Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Joonas Suotamo, Simon Pegg, and many more.

Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Daniel Mindel Music by: John Williams

Premise: Despite the death of the Emperor, years later, the Empire still exists, now called the First Order and led by Supreme Leader Snoke. The Republic has grown and secretly funds/helps the Resistance, who continue their fight against the Empire. Luke Skywalker has disappeared and the Empire wants him found and slaughtered so the extinction of the Jedi can be complete. An old colleague gives the Rebels a piece of a map showing Luke’s whereabouts. But the Rebel is caught before he can escape with the information, so he leaves the map with his droid, BB-8. BB-8, a scavenger, and an AWOL stormtrooper will become embroiled in matters bigger than they ever imagined. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Daisey Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn end up doing a very nice job as the extremely reluctant heroes for the film. Harrison Ford shows he’s still got it as he reprises his role as Han Solo. Andy Serkis makes for a rather creepy Supreme Leader Snoke. Adam Driver did a fine job as the mercurial Kylo Ren.

It was a ton of fun seeing so many of our old friends again. 🙂

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: While we always expect larger than life special effects in the Star Wars films, this one wasn’t as grandiose, but was filled with a lot of subtle, and no less impressive, effects. They fit so well, it makes them easy to miss. One super cool one was after Rey gets her quarter rations and sprinkles the content of one of the packets into a small bowl of water – and then before our eyes, the powdered dough coagulates and turns into a small loaf of bread she grabs and bites into.

There are several new creatures that get introduced as part of the scenery and the plot. There’s a neat bird with an anvil like beak, tentacled monsters in the freighter, and a giant hog like creature drinking water at a trough in Jakku. The bar was also chock full of familiar and new aliens types to look at.

The ships haven’t changed much, but we do see a few new ones both in the air and on the ground. Kylo Ren’s shuttle is even more intimidating and grandiose than Darth Vader’s, almost like he’s trying to compensate for something. (*joke*)

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: This story was better than Episode III Revenge of the Clones! Yay! Not that it would take much to be better than Episode III, but I was just happy it was. 😛

The film is enjoyable overall and uses our fond memories of the original trilogy to rope us in – though they do get carried away a bit in that respect. (If you cry at movies, make sure to take a hankey with you!) The plot is basically Episode IV with some changes thrown in. Bits get pulled from some of the other films as well, especially Episode V.

The change about how clones are no longer being used for stormtroopers, but rather use newborns taken from their homes and trained from childhood, as well as brainwash them, is stated so quickly, you might miss it. Yet the information is actually an important point with regards to the plot and Finn. Also not stating the fact this was Finn’s first mission until late in the film was a mistake – his reactions made no sense during the raid because the audience didn’t know he’d never been on one of these missions before. They had other issues with little things like that – inconsistencies or items that didn’t add up right or should have been mentioned for clarity. For example: if you’re part of the sanitation crew of a large military installation, why would you also get sent out as a stormtrooper to subjugate a town? The First Order didn’t look that short handed. And if your giant military installation has to move from sun to sun to get fuel, how do you have trees alive on the surface of it? Several other weird bits ran along the same vein.

They also somewhat spoiled the dramatic scene where Kylo Ren and his father meet up, mostly due to the fact they’d already had Ren take his helmet off when he was with Rey. Boo! And why, oh why, did they decide to make Kylo Ren so super powerful? There was really no need to have him be that ramped up. And  to make it worse, they then seem to forget his uber power later. Not once did he try to do to Rey what he’d done in the forest once before, and had worked so well. Boo! Though I did very much enjoy how it is Ren’s own words that reminded Rey she’s not alone and thus could get help to defeat her foe.

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: All the locations we see during the film were excellent. As usual, the integration of real places to those that are painted or computer generated were flawless. The cinematography combined with IMAX and 3D made the vistas lovely to look upon. Though with a desert planet, jungle planet, sort of snow planet, it almost seemed like they were trying too hard to tie back to the previous films though these were new worlds. 😛 They were still beautiful to look at though!

5) Music – Total Thumbs Up: John Williams is king! Was thrilled to see he did the work on the film score. A lot of the old favorites as well as new tracks! Yay!

