Posts Tagged ‘star wars’

Don’t let me catch you giving any muffins to those little beggars outside!

Year Released : 1985

Director : Jim and Ken Wheat

Cast : Warwick Davis, Wilford Brimley, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason, Carel Struykcen and Sian Phillips

Another VHS that I found at my parents house whilst I was clearing out some old belongings, “Ewoks : Battle for Endor” was the first film from the Star Wars universe that I ever actually saw. Obviously this isn’t part of the main film franchise, but it can still be considered canon for the universe given that it was written by George Lucas, so was part of the intended set up.

Unlike my last review for “Mac and Me“, I have actually seen this in the relatively recent past before I rewatch for reviewing purposes, and I seem to remember enjoying it when I watched it in my late twenties. However, as I mentioned during the aforementioned review, I now don’t view films in the same way that I did before due to reviewing them as a hobby just under three years ago. That’s the one thing that they never tell you about film reviewing, it soon becomes very difficult to watch a film without being able to notice all of the little errors. I can’t remember the last time I was able to sit back and just enjoy a film.

But away, time will tell if this film is what I remember it to be.

Plot

Some time after crashing on the moon of Endor, Cindel (Miller) has befriended the Ewok community that helped in the Battle of Endor several years before, especially Wicket (Davis). Just when their ship is close to being repaired they are attacked by a group or marauders and all of Cindel’s remaining family are killed because of a power source, as well as her and a large group of Ewoks being captured by Terak (Struycken) and his witch Charal (Philips).

Cindel and Wicket escape and are greeted by a fast creature named Teek that helps them find a cabin the woods, helping themselves to the food inside. Noa (Brimley), the owner of the cabin, soon returns and is far from happy but eventually agrees to house them for the night. Noa reveals that he has a ship that could get them off the planet, and when Cindel is tricked into being kidnapped by Charal, it’s decided to double the efforts and get the power source that Terak stole.

It soon turns into a much later battle between the Ewoks and the race of marauders.

As good as I remembered?

It’s hard to really say whether it was as good as I remembered because I recall it being fairly decent, and whilst I didn’t dislike it on this viewing, it felt somewhat humble to the point that you couldn’t ever really get into it.

The problem is that you are literally following a child, several puppets or people in costumes, and only two adult characters, one of which isn’t given any development whatsoever. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot to really get invested in because let’s face it, when was the last time you saw a film in which a small child went on a mission and didn’t achieve it? It makes it a bit uncompelling in that sense…..but it’s not a bad film.

I think the best word to describe it would be “quaint”. It’s a nice little science fiction film, with a bit of fantasy thrown in, but one thing that it definitely doesn’t feel like is a Star Wars universe film, that despite being set in the same universe. It’s hard to really call this a Star Wars film because there is very little that it has in common with the rest of the franchise, other than the Ewoks and the odd sign of technology from the series. In many ways this is more of a fantasy film given that Tarek’s army looks more like a bunch of half decomposed dead bodies, and the addition of a witch that can turn herself into a bird at any point.

That’s not to say that it’s not a bad thing that it’s not like a lot of the Star Wars films as I’m not a big fan of that franchise. I like them, but not to the point where I think they deserve the praise that they get so easily in the media.

This is a much darker film than you would expect for most other kids films. Granted, this was the 1980s and standards back then for children were less strict, afterall, the original Star Wars franchise were Universals and yet had people stabbing each other, cutting arms off, etc, but “Battle for Endor” could in some ways be considered a horror-fantasy for kids. The design of the marauders is off putting, you have very dark and unsettling environments, and the character of Noa, who I would remind everyone is a protagonist, is quite a scary (well, by the standards of films aimed at kids) old man at various points. Granted, at times Noa is also a very friendly man in his grandfather style role and relationship with Cindel, but even so.

Visually the film is reasonably quaint considering the low budget and time in which it was made. It has a pleasant enough soundtrack and as I say, certainly isn’t a bad film in how it’s been made.

Summary

Just because this is part of the “Star Wars” franchise, don’t go in expecting it to be anything like that main series as it is anything but. It’s certainly not a bad film and is a quaint science fiction film that borders on being close to a horror movie for children.

As this was apparently made for TV, don’t go in expecting a top of the range film, it isn’t. Whilst not awful, there are a few minor issues that whilst I can overlook, certainly mean that I can’t give it the approved stamp.

Not sure what else to say really.

So after looking at forty other films that were not that good, I’m starting to emerge into the area of films that were quite reasonable, even if not great. Included in this list are some of the biggest releases in 2016, including two comic book films, and the expansion of two of the most popular franchises in cinema history.

Before I start on this list, I’m going to clarify something. There are a few films on this list in particular that I saw twice at the cinema. Some I enjoyed this much more on the second viewing, however, I am basing this position purely on the first viewing of the film as it would otherwise be unfair on the other films in the list.

So, here we go with 60 through to 51.

60) Money Monstermoney_monster-765138268-large

Cast : George Clooney, Jack O’Connell, Julia Roberts, Dominic West and Giancarlo Esposito

Plot : Lee (Clooney) is a very popular TV financial analyst. He turns up one day for work with the plan to interview Walt Calmby (West) following a glitch that cost investors to Calmby’s company $800m, one of Lee’s previous tips, but Walt pulls out. Lee continues with the show as normal.

During his broadcast, Kyle (O’Connell) casually strolls onto set and takes Lee hostage. Kyle blames Lee for losing all of his life’s savings by investing it in Calmby’s company, which was described as a “sure thing”, leaving him completely broke. Whilst they have on-air hostage negotiation, it soon starts to emerge that the glitch might have had humans tampering it with it.

Why in this position? : “Money Monster” reminded me a lot of films in recent years that follow a similar structure, i/e an investigation going on whilst a hostage situation, or something that’s likely to cause mass-injury, is going on. For example, “Unstoppable”, “The Taking of Pelham 123” and other films of that sort of ilk. I liked those films and that is why I decided to give it a go.

There are definitely some interesting aspects to the film, such as the way that O’Connell and Clooney seem to have a natural connection on screen, but the problem is that the majority of the other characters in the film, other than Walt, are pretty replaceable and forgettable.

I did like the film, it was fairly well put together, but towards the end it does get a bit complicated and loses a lot of the tension and I got a bit bored. Don’t get me wrong, if I get the chance to watch it again then I’d probably take it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to do so.

 

59) Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesprideprejudicesmall1

Cast : Lily James, Sam Riley, Jack Huston, Bella Heathcote, Douglas Booth, Matt Smith, Charles Dance and Lena Headey

Plot : Elizabeth (James) is fed up with her mother (Bennett) constantly trying to force marriage on her daughters, made even trickier by that the world is infested with zombies. One day she meets the rather abrupt and rude Fitzwilliam Darcy (Riley), who admits that he is attracted to her, but she is more attracted to army commander, Mr Wickham (Huston).

Wickham shows Elizabeth that he has found a way to keep zombies civilised, feeding them pigs brains instead of human brains. Elizabeth refuses to elope with Wickham, but she then also rejects a marriage proposal from Darcy due to him separating Bingley (Booth) from her sister. He goes to fight the war on zombies, but soon it becomes evident that Wickham wasn’t all he seemed either.

Why in this position? : If there is one thing I’ll give to films like this, they try to be fun and original, and I must admit that I have never seen another film like this. I won’t claim to know anything at all about “Pride and Prejudice”, so I went into this film pretty blind considering. I won’t claim to have thought it was one of the best films of the year, which I would hope would be evident by the fact it’s at number 59 on this list, but it was certainly better than last year’s “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”.

The acting is fairly decent throughout, especially Sam Riley as I have realised in the few films that I have seen him in that he has a distinct lack of charisma, making him a perfect candidate for a role as a moody and rude guy that is not at ease with his emotions. Jack Huston is also exceptionally charming as Wickham.

