and family-friendly movie that is a must watch for people this school holidays. While the film is a significant departure from the book, it is a fantastic adaption of the core concepts and it’s almost as if the author and (co-screenwriter) has taken a second chance to improve and refine his story.

Set twenty years into the future, the world is a different place, poverty is rife, but people have an escape, the OASIS, a virtual reality world of huge proportions where anyone can be anything. A few years prior to the story, the creator of OASIS, James Halliday, passed away leaving the ‘keys’ to become sole owner of the game and claiming his fortune to a lucky gamer who follows clues and completes a series of tasks. While many have given up in competing for the prize, our main character, Wade Watts an eighteen-year-old player of OASIS, along with a few friends are some of the players still committed to finding the clues and completing the challenges. Ready Player One pits this small band of teenagers against a computer game based mega-corporation known as IOI who are also seeking to gain control of OASIS.

For reference, I have not read the book ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline. I have had it recommended to me since something like 2012 (I just never got around to it). From what I have heard the film is a very loose adaptation of the book, where the general plot is the same but things like the tasks our heroes had to complete, and the order of events have changed. A friend of mine (a big fan of the book) said to me that he ‘wasn’t happy with the changes they had made, a lot of parts were cut’, to which I replied, “How long did it take you to read the book versus how long it took you to watch the movie?” It’s the problem you will always face when adapting a much-loved piece of fiction, you may open the story up to more people, but you risk alienating your existing fan-base.

That being said, as someone who had not read the book, I really enjoyed the film. The adaptations that have been made from the source material have made the story more linear and approachable. It doesn’t assume any previous knowledge (although if you were immersed in popular culture between the 80s and now you will enjoy yourself a lot more) and explains everything required to progress the story. The story is very basic but does enough and is supported by ‘Easter Eggs’ a-plenty and beautiful visuals.

While we’re on the topic of visuals, after watching the trailers, I was a little unsure at first that the film was going to be an over-the-top mess of CGI and corny visual gags. Now, there were a few corny visual gags but the CGI was beautiful and blended really well with the real world actors. Tye Sheridan is not a great actor yet but he is starting to get there, and his performance of Wade Watts wasn’t too bad. Also in the cast is up-and-comer Olivia Cooke as Wade Watts’ love interest, Art3mis, the always villainous, Ben Mendelsohn as the head of IOI and Mark Rylance and Simon Pegg as the co-creators of OASIS. The cast were good and reasonably interesting, but no-one stands out in this film.

Steven Spielberg has an uncanny ability to be able to create Oscar-bait in The Post and directing a high-concept blockbuster like Ready Player One in the same time frame. He knows how to ‘give the kids what they want’ and this film is another great entry into the blockbuster genre he helped start almost 45 years ago in Jaws.

Ready Player One is a good quality popcorn flick that is easy to follow and does not require prior knowledge of a universe (unlike many films coming out this year). If you’ve read the book, go in to this film with an open mind. Yes, you will be disappointed if you think the book is the best version but if you are more of a fan of the themes and the concept you may even find this a more streamlined version. This movie is one to check out!

Ready Player One: Above Average

Tangled – Review

To preface why I’m reviewing Tangled: This year, 2018, I have set myself a goal to watch and review as many of the 56 (57 by the end of this year with Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-it Ralph 2 being released in November) Disney Animation Studios films as I can.

Tangled loosely retells the fairy tale of ‘Rapunzel’. A story of a beautiful girl with long magical hair who is locked in a tower and rescued by a prince. In this iteration it is Rapunzel who is royal, a kidnapped princess, who possesses long, blonde, magical hair that can grant youth and heal injuries. She meets a thief whom she convinces to take her out of the tower she has been locked away in so that she can see the world and the floating lanterns she sees one night every year. The film features a few songs but I wouldn’t consider it a musical.

Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) is an eighteen year old who longs to see the world outside her tower despite what her mother says about it being full of evil. She sees floating lanterns at night every year on her birthday and is convinced that the world cant be all evil. Eugene Fitzherbert, who sometimes goes by the moniker, ‘Flynn Rider’ (Zachery Levi) is a thief who barely scrapes through life while trying to be someone he isn’t. While Flynn Rider wold most likely rat Rapunzel out to the highest bidder it’s Eugene who begins to care for the lost princess. Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy) is a twisted old woman who after kidnapping Rapunzel uses her to grant herself eternal youth and beauty. Once she discovers Rapunzel has escaped she does anything and everything she can to get her back and reclaim her power. I like these characters, Rapunzel is fun and Eugene can be suave and dorky at the same time but the real stars of this film are the two non-speaking sidekicks, Pascal the Chameleon and Maximus the Horse. Their characters have some much life and depth despite not having a single line but the way the animation is done, these characters steal most of the scenes they are in.

