Sunday, 31 December 2017

Greatest Movies of 2017

 
NUTS4R2s Best
Movies of 2017


Unlike many years, I won’t make any apologies this time around for my top movies list being dominated by product made in the USA. Of my 26 favourite 2017 movies here, around 16 of them were made with American dollars and that’s absolutely fine by me when their contribution to cinema this year has been so great. In my Christmas Day post (here) I touched on the fact that this year has seen the poorest cinema box office since the 1980s. And yet, I find I’ve been to the cinema way more than I have on many previous years. Admittedly, there were a fair amount of bad movies too but even this list has some really great films left out.

What we have here are films which got a UK cinema release (of some kind) in 2017 but I’m pretty sure a couple of those may not get a general release over here until next year (if at all). Similarly, some of the films on this year’s list opened in some other countries in 2016 but this is the first time we’ve had a release of them over here. This does create the odd anomaly. For instance, Alice Lowe’s brilliant Prevenge (reviewed by me here) was released earlier in the year but I already had it pretty high up in my best films of 2016 list because I’d seen an early screening at the London Film Festival. So... yeah... I’m not putting the same movie in a list two years running.

Anyway, that’s enough of my caveats... here’s the list in ascending order with number 26 being the least of my best picks and number one being the absolute bees knees. Enjoy!

26. War For The Planet Of The Apes USA
The latest and possibly last in a trilogy of rebooted Planet Of The Apes films had an emotional storyline, some good action and a fine score by Michael Giacchino. My review for this one is here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/war-for-planet-of-apes.html

25. Their Finest UK
Beautifully heart rending British movie about a lady screenwriter doing her bit for the propaganda of the Second World War on the home front. A real tear jerker, this is reviewed by me here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/their-finest.html

24. Wind River UK/Canada/USA
An FBI agent and a tracker try to solve a murder mystery on a snowy, Native American Indian Reservation. Harsh, bleak and somewhat beautiful with two of Marvel’s The Avengers team as the main protagonists. My review for this one is here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/wind-river.html

23. Shin Godzilla Japan
Just like the latest Star Wars movie, this film is somewhat disappointing in places with long, dull stretches in between the good stuff. That being said, it’s nice seeing The Big G back on screen with a new Japanese incarnation and with a surprise arsenal up its scaly sleeve. It also has one of the best scores of the year so, even during the boring bits, you can tap your toes along with the on screen shenanigans. My review for this one should be out sometime in the next week.

22. Elle France/Germany/Belgium
This tale of slow burn revenge by a somewhat questionable character who comes from a background of deviant violence is a far cry from some of the other films I’ve seen from Paul Verhoeven. Isabelle Huppert is exceptional, as she generally is, in this interesting study of a powerful, female cat playing with her cornered mice. My review of this one here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/elle.html

21. The Handmaiden aka Ah-Ga-Ssi South Korea
This stylish and relocated adaptation of Sarah Walter’s Fingersmith was sexy and suspenseful, with all of the elegance in shot composition that you would expect from a director like Chan-wook Park. My review can be found here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/the-handmaiden-aka-ah-ga-ssi.html

20. Star Wars - Episode VIII - The Last Jedi USA
Much as I love the films of the director responsible for this, after viewing it a second time I can confirm, at least in my own mind, that this is a bit of a dull and disappointing misfire of a Star Wars movie. However, there is some really good stuff going on too and I enjoy watching this with an eye on what it might potentially have been, rather than what it is. It’s enjoyable enough, though, to warrant inclusion in this list, I feel. My review of this one is here...
https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/star-wars-episode-viii-last-jedi.html

19. Colossal Spain/Canada
One of those films that changes tone drastically about half way through, Colossal starts off with a wonderful idea about waking up to find that you’re manifesting as a giant monster in another part of the world before going into far more serious social commentary. My review of this little gem is here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/colossal.html

18. Most Beautiful Island USA
Wonderful film about a twisted ‘job offer’ given to an immigrant trying to survive in modern America, inspired by the writer/director/star’s own experiences. My review of this film, which I’m hoping will get a wider release sometime soon, is here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/most-beautiful-island.html

17. Kong - Skull Island USA
For once, a modern made King Kong movie which manages to look beyond the admittedly fantastic origins of the character and do something different with it. Stay past the credits to see exactly where this franchise is going and for a clue as to why the opening credits here looked very similar to another monster movie that was released a few years ago. Reviewed by me here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/kong-skull-island.html

16. Daphne UK
Slice of life movie about a young woman dealing with the world around her, this is exactly the kind of film which British cinema does so well. I reviewed this one here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/daphne.html

15. Personal Shopper France/Germany/Czech Republic/Belgium
Oliver Assayas’ take on ghosts with two mysteries at its heart - one a murder mystery and the other a metaphysical riddle, is definitely worth a look if you can do so without expecting the genre conventions of either of those kinds of movies to be given any play. I reviewed this quite recently here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/personal-shopper.html

14. Ghost In The Shell USA
I enjoyed this live action version of the famous Manga much more than the original Anime (when I eventually saw it... a review I wrote for that will see the light of day soon, I hope). Riveting but with something of a rushed ending, the film was much closer, for me, to the beauty of Ridley Scott’s original Blade Runner than the film which actually was a sequel to that classic (and which I certainly hadn’t expected to be absent from this list but... yeah, that one missed the mark for me). My review of this live action version is here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/ghost-in-shell.html

13. Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool UK
Absolutely first rate look, from Bond movie production company EON Films, of the last years of the life of famous noir actress Gloria Grahame. Annette Bening and Jamie Bell positively shine. I reviewed this one here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/film-stars-dont-die-in-liverpool.html

12. Happy Death Day USA
This is basically a slasher movie remake of Groundhog Day, using the central idea of that film and grafting it onto the ‘teenager in peril’ genre. It even goes as far as to reference that film in its dialogue towards the end of this one. Way better than I thought it would be, the film is one of many this year to benefit from a score by Bear McCreary. My review can be found here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/happy-death-day.html

11. Blade Of The Immortal Japan/UK
Takashi Miike’s 100th feature film is a bloody ronin flavoured tale of revenge based on a manga with the levels of extreme violence you would expect from this director... especially when he occasionally dips his toes into chanbara. You can read my review of this one here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/blade-of-immortal.html

10. Patti Cake$ USA
All I will say is about this one is that I certainly wasn’t expecting to be inspired enough by a movie that I wrote my entire review as rap lyrics. My rap for this one can be vocalised by you here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/patti-cake.html

