Category Archives: movies

My review of Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’…

I have been a fan of the work of Edgar Wright for a long time. Spaced is one of my favourite TV shows and my wife and I revisit it often. I love the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, that is Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and I thought that Shaun of the Dead was an absolute classic when I saw it in the cinema. Twice. All three are immensely funny and rewatchable and, although my initial impression of ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’ wasn’t all that good, on rewatching I have come to love it and now consider it a favourite. All of these movies have thematic and stylistic similarities including Wright’s fondness for fast-cut editing and the choice of an excellent sound track. Which brings us nicely to his latest, ‘Baby Driver’, a movie that is literally about a guy called ‘Baby’ who drives a getaway car. So, onto the review!

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I think it is obvious upon watching ‘Baby Driver’ that it is entirely an Edgar Wright movie. Every frame of the movie has his stamp on it, every little stylistic choice seems his from the soundtrack which keeps the movie hopping along to each choice of camera angle or direction that the movie take. All of the actors involved seem to be having tremendous fun from Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ to his love interest ‘Debora’ played by Lily James. Jamie Foxx does crazy very well with ‘Bats’ and Kevin Spacey brings a nice turn as Baby’s boss ‘Doc’. John Hamm also enjoys playing ‘Buddy’ the husband to Eliza Gonzalez’s ‘Darling’. And yes these are clearly code names to maintain distance from each other. At times the dialogue of the movie verges on the cheesy, which also seems intentional, playing up the kind of movies to which this film plays homage.

 

One thing that took both my wife and I a little by surprise was the tonal shift from the first to the second half of the movie. The first seems like a musical, albeit one involving bank robberies and car chases, and is very fun and entertaining with matters playing out according to the beat, Baby meets his love interest and a couple of heists go well with Baby’s spectacular driving keeping things smooth. In the second the seriousness of things is stepped up, with several bad choices leading to a dash to the end and the inevitable confrontations that come. And of course a number of the cast meet an ignoble fate, as you would expect from an Edgar Wright movie. The ending was also interesting, not going where I expected it to and veering away many of the cliché’s that could’ve been settled on.

 

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s take on a Fast and Furious movie where the action is fantastic, the cars are driven insanely well yet unlike those tired movies this one is awesome. It reminded me of ‘Heat’, very high praise indeed, as well as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with the soundtrack being so integral to the action. It is well worth seeing in the cinema on a large screen and I am thoroughly looking forward to revisiting it once it is out on DVD as I think it will reward multiple viewings. I shall also be eagerly awaiting the director’s next release, as ever. I can’t wait!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of the excellent ‘Logan’…

I have been a fan of the X-Men movies since I saw Brian Singer’s X-Men and then the sequel twice each in the cinema, something I rarely do. I have watched each of the subsequent movies, with the exception of Apocalypse which I skipped due to the poor reviews, and for the most part I have enjoyed them all. Well, Wolverine: Origins is terrible, as is The Last Stand, and my favourites are X2, which I still think is a tremendously entertaining movie, and First Class which is directed by Matthew Vaughn who is one of my favourite directors (more here: https://tinyurl.com/gturgyw). As with my previous movie reviews, I will be talking full spoilers so if you don’t want to know what happens please go and see the movie before reading any further. Seriously, I will tell you what happens, so go see it if you don’t want it spoiled!

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The first thing that should be said about Logan is that it is not your typical movie about superheroes or mutants. I’m not sure I would even put it in either of those categories. It’s part western, part action thriller, but it is mostly a film where our protagonists are on the run. It’s a movie about a lot of things and it actually has something to say about these things yet I think you could make this movie with ordinary humans and it would still work. It’s a film about how difficult it is living with someone who has a degenerative illness and about how the relationships of those who care for them change. It’s a movie about the hardship of life and of living with the consequences of your actions. And it also talks about  the brutality of both corporate culture and our obsession with war and finding more and more brutal ways to kill each other. Finally, it is about how hard it is getting old and sick and eventually dying.

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Several aspects of the film really stood out to me as excellent choices by the director, cast and writers. Allowing the characters to swear made more of a difference than I would’ve thought. It makes them feel like real people who deal with the shit life throws at you in the same way we do; with profanity. Keeping in the blood that was cut out of The Wolverine, but then returned for the Directors Cut, was also a smart move. Logan is someone who, as with Laura, stabs and maims a great many people so of course there should be blood. And the makers of this movie have clearly learned from the success of Deadpool in making both an adult and a very entertaining movie and choosing not to shy away from mature content. Without these elements I think Logan would fall very flat indeed as just another superhero movie and I am so glad that it is not that.

