Star Wars The Force Awakens Review

Ah, I’ve been putting off doing my review for the new Star Wars movie. Well, here are some random thoughts about it.

image

As its been two weeks since it came out I will discuss the big spoilers so be aware that the big spoilers do follow…

I repeat…

BIG SPOILERS FOLLOW

To be honest I had a very strong suspicion that the story of The Force Awakens was going to mirror episode 4 based on the imagery of the trailers. For example we see a girl on desert planet looking wistfully at spaceship taking off. Then we have Han Solo doing Ben Kenobi duty and telling Rey and Finn about the force. Later we see X-wings attacking an Imperial type installation. Etc, etc, etc…

So I knew that was coming. And pretty much that’s what we got, a retread/remake/homage to the first movie.

Then again I recall that George Lucas did the exact same thing with the climax of Return of the Jedi and produced another convenient Death Star for the Rebels to attack and blow up.

And arguably Episode 1 does the exact same thing with kid Anakin in a Naboo Starfighter attacking the Trade Federation droid control ship to halt the battle on Naboo.

So I was prepared for all that and I found I didn’t mind too much. I do think the makers have done that deliberately in order to ease people into the story arc of the new trilogy and I expect the next two episodes to do something a bit more original.

At least I hope they do…

There was a lot about the movie I did enjoy very much.

Daisy Ridley was wonderful as Rey. The new trilogy is surely going to be about her character. She is the Luke of the new trilogy I think. I do like how they have left some unanswered questions about her, mainly who abandoned her on that desert planet and why. The most obvious explanation is that she is Luke’s daughter and it has something to do with his Jedi academy getting destroyed by former student Ren. Certainly her abilities with the Force add weight to that theory.

I did read some comments online that expressed annoyance that Rey developed her Jedi abilities so quickly. However I actually really liked that aspect of it. Otherwise the makers of the movie would be setting her up to be a Jedi and the audience would be two steps ahead of the story. I liked that her force abilities “awakened” and she was able to do all the Jedi stuff. And the Jedi Mind Trick scene with the Stormtrooper (Daniel Craig?) was great.

At the start of the movie I liked how they introduced Finn. He’s this faceless stormtrooper who sees a fellow trooper die and he gets the bloody handprint on his helmet. What I liked in that scene was even though you could not see his face you could tell by his body language how shocked he was at what the First Order troopers were doing and how reluctant to take part he was. That was very nicely done.

It’s a pity Max Von Sydow wasn’t in the movie for a bit longer. Because, hey, it’s Max Von Sydow. I always loved him in Dune and he was one of the best things in the first Judge Dredd movie. (The other being Diane Lane.) He can do the gravitas.

Early on there’s a shot of Rey sitting on the desert planet. She’s leaning against a big round metal object. Then we get a different higher angle and see it’s the foot of a toppled at-at. I loved that.

There’s a scene where Ray and Finn are running from attacking Tie fighters towards a ship they intend to steal. Finn suggests a ship we don’t see. “That ones garbage,” says Rey. When her first choice is destroyed they have to made do with the garbage. And I just knew it was going to be the Millennium Falcon. I’m sure I detected a little frisson of excitement in the cinema when the Falcon was revealed.

And while I’m on the Falcon, what about that targeting display on the Falcon turbo lasers! It looked exactly the same as it did in episode 4! Imagine if George Lucas was doing that now…

A word on supreme leader Snoke. At first I thought he was an actual giant guy and then of course it turned out to be a hologram. Some folk online are speculating it’s like the Wizard of Oz and he may actually look nothing like that. The rumour is that it’s either Palpatine or Darth Plagueis who I believe was Palpatine’s former master.

The movie had a lot of Han Solo. Clearly the makers wanted their money’s worth from Harrison Ford. And they got it. But the result of this is that the main characters in the movie are Han (and Chewie), Rey and Finn. Leia is hardly in it. And as for Luke…

A week or so before I saw the movie I had inadvertently read a rumoured spoiler that apparently Han Solo was going to die in this movie, more or less mirroring Ben Kenobi’s death in episode 4. That was slightly annoying but in hindsight it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Han exit. Remember, Harrison Ford apparently wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. Quite likely that plot development got him on board the movie.