9. Ingrid Goes West USA
A funny but also concerning look at the lengths some people will go to, to be around those who are popular. If it isn’t on instagram then... did it really even happen? Only Ingrid would know. My review is here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/11/ingrid-goes-west.html

8. The Love Witch USA
I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as Ana Biller’s previous feature, VIVA but, it was still a pretty cool movie and aesthetically ‘right up there’ compared to many movies made this year with strong and colourful compositions to offset the near perfect levels of irony in the film. I reviewed this one here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/the-love-witch.html

7. The Villainess aka Ak-Nyeo South Korea
I only saw this a few days ago but it’s pretty much this year’s best action spectacle (even beating out Atomic Blonde in the hand to hand combat stakes, as far as I’m concerned). It’s also a remake of Luc Besson’s phenomenal Nikita but, it’s certainly one of the more successful ones of that much remade classic. My review of this can be discovered here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/the-villainess-aka-ak-nyeo.html

6. La La Land USA
As my initial review would seem to indicate, I didn’t react that well to this movie the first time I saw it. Then, when I heard the music again, it caught up with me with a bang (luckily while I was still able to get a few more screenings in at the cinema before it left town). This one is a great modern musical which I intend to watch a fair few times more in my lifetime. That initial, somewhat downbeat review, is here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/la-la-land.html

5. Brigsby Bear USA
Well, there are two films in this list which starred Mark Hamill and, believe me, this is by far the better of the two. This film starts off a little like Dogtooth but then goes in its own, much different direction. Truly great movie which deserves to be seen more than it has so far... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/brigsby-bear.html

4. Miss Sloane USA
Wow. This is exactly the kind of movie that the Americans really know how to do right, It’s somewhat predictable but that journey to the ending is absolutely fantastic and, frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted it to end any other way. Jessica Chastain should have won an Oscar for this performance. Truly astonishing work in this one from everybody. I reviewed this in awe here... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/miss-sloane.html

3. A Ghost Story USA
This surprising movie about the afterlife of a silent ghost who is basically a walking sheet was truly entrancing, inventive and had an absolutely pitch perfect ending. My review of this one is here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/a-ghost-story.html

2. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women USA
The story of the creator of both Wonder Woman and the lie detector, this tells of a man and two women in the 1920s - 1940s, living in a fetishistic threesome lifestyle with their various children (by the same father). It has an absolutely brilliant script, three amazing central performances and was written by a director who really knows what she is doing. The dialogue practically sings. I wrote about this one here... https://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/professor-marston-and-wonder-women.html

1. Wonder Woman USA/China/Hong Kong
I can’t say enough good things about Patty Jenkin’s absolute masterpiece of modern super-hero cinema. This isn’t just the greatest super-hero movie ever made (which it certainly is), it’s also one of the 10 greatest films of the decade as far as I’m concerned. There’s so much going on in this movie on every level that, when I think about the coordination that must have gone on for this to happen, my head hurts a bit trying to figure out how Jenkins could have held all those juggled balls in motion without dropping any. Every time I revisit this, my tear drenched eyeballs see something new and the nuances of the performance and direction/editing/scoring/costume/set design just leave me in awe of this cast and crew. Absolutely phenomenal and all involved deserve Oscars for this artistic triumph. I am so going to be watching this pretty much once every year for the rest of my life, I suspect. My initial, “what did I just see” review is here where, frankly, I don’t gush enough... http://nuts4r2.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/wonder-woman.html

And so that’s this years list. I realise there are some big omissions which people might get angry about (and which won’t do much for my credibility) but I hope I’ve been as uncompromising in my choices here as I try to be with everything else on this blog. I’m also encouraged that over half of them are pretty much about strong women and wonder if this is a trend which will continue. I hope you enjoyed reading this (if you made it this far) and I hope next year’s cinematic offerings are even half as rich as this years. Keep reading and watching.

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Villainess (aka Ak-Nyeo)



Trouble And Strife

The Villainess (aka Ak-Nyeo)
South Korea 2017
Directed by Byung-gil Jung  
Arrow Video Blu Ray Zone B


Warning: Very mild spoilers about action content,
if you consider such a thing a spoiler.


The Villainess is a brand new action movie by Byung-gil Jung which, apparently, received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. Having now seen it after the absolutely pitiful cinema release it got here in the UK I can certainly see why (if you were lucky enough to catch a 'blink and you’ll miss it' screening then well done to you). It’s a frenetically choreographed action revenge movie of the sort which has become fashionable over the last decade or so and technically it’s brilliant. Matched with some truly astonishing camerawork and some sound editing which really doesn’t obscure the communication of what’s going on in a sequence (some directors are just not good at this, these days) the film is a real visually kinetic tour de force which is both exciting but which also brings in some good character writing and spot on performances from the various leads.

The film opens with a quite violent, visceral action sequence as the main protagonist Sook-hee, played by the lovely and, as it turns out, extraordinarily capable Ok-bin Kim takes out a whole building full of criminal thugs in various locations on her route to the man in charge. The action starts on a very long, protracted single sequence through the building shot in a first person point of view mode, just like if you were playing a video game like Doom or Duke Nuke ‘Em and the creative stunt work is full-on right from the outset. While the arterial spray of the various people that Sook-hee stabs, shoots, kicks, punches and slices up are not at 1970s Japanese levels of ‘ nonsensically over-the-top fountaining claret’ there is a fair amount of splashing blood and gore in this first sequence which sets up the tone for the rest of the film. There's just loads of violent action in the movie and its all punctuated with some somewhat satisfying viscera for fans of that kind of action.

Somewhere near the end of this astonishing opening sequence, once you may have asked yourself, just like I did, how the heck the camera could actually get in and out of the sturdily choreographed violence in such a manner, the main protagonist (aka, the camera at this point), is smashed head first into a mirror and its as we see the reflection that we catch sight of actress Ok-bin’s face for the first time. As if the delivery method of the footage has somehow been disabled by this jolt, the film then continues from that moment on in a more traditional, third person point of view style narrative... as we see Sook-hee finish off the last of the, 'must be more than fifty', antagonists by killing the boss of the gang... strangling him with a chord wrapped around his throat as she smashes through a window onto street level. It’s there that the character’s journey begins to be defined in the narrative as she is arrested by the police and taken away.

