The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

Last Jedi Poster.jpg

Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Free Fire

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Ben Wheatley

Executive producer: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Arnie Hammer, Ben Wheatley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Michael Smiley, Noah Taylor, & Sharlto Copley

Free Fire is one long Mexican stand-off between gun smugglers and I.R.A. members after a deal goes south. Trapped together in the confines of a disused factory upon the dilapidated waterfront of 1970’s Boston, Free Fire is a more refined version of Reservoir Dogs. Laced with humour, especially from South African gun smuggler Vernon (Sharlto Copley), Free Fire is a refreshing romp that other action films could learn from. Ben Wheatley delivers a brilliant action film which does not attempt to be overly serious or complex.

By sporting such a large cast including well-known and recognisable actors, Free Fire risked becoming filled with half-developed characters acting as padding for the plot. Yet Free Fire’s setting of a locked room is the film’s biggest strength. It focuses our attention towards the battle to survive, leaving only a few brief pauses where we learn about the many characters through interactions and scraps of dialogue. Given the backdrop, the characters feel real as they squabble, try to outsmart their opponents, or simply survive.

Having been a fan of Ben Wheatley since A Field in England, it seems that pitting characters in a closed environment is becoming one of Wheatley’s tropes.

The action stands out in Free Fire. Instead of being a slick set of choreographed scenes, characters fire haphazardly and nervously as they scramble for cover, while bullets ricochet off the walls. No one is smoothly despatched in the film. Every character suffers injury upon injury which adds to the film’s dark humour. Nor is the film purely focused around the action. Subplots of romance, betrayal and rivalry quickly emerge between characters before and in between the shooting.

The cast all deliver great performances, but Sharlto Copley, as bumbling and arrogant South African gun runner Vernon, steals the show. Arnie Hammer (Ord) was a suprising favourite due to his rivalry with hardened IRA member Frank (Michael Smiley). Although Free Fire is an action-comedy which has no main character, there is no competition between the cast to be the comic relief, as each character has their own moment to shine.

There are a few moments near the end, where Free Fire‘s pace begins to falter, but otherwise this an enjoyable film.

Free Fire is a great film that you should go see while it is in the cinema.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

All Eyez on Me (2017) – Teaser

Outlook: Exciting, but uncertain

Director: Benny Boom

Cast: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Dominic L. Santana, & Jamal Woolard

I’m a huge Tupac fan, and I’ve been hankering for a movie focusing on the legend ever since Straight Outta Compton. This trailer paints a very exciting picture, but everyone involved with the project is largely untested. Director Benny Boom best known movies are B knockoffs like S.W.A.T.: Firefight and Next Day Air. The best thing he has going for him are his music video credits that include 50 Cent’s “Just a Lil Bit” and Ciara’s “1, 2 Step.” In other words, he understands the hip-hop community well. My other reservations include the cast. All Eyez on Me is Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s first movie and while he is Tupac’s doppelganger, that doesn’t guarantee an accurate or convincing portrayal of Tupac.

I’ll still happily go see it. I loved 2009’s Notorious that critics gave a middling 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. Us critics aren’t always right, so don’t take my words too seriously. Enjoy the trailer and I’ll let you know in June whether my fears are warranted.

Kong: Skull Island 

Kong: Skull Island  is an unimaginative soft reboot of the King Kong franchise, which squanders its interesting context and becomes a cheap counterfeit of Apocalypse Now.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars (Average)

Cast: John Goodman, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John C. Reilly and more

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

I have never been a fan of monster films. If I wanted to spend my money watching a fight, I would buy boxing tickets. I was hoping that Kong: Skull Island might be more than a monster brawl, and stray towards a Cloverfield-esque plot, but it didn’t.

Kong: Skull Island  begins with an interesting premise by taking the main arc of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountain of Madness and placing it in the Nixon era. The result is a backdrop of paranoia and Cold War politics where the danger of hidden knowledge, embodied by Skull Island, the land where King Kong dwells, is the doom of the expedition. Kong quickly fails to fulfill any of the potential it establishes, and becomes a generic monster film aimed at families which is clearly the first product in a larger franchise chain. Skull Island’s tropical setting and its ethereal human society, led by downed World War Two pilot, Hank Marlowe, whose name is clear reference to Heart of Darkness, both borrow from Apocalypse Now.

