Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 17 (Television Review) – A Tense Hunt for Fulcrum

We are edging closer and closer to the final episodes of this season of Star Wars Rebels and, as a result, the stakes are being raised with each new episode. We saw this in the previous two episodes which focused on Sabine, the future of Mandalore and what its role will be in the fight between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. In this recent episode, titled ‘Through Imperial Eyes’, the stakes are raised in relation to Thrawn and how the Empire is getting closer to both exposing Agent Kallus as Fulcrum and finding the Rebels’ secret base.

Thrawn, Kallus, Pryce, Konstantine and Yularin in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 17 Through Imperial Eyes

My Thoughts on ‘Through Imperial Eyes’

I thought this episode was great right from its distinctive beginning. Indeed, we start ‘Through Imperial Eyes’ from the view of Agent Kallus and the use of the camera being shown from a first-person perspective made me feel like I was playing a video game. It was a very unique and cool way of starting an episode and unlike anything we have seen in Rebels so far.

It was great to have Agent Kallus as the focal point of this episode because, ever since ‘The Honorable Ones’, he has become a much more layered character. Additionally, to see him try and manipulate the Imperials around him in an effort to not get caught and be exposed as Fulcrum was very entertaining and humorous at times.

Agent Kallus and Wullf Yularin Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 17 Through Imperial Eyes

Thrawn and Wullf Yularin

Certainly, the whole episode was a game of cat and mouse with Thrawn as the puppet-master. This episode once again highlighted how methodical Thrawn is at playing the long game in terms of his plans to annihilate the fledgling Rebel Alliance. Additionally, seeing the return of Wullf Yularin, who served Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was great to see. Yet again, it was a nice tie-in to The Clone Wars.

Overall, this episode did a great job of furthering the story of Rebels with some unique elements helping it standout from the rest of the episodes we have had in this series so far. The focus on Fulcrum made for some tense moments with some occasional humour and, more importantly, everything served Thrawn’s masterplan which will begin to unfold once we near the climax of this season.

20th Century Women (Film Review) – A Cool Film

20th Century Women is a drama directed and written by Mike Mills and stars Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, Billy Crudup and Annette Bening. The film, which is partly based on Mills’ childhood, is set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979 and the story centres on Dorothea (Annette Bening) who enlists the help of Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning) to raise her son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).

My Knowledge and Expectation of 20th Century Women

My interest in 20th Century Women was sparked by a trailer I saw at my local cinema about a month ago and, at first glance, it seemed very unique and interesting. Additionally, this film has been given a lot of praise by critics, especially when it comes to Annette Bening’s performance.

Annette Bening and Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women

Indeed, some argue that she should have been nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars. Despite this perceived snub, 20th Century Women has been nominated for Best Original Screenplay at this year’s Oscars. This made me even more curious about how this film would impact me.

My Thoughts on 20th Century Women

In the end, I found 20th Century Women to be a film that is very relaxing and that relaxation I felt was solely down to the pacing. Certainly, the effect that the film had on me was quite soothing thanks to the pacing which, to be honest, I did not expect going into it. Some may call 20th Century Women slow but once I became accustomed to the pacing, the film really shone for what it was which is a very good coming-of-age story.

Elle Fanning in 20th Century Women

For me, the characters were the best part of the film. They were genuinely likeable and felt like real people with depth. A lot of credit should go to director Mike Mills in the way he drew inspiration from his upbringing to create great characters for his film and the cast deserve praise for bringing them to life. Truly, Annette Bening is brilliant as the lead in 20th Century Women but the supporting cast around her are also fantastic and they gave the film a lot of heart.

There is also a good blend of comedy and drama in 20th Century Women. Certain lines of dialogue and moments in the film are absolutely hilarious but the film also deals with serious issues and themes which you would expect such as parenthood, growing old, love and the struggles of adolescence. The blend of genres combine to make 20th Century Women a film that is worth your time if you let it wash over you and want a relaxing but deep, poignant experience.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 16 (Television Review) – A Good Continuation of Sabine’s Arc

It has been one month since the last episode of Star Wars Rebels which itself ranked among the best of this season, and the television show as a whole, so far. Moreover, it raised our expectations for the remaining episodes of this season and made the wait for this latest episode, titled ‘Legacy of Mandalore’, even more arduous, especially as we would begin where we left off last episode and continue Sabine’s story.

My Thoughts on ‘Legacy of Mandalore’

While I would say that this episode is a step-down from ‘Trials of the Darksaber’, it is still a good episode that continues Sabine’s arc in a compelling way. Certainly, this episode delves deeper into Sabine’s tumultuous relationship with her family by introducing her mother, Countess Ursa, and her brother, Tristan. This provided us some with some intriguing insight into how Sabine’s actions really affected her family and their status on Mandalore.