Acting and fun aside, this film has a lot of flaws, with one of the bigger ones being that you never genuinely feel that Elizabeth is in any true danger, and most of her sisters are actually completely inconsequential and underdeveloped. I’m not sure if it’s the same in the novel, but it didn’t translate well to film.

 

58) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themcf85c795d294e5c93544571128188d4d

Cast : Eddie Redmayne, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller and Colin Farrell

Plot : Newt (Redmayne) arrives in New York to aid in his research for his book. Within days though he accidentally manages to unleash various creatures in the city, including in front of a non-magical witness called Jacob (Fogler). Porpentina (Waterston), a member of what is effectively the Magic Police, finds out that Jacob knows about the released creature and tries to arrest he and Newt.

She eventually takes them to her apartment, in which Jacob meets Queenie (Sudol), Porpentina’s sister, and they two fall in love. Newt eventually manages to escape through his suitcase and continues his mission to get his creatures back, but that might prove tricky once Porpentina’s bosses find out.

Why in this position? : I’m not going to pretend that I think the “Harry Potter” franchise is good, I really don’t think it is. Out of the eight films I liked maybe three, if that. The problem is that the villains are largely forgotten for the majority of the film in the original eight films, and it is the same in “FBAWTFT”. There are large, very large infact, sections where the antagonist is not referenced at all, a repeat of the previous eight films. The first two Harry Potter films were on TV at the weekend that has just past and the antagonists are only really relevant for the final fifteen minutes of both, and that trend repeats here.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are parts of the film that I did like, and or me the stand out character is Jacob, played fantastically by Dan Fogler. He is the “everyman” character that is very much the audience’s way into this world, and the way that we would probably react and ask questions. If I was to rank the top ten characters of the year, chances are that he would in it. The problem is that he is the only truly engaging character in the film.

Porpentina is a dull character, Seraphina is not developed in the slightest and the less said about the exceptionally boring character of Credence, the better.

 

57) Suicide Squadlarge_e1mjopzas2knsvpbpahq1a6sksn

Cast : Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Cara Delevingne and Jared Leto

Plot : Whilst Superman and Batman are revered as heroes, there are some who think the opposite and realise just how dangerous they can be. Because of this, Amanda Waller (Davis) decides to have a team of anti-heroes to counter the potential issues. However, on early on the mystical Enchantress (Delevingne) turns on them and sets about ending the world herself.

The squad, lead by Rick Flag (Kinnaman), and he makes it clear that the group of anti-heroes are to follow his rule, or they will face the consequences. That is not made that easy though as one of his group, Harley Quinn (Robbie), is being chased by The Joker (Leto), who intends on resuming his abusive relationship with her.

Why in this position? : They might as well have just called this “Deadshot and Harley : The Movie” because no other characters in the squad are given time to develop or become even remotely interesting. Infact, I’d go as far as calling this a female lead comic book movie because let’s face it, Harley Quinn is the main character. She was the main character in the trailer, she’s the only one given any real emotional attachment to another character in the film.

From the trailers you would believe that this is a fun romp and to be fair, there were times when I was actually genuinely enjoying this outing from DC, but it never really felt like anything more than a poor attempt to replicate the anti-hero portrayal of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

The acting is fine, the plot is followable and it’s not an awful film, but it’s not that great either.

 

56) Rogue One : A Star Wars Storycwq_bzvxeaevup4

Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Donnie Yen and Forrest Whittaker

Plot : It’s been nearly twenty years since the Jedi were overthrown at the hands of Anakin Skywalker and seemingly wiped out, and now the Empire rules over the galaxy. They are developing a super weapon that is capable of destroying entire planets, all designed by Galen (Mikkelsen), who does it to protect his daughter, Jyn (Jones).

One day Jyn is rescued from prison, encountering Cassian (Luna) and his droid. They learn that a pilot (Ahmed) has defected from the Empire and has a message that will turn the tide of the war, but he is not trusted by anyone on board.

Meanwhile, an ambitious Empire General (Mendelsohn) is determined to prove his worth, and more ominously, the worth of the super weapon?

Why in this position? : I’m going to get a lot of hate for this one as well.

Whilst I’m not going to claim to be a big Star Wars fan, I do somewhat enjoy them. I do feel they are ridiculously overrated, but last year’s “Force Awakens” was delightful fun, this was not. “Rogue One” just plods along for two hours and yet never feels like it’s going anyway. It feels completely unnatural when they do eventually start battling the empire, and everything feels a bit “deus-ex machina”.

For me the stakes never really feel that big, and I think the reason for this is that you know that in the end they will succeed because it’s a prequel to a film that was released nearly 40 years ago. Any true stakes are taken out of the whole equation, and the only question becomes which character(s) from the rebels are about to die.

The one thing I will give to the film is that Mikkelsen and Mendelsohn are both wonderful in their respective roles, and most of the cast do a good job. There are some great throwbacks to the original trilogy and it does seem to all neatly tie in together, and the CGI (especially incorporating the faces of actors that are either dead, or into old age by now) to look like they did in “A New Hope” was great, but that doesn’t stop it being a good film for me.

 

55) Ben Hurben_hur_ver13

Cast : Jack Huston, Morgan Freeman, Tony Kebbell and Rodrigo Santoro

Plot : Adoptive brothers Judah (Huston) and Messala (Kebbell) love each other but have very different views of the world. Whilst Judah only wants peace, Messala wants to join the Roman Empire eventually succeeding in his mission. He returns several years later but feels betrayed when he finds zealots hiding in Judah’s house, and he casts him out. Judah is then subjected to several years of slaving on a ship.

He is eventually rescued by Sheik Ilderim (Freeman), who soon realises that he is no mere slave, and decides to allow him time and space to regain his strength so that he can go after Messala in the one place where he knows it would hurt him the most, the collessium in front of all of Rome.

Why in this position? : I went in expecting the worst. I’ve never seen the original “Ben Hur” but kept hearing how good it is, so I thought “why not” and gave it a watch one random morning, mainly because Rodrigo Santoro was in it, and he’s awesome.

I’m not going to sit here and lie by saying that I thought this film was good, oh no, far from it, but is it as bad as some made it out to be? No, definitely not. I think the reason for this is that unlike a lot of other films in the lower reaches of my count down, you see where both sides of the argument are coming from, and even though he’s a bit of a dick about things, you understand the antagonist’s point of view.

This is a film that will be completely forgotten by this time next year, and I have no doubts that the original is better, but ultimately it wasn’t the worst way to spend a few hours of my life, but would I ever watch it again? No, probably not.

 

54) Nice Guysthe_nice_guys_stroke_1024x1024

Cast : Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Kim Basinger, Keith David and Jack Kilmer

Plot : Jackson (Crowe) is a fixer that you hire if you need something unsavoury doing, such as beating up someone, and one such job sees him investigate why fellow private detective Holland (Gosling) is snooping around his client, Amelia (Qualley). After Jackson beats up Holland, he himself is attacked by two thugs who try to establish where Amelia is from him.

Holland and Jackson decide to team up after Amelia disappears, and the establish that the reason people are interested in her is that she has been in a home-made journalism/porn movie with a recently deceased porn star, and that there is a chance that it contains important information that would overthrow her mother, Judith (Basinger), a high ranking official in the Department of Justice.

Why in this position? : I seemed to be the only person that I know that didn’t really feel anything for this film. Whilst it’s not awful it just felt like it was just plodding along without any real effort needed in order for the central characters to resolve the case.

Whilst the setting and comedy was decent enough, there was just something missing that meant that whilst I didn’t dislike the film, I can’t honestly say that I enjoyed “The Nice Guys”, and it’s such a shame because I was looking forward to it from the moment that I initially saw the trailer several months prior.

Crowe and Gosling made a great pairing, and given how popular the movie was I can actually picture getting a sequel in several years, but for me it was just a bang-average attempt at making a so called “buddy anti-cop” movie.