These references soon proliferate, devolving the film from a quasi-homage to an outright counterfeiting of Apocalypse Now, with the helicopter scene shown in the Kong: Skull Island trailer mimicking the ride of the Valkyries scene, replete with a speaker system attached to one helicopters blaring out Wagner while bombs fall on the jungle below. The plot itself is an obvious set of events leading up to a big finale which is made glaringly obvious by the main characters, who are two dimensional signposts for the plot. The worst of all the cast has to be Colonel Packard, portrayed by the venerable Samuel. L. Jackson. Even Jackson cannot save a character whose existence is to warm up Kong for the big fight, despite Packard’s repeated quips that he will not lose another war, just like Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. James Conrad, the steeled former S.A.S. tracker who joins the expedition for money,  is Tom Hiddleston’s best Bear Grylls impression, which is best summarised as Grylls without the thrills.

Kong’s only saving grace is Hank Marlowe. John. C. Reilly channels a part of Steve Brule, creating a character who is both comical but oddly human. Unhinged by his experiences on the Island, he is wise to the dangers all around them, but sweetly naive about the outside world he longs to see again after thirty years. Upon the film’s end, I do hope they make a prequel revolving around Marlowe’s life on the Island which could blend Castaway with Jurassic Park.

To Jordan Vogt- Roberts’ credit, certain scenes, particularly the earlier battle scenes and initial encounters with the island and its ecology, were very well done. Other sections felt hackneyed and lazily done, with hardened photo-journalist Mason Weaver occasionally becoming a snap-happy tourist, despite the terrors they have endured.

Kong: Skull Island will soon become a steadfast favourite for families on Sunday afternoon T.V. and nothing else.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

 

Life

Life is another addition to the sci-fi, creature feature/suspense category. The film begins with with a team aboard the International Space Station waiting to receive a probe carrying sediment samples from Mars. The team soon discovers that the samples carry a dormant, single-cell life form, the first life to be discovered outside of Earth. After introducing the cell to different environments, the team’s lead scientist, Hugh (Ariyon Bakare) awakens the cell and begins to nurture it. After accidentally frightening the alien, known as Calvin, enters survival mode and death ensues.

Movie Score: 2.5 out of 5 (Average) 

 

–Spoilers Ahead–

While Life‘s special effects were breathtaking and often horrifying, I believe the movie’s screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the duo behind the fantastic films Zombieland and Deadpool) missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the dark recesses of humanity. They touched upon certain aspects of our existence: humans feelings of hatred, procreation, love, and unquestioning duty to protect one another. They even rationalized Calvin’s quest to massacre the crew as a survival-of-the-fittest reaction. However, they failed to appropriately address the humans’ survival instinct, leaving a rich topic untouched.

The writers’ first mistake was failing to provide themselves with the right characters to correctly portray life and enter the complex waters of humans’ animalistic survival-instincts. The International Space Station’s crew consisted of a bunch of overly rational, “good people.” CDC doctor, Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson), who lived and died by her adherence to the code of her employer, pilot-come-physician, David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wanted to remain on the ISS and away from Earth, Sho Muraki (Hiroyuki Sananda) who’s wife just had a baby (that’s all we learn about Sho), the scientist Hugh Darry who loved other creatures (he was a good guy with an optimistic outlook despite being a paraplegic), the Russian who was kind, Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya), and Ryan Reynolds’ character Rory Adams who mostly acted like Ryan Reynolds. The writers created no gray characters, people who were willing to put their survival before their crew-mates. I realize there might be one or two “good” people on a crew of six, but lacking at least one selfish guy/gal, who is willing to sacrifice others to escape Calvin, is not only unrealistic, but boring.

Despite eventually realizing they needed to kill Calvin to survive, the crew always seemed to do so without any ethical conundrums. The closest the astronauts came to a dilemma occurred when Calvin first turned hostile in the lab. Despite some self-sacrifices by members of the crew to save the others, I never believed their acts of “love.” Their uniform kindness made them unbelievable as characters because humans are not so pure. We are sinful creatures at heart.

The writers should have created a greedy, evil, sinful character to match Calvin’s ferocity, to overturn all the “goodness” and “humanity” on the International Space Station. For a moment, I thought Sho was going to be that character, but the script never clarified if his attempt to reach the lifeboat was an act of selfishness or stupidity.

In sum,  Life failed to showcase humanity’s darkside, the side that executed the Holocaust, the side that commits terrorism on a daily basis, the side that massacred Native Americans at Wounded Knee. Instead, every crew member lived by their code, played nice, and died nice.

This is not to say the movie didn’t have its moments. In actuality, I enjoyed many parts of the film. I truly relished how Reese and Wernick overturned many of the monster genre’s conventions. For example, they didn’t allow the crew’s minority members to die first. Though the movie’s finish wasn’t unexpected, they managed to add a pleasant twist and resist the happy ending trope. Also, some of the crew’s deaths were quite imaginative, and I dug seeing Calvin’s motivation for murder (survival) grow .

By Hagood Grantham

For the trailer, see below: