The third chapter in a trilogy is always tricky one to get right, something the teenage mutants acknowledge themselves during the third film in the X Men prequel seires. But it can’t be as bad as X Men: The Last Stand can it?
Its 1983, ten years on from the events of Days of Future Past and mutants are living alongside humans but while they are not at war they are living on a knife’s edge. When one of the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakes from centuries of slumber he is determine to lay the world to waste and start again, with himself as it’s God. It’s up to Professor X (James McAvoy) , Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and their students to stop him.
OK so Apocalypse is not as good as Days of Future Past or X2 but thankfully it’s nowhere near the flops that were The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine. Despite the influx of new characters (or returning, younger characters depending how you look at it) the film doesn’t feel overloaded and most get some good moments.
Perhaps the ones that get least development is the new mutants who become the Four horsemen working for Apocalypse aside Magneto (Micheal Fassbender – always good). Out of the three newcomers only Storm (Alexandra Shipp) has some potential. Psylock (Olivia Munn) looks cool and Angel (Ben Hardy) is great looking -apart from the dodgy 80’s hair- but aside from that they make little impact. Oscar Isaac also feels hampered under the prosthetics in what ends up being another generic supervillain, especially compared to Fassbender’s compellingly tragic anti-hero.
Lawrence’s Mystique is served better by the story this time than she was in Days of Future Past and the always dependable McAvoy shines again as Xavier. Out of the new students Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is instantly endearing and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey looks set to become an interesting addition to the team. Maybe if they do more movies they can tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline properly this time.
Action wise there are some good scenes even though the climatic scenes feature the over familiar destroying of a major city. One of the highlights of the film is the reappearance of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who once again gets a scene stealing moment as he rescuing a bunch of mutants from a building. Peters is hugely likeable and very funny in his extended role. So when will we get a solo Quicksilver movie then?
Rating 3.5/5 – fun if a tad long addition to the X Men franchise
The hype has been building ever since it was announced a further Trilogy would be added to the Star Wars franchise. Then at the end of last year The Force Awakens was released. I’m probably one of the last people to see this movie, but will it reboost the franchise or become a franchise killer?
30 years after the fall of the Empire and a new villianous group called the First Order is trying to take off where the Empire left off. As the Resistence, led by General Leila (Carrie Fisher), tries to fight the First Order a new batch of young heroes Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) get drawn into the fight and begin to discover their destinies.
I like the original Star Wars movies but I’ve never been a huge Star Wars fan. I guess I was more into Star Trek. Having said that The Force Awakens had me enthralled throughout. The film manages to find the right balance between using the original and new cast as well as appealing to die-hard fans and those who have no idea what a jedi is before watching this film.
JJ Abrahams deserves a lot of credit for successfully bringing such a beloved series back. He manages to mix special effects and practical stunts together to bring us many stunning set pieces and action scenes. But he doesn’t neglect the emotional aspects of the film, which may see a few tears come to the eye of many a seasoned film-goer.
It was great seeing Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher back together again. Ford in particular provides so many great moments and work well with the younger cast. Speaking of the newest memebers of the Star Wars family Boyega and Ridley are both fantastic in their new roles. Finn and Rey were both sympathetic and likeable characters. And who doens’t want to have their own BB8 now after seeing the film! The new baddies also made an impression with Adam Driver in particular making his mark as the villianous Kylo Ren. It was a shame we didn’t get to see more of Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma. I also felt Oscar Isaac’s Poe Domeron wasn’t as developed as well as Finn or Rey. All I knew about him is that he’s a great pilot. But considering how good Issac is I’m sure he’ll get more to do in further films.
The success of The Force Awakens almost banishes away the bad memories of the prequels (well almost).
Rating 4/5 – a brilliant sequel, Rian Johnson has a high standard to fill for Episode VIII.
Alex Garland has previously made a name for himself through his novel The Beach, and his screenplays for 28 Days Later and Never Let Me Go. Now in his directorial debut Garland explores the complex relationship between humans and AI technology.
When programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) wins an opportunity to stay at his employer Nathan’s (Oscar Isaac) secluded house he finds that Nathan wants him to help with his latest project. He has created an AI named Ava (Alicia Vikander) and he wants Caleb to test Ava to see whether she can pass as a human. As Caleb gets closer to Ava he finds himself questioning what is going on around him and who he can ultimately trust.
For the majority of the film we are kept in one location. A stunning house which while beautiful is also cold and isolating (perhaps representing how Ava comes across or to reinforce the isolation that keeps our main characters away from the rest of the world). This is a film less about action and more about characters. Caleb is faced with a question can Ava pass as a human? This opens up questions as to what exactly is human behaviour. Can Oscar’s actions be considered human? Don’t humans have it in them to be cold and calculating as they accuse AI’s of potentially being?