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The performances are also all excellent, with special mention for the newcomer Daphne Keen, who plays Logan’s daughter with an impressive ferocity, and on maintaining her silence until the last third. But Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Stephen Merchant were also superb and each brought something to the production. If I have a criticism it is that the villains, in the form of Boyd Holbrook and Richard E Grant, aren’t really given enough to do but stand there and look menacing. And they do their best, but it seems a failing of almost all of the recent superhero and comic book movies that the villains aren’t developed enough for us to care about them. And of course both Charles Xavier and Logan have to die during the course of the movie because it is both necessary and this is exactly the movie in which that occurs. I found myself welling up at both of these moments and I did not expect a film about a mutant who mostly stabs people to do that, so all credit to it.

 

Logan is an excellent movie, truly it is, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it. My wife commented after the viewing that she hadn’t even felt the time passing and that she wouldn’t have minded if it ran another hour. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it did certainly zip along. Usually we prefer films to be as short and concise as they can be, but when it is done as well as this one then we really don’t mind. If you have any interest in Logan I thoroughly recommend that you see it in the cinema, and drag along your friends and family, to both support its creation but also to just enjoy something that is different and just so damned good! Go, go see it now!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars story’…

‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars (SW)’ movie that I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Seriously, it is. Back then my mother, brother and I had a routine of enjoying the original movies (yes, even the one with the Ewoks. Hey, I was a kid!) every Friday evening and so obviously we were fans. I saw and enjoyed ‘The Force Awakens’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/h4j3lng) when it was released last December but I felt that was a rehash of the classic 1977 movie redone for a modern audience and, though I have absolutely no problem with that, it wasn’t quite enough for me. That movie is fun and it zips along but, in the opinion of this reviewer, ‘Rogue One’ is easily the best SW movie since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It might even be the best one altogether! It’s an absolutely brilliant, genuine SW movie that features pretty much everything I want this kind of film to contain. Before I go any further, as with my previous reviews, there will be spoilers so if you want to see it unspoiled go and do so before reading on…

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As I said, this movie has everything I wanted: character arcs with actual growth, epic space battles, sacrifice in the name of a greater cause, all that good stuff! Sure, the plot is quite simple (we must get the plans for the Death Star at all costs!) but it works and we all know that they succeed, for the first Star Wars movie depends upon it, but what matters is the cost of succeeding (which one’s were the Bothans, by the way?). Jynn is a decent protagonist, the journey she goes on is completely appropriate for the subject matter, and the crew that she assembles are also enjoyable (especially the sarcastic droid, who’s jokes land well). The battle sequences are some of the best I can remember seeing in any movie of this kind, and the ending is suitably brutal (did anyone actually have a problem with it, cause I sure as hell didn’t). The only thing that even slightly bothered me was the inclusion of a digitally-resurrected Peter Cushing (could they not have just written him out and someone else in?) but that was a minor niggle in an otherwise impressive experience.

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Unlike in the prequels or in ‘The Force Awakens’ where they seemed in such a rush to keep moving forward that they barely had time to breath, the actors have actually been given the space to act. Actually, I think the three principle actors in ‘The Force Awakens’ did a commendable job with the space that they had but those in ‘Rogue One’ have much more to do and more room in which to do it. And what a ride Gareth Edwards, the director, has been on! My wife and I have been fans of the Kermode and Mayo movie review show for many years and I remember his interview for his debut movie, ‘Monsters’, some time ago. That was a very enjoyable character piece that features very few actual monsters (but when they do appear they are stunning!) but it did showcase the directors talents and it was obviously seen by the right people. Then Kermode and Mayo had him back on for Godzilla, a movie that I very much enjoyed both times I watched it, and now he has directed what I consider to be the finest ‘Star Wars’ movie since Empire. Blimey, that’s some career trajectory!

