Posts Tagged ‘Mark Hamill’

Strengthening the Universe

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyongo’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Maria Tran

Looper director Rian Johnson draws significant parallels between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back even including such iconic characters as Yoda and featuring a substantial role for Luke Skywalker played again by Mark Hamill.

At two hours and 32 minutes Star Wars: The Last Jedi could have been cut by half an hour. Which is my only criticism. After all The Empire Strikes Back made in 1980 was just over two hours long.

While the second half of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is absolutely thrilling particularly the final battle sequence on a white salted mining planet complete with red earth reminiscent of the battle between the Empire and the rebels on the ice planet Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back.

The first half drags a little, particularly the Jedi scenes between the reclusive Luke Skywalker and Rey wonderfully played by Daisy Ridley, who is battling to grasp the extent of the force.

John Boyega reprises his role of Finn with the help of a feisty newcomer Rose wonderfully played by Kelly Maria Tran which should appeal  to a diverse audience which is exactly Disney’s cleverest marketing ploy since buying the rights to George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise and effectively reinventing the Galaxy and strengthening this cinematic universe.

Notable cameo’s include a superb performance by Oscar winner Benicio del Toro (Traffic) as DJ who certainly injects some life into the extremely long narrative especially when Finn and Grace meet him when they go in search of the elusive Master code breaker, a briefly glimpsed Justin Theroux, safely ensconced on a decadent casino resort planet, a vibrant episode in the film.

Another notable scene stealer is Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose) as Vice Admiral Holdo who frequently clashes with the bravado of flyboy Rebel poster pilot Poe Dameron wonderfully played again by Oscar Isaac.

The most poignant scenes are played by the late Carrie Fisher reprising her role for the last time as the iconic Princess Leia just wiser and with a more sensible hairstyle, guiding the resistance like a faded debutante. Look out for a nostalgic reunion scene between Skywalker and Princess Leia.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi delivers remarkably on the action front and director Rian Johnson should be particularly commended for also writing the screenplay, no easy feat considering the weight of the franchise and the expectations of the fans.

Yet despite the length, Johnson rises to the challenge and delivers an absorbing sci-fi epic which will satisfy the legions of Star Wars fans globally, judging by the record breaking opening weekend internationally of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is highly recommended viewing best to be experienced in true cinematic splendour with surround sound and some like minded companions. The film gets a rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

Reconciling the Myth

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyongo’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels

Thematically set 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, director J. J. Abrams reconciles the myth of the original and iconic Star Wars Trilogy when he takes over as conceptualizer of the new Star Wars trilogy, given a touch task of remaining faithful to the original trilogy while introducing millennials to the original Star Wars iconography.

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In a genius casting move, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings all the original cast members back from the first trilogy including Harrison Ford as Han Solo, the rarely seen Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and the illusive Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker along with all the lovable companion characters including Chewbacca, and of course the droids C3PO and R2D2, which made up the original Star Wars. Even the Millennium Falcon is revived, which is enough to satisfy the original fans. Believe me, there are a lot of fans out there!

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The new cast includes Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, a former Stormtrooper turned Rebel. The Empire so prominent in the original series has been replaced by a more sinister totalitarian regime called The First Order which includes the evil General Hux, played by Domnhall Gleeson (Brooklyn) and the conflicted Kylo Ren brilliantly played by Adam Driver. Oscar Isaac (Drive) stars as Poe Dameron an expert Rebel X-Wing fighter pilot who has hidden a hologram into his droid BB8 about the whereabouts of the mythical Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi Knight.

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As the continuous action moves from outer space to distant planets, the first of which Jukka resembles Tattoine, the desert planet in the original Star Wars, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is visually captivating, with a vast and imaginative array of droids, monsters, bounty hunters and sinister forces all beautifully orchestrated to give what audiences came to see: An adventure story set in a Galaxy Far Far Away to the memorable music by John Williams.

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Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo’o (12 years a Slave) plays Maz Kanata an E.T. like creature sympathetic to the Rebel cause. The chemistry between the diverse cast is amazing and adds to the magic of The Force Awakens, most notably the newcomers Daisy Ridley as a scavenger Rey, whose own propensities for becoming a Jedi open all sorts of questions and British actor John Boyega as Finn who immediately establishes a rapport with the infamous Han Solo as well as Poe Dameron whom he rescues from a gigantic looking Death Star.