I felt that the “Death of Han” sequence was well done because it’s got a bit of Greek tragedy going on. Earlier Leia asked Han to try to save their son. (Didn’t I mention, the evil Kylo Ren is actually Ben Solo?) So Han sees Ren in the Starkiller base. He could have escaped but instead he confronts Ren. Ren had been set up as a very conflicted character trying to follow the dark side but having doubts so there’s some nice double-meaning to the dialog spoken as he asks his father for help before killing him.

I do think that Chewie should had gone more berserk though. Like ripping some stormtroopers apart.

While I did enjoy the movie there were a number of things I didn’t like.

First of all I’m not thrilled at how the Starkiller base worked. So, do I have this right… It sucks energy from a star to charge up? Then fires laser beams across the galaxy (one assumes at faster than light speed) and destroys multiple planets? In moments? Huh?

So the first time they fired it at the New Republic worlds did the sun vanish as well? I don’t recall that happening. And then do they have to move the Starkiller base (i.e. planet) to a new star or can it fire to anywhere in the galaxy from the one spot?

No, I don’t like any of that. It’s just =spluttering noise= silly. I could just about accept the Death Star as it would have its own power source and it moves to the planet it is going to destroy.

(Actually I can feel myself about to get annoyed at the use of Warp Speed in the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies so I think I’d better stop now.)

It was also disappointing to only see a glimpse of Luke at the very end, especially as so much of the movie had been about the search for Luke Skywalker. But I think that will pay off with the next movie.

Also, what happened to John Williams? Yes, it was nice to get all the reprises from the Original Trilogy, but I don’t think there was a single new theme that has stuck in my mind. Certainly nothing like the Imperial March.

Surprisingly there are very few new ship designs. The First Order Tie Fighters are just updates of the old design. The same goes for the Resistance X-Wings. Apart from Rey’s Speeder and perhaps Ren’s Shuttle there are surprisingly few memorable designs.

Well, those are my random thoughts on the movie two weeks on. Overall I enjoyed it. It felt like an old-school Star Wars movie with real sets. And there was enough unanswered questions to provide a hook for Episode VIII.

And next up is Rogue One…

Doctor Who Hell Bent Review

Ok, this is it, the grand finale. The Doctor has escaped his imprisonment in the confession dial and is back on Gallifrey.

It turns out that Gallifrey has been hiding in the far future near the end of the universe. Rassilon is still in charge but he doesn’t look like Timothy Dalton any more.

The Doctor goes to that barn that we saw in the 50th anniversary story The Day of the Doctor and last year’s episode Listen. He gets some Gallifreyean bods to side with him and ousts Rassilon.

He then tells the Gallireayan bods that Clara knows about the hybrid. They are so keen to learn about the hybrid that they use a little time door thing to extract Clara out of her time stream just at the moment before her death. This is only a temporary situation as they intend to put Clara back again so they time stream doesn’t get messed up because her death is a fixed point in time.

But of course the whole thing is a ploy by the Doctor to save Clara. It’s why he spent 4.5 billion years in the confession dial. At one point she asks why he wanted to save her so badly. “I had a duty of care,” growls Capladi.

The Doctor and Clara escape the Time Lords in a stolen Tardis. The lovely thing is that the interior of the Tardis is an accurate replica of the William Hartnell Tardis interior. And it looks smashing. It was a real pleasure to spend a good chunk of the episode in that old Tardis console room. Apparently it was repurposed from the one in An Adventure in Space and Time.

It occurs to me that this episode is basically Doctor Who does Star Trek III The Search for Spock. In that movie the crew of the Enterprise were willing to go to any lengths to save their friend from death and so does the Doctor here.

Eventually the Doctor realises that his friendship for Clara has caused him to go to extremely unwise lengths and resolves to wipe her memories of himself. But then he decides to make it more fair and programs the little memory wiping device so it has a 50% chance of wiping his own memory instead.

And that’s what happens. He forgets Clara.

The episode is book-ended with scenes in a diner where Clara is posing as a waitress. She’s doesn’t let on she knows the Doctor and he explains to this apparent stranger that he knows he had adventures with a friend called Clara but not what she looked like or sounded like.

