*NEW* STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REVIEW *NEW*

The last hurrah?

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

After repressing the belly laughs from spotting Vivien from The Young Ones as a First Order officer, I was thrown into the chaos as the Resistance unleashed the mayhem.

The special effects were brilliant. The action was intense. I loved the cockpit panoramic camera work as Dameron maneuvered the X-Wing.

Speaking of which; someone must have read my Force Awakens review. The one new face writer/director Rian Johnson made sure to have plenty of screen time was Poe Dameron. Oscar Isaac was brilliant. Highly comical and entertaining. His hazing of Hux in the opening sequence was cheesy but well played. Reminded me of a young Solo.

After commending Domnhall Gleeson for his stand out performance as Hux in Episode VII, I felt his delivery this time around was almost pantomime. He was dreadfully OTT and annoying. Whether they realised Emo-Ren was lacking that sinister edge, I’ll never know.

Adam Driver was very good as Kylo. A much more sombre turn that worked a lot better for the character and he got rid of that ridiculous helmet!

Ren’s conflicted conscience continued to tease throughout. Had he truly turned to the Dark Side? Was there any hope left for him?

I loved how the old faces mixed with the new ones. Andy Serkis got to feature a lot more as the creepy Snoke. The CGI and detail on the super Sith (Seriously how tall was that guy? Was he even a guy?) was impeccable.

Carrie Fisher delivered a sterling turn as Leia. There were a couple of question marks about her character that surprised but also annoyed me. BUT don’t FORCE me to spoil anything. I respect the team for keeping the finished scenes after her tragic passing BUT I can’t help but feel that it might cause problems for the next installment.

However, her appearance allowed for a wonderful reunion that (I’m not going to lie) plucked at the old heart strings.

BB8 stole the show yet again. Delivering the laughs in this super serious saga.

BUT there was one face I was happy to see return and that was the man himself. Luke “Robo-Hand” Skywalker.

Hardly a spoiler as we left Rey presenting the miserable Jedi with his old lightsabre. I was surprised at how comical Hamill was BUT it added an extra humanity to this flawed veteran. A man defeated and desperate to avoid the call to action once more.

I loved the bitterness. Ridley and Hamill were a fantastic duo, which made the dynamic work that much more, as Luke reluctantly helped the stubborn Rey channel the Jedi within.

Ridley still carried the film where it counted. Her Force telepathy conversations with Ren were intriguing.

I loved how Johnson and co. brought so many new creatures and wonderful set designs to life. The nun toads and the PORGS (My God. Those PORGs are going to be the next craze fo’ sure) being particular highlights.

There were a few surprises and twists along the way. Plenty of fitting nods and references to keep the new SW and (the long suffering) old fans happy.

The only problem with focusing on particular characters and bringing in new faces was that some had to face the cut. Chewbacca, C-3PO and ol’ R2 were pushed into the background far too much.

Well, maybe C-3PO was the right decision. Don’t get me wrong, they stole the show whenever they had the opportunity BUT I wanted more.

At the same time, that showed confidence in the new faces that it wasn’t too much of a concern. I was a little worried at how Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Trico was going to fare. Her initial irritating introduction had me wincing BUT the loveable rogue soon grew on me and I was actually rooting for her by the closing act.

She worked well with Boyega and allowed an increasingly absent Finn get back into the fold.

I have to say I enjoyed TLJ a lot more than FA (Force Awakens). FA had a stronger first half but withered out with a retread of A New Hope while TLJ got better and better and made the story its own.

I expected so much worse after the Twitter hate BUT was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t perfect. The pacing was a little testing in places and some scenes were a little hokey. The casino sequences at Canto Bight were a little . . . strange.

And there were a few plot holes. *Cough* Light speed chase *Cough* BUT there was enough fun, adventure and drama to keep things gripping, riveting and entertaining. I would have no qualms watching this again.

I can’t wait for Episode XI and any other spin-offs (that we already know are on the way) if they can continue to maintain this standard.

3.5/5

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*NEW* BLADE RUNNER 2049 REVIEW *NEW*

Blade Runner 2049 minutezzz long

If we are lucky enough to get a director’s cut; I’d like to see the running length CUT.

A young blade runner’s (Ryan Gosling) discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who’s been missing for thirty years.

Now I wasn’t the biggest BR fan. I remember watching it for the first time, and thinking, “Is that it?!”. It was only through numerous re-watches (Thank you BA Film Studies) that I grew to love the 1982 cult classic. Not the first to say that, I’m sure.

Essentially, BR was a generic cyber noir about a disillusioned cop tracking down some killer robots. BUT what stood out and made BR so much more was the question of self and identity. Who were the real monsters? The replicants or their creators?

