ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY SO FAR…

August 23, 2016

rogue_one_a_star_wars_story_ver2_xlgAs the hype machine gains traction for this December’s release of the second Star Wars movie in as many years, the first of the stand alone adventures, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, is set in the run up to the original outing, Star Wars: Episode IV:A New Hope (1977), as a team of Rebels steal the Death Star plans fought over in the original film.

Directed by  ex-guerilla film-maker, Gareth Edwards, who after his indie breakthrough, Monsters (2010) went on to resurect, and with great success, The King Of The Monsters himself, Godzilla, back in 2014.

The tone will be different as fot the first time, they are free to tell a stand alone story, of sorts, with no commitment to its lead character’s destiny. Will they live or die? In theory, the plot will dictate that rather than the need to see Jen Ersa (Felicity Jones) or any of her cohorts in a sequel. Well, that is the idea at least.

But as we still have to wait until December 16th to find out if the spin-off series has any legs, the trailers have already begun to emerge and I can tell you, personally, I am impressed with what I am seeing. A darker more mature tone littered with plenty of references to a Star Wars universe which until last year, had been left for dead back in 1983.

But my concern is not only will this up to expectations but I just hope that it is not just a fan boy’s wet dream. It is not enough just see the AT-AT’s, X-Wings, Tie fighters, Star Destroyers and the Death Star again, let lone Darth Vader! It needs to mean something.

Teaser Trailer

Theatrical Trailer #1


PATHS OF GLORY

August 22, 2016

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CANDLES 9

DIRECTOR: Stanley Kubrick

As we commemorate the centenary of the Battle of the Somme which took place 1916, this Stanley Kubrick classic, also set in 1916, seems to be somewhat timely.

If Kubrick had not made this film, then I suspect that Spielberg would have sometime later or course, as this film begins in the trenches, moves to the court room and ends up on the field of execution as three French soldiers are tried and convicted of cowardice as an example to the rest of the men.

But there is a lot more to this and Kirk Douglas’, Col Dax’s fights a losing a battle to place the blame at the door of the right people, or monsters depending on your view. Whist not being based on any particular true event, it is based on numerous others and in many ways, would stand as a testament to the accepted truth of the horrors both on the killing fields or the grand offices of the top brass.

This war was horrific by any civilised standards and Kubrick, along with cast led by Douglas expertly take us on a brief journey into this horror, a place where soldiers are murdered to set a examples for the rest, something which we are led to believe that only our enemies do, but here we have it and let us not get caught up in a debate, it is true.

This was happening across the board in 1916, amidst “the war to end all wars”. In this case, the enemies lay on both sides of the trenches, a point which Kubrick and Douglas bring home with a bang.


ZOOTROPOLIS (aka ZOOTOPIA) (3D)

August 19, 2016

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sPG

CANDLES 8

DIRECTOR: Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush

On surface, Zootropolis appears to be yet another anthropomorphised adventure centring on animals who are relateble to us. The concept is it a little out there though, taking us into a world where animals evolved in our stead to rule the world but there is little more to justify this concept in the film, which simply substitutes humans for animals.

But what it does do, is what any great work of science fiction would do and turn the entire concept into a metaphor for real life issues. Racism perhaps? Well, this is how kids will generally see it but when you get down to it, Zootopia is very lightly veiled metaphor for the post 9/11 era, the naughties and the Bush administration etc… In short, this is as much a liberal propaganda piece as it is a children’s cartoon.

zootopia_ver20_xlgBut I am personally very partial to liberal propaganda so I am happy as we are taken on tour of fear, Guatanamo Bay and the raw, baseline politics of these dubious times which are still far from behind us.

The film itself though, is great fun, sharply written, again maintaining the trend of leading with a strong young female accompanied by a male sidekick, a trend whcih I like as it does redress the balance of 120 years of cinema in which women were seen a supporting characters for male stars, but I am concerned that it will become overplayed and the point will be lost. But Officer Bunny, sorry, Hops (Ginnifer Goldwin) is a good character, as well as her partner, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a bunny and fox working together, the irony… or the point of the film.