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I heartily recommend that you see ‘Rogue One’ in the cinema, it’s a wonderful experience and it deserves to be seen this way. I look forward to revisiting it when it is out on home release but I am so glad I dragged myself to the pictures to see it. I loved ‘Rogue One’ much more than any of the other SW movies in the past few decades. Now, however, I do hope that we get to see something new in this universe, something different that isn’t a rehash or a prequel but instead moves the series forward from what it has always been towards the new stories it is now (hopefully) going to tell. And with directors as good as Gareth Edwards and J.J. Abrahms I have high hopes indeed! Can’t wait!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Arrival’…

I am a big fan of science-fiction in both movie and book forms. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favourite authors (my review of ‘Revenger’ is up next!)’ and my favourite movies of the last few years include Interstellar (which I think is an absolute masterpiece), Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max: Fury Road (sci-fi? apocalyptic fiction? hmm). So I was very glad to hear of the good reviews that ‘Arrival’ was getting and which were enough to persuade my wife and I to venture out to our local cinema to see if this movie lived up to the hype. This is something that we only do very infrequently for though we enjoy movies, we can’t often be bothered to trek out in the cold (it’s really not that far, but it is cold right now!) and we don’t often want to pay the associated costs (train fares, food and drink costs and so forth) when we have plenty of movies that we can enjoy at home. But Arrival was well worth the time and the money that we spent.

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So, Arrival, for those of you not in the know, is a move in the vein of ‘Independence Day’ (ID) and Jodie Foster’s excellent ‘Contact’ in that it is one where a number of alien ships arrive on Earth and proceed to position themselves all over the globe. But unlike ID, this film takes the route of intelligence and subtlety (and not so many shots of famous landmarks being destroyed) and focuses instead on the efforts of Amy Adams (who surely should win the Oscar for her superb performance) and Jeremy Renner as they struggle to communicate with these visitors. The movie then follows their story as they begin to piece together the aliens ‘language’ and as the rival factions all over the globe do the same. I won’t say any more about the story as I don’t wish to spoil it but I do love that it gets a bit twisted at times involving the use of glimpses of the future (including a lovely bit of head-fuckery involving the Chinese leader) and it again reminds me of the brilliance of Interstellar in how it deals with all of this.

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There were some very minor things that I found silly about the movie. The idea that these aliens would in any way be troubled by the presence of the weapons that we possess and turn towards their ships is one of these. If they have the technology to suspend their ships in the strange way that they do above the Earth and to communicate without us being able to understand how, then our puny technology would surely be of no concern. It’d be like tanks worrying about cave men throwing rocks! But despite these small niggles, my wife and I both  had a great time and fully intending to watch it again before too long. We probably won’t be venturing back to the cinema again but we might purchase the DVD when it comes out.

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Arrival is a truly excellent movie that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys intelligent, complex science-fiction stories (though it is easily understandable and well told) but I did wonder what the three teenage boys a few rows ahead of us made of it and whether they had been anticipating a more ID style story with all of the action that movie displays. Funnily enough, my wife enjoyed ‘Arrival’ even more than I did, declaring it her pick of the year so far and one of the best films she has ever seen. Let’s see if ‘Rogue One’ can pinch that spot before the year is out, personally I doubt it. Not because I don’t think Rogue One won’t be a great movie, it just has to go some way to best ‘Arrival’. It really is that good, go see it!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Star Trek Beyond’…

This time I’m reviewing Star Trek Beyond, the latest in the rebooted franchise and, as with my other movie reviews, I will be talking about the events in this movie (such that they are) so this review comes with a SPOILER warning. If you don’t want the movie spoiled then please read no further. Otherwise, onto the review…Oh, one more thing. There are quite a few acronyms in this review, sorry about that, but it’s necessary, I think. Right, the review!

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I’ve been a fan of Star Trek since I was a teenager. Watching The Next Generation (TNG) at 6pm on BBC2 was something I loved and ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ (BoBW) remains two hours of the finest TV I’ve ever seen and the only part of TNG that I think still holds up really well today. Watching Picard become assimilated by the Borg was a seminal moment in my TV education and the seventh movie, First Contact, is not only my favourite Star Trek movie (yes, I know ‘Wrath of Khan’ is the better movie but I still enjoy First Contact more) but one of my all-time favourite movies. It helps that I saw it for the first time with my best friend and my brother and that we were the only people, besides a cinema staff member, in the screening. That was a fun experience!

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My wife and I are also big fans of Deep Space Nine, I’ve seen it several times through, and actually we recently finished watching the series from the beginning again. DS9 has an impressive story arc, along with wonderful characters and, like BoBW, ‘The Way of the Warrior’ is also incredible TV. I never got on with Voyager and Enterprise is bloody awful, slow and pointless in my opinion. As for the movies, well The Motion Picture is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, as are the Search for Spock and the Final Frontier, but Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country and the aforementioned First Contact are all superb. The entire run is something of a mixed bag and the movies that I haven’t mentioned are not really worth worrying about.

