Tag Archives: Lupita Nyong’o

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science Fiction Themes and Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka
Director: J.J. Abrams

A scavenger (Daisy Ridley) and a renegade stormtrooper (John Boyega) enlist the help of legendary smugglers/freedom fighters Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to transport a droid carrying information regarding the whereabouts of long lost Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the Resistance before it falls into the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order.

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Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens was one of the most anticipated films of all time. After Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, they started on making a new trilogy, and people were looking forward to seeing new movies. While there’s certainly a lot of divisiveness about the sequel trilogy now, I think most people generally liked The Force Awakens, and I’m still one of those people. As a ‘soft reboot’, this is the best this movie could’ve possibly been, and it succeeded very well as that.

To get this out of the way, yes, The Force Awakens is very derivative of A New Hope, and most of its plot points are very similar, but it does enough to differentiate itself from that first movie. Not to mention it was a good way of introducing the current state to new audiences. I will admit that some parts copy just a little too much, like I could’ve done with something else other than a killer star base that’s just bigger than the Death Stars. From beginning to end, J.J. Abrams gives the movie a fast pace, but it also work for the story, it doesn’t go so fast that it skips past important details or anything. Plotwise, I think the only thing I had a problem with was the option to blow up an entire planetary system of the New Republic. Doing this pretty much ensured that there was basically no system or anything, and it was a wasted opportunity for world building. That’s my only big problem with the plot or anything I think. I guess not all the answers to things were given in this movie, but that basically passed it on to other instalments to provide them there.

The newer cast are quite good. Daisy Ridley acts really well as Rey, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding her character and you don’t learn a lot about her, and so it required someone like Ridley to play the role in a way to make her work on screen. I really do feel like John Boyega’s Finn didn’t get to do as much as he could’ve (especially with the setup with him as a stormtrooper, which we hadn’t gotten with other main Star Wars characters beforehand), but Boyega does what he can and is pretty good. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime, generally because his character was meant to die early on, but was kept alive since they liked Isaac. That was a great decision, because Oscar plays him really well, even in his short screentime you really like him easily, and that’s all because of his performance. The standout actor and character across the sequel trilogy is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. I’m not the type of person to put characters up against each other, but at the very least, he in this movie is a lot better than Darth Vader in A New Hope, since the two get compared a lot. Kylo is more than just a copy of Vader. He’s conflicted, he’s all over the place, and at least in this movie is trying so much to be like his grandfather. Even just looking at him in this movie, Kylo is one of the best characters in the Star War series. The other main antagonists were General Hux, Captain Phasma, and Supreme Leader SNoke. Domhnall Gleeson plays the role of Hux pretty well, and in this movie it does take him seriously (until he was used as the butt of many jokes). Gleeson doesn’t get many moments to shine in the trilogy, but he does have a big speech before Starkiller base fires a weapon, and he owned that scene pretty well. Gwendoline Christie as Phasma is pretty much the Boba Fett of the sequel trilogy, she looks cool but doesn’t really do anything. I know that her not doing much doesn’t really matter, but I would’ve liked her to have had a little more screentime and things to do. As for Snoke, you only get to see him for a couple scenes, but Andy Serkis added quite a lot to him through his motion captured performance. I really wished that Lupita Nyong’o got to do more as Maz Kanata, she play it fine enough I guess, but she mostly just gives out information. I have no idea why Max von Sydow was in this movie, he was pretty much just a cameo. The main cast from the previous movies returns, with the most notable being that of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who both play their roles of Han and Leia very well once again.

J.J. Abrams directed this very well, effectively fast paced. Everything from the production design, practical effects, digital effects, everything on a technical level is great, fantastic on a visual level. The action is also quite entertaining and put together nicely, from the ship battles, gunfights, and to the final battle between Kylo and Rey, which I still think is one of the best lightsabers duels in the series. The exception of these action scenes is of course is the Rathtars scene. At this point I accepted that it exists, but compared to the rest of the movie I didn’t really love it. John Williams scores this movie quite well, but I do think that the sequel trilogy’s scores aren’t nearly as great or memorable as the other two trilogies. The most memorable themes were that of Kylo Ren, Rey, and the Resistance, nonetheless the score on a whole worked well for the movie.

Star Wars Episode 5: The Force Awakens was a great way of bringing back Star Wars to today’s audiences. It’s very well directed, the cast are good, and quite well paced. It set up things for future instalments to potentially pursue, and was a good way to get people on board with Star Wars again. It was at the very least a good starting point for this new trilogy.

