Cowboys and Aliens

Viewed – 19 January 2016  Netflix

Cowboys-and-Aliens-I haven’t a clue what’s taken me so long to get around to seeing this quirky-concept action adventure starring Daniel Craig as a mysterious stranger who wakes up in the wilderness with a strange device on his wrist.  Soon he attracts the attention of local shady big shot Harrison Ford who’s trouble-making son gets into a spot of bother with Craig.  Yet the two gunslinger’s problems are only just beginning when a race of aliens invade and begin abducting the locals.

It’s a solid idea and in the hands of Iron Man director John Favrau it’s fast and mostly fun, even if the pairing of the mumbling, serious Craig and the mumbling serious Ford grates a little (where’s the comedy side-kick?).  Thankfully we do get the lovely, if bland Olivia Wild (Tron Legacy) on hand as a mysterious beauty who seems to know Craig’s character even though Craig himself has amnesia.


The aliens however are horribly typical fair and not interesting; their big plan to steal gold woefully under-explored.  Yet the effects are decent, and with a great flying space crafts verses cowboys (and Indians) on horseback sequence, the action proved thrilling at times.  We also get some enjoyable supporting characters including a wimpy bar tender played by Sam Rockwell.  Yet for such a cool idea, I’d have liked this to be a bit more tongue in cheek, and could have done with better western-themed atmosphere other than the setting and failed to go anywhere I wasn’t expecting it to.  Probably the reason the movie wasn’t all that talked about after it’s initial release.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Star Wars: Episode VII

Viewed – 22 December 2015  Cinema

The Force Awakens

So much will already have been said, written and tweeted regarding this much hyped and highly anticipated seventh episode in the once beloved saga, that my opinion will matter little … but hear me out because to say I have been looking forward to this movie all year, is an understatement.  It’s one of those movies that surely can’t meet the giddy expectations I and many others have bestowed upon it or recapture that wonder and magic I felt on seeing the classic trilogy as a child.  Or can it?


The story follows primarily two characters, that of storm trooper Fin (John Boyega) who has a moment of uncertainty that causes him to flee the first order (the new evil villains in place of the empire), and that of scavenger farm girl Rey (Daisy Ridley – a fantastic find).  The two unwittingly get thrown together and stumble upon wonderfully cute and attitude-filled droid, bb-8 who has a map that could lead to an in-hiding Luke Skywalker’s location.  New bad guy Kylo Ren is searching for him to prevent any possibility of the Jedi’s turning up and wrecking his plans for galactic domination.  Along the way the two would-be heroes find help from two familiar faces, namely Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca.

StarWarsTFA2Now let it be said this movie plays heavy homage to the original three movies, especially the first 1977 classic, with clever in-jokes, subtle nods and a few plot similarities.  However it also manages to sprinkle the old with many fresh ideas of it’s own and with a script that has clearly been written with genuine care for it’s characters whilst ensuring it all feels like a Star Wars movie, I came away from this very impressed indeed.  New faces Fin & Rey do a perfect job of giving us someone new and interesting to invest our time in whilst leaving them mysterious enough to build on in later sequels.  Han Solo, Chewbacca and (formerly Princess now General) Leia (Carrie Fisher) all feel vital to the plot also, with Han especially helping drive the story alongside his younger co-stars.  Add to this a villain with real depth in the shape of Darth Vader-wannabe Kylo Ren and all the ingredients are in place.  Director J J Abrams has done a stellar job, capturing the correct feel and tone and also filling the movie with spectacular action, yet making sure there was all the depth and believable characterisation that had been (for the most part) missing from the prequels.


I’ll add a few nit picks that are simply that, as this is a movie that does nearly everything right and fixes many issues the prequels (and to an extent) even the original trilogy had – but Supreme Leader Snoke just wasn’t very scary or intimidating and just looked like an out-dated CGI effect (made all the more jarring considering the movie’s otherwise reliance on practical effects).  Also, considering the hype surrounding Kylo Ren’s bad-ass three-pronged light sabre in the trailers; this guy is wielding it every chance he gets (even during a couple of tantrums) and so the build up to him actually using it in a duel is watered down due to over-exposure.  Also the many nods to A New Hope are a bit too blatant at times (and did we really need another death star?).

But … like I said small things in what is easily the best movie in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back.   The Force truly has awakened.

Verdict:  5 /5

Star Wars: Episode VI

Viewed – 25 October 2011  Blu-ray

Return Of The Jedi

Growing up, this was always my favourite of the original trilogy.  Looking back I wonder why.  Perhaps with less mature eyes I was taken by some of it’s more playful, childish stylings, and to be fair, it delivers where it counts.  Something about it is still very cool too.  But with a fresh perspective, and with the full knowledge of the entire saga behind it, just how well does the final curtain call for George Lucas’ famed fantasy really fair?

The rebels are planning an elaborate attack of an unfinished second Death Star, whilst Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca etc set forth to rescue their friend Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from the clutches of slimy gangster Jabba The Hut on Tatooine.  Yet Luke’s recent revelations about Vader pull him toward one final confrontation, and the dark side will prove its greatest temptation yet.

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Star Wars: Episode V

Viewed  – 21 October 2011  Blu-ray

The Empire Strikes Back

When I was young, discovering these movies for the first time, ‘Empire was not my favourite.  I actually remember loving Return Of The Jedi most.  But I suppose with more mature eyes I have grown to appreciate just why this fifth instalment in the saga is regarded by so many as the best.  The rebels are hiding out on the ice planet of Hoth whilst evil lord Darth Vader is searching the galaxy for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) following the destruction of the Death Star.  Luke is then told by the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) that he must seek out Yoda in order to be trained to become a Jedi.

Almost from the start, this is a movie that flows brilliantly and is very exciting.  Battle sequences and locations burst with imagination and awe (the Imperial Walker assault especially), and unlike A New Hope at no time has George Lucas’ unnecessary tinkering made the movie anything less than it originally was.  The acting here is particularly strong and the chemistry between Carrie Fisher & Harrison Ford can not be questioned and lends the movie much of its emotional weight.  Add to this a sterling job from Mark Hamill especially during his confrontation with Vader, and this makes for a movie that is really hard to fault.

Story-wise it does suffer from that in-between feel of any trilogy, and as a plot point, just how Vader even knows about Luke Skywalker is not explained.  Also compared to A New Hope this feels a much more serious and straight forward sci-fi melodrama than that of a light and fluffy fantasy.   It’s perhaps the reason I didn’t take to it as a child.  Yet I can now see that it really does have everything … grand action, great acting, a gripping story and well placed moments of humour and emotion – a genuine masterpiece.

The Blu-ray is a revelation.  This is possibly the best looking Star Wars movie in the saga, and unquestionably ‘Empire has never looked this vibrant or detailed before … showcasing the excellent set design and gorgeous cinematography.  Watching this feels like you are watching it projected in a theatre for the very first time.  Yes, there’s moments of softness to the picture, but overall this is top notch.  The same can be said for the sound design, with the dialogue especially clear compared to A New Hope and effects and John WIlliams’ score are all delivered brilliantly.  Extras consist of deleted scenes, interviews and plenty of concept art, all on a seperate disk, whilst two commentaries, one by Lucas and co, the other compiled from archive interviews, make this a brilliant package.

Verdict:  5 /5