Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest installment in the most popular film franchise of all time, and I can’t tell you anything else about this one, because if you’re a huge fan like me and most of the world’s population, you don’t need a plot description to get you to go see it. This movie picks up right after The Force Awakens left off, and as soon as the movie begins, the return to the galaxy which the world has grown to love over the last 40 years feels intriguing from the first scene. Like its predecessor, The Last Jedi is completely unpredictable and this one is even more different than the last film.

The cast once again knocks it out of the park, from the original characters portrayed by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, the returning characters from the previous sequel including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, and new additions to the universe played by Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran. Hamill is as terrific as he’s ever been as Luke Skywalker, the most beloved hero in the history of cinema. His performance and his character’s arc over the last forty years has been tremendous, and the addition to his arc here is an unexpected turn which Hamill portrays so well, as he expresses the loss of heroism and his giving up of hope after a mistake he made prior to the events of the trilogy. Fisher’s scenes are great as well, and her final film performance that was shot before her tragic death last year is poignant and the film does her justice, paying tribute to her like it should. If you loved Daisy Ridley as our new protagonist Rey, you won’t be disappointed in the path she takes in this movie, as her journey through the ways of the Force continues under Luke’s guidance. Ridley does a terrific job conveying the emotional conflict her character experiences and how she finds her place in the battle of good against evil. Driver is back as the menacing and superb antagonist of Kylo Ren, who is a complicated villain but perfectly developed, and experiences changes after he did something in the last movie that shocked us all. We root for the good guys and against him but we feel that he isn’t all-evil like his master Snoke, speaking of whom is very intimidating and well-acted by Andy Serkis. John Boyega as defected stormtrooper Finn is another one of my favorite members of the cast, and although the storyline he has with new character Rose isn’t as compelling as the rest of the film, Finn is still a character we enjoy going on an adventure with thanks to his great writing and acting from the awesome Boyega who had his breakout when he first played the character two years ago. Isaac as Poe Dameron has more to do this time around, and his clashes with authority and his morals are interesting to explore. Of course, expect appearances from your favorite creatures like the lovable wookie Chewbacca, droids such as C3P0, R2-D2, and BB-8, the adorable new birds from Luke’s planet known as the Porgs, and a shocking appearance from one of everyone’s favorite Star Wars characters.

As a middle installment that has the expectations as many set as high as Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi definitely reaches those standards for what has been set with The Force Awakens, which introduced us to this magnificent new setting within the universe we already love, and here we dive deeper into those characters and experience some dark twists and turns on the way. Many fan theories have been developed ever since everyone saw the first film in this new trilogy two years ago, but no theory was able to predict the events that happen in this movie. I loved J.J. Abrams’ direction of Episode VII, and although he will return for the last installment in the trilogy, this one is directed by Rian Johnson, who previously directed the high school mystery Brick and the sci-fi thriller Looper. Johnson does a very impressive job building on what’s already happened and bringing to life the new planets and settings. The cinematography is beautiful and so are the visual effects, capturing the memorable action scenes and sets magnificently, just like a Star Wars movie should. Reception from fans has been mixed, but I can’t see why. I was on the very edge of my seat for the entire movie, and stunned at what this had to offer. It’s risk-taking, unpredictable, and deprived of the familiar 3-act story structure, making it even more suspenseful, and it’s got plenty of originality for the eighth film in a franchise. It holds onto what people have loved about the series since 1977, but it still has room for lots of creativity and trust me, I was quite shocked by what happened in this film. It’s not the cheerful blockbuster that most big studio sequels are nowadays, but it’s a dark, thrilling epic that will have everyone, Star Wars fan or not, cheering throughout.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the movie everyone will be going crazy about, and whether or not you like these films, you really should see the definitive blockbuster of the year. As an enormous fan of the series, I was not let down by the amazement I got here. Star Wars has brought people together all around the world since the first film was released 40 years ago, and this movie brings back what fans have loved since then but also lots of surprises. Although a few minor moments/plot points were weaker than others, the cast, visuals, story, writing, and emotion redeem the film, and at best this is an epic and marvelous sequel that is strong with the force.