12 Years a Slave (2013) Review

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12 Years a Slave

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Graphic violence & sexual violence
Cast:
Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup/Platt
Michael Fassbender as Edwin Epps
Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey
Sarah Paulson as Mary Epps
Paul Dano as John Tibeats
Benedict Cumberbatch as William Ford
Alfre Woodard as Mistress Harriet Shaw
Brad Pitt as Samuel Bass
Director: Steve McQueen

In 1841, African American Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free man, is kidnapped and forced into slavert, under the name ‘Platt’ for 12 years. He faces the hardships of being a slave under the hands of a few different slave owners. Through faith, will power, and courage, Northup must survive and endure those 12 years a slave.

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I had seen 12 Years a Slave many years ago for the first time, and it was quite impactful experience. Having rewatched some other Best Picture winning movies recently, I decided I should give this one a watch again, even though I knew it wouldn’t exactly be a pleasant viewing. 12 Years a Slave still holds up 7 years kater and is just as devastating as when I first watched it, a fantastic and harrowing movie that deserves all the acclaim it’s been receiving.

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Considering the subject matter, one could be forgiven for thinking that the movie might take a manipulative approach, especially considering most of the other movies about slavery, and all the awards that this movie won. However, that aspect was handled right, and I’ll get into some of those aspects a little later. This is first and foremost Solomon Northup’s real life story, and follows him throughout his years of being a slave. The story is handled as honest as possible, and never sensationalises any of it. Now from the title, you know that lead character doesn’t remain a slave for more than 12 years, but the experience isn’t any less harrowing. There are some incredibly impactful and emotional moments that are earned and never feel forced, but genuine.

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This cast is large and talented, and all of them perform excellently in their parts. Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in the lead role of Solomon Northup, conveying so much emotion and pain without having to say much, or even anything. This film is continuously following him from beginning to end, this is his movie, and he carries it all powerfully. The rest of the cast are supporting players in Solomon’s story, but they all play their parts well. There are two standouts among that supporting cast, the first is Michael Fassbender, giving one of his best performances as a slave owner. Fassbender really performs excellently, with his character representing pretty much the worst of humanity, he has such a captivating screen presence. The other standout is Lupita Nyong’o, who gives an incredibly emotional performance in her part. The rest of the cast are great and make the most of their scenes, with the likes of Sarah Paulson, Paul Dano, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodard, Brad Pitt. Michael Kenenth Williams, and Paul Giamatti.

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Good writing and acting aside, what 12 Years a Slave would live or die on is the direction. This film needed to be handled by the right person, or it could easily fail. Director Steve McQueen was very much the right person for this movie, and knew how to handle this very sensitive subject. The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt was stunning. Not only that, but McQueen’s use of the camera is effective, forcing the audience watch everything that happens on screen, and not allowing them a chance to look away. When it came to the violence and the aspects of slavery, it was handled in probably best way possible. It’s undeniably brutal and doesn’t shy away from that, and you feel every blow. At the same time, it doesn’t sensationalise or fetishize it, if anything it is uncomfortably casual, and was fitting for the movie. A perfect example of this is a standout moment that takes place a third of the way through, without revealing the context or what the scene is, it’s a few minutes long, full of unbroken shots, and it’s incredibly painful and quiet. Hans Zimmer’s score is great as to be expected, and fitted perfectly with the film.

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12 Years a Slave remains an outstanding and moving film, powerfully acted, excellently directed, and is all around masterful. It is incredibly hard to watch (and indeed the rewatch was just as painful as the first watch was) but is a monumental film and quite frankly essential viewing.

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Naomi Ackie as Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Director: J.J. Abrams

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.

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I’m aware that it took a while for this review to come out, I’ve just been a little busy and I felt like I needed to watch this movie twice to be able to collect my thoughts on it before I could write it. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. Not only was it a Star Wars movie and the finale of this sequel trilogy, it would also essentially conclude the whole Skywalker saga. I really didn’t know what to expect, it was quite a big task that they ahead of them. I’m also not going to lie, some of the initial reactions had me a little worried. Despite some problems I had with it (which I have with every Star Wars movie aside from one), I actually thoroughly liked The Rise of Skywalker as it was.

