icons-02 icons-01 MM Logo Instagram FILM FREEWAY LOGO

blog

Movie news, reviews, features and more thoughts coming soon...

By midlandsmovies, Dec 19 2019 06:20PM



Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Dir. JJ Abrams


Retcon or narrative development? Do you want story risks and surprises or a reprise of the best of SW? Well, The Force Awakens director JJ Abrams returns with a bit of both to helm a sequel to both his first film of the new trilogy plus also Rian Johnson’s controversial (but far superior) second instalment.


Does JJ manage to bridge the gap or jump the shark? In fact, it’s mostly a success – a bit disorderly throughout but filled with a great (force) spirit of adventure with only a few missteps along the way.


The film begins by wasting no time with the narrative and rather than a slow reveal, it’s shown within the first 5 minutes that the Emperor is resurrected. On a secret planet called Exegol he now hopes to create a new Galactic Empire with an armada of Star Destroyers using Kylo as a pawn to rule the galaxy.


Rey still trains as a Jedi and in order to confront Emperor Palpatine, she rejoins the resistance efforts and with Poe, Finn, Chewbacca, BB-8, and C-3PO attempts to search for Sith artefacts that will lead them to the big bad.


The film throws action constantly at the screen, sometimes at the detriment of characters' development and boy are there a lot of them. The group cross with Lando Calrissian (a rather effective cameo from old-timer Billy Dee Williams) but there’s also a host of alien and humans welcomed to the fold, some more interesting than others. Keri Russell is underused as a space criminal yet new droid-mechanic Babu Frik could easily have been annoying but is mostly a fun addition.


As they continue their travels, Rey’s parentage is revealed during a Force-bond fight (projections can now interact with each other – and so much more later) and Abrams simply cannot resist curtailing to some fan’s need for Rey’s lineage being somehow tied into the saga.


It’s the need for a do-over that are the worst parts of this final episode of the nine-part "Skywalker saga". Adapting unused Carrie Fisher footage is hugely impactful though and her story has an amazing emotional resonance. And whilst C3PO is very funny, his goodbye to his “friends” as his memory is wiped hits the heart strings hard and references the audiences’ own goodbye to familiar faces.


Therefore, whilst Johnson’s film was about throwing away the past, JJ’s film is definitely more about goodbyes but there is a lack of finality at times and the death “fake-outs” are an overused trope that undermine the film’s weighty ambitions.


The resurrection of previous threads and the nods to the two previous sagas were somewhat expected but again, more than satisfying in the main. Rey and Kylo’s overblown lightsabre battle on a water-logged Death Star is the aquatic equivalent of the fiery battle between Obi-Wan and Annakin on the volcanic lava trails of Mustafar. And huge chunks of Return of the Jedi (visually and musically) are echoed on a visit to the rubble of the Death Star.


Other standouts include Richard E Grant who is so fantastic as a First Order general that I almost wished for him to have been in this trilogy from the start. But the focus on Kylo and Rey has always been the best part of this series and wisely, the film works best when focused on them. From heated battles and horrific visions to quieter more tender moments, the trilogy has consistently been watchable anytime stars Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are on screen. Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe are window dressing at times but them taking a back-seat to let the conflicting couple slice and dice wasn’t unwelcome at all.


A bit overstuffed with characters – old, current and new ones get mere minutes at times – The Rise of Skywalker ends with an appropriate space battle alongside a darker duel of differing fates for Kylo, Rey and the Emperor. It’s not the stunning success surprise that was The Last Jedi nor the easy re-tread of a New Hope that was The Force Awakens yet it works as a glorious and worthy, albeit messy, send-off to the saga.


We’ll no doubt get all the YouTube hate reactions, ‘10 things wrong with’ and “fan” criticism over on Reddit in the coming days but with so many people to please, JJ has stuck safely to familiar beats. And although too familiar at times, The Rise of Skywalker is a fitting tribute to this trilogy and may just bring a bit of hope, and certainly a tear to your eye, knowing we’ve finally left this galaxy far, far behind.


★★★★


Michael Sales


By midlandsmovies, Dec 17 2017 04:35PM



Brigsby Bear (2017) Dir. Dave McCary


Whatever your bug bears – Trump, Brexit, you name it – 2017 has already had its fair share of cynicism and with endless hostility in real life and on the internet, it’s easy to become pessimistic and bitter with the things around us. Which is why Brigsby Bear’s humanity is like a soothing tonic after wading through this year’s miseries!


Kyle Mooney plays James Pope, a man obsessed with a children’s show called Brigsby Bear which is akin to Barney the Dinosaur or Seasame Street. This one imaginative TV series is his sole focus before he is taken by the police from his bunker-like “home”. He is subsequently informed by the authorities that he was snatched as a baby, Ted and April Mitchum are not actually his real parents and that the Brigsby show was in fact creation by his ‘false-father’ Ted (a great support role from Mark Hamill).


As he is returned to live with his birth mum and dad, as well as his sister Aubrey, the awkward man-boy James struggles to integrate back into regular society. With a lifetime of obsession over the fictional Brigsby still bearing down on him, he fails to mix with the young partying adults around him but Mooney adds a great sympathy to what could be a cringe worthy character.


However, a newly formed friendship with Aubrey’s friend Spencer leads to a plan to complete the unfinished series using props from Detective Vogel (Greg Kinnear) who confiscated them during the arrest.


The film is full of life, passion and creativity and you can’t help but warm to James’ pure ambitions. Striving to overcome his social embarrassment, we root for the tongue-tied and self-conscious James as his untainted view on the world and love for the simpler things pull together those around him.


Some may find the film too saccharine or sentimental to truly achieve lofty cinematic heights but it is the simplicity of the tale, the characters and James’ aspiration that are its winning traits. As the fictional film they’re making spirals out of control, the low budget nature of their endeavours clearly reflect the filmmakers’ own passions and every positive ounce of that is on screen.


Good-natured without being drippy, Brigsby Bear invokes the best parts of child-like innocence and exalts the benefits of simplicity in order to find the simple joys in an ever confusing world. Brilliant.


8.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike


RSS Feed twitter