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As for the rebooted franchise, well I have enjoyed it so far. I have seen each in the series in the cinema and I found the first to be an enjoyable romp of a movie that successfully brought Star Trek back to the mainstream, something that I thought would be quite difficult to do. Into Darkness continued that trend of pleasing both mainstream viewers and fans of Star Trek like myself, though I have seen reviews that have said that it divided fans. I liked that movie (especially as I hadn’t realised that Cumberbatch was Khan beforehand) although I did have a few little niggles (Tribbles, I’m looking at you!) and  a friend of mine gave an impressively thought out dissection of the movie some time ago that did make me question whether it was as good as I had previously thought. I could find no flaws with his arguments either.

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When I first heard that they had given the next movie to Justin Lin, the director of one of the Fast and Furious movies, I was concerned (and the trailers did little to assuage my concerns) but the reviews (including that of my go-to movie critic, Mark Kermode) were pretty decent and it seemed to be going down well with the reviewers. How wrong they were. Star Trek Beyond is bloody awful. It is a garbled mess of a movie with almost no discernible storyline and pretty much nothing of note or value. Yes, seeing the Enterprise destroyed is entertaining, but the trailer had completely spoiled that and we’ve seen it done before anyway. The villain (ably played by Idris Elba) is even less developed than those in the past two movies (why are ST villains always so one-dimensional, except Khan of course) and the plot is completely nonsensical. As for the plot-holes, well you’d need some sort of plot to worry about the holes in it and what little there is, isn’t worth mentioning.

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But to give you an example of how awful this movie is, I offer this. There is a climactic scene where Kirk and his crew face the fleet that destroyed the Enterprise. And they do so in an ancient, wreck of a ship. This insurmountable foe is overcome by the application of the Beastie Boys ‘Sabotage’ track. Now, I have no problem with this, it’s silly goofy fun. What I have a problem with is that these ships, which are connected via radio waves, seem to spontaneously explode once their connection is cut. No explanation is offered and I think we are meant to assume that the ships that explode are crashing together. Yet, when this effect is shown again, the ships genuinely seem to be spontaneously combusting. This is awful storytelling that neatly fits with how ramshackle the rest of the plot is. Things like character development are ignored or placed into the category of ‘is that even what that character wanted’ an example being when a prominent female character is offered a place at the academy. Did she even want to go, was that mentioned, because I never heard it?

My biggest problem with Beyond is that it is just incredibly boring and though there seems to have a lot going on onscreen, it failed to engage with either me, my wife or my family, and I wonder how that is possible. The one moment that I enjoyed, when Spock looks at a picture of the Original Series crew, relied entirely on your affection towards said crew to get an emotional reaction. It worked for me but it did so because of my connection to those movies, and not because of Beyond, and also that I was aware that most of the actors in the picture have now passed away including, most recently, Leonard Nimoy. And when a movie has to rely on your feelings about characters in previous entries, then it is certainly failing.

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The last time I was this disappointed by a movie that I paid to see in the cinema was Jurassic World, another turgid, mess of a movie, and that time, as with this one, I saw the movie with friends and family on a group outing. I wish I hadn’t paid to see this terrible movie and I certainly will not be ever watching it again. I have better things to do with my time and better movies to see and I would recommend that you do the same. To paraphrase Spock in Beyond, this movie is ‘horseshit’. Well put, sir, well put!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of ‘Captain America: Civil War’!

So, I’ve been a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Iron Man first arrived on the big screen. With the exception of the Hulk movies, which aren’t really a part of this Universe, I’ve seen every release and I think that Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America 2 are superb movies. Except for Iron Man 2, which is terrible, every other Marvel movie has been at least good and often much better than that. So I am very sad to say that I found Captain America: Civil War to be a huge disappointment. Now, before I go any further, I am going to talk about the events in this movie so SPOILER WARNING! If you do not wish to know what happens then please do not read any further. If you’ve either seen it or don’t care about spoilers then please continue…

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Before we get to why I disliked this movie I should run through the events that occur. After a brief prelude involving the Winter Soldier eliminating a target and retrieving a highly suspicious package, Captain America: Civil War opens with a rather spectacular sequence where the Avengers try to prevent a miscreant from stealing a biological agent. This fight ends with an unfortunate number of civilian casualties, opening the way for the registration arguments to be made. From there, the bombing of UN headquarters and the death of the King of Wakanda leads to the introduction of the Black Panther and the Winter Soldier being flushed out into the open. Following Bucky’s capture, the principle villain of the piece, Baron Zemo, frees him, leading to Cap and Bucky attempting to pursue Zemo, while the Avengers try to stop them. People take sides, there’s an impressive battle where no one actually gets hurt, and then Cap and Bucky leave to continue their pursuit. There’s a lovely reveal that really should’ve lead to the actual battle between the opposing sides and then the movie ends. I don’t know if there were post credit sequences as I didn’t stay to find out.