We are left in the company of three main characters for most of the film. All have been well-chosen to suit their roles. Isaac brings intensity to self-proclaimed Genius Nathan. Secretive and full of ego, like Caleb we also cannot be quite sure of his true motives. Gleeson works well as the audience surrogate Caleb, and we are often in the same position as him, never sure who he can trust – Nathan or Ava? The best of an accomplished bunch is Vikander as Ava, beautiful, analytic, we are never quite show about her. Does she have human qualities? We don’t know what her real aims are or how she feels about her inventor and her visitor.
It’s not without flaws, sometimes you wish for a little bit more action to drive the plot, and it can be a bit slow at times. It also treads familiar ground and doesn’t really offer much more than other firlms about artifical intelligence. I think the ending may also divide some people. I liked it but others may disagree. But this is a film worth seeing and then discussing with your friends after to see if you viewed the film differently.
Rating 3.5/5 – smart, gorgeously shot and with three excellent performances
From Patricia Highsmith the author of The Talented Mr Ripley comes The Two Faces of January. But will this make as much of an impact?
Set in 1962, Rydal (Oscar Isaac) works as a tour guide in Athens where he meets an American couple Chester and Colette McFarland (Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst). But the McFarland’s have a secret which catches up to them in Greece, and Rydal ends up helping them evade the police while falling for the beautiful Colette.
The main feeling I got while watching this film is that it’s not suited to the big screen. If I was watching it on a lazy Sunday afternoon on my tv I’d probably be more forgiving of its flaws. But while it rambles along well enough to start with it fails to provide any worthy twists or turns to really capture an audience’s attention.
Mortensen is the big draw here as the manipulative Chester. His desperate attempts to avoid capture are great to watch. Less so is Dunst as Colette, mainly due to the fact her role is underwritten. Her character is just there for the two male leads to argue over and she doesn’t have any chemistry with either of them. Isaac is fine as the slimy Rydal. Although he is not particularly likeable or sympathetic he is interesting to watch. A man of scrupulous morals that fleeces tourists for a living but is out of his depth when dealing with Chester.
The scenery is beautiful, the film is a great advert for the Greek Tourist Board. The story goes along nicely enough but it lacks any real menace to leave you on the edge of your seat. It’s ok for an afternoon thriller but your money is better spent elsewhere.
Rating 2.5/5 – Middle of the road thriller that unfortunately fails to thrill like it should
I don’t claim to be any kind of expert on Star Wars. I like The Empire Strikes Back, and of course I think Han Solo is cool. But I’ve never been hugely interested in the Star Wars franchise. However you would have to be stuck in a cave not to hear all the latest rumblings about the new Star Wars trilogy.
I have to say that I was happily surprised when I heard the new cast announcement. I always like seeing Brits do well in Hollywood so was pleased to hear that Donhall Gleeson (About Time) and John Boyega (Attack The Block) had been cast alongside Indie stars Adam Driver (Girls, Frances Ha) and Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis) . Then I heard there were one controversial member of the cast-Daisy Ridley. She’s not controversial in herself but her casting has lead some critics to cry out-why is there only one new female cast member added to the franchise?
As I mentioned I’m not any kind of expert on Star Wars so I can’t say whether their representation of women is great or not, but I remember liking the character of Leila (although I’ve never watched Return of The Jedi where she’s reportedly reduced to a bikini wearing slave). Does it matter if there is only one woman cast in the film as long as the characters is a good addition? After all people remember and love Leila. Then I saw an article which asked people to state Leila’s full name. I racked my brain for the answer. After all everyone knows Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kanobi, Darth Vader etc, but I could not think of what Leila’s was (and I’m guessing “Princess Leila” doesn’t count).
Apparently it’s Organa. Catchy.
Does it really matter if no one can remember her last name? Maybe not, but it’s interesting that everyone always calls her Princess Leila as though that is the only title of interest. Is that because we are obsessed with Princesses?
I think Leila is a strong enough character even without a memorable surname but it does leave you thinking about women in the Star Wars world. The only really notable woman in the last trilogy was Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala. Now I think Portman is great but Padme was so dull. It didn’t help that she seemed to have no chemistry with Anakin Skywalker.
So the world will be looking at Daisy Ridley to see where her character will stand in this debate. There are also rumours that another substantial female role is yet to be announced so maybe the critics are being a bit hasty with their criticism?
So what do you think? Is the lack of females in Star Wars a big deal? Is JJ Abrams the right man to bring us another Leila rather than a Padma? Is it significant that no one can remember Leila’s last name? Or are you just fed up of people talking about women in Star Wars? Leave your comments below.