 

53) Dr. Strange

doctorstrange4

Cast : Benedict Cumberbatch, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swindon, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams

Plot : Dr. Strange (Cumberbatch) is one of the leading surgeons in the world and it has made him exceedingly arrogant. One day he is driving, all whilst not paying attention. He suddenly veers off of the road, and the accident causes significant damage to his hands, making being a surgeon impossible. He throws his money at all types of experimental surgeries, but all fail. Virtually giving up, Strange hears about a previously paralysed man that was suddenly able to walk after a trip to Nepal. Strange uses the last of his money to travel there.

Whilst there he finds a woman referring to herself as “The Ancient One” (Swinton), who claims to control aspects of reality. Strange refuses to believe her until his thrown through several dimensions. She eventually agrees to train him, however, she fears that he might turn out to be like Kaecilius (Mikkelson), a former student that started following the dark arts, and will stop at nothing to seek eternal life.

Why in this position? : “Dr Strange” is a visually complex film, often confusing when buildings are moving around, but it is largely very well presented, with great visuals. I especially like the make up that has been applied to the ever reliable Mikkelsen, even if in one scene it actually looks like it’s irritating his eyes to the point where he is crying.

The casting for this film is near enough perfect, with Mikkelsen being a great antagonist, and Benedict Cumberbatch proving to be an exceptional comic-book protagonist, but it’s not a perfect film. Whilst Mikkelsen is perfect in the role, especially with a few vaudevillian style jokes, the character itself never really feels like a genuine threat and you’re never convinced he’s going to win. Even if the characterisation is decent enough, and you understand where they are coming from, you can never see him defeating Strange overall, which can’t be said for other Marvel villains.

The only major  problem that I really have with “Dr. Strange” is that it is not that original in the sense that it is basically the same storyline at another Marvel film, “Thor”. It’s a film about someone who is overly arrogant because of his ability, but due to his own hubris he is striped of those abilities. It takes him some time to accept his new fate and life, and he learns to be a far more humble person. Whilst the overall plot is different, the spine is very much the same.

 

52) Daddy’s Homedaddys-home

Cast : Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Scarlett Estevez and Owen Wilder Vaccaro

Plot : Brad (Ferrell) is a proud step-father to the kids of his new wife, Sara (Cardellini), but one day they receive a message that the actual father of the kids, Dusty (Wahlberg), is coming for a visit and he wants to discuss something with Sara. Brad is excited, but Sara is less than keen.

When he arrives, Brad is overly nice at first, but it quickly turns into a game of one-up-manship between the two, and Dusty reveals that not only does he want his kids back, but he also wants Sara back as well.

Why in this position? : I don’t really do comedies at the cinema or in general. I have a very odd sense of humour and therefore don’t really enjoy a lot of those films that you would consider LOL material, but that being said I did reasonably enjoy “Daddy’s Home”.

I’m not going to sit here and claim it is perfect, infact far from it. There are a lot of issues with it, but it was a fun way to spend 90 or so minutes of my life. The cast are reasonably enjoyable and do a decent job, even Wahlberg, who you would never imagine would be half decent in a role like this, but he pulls it off.

Ultimately it’s not a great film, and I’m never going to claim that it was an excellent film, hence why it’s this relatively far down in the list, but it’s enjoyable enough to say that if it was on TV at some point then I’d probably sit and watch it.

 

51) Goosebumpsaaenpt

Cast : Jack Blake, Dylan Minnette, Odeya Rush and Ryan Lee

Plot : Zach (Minnette) moves to a new neighbourhood and quickly becomes attracted to the girl next door, Hannah (Rush). However, every time he tries to interact with her, her father (Black) refuses to accept the situation and bans him from seeing her. One night the father goes out, and Zach’s friend, Champ (Lee), convinces him to break into the house after he thinks he hears Hannah being murdered, but what they instead fine are dozens of manuscripts for the Goosebumps books.

They soon accidentally open one of the books and a giant snow monster comes out, and they soon realise that all of the books contain monsters, and they’re soon all accidentally released. Now Zach, Champ, Hannah and the father, who is revealed to be R.L Stine, the author of all of the original books, and the only way for the nightmare to end is if he writes a fresh manuscript using the original typewriter, but it won’t be that easy with all of the monsters trying to kill them.

Why in this position? : I never really watched “Goosebumps”, nor read the books, when I was a kid so I went into this not really expecting a lot. Infact, I expected very little in general and to be honest, had I not gotten into films for free this year, I’d never have even slightly considered watching it. That being said, it wasn’t that bad.

I’m not going to go on about “Goosebumps” for too long because there’s not really a lot to say. It’s a fun enough movie that is relatively interesting for what it is. For kids I imagine it’s pretty scary, and even though I was 31 at the time I watched it, I reasonably enjoyed it for the most part.

My only issue with it is that it does get a tiny bit repetitive, especially with the character of “Slappy”, but you know what, there are far worse ways to spend 90 or so minutes.

So we reach my penultimate list of looking at films that I saw in the cinema in 2015, and now we’re getting onto films that were relatively decent, but I didn’t think that they were strong enough to make the Top 10.

Most of these films did feature in the Top 10 at some point, but ultimately I didn’t include them in the top 10 for a variety of reasons.

Just like Part 2, this page has been sorted into nothing more than alphabetical order.

Avengers 2 : Age of Ultronavengers_age_of_ultron

Cast : Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johanssen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen and James Spader

Plot : The Avengers are celebrating yet another successful mission with a party, and the group all have difficulty lifting the hammer of Thor (Hemsworth), although Steve (Evans) does come very close to budging it, however, when Thor states that they’re simply not worthy, one of Tony’s (Downey Jr) suits walks towards them and threatens them all with extinction.

Tony and Bruce (Ruffalo) realise that their ULTRON program (voiced by James Spader) has achieved self-realisation, and the group must battle against what is effectively now a computer virus. ULTRON was built with the intention of helping protect the Earth from enemies, but after doing research, it determines that the only enemy to Earth is humans, and it sets about wiping out….but it isn’t only ULTRON that the Avengers have to worry about.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : The Marvel Universe has arguably been the biggest franchise of the last ten or so years, churning out hit after hit, and whilst one Marvel film this year featured in my Bottom 10, another (this one in case you hadn’t guessed), featured in my Top 10 for a hefty chunk of the time after it was released. However, a lot like other films in this list, it didn’t last that long.

I’m not going to lie, in the individual films of the Avengers cast, there has only been one sub-franchise that I have been excited by and that is Thor. Captain America is too clean cut for my liking, Iron Man is too one dimensional for me, Hawkeye and Black Widow haven’t been developed well at all, and whilst Hulk is arguably the most complex of the characters, they haven’t really touched on the potential of the character, especially under the wonderful acting of Mark Ruffalo.

I also find the antagonists in the Marvel franchise to be far too predictable, with the exception of Loki, and not one of them (other than the aforementioned Loki) has ever looked like winning. That is the main problem with the MCU, the bad guys are so poorly developed that they’re not even slightly convincing, and that is a big disappointment. Ultron never really felt like a genuine threat, and was far too jokey to be taken seriously as a threat.

That being said, Age of Ultron (just going to call is AOU for short) is a wonderfully fun movie. There’s one thing that can be said for all of the Marvel films, with the exception of maybe Winter Soldier, is that they are fun films. Marvel knows how to produce fun and they have again achieved this in AOU. AOU is a fun ride that doesn’t feel like it lasts as long as the run time suggests. The story has a nice flow and although you have to suspend your disbelief for long sections of it, it is an enjoyable few hours.

The uneasy friendships between a lot of the characters, such as Thor’s impatience with Stark after Ultron is released, is intriguing to watch and it sets up the rest of the franchise so well. All of the Marvel films have references to each other and something that’s so minor in one character’s film could end up having a major impact in another’s. The complex nature of the films means that you’re always wanting to go back  and watch them again, and this is the case with AOU.