At the end of the episode it is revealed that the diner is the other stolen Tardis and Clara and Arya from Game of Thrones head off for their own adventures.

In a strange way nothing much actually happened in this episode. But it’s not a bad episode at all. It’s fun to finally return to Gallifrey after all this time with the added irony with the Doctor stealing yet another Tardis and running away once again.

I was convinced that Clara would be back.

Added bonus: no Missy.

Doctor Who Heaven Sent Review

image

Ok, that was an interesting episode.

Spoilers follow

The previous episode ended with the Doctor being teleported away by Me (Arya from Game of Thrones). Now we discover his destination is a mysterious clockwork castle with shifting corridors. A menacing shrouded figure follows the Doctor through the castle and the only way to temporally stop the creature is for the Doctor to “confess” something. So it would appear that whoever built the structure wants information from the Doctor.

The Doctor also discovers a skull hooked up to the teleport machine and written in sand the word “bird”. Later we see the skull fall into the water around the castle and it joins countless other identical skulls.

The Doctor sees the stars in the night sky and realises he is 7000 years from the time period he was teleported from. But he’s convinced that he has not time travelled. How is this possible?

He finds a diamond wall in one room and he decides it’s the way out. He starts punching the wall while reciting part of a Brothers Grimm story about a bird that wore away a diamond mountain with its beak. The shrouded creature catches the Doctor and fatally injures him. The Doctor crawls back to the teleporter and uses his body as the energy to rematerialse his younger self as he first appeared in the castle.

And then we discover that this process has been repeating for 7000 years. Indeed we get a montage of the Doctor repeating the loop into the future for thousands, millions, even billions of years. Each time we see him he’s worn away a little more of the diamond wall until eventually he breaks through. On the other side is Gallifrey.

OK, so, wow.

I have to say I picked up on the loop nature of the story early on when the Doctor changed his wet clothes for dry copies of the exact same clothes in front of a fire. He then leaves his wet clothes to dry in the same position as the ones he found. But it still fun seeing the nature of the loop unfold.

Also the montage at the end reveals that the Doctor had become aware of the loop thanks to the “bird” clue he left himself and he will keep wearing away at that diamond wall for as long as it takes.

At one point the Doctor says “I will never ever stop”. I guess he meant it literally.

It’s worth pointing out that the episode features the Doctor totally alone in that castle. There is no one else to talk to or interact with. Well, there’s the shrouded creature but it never speaks. At some points we join the Doctor in an imagined Tardis console room and we do see Clara with her back turned writing on a blackboard. At one point the imagined Clara does speak to the Doctor. But otherwise it’s Peter Capaldi by himself being mesmerising and amazing.

But from a storytelling point of view what’s going on?

It looks like the Doctor has been trapped in his confession dial, an item that we have seen in previous episodes this series. By its design we can see it is obviously Gallifreyan in origin and now we observe it’s clearly bigger on the inside. It would appear that the dial ends up on Gallifrey when the Doctor escapes. But is it before or after the Time War?

There’s also been some guff this series about a “hybrid”. Apparently it’s supposed to be a Time Lord-Dalek hybrid. But at the end of this episode the Doctor dismisses that. Instead he says the hybrid is actually “me”. But does he mean himself?

Keep in mind the uncomfortable line in the 1996 TV move when the Eighth Doctor (played by Paul McGann) claimed he was half human (on his mother’s side).

Or perhaps the Doctor mean’s the character Me, i.e. Arya from Game of Thrones?

Either way we will find out next week in a Gallifrey-flavoured climax.

And I bet Clara is back.

Doctor Who Face the Raven Review

image

Be warned, Big Spoilers follow.

Very quick plot summary. The graffiti artist Rigsy from last year’s Flatline phones up the Tardis to ask for help with this mysterious tattoo he found on his neck which is counting down to zero. The doctor helps him find a secret street in the middle of London where aliens live in disguise. And guess what, Arya from Game of Thrones is in charge of things.

Apparently Rigsy killed some alien woman and the countdown is to his death as a punishment. Along with some contrived memory loss.

It turns out that it’s a trap for the Doctor and Arya was somehow coerced into doing it for someone yet to be revealed. I guess we find out in the next episode and it may or may not be Missy. Yawn.

