Film Review – SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018)

Image result for solo a star wars storySolo: A Star Wars Story (2018; USA; Colour; 135m) ***½  d. Ron Howard; w. Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan; ph. Bradford Young; m. John Powell.  Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Warwick Davis, Clint Howard, Richard Dixon, Joonas Suotamo, Sarah-Stephanie, Deepak Anand, Slim Khezri, Ian Kenny, Douglas Robson, Omar Alboukharey, Sean Gislingham, Nathaniel Lonsdale. During an adventure into the criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his future copilot Chewbacca and encounters Lando Calrissian years before joining the Rebellion. Whilst this STAR WARS spin-off offers nothing particularly new or surprising, considering its troubled production history it remains a surprisingly consistently entertaining adventure. Ehrenreich displays the same roguish charisma as essayed by Harrison Ford and Glover also scores as Lando Calrissian. The action set pieces are effective and avoid the stilted choreography of recent efforts. Whilst the story itself may lack the gravitas and mysticism of its parent, it makes for more simple-minded fun. Although originally brought on board to complete the film after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller had been dismissed due to creative differences, it was widely reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the movie. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – BLADE RUNNER 2049 (2017)

Image result for BLADE RUNNER 2049 blu-rayBlade Runner 2049 (2017; USA/UK/Canada; Colour; 163m) ****  d. Denis Villeneuve; w. Hampton Fancher, Michael Green; ph. Roger Deakins; m. Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch.  Cast: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto, Lennie James, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Edward James Olmos, Barkhad Abdi, Hiam Abbass. Thirty years after the events of BLADE RUNNER, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. Expanding on the events and consequences of the original story, this is a visual treat. Gosling impressively portrays the ambiguity and doubts of his character, whilst Villeneuve patiently builds the narrative using the elements of the multi-layered plot. Fans of the original will be delighted, but it may be harder-going for others unfamiliar with the concept. [15]

Film Review – LIFE (2017)

Image result for life blu-rayLife (2017; USA; Colour; 104m) ***  d. Daniel Espinosa; w. Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick; ph. Seamus McGarvey; m. Jon Ekstrand.  Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya, Alexandre Nguyen. A team of scientists aboard the International Space Station discover a rapidly evolving life form, that caused extinction on Mars, and now threatens the crew and all life on Earth. Derivative sci-fi horror adds nothing new to the genre but is a professional and competent chiller. The visual effects are excellent and the cast is strong, but there is little in the material for them to work with outside of the admittedly tense conventional thrills. If you’ve seen ALIEN, you’ll recognise the by-the-numbers plot mapping. [15]

TV Review – DOCTOR WHO: TWICE UPON A TIME (2017)

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Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time (TV) (2017: UK: Colour: 60m) ***  pr. Peter Bennett; d. Rachel Talalay; w. Steven Moffat; ph. Richard Stoddard; m. Murray Gold. Cast: Peter Capaldi, David Bradley, Mark Gatiss, Pearl Mackie, Lily Travers, Jared Garfield, Jodie Whittaker, Jenna Coleman, Matt Lucas. Two Doctors stranded in a forbidding snowscape, refusing to face regeneration. And a British army captain seemingly destined to die in the First World War, but taken from the trenches to play his part in the Doctor’s story. This is the magical last chapter in the Twelfth Doctor’s epic adventure. He must face his past to decide his future. And the Doctor will realise the resilience of humanity, discovering hope in his darkest frozen moment. It’s the end of an era. But the Doctor’s journey is only just beginning. Self-indulgent bow-out for Capaldi’s Doctor with a confusing plot device designed to wring-out every emotion from fans of the series. It will likely have left non-fans cold with its frozen-in-time plot line as both 1st and 12th Doctors hold back their re-generations. There were nice touches in this episode – notably the resolution of the WWI army captain’s story and the meeting up with an old friend/foe. Bradley doesn’t always get the 1st Doctor right, but this is not helped by him being given some weak lines, knowingly poking fun at the changes in cultural environment since the days of those early serials. Capaldi is excellent, as ever, and it is sad to see his Doctor finally go. Whittaker’s brief appearance looked promising and left us on another cliffhanger. The production values were good and the photography excellent, but hopefully new producer Chibnall will move away from Moffat’s penchant for complex concepts and get back to good old-fashioned story-telling to win back a broader audience base. [12]