Away from the storyline arc of the franchise, the acting is very good throughout and Renner brings a greater level of interest into the character of Hawkeye. Hemsworth is his reliable self and even the emotional-void that is Scarlett Johansson isn’t awful. That’s the thing about AOU, there’s nothing particularly awful about it other than the struggle to produce a believable villain.

BirdmanBirdman Movie Poster

Cast : Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts

Plot : Riggan (Keaton), a once famous actor for a role as a superhero known as Birdman, is trying to resurrect his career in a Broadway play. In amongst all of the chaos, Riggan is having visions of his famous character as it mocks him, as well as his daughter, Sam (Stone), questioning him at every turn.

As well as battling several legal aspects of the play with his lawyer (Galifianakis), and the very difficult to work with, but critically claimed actor, Mike Shiner (Norton), Riggan struggles to make his vision come through.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : I’m not going to lie, I find that I am surprised at myself for including Birdman in this list as the first time I watched it, I really didn’t like it at all. Whilst visually unique with it’s editing making it appear like one shot, and exceptional acting from the entire cast, I didn’t find Birdman particularly interesting and honestly, I even contemplated putting it in my Bottom 10 for a while. However, I wanted to give it another chance and it is only one of two films on this list that I watched for a second time just before sorting these lists out,  and I’m glad I did.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still didn’t find the film to be as brilliant as some made it out to be and I did find myself finding it hard to get attached again, but when you move away from the one-shot feel and look to the film, you realise just how much work has gone into it, and you appreciate it’s story even more.

Firstly, I’ve already mentioned them, but the best part of Birdman is comfortably it’s cast, with Ed Norton being particularly wonderful. I am a big fan of Norton as his performances in Fight Club, American History X and many others makes him one of my favourite actors, even if he doesn’t appear in a lot these days.

Zach Galifianakis breaks his type-cast with a role as a highly intellectual man, Keaton is exceptional as Riggan, and Emma Stone’s turn as Sam shows her flexibility in roles. Not a single member of the cast puts in a poor performance and this is something that I rarely say these days.

It’s hard to put a key element of why I like Birdman when it didn’t emotionally engage me, and that’s why this mini-review will end here. This is probably going to be the shortest mini-review I put in this section, I like it but I can’t put a finger onto why.

EverestEverest-IMAX-Poster-647x1024

Cast : Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington

Plot : Rob (Clarke) is an experienced climber of Everest and regularly helps tourists ascend to the summit. In his group this time are the arrogant Beck (Brolin) and the humble Doug (Hawkes), the latter of whom is making his latest attempt after previously failing.

Supported by his ground staff (Watson and Worthington), Rob starts the latest climb, but regularly has to negotiate with other tour guides in order to schedule climbs, such as the laid back Scott (Gyllenhaal). As they’re approaching the top, bad weather reports start coming in, but can the group successfully make it to the top and back down again in time?

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Following on from one film that I can’t put my finger on why I like it onto another. I suppose in many ways it comes down to Everest not being your typical disaster film, or in many ways not even a disaster film at all, even though it appears like one.

Rather than being a thrill-a-minute fight for survival, Everest is more a character study about how humans will strive to reach their goals, and some won’t let go of them, regardless of how dangerous they are. For example, the character of Beck, played with precision by the ever dependable Josh Brolin, has the dream of reaching the top of Everest and it ends up costing him various body parts without ever reaching the top, whereas John Hawkes’ Doug is far more humble in his approach (the character, not Hawkes, who is likewise fantastic in his portrayal), but just as desperate ends up reaching the top and you feel a genuine sense of joy when he actually reaches the top.

Everest really makes you think about your goals in life and what you’re willing to put your body through to achieve them, but you want these characters to succeed and survive, even Beck and he’s probably the closest thing that Everest has to an antagonist.

But away from the moral message, the humble approach to story telling felt genuine. It shows that climbing Everest isn’t just a simple thing that can be done easily. It accurately shows that you have to take your time whilst doing it, otherwise you pretty much end all chance of making it, and I love the realism. It doesn’t rush into the film itself, or the point where they reach the top, or even the disaster starting. It’s pacing is realistic, but I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t like this as it does take a long time for anything to actually happen. It’s very slow in parts to say the least. I don’t mean that in a negative way from my perspective, but yeah, I can see why some people wouldn’t like it.

The cast is fantastic, although it is a bit strange that some actors, such as Sam Worthington, gets one of the star billings on the poster, even though he doesn’t really warrant it. I don’t mean that in a negative way against him personally, but he just hasn’t done a lot over the last few years in terms of mainstream film, and he is probably only in Everest for a total of 10 or so minutes, if that. Jake Gyllenhaal (his first of two appearances in this section of my look at 2015) has a far bigger and more important role than Worthington, and yet he is below Worthington on the poster.

I feel really bad for what seems almost like I am heavily criticising Worthington there, I’m genuinely not. As I say, the cast all do a good job, although as usual Jason Clarke is just his usual, forgettable self. He’s an actor that you could sum up by saying “he’s just there”. He doesn’t stand out and whilst not awful at all, you get the feeling he brings nothing to a role that no-one else could bring. For example, Gyllenhaal was fantastic in Nightcrawler last year and played it so well that I don’t think that anyone else could have played the character of Lou. Most actors find THAT role during their career, a role that they make their own and Jason Clarke just hasn’t brought that to any role for me, and he is like that in this as well. He’s just kind of there, nothing more, nothing less.

Anyway, I’ve deviated slightly. Everest is what it is, a humble story about a fight for survival. It’s not in your face and I liked the approach, but I can equally see why others wouldn’t.

Jurassic Worldjurassic-world-poster-mosasaurus

Cast : Chris Pratt, Bryce-Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpsons, Nick Robinson, Imran Khan and BD Wong,

Plot : 20 years after the first Jurassic Park incident, they have finally opened a park, but the public’s interest quickly wains due to new attractions being few and far between, so Claire (Dallas-Howard) and Dr Wu (Wong) genetically mix several species together to create a new super-predator.

Meanwhile, Owen (Pratt) has successfully trained Velociraptors to be controlled, but he is constantly fighting off Vic (D’Inofrio) who believes that they should be used as military weapons, and the super-predator successfully getting loose might prove his point.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Jurassic World was in my Top 10 for a while, but almost entirely by the default at the time that I hadn’t seen 10 films. Now, I did like Jurassic World whilst watching it, but then I watched it a second time a few days later and I got exceptionally bored.

Now don’t get me wrong, Jurassic World is a good film in my opinion, it wouldn’t be appearing in this list if it wasn’t, but it’s definitely one of those that loses a lot about it on a second viewing. Unlike Jurassic Park, Jurassic World doesn’t really have re-watchability to it and this is a shame as it isn’t an awful film. I don’t think it was until the second play through that I realised just how many nods that they had made to the original, such as very similar shots, and whilst it’s great for the nostalgia feel, but after a while you want it offer you something new, and unfortunately Jurassic World lacks heavily in this sense.

I grew up loving dinosaurs, even before the original Jurassic Park came out, and I know that there is a plethora of threatening dinosaurs, but Jurassic World constantly keeps going back to the well with the T-Rex and the Raptors (who aren’t even raptors), or indeed a new genetically modified mix of the two. I just wish that they would try something new and give us a break from the same old dinosaurs.

The cast are just bland and uninteresting, and Chris Pratt really feels out of place in this film. Then again, it’s hard to feel in place where you’re with a poor cast, and I don’t think the casting of Bryce Dallas-Howard helped keep the film alive on the second watching as she is just bland beyond belief. I’ve never been impressed with her “acting” and seems to be yet another one of those who has graduated from the acting school in which you don’t get out until you’ve lost your last possible emotion.