Countess Ursa and Sabine Wren in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 16 Legacy of Mandalore

Furthermore, learning more about the politics of Mandalore was another strong element of this episode. Indeed, Mandalore and Mandalorian culture has provided us with some of the strongest stories within the Star Wars universe, especially in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I believe that the legacy of The Clone Wars episodes which focused on Mandalore will play a big part in Sabine’s story going forward in Rebels.

Who will rule Mandalore?

Mandalorians in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 16 Legacy of Mandalore

Indeed, this episode ends with Sabine staying on Mandalore in order to search for a new leader who will unite all of Mandalore. This is me speculating, but I believe that leader will be Bo Katan. Bo Katan was a character that was first introduced in The Clone Wars and she is the sister of Satine Kryze who once ruled Mandalore. Her family ties to Mandalorian leadership and her strength as a character make her an obvious choice to unite the clans of Mandalore. Regardless of my theories, I am sure we are in for something special as we edge closer to the end of this season of Star Wars Rebels.

The Lego Batman Movie (Film Review) – Fast-Paced, Vibrant and Fun

The Lego Batman Movie is an animated film directed by Chris McKay and is a spin-off/sequel to The Lego Movie with the story focusing on Batman and his attempt to overcome his greatest fears in order to stop his greatest villain, The Joker. Will Arnett reprises his role of voicing Batman with Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson and Ralph Fiennes also providing voices to The Joker, Robin, Barbara Gordon and Alfred Pennyworth respectively.

My Knowledge and Expectation of The Lego Batman Movie

This film has had a really good marketing campaign which is necessary to let the wider public know about its release. Still, for those who really loved The Lego Movie, this sequel/spin-off has been highly anticipated, especially as it focuses on Batman who, in my opinion, was one of the best things about The Lego Movie. Plus, he is probably the most popular superhero ever and certainly the greatest within DC. Hence, it made sense that the next instalment in the Lego film franchise would be about Batman.

Batman and Barbara Gordon in The Lego Batman Movie

My Thoughts on The Lego Batman Movie

I am really pleased that the franchise went in this direction because The Lego Batman Movie is a really good film that continues the fun-filled nature of The Lego Movie. Truly, the film is enjoyable throughout thanks to a great script full of snappy jokes and clever pop-culture references/call-backs which really do come and go in the blink of an eye. You are never bored while watching The Lego Batman Movie but you can also miss some jokes so you do have to pay attention. Then again, this makes the film really re-watchable as you will pick up on things you missed before when you watch it again.

The animation in The Lego Batman Movie is also tremendous. It is vibrant, gorgeous to look at and makes the film feel really fluid which complements its fast-pacing and just adds to how people of all ages can enjoy this film. The voice work by the cast is great as well. Will Arnett continues where he left off in The Lego Movie as Batman and I thought Ralph Fiennes was a perfect choice as Alfred. Still, the whole cast gave good performances and they had great chemistry.

Batman in The Lego Batman Movie

One thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was how emotional this film was at times. There is a really heartfelt story running throughout this film about overcoming fears and the importance of relationships/family. It really gave The Lego Batman Movie some depth which enhanced a film that I have no major problems with. There are a lot of great things in this film which anyone can appreciate. If you are a fan of The Lego Movie or animation, then you have to see this film while you can because I will be shocked if you do not enjoy it.

Hacksaw Ridge (Film Review) – A Brutal Depiction of War

Hacksaw Ridge is a biographical war drama directed by Mel Gibson and stars Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Vince Vaughn in supporting roles and Andrew Garfield in the lead role. The story of this film is set during World War II (WW2) and focuses on Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), an American combat medic who refused to carry or use a firearm or weapons of any kind. He eventually become the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Hacksaw Ridge

I have been looking forward to Hacksaw Ridge for a while due to the fact that it has received a lot of buzz since it was released in the United States last November. Additionally, the cast is extremely talented and the film has garnered a few Oscar nominations including Best Actor for Andrew Garfield, Best Picture and Best Director for Mel Gibson which itself was controversial. Certainly, Mel Gibson has a very chequered past and the criticism he received for his past actions was deserved.

Nevertheless, despite what you may think of Mel Gibson as a person, you cannot deny that he is an extremely talented director and actor. Indeed, he was the man responsible for creating my favourite film of all time; Braveheart. My love for that film meant that Hacksaw Ridge immediately became one of my most anticipated films during this awards season. If Gibson recaptured any of the magic of Braveheart, then I was in store for a great film.

Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn on the set of Hacksaw Ridge

My Thoughts on Hacksaw Ridge

To my delight, Hacksaw Ridge met my expectations. Truly, the actions scenes in Hacksaw Ridge depict conflict during WW2 in such a raw and savage way that it evoked my experience of watching Saving Private Ryan for the first time. In fact, I would argue that this is the best war film made since Saving Private Ryan.

A big reason why this is the case is down to the way in which Gibson structured this film. The film can be split into two parts. The first half of Hacksaw Ridge is essentially set-up for Doss’ actions in the Battle of Okinawa in the second half of the film. This structure allows us to get emotionally attached to the characters and understand why Garfield’s character has the philosophy that he has. As a result, we have a lot of pay-off in the action-packed second half of the film which is tense, uncompromising and emotional.

Indeed, the man sitting next to my right was having a visceral reaction to what was happening on the screen in the second half of the film. This is a credit to Mel Gibson who did a fantastic job in directing Hacksaw Ridge and also bringing out great performances from the cast. Certainly, Andrew Garfield is fantastic in the lead role and the supporting cast also elevated the quality of the film.

Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss in Hacksaw Ridge

The Score in Hacksaw Ridge

Another aspect of Hacksaw Ridge which I thought was really good but is seemingly underrated is the score, orchestrated by Rupert Gregson-Williams. For me, the score/soundtrack is one of the most important elements of a film. When the music in a film is good, it vastly improves its quality and makes it more memorable. The score in Hacksaw Ridge, which echoes the music in films such as Kingdom of Heaven and The Last Samurai, achieves this feat. In fact, I listened to the score immediately after I saw Hacksaw Ridge and it cemented my belief that this score is being overlooked as being one of the strongest aspects of the film.

In fact, Hacksaw Ridge has a lot of strong aspects which, when combined, make this a film which is worthy of the awards and nominations it has received. Fantastic directing by Mel Gibson, great acting by the cast, a memorable score along with the best depiction of war since Saving Private Ryan make Hacksaw Ridge the most well-done war film since Saving Private Ryan and something you must see as soon as possible.

Denial (Film Review) – Undeniably Powerful

Denial is a historical drama directed by Mick Jackson which stars Andrew Scott, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall and Rachel Weisz. The film is based on the true story of the ‘Irving v Penguin Books Ltd’ court case where Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) was sued for libel by Holocaust denier David Irving (Timothy Spall).

My Knowledge and Expectation of Denial

This was a film which I was not aware of until I saw a trailer for it at my local cinema around a month ago and, after seeing this trailer, I was instantly anticipating the release of Denial in the UK. One of the reasons why I was so interested in seeing Denial was because I knew nothing about this court case or the people involved and I found this to be a great opportunity to expand my knowledge about this case, especially considering the historical event which surrounded it.

Rachel Weisz in Denial

Truly, the Holocaust is an area of history which is both horrific yet fascinating to learn about whether it is through books, documentaries such as Auschwitz: The Nazis and “The Final Solution” or films such as Schindler’s List and Defiance. Because of this, I was eager to learn about how the Holocaust re-entered the social conscious in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s through the ‘Irving v Penguin Books Ltd’ court case which was the central focus of Denial.

My Thoughts on Denial

In the end, Denial is a film which is both powerful and respectful in the way it handles such a delicate subject matter. Certainly, there are scenes in this film which actually made the women sitting next to me in the cinema to cry at times. There are powerful moments in the film but they were not disrespectful. Instead, they served a purpose in giving Denial emotional weight and enhancing the film in the process.

Auschwitz

Denial also has a great cast and the performances which are in this film also deserve recognition. Weisz was good in the central role of Deborah Lipstadt and Tom Wilkinson gave a solid performance as he always has in the films I have seen him in. Timothy Spall was probably the standout as he gave a very creepy and unsettling performance as David Irving.

The performances by the cast helped the film be as good as it could be although I will concede that there is little rewatchability with this film due to the slow pacing. Nevertheless, you will gain a lot from watching this film and you will feel that Denial is necessary viewing for everyone.

T2 Trainspotting (Film Review) – Deep and Nostalgic

T2 Trainspotting is a black comedy directed by Danny Boyle. In this film, we are reunited with the ensemble cast of the original Trainspotting consisting of Ewen Bremner, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Ewan McGregor. This sequel takes place 20 years after the events of Trainspotting which saw Renton (Ewan McGregor) betraying his friends and running off with the money from a drug deal. Renton now returns to Edinburgh, Scotland and has to deal with the consequences of his actions and repair old relationships.