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The production design and visual effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are spectacular and Oscar worthy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is definitely for the fans of the original trilogy, the films directed by George Lucas which captured the imagination of a generation of boys and girls back in the late seventies and early eighties.

star_warsIf it’s any indication, I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back while on holiday in Atlanta, Georgia in America back in 1980 when it first premiered and The Return of the Jedi in 1983 in the old Embassy cinemas in central Durban.

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Judging by the packed cinema and the international media hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens will do exceptionally well at the Box Office and this new version is recommended to fans of pure science fiction and to all those who grew up on the original series. It’s comforting to know that American director J.J. Abrams who reignited the Star Trek franchise, now in partnership with Lucas Films and parent company Disney, plans on making two more Star Wars films to complete this new re-energized trilogy and introduce Millennials to a whole new universe of Star Wars characters.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is highly recommended viewing, brilliantly orchestrated by reconciling and paying tribute to the original mythical trilogy while seamlessly blending in an entire new batch of characters. May the Force be with us at least until 2019.

Comic Book Moonraker

Kingsman: The Secret Service

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Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Caine, Jack Davenport, Sofia Boutella, Mark Hamill, Lily Travers, Edward Holcroft

X-Men First Class director Matthew Vaughn’s glossy Kingsman: The Secret Service although has some great finishing touching is certainly no diamond in the rough. Although from the outset, the film inspired by a Comic book series and despite the casting of Oscar winners Michael Caine and Colin Firth fails to successfully make fun of the spy genre and its plot falls flat in the face of some glamorous production design, Kingsman actually is not as good as the trailer makes out to be. Which is a pity.

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Whilst the storyline of a youngster, Eggsy played by Taron Egerton is a sort of male version of Pygmalion as he is plucked out of trouble and brought to the finishing school for spies, The Kingsman: The Secret Service with the elegant assistance of Harry Hart wonderfully played by Colin Firth, the overall effect of the film is absurd to the point of making it nothing more than a comic book version of the Bond classic Moonraker. The eloquent Hart’s best line is manners maketh man, otherwise the plot itself is disjointed coming off as a schizophrenic spoof of the usually intriguing spy genre essentially aimed at the teenage market.

The villain is an American tech giant, Richmond Valentine bizarrely played by Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) in one of his least compelling roles. Whilst the storyline follows the classic megalomaniac aiming to take over the world and cull the downtrodden, while only saving a few politically connected elite, Kingsman: The Secret Service follows the traditional spy genre but then at some point during the film subverts this venerated genre, probably the moment when bigots are attacking each in a rural church in Kentucky, making the whole storyline utterly farcical.

Given the production values and the casting of such British acting talents as Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules, The Dark Knight) as Arthur a traditional figurehead of The Secret Service and Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) as a sort of style master to the fatherless ruffian Eggsy, whose own father codenamed Lancelot met a gory end in a snow villa in Argentina, Kingsman: The Secret Service could have been so much slicker, better edited and infinitely smarter than what the finished product is.

Look out for a guest appearance by reclusive actor Mark Hamill who played Luke Skywalker in Star Wars as the mad Professor Arnold.

There are some wonderful moments when Firth takes out a gang of hoodlums in a pub aptly called the Black Prince with a very lethal umbrella, Kingsman: The Secret Service is overly long, with a plot which becomes more ludicrous as the film progresses and eventually does little justice to the original Spy thrillers the film is aiming to emulate: The Bourne Series, the iconic James Bond films and even the action TV show 24.

The action sequences are beyond credible and the first part of the film involving the training of the potential Kingsman has a sort of British upper class Hunger Games feel about it, the rest of the film could have been edited. All the great actors like Caine, Firth and even Mark Strong recently seen in The Imitation Game should stay clear of trying to star in films based on comic books and stick to more serious subject matter where at least their acting talents as actors are properly utilized.

Twenty six year old Welsh actor Taron Egerton is energetic in the role of Gary (Eggsy) Unwin, a juvenile delinquent transformed into a gentleman, yet given a more illuminating script, his true potential as an actor could have shone brighter. Recommended for viewers that enjoyed Get Smart or even some of the earlier X-Men films, but diehard spy fans should keep clear of Kingsman: The Secret Service – as its mainly poppycock!

 

 

 

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