So you may be wondering why I’ve put Jurassic World in this section rather that the previous look at poor film and the reason is that despite all of it’s flaws, of which there are many, it’s still a decent watch. I did watch it for a third time recently, about six months after I last watched it, and I did enjoy it more than the second time, and I think it’s definitely one of those that you can’t watch a regular basis.

Obviously there is a lot of CGI in the film, but there are some great practically effects as well, such as when the characters find a field of downed dinosaurs, and the characters try and comfort it as it dies.

KrampusKrampus-Poster

Cast : Adam Scott, Toni Collette, David Koechner, Emjay Anthony, Alison Tolman and Conchata Ferrell

Plot : The holiday season is in full swing as Tom (Scott) and Sarah (Collette) await the arrival of the latter’s sister for Christmas. Along with Linda (Tolman) comes Howard (Koechner), Dorothy (Ferrell), and their kids. Upon being bulied by Stevie (Lolo Owen) and Beth and Beth (Stefania Owen) for still believe in Santa, Max (Anthony) tears up his letter to the mythical figure and throws it out of the window.

Everything seems fine at first, but the group then notice that the world seems dead outside, with no movement, cars or people around. They all soon start realising that something is coming to get them, the demon of Christmas known as Krampus, and they need to put their differences aside and work together in order to survive.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Krampus was a very different type of Christmas film and in many ways it reminded me of Scrooged, with dark humour being the order of the day.

Adam Scott again impresses after previously being very enjoyable in the excellent Parks and Recreation, as well as being arguably the best character in the luke-warm The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Scott is comfortably the best actor in Krampus and he has the best “I’m sick of your shit, but will act happy about it for the sake of peace” face.

The whole cast play their respective roles well, and Koechner feels right at home with the ultra-macho Howard, a role very similar to most of his history on screen, and it’s hard to really place a bad word against any of the performances from the actors and actresses involved. Even the performances from the younger actors aren’t even awful.

I only really have two issues with Krampus. The first is the elderly female character is German, and speaks her native tongue for the majority of the film, although everyone has discussions with her by speaking English. It’s very strange to see an entire conversation in which one person is speaking English and the other German, but then there being claims that the German person doesn’t speak English. If she doesn’t speak English, why speak to her in that language and more to the point, she wouldn’t be able to understand them.

The second is that after all of the build up to Krampus being the ultimate demon and horrifying, but then when you finally see it’s face, it is almost looks like they’ve just painted the mask from Scream. The face doesn’t change and just looks ridiculous. In many ways it takes away the genuine scare the fear factor of the demon.

Mission Impossible : Rogue Nationroguenation02

Cast : Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin and Sean Harris

Plot : Following on from successfully capturing nerve gas that was intended to be sold to terrorists, Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is determined to prove the existence of an international criminal consortium known as “The Syndicate”.

The IMF team is then shut down and all of the agents become employees of the CIA, but the problem is that they don’t believe the Syndicate actually exist, and this causes Hunt to track them down without approval, making him a target for the CIA.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : I had never seen a Mission Impossible film before going to watch the fifth installment in the franchise, so I had virtually no expectations going in. I’m not a fan of spy films, or action films in general, and that will almost certainly remain the case through the remaining 40 or 50 years of my life, but despite that I did actually enjoy Mission Impossible.

Unlike Spectre, it treated the genre with a certain level of fun and this even briefly made it into my top 10 of the year, very briefly indeed. The film flowed relatively smoothly and nothing really felt forced. There was nice, methodical way of doing things and the antagonist, whilst threatening, wasn’t shoved down your throat and made to seem more dangerous than they actually were, unlike Spectre.

The cast was strong all around and each put in an excellent performance, especially Cruise. I’ve never understood the hatred towards Tom Cruise. He is a very good actor and you could probably count the bad films he’s been in on one hand, although very few of those are bad because of him. Ferguson is fun to watch and whilst the rest of the main cast, such as Pegg, Rhames and a few others aren’t involved as you would expect, they enhance the parts of the story that they are in.

The one main issue with Mission Impossible 5 is that the main antagonist isn’t really in the film and must like Spectre, the threat was merely implied rather than actually acted on, and in that sense it was a bit of a let down. Other than that Rogue Nation is a fun action film.

 

Mr HolmesMr._Holmes_poster

Cast : Sir Ian McKellen, Laura Linney, Milo Parker and Hiroyuki Sanada

Plot : A long retired Sherlock Holmes (McKellen) is in the early stages of dementia and is living with the harsh, albeit caring, Mrs Munro (Linney) and her son Roger (Parker). He is trying to recall a final case and what went wrong with it.

Whilst trying to recall what happened so that he can write about it, Holmes uses some other cases to try and put pen to paper, but his friendship with Roger could end up causing tragedy.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : If you’ve not heard of Mr Holmes then I wouldn’t be surprised. When I went to my screening there was only me and four others in there, and the sales for it weren’t great. It was very much a sleeper style film, in other words one that’s just there that a lot of people wouldn’t know about.

When I saw Mr Holmes, I liked the numerous aspects to it’s script and storyline, with multiple stories going on at one time or another as the elderly Holmes is almost treated like a mythical figure, and the other characters try and figure out which stories about him are true, and which were fabricated.

Several seemingly unconnected stories then start intertwining by the end of the run time and I love the multi-faceted elements to the story, and also how each story is played out separately through. In many ways I liken it to the TV show “Lost” in that you’re seeing events in both the past and the present, and what’s happening the past reflects the current situation, but you don’t get the full picture right until the end, and that is exactly what happens in Mr Holmes.

This was another film that was in my Top 10 for quite some time, but slowly moved it’s way down the list and was always likely to slip into this list, but there is nothing at all wrong with Mr Holmes. Yes, it’s a very slow film, and very humbly put together, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a quiet Sunday afternoon style film, and each of the cast are not only competent, but excel in this roles.

 

movies-ronaldo-poster

Ronaldo

Cast : Cristiano Ronaldo and Cristiano Ronaldo Jr

Plot : In 2012 Lionel Messi beat Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon d’Or for the fourth year in a row. Ronaldo doesn’t react well at first but this documentary follows his journey over the following few years as he develops into a player that then won it in 2014 and 2015.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : It explores his life on and off of the pitch, including an insight into his relationship with his son, Cristiano Jr.

Can I really count Ronaldo, the film about arguably the best football (no, not the American version of rugby, I mean actual football, you know, where you kick a ball with your foot)? There is a part of me that says yes and another that says no.

Let’s start with the no and the obvious reason of that it’s not really a film in the true respect of being a film, it’s more of a documentary about a year in the life of Ronaldo. That being said, it was released in the cinema in the UK during 2015, even if just for a single showing, and therefore, as per the rules I set out in the Bottom 10 articles, it must be included…..so here it is.

As I personally believe that he is, at the time of writing, the best player and that’s not an invitation for a Ronaldo vs Messi debate, and the simple reason is that the film shows that the rivalry is merely professional. They personally interact with each other at various points during the show, including Messi saying hi to Ronaldo Jr,

The only real antagonism between them in the film is right at the beginning when Messi wins his fourth Ballon d’Or (the award for the player voted best in the world every year) and Ronaldo is upset that he didn’t win it as he thought he’d earnt it. This is obviously initial disappointment, but it shows the work that he puts in to make himself better, and it’s a great character study of a man who not only believes he is the best at what he does, but is determined to prove it. It could easily come across as arrogant in many ways,

My only real fault with the film was that I wish it had covered Ronaldo’s career before the year a bit more, such as his spells at Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United, but other than that it was an enjoyable way to spend an evening at the cinema.

SouthpawUntitled

Cast : Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Laurence and Miguel Gomez

Plot : Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal) is a champion boxer and destroys opponents for fun, all with the loving support of his wife Maureen (McAdams) and daughter Leila (Laurence). At a dinner celebration, Billy fails to ignore insults aimed at his wife from the number one contender (Gomez), and the ensuing fight results in Maureen being shot. She dies soon after.