At one point Clara transfers the tattoo from Rigsy to herself as she’s convinced that Arya won’t let her die.

So basically this is the episode where Clara is toast.

Jenna and Peter were acting their little hearts out over Clara’s impending demise. She made the Doctor promise not to take revenge on the secret alien folk, etc. And then she goes out to die in slow motion. Death by Raven flying into her chest. In slow motion. It took about 23 minutes. Ok, so I exaggerate but it did take ages.

But the point is I didn’t feel any emotion. Because I just was not convinced that she is dead and gone. There are two more episodes left of the season and her departure just felt a bit forced. I’m convinced she will be back in a not-dead capacity.

Now maybe I’m totally wrong. But my point is that while I was watching the episode it’s what I thought. So I felt no emotion. At all.

Otherwise not a bad episode to be sure.

Doctor Who Sleep No More Review

I really don’t have too much to say about this episode.

The story (such as it is) involves the Doctor and Clara arriving on a space station in orbit around Neptune. They encounter some soldiers on a rescue mission who are investigating… something or other.

image

The episode was made in that dreadful gimmicky “found footage” format. Which I pretty much despise. And unusually there were no opening credits.

It was initially quite moody. And it looked like it was going to get interesting when Clara somehow “fell” into a sleep pod thing. There was a nifty little hologram of some girls singing that “Mister Sandman” song that I’ve heard in Back to the Future if my memory is correct.

But that’s as interesting as things got.

So. Get this. Users of the sleep pod things will have the “sleepy dust” (that gathers in the eye) eventually turning into a monster.

Yeah. Right. Seriously.

As the episode went on it just became more boring. I was looking at my watch constantly.

Some people love the episode. Some people hate it. I’m very much in the middle as I really don’t feel strongly enough about it to either love it or hate it. I just don’t particularly care about it.

At least I know that last year’s In the Forest of the Night is an episode that I hate.

This one, I just don’t care. It’s a bit of a mess frankly.

Oh well. At least it was not a two-part episode and hopefully next week’s will be more…. Good.

Doctor Who The Zygon Invasion/Inversion (and That Scene)

I’m not going to go into too much detail about this two parter, The Zygon Invasion and The Zygon Inversion. But it is worth discussing if only for one scene in particular.

Spoilers below.

image

As far as the plot goes this two parter was ok. Basically it worked as a follow-up to a sub plot from the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor where the Doctor(s) helped broker a peace treaty between Earth and some shape-shifting Zygons.

Now two years on there are 20 million Zygons living peacefully on Earth in human disguise. A faction of Zygons don’t want to live under the conditions dictated by the peace treaty and are trying to start a conflict that will drag in all Zygons with the objective of taking over the earth.

Episode 1 had a bit of shape-shifting paranoia. It wasn’t a bad episode at all but there was a lot of faffing around and I felt strangely detached from it. There was a nice reveal at the end where it transpired that Clara had been replaced by the Zygon rebel commander.

But episode 2 on the other hand…

Initially there’s lots of guff featuring the “Osgoods”. Apparently the Osgood character is a “fan favourite”. Whatever.

And then there was some guff about some mysterious “Osgood Box”.

And then we get to the pivotal scene of the episode which was basically Mr Peter Capaldi showing what he can do.

And it was stunning.

INVERSION OF THE ZYGONS (By Peter Harness and Steven Moffat)

In a long ten minute scene that is largely a monologue Capaldi’s Doctor pleads with the Clara Zygon (whom he calls Zygella) and Kate Stewart of UNIT not to start a war. It’s amazing stuff. He’s on fire.

On a table in UNIT’s Black Archive are the Osgood Boxes, two super weapons that Zygella and Kate Stewart are considering activating. At one point Capaldi indicates the weapons and says “this is a scale model of war.” So for me this is forever the “Scale Model of War Speech”.

And it all ties into The Day of the Doctor where during the a Time War the Doctor almost activated The Moment, a Time Lord super weapon that would have wiped out both Gallifrey and the Daleks.

image

My words can’t do justice to Mr Capaldi doing The Acting. It has to be seen.

Simply stunning.

It’s probably the most exciting scene in Doctor Who since the show came back.