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VIII – THE LAST JEDI (2017)

Image result for star wars the last jedi times review ukStar Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017; USA; Colour; 152m) ****  d. Rian Johnson; w. Rian Johnson; ph. Steve Yedlin; m. John Williams.  Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Andy Serkis, Warwick Davis. Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past. Highly entertaining action-packed addition to the saga, which revisits many of the themes explored earlier in the series and as such may seem overly familiar. The basic chase plot is stretched a little with some lazy progressions, but despite its length the film doesn’t stand still for long nor does it outstay its welcome. Hamill and Fisher feature more heavily and there are one or two twists along the way, but its mid-trilogy position inevitably leaves certain issues unresolved. The visual effects and location work are exemplary. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)

Related imageWar for the Planet of the Apes (2017; USA; Colour; 140m) ***  d. Matt Reeves; w. Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves; ph. Michael Seresin; m. Michael Giacchino.  Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Amiah Miller, Gabriel Chavarria, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Ty Olsson, Judy Greer, Sara Canning, Devyn Dalton, Michael Adamthwaite, Aleks Paunovic, Toby Kebbell. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. Bloated third entry in the rebooted APES series has stunning visuals and special effects, but is weighed down by two-dimensional characterisations. Reeves too often slows the action down to a crawl in order to manufacture emotional wallop and some of the plot progression lacks logic. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

Image result for alien covenant blu-rayAlien: Covenant (2017; UK/Australia/New Zealand/USA; Colour; 122m) ***  d. Ridley Scott; w. John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green; ph. Dariusz Wolski; m. Jed Kurzel.  Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Demián Bichir, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, Benjamin Rigby, Alexander England, Uli Latukefu, Tess Haubrich, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, James Franco. The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape. It extends the dense religious mysticism of PROMETHEUS and mixes it with bug-movie action and horror. The script has many obvious triggers and offers nothing new to the series. What is left is an ultimately unsatisfying blend that has been expertly assembled, but plays it safe and would have benefited from tighter editing. [15]

Film Review – PASSENGERS (2016)

Image result for passengers 2016 blu-ray ukPassengers (2016; USA; Colour; 116m) **½ d. Morten Tyldum; w. Jon Spaihts; ph. Rodrigo Prieto; m. Thomas Newman.  Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Andy Garcia, Inder Kumar, Jamie Soricelli, Vince Foster, Julee Cerda, Robert Larriviere, Barbara Jones. A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early. Visually impressive sci-fi thriller/love story pushes all the familiar buttons through its highly contrived plot, which often defies logic. Pratt and Lawrence are appealing enough, but both the romance and the thrills are strictly by the numbers. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – THE MARTIAN (2015)

Related imageMartian, The (2015; USA; Colour; 141m) ****  d. Ridley Scott; w. Drew Goddard; ph. Dariusz Wolski; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Aksel Hennie, Mark O’Neal, Brian Caspe. An astronaut is stranded on Mars with only meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Engrossing story with an excellent central performance from Damon along with a capable supporting cast. Whilst condensing an epic tale of endurance it may cut some corners, it has a spirit and sense of humour that keeps the viewer enthralled. Use of 1970s disco songs adds to the feel-good factor, which is heightened in true Hollywood fashion during the tense rescue attempt. Based on the novel by Andy Weir. Also shot in 3-D. [12]

Film Review – THE TIME MACHINE (1960)

Image result for the time machine 1960 blu-ray premium collectionTime Machine, The (1960; USA; Metrocolor; 103m) ****  d. George Pal; w. David Duncan; ph. Paul Vogel; m. Russell Garcia.  Cast: Rod Taylor, Yvette Mimieux, Alan Young, Sebastian Cabot, Tom Helmore, Whit Bissell, Doris Lloyd, Paul Frees, Bob Barran, Josephine Powell, James Skelly. A Victorian Englishman travels to the far future and finds that humanity has divided into two hostile species. Definitive version has great production values, a strong central performance from Taylor and the nightmarish ultimate evolution in the Morlocks. Works as a prophetic tale of the impact of man’s need for eternal conflict through imaginative vignettes. Dramatic score by Garcia adds to the atmosphere. Won an Oscar for Special Effects (Gene Warren, Tim Baar). Remade in 1978 (for TV) and 2002. [PG]