After this, she is recruited against her will by a top secret, government cell of trained killers and it wasn’t long before I realised that the elephant in the room which none of the marketing or publicity for the film had emphasised or even identified (as far as I could see) became fairly self evident. That The Villainess is, more or less, a remake or reboot (or whatever the hell you want to call it these days) of Luc Besson’s outstanding movie Nikita (aka La Femme Nikita). Where it differs from that one is by giving the main character a vengeful back story and a lot of deception and extra skullduggery on top of the same basic structure, with lots of flashbacks and twists and turns which brings the central character right back to the heart of what she originally set out to do, take revenge on her father’s killer. However, the way it’s done here is through a quite complex set of reveals and a veil in the form of the same kind of plastic surgery which Sook-hee is given when she is ‘recruited’.

Now, I absolutely love Besson’s Nikita and that movie is never going to be topped in terms of similarly themed tales, I think. However, there have also been a fair few remakes and retreads of Nikita and, of the ones I’ve seen (mostly in the form of Asian remakes or homages), this one is by far the best and most engaging... and it has a hell of a lot more action to it, for sure. While, I feel, the writers has tried their best to distract from what I personally believe is an ‘homage’ to Besson’s classic, they have also snuck in a fair few little visual references and echoes of the original in the form of sequences like a sniper’s disassembled rifle hidden in the toilet and ready to be used by the central protagonist because the room’s been set up to give her a window for a target (in this case, the minute or so of required bullet play comes up during the character’s marriage)... or a shoot out with a group of bad guys in a kitchen.

That being said, the amount of levels of flashbacks to different points in the central characters life and the way the agenda of both the agency and the lead villain, make this film a fresh and more complex riff on a familiar theme and it does manage to present the audience with a unique experience which delivers on its own terms as well as being an action fest inspired, at least in part, to the French classic.

Added to all this, the film is beautifully designed too, with some stunning colour palettes and some lovely shot compositions. For instance, there’s a flashback scene where Sook-hee finds out her husband has been killed, where he and a colleague are standing looking at his badly mutilated corpse in the back of a car. We then cut to a shot of a road with the silhouette of a bridge going diagonally across from left to right with a central strut of the bridge splitting the frame vertically. The neon glow of the lighting on the street shining through the two rectangles created by that dark vertical, with the two characters and the car in the right hand rectangle and with the street in the left hand shape empty. Such a lovely frame in a movie which is full of cool stuff like this. The audience also, by this point in the proceedings, knows that the very next sequence following this, before we cut back to the present plot, would have been the opening slaughter of the gang in the building.

In addition, the editing in this thing is, as I said, quite amazing and one is just left to wonder, as I commented on the opening sequence, just how the camera could actually get in and film all this fast moving carnage in the first place. There’s another incredible scene which is basically a motor bike chase/high speed sword fight with the camera weaving in and out, getting up close and personal with all the main action points while somehow not getting totalled by flying bikes (or people) which makes you wonder just how long that sequence took to shoot.

All in all, if you are a fan of female lead action/revenge thrillers and you want to see some incredible stunt work and, as it happens, some nice character work from a bunch of great actors, then The Villainess definitely comes heartily recommended. The only thing I was left wondering at the end was... why the heck was it called The Villainess? Certainly, since the main protagonist is far from a villain, I couldn’t really identify anyone else in the tale who would somehow match that description.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Personal Shopper



Ghost Couture

Personal Shopper
France/Germany/Czech Republic/
Belgium 2016 (released 2017)
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Icon/Lionsgate Blu Ray Zone B


Warning: Very minor spoilers.

Personal Shopper is a film I wanted to see on its release in UK cinemas earlier in the year but, alas, it was only at my cinema for one week when I wasn’t at liberty to make the trip. I’ve not seen a lot of Olivier Assayas’ cinema but the four I have seen I’ve liked quite a lot so, I was kinda looking forward to this one. I’m not particularly a fan of Kristen Stewart, who plays the film’s main protagonist Maureen but, I figured she must be pretty capable if someone like Assayas was interested in putting her in one of his movies and, yes, she’s pretty great in this thing.

The film deals with Maureen, who is the twin sister of a recently deceased brother. She’s also a medium and she has been waiting around in Paris for the last eight months or so, looking for a sign from him from beyond the grave. While she’s there she works as a personal clothes shopper, picking and buying clothes for her aloof and mostly unsympathetic celebrity employer... fashion items which cost an arm and a leg. She is also doing a little work on the side such as something we see her doing at the start of the film, which is staying a few nights in a potential house purchase for a couple to see if it has any specific spirits inhabiting it and, if there are, whether they are benign or malevolent ghosts.

From what I know of the cinema of Assayas, the film is fairly typical of him in some ways. The acting/writing is quite naturalistic in style which is what is reflected from the film’s key performances (my guess is there’s probably a lot of improvisation going on with the actors) and the lack of story beats and nothing too tangible happening (for the most part) usually ensure that nothing too concrete occurs although, quite often, there is a strong sense of ambiguity injected into what you are watching. Personal Shopper is no different in his approach although, he did surprise me because, since he is such a loose filmmaker, I was amazed that within half an hour we had a very tangible spectre thrown in to the mix and the use of CGI on this fantasy element was completely unexpected, at least to me, in a film from this writer/director.

As it happens, on completing her job for the couple, Maureen has to cope with a continuous series of texts from an unknown number and the implication is that it’s either the ghost that she encounters in the house stalking and texting her through the rest of the film or, possibly, her dead brother. We then have another ‘incident’ which I won’t spoil for you here (but which is on at least one of the trailers for this) and the film kind of turns into an almost Hitchcockian mystery but with the added spectral shenanigans juxtaposed and possible joining this mystery format.

From the outset, the director uses very controlled camera set ups (which is what I was expecting from him) and this juxtaposition of the utilitarian style of the acting with the rigid beauty of the shot design is something which is very much, I think, a signature of this director’s work. Right from the very first shot he is framing things using vertical planes in a very blatant and rigid manner and, of course, positioning the performers in various, specifically defined sections of the screen. In fact, he seems to be using vertical lines all over this thing, especially at the start, while he also uses camera movement around these artificially focused spaces to both reveal and conceal the characters or certain aspects of them when they move. For example, a partially naked Kristen Stewart will walk behind a column into a room and as the camera dollies along parallel to where she was, she emerges behind another plane wearing a full outfit. Stuff like this, of course, keeps the viewing interesting and, if nothing else, most fans of cinema should be able to enjoy this film on a visual level.

As for me, I thought it was a great little film and quite unique in some ways.

