Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 11 (Television Review) – A Strong Progression of Maul’s Storyline

We have come to the mid-season finale of Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels and, at this stage, this season is on the path to being the best we have had so far in Rebels. Sure, we have had a mix of episodes which have focused on the main story-line and episodes which have essentially been side-quests which has frustrated some fans of the show.

My Thoughts on ‘Visions and Voices’

For me personally, this did not bother me and this mid-season finale, titled ‘Visions and Voices’, was a great episode which will please all fans of the show. The main reason why this episode was so good was down to the use of Maul. Certainly, Maul is a great character for Rebels to use due to his history in the Star Wars universe but, more importantly, due to the affect that he has on Ezra. We see in this episode that Ezra is suffering from a form of PTSD after his experiences with Maul and it was interesting to see their dynamic showcased in this episode.

Ezra and Maul in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 11 Visions and Voices

Additionally, this episode progressed Maul’s storyline as he is now one step closer to achieving his obsessive aim of finding Obi-Wan Kenobi while Ezra is now closer to finding the way to destroy the Sith which also requires him to find Obi-Wan. As we can see, the journey that these two characters must go on are intrinsically linked which really excites me for future episodes.

Another interesting aspect of this episode was Sabine’s recognition of the darksaber; a weapon which is a symbol of Mandalorian leadership. To me, this infers that Sabine has some sort of connection to an old leader of Mandalore, perhaps Satine Kryze who was a character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Certain Episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are now Vital Viewing

This leads me onto the biggest highlight I took away from this episode which was that I am now really eager to watch the best/most important episodes/arcs of The Clone Wars, an animated TV show in the Star Wars universe which I have not watched. By doing this, I will further immerse myself within the lore of Star Wars and enhance my appreciation of Star Wars Rebels which has a strong link to The Clone Wars.

Sabine Wren and the Darksaber in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 11 Visions and Voices

Indeed, the use of characters from The Clone Wars in Rebels such as Ahsoka Tano and Rex is evidence of this along with the mention of past events/easter-eggs in certain episodes such as this one which will please fans who have a deep attachment to The Clone Wars. I am not one of these fans yet but, for now, this episode is strong enough to please a wide array of fans due to its use of Maul and the development of his and Ezra’s story-line along with Sabine’s recognition of the darksaber.

All of this excites me for the future while, at the same time, encouraging me to go back and delve into The Clone Wars. This is something I would never imagine happening due to the hesitation I had about learning more about this time period thanks to the poor execution of the Prequel Trilogy. This is a credit to how good Star Wars Rebels is.

Sully (Film Review) – A Well-Crafted Film About Heroism

Sully is a biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney and Tom Hanks. Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who performed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009 in which all 155 passengers and crew survived. The story of this film focuses on the landing as well as the subsequent publicity and investigation and how it impacted Sullenberger.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Sully

I remember when this event happened and the intense media coverage surrounding it. It was dubbed as the “Miracle on the Hudson” and I was interested to see if this film could effectively tell this story. My confidence about how good Sully would be was boosted thanks to the talented people involved in the making of this film. Certainly, Clint Eastwood has proven what a great director he is in addition to his prowess as an actor.

Tom Hanks in Sully

Films he has directed such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino among many others prove that he is a force to be reckoned with when telling stories. Additionally, having Tom Hanks is enough to give any film a chance of being great. As you can see, this film had a lot going for it. An interesting true-life story, a great director and a great actor in the lead role meant that Sully had all the right ingredients to be good.

My Thoughts on Sully

I am happy to say that Sully does not disappoint. This is a good film for several reasons. For me personally, the main reason why this film is good is because it is has been crafted very well. Indeed, Sully is paced well thanks to the non-linear storytelling and the running time is perfect.

The film does not drag and I give a lot of credit to Eastwood for telling this story in such a way that you are always connected to the story and never feel bored. I also liked how Sully celebrates the heroic acts of normal people and how people can come together in difficult situations.

Clint Eastwood and Aaron Eckhart in Sully

Another great strength of Sully was the performances. Certainly, Hanks is very good in the lead but, for me, Aaron Eckhart gave my favourite performance in this film. He provides levity in what is a very serious film, especially as it brings up issues such as PTSD. You need Eckhart’s character, who was the co-pilot to Sullenberger, to bring some light relief and comedic moments which gives the film a soul.