Billy struggles to keep his emotions from collapsing and he quickly loses custody of Leila. He also returns to the ring and it comfortably beaten. He realises that he needs to get his life together again to stand a chance of not only getting back to the top of the boxing world, but also get his daughter back.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Southpaw is a very competent sports drama. The acting is good throughout, the fights are brutal and unforgiving, and the drama is very engaging, but there was one particular reason that I didn’t even consider Southpaw for the Top 10 and that is the daughter.

The daughter is one of the most selfish characters I have ever seen in film. She has no appreciation for her father’s struggles and it’s not even as if she is a young child, she’s maybe 10, and yet she’s so wrapped up in her own desires and needs that she might as well be three. The character basically hates her father for not coping well following Maureen’s death and not having the luxuries that she has obviously grown accustomed to, she rejects any chance to be with him again once she realises that if she goes with him, she won’t be in a life of luxury anymore, and only seems interested again once his fortunes improve.

It’s yet another case of a child character almost single-handedly ruining an otherwise enjoyable film.

Away from the selfish brat of a character, the film is otherwise fairly enjoyable and Gyllenhaal’s dedication to the role is evidence again, going from his dilapidated appearance in Nightcrawler, to the ripped physique in Southpaw. He was an actor who I didn’t have an opinion on until 2014, but since then he has continually impressed me.

If you’re going to watch this, watch it for Gyllenhaal alone.

star-wars-force-awakens-kylo-ren-adam-driver-poster-hi-resStar Wars : The Force Awakens

Cast : Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Dohmnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher and Oscar Isaac

Plot : 30 years after the death of Darth Vader and the fall of the Empire, a new force has arisen in the galaxy called The First Order, and more particularly it’s figureheads, General Hux (Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Driver). Another resistance is in place, once again run by Leia Organa (Fisher).

Meanwhile, on Jakku, stormtrooper Finn (Boyega) crashlands along with Poe Dameron (Isaac), although the latter disappears. Finn eventually runs into Rey (Ridley), a girl seemingly strong with the force. She also has in her possession Poe’s droid, a droid that contains a map to the location of Luke Skywalker, and they need to take it to Leia, so they escape on a seemingly scrap ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Please note that as this is still out at the time of writing, the below contains spoilers. I’ve never been the biggest Star Wars fan, as I’ve mentioned a few times throughout this website, including a preview I did to The Force Awakens several months ago. I do like them but don’t see the obsession that some have them, and coming into December I was absolutely sick to death of hearing about Star Wars, and in the days following it’s release I grew tired of everyone asking if I had seen it, so I decided to go and watch it far earlier than I was planning.

So, much like the rest of the Star Wars franchise, I didn’t mind it but I wasn’t going to consider it as good as some have said it is. There are many reasons for this, but I’m only going only talk about the main ones for me, the first is the character of Kylo Ren, whilst brilliant in terms of a character and a sympathetic villain, just lost a lot for me when he actually got into the fights at the end with Finn and Rey. Kylo’s win over Finn is rather unconvincing, and then he struggles against Rey. I don’t care how powerful Rey is in terms of the force, experience counts for a lot in fights and not once because he actually look like beating her. For me it weakened a character that I had otherwise enjoyed.

Despite that, Kylo is arguably the most interesting character of the new trilogy as he is bad, but quite clearly has traces of good in him, but level of unpredictability makes him extremely dangerous, as evidenced by the scene on the bridge with Han Solo, and most excitingly, means he can be taken in several different directions. In many ways, I’d say he’s possibly the most flexible character that has appears in the franchise.

For me the true evil in this film is actually the character of General Hux, played by Dohmnall Gleeson. I had never been that fussed about Gleeson before this, but he was stunningly brilliant at Hux. There is a scene in which he is rallying his troops, almost like a Nazi-style rally, and Gleeson’s passionate anger roused me to the point where I almost applauded. It was that good. For me this was the best scene in the entire film as it shows that the First Order meant business, and the Gleeson, despite not having any force powers (as far as we’re aware at this point).

Whilst the antagonist characters were excellent, I didn’t really feel any particular attachment for the protagonists, and whilst not poorly acted or portrayed, they certainly don’t have the same level of presence on the screen as Kylo Ren or General Hux, but there are still fortunately two more films for them to develop.

 

UnbrokenUntitled12312

Cast : Jack O’Connell, Miyavi, Garrett Hedlund and Domhnall Gleeson

Plot : Louie Zamperini (O’Connell) is on board a bomber in a 1943 bombing mission against the Japanese when the engines fail and they have to crash into the ocean. He and several others survive on a life-raft, although with thousands of miles of ocean in numerous directions, they all struggle to survive with little food and water.

Eventually, only Louie and the pilot, Phil (Gleeson) survive long enough to be rescued, although it is a Japanese ship and they are subsequently separated and sent to different POW camps. Louie is sent to the camp that is run by Mutsuhiro Watanabe (Miyavi), a man infamous for vicious treatment of those in his care.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Unbroken was the first film I saw during 2015 on January 3rd and for a long time it was in my Top 10 of the year,  and it wasn’t until December 14th that it was forced out. At this point many people were curious why Unbroken was even in that list to begin with, but the reason is that I simply enjoyed it.

Now, I haven’t watched it since seeing it in the cinema, so this will be a relatively short mini-review.

I’ll start with the story and whilst the story might seem a little far fetched, I read Zamperini’s book soon after watching the film and the film seems to match large sections of the book, so obviously we’re only taking his word for it that things happened as they did, but for me it seemed like a fairly realistic portrayal of being a prisoner of war, as well as a great story of the human instinct to survive.

The film’s division into various sections works very well and you get several mini-films within. My favourite of which is probably when they are in the boat and are desperately trying to hang on, with several trying desperately to about dehydration. That part of Unbroken is interesting to watch because you get a true representation of what characters are actually like when the situation gets too dire for them

I think that the dire nature of the film and the situations that the character find themselves in are why a lot of people didn’t like Unbroken. It’s not a positive film, with torture, desperation and other similar themes throughout, and very few positives in the film, except for Zamperini’s defiance.

Unfriended368285ec6d263ccf5634bca7c620ff91

Cast : Shelley Hennig, Moses Storm, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki and Courtney Halverson

Plot : It’s one year since the death of the popular Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman) by suicide. She had killed herself following a video being uploaded of her heavily drunk and having defecated herself. Her best friend Blaire (Hennig) is feeling down about the anniversary, but she is hoping that a night chatting with her friends online can help take her mind off of it.

As the online-chat conversation between the friends start, they notice that another, unknown person is in the conversation, but they can’t get rid of them no matter what they try. The mysterious person appears to know that one of the six people in the conversation was responsible for Laura’s death, and they will make the group feel considerably lower than they did before.

Why not good enough for the top 10? : Unfriended was a film unlike any other that I had seen at the time and took the unusual approach of having the entire run time take place on a computer screen, and whilst the might sound extremely limiting, it’s surprisingly not. I’m not going to sit here and claim that Unfriended was a brilliant film, it has many flaws, but I applaud anyone who releases something is seemingly relatively original. Since I saw this I became aware of another film released prior that is similar in terms of the online aspect of things, but Unfriended isn’t really anything like it and in that sense, is relatively unique.

The young cast feels at home in the technology based situation, obviously using their experience using the software to their advantage in terms of camera angles and various other things. They seem to do the acting part reasonably well for a young cast, although again, some of their performance is relatively predictable.

Despite the positives, the main negative for me is that they wasted the chance for a relatively impactful ending. *spoiler obviously* Basically only Blaire survives to the end and the person on the mysterious line is basically Laura’s ghost. When it’s finally revealed that Blaire released the video, the ghost posts the full length video in which Blaire appears mocking Laura onto her Facebook, and Blaire is forced to watch as all of her friends turn against her online. The laptop lid then shuts and a spirit lunges at her.