There’s only so much that I can talk about, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free as possible. The first act was a little rough. It jumped from place to place, it was jarring, and it just overloaded you with information. Thankfully it does pick up over time. Not that the issues aren’t still there, but it definitely helped watching it again when you know what’s happened in the plot. By the time it reaches the second half, the movie really picks up. The Rise of Skywalker is more plot focussed than character focussed, and the pacing is fast, constantly moving the plot forward in just about every scene. It’s not necessarily a good thing though, as the movie doesn’t really allow for some moments to breathe. In that, this movie really needed to be longer. You’d think that since Disney had Avengers Endgame earlier this year wrapping up a huge storyline in 3 hours, that for a giant conclusion of 3 whole trilogies would be given much more than 2 hours and 20 minutes. Even if those scenes wouldn’t add a lot in terms of plot, it allows time to reflect on what’s happened and not make everything feel so tightly packed. On another note however, it seems that a lot of scenes or aspects have been cut from the movie. For example some details are shown in the visual dictionary of the movie that don’t make it into the final on screen product, and I don’t necessarily mean cut subplots (although that’s also possible), but things that could literally add maybe 5 minutes at most to the runtime, yet add a lot to the movie. For all the reveals that this movie is constantly throwing out, there’s still critical things that aren’t explained, one is a critical part involving Palpatine that I honestly can’t believe didn’t make it into the released movie (if they ever came up with an answer at all). Reveals and answers aside, some of how they are handled them are also a problem at times. It literally felt like some of the characters were just telling the audience what the answers are as quickly as possible, almost like it was in a rush and it wanted to get it out quickly, it felt a little lazy at times honestly.

There have been talks about how The Rise of Skywalker ‘retcons’ parts of The Last Jedi. While I can’t comment on how J.J. Abrams felt about The Last Jedi, I wouldn’t say that it quite does that, although it no doubt would’ve been taken in a very different direction if Rian Johnson made the movie. There’s just a couple of aspects that Abrams seemed to have backpedalled on. One was the unnecessary part with Kylo Ren repairing his mask after he destroyed it early in the last movie. It’s not bad or anything but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense and really doesn’t add too much to the movie (even if it is a cool looking mask), especially how he keeps taking his mask off anyway. The other is something that I know a lot of people are very split on. The problem about talking about this part is that there’s so much I want to say about this one aspect but I can’t even hint at it too much or I’ll begin to spoil it. What I can say is that I’m mixed about this decision, it ultimately takes things in a less interesting direction for me personally. However, I guess it could’ve been way worse, and looking at that decision separate from the previous movie, I guess I like the idea, and I was able to accept it and follow along with where they took it. On the whole though, I liked most of the plot and the directions they took (key word being most), and there are some great callbacks to the other Star Wars movies. A lot of people throw around the word ‘fanservice’ but for a conclusion of a 9 movie long series, you should be expecting that. I liked most of the ‘fanservice’, and it’s not as obnoxious as say some of what they had in Rogue One or Solo. There are also some great moments and parts to the movie, which I won’t spoil of course. I’m not going to be a conspiracy nut about this movie (yet) but I get the feeling that part of my issues of this movie were things that were caused by problems behind the scenes. For those who don’t know, Colin Trevorrow was attached to direct and co-write but then was fired (or left the movie) over ‘creative differences’, and that’s when J.J. Abrams was brought in to direct and co-write alongside Chris Terrio. However, they kept the same date even though they were already in pre-production when Trevorrow stopped being involved. Now maybe the same choices would’ve been made, but I get the feeling that had they pushed the movie back even a little, parts of the movie would’ve been handled a little better.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Daisy Ridley is once again great as Rey, and she’s got quite a lot to do in this movie in particular, and I liked her arc. Even if you’re not satisfied with where they take her character, Ridley more than sells it with her performance. One thing that The Rise of Skywalker does better than the other two was it gave John Boyega and Oscar Isaac a little more to do (though unlike The Last Jedi they didn’t really get arcs of sort, again this is a plot driven movie). Unlike the past two movies, you actually get the trio of Rey, Finn and Poe together, and that was great to watch. Anthony Daniels’s C-3PO is generally a side character in all these 9 Star Wars movies and hasn’t really stood out in them, but for whatever reason he got to do slightly more in the plot of this movie, and even had some standout moments and lines. Adam Driver is once again fantastic as Kylo Ren, and I’m pretty confident in saying that this would be his best performance as the character. Both the performance and the character are great, and truly one of the highlights of this whole sequel trilogy. There was a concern about how they would handle Carrie Fisher’s role of Leia, after Fisher’s death a few years ago. They actually used footage from The Force Awakens to place her in the movie. Some of the ways they used her in some scenes felt a little awkward and you are constantly wondering what the original context of her scenes are, but you can tell that they definitely did the best that they could in a difficult situation, and they pulled it off well enough.

