Saturday, 19 December 2015

My First Thoughts On #StarWarsTheForceAwakens. #HereBeSpoilers


So... just before midnight on Thursday my other half and I arrived at the Vue Cinema at Westwood Cross to find a crowd of Stormtropper onesie wearers and untrained lightsaber wielders. It was great to see such an enthusiastic crowd of over a 1000 fans in little old east Kent. 

As the Lucasfilm logo came up and the opening scroll began, I have to admit that not only did a little thrill of excitement run through my body but a small tear formed in my eye. We were finally here... a new Star Wars movie. 

My overall impression is positive. It was well-written, the acting was a major improvement over the prequels and there was plenty of action. I left the cinema feeling pleased that I'd seen a good movie. 

Despite seeing a lot of complaints about Rey's characterisation, I really liked Daisy Ridley's performance, and thought Rey was a really strong character. Sure her sudden mastery of force abilities seems a little much but this is space fantasy. When it comes to the fun stuff I'm willing to let a lot go. Loved her interactions with BB-8 early on and really loved the Jedi mind trick scene with Daniel Craig's Stormtrooper

Finn was not as annoying as I thought he'd be. He was actually quite a good addition to the series. 

BB-8 was just as excellent as we'd been led to expect. LOVED him/it. 

Han and Chewie. LOVED. 

So yeah, all good right? 

Well... no. This was not a perfect movie. It was not disappointing like Jurassic World was. But still... could do better. 

My major, major issue is how meaningless Han's death was. The Starkiller base was destroyed. The threat over. There should've been more mourning. The biggest thing for me is when the Falcon returns to the Resistance base and Chewie and Rey disembark. Chewie walks straight past Leia, and Leia only has eyes for Rey who she hugs. 

I'm sorry but... Chewie has just lost his best friend and Leia has just lost the love of her life. If Leia and Han were married then Leia and Chewie are basically family. Even if it has just been a quick embrace, I really cannot imagine Chewie or Leia NOT acknowledging each other at such a crucial moment. 

I know. I know. Such a fanboy nitpick but... I love Chewie and he needs some loving! 

R2-D2's coma was... meh. 

The whole plot was such a rehash of A New Hope that it was a little dull. 

Captain Phasma was the big disappointment in the movie for me. I wanted so much more. I hope we see her again and with a better story. 

But these are nitpicks. Overall it was an excellent movie, I look forward to seeing it again. And again. And again. 

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Lost Stars - This Is The Star Wars Book You've Been Looking For

A forbidden romance. No lightsaber battles. Nice Imperial officers. "What is this rubbish?" is possibly something a Star Wars fan might be forgiven for exclaiming.

But this young adult book is one of the best Star Wars books I've ever read. Focussing on a boy (Thane) and a girl (Ciena) from a backwater Outer Rim planet, this book tells the story of their friendship, their time in the Imperial Academy on Coruscant and their parting of the ways as they begin to see the Empire in different ways.

I won't spoil who stays with the Empire and who leaves. And I won't spoil some of the plot points as we follow Thane and Ciena on their separate journeys. But their paths cross not just with each other but with many important parts of the original trilogy... the opening scenes of A New Hope, the destruction of Alderaan and then Yavin, Hoth, Bespin and Endor.

That is part of the magic of the book. It will refresh your next original trilogy marathon. Now there are two stories... the one you see on screen and the one happening just off camera. This isn't the first time that this has been done for certain scenes but this threads its way through all three movies.

And the other part of the magic is just how believable the relationship between Thane and Ciena is. Perfectly formed and just plain brilliant. It could school the likes of Twilight and the Hunger Games (though I did enjoy the Hunger Games I must admit) on romance in a fantasy setting.

Pick it up today and indulge in the best new Star Wars canon book since the Expanded Universe was washed away.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Rebels: This Is The Cartoon Series We've Been Looking For

I just never got into The Clone Wars. I tried, I really did. But the dialogue was so kitschy and the performances stilted and wooden that I couldn't keep on with it whenever I tried to start watching the series.