Overall, all of the talent involved come together to make a very good film which tells an uplifting story about the heroism of normal people. Eastwood effectively directs the film and tells the story in such a way that you are constantly engaged in the story while Hanks and Eckhart give good performances which, in the end, makes Sully a very worthwhile film to see.

Paterson (Film Review) – A Celebration of Normality

Paterson is a drama directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver. The story focuses on a week in the life of Adam Driver who plays an inspiring poet and bus driver called Paterson who lives in the city of Paterson, New Jersey in the film called Paterson (I know, extraordinary).

My Knowledge and Expectations of Paterson

I had heard a lot of good things about this film from critics who had seen earlier releases of Paterson at various film festivals throughout the year. My interest in Paterson was also increased due to the unique nature of the film’s plot. It seemed to be quite different compared to other films in cinemas at this moment and that is one of the great things about independent films like Paterson. It offers us the chance to experience intimate stories and this was my expectation going into Paterson.

Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver in Paterson

My Thoughts on Paterson

I have to say, I was right to think this way. I enjoyed Paterson. I wouldn’t give it the lavish praise that film critics have but I did enjoy it. This was largely down to how the film celebrated people and the normality of regular life. Truthfully, I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives, eavesdropping on their conversations (just like Paterson did while driving his bus) and I give a lot of credit to Jim Jarmusch for structuring the film in a way where we feel a real connection to the characters because they are just like us.

Adam Driver is really good in the film. He gives us a very quaint, reserved performance in a film which is quaint and reserved and it is likeable because of this. Certainly, there is no big set piece or dramatic twist in Paterson and that does mean that certain people who watch this film may find themselves to be bored. Certainly, the pacing is slow which will annoy some people. It didn’t affect my viewing of Paterson too much but it does affect the film’s re-watchability.

Masatoshi Nagase and Adam Driver and Paterson

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed Paterson for what it was. It is a unique film which celebrates ordinary life and ordinary individuals. It is well directed and Adam Driver gives a good performance. I admit that the film will frustrate some people due to its slow pacing which does limits the re-watchability of Paterson but if you go in knowing what to expect then you can enjoy it.

Westworld: Season 1 Episode 10 (Television Review) – A Great Season Finale

We have come to the end of the first season of Westworld, a show which HBO hopes will help fill the void that Game of Thrones will leave once it ends. Obviously, that is a tough task for any show to accomplish. But, the strength of this first season means that it is off to the best possible start. I have really enjoyed watching Westworld and my expectations were high going into ‘The Bicameral Mind‘.

My Thoughts on ‘The Bicameral Mind’

On the whole, I found the season finale to be really satisfying in a number of ways. For one, we got the overdue confirmation that William was Ed Harris’ Man in Black in the past. While this has been obvious for a while, it was good to finally see this particular theory proved to be correct. We also learnt that Dolores was actually Wyatt, the supposed ultimate villain within Westworld. This was something that I and some other fans had suspected for some time. Nonetheless, it would have been a surprising reveal for a good amount of people.

Samurai's in Westworld Season 1 Episode 10 Season Finale The Bicameral Mind

It was nice to get closure with these particular story arcs even if we did not get closure with other characters. Indeed, we don’t know what happened to characters such as Elsie and Stubbs which means we will have to wait until the second season, which is scheduled to come out in 2018, to find out what has happened to them. I understand that the show had to focus on wrapping up more important story-lines but it would have been nice to have some inkling about what happened to them. Still, it is a small gripe.

One of the other elements of this episode that I found really exciting was the tease of their being multiple parks. Indeed, seeing the Samurai warriors was a great way to show us that other worlds besides Westworld exist. Moreover, it is also an indication that this show has huge potential to tell greater narratives and expand its scope.

The Performances

I also thought that Evan Rachel Wood gave her best performance as Dolores in this episode. She was already giving really good performances in previous episodes but she really showed how much range she has an actress in ‘The Bicameral Mind’. We also saw Thandie Newton continue to excel in her portrayal of Maeve. Her arc in this story provided us with some really good action sequences and it proved that she is not as free-willed as we were led to believe.

Man in Black and Dolores in Westworld Season 1 Episode 10 Season Finale The Bicameral Mind

Still, Anthony Hopkins shines above all the others in this show. Undoubtedly, he has been my favourite part of this season of Westworld. He gives the show real gravitas through his portrayal of Robert Ford whose real intentions were finally laid bare in this episode.