Some of the returning cast unfortunately don’t really get a lot to do in the movie. It was great seeing Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian, though I would’ve liked to have seen him in the movie a lot more. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata also return, but both of them don’t really get much to do. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico was a prominent supporting character in The Last Jedi, however her role is significantly reduced in this movie, and you feel it more with her than the characters I just mentioned before. It does feel very weird to just reduce her to a background character who really doesn’t get to do much of anything. She could easily be written into being a present supporting character in the movie in at least the first act, but for some reason they deliberately seemed to have given her the bare minimum to do. I’m just hoping it’s not because her character received a lot of ‘backlash’ (to put it mildly) in the last movie. The new cast do well enough. Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell play some supporting roles in the movie and are quite good, however I wish that they could’ve been more in the movie, and I felt like it was possible for them to be involved with the plot than what we got. Richard E. Grant is good as a general in The First Order, and one of the secondary antagonists of the movie. He’s nothing that we haven’t seen before in Star Wars, but Grant does well with what he’s given. I can’t talk too much about Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor for spoilers stake, but I can say that he played the role appropriately. With that said, I had some issues about the Emperor with regard to his involvement with the plot. Let’s just say that he suddenly has a larger part to play in the movie than you’d think based off the teases of him in the trailers, and I have mixed feelings about it. I guess I accepted it, but it could’ve been so much more interesting and inventive than what they ultimately went with. Not to mention it introduces him very quickly and a bunch of information is thrown at us about him that we just have to accept. It probably wouldn’t be so jarring if we knew that he was alive in any of the other two movies.

J.J. Abrams once again directed this very well, delivering on a visually stunning movie. There are so many sequences that are just stunning to watch, with the action being fast paced and rather entertaining. The locations and set pieces are also great, there are some very memorable sequences that stand out amongst the Star Wars movies as a whole. The score by John Williams for the Sequel Trilogy haven’t really lived up to the other Star Wars trilogies (outside of Rey’s Theme, Kylo Ren’s theme, and the Resistance theme) but it’s still pretty good, and that’s the case with this movie as well.

I can’t determine whether or not you’ll like this movie. I can tell that some people who hated The Last Jedi will like The Rise of Skywalker more, and some who love The Last Jedi will dislike The Rise of Skywalker, or at least be bothered by many parts of it. As for myself though, I liked it. I’d say that it’s my least favourite of the sequel trilogy and it has some things that hold it back from being better (I really hope there will be an extended cut released in the future). However, I think there’s a lot of great in here too. The cast are good, it’s directed quite well and visually stunning to watch, and I liked a lot of the ideas that were present, and most of how they ended things. If you are somewhat invested in this storyline, just watch it for yourself whenever you get the chance.

Us (2019) Review

Time: 116 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language & content that may disturb
Cast:
Lupita Nyong’o as Adelaide Wilson/Red
Winston Duke as Gabriel “Gabe” Wilson/Abraham
Shahadi Wright Joseph as Zora Wilson/Umbrae
Evan Alex as Jason Wilson/Pluto
Elisabeth Moss as Kitty Tyler/Dahlia
Tim Heidecker as Josh Tyler/Tex
Director: Jordan Peele

Accompanied by her husband (Winston Duke), son (Evan Alex) and daughter (Shahadi Wright Joseph), Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.

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Jordan Peele’s Us was one of the most anticipated films of the year. Peele made an impact with his directorial debut Get Out, a horror film that was such a hit, with it even earning an Academy Award. His writing and direction over the whole film was truly stellar for a first timer. His next film Us was kept in secrecy, especially with regards to what the movie was really about. However, the involvement of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke and of course Jordan Peele was enough to get my 100% on board with the whole movie before the trailers, images and even the plot descriptions were released. Us didn’t disappoint, and everything from the writing, acting and direction delivered on their potential, and have currently made this my favourite film of the year thus far.