Additionally the scene is more powerful because the makers don’t bother playing any music over the top. It’s Capaldi’s performance and the words that make it work. Then they loose their courage and they stick a bit of music in towards the end. But it doesn’t need it.

Mention must also be made of Jenna Coleman who plays the Zygon rebel commander Zygella. The scene also depends on her reactions to Capladi’s performance as he pleads for her to think, “a fancy word for changing your mind.”

Terminator Genisys is Actually Quite Good Shock

image

Note: There are some general plot spoilers in the following review.

But then the trailers for the movie effectively spoiled the plot by revealing what happens to John Connor….

More on that later.

I had planned to see Terminator Genisys in the cinema this summer but frankly the word of mouth I heard put me off. From what I gathered it seemed to be an unnecessary addition to the series at best, but many opinions were considerably stronger.

So now that it’s out on blu ray I thought I’d give it a go. I was ready for it to be rubbish although I understood that apparently the first 40 minutes set in 1984 were supposed to be decent.

The movie starts with a future war segment where John Connor and Kyle Reese break into the Skynet facility that has the time travel device. We glimpse the first T-800 going through and then Reese volunteers to go back and save Sarah Connor.

So far so good. In fact I seem to recall a scene like this in the original T2 script. So it’s nice to see it actually on screen after thirty years.

Then the movie begins a fairly faithful recreation of early scenes from the 1984 movie involving the arrival of the T-800 and Kyle Reese in Los Angeles. There are some shot-for-shot recreations here.

But things soon take a different path and a second, older, Arnold Terminator arrives and we see the two Arnies fighting each other. The older Terminator we come to discover is “Pops”, a T-800 that was sent back to protect Sarah Connor in 1973. The name Pops is appropriate because this is the machine that had to bring Sarah Connor up after her parents were killed in 1973 by another machine.

Now that’s quite an interesting twist. Remember back in Terminator 2 how annoyed Sarah Connor was that her son John was using the machine as a father figure. Well now in this new timeline Sarah is doing the same thing.

Incidentally it is never revealed who send Pops back. We may find out if they ever make a new movie.

Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones plays Sarah. She looks very young in the part but that’s totally appropriate because I believe the 1984 Sarah was only supposed to be 19 years old or something like that.

image

A liquid metal T-1000 is also in 1984 and goes after Kyle and the others. Again, Sarah and the machine have had ten years to prepare for the fight and take care of business.

So keep in mind that I was expecting the movie to be a bit rubbish based on that bad word of mouth. Well, during the 1984 sequences I did find myself having some edge of seat moments. There were some quite tense moments, especially when an endoskeleton was going after Kyle at one point.

After about 40 minutes the action shifts forward 33 years to 2017 when Sarah and Kyle jump forward to try to stop a new iteration of Skynet. Sarah actually wants to jump to 1997 to stop Judgment Day but Kyle has to convince her that the real threat is in 2017 based on something strange he experienced when time traveling. Sure enough when they get there it turns out that the 1997 Judgment Day never happened.

Which means that the events in the new 1984 have been enough to stop Judgment Day. I assume because the original Arnold T-800 was destroyed and Cyberdyne didn’t get its hands on it to use as the basis for Skynet.

I have to admit I’m a bit confused about the timeline. When Kyle and the original T-800 jump back to 1984 they arrive in a slightly different timeline because some other time traveling machines arrived in 1973. The only way I think this can work is if the travellers to 1973 left 2029 after Kyle did.

Later we discover that the altered John Connor went back from 2029 to 2014. So he must have jumped back to the newly established non-Judgement Day timeline later still. But I’m not sure that makes sense. Surely one can only jump back to their own timeline and not an altered one. I’ll need to think on this some more.

Some have criticised the convenient time machine that Sarah and Pops built. But I quite liked that. I was a big fan of the Sarah Connor Chronicals tv show and in the first episode of that Sara and John jumped forward from 1999 to 2007 in a time machine that had been built by time travelers from the future.

By the way when Sarah and Kyle travel forward in this movie they end up naked in the middle of night time freeway traffic. This is what happened to Sara and John in the tv show.

Another thing I liked about this time travel story device is that they use it to explain how Pops is being played by a much older Arnold. He has exposed metal so he can’t time travel with them and has to take the “long way round”, i.e. wait 33 years for them to appear in 2017.