Hampton Fincher’s brooding social commentary on corporate capitalism (Again thank you Film Studies) spoke volumes BUT it also asked the biggest (and most important) question of all: was Deckard a replicant?!

Now 35 years on (What?!) . . . And Ridley Scott decides to make another sequel to another one of his movies.

To be honest, the opening had me from the get go. The Nexus 6 prologue, that opening shot of the burning flames in the iris of an eye, and that iconic Vangelis theme (teased meticulously by Wallfisch and Zimmer) blaring through those 17 Dolby Super Screen speakers. Goosebumps.

Roger Deakin’s breath-taking cinematography (You could do an essay on that alone and I’m sure people have).

Needless to say, the BR nerd in me was hook, line and sinker!

I remember watching Only God Forgives and denouncing Gosling. Screaming to the movie gods, demanding why this guy kept getting big Hollywood movies. BUT after stellar turns in La La Land and The Nice Guys, I was intrigued to see what he would do.

And he did not disappoint. A charismatic performance. He carried the film for me. Sorry Deckard. I was transfixed and happy to soak up the slow burning tension.

I will dispense a warning. There may be spoilers. So read ahead at your peril.

The character ‘K’ (Gosling) was a welcome addition to the BR universe. The fact he was openly a replicant changed the whole dynamic of the piece. He almost made the story his own.

The romantic subplot with Joi (The beautiful Ana de Armas) was a nice touch and I actually felt for them. A forbidden romance restricted in the cyber and the real world. Do androids dream of electric sheep? Can a robot fall in love with an erotic hologram?

All the little nods were there. Those origami unicorns, Edward James Olmos! The old faces working well with the new.

For the first hour or so, I was content. But then I realised there was another 100 minutes left.

This was where things went wrong for me. And as much as it pains me to say after praising Deakins’ amazing cinematography and set design. A feast for the eyes. Nice shots does not a good movie make.

If you’re looking for answers, you won’t find any. Now the question mark around Deckard was always the fun debate. The ambiguous ending a talking point for years to come. I didn’t care about getting an answer on that old chestnut (Do you? I’m not saying)

Some questions are better left unanswered. One of the appealing and infuriating messages of this film. A double edged sword.

BUT what disappointed me the most was what our hero Deckard was doing for 35 years. All that build up and promise. A welcome return for Harrison Ford. All the theories and questions about what the cyber-sleuth had been doing and the answer . . . Sweet nothing apparently.

Ford’s reactions reflected much of mine during the film. He really didn’t know what was going on or why people were seeking him?

The pace dragged and I found myself struggling to stay interested.

Robin Wright had potential as K’s superior officer Lieutenant Joshi BUT never really got the chance or the screen time. The same can be said for Dave Bautista. That guy continues to impress. Even in such a minute role.

Sylvia Hoeks was impressive as the resilient adversary Luv. A mercenary replicant on the heels of K’s quest for answers.

Despite the best efforts of the supporting characters, it lacked something.

Rutger Hauer was outstanding as Roy Batty. A charismatic and engaging turn and made this seemingly cyber punk android so much more. His “Time to die” speech left goosebumps. I felt more for the replicant than the protagonist.

Jared Leto? What the hell was he on? His performance as blind tycoon Niander Wallace was dreadful. His mind numbing monologues nearly put me into a mini-coma.

He fell short of Joe Turkel’s Tyrell (Bishop to King 7!) by a country mile. I mean, those glasses were iconic enough. Instead we get ol’ White eyes whispering and dithering away. If it wasn’t for one unexpected twist in the final act, I would have deemed him unnecessary.

It seemed like 2049 set things up for another and tried to tease that ambiguity that made the original so appealing but it didn’t work for me.

I just wasn’t as engrossed. It delivered all the nods and tried to make it on its own but it felt like a pale (albeit beautifully and bolder) imitation of the original.

Despite my nitpicking and disappointment, I do want to watch it again but somehow I don’t think I’ll fall for it as much as I did the original. I went in not expecting much and was rewarded with a mixed bag. No character of Batty’s calibre? No somersaulting Daryl Hannah (What?)

I could take the existential angst and themes of identity but it just wasn’t enough. In a way if Deckard wasn’t thrown into the mix, this might have fared better with just K.

Watchable by all means. It’s just a shame that a breathtaking opening first half was dragged down by poor pacing and a dithering plot line.

2.5/5

*NEW* THOR: RAGNAROK REVIEW *NEW*

Just as ridiculous as the film title but bloody good fun all the same.

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk (CGI’d Mark Ruffalo), his former ally. Fighting for survival and racing against time, Thor must prevent the all-powerful Hela (Cate Blanchett) from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.

When I first heard the director’s name (Taika Waititi), my first thoughts were: “What a strange name” and then I actually did some research and couldn’t believe my luck.