I should probably note that it’s best knowing as little as possible before watching Us, in fact if you haven’t seen the trailer yet and only heard of the movie, I recommend not watching it. While the trailer doesn’t necessarily spoil anything, it really is best going into the movie not knowing much. Even having seen the trailer however, there are still plenty of surprises in store for sure that you won’t be expecting. Get Out can be firmly classed a horror and thriller film despite some comedic moments throughout, however there’s quite a bit to the movie that’s satirical. While Us also has some things to say, this time it really feels like a horror movie first and foremost, really leaning into the genre. Us is much more than just a generic home invasion movie mixed with a creepy doppelganger story. Once the doppelgangers show up, it has you absolutely gripped all the way through to the end. Peele also once again shows how good of a storyteller he is, at under 2 hours long, it has you completely immersed in the story and every scene feels necessary, and he also conveyed certain reveals very well. I guess there was an exposition dump in one point in the third act, but honestly, I’m not sure how else he could’ve conveyed all of that information otherwise. Like in Get Out, there is some comedy infused in the movie in a way that feels balanced and doesn’t take away too much from the tension of the movie. While Get Out definitely gets better upon repeat viewings, you can get most of the themes and understand the plot from one viewing. Us on the other hand seems to require more than one viewing to get the full experience, especially with some of the twists and the symbolism (still don’t understand the significance of the bunnies for instance), but it just adds much more to the movie, making you notice things on a second viewing that you didn’t notice the last time you watched it. It’s also a movie that’s going to have you theorising days after watching.

The main family consisting of Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph, who also play their doppelgangers, are all really great in the movie. People who know Winston Duke as M’Baku from Black Panther will see a very different character here as the dad character. Much of the film’s funniest moments involve Duke, he was really good here. Child actors (especially in horror movies) can be very hit or miss, however both Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph play their parts well. Something I like about what Peele did with his characters (as well as Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out) is make them smart, they don’t make convenient mistakes or bad decisions, even the kids here are smart. However, it’s Lupita Nyong’o in the lead role who’s just outstanding. Despite being an Oscar winning actress, post 12 Years a Slave, Nyong’o hasn’t exactly been utilised the best in the films she was in (even a Star Wars movie couldn’t give her much to work with). That changes however with her performance in Us, she’s absolutely fantastic in her dual roles and really is something to watch. I won’t be surprised if by the end of the year it’s still one of the best performances of 2019. Other supporting actors like Elizabeth Moss also play their parts well.

Jordan Peele already showed himself to be a good director with Get Out but he’s on another level here, his first film wasn’t a fluke at all. This film looks so great, much more than Get Out (which was already a really good looking movie). Some sequences are just directed and edited so incredibly well that it can be mesmerising. The biggest example of this is a particular scene in the third act, you’ll know which one I’m talking about when you watch it. With this film leaning much more into the horror genre, Peele also has some very great suspenseful scenes, many of them really succeeding in getting under your skin. Michael Abels returns to collaborate with Jordan Peele after Get Out and once again it’s very effective and added a lot to the movie, and this is only his second score.

Us is among the best horror movies of recent memory. It was entertaining, scary, creepy, hilarious, Peele’s writing and direction were great as usual, and the performances (especially from Lupita Nyong’o) were fantastic. I feel like I really need to watch this movie again, it was just so overwhelming, and I just know that I’ll pick up on much more the next time I see. If you like horror movies, and if you particularly liked Get Out, definitely watch Us as soon as you can, and avoid spoilers as much as possible. You won’t regret it.

Black Panther (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Forest Whitaker as Zuri
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Director: Ryan Coogler

After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

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Black Panther was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only was it a Marvel movie and one focussing on Black Panther (who became one of my favourite MCU characters after Civil War) and not only does it have a fantastic cast, Ryan Coogler directed it. Coogler had already established himself as a director to pay attention to after Fruitvale Station and Creed, so naturally I was excited to see him work on a comic book movie. Black Panther definitely had the potential to be one of the best MCU films and having seen it, I can say that it didn’t disappoint.

Black Panther is yet another Marvel comic book movie and there are aspects of it that feel like a Marvel movie but yet it feels quite fresh and new. After the first few scenes, I was riveted with Black Panther through to the very end. The characters were really memorable and established very well. The themes explored in the movie was really effective and the social commentary was applied well and didn’t feel forced at all, they were very well integrated into the story. The MCU often had a problem with its humour, but Black Panther’s was effective for the most part and most importantly didn’t kill any dramatic or emotional moment just for a joke. Black Panther also doesn’t feel like it’s too connected to the rest of the MCU, there are character’s like Martin Freeman’s Ross and Andy Serkis’s Klaue who were in other Marvel movies and there may be a brief reference to the MCU but on the whole it’s standalone. On another note, there are a couple of post credit scenes, I liked them both but the first of them really should’ve been part of the actual movie itself. I’ve noticed that recent MCU movies such as Thor Ragnarok and Captain America Civil War have post credit scenes which don’t just tease the future movies but are also important to the actual movie itself, so when these scenes are placed after the credits it feels like they just didn’t know where to put the scene. I just wished that they would handle these scenes better.