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Alien: Covenant

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After Ridley Scott tried to revive his franchise with a prequel series that started in 2012 with Prometheus, which was a huge disappointment, Scott redeems his franchise with this follow-up to Prometheus. The plot is similar to the other Alien films, with a crew of a spaceship traveling to an uncharted planet and then getting attacked by extraterrestrial life forms. However, this time, the characters are all developed well and Scott actaully gets you to care about them. I didn’t really care much about the characters in Prometheus, but here you actually are interested in them, and things like love and loss in these characters’ lives are handled well. Michael Fassbender reprises his role from the previous installment as David, and he also plays a new character named Walter, both of which are androids. Fassbender has never failed to impress me, and here he delivers such an impressive performance and he lives up to the responsibility of having to take on two roles. Katherine Waterson is also a great protagonist, and her emotion actually helps carry the film well. The ensemble supporting cast is also great, especially Danny McBride as the wise-cracking pilot of the Covenant.

The first act of this film builds up the conflict very well, from the opening scene which begins the story in an unexpected manner. When the intensity begins, I found myself thrilled during the very gruesome and bloody scenes of aliens breaking through bodies and chasing the human protagonists. The sequences are shot very well, and the CGI effects used to create aliens, planets, and spaceships are beautiful. The movie carries on some of the questions raised in Prometheus about life and existence, but this time the script actually makes you think about what the characters are talking about, and this helps the character arcs of David and Walter be even more compelling. There are also some twists that surprised me and made the film much more exciting. Scott inserts some of Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the original 1979 Alien which started it all, and tries to keep the feel of a ’70s science ficiton horror film in there, but it’s easy to notice that this film still follows the formula that Alien and Aliens established, and it’s easy to eventually get tired of seeing the same things so many times. However, the intense final act leading to a dark and unexpected ending promises that the next film will step away from that formula, and hopefully be just as great as this one.

Alien: Covenant is far from the franchise’s best but it uses what has made the saga great before to put it and Scott’s career back on a great track. The cast and writers try hard here, and their work definitely pays off and this disturbing and horrifying yet tense and exciting sci-fi horror film that will definitely amuse fans, as well as plot twists that will surprise many viewers. If you’re a teen or older, I’d suggest you help this film at the box office and give it a watch.

A black-and-white poster of a mass of people being surrounded/tortured by the aliens, not unlike the Renaissance depictions of Hell, with one alien at the center highlighted by a shaft of light from the upper-left.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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It’s been three years since Guardians of the Galaxy was released and became a huge hit for Marvel, and finally the Guardians have returned to the big screen in Vol. 2. This time, the Guardians travel throughout the cosmos as they help Peter Quill learn more about his true parentage. Thankfully, James Gunn knows how to make a standout superhero film for the second time. Vol. 2 doesn’t lose the charm, heart, and humor that made the first one so great. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel are all still so brilliant and hilarious as the dysfunctional family who must save the galaxy for the second time. There’s something so refreshing about their characters that brings a smile to my face. Michael Rooker, Sean Gunn, and Karen Gillan also return from the first film, and their characters are explored much more interestingly this time. I was also impressed by newcomer Pom Klementieff as Mantis, a charming new member of the Guardians.

With a great visual style, script, and action sequences, James Gunn shows he can make a Marvel film that’s special and heartfelt. Guardians Vol. 2 feels somewhat distinct from the classic MCU formula, and isn’t too caught up with setting up a universe, but with bringing the best out of its characters and visuals. If you loved Awesome Mix Vol. 1, prepare for another great soundtrack in Awesome Mix Vol. 2, which includes some great songs that are used very well in the film. It’s been a while since the first film came out, and the first one felt so fresh and new when it was released, but by now the visuals and humorous style don’t feel as new and special as they did back then, but I can’t really blame the film for that. There are a few characters that are useless and I wish did more, and there’s a twist thrown in that was foreshadowed a little too much, but it feels different than what Marvel has done before. However, Gunn’s creative style makes this movie as entertaining and awesome as it should be. He knows how to make a great soundtrack and shoot action sequences very well, and he even pays homage to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in a certain scene. Also, stay during the credits for not one, but five post-credit scenes after the film.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is another great Marvel feature with a terrific cast, an excellent soundtrack, great action and visuals, and a script that doesn’t feel as well-realized and fresh as the first film, but this movie still demonstrates James Gunn’s great talent when it comes to making huge blockbusters, and leaves you excited for Vol. 3.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Set before the events of the original Star WarsRogue One follows Jyn Erso, whose past connects her to the Empire and the construction of the Death Star, as she joins a team of Rebels on a seemingly hopeless mission to steal the plans to the Death Star and stop the Empire from using it to take over the galaxy.