Count Viago from What We Do in the Shadows?! (A heavy recommendation if you haven’t seen it already). I should have known what to expect.

One mad rollercoaster ride of hilarity, neon, colour and 80s fusion, of course.

Marvel have really hit their stride (*cough* DC *cough*) and seem to have a winning formula.

To be honest, I wasn’t really impressed with the first Avengers movie or Captain America (What?! Sorry) BUT I loved Kenneth Branagh’s introduction of Thor. The Shakespearean King Lear melodrama between the feuding brothers. Hiddleston, Hemsworth, Hopkins, Portman. Perfect.

Thor: The Dark World was a mixed bag. Failing to deliver the right balance of laughs and drama. I was intrigued to see what tone Thor’s third outing would take. The more comical route did have its flaws BUT I was too busy having fun.

And there were still some touching moments (as well as revelations) to be had between Thor and his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins).

Even if it was a little sillier and the story line a tad predictable, Waititi and co made up for it with memorable characters, stellar turns, humour and heart.

It’s hard not to mention one actor, in particular when praising supporting characters. I’m sure you’ve seen the endless memes, gifs and tweets.

Jeff Goldblum.

You can’t help but smile at the guy. His larger than life bohemian approach fitted the role of the Grandmaster perfectly. My only grumble? He wasn’t in it enough.

Tessa Thompson was fantastic as the embittered Valkyrie. Disillusioned and drinking her sorrows out of a bottle. Her stubborn demeanour worked well off the confused Thor.

Cate Blanchett lapped up the role of Hela with aplomb. Despite being pushed into the background far too much; she still managed to make a stern adversary to the Viking god.

Karl Urban (An underrated actor) was hilarious as Skurge. Just wait until he introduces his accomplices Des and Troy. Brilliant.

I was getting a little fed up of Loki and Thor’s fractious fraternal relationship. But this latest foray forced the pair into an uneasy alliance and somebody must have heard me because there was even a gag in which Thor tells Loki that he’s waiting for the next betrayal. A running gag that delivered in buckets.

It helped that Hiddleston and Hemsworth worked well together yet again.

BUT the main duo I was interested in was . . .

Only kidding. Well, not entirely. Waititi even managed to give himself a little cameo as the bumbling bouldered bad ass that was Korg. He had me in stitches. Stealing every scene he featured in.

Anyway, the real duo that made it for me was Thor and Hulk. I loved the dynamic between them. I haven’t really rated Hulk’s multiple reincarnations (Sorry, Team Bana all day) and was unimpressed with Ruffalo. THAT WAS UNTIL Ragnarok.

He nailed Banner and brought a little character and humanity to the green giant.

The only problem with bringing new characters into the mix was that somebody had to take the hit. The absence of Portman and Dennings was missed and Idris Elba was reduced to measly filler sequences. Don’t get me wrong, he still bossed it BUT a waste of a character and an actor.

I will commend how all the silly little clips, that hardcore Marvel fans have endured begrudgingly through endless credits (thanking everyone from the make up assistant’s make up assistant to the chap who brings the coffee), have finally come into play. Most notably with a caped dimension bender (Probably not the best description).

This installment has certainly kept things fresh and fun and spiced things up for the upcoming projects.

Despite my nitpicking, I wasn’t bored. It was entertaining, if a little silly in places BUT had everything you could expect from a big superhero movie. Mad action, fantastic effects, great characters with the right injection of fun.

3.5/5

*How could I forget to commend the soundtack?! I will amend that error by leaving this classic track that welcomed our favourite Norse God to the mix. Enjoy!

 

*NEW* THE HATEFUL EIGHT REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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Well, I didn’t hate it. QT is back and bigger than ever. But better?

In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter (Kurt Russell) and his prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.

From the beautifully shot opening, I was entranced. The 70mm film format capturing the picturesque cinematography of QT stalwart Robert Richardson perfectly. The credit sequence accompanied by an original Ennio Morricone score (The first in 30 years) brought back that old school nostalgia of the classic Westerns.

However that nostalgia soon dissipated when Russell’s John Ruth crossed paths with Samuel L Jackson’s Major Warren sitting on a cushion of dead bodies. After an initially tense and intriguing introduction with QT’s chapters popping up left, right and centre, the first hour soon churned along at an agonizing snail’s pace.

There wasn’t enough tidbits, stylish dialogue or suspense to keep…

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*NEW* MOTHER REVIEW *NEW*

Oh MOTHER! That was bad.

A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

I guess I wasn’t as big an Aronofsky fan as I thought. The very epitome of a Marmite movie.

For some, an existential dissection of life through religious allegory. For me, a meandering mess split into two agonizing halves that failed to deliver.