My Knowledge and Expectation of T2 Trainspotting

The original Trainspotting is considered by many to be a British classic and there was a lot of expectation surrounding this sequel considering how revered the original is and how long it has been since the original was released. Myself, I did not have these high expectations as I do not consider Trainspotting to be the classic that everyone proclaims it to be. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a really good film but I don’t love it so, going into T2 Trainspotting, I was not expecting much from the sequel.

Jonny Lee Miller and Ewan McGregor in T2 Trainspotting

My Thoughts on T2 Trainspotting

I am pretty glad I went in with such measured expectations because I really liked T2 Trainspotting. In fact, I think I might prefer it to the original Trainspotting. The reason why I feel this way is because T2 Trainspotting is a much deeper film than the original. For me, the original Trainspotting is a fun film that touches on some interesting themes such as urban poverty. In T2 Trainspotting, poignant themes and issues such as regret, growing old, clinging on to the past and nostalgia are purposefully interwoven into the story and become central to the narrative.

This is done to such great effect that characters such as Begbie (Robert Carlyle) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) become more layered and sympathetic. In addition to the depth and the character development, the humour in this film is just as good as it was in the original. Certain scenes had me laughing to such a degree that it probably freaked out the people around me who were also watching T2 Trainspotting. Still, I didn’t care.

Robert Carlyle in T2 Trainspotting

My only issue with the T2 Trainspotting is that it is a bit slow in parts and the film could have been trimmed to improve the flow and pacing. However, considering that I harboured feelings that this film would have had more issues before I watched it, this was not a big deal.

I honestly feel that this film is better than the original Trainspotting as it is a deeper film that deals with themes that are central to the story while still having the humour that made the original so entertaining. If you are a fan of the original Trainspotting, then I implore you to watch T2 Trainspotting as soon as you can. I feel that it will widely resonate with people of various ages and backgrounds.

Jackie (Film Review) – An Overbearing Snoozefest

Jackie is a biographical drama directed by Pablo Larrain and stars Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Hurt and Natalie Portman who herself plays Jackie Kennedy, the wife of President John F. Kennedy (JFK). The story of the film focuses on Jackie Kennedy’s life in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Jackie

Natalie Portman’s performance as Jackie Kennedy has received a lot of praise from critics and she is even nominated for Best Actress at the Oscars. This was a reason why I wanted to see Jackie in addition to my interest in the assassination of JFK. But, admittedly, I heard a lot of mixed opinions about the film which tempered my expectations about how good the film would be. Usually, when I go into a film with low or balanced expectations, I come out of the film pleasantly surprised and liking it much more than I thought I would.

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy

My Thoughts on Jackie

This was not the case with Jackie. While I do like parts of this film, I found this film to be boring and really overbearing, particularly with the score which I thought was awful. Truly, the bombastic nature of the music in Jackie was completely wrong and clashed with the sombre tone of the film.

I also thought that Peter Sarsgaard was completely miscast as Bobby Kennedy. I did not buy him as JFK’s brother at all and that was a real shame because, apart from Sarsgaard, I thought the acting in this film was good. Certainly, Portman, while a bit over-the-top at times, was good in the iconic role of Jackie Kennedy. I thought the scenes between her and John Hurt were the most interesting scenes of the film.

Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in Jackie

However, I feel that a big part of why I liked the scenes with John Hurt above all the rest was down to the fact that I saw Jackie a day or so after he tragically passed away and it was really nice to see him in this film. Still, why I concede that I may be biased towards these scenes because of my sad feelings towards the death of John Hurt, they did give Jackie Kennedy depth as a character in this film.

Nevertheless, this does not compensate for the major problems I have with Jackie in terms of its awful score which clashes with the tone of the film. It just added to an overbearing film with a poor casting choice for Bobby Kennedy and an occasional over-the-top but nevertheless good performance by Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy. While I enjoyed some scenes, Jackie was a bit of a slog to get through. It is not something I shall revisit.

Stranger Things Season 1 (Television Review) – A Fantastic Homage to the 80s

Stranger Things is a science fiction horror television show created, written and directed by the Duffer Brothers. It stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Millie Bobby Brown, Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin, Natalia Dyer and Charlie Heaton. This debut season was released last summer on Netflix and the story focuses on the disappearance of a young boy and a mysterious government agency covering up this disappearance in addition to a sinister, supernatural threat.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Season 1 of Stranger Things

This TV show was a phenomenon when it was released last summer and was widely praised for its writing, acting, visuals and its ability to recapture the 1980s and pay homage to it. The things that I were really excited about going into watching Stranger Things were its nostalgic nods to the 80s as well as the dynamic between the kids in the show. Indeed, they were regarded as giving fantastic performances for their age which, combined with all the great things I had heard about this show from critics and friends, meant that I had high hopes going into Stranger Things.