The characters in Black Panther are great and Coogler has a fantastic cast playing them. Chadwick Boseman is once again great as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa is quite a different character compared to the other MCU heroes, he is more serious and isn’t a constant humorous quipper like some of the more recent characters like Ant Man, but he does have moments of levity. More importantly though, he is a king and so it feels very fresh and new watching this type of character in the lead role. With his solo movie, T’Challa once again shows himself to be one of the best characters in the MCU and Boseman again killed it. The supporting cast with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and others do quite well, Letitia Wright was particularly a stand out as T’Challa’s sister. It’s common for Marvel villains to not be that great, every so often you’ll have a Loki or a Vulture but on the whole, they just end up being passable. Thankfully, not only is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger great, he is one of the best villains in this cinematic universe. He is very well established and written and you can really understand why he does the things he does and maybe even agree with his views, even if you don’t agree with his methods. Aside from an early scene though, he’s mostly just in the second half of the movie, however he absolutely steals every scene he’s in. The other villain is Andy Serkis as Klaue (who was established in Avengers Age of Ultron in a rare motion-capture-less role) and he is very entertaining when he’s on screen.

Ryan Coogler once again shows himself to be a really great director. The action scenes were great, very well shot and choregraphed. Coogler also portrayed the fictional country of Wakanda greatly, from the production design to the costume design, everything feels different from anything you’ve seen. There are some truly great cinematography at times. The music was also really good, one of the more memorable score of the MCU movies. There were some action sequences that took place at night that were difficult to see and the CG as times looked a little fake, especially with some of the big action sequences, however they aren’t close to being the worse CG ever. Despite these aspects, most of the direction was great.

Black Panther was really great and surpassed my expectations. Yes it’s entertaining and watching the action sequences are enjoyable but it’s really the story and characters that stood out the most to me. It separated itself from other Marvel and comic book movies and is really something special. I don’t know yet if I’d call it the best MCU movie but it’s at least in the top 2, and after many movies since Captain America The Winter Soldier, that’s saying a lot.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

Time: 152 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo
Benicio del Toro as DJ
Director: Rian Johnson

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.

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Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. I loved The Force Awakens and with Rian Johnson attached to direct the sequel I was looking forward to where the story would progress. The Last Jedi has what you would typically expect in a good Star Wars movie, great characters and top notch visual effects and action sequences. But it managed to do something that recent Star Wars movies haven’t been able to do: surprise me. It went in directions I didn’t expect. After thinking upon it for a while, The Last Jedi just might be one of the all time best Star Wars movies.

First thing I want to say is to make sure you don’t see any spoilers, I saw none of them before going in and I was surprised by many of the things that happened. For that reason, I can’t go into too much depth about why this movie is great. The story is darker and bleaker than The Force Awakens, yes it is still quite fun, it has very effective humour and it does have its good dose of adorable creatures in the form of Porgs, which are these little penguin hamster creatures (and surprisingly they are actually cute and not annoying). It’s very much still Star Wars. But at the same time it feels like its something different, most people in charge of this film wouldn’t go in this direction with its story and characters. If you felt that The Force Awakens plays it way too safe, I can see you liking The Last Jedi more. I can see this film dividing some audience members with regard to some of the decisions that the story takes but for me, I loved these decisions. I know I’m being very vague when talking about the plot but that’s because in order to do that I would have to go in depth and I just can’t, not in a non-spoiler review at least. As for whether some of these risky decisions should have been made at all, I think that a lot of it will depend on how the story is resolved in episode 9. This movie is 150 minutes long, making it the longest Star Wars movie to date. For the most part it earns its long runtime, and I say for the most part because there is a section which takes place on a planet with Boyega’s Finn and Marie Tran’s Rose that feels rather unnecessary. Outside of that I think most of the plot is great.