While we’re on the topic of animation style, this film has a nice flowing 3D animation similar to the style they would go on to use in Frozen. The animation of Maximus and the way the horse moved was scaled back a little when creating Sven in a similar style. I preferred the scaling back but I’m sure the way Maximus moved and acted in the film was loved by kids. Tangled was directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, both have been working with the company since the late 1990s, the latter of which has co-directed on recent Disney animated features like Bolt and Zootopia.

Tangled is one of my favourites of the ‘Revival’ era of films because of it’s fun and light-hearted approach to adapting a fairy tale.

Rating: Above Average

Black Panther – Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off its tenth year in style with its 18th film, Black Panther. The film brings brilliant directing, acting music and design to the forefront of this origin story of sorts for the MCU’s first black lead character.

Black Panther is set a week or so after Captain America: Civil War as T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home after the death of his Father to be crowned King of Wakanda, only for his reign to be challenged by Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). The film’s storyline, while good, is probably the weakest part of Black Panther as it doesn’t offer much that is new. It’s a ‘sins-of-the-father’ plot that we have seen before in the MCU especially in Iron Man 2, though this is executed better. While this film repeats the traditional hero with specific powers vs villain with very similar powers plot point, I would say that this is probably one of the best versions we have seen because of the time taken to develop the villain. Erik Stevens AKA Killmonger is the hero of his own story. While from our point of view he is the villain, the film sets him up with enough background and emotional development that he is a villain we like and understand. This is something that the MCU has struggled with in the past but not in Black Panther.

That isn’t where the character development stops in this film. Black Panther is full of strong, likeable and developed characters. From T’Challa struggling with his rise to power to his good friend and chief of security, W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya) who sees some of Wakanda downsides, everyone gets their chance to shine. The old saying goes that behind every great man there is a great woman, in Black Panther though there are many great women. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o) is T’Challa’s ex-girlfriend who acts as a Wakandan spy in the outside world. Okoye (Danai Gurira) is the head of the Dora Milaje, a team of women who serve as the special forces of Wakanda. Shuri (Letitia Wright) T’Challa’s sister, Princess and tech-genius. Shuri is the Q to T’Challa’s Bond while also developing new technologies for the nation of Wakanda. We round out the main female cast with Ramonda (Angela Bassett) T’Challa and Shuri’s mother and the Queen of Wakanda. Also bringing fantastic characters to the table are M’Baku (Winston Duke) the leader of the Mountain Tribe, Zuri (Forest Whitaker) an elder spiritual leader in Wakanda and friend of the former King T’Chaka. Andy Serkis reprises and improves on his role from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ulysses Klaue and Martin Freeman returns as Agent Everett Ross.

Black Panther features a stunning setting in the Afro-Futuristic Wakanda a nation with incredible technology that is tied together with it’s spiritual roots that creates some stunning visuals. The design of the world of Wakanda is beautiful and my only issue is that we don’t see enough of it. I would return to Wakanda in a heart beat and judging by the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, it looks like we will, even for just a little bit. The costume design incorporates that same vibe of the future coupled with traditional African culture, so colourful and vibrant, it continues the MCU’s departure from the muted tones of its earlier entries. One of the biggest tools used to immerse the viewer in to the world of Wakanda is the music. The score by Ludwig Göransson is inspired by local musicians from Senegal and South Africa. It brings a feeling that the film is in touch with the culture it is portraying. It helped make Wakanda feel real.

Director Ryan Coogler has created an amazing world within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He and co-writer Joe Robert Cole brought the characters and story from the comics to life in a way that the MCU hasn’t done before. They were able to bring the idea of a secretly futuristic African nation and somehow still ground it in a bit of reality. Coogler brought out the very best from his actors to the point where you could say this film has some of the best and most developed characters in a single film in the MCU. I can’t praise his work on this film enough. Quick shout out to cinematographer, Rachel Morrison who helped bring this world to the screen and came up with some really nice shots including a inverted shot that turns 180 degrees!

Black Panther is a great film and just what we needed to get us excited for Avengers: Infinity War in just a few months. The film benefits from great acting, direction, writing and world-building. The sum of all this come to one of the best ‘solo’ MCU film.

Above Average

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – Review

In the year 1996, about a year after the events of the first Jumanji film, the mysterious and deadly board game is found washed up on a beach by a jogger. He takes the game home and gives it to his son, Alex, who discards it because “no one plays board games anymore”. Disheartened (I guess is the word I’m looking for), the game transforms into a console and cartridge overnight so that it can claim its next victim. Alex wakes up and plays the game only to be sucked in and never seen again… Fast forward 20 years and four teenagers are cleaning out a basement at school for detention. They find the game, start to play it, and they get sucked in too.