Conclusion: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an enjoyable return to the Star Wars universe. It’ll bring back the feelings and emotions evoked on us by the first three original films. It was better than Episode III, so that’s something! Heh heh. There are no extra bits at the end or previews for Episode VIII, which is due out in 2017.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

 

Movie Review – Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, James McAvoy, Jessica Brown Findlay, Andrew Scott, Charles Dance, Freddie Fox , Spencer Wilding, Bronson Webb, Callum Turner, Alistair Petrie, Guillaume Delaunay, and more.

Directed by: Paul McGuigan Screenplay by: Max Landis Based on the Novel by: Mary Shelley Cinematography by: Fabian Wagner Music by: Craig Armstrong

Premise: Years before the final creation of his masterpiece, Frankenstein studied medicine in London, madly researching how to bring his dreams to fruition. It is here that he run across a mistreated clown at a circus, one who despite his misshapen body, might have the spark of genius he’s been looking for. But Inspector Turpin has put some facts together and is now on Frankenstein’s trail – and the more he finds the more determined he is to stop him. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Daniel Radcliffe proves he’s got what it takes with his great portrayal of Igor. His physical handling of Igor’s infirmities and emotional tug of wars were nicely done! James McAvoy is manic and delicious as the mercurial Victor Frankenstein. Andrew Scott as Inspector Turpin was also a lot of fun. That lovely intensity he’s used when playing bad guys are aimed at his being a good guy, yet he still ends up as an antagonist all the same. 😛

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The awesome special effects works starts almost instantly on this film. An innocent enough sight, watching a trapeze artist ply her craft, becomes so much more when suddenly we see an underlayer showing her bones and working muscles as she works through her routine. This was delicious fun especially especially during the scene where Igor and Victor meet – because they’re both doing it at the same time! And Victor’s treatment for Igor’s hump? Ewwwww!

All the effects for the cool experiments and science equipment were marvelous. The eyes Victor shows Igor when speaking of what he’s working on were especially neat, specifically because they looked like nothing much but then they change! Add in the pulsating body parts, the first successful composite animal, and later a humanoid creature and there’s lots to love.

Throw in the gorgeous skies and storm clouds, exploding equipment, lighting, electricity gone wild – and you get a ton of super cool special effects all over the place. And wait till you see the lovely spanning views of CGI London and then the isolated castle in Scotland!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: “Victor Frankenstein” is a prequel of sorts. It basically fills in a lot about Igor and Victor before they get together in later years to create the monster we’ve seen in the book and the films. The entire thing is from Igor’s point of view – which made this a refreshing take on the old tale.

A few bits will jar a little – like the fact Igor is treated like trash yet he also becomes the circus’s medicine man, which should have garnered him some respect or respite from his peers, since you might someday end up needing him to treat you for an injury. Also, how Lorelei comes to find herself a patron while recuperating at the hospital is not quite clear. They are little things though and easily ignored.

Though the creature does not take the stage in this prequel, worry not, as there are two other patchwork monsters they get to play with. And it’s fun watching Igor evolve while Victor seems to devolve. Two halves of a whole – the two men compliment each other, making them together more than each would be alone.

While some details don’t jive as they should to fit with the later tale, you can see bits and pieces of other renditions and characters flashing by in this one. A nice ying and yang effect occurs between Victor and Inspector Turpin – both obsessive and shaped by death but pushed in totally different directions. And both somewhat mirror the very chase Victor will later have with his final creation in the novel.

As in Mary Shelley’s original, the themes of religion vs. science, life vs. death, how we are perceived and acted on vs. who we truly are, are intertwined throughout the film.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Amazingly, the film has lots of opportunities for the stuntmen. The madcap chase in the circus, another at the medical college, and even more stunts at the castle in Scotland – the stuntmen are kept quite busy.

5) Location/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of real and touched up locations in the film taking us to London, to Scotland, and more. Igor’s first true view of the city of London was spectacular – showing both the good and the bad at once and also showing the thriving, human filled city. The old castle overlooking the sea in Scotland made for some great shots and doubly so when the storm is coming. The cinematography made good use of everything. Lovely!

Conclusion: “Victor Frankenstein” is a refreshing take on little covered areas of the old tale. Between the costumes, the cool special effects, the lovely vistas, and the great acting, seeing it is definitely worth it.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)