To be honest, it didn’t help that the marketing and posters suggested something more horrific. Now don’t get me wrong, Mother! is a modern horror . . . Of sorts.

BUT I was expecting a demented take on Rosemary’s Baby (Like it wasn’t demented already). And there was an echo of that in the closing act BUT this just didn’t go in the direction I hoped at all.

Seriously, pay attention to the first five minutes. The path is established pretty early on.

And if I didn’t have this ridiculous rule of seeing a movie out to the end; I would have joined the several people that walked out 30 minutes in.

This isn’t the worst film I’ve seen (BUT could be for this year).

Credit where it is due. The cast all played their parts well.

The first half of the film was slow burning BUT intriguing as Him’s (Bardem) writer’s block took its toll on the couple’s relationship. Jennifer Lawrence carried this film as much as she could as Mother. Doing her best to be a supportive wife.

Giving Him space and revamping an old country house in a wonderfully tranquil (yet strangely eery) pastoral setting.

I felt for Mother’s frustration and confusion; especially when the mysterious Man (Ed Harris) made his introduction.

A diversion for Him. A disturbance for Mother. The question’s mounting as Him welcomed Man into their home with no hesitation. Drinking and chatting rubbish. The paranoia setting in. Why is he really here? Why now?

Things took an even stranger turn when Man’s wife Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) turned up.

Inventive names, aren’t they? Lazy or clever? I’ll leave that to you (LAZY!). I had to suspend my disbelief and remember this was a movie. There is no way that I would let my partner invite a strange couple we’ve only just met into my home. No-se-re.

I loved Psycho-Pfeiffer. It was great to see her back. Showing Lawrence how it’s done. She played the crazy doctor wife brilliantly. Mind games well and truly in flow. Like a cat playing with a mouse (And yes, I totally meant the Catwoman reference).

The pace was agonizing BUT I was still wanting to see where this was going. BUT the second half of the film completely ruined all that build up. So much so that by the end, it made that story line (almost) completely irrelevant.

Aronofsky really did pull the wool over my eyes. He completely turned the film on its head. I expected this domestic psycho-thriller to unfold into something else. BUT not this!

With more and more people turning up to see Him, I thought something creepier was going to happen.

Especially with the haunting sequences in which the house appeared to be “speaking” to Mother. A bleeding heart in a toilet was an unexpected image I won’t forget any time soon.

I mean it was unsettling BUT it was such a bloody visceral mess and not in the good kind.

I could see what the director was trying to do. Delivering social commentary and satire. BUT there was only so much religious imagery and mayhem that I could take!

The finale unravelled his true intent and I was surprised. I just didn’t like the end result. It wasn’t worth the two hour slogfest.

I didn’t enjoy it (Not that it was ever going to be a movie for “enjoyment”).

Okay granted, it has a been over a month since I saw Mother! and the experience is still fresh in my memory.

BUT I think that was only because of the sheer disappointment. It was torturous. I felt like I was going through this chaotic hell ride with Mother. A ride that I wish I hadn’t taken. Even with the surprising cameos popping up in the mental and sporadic closing minutes.

As much as I have had time to discuss plot points and themes, I still didn’t think Mother! was that special.

Bravo, Mr Aronofsky for pulling the wool over my eyes. You won’t be doing it again.

2/5

*THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS REVIEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

nightmare_before_christmas_ver1

What’s this, what’s this? (See what I did there).

A brilliant Halloween/Christmas film? Or both.

Yeah, I’ll get my coat.

24 years? Really? Well, despite that shocking revelation, The Nightmare Before Christmas is still a beautifully creepy, macabre (get me with the fancy words), musical masterpiece that I would happily watch again and again. And again. You get the idea.

It had been a while since I last viewed this with the family, but as soon as the opening song began, my feet were tapping and I was singing along, much to my parents’ annoyance. Once I got over the depressing fact that this film is as old as my little bro. Yikes.

I’m surprised that the West End or Broadway haven’t adapted this to the stage. I’m sure they did something at Disney for the 20th anniversary? BUT I digress . . .

We join Jack Skellington in…

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*NEW* KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD REVIEW *NEW*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

I don’t know what was worse; David Beckham’s cameo or the movie altogether.

Thy verdict is in and its all apples and pears, san.

Robbed of his birthright, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

The opening 20 minutes was better than I thought with Eric Bana (Troy) bossin’ it as Uther Pendragon. The murky Sherlock Holmes style backdrop may have put a dampener on things but there was action, sword fights and creatures with enough cheese to keep things entertaining.

Ritchie regular Jude Law did his best as the slimy Vortigern. BUT he spent the majority of the film sulking, pouting and pulling faces. His dialogue was bland bar one exchange with a tortured prisoner that delivered an…

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