For instance, Maureen's phone is almost as much of a star in some of the scenes as she is... as she is constantly bombarded by texts from what could be, depending on your interpretation of the visual data you are given, a pesky spirit. Although, I have to say, I was feeling a lot less sympathetic to the character of Maureen when I realised she was putting in a space before the question marks on the end of her sentences. That’s just appalling... as were the moments when she uses two question marks to re-emphasise her questions. Seriously? Are we supposed to empathise with protagonists who are too thuggish to know good grammar these days?

Anyway, the movie builds to a point when you think the mystery is more or less solved but just before you get to the naming of the resolution, Assayas pauses for a sequence where we, quite definitively, see a ghost making its way down to the exit of the hotel and out through the front doors. It’s done without actual sighting of the ghost in much the same way as you would see it done in those old Invisible Man movies of the 1930s and 40s. An unseen presence which activates things in the environment as it goes about its business.

And then, when you think it’s all over, the film carries on and we are back to being in a very low key mood with the performance again. And then there’s this marvellous little sequence where something very bold happens in the background of a shot which is quite fascinating and leads to a scene later on which is kind of an end coda to the film but which, frankly, could mean different things to different people and clearly does. I’ve seen this end debated on various web sites since I watched this on Christmas Eve this year and, frankly, the ambiguity which I associate with the director seems to have confused the heck out of people (many of whom are even describing/jumping to conclusions to something in the narrative order in which I think they are quite mistaken). Ultimately, I think I know what has happened but I’m not going to add my own interpretation into the mix because a) it would constitute a main spoiler and, b) I don’t think any one interpretation can carry the weight of the ending on its own without falling into certain difficulties which require a major reinterpretation of all the scenes after the last time we see Maureen in a hotel room.

However, what I will say is that Personal Shopper is a pretty good movie and I’m glad I saw this the year it was released because now I can place it within my top 25 favourite films of the year. Definitely a movie for all the self proclaimed cinephiles out there... as well as those of us who, you know, just love the odd movie. One of the better Olivier Assayas films I have seen.

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Their Finest



Writing Wrongs

Their Finest
UK 2017 Directed by Lone Scherfig
Lionsgate Blu Ray Zone B


Warning: Mild spoilers

Their Finest is a movie I missed when it was released into cinemas earlier in the year due, mostly, to an overabundance of product competing for my attention at the cinema (to a certain extent). I wasn’t overstruck on seeing the movie anyway but I knew, judging from the trailer, that it would be one my mum would want to see at some point so it was one of the movies I bought her for Christmas this year, although I wasn’t expecting to have to watch it myself. However, it was plonked on this Boxing Day and so I finally got to see the film after all. Which meant, frankly, that for the last twenty minutes of the movie I was a blubbery, tear stained mess in front of my parents. Which is perhaps something best avoided, to be honest.

Based on the novel Their Finest Hour And A Half by Lissa Evans, Lone Scherfig’s film follows a few months in the life of main protagonist Catrin Cole, played by actress extraordinaire Gemma Arterton, as she is based in London during the Second World War. In dire need of money, a newspaper strip she had to write due to a lack of writing staff in the newspaper she works for catches the eye of one of a number of screenwriters working on films for the Ministry of Propaganda (I think) and she is hired into a male dominant environment to adapt and write the screenplay of the ‘true’ story of a pair of twin sisters who drove their ship to Dunkirk to bring back stranded soldiers.

While she is working for the Ministry’s film division she becomes a shining beacon of her craft, gets her heart broken twice, saves the day endless times with her knack for fashioning plot development and her skill at turning a good phrase and basically goes through her own personal hell waging a stealth war against the male dominated milieu she finds herself in. Not to mention becoming the motivating force behind diva-like, ageing actor Ambrose Hilliard, played wonderfully here by Bill Nighy.

The film is not particularly overtly ostentatious in terms of the way the shots are designed but it does have some nice compositions and it was way more controlled than the last film I saw at the cinema by this director, the 2000 production Italian For Beginners, which complied fairly rigidly with Lars Von Trier’s Dogme 95 rules for making movies at the time. So, obviously, that was a million miles away from this kind of film, which is obviously less naturalistic and more ‘studio stylised’ than the former (although, my one take away from Italian For Beginners when I saw it at cinemas 17 years ago was that it was an amazing film and I really should see it again... I guess I need to get around to doing that again now I write this blog).

The film is fairly pitch perfect, though, in the way it manipulates audience emotion and there are many accomplished elements to marvel at.

Arterton’s almost deadpan, emotionally confounding mask is quite hypnotic here, as she plays the role of a woman of the era in which this is set with the required amount of emotional neutrality shown to the outside world that summarises the British spirit of ‘make do and mend’ in a totally brilliant way. I’ve admired this actress since I first saw her as a Bond girl in Quantum Of Solace in 2008 and it seems to me she’s one of those people who can just knock it out of the park without trying every time I see her take on a role. I was very impressed, also, with her Welsh accent here.

Another interesting thing about the film is that it, in some ways, manages to have its cake and eat it by both romanticising the period and historical events depicted here without going as bleak and raw as you would expect but still managing to make the ugliness and futility of the situation even more potent by using it in a poetically visual way in contrast to the ‘1940s movie time’ it sometimes seems to take its cue from. For instance, there’s a lovely sequence where Arterton is trapped in the streets during an air raid in the Blitz. A bomb lands on a building behind her and she is thrown to the floor by the explosion. As she stands, dirt covered after the initial blast, she sees the dead bodies of people around he and reacts in horror. As she looks closer she realises that they are all mannequins from a shop window which was caught in the blast and starts laughing at her foolishness. This is then counterpointed by her turning the corner and coming across the mangled body of a real woman who was killed in the blast. And it’s little gems of moments like this one that make this movie one to take a look at.

Also, the chemistry between her and actors like the aforementioned Nighy and Sam Caflin is another thing which kept me hooked throughout the movie.

There’s a lot of humour too and one stand out moment for me was when the crew are shooting a Dunkirk beach scene and Bill Nighy comes rushing into the shot standing behind the glass matte painting which has been situated a few feet in front of the camera to add in all the people... completely ruining the effect but, at the same time, showing audience members who are unfamiliar with this technique the reality of one of the more effective of the non-CGI techniques which were being used in many films of the 20th Century (something that director Mario Bava was an absolute master of, by the way... he used to paint a lot of those matte shots in both his own and other director’s films himself).

The film is also blessed with a score by Rachel Portman which manages to capture and enhance the range of emotions from the broad comedy, through the subtle romantic beats and the underlying tragedies of the main protagonist’s life during this period. Which is useful because, although the film does tend to lull you into what you think might be a formulaic ride... the finished product proves to be anything but. There are some things I really didn’t see coming and that includes some sequences which kept the tear ducts flowing, it has to be said.