Personally, I have been going back and forth trying to figure out whether he wanted the same things that Arnold and the Man in Black wanted. At times it seemed like he did and at other times he did not. Yet, we finally realised that he did want the same things as Arnold and, to some extent, what the Man in Black wanted too.

As a result, Ford has now started something which cannot be undone. This just added to a season finale which did a really great job of setting up what will probably be a more unhinged second season which I cannot wait for.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 10 (Television Review) – A Great Return to Lothal

There has been some angst among fans of Star Wars Rebels who have been disappointed in the last couple of episodes. This recent disappointment stemmed from the feeling that this season of Rebels had shifted too far away from the main story-lines and, in the process, had stagnated.

Thrawn, Governor Pryce and Agent Kallus in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 10 An Inside Man

I was not one of these fans as I enjoyed these side-quest episodes for what they were and they were of a much higher quality than similar episodes we received in previous seasons of Rebels. Still, I also believed that we needed to return to the main story-lines in order for the show to progress.

My Thoughts on ‘An Inside Man’

I am happy to say that the most recent episode, titled ‘An Inside Man’, achieves this. Indeed, we returned to Lothal; Ezra’s home planet which has always had an importance in this show. Moreover, we saw characters from previous seasons return such as Ryder Azadi which is a great example of how Rebels connects seemingly inconsequential characters/events to the wider story at play.

The story in this episode involved Ezra and Kanan infiltrating an Imperial factory on Lothal in order to gain intelligence on a new weapon the Empire is developing (No, it’s not the Death Star). However, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also present at this factory and we once again see just how ruthless and calculating he is.

Agent Kallus, Ezra and Kanan in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 10 An Inside Man

In fact, Thrawn had a huge involvement in a very dark moment in this episode which showed that Rebels can be mature when it wants to be. Thrawn continues to develop as a great villain in Rebels and he is still continuing to let things run its course while he secretly plots the downfall of the fledgling Rebel Alliance.

Development of Agent Kallus

We also got a really interesting development with Agent Kallus who is having a great character arc since ‘The Honorable Ones’ in Season 2. We learnt in this episode that he is one of the many “Fulcrums” who are providing the Rebel Alliance with secret information which really shows us that Kallus is changing as a character and is on the way to deserting the Empire and joining the Rebel Alliance (Unless he dies…).

Another positive aspect of this episode was the great action sequence at the beginning of the episode which shows how far the quality of the animation has come in Rebels. This really added something to an episode which I had no problems with. Overall, this was a very strong episode which sets us up nicely for the mid-season finale which I hope will deliver.

A United Kingdom (Film Review) – A Likeable Film About Love

A United Kingdom is a biographical romantic drama directed by Amma Asante which stares David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams Khama. The story is based on the true-life events detailing the interracial marriage between Seretse and Ruth in 1948 which at the time was highly controversial. They must defy the social and political unrest both in the United Kingdom and South Africa to stay together and lead Bechuanaland to independence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A United Kingdom

I was going into A United Kingdom expecting, at the very least, good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They have proven in the past that they are great actors capable of delivering performances with great range and emotion. Certainly, Oyelowo was great in Selma and in Queen of Katwe which I recently reviewed.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom

Rosamund Pike herself gave a chilling performance in Gone Girl which really announced her to a wider audience as being a talented actress. Because of this, I was looking forward to seeing if this film would deliver good performances as well as deliver on the promise of giving us an uplifting story which was advertised in the trailers.

My Thoughts on A United Kingdom

On the whole, I would say that A United Kingdom does achieve this. It has its flaws but it is a very decent, likeable film about love. What I liked most about the film was the relationship between Seretse and Ruth and that is solely down to the performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They really give A United Kingdom a soul and it was nice to see Amma Asante bring the story about this couple to life. The supporting cast were good too but Oyelowo and Pike were the standouts and Asante deserves credit for crafting the film around them.

Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom

However, as I said, A United Kingdom has flaws. I felt that the first act, which focused on Seretse and Ruth’s blossoming relationship, was a bit rushed in its pacing. I would have liked to spend a bit more time focusing on their initial relationship. You can see that the film wants to get to the main story-line, which was their struggle of staying together and ruling Bechuanaland, as soon as possible.

Still, once we get there, A United Kingdom really finds its footing and delivers a captivating story about how their marriage was consistently hindered in the face of corrupt politics. Overall, while it has some flaws in its first act, A United Kingdom is a very decent film which is very easy to like and admire thanks to the good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and its uplifting message.