There’s some nice nods to Arnie’s age plus an enjoyable little scene with Kyle and Pops loading ammo into guns that turns into a competition.

Now I’ve already alluded to an altered John Connor. This was the movie’s big plot twist that would have been surprising to say the least. If only the trailers had not revealed that John Connor had been altered into a shape shifting Terminator.

This is a very neat plot twist with Skynet realising that they have never managed to defeat John Connor so who better to carry out their plans. But the trailers revealed all. That’s a great pity.

Many have objected to the use of humour in the movie. There seems to be particular annoyance to the numerous uses of the “Arnie smiling” gag. It’s fair to say that the sight of Arnie grinning in character as a Terminator pushes lots of buttons. But I discovered that I really didn’t mind. James Cameron introduced the gag in his original script for Terminator 2 where John tries to teach the machine to smile in order to fit in. That’s good enough for me.

image

So in the end I enjoyed the movie very much it for what it was. It was quite tense in places and effectively done.

Viewers just have to accept that this is a franchise action movie with CGI effects instead of the original’s low budget grittiness. I have to admit that the helicopter stuff towards the end looked very video game-y. But the stuff with the bus on the Golden Gate Bridge was well done and had some tense moments.

So in summary watching this movie was a very pleasant surprise. It’s certainly miles better than T3.

Spectre movie review

image

I had been looking forward to Daniel Craig’s fourth Bond movie Spectre for some time. So I made a point of going to the first available show on the first night it was on.

For the most part my review below will stay clear of major plot spoilers. However I will reference scenes if they have been shown in the various trailers. And there are probably one or two mild spoilers below.

The movie opens at the Day of the Dead carnival in Mexico City with what must be the most complex opening shot they have done on a Bond movie. In a long single shot the camera pans over crowds of people in costume and then closes in on what turns out to be Bond wearing a macabre skull mask. The camera follows him into a building and then onto the roof where some mayhem will soon follow.

Actually it looks like the shot was done in at least three segments and seamlessly joined together to make one longer shot. But it’s still damn impressive and thrilling to watch.

As seen in the trailer Bond was on an unauthorised mission to Mexico City and when we find out why it’s a nice little bit of business. He then enlists Moneypenny and Q to help him as he continues his off-the-books mission to Rome where he meets the Monica Bellucci character. Much has been made of her being a Bond girl at 50 and also that she’s not actually in the movie that much. But she plays her roll well as someone who fatalistically knows her days are numbered.

This leads us to one of my favourite scenes in the movie: the “Boardroom scene” that has been shown in the trailers. Here rich and powerful men and women are meeting in a dimly lit room to discuss their criminal enterprises in business speak. It is a genuinely creepy and menacing scene. It’d say it’s is one of the best “villain introduction” scenes done in a Bond movie. Ever. It makes the concept of an organisation like Spectre all too horribly plausible.

image

As well as a glimpse of Christop Waltz’s character Oberhauser we also get a introduced to Dave Bautista’s character Mister Hinx. He will keep popping up to plague Bond through the course of the move. Bautista is great casting as he makes the character feels like a real threat to Bond.

It’s Hinx that chases Bond in the movie’s main set piece car chase through the streets of Rome. Bond of course is in the new Aston Martin DB10. I’m not sure why but the car chase seemed a little bit flat to me and lacking jeopardy.

Also seen in the trailers was the reappearance of Mister White from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. I always enjoyed Jesper Christiansen as one of the best things in those two movies so it’s nice to seem him return and with a different dynamic with Bond.

Around the mid-point of the movie Lea Seydoux appears. She plays Madeleine Swann who is the main “Bond girl” of Spectre and has information that Bond needs to get to the mysterious organisation he has encountered. She is initially distrustful of Bond and wants nothing to do with him. Of course they end up working together. I have to say she’s one of my favourite Bond girls in ages. It’s always going to be hard to top Eva Green as Vesper in Casino Royale but Lea is very good.

image

Another of my favourite scenes is one featuring a fight on a train. These train fights have been done quite a few times in Bond movies ever since From Russia With Love set the benchmark. However I think it’s been a while since one has been included. This is a brutal fight between Bond and his ongoing foe Mister Hinx. Initially the fight unfolds without music which emphasises the impact of each punch. But the lack of music here is also a nice respite. I’ll have more to say about the music later on.

