After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago, writer-director Rian Johnson had a lot to live up to with Episode VIII. And he delivers more than anyone expected: a lucid, entertaining film that operates on four distinct planes, deepens all of its characters, enriches the mythology and constantly surprises the audience with twists and turns. It's a little overwhelming, a nonstop two and a half hours of action and intensity without any time to catch your breath. But there's also a steady stream of sharp humour to help keep things in perspective.
The story picks up straight away, as the First Order led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) presses its advantage to wipe out the rebellion for good. Snoke is playing his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) off against General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) for maximum effect as they launch an attack. Rebel General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is trying to protect her scrappy army, with pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) trying against the odds to find a way to get them to safety. He sends rebel hero Finn (John Boyega) and mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) on a mission to track down a hacker who can give them a chance against the First Order. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has tracked down Leia's brother, jaded Jedi master Luke (Mark Hamill), who is trying to teach her hard truths about the Force.
Each of these characters finds a surprising connection to others, derailing plans and sending each person on an unexpected journey. The way Johnson orchestrates all of this is remarkable because it's both coherent and compelling. And the actors beautifully inhabit the characters, offering telling glimpses beneath the surface. Driver has the strongest role, grappling with three other main characters to understand his destiny. It's dark and complex, and unnervingly moving. Ridley and Hamill also have powerfully gripping moments, while Isaac gets to make good on his scallywag promise in the previous film. And in her final role, the late Fisher brings a wonderfully knowing, sassy edge to Leia.
Continue reading: Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review
Rumours abound that the new addition to the Star Wars franchise - episode 7 - will begin production in January 2014.
Director Jj Abrams has strongly hinted that production for Star Wars VII could begin in early 2014 by revealing that he will be moving his family to London at the end of this year, according to Digital Spy; reporting from the "Produced By" conference (a film production event held in Los Angeles).
Speaking at the conference this weekend, Abrams announced: "We are most likely, if all goes as planned, going to be moving to London at the end of the year for the Star Wars movie."
This comes quickly after May's confirmation that LucasFilm struck a deal with Chancellor George Osborne to shoot the highly anticipated sequel in the U.K, taking advantage of new tax reliefs.
Continue reading: Will Star Wars Episode 7 Start Filming Next January?
A historic epic from Steven Spielberg carries a lot of baggage, but he surprises us with a remarkably contained approach to an iconic figure. What's most unexpected is that this is a political drama, not a biopic. It's a long, talky movie about back-room deal-making on a very big issue: ending slavery in America. It also has one of the most intelligent, artful scripts of the past year, plus a remarkably wry central performance.
Daniel Day-Lewis constantly grounds Abraham Lincoln in his earthy humanity, good humour and tenacious desire to do the right thing, no matter what it takes. The film essentially covers just one month in which Lincoln works to outlaw slavery before ending four years of civil war. Secretary of State Seward (Strathairn) reluctantly supports this plan, enlisting three shady negotiators (Spader, Nelson and Hawkes) to convince wavering members of Congress to vote in favour of a constitutional amendment. Meanwhile at home, Lincoln is under pressure from his wife Mary (Field) to keep their oldest son Robert (Gordon-Levitt) off the battlefield.
All of this political wrangling makes the film feel like a 19th century version of The West Wing, and Kushner's script crackles with wit, nuance and passion, clearly echoing today's political debates about issues like gun control and human rights. We find ourselves wishing that our own politicians were this creative about getting the votes they need on important issues. This meaty approach gives the cast terrific dialog to bite into, although Spielberg never lets anyone run riot with scenery-chomping antics. The closest is probably Jones, as the fiery anti-slavery supporter Thaddeus Stevens. He's terrific in this role. And Field shines too in as the spiky Mary. Even if she's about a decade too old for the character, she brings intelligence and emotion to every scene.
Continue reading: Lincoln Review
In early 1900s Devon, teenager Albert (Irvine) lives on a farm with his impulsive-drunk father Ted (Mullan) and his tough-minded mum Rose (Watson).
When Ted overpays for the wrong horse to work the fields, Albert adopts the horse, names him Joey and teaches him the ropes. But when war breaks out in Europe, Ted sells Joey to a cavalry captain (Hiddleston). At war, Joey changes hands between British and German officers, a young soldier (Kross) and a French farmer (Arestrup). Meanwhile, Albert joins the army, heading into the trenches to search for Joey.
Continue reading: War Horse Review
George (Damon) has a gift: he can see into the afterlife and help people communicate with their lost loved ones. But he feels it's more like a curse.
Meanwhile in Paris, star journalist Marie (De France) has just recovered from a near-death experience. Instead of working on her planned biography of Mitterand, she instead starts investigating why accounts of after-death experiences are so shunned. And in London, pre-teen Marcus is looking for ways to communicate with recently deceased twin (they're played by Frankie and George McLaren).
Continue reading: Hereafter Review
I said "aims," of course. A Map of the World is deeply flawed yet still worth a look, especially if you're into grandiose, weepy, self-important dramas. And hey, who isn't?
Continue reading: A Map Of The World Review
Whether this was Spielberg's most desperate attempt to win an Oscar (didn't work: The Color Purple received a whopping 11 Oscar nominations and won precisely zero) or a genuine kinship with the black women of the 1910s we'll never really know. But Purple is a solid enough film, though it lacks true inspiration and gets a little wandering and lost after an hour of running time (and you've still got 1 1/2 more to go!).
Continue reading: The Color Purple Review
Christian Bale stars as Jim, a British kid born in Shanghai, the son of upper crust expatriates who feel the rising tide of Japanese-Chinese aggression will never reach there strata. Of course it does, and as the Japanese overtake Shanghai, Jim's family is torn asunder, scattering in the chaos. But eventually, like Ben-Hur, Jim returns home to discover his house in ruins and his loved ones gone, so he does the only thing he can think of -- surrender to the Japanese. Only the Japanese don't even want the worthless kid, until finally, after hooking up with a seedy scam artist named Basie (John Malkovich) and his flunkie (Joe Pantoliano), does he manage to get himself arrested and thrown into an internment camp where at least there is the promise of a daily potato and some gruel.
Continue reading: Empire Of The Sun Review
And so it is that in the terrorism-edgy mid-'00s, Steven Spielberg has resurrecteds War of the Worlds - again - and created the greatest alien invasion movie ever.
Continue reading: War Of The Worlds (2005) Review
Alive is the true story of a plane crash that occurred in 1972 in the Andes. Come on, you know what I'm talking about, the one where the survivors had to resort to cannibalism? Yeah, I saw that episode of Seinfeld too. The movie has been parodied way too much for something of its caliber.
Continue reading: Alive Review
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