It would have been more impactful to me if she had been forced to live with the consequences, rather than seemingly being killed. There is a film that features in my Top 10 that has a similar ending in which a person is forced to see the aftermath of their reactions online, but it sticks, and it has far more of an impact that how Unfriended ended.

Ultimately, the reason that I didn’t include Unfriended was that there were simply ten films that were better than it. It’s not an awful film by any stretch, but I can see why others wouldn’t like it. For me it’s one of those films to watch on a Saturday evening when you have nothing else to do, and although I haven’t watched it since, I remember liking it quite a lot.

February 2nd 2015 – Pointless sequels and needless remakes – Remakes and sequels are now a common sight at a cinema, but that is not a good thing.

February 14th 2015 – Can Star Wars regain it’s force in Episode 7? – With Star Wars due to be released at the end of the year, can it regain what made the original trilogy so popular. Please note before reading this that I am not a fan of Star Wars.

March 5th 2015 – A genre that could learn from another – A look into how films based on computer games could improve by following the example of comic book based films.

April 5th 2015 –  Top Twenty Films – Part 1 – A look into ten of my twenty favourite mainstream films. This half of the list contains a virus outbreak, a Spartan army, arguably Christian Bale’s greatest performance, a few classics from the 1980s and one film that contains arguably the best twist ever seen in a movie.

April 28th 2015 – My Top Twenty Films – Part 2 – Second half of my top twenty films of all time. This half of the list contains Brad Pitt aging backwards, a man turning into an insect, an entry from arguably the best franchise of more than five films in history, and a fantasy film from Ron Howard and George Lucas.

August 10th 2015 – The films of 2015 that I’m looking forward to

August 29th 2015 – Shawshank Redemption’s Andy is Guilty – A look into the character of Andy in “The Shawshank Redemption” and how everyone’s belief that he is innocent could infact be wrong.

September 6th 2015 – Why I won’t apologise for not liking your friend’s movie – I had negatively reviewed a film called “Teacher of the Year” before stepping away from my laptop for a few days. When I returned I had some very immature responses from the director’s friend and he didn’t like that I hadn’t praised the film. This was my response.

September 7th 2015 – Four underrated and underutilised actors – Mainstream movies are filled with actors who consistently put in poor performances, so I decided to take a brief look at four that I feel should be in the mainstream considerably more than that are.

January 19th 2016 – The acting gets nominated – Just before the Academy Awards in 2016, a race-row developed in Hollywood after no-one of a non-white origin was nominated for one of the big four individual awards. This was my take on the situation.

May 18th 2016 – The Bottom 5 so far – In May 2016 I realised that I was close on 200 reviews and articles on the site, so I decided to dedicate that post to listing the five worst films that I’ve reviewed so far.

August 2nd 2016 – Coming soon and looking good – A brief look at films that I am excited by.

September 4th 2016 – The 80s was the greatest decade – I look at why the 1980s is the greatest decade for films.

October 1st 2016 – A preview to the end of 2016 – At the end of each year I rank all of the mainstream films that I saw during the year, this was a preview.

March 17th 2017 – A film for every year – There was a social media thing going on amongst film reviewers in which they named their favourite film from each year that they have been alive. These were my choices.

March 19th 2017 – 85 reasons why the Resident Evil franchise sucked – The Resident Evil film franchise finally ended in 2017 and I took a look at why other than the first one, it was generally a poor franchise.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-wallpaper

38 years ago a film was released that surpassed all expectations and sparked off one of the largest franchises to ever exist. Since 1977 the Star Wars franchise has inspired millions of people around the world with it’s story (in the original trilogy) of an ambitious farm-boy who rises unexpectedly to bring down an evil empire and save the galaxy and eventually his father, who turned out to be one of the key figures in that empire.

An entire generation grew up with Star Wars and it became a phenomenon. There is no doubt that Star Wars has had an impact on society that no-one could have predicted, even creator George Lucas. With a franchise that includes six live action films, several spin-off films, countless items of literature (official, unofficial and fan-faction), 178 games across various platforms (including DLC and Expansion Packs – Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Star_Wars_video_games) and even people that list “Jedi” as their religion on electoral registers. Anyone who thinks that Star Wars hasn’t had an impact on society is kidding themselves.

It wasn’t until the prequel trilogy started in 1999 that questions started to surface about the future of the franchise. The prequel trilogy was not well received for many reasons;

  • Darth Vader is widely considered to be one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema. In the original trilogy he has a presence and commands every scene that he is in. Because of the mask, you never get an inkling what he is feeling. They made you afraid of him, then the prequels came along. In Phantom Menace he was a kid so you can cut them some slack on that one, but in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith he is portrayed a whiny, obnoxious brat. Even taking out the aspect of the poor acting of Hayden Christensen, they near enough wiped out Vader’s reputation. The very fact you find his grief when he finds out that Padme has died funny says it all about what it has done for the fear factor.

  • A forced love story between two very wooden characters. Portman and Christensen had no chemistry whatsoever.
  • Poor CGI
  • The tragically under-developed Darth Maul. This guy looked the part and although he wasn’t on the levels of Darth Vader, you felt this guy could be a genuine threat. He barely speaks in the Phantom Menace and despite killing Qui-Gon, is relatively easily defeated by Obi-Wan within a matter of seconds. One of the best/only people that the Sith could throw at the Jedi at the time gets killed within seconds of a start of a fight against a relatively rookie Jedi.
  • The main antagonist of Attack of the Clones isn’t introduced until well into the second half of the film. He doesn’t really do a lot before he is then killed off within minutes of Revenge of the Sith beginning.
  • Worse special effects that the original trilogy.
  • Long drawn out scenes, especially in Attack of the Clones, where nothing happens.
  • Turning Yoda into a bouncing green-ball with a light sabre.
  • Jar Jar Binks. I don’t even need to expand on that.
  • An exceptionally poor script….here is an exact extract from one of the scripts and you will see exactly what I mean.
    • Anakin : “You Look Beautiful.”
    • Padme : “I only look beautiful because I’m so in love…”
    • Anakin : “No, you look beautiful because I’m so in love with you!”
    • Padme : “So love has blinded you?”

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It’s safe to say that I could continue with that list for quite some time, but there are only so many hours in the day. The question that I think perfectly sums up how bad the prequel trilogy is that if they had released in episode order, rather than 4-6 and then 1-3, would they have even reached the sixth film?

Had Phantom Menace come out first then it’s very unlikely that Attack of the Clones would have made as much as it did, and after that snorefest, they might not have even gotten the greenlight for Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Many of the iconic moments from later on in the saga would have become meaningless. Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker that he is his father is one of the most recognisable scenes in movie history because of the jaw-dropping shock of it. Had the films been released in order then the audience wouldn’t care and no jaws would drop for the simple reason that we would have already known by that point.

I feel that is the reason that George Lucas released 4-6 before 1-3. 4-6 is a stronger trilogy in near enough every single way, but had they released 1-3 first then I seriously doubt that there would have been a 4-6.

So based on the prequel trilogy sucking and an entire generation of film fans growing up with their first experience of the Star Wars franchise being those three below average movies, will the seventh instalment, The Force Awakens, return Star Wars to it’s former glories or will it fail to be the success that it was in the past?

Well to look at that I’m going to start right off by saying something that I think will shock many people. I am a self-confessed nerd but I am not actually a fan of the Star Wars franchise and never have been. Without trying to sound controversial, it is one of the most over-rated franchises that I have ever seen and whilst it’s not awful by any stretch, I personally don’t think it was good enough to warrant what has happened in the 38 years since the original film’s release.

Now I know that some, especially those that put Jedi as their religion will be asking “well if you’re not a fan how can you give a balanced view?” Whilst I appreciate that that is a very valid question, it’s because I’m not a fan that I think that I can be balanced, certainly more than someone who puts Jedi as their religion as it’s obvious what their standpoint would be.