Not much else to say on this one other than, yeah, it’s one of those wonderful, historical pieces that British productions seem to do best. Their Finest is a film which tugs at the heart strings and... you know... insert your own, less jaded ‘emotional roller coaster ride’ metaphor here. Its glamorous facade does nothing to diminish the poignant, emotional punch it manages to deliver by the juxtaposition of sudden tragedy striking at the same time as some of the film’s more uplifting moments and it’s certainly one I’d recommend. One of the more interesting of recent films set in this period, I think and, as far as I’m concerned, a more engaging one than a certain other movie that depicted events at Dunkirk in the cinema this year.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Doctor Who - Twice Upon A Time



Jodie Vivre

Doctor Who - Twice Upon A Time
Airdate: 25th December 2017
BBC 1


Warning: Here Be Spoilers... all of them.

Well this one was so much better than I thought it would be and I’m pleased Peter Capaldi’s swan song as The Doctor turned out quite as well as it did (with a few reservations).

Starting up with footage from The Tenth Planet (reviewed here) was something I didn’t expect because, right from the outset, it highlighted to modern audiences of the show just how wrong in design and voice the BBC got the reconstruction of the original cybermen at the end of the last series. So I don’t know why they chose to include specific footage of them along with the shots of Hartnell to contextualise where The First Doctor fits into all this. It does, however, work very well to get contemporary Who watchers up to speed as much as they would need and it had a lovely ‘merge’ moment where William Hartnell morphed, mid sentence, into David Bradley (not to mention The First Doctor’s then companions Ben and Polly transforming into different actors too). Bradley does a good job here and has great chemistry with Capaldi, it has to be said.

We then had him meeting up with Peter Capaldi’s incarnation of The Doctor (I refuse to call him The Twelfth Doctor anymore... War Doctor or not, every Doctor gets a number to help label them, in my book) at the end of the previous episode and we have both Doctor’s gabbling away and both refusing to regenerate. We then have a soldier 'plucked from time' on a battlefield during the First World War and accidentally deposited with both Doctors.

Now, I have to say, the identity of the mystery soldier, played here by Mark Gatiss, is really not that hard to work out once he talks about having a wife and children at home. It points to his relationship with another famous military figure who has been in Doctor Who history since his appearance as a Colonel opposite Patrick Troughton’s incarnation, The Second Doctor and, well, I’m not going to spell it out here but it did become fairly obvious at a certain point in the proceedings.

However, it’s a pretty good story with The Doctors coming face to face with a lady of glass who is part of The Testimony, a group of beings from the far future who record the memories and experiences of people just before their death and can become them. When The Doctor goes to a planet full of Kaleds it was, again, obvious that they were, of course, the Daleks but I have to say the identity of the person he was going to see actually did take me by surprise, for which I’m grateful. I just assumed it would be Davros but, instead, it was a character from very recent Doctor Who continuity from a couple of series ago, who made “its” debut in the episode Into The Dalek (reviewed here).

In Twice Upon A Time we get a nice conundrum about whether people are, in fact, the sum of their memories, the return (sorta) of Bill Potts and Nardole, a very atmospheric (and tear inducing) sequence set on a very specific night in World War One, a brief return by Clara Oswald (played by Jenna Louise Coleman) plus the restoration of The Doctor’s memories of what she looked like... and the whole episode is generally light on action and strong on ideas. Something which impressed me and which has been a key component of the show since it first started being broadcast 54 years ago. And I thought this was the story’s main strength.

There are a few intriguing issues within the episode though. For example, if the encapsulated memories of The Doctor could shatter the glass beings then... how come they already were able to show The First Doctor the memories of all the things he had become up to Capaldi's point in time? My best answer to that is his memories (and not even his ego) could not, or at some future point in time, did not... shatter them. Because they obviously already recorded him at some point in the future of this incarnation’s timeline, just before death. So that's a bit silly, to be honest.

Another intriguing and, potentially, quite annoying thing, is that the BBC look like they’ve destroyed the TARDIS at the end. Blimey... just like a woman driver, not 60 seconds into his first female incarnation and she’s crashed the TARDIS (thanks to my cousin for that comment). Of course, there’s no way they can let this happen, I think, without a) divesting themselves of a lot of fans of the show over the years and b) taking away from the basic essence of the show... being able to visit a different point in time and space every adventure. I’m pretty sure the iconic TARDIS will be back on our screens before long.

The worst thing about the episode was... Peter Capaldi’s protracted ‘death’ scene was a bit long winded, waffly and... I dunno... felt kinda clumsily written, truth be told. Still, his performance was never less than his best and he’s been a great Doctor whose time has, I believe, come too soon.

Two things I really liked about the show were...

The First Doctor’s blatant, inadvertent sexism and the other character’s reactions to it. When Capaldi kept highlighting to him that he couldn’t say things like that in the current PC environment (in not so many words) it was quite funny but when Pearl Mackie’s wonderful performance as Bill Potts kicked in and she took him on regarding that issue... well it made for some nice comedy moments.

The other great thing was.. hooray. We finally have a lady timelord in the shape of a new, female incarnation of The Doctor. It’s way too early to judge how our new favourite time lady Jodie Whittaker is going to do in the role but she was pretty good here and I hope I’m right in having a lot of faith in her from the outset. Of course, when I was 14 years old and the prospect of a lady Doctor was first discussed, around about 1982ish, I was mortified by even the vaguest suggestion of such a thing taking place but... times have changed and hopefully the male youngsters of today are more flexible and evolved in their thinking to be stuck with that kind of attitude in their heads. I think this is a really good move and will hopefully refresh the series a little.

And that’s my take on Capaldi’s last story... not the best he’s done but, certainly, one of the best and more than I had hoped for from writer Steven Moffat’s last crack at writing the character, for sure. Twice Upon A Time was a really "not bad at all" episode of the current version of the show and a nice treat for Christmas Day. Looking forward to seeing what Jodie brings to the table in the Autumn.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Merry Christmas 2017


Merry Christmas to
all of my readers...


It’s been an interesting year and, once again, thanks to everybody who looked at this blog, even if it was only once... it’s always very much appreciated.

I think I’ve proven to myself that there’s absolutely no way I’m going to accurately predict what reviews are coming up in 2018, other than the usual end of year fixtures. Once again, I didn’t even get a fraction of the posts that I wanted to get done up here but, this year in particular, there’s a pretty good reason for this...