The returning cast is great, Daisy Ridley continues to impress as Rey, John Boyega is great as Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe gets a lot more to do here. Regardless of what you think about the character of Snoke, there’s no denying that Andy Serkis acted so well, this time we see Snoke in his non-holographic form and Serkis is so fantastic in his scenes. Carrie Fisher is as usual great as Leia and yes, she does have her chance to shine in certain moments. Carrie Fisher will be sorely missed. We also get some newcomers. Kelly Marie Tran is really good and likable in her role, if I can understand correctly this is the first real film that she’s been in and she does such a great job here. Laura Dern is also quite good in her role. If there’s a weak link, it’s Benicio del Toro’s character, Benicio is quite good in the role but the character feels like he could be played by anyone and wasn’t that memorable and didn’t feel that necessary. If I was to pinpoint the two stand outs of the whole film, I’d say that it’s Mark Hamill and Adam Driver. Mark Hamill is fantastic as Luke Skywalker, Luke has clearly been through a lot and has changed as a result from Kylo’s turn to the darkside and the guilt that he feels for it. He’s less hopeful and he’s not quite what you’d expect him to be but you can tell it’s still Luke, not just a grumpy old Mark Hamill. Not only is this the best Hamill has been as Luke Skywalker, it is also the best he’s ever been in a live action film. With regard to some of the polarising decisions of the film, many of them surround him, that’s all I’ll say. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren was one of the highlights of The Force Awakens and he was a highlight once again here. He’s even more conflicted and unstable now due him killing his father in episode 7 (if you haven’t watched The Force Awakens you really shouldn’t be reading this review by the way) and watching his journey was intriguing. Kylo Ren is almost at Darth Vader’s level in terms of Star Wars villains. Really everyone is great here, and they all get to have at least one moment to shine.

Rian Johnson directed this film excellently. The visual effects are incredible, there wasn’t a moment that stood out to me as being out of place in terms of CGI. The cinematography… I’m just going to say it, out of all the Star Wars films, The Last Jedi has the best cinematography. There are countless beautifully shot sequences, all of them fantastic. All the action sequences are great and I’d consider most of them to be amongst the best in the Star Wars series. It succeeded so well at making these sequences feel incredibly tense. The only sequence that felt out of place was the one I mentioned earlier with Finn and Rose, and even then that’s more to do with tone and how unnecessary it felt. The score by John Williams was also great, while his score for The Force Awakens was fine, it was below the quality of most of the other Star Wars scores. Here with the Last Jedi it’s absolutely great and it adds so much to the scenes.

Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi wasn’t what I was expecting, along with being fun and entertaining, it is much more, it makes decisions that will divide its audience and for it to be this risky, I have to give Rian Johnson a lot of props. The story was so different from what I was expecting and without giving anything away, I loved it. I personally loved almost everything in this movie, all but one or two aspects. I’m going to say this now, The Last Jedi is in my top 2 favourite Star Wars movies. This movie is already dividing some audiences, even those who liked it have some aspect that they aren’t entirely sure about. So I say this, avoid all spoilers and just go into the movie with no expectations, even if some of the decisions are different, just be willing enough to go with it. And don’t try to predict where the story is going, because you won’t. I couldn’t be happier with this film and I’m now waiting with anticipation and nervousness to see whether Episode 9 will deliver a solid conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy.

The Jungle Book (2016) Review

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The Jungle Book

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Contains Violence & Scary Scenes
Cast:
Bill Murray as Baloo (Voice)
Ben Kingsley as Bagheera (Voice)
Idris Elba as Shere Khan (Voice)
Lupita Nyong’o as Raksha (Voice)
Scarlett Johansson as Kaa (Voice)
Giancarlo Esposito as Akela (Voice)
Christopher Walken as King Louie (Voice)
Neel Sethi as Mowgli
Director: Jon Favreau

Raised by a family of wolves since birth, Mowgli (Neel Sethi) must leave the only home he’s ever known when the fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) unleashes his mighty roar. Guided by a no-nonsense panther (Ben Kingsley) and a free-spirited bear (Bill Murray), the young boy meets an array of jungle animals, including a slithery python and a smooth-talking ape. Along the way, Mowgli learns valuable life lessons as his epic journey of self-discovery leads to fun and adventure.

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The Jungle Book was on my most anticipated movies of 2016. Although I was getting a little sick of Disney doing live action remakes of their old films (Cinderella, Maleficent, etc), this movie intrigued me enough with director Jon Favreau and the talented voice cast with actors like Bill Murray, Christopher Walken and Idris Elba involved. After seeing The Jungle Book I can say that I am starting to have more confidence in Live Action Disney movies. From the acting/voice acting, to the special effects and great direction by Jon Favreau, this is definitely a movie you should check out when you get a chance.

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It’s been so long since I’ve watched the animated original, so I can’t say whether it’s faithful or not. I do recall that there are a couple changes based on my limited knowledge of the animation. The plot was pretty good, and I could follow the movie quite well, I just don’t think there’s much to talk about it. There are only two moments of singing. The first was “Bear Necessities”, which fitted in quite well. The other was with Christopher Walken’s monkey character, which did feel a little out of place. Still, it was nice to hear Christopher Walken sing a Jungle Book song. One thing that some people have noted is that it’s a little scary for kids. I’ll agree that for very young kids, it is scary, with Shere Khan and the dark imagery. But it’s not going to scar them for life, like some are making it out to be.