So I've been poorly the last couple of days and, being stuck in the middle of a Star Wars obsession, I decided to give Star Wars: Rebels a go. I'd watched "Spark of Rebellion" a while ago and I liked it but wasn't blown away.

However having watched the entire first season and the second series opener "The Siege of Lothal". It is nearly perfect. The performances were spot on, the writing smart and witty and the characters interesting.

Ezra is just the right side of "bratty teenage boy". Kanan is just the right side of guilt-ridden reluctant Jedi Master. Hera and Sabine are pretty bad-ass. Zeb is perhaps in need of more fleshing out (he's too "comic-relief" heavy) and Chopper is a loyal, mischievous droid (who has a creepy tendency to seek to harm other droids...).

The Inquisitor was a surprisingly scary villain. His cool and calm evil demeanour was a great tonic to the mood-swings of Sith Lords.

The design nods to Ralph McQuarrie's original work are lovely and it is soooo good having our heroes go up against stormtroopers and Imperial officers.

Overall this is a really solid and entertaining series that adds a lot to the new Star Wars universe.

Sunday, 6 September 2015


Jongens is a Dutch coming of age movie featuring Gijs Blom and Ko Zandvliet. Blom plays Sieger, a teenager living with his Dad and brother and on the running team with Zandvliet's character Marc.

Marc is gay and Sieger... well he's "questioning". They slowly fall in love. It is the usual sweet story with the usual bumps in the road. It is shot really well with a great soundtrack and some really good acting which moves it up above the vast crowd of such movies out there.

It isn't perfect however. Some of the actions of the characters don't come over very realistically (Sieger's father picks up Sieger's brother from the police station for joy-riding and by the end of the day has given him a brand new motorbike, for example!). And Sieger's character makes some odd decisions (like arranging a date with Marc, ditching it then fighting with Marc when they cross paths later that evening). But overall it is a really lovely little movie with a good portrayal of those exciting post-pubescent years.

Of course Blom being drop-dead gorgeous helped somewhat too.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Are We Approaching Star Wars Overkill?

Star Wars Land is coming to a Galaxy Not So Far Away. This announcement at the D23 Expo is just the latest of many since Disney bought Lucasfilm and got on with fixing the Star Wars universe.

Disney shook up the canon to prepare the way for a terrifying quantity of new media. We've got Star Wars Rebels, the new trilogy that starts with The Force Awakens, some amazing new games, new books and several new comic lines. Star Wars has landed in Disney stores and has an increased presence in Disney parks. And that is on top of all the usual marketing and tie-ins that usually pre-empt a Star Wars movie release.

The pieces have always been there (the books especially!) but Disney has brought such a laser-sharp focus that it has caused my other half to ask me last night "Isn't there a danger they'll kill this franchise via overload?"

Is there a risk of that? I'm of an age that I've seen the Shadows of the Empire, Special Edition cinematic release and Prequel hypes come and go. Star Wars books have been published at an ever faster pace over that period. The list of game and comic releases during this period is just huge. Star Wars is, I would say, even more "mainstream" than it was before the Prequels. And so I think the appetite for Star Wars content is just that much higher than it has been before.

I think Disney have, for the time being, a license to print money. Jurassic World (a movie whose story was basic at best) has flourished at the cinema based on a strong franchise and lots of fans reliving their childhood (and making their kids live through their mid-life crisis). Well Star Wars (thanks to being released over 25 years) gets even more of that nostalgic benefit on top of having one of the strongest media brands in history.

Which leads me on to my most important point... MORE STAR WARS STUFF NEEDED!!!! TAKE MY MONEY DISNEY!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Jurassic World... Worth The Wait???

Here be spoilers...

I've been waiting for Jurassic World to come out for so long that it is barely worth linking to the obligatory yearly posts pining for it.

