Tagged: Film

Film: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

rogueone_poster

When the last Star Wars film – The Force Awakens – was released I wrote this in my review:

It achieves its basic requirement: putting down firm foundations for the several more Star Wars films and spin offs that will be coming our way over the next few years.

I enjoyed the spectacle but I thought the plot was a re-run of previous films:

Don’t expect miracles from the plot – once things get going you do get a real sense of déja-vu.  This is the third time part of this story line has been used in the Star Wars films.  You’d think that the bad guys would have a bit more imagination by now.

Rogue One is the first of a number of spin-off movies, including one due next year that currently goes by the name of “the untitled Han Solo Star Wars movie”.

I’d heard this film was good, as in “it’s good for a spin off”, but I really enjoyed it.  It looks great, it keeps the action flowing and the music clearly takes its cues from the original scores but builds on them well.  It is definitely part of the Star Wars universe.

Most importantly it has a plot. The events of the film provide background to the original Star Wars film and effectively explain that film’s title “A New Hope”.  It’s great to get some new revelations.

If all the Star Wars spin-off “stories” are as good as this one then it bodes well for the future.

 

 

Film: The Revenant

revenant_movie_poster

After being attacked by a bear, a man is left for dead.  He survives, driven by the desire for revenge.

Unflinchingly violent, achingly beautiful, this deserves to be seen on a big screen.

 

Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

I managed to go into the new Star Wars film without having seen anything apart from the very first trailer and having heard nothing about the plot.  I keep hearing that the film is making serious amounts of money and I’m not surprised – I saw the film a couple of weeks after release and the 9am weekday showing I went to was at least 3/4 full.  My local cinema still has 29 showings a day…

Expectations are very high for this film and for the most part it manages to meet them.  This is easily the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back (although some may say that the competition is not up to much…).  The film goes back to the “beat-up” universe of the original trilogy and it looks great – even though I only saw it in 2D. It achieves its basic requirement: putting down firm foundations for the several more Star Wars films and spin offs that will be coming our way over the next few years.

The new cast members are good and they bring a good dose of humour to the story even if their characters are not fully fleshed out.  It’s good to see the old-timers back on the screen.

Don’t expect miracles from the plot – once things get going you do get a real sense of déja-vu.  This is the third time part of this story line has been used in the Star Wars films.  You’d think that the bad guys would have a bit more imagination by now.  That’s not to say that the story doesn’t have its killer twists.

This is a great film.  You cannot deny that there is still a certain magic when the film starts, the yellow plot synopsis disappearing into the far reaches of space whilst the main title music blasts out.  Experiencing that on a big screen still gives me the tingles…

Film: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies (IMAX 3D 48 frames per second HFR version)

The-Hobbit-3

I wasn’t convinced when they first announced that The Hobbit would be a trilogy – I thought that the size of the book warranted two films at most.  Then I saw the hugely impressive showdown with the dragon at the end of the second film “The Desolation of Smaug” and appreciated what could be achieved with the extra time.

The extra time also buys us this experience.  This film is basically a two hour battle – men and dwarves and elves and orcs and eagles in one massive military set-piece that never flags or lets up. It’s been a long time since I read the book but I don’t remember it being like this.

I went to see the “full fat” version of the film – the IMAX 3D 48 frames per second HFR version.  In my reviews of the previous films I commented on the visual effect of the 48 frames per second.  It ruined the first film for me and worked better in the second film.  I’m still not completely sold on the effect, and it stands out here on occasion, but I largely forgot about it this time round.  Having said that, there is a real feeling of being close to the action.

This is a worthy end to the trilogy and – along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy – a spectacular achievement for Peter Jackson, the director.  Those of us who have seen all the films as they have been released have been on a cinematic journey, one that has taken us (in the words of the original title for this film) “There and Back Again”.

• Spare Cycles: Film: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (3D 48 frames per second HFR version)

• Spare Cycles: Film: The Hobbit -The Desolation of Smaug (IMAX 3D 48 frames per second HFR version)

Film mini review: Interstellar

intersellar_poster

A few points:

I’ve enjoyed several of Christopher Nolan’s previous films and was really looking forward to seeing this, especially on a big screen.

It looks good on a big screen, but it does not look amazing.  I was expecting amazing.

It starts off slowly.  It has a story to tell and is in no rush to tell it – it clocks in at just under 3 hours.  This is pitched as sci-fi blockbuster but is more space opera.  There’s nothing wrong with that but I went in having purposefully avoided seeing trailers or reading anything about the film and I did not get what I was expecting.

The sound sometimes overpowers some of the dialogue.  I thought it might be just my screening but it appears that others had the same problem.  I also felt that the soundtrack was trying too hard to manipulate your emotions.

Apart from that, I left the cinema thinking it was a good film and I enjoyed the story even if I did not totally understand it.

 

• The Guardian:  Interstellar review – if it’s spectacle you want, this delivers

• New York Times:  Off to the Stars, With Grief, Dread and Regret

• The Guardian:  Interstellar articles

• The Guardian:  Christopher Nolan releases Interstellar comic prequel

• Alternative Interstellar posters: part one / part two

Mini review: “Horse Under Water” by Len Deighton (audiobook version)

huw

I just happened to check Audible a day after this was released and snapped it up immediately.  I love the idea that Len Deighton’s work has been reissued and new audiobooks are being made of them.  The IPCRESS File is also new as an audiobook – I’ll pick that up at some point.

I’m not a big fan of Deighton’s “unnamed spy” / “Harry Palmer” series of books – so far none has blown me away.  I’m reading them out of order but that is not the problem – they’re just not up to the same standard as his other work.

Horse Under Water is easily the best so far.  Some of the dialogue is just brilliant, at times very funny.  The book is not without its faults – it can be a bit confusing and is saved by the fact that it likes the characters to give big, clear explanations of the recent plot at convenient intervals.

Another good thing is that the audiobook is truly unabridged – it contains readings of the appendices and the author’s note (it’s a shame that the author could not read this himself.)

The narrator does a good job overall, with a wide range of accents.  His main character sounds just like Michael Caine, which is not a surprise.  The narration is a good match for the text, which is reassuring –  a while back I tried listening to the audio version of Bomber (another Deighton story) and was put off by the narration. There are a lot of characters in that book and it needed a cast of narrators rather than just the one.  No such problems here, although this is a much simpler story.

If you want to check out this series, this is a good place to start.

Also see on Spare Cycles:

Len Deighton books

• Funeral in Berlin (film)

Billion Dollar Brain

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Spy