As glimpsed in the trailers this Spectre has a proper old-school secret base where they are orchestrating their global mayhem. Here Bond finally encounters his nemesis and I’ll say no more about that. However I will mention a torture scene that I think had most members of the audience squirming a bit.

So the first three-quarters of the movie is very strong. There are a good number of global locations visited and lots of efficiently done action. Plus I found the partnership between Bond and Swann very pleasing.

image

Then we come to the London-based climax. I don’t what to say anything about what the villain’s plot was but I will say it was painfully obvious to me from very early in the movie what it was going to be. It’s almost as if the writers weren’t even trying to hide it. And maybe they weren’t. But in case it was supposed to be a surprise I will say no more.

But in terms of the action in those London-set climatic sequences I do have to admit as it went along it started feeling, well… Perhaps just a little bit… silly. The implausibility factor really started kicking into play. Which is a pity as the Daniel Craig movies have always seemed to err just about on the side of plausibility for the most part.

Having said that I am reminded that a Bond movie called Diamonds Are Forever exists and this movie really can’t out-silly that one.

On an Ian Fleming related note there is a nice little nod to the James Bond short story The Hildebrand Rarity. I wonder if perhaps the makers are setting up the use of that title for a future movie.

Other than the slightly silly ending and the super-obvious villain’s plot my main criticism of the movie regards the music. At best it is serviceable but at worse it’s really quite poor. Thomas Newman doesn’t provide any actual theme for the movie. Plus he lifts whole chunks of his Skyfall soundtrack and drops them in. It’s either the height of laziness or the result of a compressed post-production schedule.

This is disappointing as the trailers had very impressive music. The second trailer in particular had that wonderful arrangement of John Barry’s theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I had high hopes that this movie might adopt that theme for some of the action sequences, but alas we get generic noisy movie music to accompany the action scenes. That’s why I was pleased that the train fight had no music. Because honestly I think no music is actually better than the music in this movie.

There are a number of callbacks to Daniel Craig’s previous entries in the series. For example there are some images used in the opening credits to link Spectre to its predecessors. Also there are nods to the earlier movies peppered through the running time.

image

Overall Spectre feels like the closest the makers have come to a classic Bond movie since the original Sean Connery films. It actually feels like a 1960s Bond movie updated for the 21st century in the style of Daniel Craig’s Bond. It actually feels a little bit like a Bond movie happening in the real world, if that makes sense. So you have some of the fantastical elements done with a little bit of grit as opposed to feeling like pure film fantasy.

Well, until the final act and some of the silly stuff happens.

So overall I rate Spectre highly. Perhaps 4/5.


Just to round things off I’ll quickly summarise the other Daniel Craig movies so you can see how it compares.

Casino Royale remains the best for me as it had a whole Ian Fleming novel to use as the basis for the story structure. Plus Eva Green as Vesper is one of the best Bond girls ever, if not the best ever. Witness Bond and Vesper with their verbal parrying on the train. And Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre is the best villain featured in a Bond movie for a very long time.

Quantum of Solace is the much unloved ugly duckling of the Daniel Craig movies. The editing is frenetic, it’s shockingly short and there’s almost too much action for the curtailed running time. But there are inspired moments when it tries to do things a Bond movie has never done before. I love the arty intercutting between the gunfight and what is happening onstage at the opera for example. Personally I’ve become very fond of it despite its flaws and it’s a favourite of mine. But I’ll accept that most people will put it at the bottom of their list.

Finally Skyfall was critically and commercially acclaimed. It’s a fine movie but I find it very hard to love. There’s something about it that I can’t connect with. I feel distant from the characters and what is happening on screen. And don’t get me started on the plot holes. For example, let’s have a showdown with Silva in the middle of nowhere. And. Not. Bring. Any. Guns. So personally I think that one is vastly overrated.

Doctor Who The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived review

I didn’t get around to reviewing last week’s episode The Girl Who Died so I’m going to do both parts of the story now.