Let me put you in the picture... I was 9 years old when the hype around the imminent release of Jurassic Park (the movie) began. By the time I went to see it I had already devoured Michael Crichton's book (total 9 year old bookworm) and collected the entire Jurassic Park card collection. Sticker books, quilt covers, toys and comics were soon littering my room all covered in the red and black logo. I LOVED Jurassic Park.

So I went into Jurassic World with overly high expectations. They were not met. This movie seemed to lack a heart and, worse, at times lacked any sort of danger to the characters that might make it a little more thrilling.

Was it a bad movie? Hell no. Beautifully shot, with Chris Pratt putting in a sterling (and hunky) performance as Owen the raptor keeper, it was pretty epic. There were thrills, there were dinosaurs and there were nods to the original (especially awesome one near the end involving a red flare!).

But the negatives were there a plenty. A very thin storyline. A disjointed "In peril, not in peril, in peril, not in peril" approach to our main characters meant you didn't really feel they were in much danger (though this approach did work pretty well in Jurassic Park III I admit). The character of Henry Wu was way over-used considering how bland he was. The villain was so "villain by numbers" that when he inevitably died it was a bit "Meh". The kids "journey" to "brotherly love" was laid on way too thick.

There were some excellent moments though. When the velociraptors head off with Owen to hunt the I. Rex. When they suddenly and unexpectantly turn against him. When the T-Rex (somewhat inevitably, I actually assumed this was how things would play out) arrives on the scene and saves the day (a totally fan-wank moment to "correct" the supposed wrong of Spinosaurus besting T-Rex in JPIII). But it was still an excellent scene.

So a mixed bag. A good movie. Obviously it was never going to capture the magic of Jurassic Park but I'd argue Jurassic Park III was also superior to Jurassic World. I did get myself a Jurassic World cup so all was not lost (and Lego Jurassic World is AMAZING)!!!

Given there were only about 10 people in the entire cinema, I'm concerned there may not be a sequel... but let's hope there is a second chance!!

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Disney: Bringing The Franchises We Love To Heel

Star Wars canon had become unbearably bloated. We need look no further than Jaxxon for a prime example of said bloat (even if he was a very early one!). 

I loved the Expanded Universe. But the Galaxy had become too full and too busy. There was little space left for a fresh perspective. At least in Star Wars you could go out of the original timeframe to create new epics like the Star Wars: Legacy comics. Still, Disney's decision to cut the fat and do away with anything outside the movies and Clone Wars will do for Star Wars what a reboot has done for Star Trek: create exciting new possibilities for stories (and money making opportunities for Disney too, I'm not forgetting that... everyone wins!). 

And now it would seem the same "refresher" is coming to the Marvel Universe. With Secret Wars Disney is "ending the Marvel Universe". Again, like with Star Wars, it doesn't appear to be a "reboot". Instead it looks like a re-jigging of overly complicated canon (in this case Marvel's thousands of different realities) into a shape that better pleases the investors (and hopefully new fans too). 

With today's major announcement that Marvel will get more oversight of Sony's Spider-Man franchise (and have it form a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe) I think it likely the same clear-cut vision is focussing policy there too. Given Marvel's complex fictional universe and its almost as complex licensing agreements in real life, Disney is taking it slow but I think it is getting on with the job of cleaning house in order to allow fresh ideas to thrive. You have to prune the weeds after all before something new can grow. 

I've got two predictions: 

1) Fox will be under pressure to follow Sony's lead and bring the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That'd need to happen after X-Men: Apocalypse and the new Fantastic Four movie but as long as Fantastic Four's movie doesn't contradict anything in the MCU and once X-Men: Apocalypse closes off the second X-Men trilogy it could be easily achieved. 

2) The Marvel Universe will be brought ever closer in line with the MCU and I think there will be a new "Ultimate" like line of comics that exist within that universe. 

All this tidying up suits me fine. I look forward to the next set of adventures... 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Star Wars: Legacy, A Fitting End To The Expanded Universe

I've finally finished an extended marathon reading of all the Star Wars: Legacy comics. Set over a hundred years after Return of the Jedi, this is the story of a Second Imperial Civil War. The heirs to the Rebels are now on the run once again as a new Sith Lord reigns over a revived Empire. The only power that can challenge it? Another version of the Empire!

In Volume 1 we meet a descendant of Luke Skywalker, Cade, who is a smuggler and a rogue. More a Force sensitive Han Solo than a Jedi Knight,  Cade and his two smuggler associates are dragged unwilling deeper and deeper into galactic politics and battles against the Sith Empire.

The first volume of Legacy is full of characters, "a cast of thousands" is only just slightly exaggerating. Whilst this can make the narrative seem disjointed in a marathon read, it also captures the epic scale of Lucas' "Galaxy". One issue you'll find yourself on the Mon Calamari homeworld Dac watching an Imperial Knight desperately fight to save a doomed race, the next you are on Bastion, or in the Hidden Temple, or... well just take my word for it... this is the sequel you are looking for.

Epic battles, romance, betrayal, R2 D2.... this comic had everything you could want from a Star Wars product and still managed to feel like something completely different. The Sith make Emperor Palpatine look civilised. Among them are some of the best villains to ever grace the pages of a Star Wars comic.

Volume 1 ends on a deeply unsatisfying note in issue 50 (hint: nothing gets resolved) but thankfully a 6 part mini-series "Star Wars Legacy: War" brings the story of the Second Imperial Civil War to an end though very much leaves the story open (with Sith still spread across the Galaxy) for a return.

In 2013 Star Wars: Legacy was revived with Volume 2. However this time we are following Ania Solo (yes a descendant of Han and Leia) and this is quite a different beast to the first series. Here we go small-scale, focussed on a small group of characters in a tightly written story. Ania soon gets a very interesting set of friends (a Mon Calamari engineer, an assassin droid, an Imperial Knight and a devoted little Imperial Comm Droid) and an even more interesting set of opponents (the forces of the Empress and a new Darth lord seeking to put an end to the One Sith order).

For all of Volume 1's epicness, Volume 2 actually feels like a better book. You will come to like Ania and her crew. Though the ending feels rushed (possibly through necessity given the ending of Dark Horse's two decade long Star Wars license) the series wraps up all the Legacy story arcs and brings the Galaxy to a more hopeful place than its been in since before the events of A Phantom Menace. Which is rather a nice place for it to end considering that the last issue was one of the last entries into the Expanded Universe before the new Canon came into being. The Expanded Universe now lives on as "Legends" freeing up some story space for Disney's renewed Star Wars franchise. Whilst this is great for the future, it does feel somewhat sad to say goodbye to the characters and Galaxy who've entertained over the last couple of decades...

On to watching a new story now unfold...


Thursday, 1 January 2015

So January 2015, What Goodies Have You Got For Me?

Project Almanac

This looks like it might be interesting. I HATE "found footage" movies generally (the last movie I saw in 2014 was unfortunately Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, you can never get that time back) but this one is about time travel (and the butterfly effect) which is something that generally gets me excited. The first review doesn't seem all that bad (for a found footage movie!). I'll definitely check this out as soon as possible.

12 Monkeys

Mmm... more time travel. Based on fact it is a Syfy series I'm unsure about whether it'll be any good or not but its at least a welcome addition to genre TV. I'm looking forward to trying this out.

Star Wars 

A new comics era begins as the now Disney owned Star Wars returns to the now Disney owned Marvel. Yes I was sad to see Dark Horse stop publishing Star Wars but I'm pleased to see a new, canon approved, comic with all-new adventures for our favourite rebels. Who knows where it might take us and what parts of the Galaxy we might get to see. Excited!! Out January 14th. 

Uncanny Avengers

Rick Remender is up there with Scott Snyder as one of my current favourite comic writers. Uncanny Avengers is getting relaunched in January and I can't wait to see what fun (for which see terribly traumatic moments) he has in store for us with this new team. Plus.. .Rogue. :)