So, my biggest issue with this film is that it seems to be composed of several separate stories that should’ve been movies in their own right but instead have been forced together so that Marvel can move onto the next phase of its plans more quickly than they otherwise could. I think this was a mistake and that the two stories should’ve remained separate. You have the Captain America and Bucky thread where they pursue Zemo and try to prevent the activation of more Winter Soldiers, which is a solid Brubakeresque story that deserved to be the central plot of the film and given time to breathe. And then you have the Civil War silliness which also should also have been its own film, probably Avengers 3, but then I guess Marvel didn’t want to wait that long and so decided to combine the two together.

On the Civil War side, videos are played for the benefit of both audience and Avengers that highlight the battles of recent years and the civilian casualties that clearly must have been incurred, something that I wish the previous movies had been more overt about showing. Marvel clearly want a younger audience and so have avoided actually showing any carnage. I also have significant issues with the handling of the Civil War argument as, when we hear the case for registration, no one enunciates that, without our heroes to save New York in Avengers and Sokovia in Age of Ulton, the world would have been conquered or destroyed many times over. This point of contention is glossed over as if were incidental and not central to the arguments being discussed. This is also a problem.

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The biggest issue that I have with this movie is that it is not a Captain America movie; it’s an Avengers movie. There are far too many characters, all of whom need screen time, and others who need an introduction so that we care about them because they have upcoming movies that Marvel want us to go see. Two separate movies would’ve allowed space to explore Cap and Bucky’s rekindled friendship but instead the film sidelines these two for the sake of spending time with everyone else. Cap 2 didn’t get to the heart of Bucky and Cap’s relationship nearly enough and in Cap 3 the problem is even worse. Were this an Avengers movie, I would have no issue. But as it is, the film avoids everything that I wanted it to focus on. Oh, and the introduction of Spider-Man, entertaining as it was, should never have happened here. The scene between Stark and Parker eats time that would’ve been better spent pursuing Cap and Bucky’s relationship. Put it in Avengers 3: Civil War and it would’ve been fine but in this film it is simply wasting time.

Finally, Rhodey should have also died, not only because his fall would’ve clearly killed him but because this movie really needed a character death at the end. Mark Millar understood this when he penned the comic and Marvel should’ve known that all of this silly fighting over nothing should’ve had consequences. Otherwise what was the point. Sure, Rhode’s won’t be War Machine again but it’s not enough for a movie like this. There will likely be more fallout in subsequent movies but, given that Avengers 3 and 4 won’t be out for many years to come, I have no idea when we’ll get the chance to see what Cap and Bucky’s actions in breaking out their comrades, none of whom can return to their lives anytime soon, will incur. Hawkeye should’ve stayed retired, eh?

To me, Cap 3 feels like a massive misstep, I am thoroughly disappointed and this is possibly the first serious mistake that Marvel have made since launching their cinematic Universe. Well, besides the god awful Iron Man 2. Perhaps they are feeling the pressure from DC and feel that they must compete but given that they are at least a decade ahead this is something that really shouldn’t be worrying about. I have seen every Marvel release since Iron Man and bought most of these movies on either DVD or Blu-Ray but I won’t be buying Captain America: Civil War and I’m not even sure that I will go and see any other Marvel movies in the cinema unless the reviews are particularly good. Dr Strange looks interesting and, as a stand-alone story, maybe it will avoid the problems of Civil War. But I am far less interested in the upcoming Avengers movies and that’s a problem for someone who’s been a fan of these movies for so long. What a damn shame!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers!)

Seeing as the new Star Wars film has finally arrived and I saw the movie last weekend with my wife and family I thought I would offer my thoughts on it for my next blog post. Before I do so, I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with this universe and what it means to me. I should also say that I will be talking in graphic detail about the events in this movie so everything will be spoiled. And I do mean EVERYTHING! If you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further, go and see the movie and then come back to see what I thought. You should experience it as unspoiled as you can, I did and I was glad! If you’ve seen The Force Awakens then please continue…

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So, I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a huge fan, but a fan nevertheless. When I was quite young my mother, my brother and I would watch one of the original trilogy movies every Friday night while my dad was out playing squash with his friends. Consequently I saw them a great many times while I was growing up and I know them quite well. When the Special Editions were released I then saw SW in the cinema for the first time. And recently I revisited them in their original versions when I discovered that a friend had the versions of the DVD’s that came with the original prints. Having done that, I have to say that those versions of the movies remain the best ones, in my opinion. Nothing added to the movies since have improved them in any significant way, and some of the additions detract from the pacing of the movies. So, despite some shaky effects, I definitely think the originals are easily the best versions of the films.