Winona Ryder in Season 1 of Stranger Things Netflix

My Thoughts on Season 1 of Stranger Things

I found this first season of Stranger Things to be fantastic. One of the reasons why I liked the show as much as I did was because, at the core of the show, there is an intriguing, well-paced story which is very atmospheric and tense. Certainly, there are a lot of horror elements in this show and I do get scared quite easily which meant that I was on the edge of my seat for a good deal of the show. Still, there are a moments of light relief which help Stranger Things find balance and a lot of the comedic relief comes from the kids who are brilliant.

Truly, good child acting is a very tricky thing to pull-off as a child in any acting role can come across as very cringe-worthy and annoying very quickly (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is a good example of this). Stranger Things achieves the remarkable feat of establishing a great dynamic between a very young cast of kids and making them really likeable in the process. They were all great but my favourite character of the kids was Dustin, played by Gaten Matarazzo, as he provided some of the sharpest and humorous lines of dialogue.

Gaten Matarazzo and Millie Bobby Brown in Season 1 of Stranger Things Netflix

Performances and Nostalgia

Additionally, Millie Bobby Brown gave a really nuanced performance as Eleven. On the adult side of things, David Harbour gave a great performance as Jim Hopper whose character, for me, had the most depth due to his tragic past. If one character annoyed me it was probably Nancy Wheeler because of her self-centred attitude (typical teenager) but even her character arc made up for that in the end.

As you can see, Stranger Things has a lot of great qualities, the biggest of which was its ability to make me feel nostalgic for the 1980s even though I was not born in that decade. Clearly, this show was designed to be an homage to 1980s pop culture and this is evident in the way it is shot, the opening title credits as well as its nods to the works of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King and George Lucas among many others. It does a really good job of paying respect to the 1980s while being its own unique show at the same time.

Monster in Season 1 of Stranger Things Netflix

Additionally, Stranger Things has a great blend of horror, sci-fi and coming-of-age which ultimately means that this is a show which I highly recommend as there is something for everyone to get enjoyment out of. An atmospheric story, likeable and deep characters along with its ability to make us nostalgic for 1980s pop culture make this one of the strongest debut seasons of television I have seen for a while and, with the second season scheduled for release in July 2017, it seems like Stranger Things will go from strength to strength.

Lion (Film Review) – Slow, Sad But Good

Lion is a drama directed by Garth Davis and stars Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Rooney Mara and Nicole Kidman. The film is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley who was separated from his family in India at five-years-old and adopted by an Australian couple. In the first half of the film, Saroo is a young boy played by Sunny Pawar while Dev Patel plays Saroo in the second half as a young man who seeks to find his way back home to his family nearly half a decade after his disappearance.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Lion

This film got a limited release late last year and was widely praised. Indeed, the acclaim that Lion received has led to it recently gaining some Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman respectively. I had not heard much about this film prior to its Oscar nominations and the awards recognition it has received meant that my expectations going into Lion were high.

Sunny Pawar in Lion

My Thoughts on Lion

Similar to La La Land, while my expectations for Lion were not fully met, I found it to be a good film. At its core, Lion has a pretty incredible and emotional story, great cinematography and good performances from the cast. Certainly, Patel gave his best performance since Slumdog Millionaire but I thought that Sunny Pawar was absolutely brilliant in the film. He was so sweet and likeable and for a boy of his age to carry half of the film is a massive achievement.

Still, this brings me onto one of the problems I had with Lion in the fact that, for me, the first half of this film was much stronger than the second. It had more focus and was better paced. Indeed, the whole film is a bit of a slow burner which does limit its re-watchability along with the fact that this is not exactly a happy film. Indeed, even the end of the film where Saroo finally reunites with his family is bittersweet but it is nonetheless very emotional.

Nicole Kidman in Lion

Yet, for a directorial debut, Garth Davis did a good job with Lion, especially as the film is beautifully shot and we do connect to Saroo. But, I do feel that in terms of storytelling, he missed a trick by not focusing enough on the dynamic of Saroo’s adoptive family. It is touched upon at times but it is brushed over time and time again and I feel we would have gained a much deeper connection than we already had with the characters in Lion.

This is especially true with Nicole Kidman who I feel was underutilised which is a shame because she was really good, with one scene with Patel towards the end being a highlight of what, on the whole, is a good film despite the issues I had with some elements of it. There is enough emotional weight within the story, good performances and stunning cinematography to make Lion a film I would recommend you seeing even though you may not feel like you want to watch it again afterwards.