I’ll touch on this again in my inevitable End of Year Best Movies listing but I will mention here that, probably the main reason I’ve not got all the films watched and reviewed that I wanted to this year was because my cinema attendance was probably a fair bit greater than usual. Which puzzles me because I’m told that this has been the worst single year for cinema attendance since the 1980s. Well, that may be so but I can confidently say that, as far as I’m concerned, this has been one of the best years for interesting and rich film experiences in cinemas for quite some time. Also, it seems that the Americans have been making some extraordinary product this year too. So, I dunno... maybe when there are really varied and interesting films at cinemas... movies like Wonder Woman, A Ghost Story, Miss Sloane, Brigsby Bear and La La Land... then the kinds of people who do attend cinemas are maybe not necessarily actual fans of fine films. That is to say, maybe they’re there for the buckets of popcorn and an unwavering devotion to the, somewhat stagnant, blockbuster style ‘event movies’ where everything is edited together very abruptly and lots of things explode.

Not that I’m saying these aren't valid expressions of film as art... of course they are (and I love them too)... but maybe the kinds of collective audiences who make up these screenings are so fixated on this kind of, ‘almost exactly the same as any other’ dose of cleverly put together spectacle that they’re missing out on some of the more original and moving product out there. If that’s the case, we are in for a terrible time at the cinemas over the next few years as companies jostle to make an abundance of superhero movies (which are almost the only things which are making any money at the moment) at the cost of everything else. That would be a shame but, on the other hand, if they continue to go down that line then I’m pretty sure the already over saturated market will be delivering some truly worrying box office returns to the companies after a while... and then they’ll start panicking and maybe begin taking a few risks on different styles of cinematic art again... perhaps.

We shall have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, it will be business as usual at the NUTS4R2 blog. Things which I definitely know will be happening are the review of today's Doctor Who Christmas Special within the next day or so... plus the Best Movies of 2017 and, at some point in the next month, the Best Score CDs of 2017. And, of course, my Annual Cryptic Movie Quiz is up and running right here so, if you find yourself at a loose end over the next week, maybe give that a go.

Either way, though, have a very Merry Christmas and I hope this yuletide holiday brings you a brief respite from the strange horrors of the world right now. Have a great time.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

A Christmas Horror Story



Night Of The Living Elves

A Christmas Horror Story
Canada 2015
Directed by Grant Harvey,
Steven Hoban & Brett Sullivan
Entertainment One DVD Region 2


Well this was a nice surprise. I bought this movie to watch in the run in to Christmas this year and expected it to be, at the very most, a halfway watchable, trashy Christmas horror movie with William Shatner in it. Imagine my surprise, then, when I started watching it... only to find that, not only is it a well made and entertaining seasonal movie but, also, William Shatner is pretty cool in it.

Starting somewhat forebodingly and in accordance with my original expectations of this film, the credits highlight some CGI, stylised Christmassy snowflakes which move around the screen and eventually focus on one blood stained snowflake while a famous Christmas song plays out. This is then followed by what looks like a very ropey CGI zoom around what turns out to be, kinda, Santa’s palatial residence. We start with a hook from near the end of the film (most of the rest of this is told in flashback) of a wounded Santa pulling out an axe to greet whatever awaits him outside his door... we then get a kind of ‘gluing’ segment which keeps cutting in and out of the movie, with William Shatner doing an absolutely wonderful job as a Christmas loving disc jockey on his Christmas Eve broadcast (a little like the radio presenter in The Fog, reviewed here, in terms of keeping everything in this film narratively framed).

We then go into one of four stories which all take place on the same Christmas Eve in the small town of Bailey Downs. This is the setting for Ginger Snaps and certain episodes of a show I don’t know called Orphan Black, too, because the directors have all worked on those in one capacity or another. Of course, being as this is a story which takes place at Christmas, I can also only assume that it’s deliberately name checking the George Bailey character of the greatest ever Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. All the stories are independent of each other but they all have a very small crossover with one of the other stories in this movie. And, rather than play out as four separate vignettes, the stories are all crosscut together so they progress throughout the length of the film and reach their respective conclusions at roughly the same time. Actually, this really shouldn’t work nearly as well as the writers and directors have got it to do here so... yep... lot of respect to the people behind this one.

So story number one deals with a murder in a school from a year before where two teens were killed ritualistically... one of them crucified against the wall with a Christmas message written in blood. For her student film, Molly (played by Zoé De Grand Maison) wants to shoot a documentary there so she and her two friends, Ben (Alex Ozerov) and Dylan (Shannon Kook), sneak into the school in the evening, as it’s closed for the holiday, to film the scene of the crime. Molly has been fired up by an ‘on scene’ video report by a policeman who has been off work with stress since the murders. Dylan gets a key from his girlfriend Caprice (played by Amy Forsyth) before she then gets in her car with her family to be one of the main characters in another, concurrent story. After gaining access to a forbidden area of the school, Molly and her companions get trapped in the darkened ‘off limits’ area and are subject to a ‘visitation’ by the ghosts of a restless spirit from many years before... yep, no spoilers here, not saying anything more.

Meanwhile, Caprice goes with her family on a car journey to visit a distant and strange relative. When they are at their creepy relative’s home, her younger brother deliberately breaks a Krampus figurine and the family are forced to leave. They head back home but when the father swerves to avoid ‘the real Krampus’ in a barren landscape, the car gets stuck in snow. The family then gets hunted by Krampus and... more blood and horror ensues.

Meanwhile, again, the policeman who has not been to work since the murder case investigation takes his wife and their kid to cut down a Christmas tree for their home, trespassing in a strange wooded area. The kid goes missing in the forest, pursued by ‘spooky camera POV 101’ and, when his parents find him again in a ‘not in the least bit suspicious’ opening/portal in a tree, things start going wrong for them when they get him home. In a pretty malevolent and ultimately violent way.

And while all this is going on, the ‘real Santa’, played really nicely by George Buza, has an elf on his hands that gets weirdly ‘un-Christmassy’, cuts his own hand off with an axe and then dies.He then returns from the dead and infects all the other elves... who become some kind of zombie creatures bent on Santa’s destruction and under the spell of Krampus. There’s also some very ‘non-Christmas’ dialogue in this section such as an elf shouting "I'm going to eat your f***ing brains out you Christmas c**t." Like all the different story strands in this movie, the action is pretty gory and this one has decapitations galore, not to mention a moment where Santa slices the top of an elf’s skull off with his staff to reveal the brain inside.