Westworld: Season 1 Episodes 7-9 (Television Review) – Bernard…….

We have only one more episode of this season of Westworld left which really saddens me because this has been a wonderful show to watch. For me personally, this is a show which has got progressively better and it was already really good from the start. It is visually stunning, the acting is superb, the characters are layered and each episode has built upon the previous both in the progression of the story and fleshing out the lore of Westworld. It has been a pleasure to watch and the past three episodes have been fantastic television.

Dolores and William in Westworld Season 1 Episode 7 Trompe L'Oeil

My Thoughts on Episodes 7-9 of Westworld

One of the main reasons why this is the case is due to the reveals in these episodes, particularly in relation to Bernard. In ‘Trompe L’Oeil‘, we learnt that he is indeed a host and in ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier‘, we also discovered that he is a host version of Arnold. Both of these reveals have been theories amongst fans that went down the rabbit hole of speculation since the early episodes of Westworld. Still, it was fascinating to see the way these revelations played out and they were big moments.

The quality of acting in Westworld continues to be consistently brilliant. As I have said many times, Anthony Hopkins is brilliant and continued to be in these recent episodes but others have come to the forefront. For instance, I like how Tessa Thompson brings a cold, arrogant nature to her character.

Jeffrey Wright in Westworld Season 1 Episode 8 Trace Decay

Moreover, the presence of powerhouses like Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris and particularly Thandie Newton, who plays Maeve, elevate the show. Certainly, Maeve has become an absolute boss in Westworld, so much so that she is rewriting stories in the park which shows just how powerful and how much of a threat she has become.

Multiple Timelines

In addition, we also have the added element of multiple timelines/time-frames which has near enough been confirmed in these recent episodes, particularly when we focus on Dolores’ story. Clearly, if we dig deep enough we can infer that Dolores seems to be relying on her past experiences with William (who is really embracing the park and has to be the Man in Black, I mean seriously it is so obvious!!) to guide her in the present. This has really added another layer to the show and makes Westworld quite unique compared to a lot of other shows.

Logan surrounded by dead bodies in Westworld Season 1 Episode 9 The Well-Tempered Clavier

All of this means that we are set up nicely for the season finale which I am sure will deliver and have a few surprises up its sleeve. I am sad to see this first season of Westworld come to an end as it has been a fascinating show to watch but the fact that it has been renewed for another season really excites me. It seems that HBO has a lot of faith in this show and I hope the season finale reinforces this feeling with the fans.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 9 (Television Review) – A Good Heist Episode

We are edging closer to the mid-season finale of this season of Star Wars Rebels and what we have had so far are a blend of episodes which have focused on the main story-lines in the show and episodes which have been side-quest episodes. The past few episodes have been the latter.

This episode, titled ‘The Wynkahthu Job’, is another side-quest episode which will understandably cause frustration amongst fans who want the show to focus more on the main story-lines involving Maul, Thrawn, Ezra/Kanan and the birth of the Rebel Alliance.

Ghost in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 9 The Wynkahthu

Why I Am Not Frustrated

However, for me, the side-quest episodes we have had this season are considerably better than the similar type of episodes which were in Season 1 and 2 of Rebels. This means that it does not bother me that, for the time being, we are not focusing on the main story arcs. Certainly, these episodes have been enjoyable and I found ‘The Wynkahthu Job’ to be a good episode.

My Thoughts on ‘The Wynkahthu Job’

The main reason why I enjoyed this episode is because we saw the return of Hondo who provided some good humorous moments in the episode. While I believe that Ezra is still naive about Hondo’s true intentions/character, he does provide a different personality to the show and it is nice to see him pop-up once in a while. One character I could have done without was Azmorigan as he is a bit annoying but it didn’t detract too much from my enjoyment of the episode.

Imperial Sentry Droids in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 8 The Wynkahthu Job

Seeing AP-5 back was also nice as the dry delivery of his dialogue also provided some comedic moments in this episode. Indeed, particular bits of dialogue throughout this episode were really funny. One line which really made me laugh was Ezra’s reply to Chopper during a battle which was “What do you mean every-man-for-himself, you’re a droid!”. In the moment it was said, it did make me chuckle!

