Solo – a Star Wars Story


Viewed – 20 November 2018. Online rental

I was disappointed and somewhat annoyed by The Last Jedi, so like many others I suddenly felt cautious about a Star Wars movie the same way I’d felt cautious going to see Revenge of the Sith. This spin-off gives us an ‘early years’ snapshot of none other than Han Solo, which I’ll admit was an intriguing idea. Solo (a perfect Alden Ehrenreich) is from the off a likeable rogue who unwittingly gets signed up for the imperial infantry after getting separated from his love interest in the shape of Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke. However once amongst a rag tag group of soldiers he teams up with Woody Harrelson’s smuggler and also makes a new, hairy friend.

Directed by Ron Howard this is immediately entertaining and slickly made. It starts off energetically and barely lets up, with a sharp script that throws in several nods to the classic franchise as well as introducing us to a fun, twist filled caper. The banter between the characters is great, and I especially enjoyed the new droid L3, and how she’s a sort-of girlfriend to notorious womaniser Lando Calrissian! That train sequence is first rate also. However with a focus on smugglers and thieves and not so much the empire or any sort of rebellion, this has a different vibe than what we’ve seen before. The plot for what it is is simple though and the transporting of a valuable item from one group of people to another is only their to bring certain characters together. Yet the origins of the Millennium Falcon and some of Han’s boasted escapades (the kessel run?) was certainly fun to see play out.

A final twist proves overly confusing (unless you have indulged in any of the expanded universe), and Emilia Clarke is surprisingly bland. Thankfully then, this still nails it where it counts … adding its own flavour whilst managing to retain the feel of what a Star Wars movie should be.

Verdict: 4 /5

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Moana


Viewed – 20 January 2018  DVD

It seems there’s so many animated movies these days, its hard to keep up and I’ll admit I’ve missed out on a few big titles.  However I managed to get hold of this recent Disney offering and although knowing little about it, rarely does the house of mouse let me down.  Moana, the only daughter of a tribe living on a peaceful tropical island finds herself setting out on a journey to find the once-mighty demigod Maui, who her people believe has cursed their oceans after a sacred stone was stolen from a far off island.

Moana

This plays very much on Disney tradition; the princess yearning for a life beyond her palace (island) who has to go on a journey of self discovery and finally believe in herself to overcome impossible odds.  It’s incredibly clichéd which holds this back a little despite plenty of action and songs.  For a musical we do get some enjoyable numbers (stand out: ‘You’re welcome’) and characters are full of personality thanks to some excellent animation.  Dwayne ‘the rock’ Johnson especially stands out as Maui.  The movie also looks gorgeous too as is expected these days, even if like most CGI it lacks a little artistry.  So what does it have we haven’t seen before?  Not much but it’s often funny and frequently exciting and leads to a solid, feel good ending that still left me satisfied.

Disney played it safe here but it’s still near impossible not to find something to enjoy when it’s done so slickly.  Not essential, but worth a watch if you’re a Disney fan, otherwise there’s more unique animated movies out there.

Verdict:  3 /5

Top Ten Movies 2016


I watched a lot of movies this year.  I watched a lot of very good movies.  I also watched a few bad ones and several disappointing ones.  But the list below, in descending order compiles the movies that had the greatest impact on me during 2016.  A few may have actually been theatrically released prior to 2016 but I didn’t get to see them until this year.

10.

Zootropolis

Zootropolis

‘Disney does it again with very likeable characters, gorgeous animation and a fun, exciting story with plenty of great moments’

9.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Shane Black writes and directs the spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the result is every bit as good as that sounds’

8.

The Witch

The Witch

‘One of the more original and genuinely disturbing horror movies of the year’

7.

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

‘It shouldn’t work but oh boy … does it.  Disney deliver a remake that really impresses’

6.

X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse

‘Underrated comic book entertainment and for me, the best X-Men movie since X2’

5.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

‘The biopic of the controversial rap pioneers proves more emotional than I expected’

4.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

‘A spin off movie every bit as good as the famed saga?  Oh yes and then some!’

3.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Alejandro G. Iñárritu delivers a powerhouse man vs nature survival epic that breaks as many hearts as it does DiCaprio’s bones’

2.

Sing Street

Sing Street

‘Feel good coming-of-age drama with great music, great characters and great performances’

1.

The Martian

The Martian

‘Ridley Scott proves without a doubt that he’s still got it and delivers a powerful, funny, breath-taking sci-fi drama with genuine heart’

A few almost as deserving ‘honourable mentions’ include:

When Marnie Was There

Arrival

Captain America: Civil War

It’s been another great year for movies and I am already looking forward to what 2017 has in store.  Happy New Year everyone and hoping next year is good to you all.

Craig.

Happy birthday to me!


Well I’m a bit late with this…what can I say I’ve been having a good time and er…life.  Anyway, it was my birthday on Tuesday 14 November.  I usually post something to mark the occasion although before anyone get’s too excited it’s a regular birthday so no repeat of last year’s London trip / go see my fave band in concert…just at home, family, prezzies and a take away.  This year to celebrate turning 41 (I know…I can’t believe it either)… I got Watchdogs 2 in a limited edition steel book, as well as the limited edition ‘crystal’ variant of the official Dualshock 4 PlayStation 4 controller.  I also got some money and vouchers, some of which I put to use buying a couple of Blu-rays, namely The Huntsman: Winters War and the new live action version of The Jungle Book (review to follow).  Overall had a great day and my thanks and best wishes go out to my friends and family.

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Zootropolis


Viewed – 06 August 2016  Blu-ray

I struggle reviewing animated movies, now more than ever it seems as I absolutely love all aspects of animation and in recent years we seem to have been absolutely spoilt.  So it’d be easy to automatically praise and gush over a big name animated movie, but my job here is not to do that despite my slight bias and tell you people straight…so I’ll try my best.

zootropolis

Zootropolis (aka Zootopia) is set in a sort of alternative reality where animals have evolved into living like humans, having jobs, going to work etc … and one such animal, a rabbit called Judy Hopps has dreamt all of her life of being a Police Officer.  Soon she’s defying her unassuming, safe-living parents and attending Police Academy.  There she wows her instructors until she gets a job at the ZPD over in the city of Zootropolis.  However being a rabbit, Judy’s quickly met with prejudice from cops more thought to be tigers, rhinoceroses or elephants.  However whilst battling said prejudices Judy befriends a cunning, street-wise Fox who faces similar problems.

ZOOTOPIAThe first thing to be said about this one is that it’s a solid concept, somewhat borrowed from Monsters Inc. as far as it’s blue-collar workers world is concerned, but is presented imaginatively with some great in-jokes and colourful characters.  The city itself also has a great sense of place, with various distinct districts.  The movie aswell looks gorgeous, incredibly colourful and full of little details – nothing unusual for Disney these days, but this is certainly one of the best looking movie’s you can watch right now.   The character of Judy is somewhat clichéd however … all boundless enthusiasm that’s soon brought crashing down to earth and then having to typically prove herself.  Also that message of prejudice and racism is hammered home a bit too thick at times, and could have done with a little subtlety.  It also isn’t as funny as I’d have hoped, going for more of an action and character piece, but with sly Fox Nick Wild this movie at least finds it’s secret sauce and he’s a character I’d sure like to see more of.  So another solid effort from Disney and another top-drawer animated feature to go check out.  This one had a little more going for it than your typical Disney Princess fair, but despite lacking the heart of say… Inside Out I still had a great time.

Verdict:  4 /5