Sounds familiar? Yeah, the plot line of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is pretty thin however is the performances of the actors, the comedy and the self-awareness that really makes the film stand out. When I first heard that they were making a new Jumanji film, I thought that it would end up being a cash grab. Then, I saw the trailer and where they wanted to take the franchise and it piqued my interest. The film takes the characteristics of the game and modernises it to create something that feels fresh but at the same time, familiar. The video game aspect was an interesting take and it led to some good jokes about NPCs and other video game cliches. I say the plot line is thin, and it is, but at the same time, a lot of video games, especially the older ones, have very short plots. It’s usually “get this thing to that thing” or “save the world” (hint: they may have something to do with the movie).

Dwayne Johnson, Karen Gillan, Jack Black and Kevin Hart play the video game avatars of the four students played by, Alex Wolff, Morgan Turner, Madison Iseman and Ser’Darius Blain. The actors both portray the characteristics of the characters really well. The standouts to me were Karen Gillan nailing a Morgan Turner impression and Jack Black playing a teenage girl in a middle-aged over-weight man’s body. While the characters felt a little weak at first, you have a nerd, a football player, a popular girl and a shy bookworm, they grow a little through the film and learn to trust each other. So there is a small amount of character development.

Rounding out the cast is Nick Jonas as Alex(the kid that went missing in 1996)’s avatar in the game. Bobby Cannavale as Van Pelt, the evil explorer who wants to control Jumanji and Rhys Darby as the game’s guide. I thought the cast all did good jobs and you could tell how much fun (especially the in-game characters) were having on set.

The film is surprisingly good. The jokes are funny and the actors and the chemistry between them is light and fun. The action is good even though some of the CGI animals looked a little rushed and fake. There are also some nice little hints to the original film.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is a standalone sequel in the Jumanji universe, you don’t have to have seen the original (although do, it’s a great film). It’s refreshing to see something that isn’t rebooting or remaking a story, while some could consider it a soft reboot, it is also very much a sequel. I enjoyed this film but I don’t see any new films in the universe for a while. This film is very similar thematically to the original so they would have to go in a very different direction for a sequel so the franchise doesnt go stale.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: Surprisingly, Above Average

Love Actually – Review

To be honest, this is the kind of movie that almost everyone has seen. I’m not going to be saying anything too crazy about this film. It’s great. It’s a masterpiece of Romantic Comedy – so much so that it has set a template for many other rom-coms to follow in the last fourteen years. Love Actually was written and directed by Richard Curtis, the genius behind films like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Boat that Rocked. Just like the films I’ve named and almost all the other ones I haven’t Curtis has proven that he can create characters that are relatable but can also be put in ridiculous situations, be they romantic or not, and create comedy. I’ve said a few times that there is usually only one good romantic comedy film a year, but if this is the standard of good, there’s probably one every five or so years.

I can’t see this review being very long so I’ll brush over some things I liked and some things I didn’t. Many of the characters are believable and are introduced briefly into the story, and yet you know almost everything you need to know about them by about ten minutes in. This is an example of how you create a good ensemble. Give your characters a chance to grow but keep them as simple as possible. This isn’t a criticism, I like that all I need to know about John and Judy (Martin Freeman and Joanna Page) is that they are body doubles for a film with a sex scene in it. Their relationship blossoms from that point. I also like that in the first meeting between Prime Minister, David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) you feel the pomp and circumstance that would usually come in the air of 10 Downing Street disappear the moment both of them say ‘fuck’. It’s good writing and great introductions that makes this film stand out to me. It is something a lot of the ‘copycat’ films have been unable to achieve.

Whether it’s the lost in translation love between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) or the misguided sexual adventure Colin Frizzle (Kris Marshall) embarks on, everyone has their favourite Love Actually story. Mine is the Step-Father and Son relationship between Daniel (Liam Neeson) and Sam (Thomas Sangster) and their own journeys to find love after the death of Sam’s mother.

I’m going to wrap this up now. Love Actually is probably one of the best Christmas films and one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Admittedly, that statement is coming from someone that doesn’t like either of those genres all that much. But you’ll have to take my word for it, it’s a great film that pulls on all kinds of heartstrings. It’s hard to imagine a Christmas without it.

Love Actually: Above Average

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Review

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without watching at least one Shane Black film. The director sets almost all of his films around this particular time of year and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourites.

Harry Lockhart, played by Robert Downey Jr. is the narrator and main character of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and as in a lot of his films, is pretty much Robert Downey Jr. This movie was released in 2005 and I think it was a major contributor to him getting the role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man film. The character is erratic but well-meaning. The film also stars Val Kilmer as Perry van Shrike and Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Faith Lane.