Rogue One is definitely the movie that all Star Wars fans, including myself, have been waiting to watch this year. I was excited to watch this movie like any fan would be, but I was slightly skeptical as this is Lucasfilm’s first Star Wars spin-off. I was mostly satisfied with what I got. By no means does it reach the heights of The Force Awakens, but my inner Star Wars fan had a blast watching Rogue One. The impressive action sequences, terrific cast, and gorgeous visual effects make this film a treat to watch on the big screen. The style feels somewhat different than what we’ve received in previous films of the saga, and the action doesn’t feel too similar or borrowed, either. There’s a different approach to the violence and buildup because of this movie’s efforts to feel like a grounded war film, which it succeeds at very well. The fight scenes which include the classic X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter battles, Stormtrooper-filled shootouts, and other nostalgic callbacks are all shot and directed very well by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, whose ambition for this story and franchise mostly pays off. Felicity Jones plays a strong female lead with a great backstory and lots of reasons to root for her. She and costar Diego Luna both bring lots of fun to their characters and carried the film very well, although Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor could have used more development. Ben Mendelsohn stars as an antagonist who opposes Jones and brought a great new character to life through his interesting performance. The supporting cast, including Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk are all phenomenal, although some of the heroes we are rooting for aren’t fully realized and lacked some of the development that I wanted from them. You’ll definitely also recognize Forest Whitaker in an over-the-top but fun and key role in the film.

Although Rogue One‘s visual appeal and high enjoyment level make this a must for all fans of the series, it fell slightly below my expectations. Like I said before, not many of the characters are fully developed and although they’re all awesome to watch on screen, some of the writing for their backstories and motivations were missing. The opening act is too rushed and passes by a lot, with editing that could have been stretched out a little longer and scenes that could have been made more memorable and meaningful. The film just kept getting better as the run-time went on, though, with the themes soon becoming more powerful and relevant and the style becoming more distinct than the previous films. The final act of the film is when I was really convinced that this was the Star Wars film we deserved – the last 45 minutes alone are worth the ticket price, perfectly setting up the original movies and giving us a great touch of what we love from ’70’s and ’80’s sci-fi. Rogue One also features tons of memorable cameos from our favorite characters from 1977 and onward, which is guaranteed to be nostalgic for all audiences. With its surprisingly thoughtful and interesting themes that younger viewers will enjoy as well, and a spirit that brings us back to the golden age of sci-fi cinema, Rogue One will not disappoint Star Wars fans looking for a serviceable spin-off with a satisfying plot, cast ensemble, and jaw-dropping nostalgia.

Packed with great action and visual effects, as well as a strong cast and themes, Rogue One is the prequel all Star Wars fans have wanted since 1999. It’s not as great as I think it could have been, as some characters are underdeveloped and the editing and pacing could have been more effective in the first act, but overall, Rogue One is a must-see for all fans of the saga and one of the most entertaining action films this year.

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Interstellar

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A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

So I finally saw Interstellar yesterday after all this anticipation. Did it disappoint? Absolutely not! This is an excellent film! There is so much suspense, the acting is fantastic, the visuals are gorgeous, and so is the soundtrack. This is Hans Zimmer’s best score ever. The whole cast was excellent, and they all deliver such stellar performances. But Matthew McConaughey blew me away with his emotion and I really felt for him. There were parts that made me really emotional too. Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine were also great. But the real star is director Christopher Nolan. He amazed us with movies like Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and The Prestige. And now this, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He directed it so well, and the film is just so great. Chris Nolan always has great and unique ideas, and that is why he is my favorite director, and he blew my away with this. This movie is 2 hours and 49 minutes, but it felt like much less. It was pretty fast, but not rushed. I was not bored for a second. To be honest, I think it could have even been longer, but it didn’t have to be. The scenes in space are the most amazing things I’ve ever seen, and yes, it’s much better than Gravity.

I will say the ending did disappoint, though. I thought it would be one of Nolan’s genius endings like Inception, but it wasn’t. It didn’t make sense at first, but when you think about it, it kind of does, but I just wish it was less confusing and a bit more realistic.

Nonetheless, this movie is terrific. From the visuals to the acting to the soundtrack to the story, it’s a flawless space drama movie, except I didn’t love the ending. But I will say it is the best movie of the year and one of Christopher Nolan’s best films. I would definitely recommend this movie for anyone.

A ringed spacecraft revolves around a reflective sphere.