I think the reason for this is that I somehow managed to go through my entire childhood without seeing any of the films. The first time I saw A New Hope was in 1997 as they were re-releasing the films with new footage and added bits, basically a cash-grab on the 20th anniversary. In 1997 I turned 13 and unlike most kids my age, I didn’t grow up with the films and therefore never grew that affinity with the franchise. Most people of my age didn’t connect with Star Wars during their youth and I believe that that is one of the reasons why this film will ultimately not prove to be a resurgence of the Star Wars film franchise.

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Once you get into the heart of a child with a film, you’ve got them for life. They love that film for their lives and that’s why people from my generation tend to love Star Wars, but we’ve now got one generation of kids (10-20 year olds) that grew up with only a poor Star Wars trilogy coming out at the cinema at the same time as the far more memorable Lord of the Rings trilogy, and another generation (anyone under 10) that has yet to experience Star Wars at the cinema and their limited cinema experience has been with low quality films such as Frozen (the Disney one, not the decent thriller film)

With any movie that is likely to be made available for all ages (I’m still amazed that the Star Wars films have a rating of universal), the real money is securing the hearts of those children, but the children of today are far different to what they were even ten years ago. Children today don’t have the patience for films such as the original Star Wars trilogy because they’re a slow build. A New Hope is a very slow film when you think about it, and children aren’t likely to stay interested in a film where there’s not something happening all the time.  As poor as films such as Frozen are, there is at least something that is happening all of the time.

Through the last 38 years the style of entertainment that children require has vastly changed. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a time where although I could easily go and play on the Amiga, Atari or Megadrive, I was more interested in going down to the local park and playing football with my friends and we would have to fight (not literally of course) for space and we would stay out until long after the sun had set, or our parent’s called us in for dinner. We would stay and play in the baking sun or the pouring rain, that was our entertainment in the late 1980s and most of the 1990s. If anything staying indoors felt more like a punishment. Today it’s very different.

I’m going to use my nephew as an example. My nephew is eleven years old and he stays around at my parents house on a regular basis. He barely takes his eyes off of his iPad or whatever game system my brother has bought him. He actively tries to avoid going outside and whenever he does, again he rarely takes his eyes off of his eye-pad. The kids of today have grown up in a time when technology was already there, they don’t truly appreciate it like people on my generation do because we grew up in a time where these things were getting introduced gradually and weren’t just there waiting for us.

My point is that children of today are less likely to have the patience for something that looks inferior in terms of look, technology and other aesthetic factors compared to franchises of the modern day, such as the aforementioned Lord of the Rings franchise and the Marvel Universe. The Marvel Universe is very much the Star Wars of the modern day, appealing to people of all ages through a mixed variety of characters, settings and even transcending genres. The Marvel Universe gets it right on so many levels, even more so in my opinion that Star Wars, because even though the villains, other than Loki, are generally poor and you’re never convinced that they are going to win, they are fun.

The Marvel Universe knows how to draw in the public because it is everything that you could want in a film and the best example of that is the Guardians of the Galaxy, a group of anti-heroes that team together for a great cause, and the only real anti-hero that Star Wars has is Han Solo. As I mentioned earlier I am not a fan of Star Wars, I don’t mind it but I wouldn’t class myself as a fan, but the one character that people can relate to in the original trilogy is Han Solo. Solo is very enjoyable, not because he is a clean-cut good guy, but because he is someone you can genuinely relate to. He develops more than any other character in the original trilogy and he is arguably my favourite.

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That being said, are we really ready for an aged Han Solo? It is unclear how large the role of Han Solo will be in the film but when you take into account Harrison Ford’s age of 72, you know it’s not likely to be an action packed role. Whilst he no doubt still has the acting ability, it was clear in 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that he isn’t really suited to doing action anymore, and I really don’t mean that in a negative way. Whether we’re ready for an aged Han Solo is one question, but arguably a more important question is is he just being put in so that the fans of the original trilogy have a bit of nostalgia and feel the film is better than it might be.

However, the biggest worry for me comes from one of the main reactions to the trailer. Now, before I start this section, I apologise in advance if anyone is offended by the terminology I use in this, it’s not intended whatsoever. Anyway, the reaction that worried me about the film was the outage from various quarters to a black man wearing a stormtrooper uniform. The original trilogy came out at a very different time when racism was a big problem in major parts of the world and the only character of a black origin in the original trilogy was Lando Calrissian, a character who in essence doesn’t actually do a lot in either The Empire Strikers Back or Return of the Jedi. Whilst racism is seemingly less of an issue these days, the lack of open-mindedness from people about a person of black origin being a stormtrooper is very worrying.

We’re not even entirely sure at this point if the character in question, Finn, is a good guy or a bad guy, but the outright rejection of him before we know anything about him is very worrying. Some people are arguing that there were never any members of the stormtroopers of black origins. Firstly, they’re wearing helmets so how do you know if you’re looking at one of the original clones or simply someone who joined the Empire and wanted to fight for them? I can hear the outrage of the Star Wars fans reading this, almost as if it’s impossible for anyone other than the original clones to be stormtroopers, even though the timeframe along suggests that it would be almost impossible for new people not to join due to deaths of the original troopers.

It was clearly established in Attack of the Clones that the origin of the stormtroopers is that they are all clones of the father of Boba Fett. Now, given that film is set about 30 years after the events of the Return of the Jedi, which itself is set 26 years after the events of Attack of the Clones (source : http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Timeline_of_canon_media), it means that there is a gap of 56 years there in which the chances are that races other than the original source of the stormtroopers could join the Empire.

For me these people who have objected to the character of Finn in a stormtrooper before they even know anything about him shows me that the mindset of some of the people from the generation that saw it at the cinema hasn’t changed.

So after all the relative negativity, is there anything that I feel can mean the Star Wars has a good chance of being a success on all levels? For me there is only one reason to get excited ahead of the new Star Wars film and that is a set of four syllables, JJ Abrams. Abrams is one of my favourite directors after the immense TV show Lost, and more importantly, the re-imagining of the Star Trek Universe. Whilst I may not be much of a Star Wars fan, I am definitely into Star Trek and I would class the 2009 film by Abrams to be one of the best reboots in history. He got it right on so many levels that it meant that I was hooked from the first minute.

I never watched the original series of Star Trek but fell in love with the characters in the 2009, and even in the trailers it looked incredibly. Star Trek is the only film I have seen at the cinema three times (although to be fair two of those were at the cinema I worked at so got them for free) and it is a film I watch on a semi-regular basis. Into Darkness, whilst not quite as enjoyable as the first film, was still a very enjoyable adventure.

Abrams knows how to make something worth watching. His visual style is unique in Hollywood and whilst you can point out his heavy use of lens flares in the aforementioned Star Trek reboot, that is one of the few things that you can actually criticise.

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Summary

Will the new Star Wars trilogy be a success? If it returns to what made the original trilogy exceptionally watchable and tweek it a bit to reflect modern day attitudes then I think it will be a success, but that’s a big if. The biggest challenge it has is the stigma that was put on the franchise through the prequel trilogy as now people know that it is highly possible to release new Star Wars films that aren’t good. The majority of people under 31 will have never seen a good Star Wars film at the cinema for the first time, and that is the first barrier that they need to get over.

To stand a chance it needs to appeal to not only the long term fans, the ones who saw the films at the cinema in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but also find a way to bring in those that haven’t grown up with the Star Wars franchise. This however also presents it’s own difficulties because already confirming that the major characters from the original trilogy will be in the new films is more than likely just a nostalgia thing rather than adding sufficiently to the title. If there’s one thing that we learnt from the Hobbit trilogy, you can’t simply throw in as many references to anything it is prequeling and expect people to bite, it needs more than that.

Either way I will go and watch it at some point and have an open mind.