And as for the William Shatner sequences... well they’re really nicely done but, also,  there is a specific link to one of the stories here. I won’t tell you which but, one of them has a nice, if somewhat humdrum, twist which caught me by surprise because, although I’d already thought of it, I’d dismissed the notion and wrote it off as a budgetary restraint with an actor in a dual role. So this movie definitely scores some points for being able to take me by surprise here.

The film is not flashily directed but it nicely done and really shows the competence and craftsmanship of the cast and crew who have pulled together to make something which is a heck of a lot more fun to watch than I was expecting. There are absolutely loads of those kind of ‘person bends down or camera looks around to reveal something which wasn’t in the shot before’ jump scare style reveals in the movie but they are, at least, even when expected, well timed and work quite well. There are also a lot of those roving camera point of view shots that horror films sometimes use to indicate ‘another presence’ and build up tension. Again, nothing new here but very well done and it certainly doesn’t call attention to itself in a bad way. And, as I mentioned before, there’s a load of gory violence thrown into the mix and, although this shouldn’t really work in a Christmas movie, the film-makers really seem to get it all to fit together in as unobtrusive manner as possible so, once again, my Christmas hat off to them.

So there you have it. A Christmas Horror Story is not exactly the greatest seasonal terror tale on Earth but it’s certainly not the trashy excuse of a piece I was expecting it to be and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. And where else can you see Krampus and Santa Claus squaring off in a bloody battle to the death? Definitely one I’d recommend to all my friends who enjoy genre movies and one which I will, no doubt, return to in the Christmas movie viewing roster in years to come. No room for elf and safety here.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Monday, 18 December 2017

NUTS4R2's Cryptic Movie Quiz - Christmas 2017


Annual Cryptic Movie Quiz

It’s that time of year once more when I post my Cryptic Movie Quiz for the Christmas period.

If you look at the grid above you’ll see spaces for 24 movie titles running horizontally and, below this intro, are the cryptic clues to help you work out what these non-Christmas movie titles are. To help you out, I’ve filled in a line of letters downwards spelling out WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS... so you have a letter in its correct position for each of the titles. Click on the grid to see a larger version of it.

Depending on my finances after Christmas... I’ll probably award a small, strange or possibly customised prize (if I know you from Twitter) to the person with the most correct answers, pulled from a hat in the unlikely event of a draw (that's never happened yet).

Email your answers to me at nuts4r2@hotmail.com and you have until the end of January 5th 2018 to get your entries in. A few days after that, I’ll stick up the name of the winner (or winners, if it’s a tie), along with all the answers, here on my blog.

By way of an example, here’s a question from last year’s quiz, followed by the answer.

Example question:
None scrambled at the demonstration of the fourteenth letter of the alphabet.

Example answer:
Okay, so the fourteenth letter of the alphabet is ‘n’. A demonstration could be a demo.
So, demon. None unscrambled is neon. So... The Neon Demon.

If you keep checking back at the comments section below, I will probably put the odd clue down there every now and again to help you out.

Full marks are rarely scored so... if you’re feeling a bit stuck, there’s still everything to play for. Send me what you've got anyway.

Hope you enjoy playing and, above all, have fun.

1. You received a new chauffeur for coming first place in that competition.

2. A laboratory test to see if a ringing object can knock you out.

3. I didn’t lose the red back for the lady.

4. You’d be one of these if you were taking the toddler out for a spin.

5. The examination of the religious ending of a British drink is medically assaulted for the thousandth time.

6. Jazz trumpeter wears head gear for the satellite of the apiarist's favourite spread.

7. Your audible, sorrowful breath is covered in hair!

8. Drowned swimming location.

9. Finally, a double consonant for an emasculated Clark Kent.

10. It’s almost a mixed up kangaroo, if you let it defrost.

11. Tab back personified... but not quite a Hobbit.

12. I happen to be a foot.

13. Noah’s 4th vessel comes complete with urban environment.

14. No, I see... this gent is made with the opposite of it’s literal meaning.

15. Cunning but why is it a mix of red and green?

16. A cloned feline.

17. She is the pun!

18. Mutilated drone makes a bad guy.

19. 54A

20. I wish I was dead.

21. A very quiet Lord Of The Rings species makes a hasty retreat.

22. Saw her feller.

23. Journal for you to keep track of the misplaced young lady.

24. Prejudiced against a villanous fantasy race no longer.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Star Wars Episode VIII - The Last Jedi



Kylo And Stitched

Star Wars Episode VIII - The Last Jedi
2017 USA Directed by Rian Johnson
UK cinema release print.


Warning: I’m not even going to attempt to write a spoiler free review of this movie because I believe to do so would remove any elements worth talking about in a series of films which have gone on this long. So... yeah... spoilers right from the outset. If you don’t want to know then don’t read. You have been warned.

Okay... so The Last Jedi, the latest film in the Star Wars franchise, is not what I was expecting. Which is not necessarily a bad thing at all except... I was kinda expecting something a little more lively and satisfying, truth be told. I actually really like Rian Johnson’s work as a director (especially Brick) and this is not a terrible film, by any means. There are some truly nice moments in here but there are also a fair few things that got the blood boiling and, neither of those sets of issues has anything to do with my main takeaway from this movie which... I’ll get to a little later.

Okay... so let me highlight the good stuff here first.

The performances were all pretty good although, after she was so good in The Force Awakens, I was kinda left with the feeling that the wonderful Daisy Ridley didn’t really get too much of an opportunity to shine here as she could have been given. That’s okay, though... I suspect the next movie will really need her to carry things so it’ll be an interesting role progression for her, I think.

Mark Hamill was truly excellent. I know he was critical of the direction in which they’ve taken Luke but, given the ‘history’ of events as we know them to have depressingly panned out from the previous chapter, it actually makes a lot of sense. And, as it happens, the Luke Skywalker who has a ‘visitation’ to help out the rebels at the end is now very much the old Luke who is played just as he was in Return Of The Jedi and also... and I think some people may have missed this or just not had time to process the information as yet... now very much believing in the spirit of the Jedi again after the events at the temple burning scene, where Yoda basically finishes what Luke went there to start.

And then we have Kylo Ren... I didn’t know who Adam Driver was before the previous film and I initially hated both his performance in The Force Awakens and, as it happens, the character. However, after having seen him in a few other things and understanding just how great an actor he truly is, I’ve looked back on that last Star Wars role and found there was more going on there than I had previously realised. The pay off to the character comes in this film, where Driver gives a superb performance and the character he plays almost but, not quite, redeems himself in a truly appallingly telegraphed moment where you know he is going to kill the ultimate bad guy, Snoke. However, the punchline to that is, where he appears to shift allegiances, he just creates a new villain by inheriting the mantle, kind of, of Snoke. And he’s finally got rid of that silly helmet in this one so... that’s a good move too, I think.