Kids will and do love it and adults, whether you see it as just animated fun or take the more subversive metaphors seriously, you should not be disappointed with this, the 54th Disney Classic.

ZOOTROPOLIS v ZOOTOPIA

 


BEN HUR (1907)

August 18, 2016

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CANDLES 4

DIRECTOR: Harry T. Morey, Sidney Olcott & Frank Rose

109 years ago, the first adaptation of General Lew Wallace’s novel was committed to celluloid. But this is not the epic of 1925, nor the better known Oscar winning MGM classic from 1959. In this year, of the latest theatrical remake, the first Ben Hur to be shot in 3-D, we are looking back at the this early 15 minute silent version, one whcih was unauthorised and resulted in the producers being successful sued for copyright infringement. Bear in mind that after the novel published in the 1880’s, Ben-Hur went on to become a successful stage play which ran for approximately 20 years.

But this was 1907, just 13 years after the very first recognised films began, what you might loosely refer too as productions, were being produced. This was a time where the craft of film-making was being forged and it would not be until 1916’s Birth Of Nation that the Epic would be born in earnest. Here, with a whopping $500 budget, the camera was fixed, the scenes play out for several minutes at a time and the narrative movie as we would understand today, was still a way off.

That is not to say that it had not been successfully done before though, as story telling and primitive special effects were being developed and used even by 1907 so I have to wonder what I was watching here?

In a story which looks into the effects of Jesus Christ on a Jew who is prepared to wage war on Rome after his family is betrayed, we are only treated to about seven scenes, most of which focus on the incident which would lead him to the galley yet we never see any of this, instead turning this in to a betrayal which is resolved solely by the chariot race.

No real effort to was made to tell the story, in fact this was simply an exercise in novelty, setting up the race which was not badly shot considering the whole thing was filmed in one go from one position.

Maybe I am being too harsh and I will concede that as a early film at a time in which the medium was seen as a novelty, this works well, but considering that Georges Méliès was managing to craft a short but clearly defined his stories with his innovative movies, this is far from that standard.

But still, I am pleased to have seen such an early example of this is film, one which at the very least is a curio, but if you want to watch Ben-Hur, both the 1925 and 1959 versions will serve the story much better. As for latest 2016 effect, only time will tell…


THE FORCE AWAKENS IN 3D, AT LAST!

August 14, 2016

Finally!

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Clearly milking Star Wars’ revival for all its worth, Disney have finally announced the 3D release of last year’s hit, with a UK release date on October 31st. In time for Christmas as well as the next movie of the franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which hits Cinemas on December 16th.

This release is almost identical to last, but will have few more docs and some new deleted scenes. It will also be dubbed a “Collector’s Edition” and also be released on DVD, a format whcih does not support 3D, to ensure that everybody buys this whether they can play 3D or not.

Does this justify two releases in one year?

Of course not but it is what it is and in the end, at least we get a little more for our money that just a 3D upgrade, an option which was sorely lacking in April’s release.