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The only actor appearing physically in this movie is Neel Sethi, he doesn’t have an easy job, as he had to interact with characters that he couldn’t see. After seeing this movie, all I can say that he is going places, he was absolutely remarkable and personifies everything that makes Mowgli. This movie has a huge and talented voice cast with actors including Ben Kingsley, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken and Giancarlo Esposito. There are a couple standouts, one is Bill Murray as Baloo, who was hilarious, perfect choice. Another is Idris Elba as Shere Khan. With just his voice, he manages to convey so much menace, and surpasses the original’s version.

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The movie is very well directed by Jon Favreau. The effects needed to be applied in the right way because it needed to blend well with Neel Sethi, a human actor, it could easily turn into the Star Wars prequels where human actors are clearly surrounded by CG characters. Fortunately, Favreau handles this with ease. The special effects are also notably great, it almost doesn’t for one moment feel fake. It’s not only the effects that are great though, the visuals are beautiful whether it be of day, night, fire or rain, all of the weather conditions and lighting are expressed on screen excellently.

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The Jungle Book is filled with great effects, impressive work from its actor and voice actors and good visual storytelling from Jon Favreau. This movie made me confident that Legend of Tarzan could be good, in fact, The Jungle Book has proven to me that these live action Disney movies can be great. I’ve heard that there’s a sequel being planned and while I don’t think it’s necessary, I wouldn’t mind if it happened. The Jungle Book is definitely worth checking out when you get a chance.

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015) Review

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science Fiction Themes and Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka
Director: J.J. Abrams

30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

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Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens is my most anticipated movie of 2015. I loved the original trilogy, liked one of the prequels and after 10 years from the last instalment, here we are with the latest film. The Force Awakens was the movie I was hoping it to be, it was to Star Wars what Creed was to Rocky; creating a great new instalment in the franchise while also being a pretty good movie in itself. This is the Star Wars movie that you’re looking for.

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Some will say that The Force Awakens is very similar to A New Hope (in that many of the plot points are the same), and while that’s true, I’m not really complaining. The writing and story actually feels like Star Wars, it wasn’t like the prequels where it all felt artificial and at times lifeless. There was real human emotion that could be felt with these characters. Also tonally it was balanced out, this film can go pretty dark (not quite Revenge of the Sith dark) but it also has humour from the characters and dialogue, this film actually has the most comedy (that worked) out of all the Star Wars movie. Without spoiling anything I will say that this movie ends with not all the questions answered which I love, it makes me even more excited for the next couple of films.

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The film did a good job at integrating the old and new cast. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are the main leads and they are absolutely excellent in their roles and I think that they are the ones to carry this new trilogy. Oscar Isaac was also really good, we don’t get to see as much of him as I liked but as I will mention later, it might be for the better. Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver was a really great villain and while there may be comparisons to Vader there is a pretty strong difference between him and Darth Vader. Some of the characters like Supreme Leader Snoke aren’t really used that much but that’s probably because of the large amount of characters and story that they have, and they will probably be developed over the next films. Not all of the original cast gets a big amount to do but as I said, that’s something for the next films. Harrison Ford is excellent in this movie as Han Solo, he didn’t just feel like old Harrison Ford, he was older Han Solo. Carrie Fisher also was really good as Leia and both her and Ford shared pretty good chemistry when they were on screen together. As for Mark Hamill as Luke, I’ll just say that he’s in the movie, without spoiling anything.

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Unlike the prequels, The Force Awakens uses quite a lot of practical effects. The parts where they have to use CGI is well done and integrated. Think of the special effects of Abrams’ Star Trek mixed with the practical effects of Empire Strikes Back. The action is excellent, whether on ground or air. Without spoiling anything, this movie has one of the best lightsabre fights I’ve seen in a Star Wars movie. John Williams’ soundtrack as usual is magnificent, it’s nothing like we’ve heard before.

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The Force Awakens is not a flawless movie but the original trilogy wasn’t either. This movie did what it was supposed to do, to be a new instalment in the franchise while also being a great movie on its own. I’m looking even more forward to all the Star Wars movies coming out, with Rogue One coming out next year. Stay away from spoilers and watch the movie as soon as possible. JJ Abrams has created a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe and it’s one of the best movie going experiences I’ve had.