Also, seeing the movies recently I revised my opinions of them significantly. I realised what a great piece of cinema the original Star Wars is, how quickly it zips along and how it expects the audience, despite being dropped into a new universe, to keep up. It treats them with respect and that pays off. The second film is quite brilliant and that movie was superbly directed by Ivan Kershner. Since then none of the subsequent movies has quite captured that excellence. Return of the Jedi is a car crash of a movie, especially given the information available as to what it could’ve been had George Lucas not fired the director and taken the reigns himself. Nothing in it works like the first two and most of the plot can be dismissed as silliness. Until my recent viewings I quite liked Return but having seen it as an adult with something of a film education, I now cannot see it as anything other than the disaster that it so clearly is. It sucks. I’m also not going to discuss the terrible prequel trilogy as the less said about those the better.

Anyway, onto The Force Awakens. Before seeing this movie I’d heard pretty good things. The critic whose opinion I value most, Mark Kermode of the BBC Radio 5 live show and Wittertainment, very much enjoyed The Force Awakens and so I went in with my interest piqued. My impression of the film wasn’t helped by the projector breaking fifteen minutes into our showing and my wife, my family and I then having to reschedule for a showing later in the day. Despite that I really did enjoy it. It was fun, it zipped along like the original and I had a really good time. The new characters were excellently played by the young cast and the original cast members all did their jobs well, helping to please returning fans. The effects were stunning, as they should be, and the joy of returning to this universe was tangible.

Focusing the plot on the new characters and only using the original cast members sparingly also worked really well and I’m glad this is the approach they took. Clearly, they want these new characters to be the next generations SW and for them to be integrated into the existing cast without the reboot that Star Trek required. And I can also see that Abrams and his team have achieved what they did with Star Trek by reinventing this universe for a new audience who’ve grown up with the prequels and cartoons available to the current generation. There’s no doubt that this movie has been handled well by a smart director with a good team putting together a modern version of Star Wars and that’s exactly what it is.

So, the plot twists, (and, as I said, SPOILER!) for some reason I managed to see them all coming and I am usually terrible at seeing things like that. My wife often figures out the twists before they happen but in this instance it was me who realised that Kylo Ren was either Luke or Leia’s son, that Han was going to be killed, and that Rey was also the offspring of another original cast member, most likely Luke. Despite seeing all of this coming, every twist still worked really well and impacted as it should. Killing Han echoes information available online for events that were in the original Return of the Jedi plot and making this movie about the offspring of the original characters gives the film a lovely legacy approach that I like. Actually, my other primary experience of the SW universe is in the SW Legacy comics, of which I own the entire run in nice hardcover volumes, and I can see the influence of this run in the movie. Besides focusing on a descendent of Luke Skywalker, the comics also include tales told from the perspective of Stormtroopers and that part of the movie feels directly influenced by Legacy.

But, despite all that I like the movie does feel like a very well done, modern Star Wars greatest hits with original cast members thrown in because to do otherwise would be silly. You have, among others, an attack on a new Death Star (which they even joke about), the goofball scene where Han and Chewy grapple with a monster (a la the trash compactor scene) and Rey running around inside an imperial base, avoiding stormtroopers in a manner similar to Episode IV. There’s little that I feel is new and that detracts from the experience somewhat. Of course, the scenes where Leia and Han interact are just superb and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during them. I was also moved by Han’s death, as anyone who loves the original movies must surely be (where was his funeral?!?) and I look forward to seeing the impact of these events in upcoming films.

I guess that my overall impression of the movie is that I enjoyed it, it was tremendous fun and I came away thinking that it is definitely a Star Wars movie and that is a huge compliment. Not since the end of Empire has that been the case. But I was also a little underwhelmed, certainly more so than I had been during parts of the film when I had been immensely enjoying myself. Now that The Force Awakens has been released and Abrams and his team have established where things are and the new status-quo I would really like to see the next film exploring new territory and doing something more interesting than simply attacking yet another Death Star (even if they say that’s not what it was). It was still a lot of fun and a pleasure to see all of the characters that I grew up watching back on the big screen. I just hope that the next movie does something more with all that it has established. Here’s hoping!

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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