Harry is a thief turned actor who, while on a detective lesson with Gay Perry (for a role) witnesses a murder. He and Perry follow the threads and uncover a plot that is very involved and even connects to a former best friend of Harry’s from his hometown (Harmony). The film naturally unfolds as the characters find out more about the conspiracy and start to piece it together. Things we saw early in the movie are worked back into the plot and everything gets tied up in a nice little bow (like a Christmas present). Harry cuts in and out of the story with his self-aware narration that lightens the film up in some of the darker parts. If you haven’t seen this before but have seen Black and Downey Jr.’s other film Iron Man 3 it will feel very familiar to you. Harry is telling a story that has already happened, in this case, he is making it into a movie.

Shane Black has a very interesting way of setting his films at Christmas which amplifies his creative choices. His noir style of characters on bright night time backgrounds is enhanced by Christmas Lights and snow. In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the LA Christmas Party settings are some of the most striking. While it is not often a major contributor to the films, and it isn’t in this one, Christmas (as Shane has said in interviews) make lonely people lonelier and, in some cases can make the bringing together of or reuniting of a family that much more important.

The three leads are fantastic together, mind you, I’m a fan of the actors in almost everything they’re in. While Robert Downey Jr. is very much his usual character in this film, there are some nice intricacies that shine through. Val Kilmer is probably my (and most likely everyone else’s) favourite character, “Gay” Perry is the ‘wise sage’ in this film who with his detective skills works out the case long before the audience of Harry does. Sure he makes mistakes from time to time but he’s a private investigator, most of them are schmucks anyway. Rounding out the cast is Michelle Monaghan whos character Harmony is a twist on the Femme Fatale trope. She’s sexy and smart but also fallible which just gives a nice little extra depth to the character, something you don’t often get in Film Noir.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a great crime-action film with interesting characters and a funny side. All set over the backdrop of Christmas, it is a must watch for this time of year. You won’t be disappointed.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Above Average

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

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Review

The original trilogy comes together in a massive galactic finale. Star Wars – Return of the Jedi pits our heroes once again against a fully-charged Empire that wants to wipe them out for good. The film served as a climax for a series of films that captured the hearts of the world, young and old, male and female. There was something about the series that despite it being set in a galaxy far, far away, was so relatable but also, very exciting.

Return of the Jedi opens on the familiar planet of Tatooine (Luke’s homeworld) in an attempt to rescue Han Solo (who is still in Carbon Freeze) from Jabba the Hutt. After a rather long series of events, a big set piece and a Q & A session with Yoda, the team reunites with the Rebel Alliance as they are about to take on their biggest mission yet, to destroy another Death Star. But things are a bit different this time. They have a much bigger fleet ready to go on the offensive and there is word that not only is the under construction project not yet armed but that the Emperor himself is on the battle station.

The final battle is a culmination of what we had seen in the pervious movies and then some. It cuts nicely between three simultaneous struggles; A ground battle: the Rebels and their new found friends the Ewoks against garrisons of Storm troopers, a massive space battle between a surprised Rebel fleet and the Empire’s Star Destroyers and a Lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as the Emperor looks on. The film puts our main characters exactly where they need to be, split up between these fights so we have people to follow in each. Return of the Jedi doesn’t necessarily take the time as in the other films to dwell on that characters, by now if you have been following the films we already know a lot about them and the only real character development is shared between the characters in the Death Star’s throne room, Luke, Vader and the Emperor. That isn’t a bad thing though because the film is able to focus more on the battles at hand, the twists, turns and traps of all three of these skirmishes get you to care about the heroes’ plight and wonder if they will all make it out alive.

Welsh director, Richard Marquand took over directorial duties for Return of the Jedi as Lucas continued to produce and assist with the visual effects and story. This aided the film a lot as Marquand was very much an actors director and was able to get good performances out of everyone in the cast. The main new addition to the cast was Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, a quintessential evil character with a subtle Shakespearian vibe. He was very much a stand out in this film as he injected something new into the story and terrified children around the world.

In Return of the Jedi, Star Wars cemented itself as the franchise that pushed the boundaries of what you could put on screen. Character costumes like the Ewoks, Jabba and Nein Numb were beautiful realisations of how puppetry could work along with human movement while the space battles showed progress from the first film a few short years ago. John Williams returned to score the film, his track Ewok Celebration (aka Yub Nub) was one of my favourite pieces from the soundtrack and it was brutally cut from the Special Edition versions.

There isn’t much else to write for this film other than I felt it was a great way to end the trilogy and start a long wait before we might one day see episodes 1, 2, and 3.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Above Average