But will we ever see Episode I or II and III in 3D? Time will tell…

3D Collector’s Edition Bonus Features…

  • Audio Commentary with J.J. Abrams – Enter the mind of visionary director J.J. Abrams as he reveals the creative and complex choices made while developing the first film in the new Star Wars trilogy.
  • Foley: A Sonic Tale – Foley artists, consisting of old pros and new talent, unite to bring the world of Star Wars: The Force Awakens alive through the matching of sound to action.
  • Sounds of the Resistance – Hear how the epic sound design of Star Wars: The Force Awakens moves the Star Wars legacy forward.
  • Deleted Scenes – View never-before-shared scenes that didn’t make the film’s final cut.
  • Dressing the Galaxy – Costume designer Michael Kaplan reveals how the costumes of the original Star Wars movies were re-envisioned for a new generation.
  • The Scavenger and the Stormtrooper: A Conversation with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega – The two new stars share the thrill of working together on the adventure of a lifetime and becoming part of the Star Wars legacy.
  • Inside the Armory – Take a fascinating tour through the design and creation of the weaponry in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Classic Bonus Features – These offerings from the April release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens include the complete story behind the making of the film, an unforgettable cast table read, insights from legendary composer John Williams, and deleted scenes, as well as features that dig deeper into the creation of new characters such as BB-8, the design of the climactic lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, the film’s remarkable digital artistry, and the Star Wars: Force for Change global aid initiative.

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI

August 1, 2016

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CANDLES 7

DIRECTOR: Michael Bay

This film has made little impact, so little in fact, that it only really came to my attention when it appeared on Blu-ray a month or so ago. I am a fan of Michael Bay, the pariah of the movie industry, though I believe that he is a stylish and popular director and whilst critics love to hate him, his box office should surely speak for itself.

He fails as much as he succeeds and his work often lacks class but is made up for with intelligent scripting, sharp, confident direction and generally a real, palpable sense of enjoyment. But what about this, his first true story war film since the popcorn epic which many found insulting, Pearl Harbor back in 2001?

Well, firstly, it is good, solid, detailed and explosive, but its pacing is off, with the first 40 minutes feeling like such, with the attack on a make shift U.S. Embassy located in Libya in 2012, not really kicking off until around the hour mark and it is not as if this time was gripping. It teased action, tries in vein to flesh out closed off characters, that of ex-Seals turned private contractors who are faced with defending a weak U.S. position in Benghazi.

This Zulu or Alamo style situation has be been done before and so much better. In short, 13 Hours wants very much to Black Hawk Down (2001) and whilst Bay successfully blends his style of action with the style of Ridley Scott’s brilliant modern war movie (Black Hawk Down), it lacks the tension or pacing that film.

Bay at his best, creates lively character who are dragged along with his break neck pacing and editing style. Here, he tried very heard not to do another Pearl Harbor and let’s face it Michael Bay is no Ridley Scott. He has a great style and one which I personally love but no matter how many times he wants to tell us that he can pull off a real live event which requires tact, it is not his forte.

He is playing it safe and in doing so, he may deliver a solid, respectful film but in all honesty, that is not what I am paying for when I go to see a Michael Bay movie. The flair needed to elevate this film from the “interesting” place that it is, is beyond Bay as his flare is completely at odds with this material.

That said, this was good film, well worth a watch and is Bay has done a solid job and I am not criticising him for that, but it is just not as good as it could have been if it had be handled by someone capable of subtle direction. Bay is many things but subtle is not one of them.


EVEREST (3D)

July 27, 2016

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CANDLES 6

DIRECTOR: Baltasar Kormákur

Everest tells the story of the tragic ascent of the mountain in 1996, dubbed the “1996 Mount Everest Disaster” in which several climbers lost their lives. The story is tragic, true and well documented as one of the worst disasters in the mountain’s recent climbing history but how does this film tell that story?

It recreates the events and the environment well, but it fails to tell a compelling story. The events are relayed on a production line, with low-key events leading to low-key deaths and whilst it must be given credit for showing us the relative of life and death on a mountain, if fails to draw us in anything like as much as you might expect from a 3-D epic such as this.

The characters are hollow, the scenery, whilst beautiful, is repetitive, I mean, it is a mountain for god’s sake! And besides a touching final call between a one of our dying climbers, I will not say which, and his wife, as well as a daring helicopter rescue, the film is quite frankly, and I hate to say this, boring.

With a cast as good as this, the technology to recreate Everest so well and the true story behind it, this should not have been so plodding and what should have been a tear jerking climax simply falls short.

Points for effort but none for the disappointing final result.


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