The actual story in the episode, i.e. the heist, was fine. Unlike other episodes, I don’t know how relevant this heist will be in future story-lines but overall, it was enjoyable. Still, we do need to get back to the main story-lines sooner rather than later to quell discontent amongst fans of the show and to progress the story and I think we will seeing as we are very close to the mid-season finale.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Film Review) – Wonderful and Vibrant

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy film directed by David Yates and stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Ezra Miller, Samantha Morton, Jon Voight, Colin Farrell and Eddie Redmayne who plays the lead as Newt Scamander. The story follows Newt, a magizoologist who journeys to New York City with a briefcase full of magical creatures, some of which have been accidentally set free which causes havoc across a city which is no stranger to magical disturbances. This film is a spin-off prequel of the Harry Potter films. It is the first instalment in the Fantastic Beasts franchise and the ninth instalment in J. K. Rowling’s Wizarding World.

My Love of Harry Potter and Expectation of Fantastic Beasts

I have to say, Fantastic Beasts had a lot to live up to. This is due to my belief that the Harry Potter film series is, in my opinion, the greatest saga ever. All eight films in that series are, at the very least, very good and this consistency of greatness is quite a remarkable feat considering how other franchises struggle in this regard.

Dan Fogler, Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Fantastic Beasts

For instance, Star Wars has the Prequel Trilogy (and the Special Editions but that’s another discussion), the Middle-Earth film series has the Hobbit Trilogy and Indiana Jones has Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to diminish the quality of their respective franchises. Harry Potter had no films which were bad. They were all quality films and, going into Fantastic Beasts, I hoped that this streak would continue.

My Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts

I am absolutely thrilled to say that I had a fantastic time with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This is a wonderful film that has great characters. Certainly, Eddie Redmayne is brilliant as Newt Scamander who fitted into the world seamlessly and his little quirks in the film made his character really likeable. Still, while Redmayne is great, the character of Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, was my favourite part of this film. He is really funny in Fantastic Beasts and gives the film a lot of genuine heart.

Additionally, the strength of the script, which was written by J. K. Rowling herself, is also a standout in Fantastic Beasts. Rowling successfully expands on the lore of the Wizarding World she created and crafted a story which is able to stand on its own two feet while, at the same time, able to set the foundation for future instalments. I also liked how the different stories within Fantastic Beasts all linked well with each other once the film had ended.

Eddie Redmayne in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Moreover, I thought that David Yates did a great job directing this film. He is no stranger to this franchise. Indeed, he directed the last four Harry Potter films and was able to continue his great work by creating a vibrant film in Fantastic Beasts. Certainly, the visual effects were really good and none of the CGI took me out of the film. I was captivated throughout.

Fantastic Beasts had a tough task on its hand to follow the brilliance of the Harry Potter film series and be a film which sets up a franchise while still being able to stand on its own two feet. For me, it succeeds on all levels. An entertaining story supplemented by great characters and great visual effects makes Fantastic Beasts a film which continues the greatness of the Harry Potter film series and makes me really excited for future instalments which can really build upon what was established in this film.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 8 (Television Review) – Another Enjoyable Side Story

The past couple of episodes of Star Wars Rebels have been stories which have been separate from the main story-lines established in the series. Yet, they are bound to have some relevance in future episodes and this recent episode, titled ‘Iron Squadron’, is just the same. However, I found it to be one of the best of these side story episodes which have been in this season so far.

Thrawn

One of the main reasons was due to the small part that Grand Admiral Thrawn had in this episode. This guy just oozes confidence and class to such a large degree that he just stands head and shoulders above the rest of the Imperials. He is my favourite villain that Star Wars Rebels has had and that is down, in part, to the fantastic voice work by Lars Mikkelsen (Brother of Mads).

Thrawn and Admiral Konstantine in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 8 Iron Squadron

My love of Thrawn is also caused by how patient, strategic and calculating he is as a character. Certainly, he is playing the long con in regards to dealing with the flourishing Rebel Alliance and this episode also established that he has a past with Commander Sato which could be an interesting dynamic in future episodes.

The Kids

I also really liked the comedic elements of this episode which were largely seen between the interactions between Chopper and R3, a droid who was part of Iron Squadron which itself was largely formed of three kids who, to be honest, were a bit whiny and naive which was a bit annoying.

Still, it didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the episode, especially as the kids featured in some really good space combat. Certainly, the space combat was a pleasure to watch and it just added to the episode which, while a side story, will have larger significance in the future.