Actually I found last week’s instalment, The Girl Who Died, a fairly slight but still agreeable story. Basically some aliens called the Mire are attacking a Viking village. The Doctor has to help save them in a Magnificent Seven kind of way. He gets help from a young girl called Ashildr who is played by Maisie Williams, who of course is well known for playing Arya on Game of Thrones.

image

Long story short, she dies. The Doctor initially is going to let her die but then there’s An Important Flashback to the Pompeii episode from the Tenth Doctors time. In that episode Capaldi played the father of the Roman family that Donna convinces the Tenth Doctor to save. So apparently that is the reason for the Twelfth Doctor choosing the Capaldi face.

Remembering this he resolves to save Ashildr by using some alien medical technology from a Mire helmet. This saves the girl but later the Doctor confesses to Clara that Ashildr will be pretty much immortal now as the alien technology will keep repairing her.

So overall it was an entertaining episode with the added bonus of seeing why the Doctor chose the face. But it’s pretty much just a set up for the second part of the story, The Woman Who Lived.

Here the Doctor arrives in the seventeenth century and encounters Ashildr again, only now she is a highwayman and goes by the name “Me”. She says she can hardly remember being Ashildr as she has lived so long. Indeed she has a library full of diaries which are her “memories”. Some have pages ripped out and says they are too painful to “remember”. She tries to convince the Doctor to take her with him on his travels but he refuses.

image

Much of the story deals with Ashildr and the Doctor trying to retrieve an amulet of alien origin but it’s really just a backdrop for them to discuss immortality. Ashildr seems dismissive of ordinary humans as their mayfly lifespans make them little more than smoke to her. The doctor has to try to convince her otherwise. So it’s an interesting dynamic to have with the Doctor talking to someone much like himself for once.

One of my favourite scenes had Rufus Hound as a rival highwayman Sam Swift who is about to be hanged. He’s practicing some (literally) gallows humour to keep the crowd entertained in order to delay the inevitable moment of his execution. The doctor is trying to save Sam’s life as well so there’s an impromptu double-act even down to some doctor-doctor jokes. Capaldi makes the unlikely premise work.

image

At the climax of the episode there’s some guff about the alien amulet opening a portal to another world to allow some lion aliens to attack. This eventually makes Ashildr realise that she cares for mere mortals after all.

Later she and the Doctor talk some more and he says he can’t take her with him as they both need the company of ordinary people to makes them appreciate life. Ashildr promises to keep an eye on the Doctor throughout history. He’s not quite sure if it’s a threat or not.

Later the Doctor is back in the Tardis and Clara arrives. She shows him a photo of herself with a pupil. The Doctor notices a contemporary Ashildr in the background looking into the camera. Apparently she has been keeping her promise to keep her eye on the Doctor.

image

So overall I quite enjoyed these two episodes. Some of the Doctor/Ashildr dialog was very good. And Capaldi is on top form.

Plus no Missy.

Back to the Future day DeLorean musings

Today is of course Back to the Future day, the day that Marty McFly traveled to in 2015. And it got me thinking about the DeLorean and how it was in multiple places at the same time in the movies.

Specifically it is in four places at once on the day of the Fish under the Sea dance, 12 November 1955.

image

1 – The original Delorean from 1985 arrived back in 1955 with Marty McFly making his first visit. Marty initially hid it at the entrance to Lyon Estates which was under construction. Later Doc Brown recovered it and stored it in his workshop for a week until the night of the Fish Under the Sea Dance.

2 – A ‘borrowed’ Delorean from 2015 arrived in the afternoon of 12 November 1955 so Old Biff could give the Almanac to Young Biff on the day of the Fish Under the Sea Dance. The Location where he parked it is unknown.

3 – Doc and Marty traveled back from Bad 1985 to 12 November 1955 in order to stop Biff using the Almanac and changing the future. They hid the car at the entrance to Lyon Estates.

4 – While all this is going on the broken DeLorean that took Doc back to the Old West was stored in a disused mine for 70 years from 1885 to 1955, so it’s still there while the events of BTTF2 are unfolding.

So in summary there’s a DeLorean in Doc’s workshop, one in a disused mine, one at the entrance to Lyon Estates and another one unaccounted for.

The same car in four places, all at the same time.

Great Scott!

At least I’m thinking fourth-dimensionally.

1 2 3 4 5 6 29