Okay, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Kelly Marie Tran were all good in their roles but their story line felt a bit like it was made up to take out time... just something to do while we kept cutting back to the real character work going on elsewhere in the film. I think Isaac, especially, was very much short changed in his part of the movie where he just felt like a second-hand Starbuck from the 1970s incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, to be honest. I’m wondering just where the heck they are going to go with this character in the concluding chapter of this final trilogy.

Carrie Fisher, though, was very good here and she also gets to ‘use the Force’ in a way we’ve not seen before. It was a nice performance and it was a shame it was relegated to one of the story strands, such as they were, that I was least interested in because... it just all felt like it was filler, to be honest. Although, I have to admit, I think the comedy in this one works very well and I especially, for instance, loved the moment when Chewbacca is trying to eat a Porg. That was nicely done, like many scenes here.

My last good thing was the music by the great John Williams. I need to hear some of it in isolation but it was a beautiful and appropriate score. That being said, I don’t think it was anywhere near as great as his work on The Force Awakens (and I’m only saying this after one viewing so I might change my mind here). It did feel kinda like a ‘greatest hits’ album in some ways and, though I certainly admired the way he was able to catch some of the orchestrational style of the very first film in some of the new music here (especially in the quieter and reflective moments of the story), there were some things I found questionable. For example, unless it was the speakers in the cinema I saw this one in (ODEON Leicester Square in London), the main title crawl seemed somehow a bit clunkier than some of the versions we’ve had over the years. Also, I couldn’t work out why the piece of music directly following that over the first shots of the film was pretty much the dead spit of the equivalent musical moment in the very first movie. I think this is the first time the post-crawl intro has been, effectively, repeated in a Star Wars movie. Also, the cue from the very first film originally known as Ben’s Death And TIE Fighter Attack is used here and it seems to have become a leitmotif building block for the Millennium Falcon in these new films... which is interesting but puzzling since it was used in a scene in Return Of The Jedi in an entirely different context during the sail barge rescue (although, admittedly, it’s use in that sequence was an alternate rescore from what Williams had originally written for it). Also, the thematic hits seemed less subtle and more ‘in your face’ on this one. The moment where it suddenly goes into the Luke And Leia theme from Return Of The Jedi and then quickly transforms itself into the Han And Leia motif made me frown at one point.

Okay... so that’s the, mostly, good stuff. Onto the not so good stuff...

If you’re going to have a Force manifestation give Princess Leia some ‘dice’ from the Millenium Falcon as a remembrance of Han then... well, they’re going to disappear pretty quickly and are not much of a remembrance at all, are they? They’ll just wink out of existence pretty soon. Not cool.

The big fight scene with Rey and Ren fighting back to back was a truly nice beat or the film but the choreography seemed a lot less interesting than some of the sabre fight choreography in the previous films. It almost seemed like the two actors were either not capable of doing a more challenging choreography and the camera was just cutting from shot to shot to make it feel like there was more going on or... the editing was just plain bad and hurt the scene in general, perhaps? I don’t know which, if either, of those conclusions is correct but I found stuff like the Darth Maul battle in The Phantom Menace to be much more exciting.

Also, a lot of the intriguing set ups like Rey's 'classified' status and the way Luke's original light sabre was recovered were either solidly turned into an anti-climactic red herring or just plainly ignored. I felt betrayed by the direction this film took after investing emotionally in those kinds of elements, to be honest. I also found it kinda weird that, after so many episodes, Luke uses the throw away term 'laser sword' instead of light sabre. Star Wars fans have been correcting casual viewers' use of that term since 1977 so it kinda felt like a sharp jab in the face, to be honest.

The timelines also didn’t make sense but that’s not necessarily the director's fault. He presumably wanted to open on an action set piece and he did (a particularly non-interesting one, as far as I’m concerned) but that scene seemed to be taking place weeks after the end of The Force Awakens... we then cut back to Rey confronting Luke at the end of that film and... it just didn’t make sense. I met a friend who had just come out of the screening before I saw the next performance and he made a comment about the timeline that seemed a lot more critical of it than something I would say (although he liked the movie a lot more than I did, to be fair) but I think the problem was that, as far as I’m concerned, the last chapter should have finished with Rey flying off in the Falcon. Luke really didn’t belong in that last installment, I think. I understand that J. J. Abrams may have got lynched by fans if he hadn’t put Hamill into it but... no, I just don’t think that helped the art of the story line and this movie is kind of left trying to work around that decision. I don’t think it works it out too well.

One last thing...

Finn was wounded at the end of The Force Awakens. So in that relatively long period of, what, a day or so after the final battle, it makes sense that his two best friends Poe and Rey would have visited him in hospital. And they certainly would have come into contact with each other in the room with the map reveal by R2 and BB8... so why are we being asked to believe that Poe and Rey are only just laying eyes on each other at the end of this one. That makes no sense and really stretches the credibility of the film more than a lot of the other bad stuff here, I would say.

Now all of this and the next thing I’m gong to say is going to come with a caveat that I learned when I first saw and reviewed The Force Awakens. I hated that film when I first saw it but, as soon as I saw it a second time, I really loved it. Now that didn’t happen to me with Rogue One (which I still think is a fairly weak film) but it has happened with other films too (Avengers - Age Of Ultron, La La Land, Ant Man) and so there’s a good chance that this one will grow on me very quickly. As it is, though, I’ll get onto my main take away from this one which is... it just felt like a very dull, slow film and I felt the same thing with Attack Of The Clones when that was released. I’m more used to my Star Wars movies moving from one scene to the next at a blistering pace, just like the old 1930s serials they aspire to be... but I found myself getting really bored with this one. Again, that will hopefully change on my second viewing where I hope I will appreciate things a little more but, for now, that’s how I felt about this one. If I was going to recommend a jumping on point for any Star Wars first time watchers it certainly wouldn’t be The Last Jedi and, as it happens, without knowing the back story here you’d probably be lost anyway. Not my favourite of the Star Wars saga, that’s for sure but... not my least favourite either.


Star Wars at NUTS4R2

 Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 

Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones

Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith 

Solo

Rogue One 

Episode 4: A New Hope

Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Episode 6: Return Of The Jedi 

Episode 7: The Force Awakens 

Episode 8:  The Last Jedi