“This Is Not Going To Go… The Way You Think!” – Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Spoiler Free Review)

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“This is not going to go… the way you think!”

Luke Skywalker’s ominous words, highlighted in the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, could easily stand as the film’s throughline.

The overwhelming message of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that families are complicated and move in unexpected directions. It also has a lot to say about being screwed up by our fathers.

Overwhelming also accurately describes what I felt about the film at the end of its two and a half hour journey. It’s somewhat overlong but it features some astonishing action sequences, is one of the visually richest Star Wars films and contains what might be my single favourite moment from the entire franchise.

In many ways, The Last Jedi mirrors both the darkness and structure of the Original Trilogy’s middle film, The Empire Strikes Back, but writer and director Rian Johnson is smart enough to take off into some truly wild new directions during the final third.

Picking up right where The Force Awakens left us, this new installment hits the ground running and the pace barely lets up. The expanding group of characters, old and new are pretty successfully juggled so that everyone is given satisfying arcs, this particularly benefits Oscar Issac’s Poe Dameron, and Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill as Leia and Luke. Daisy Ridley continues to command the screen, especially in her dealings with Adam Driver, their interactions are electric.

John Boyega gets to play off new-to-the-franchise Kelly Marie Tran – both of who are great value but unfortunately shuffled into the film’s weakest thread – a trip to a casino world that’s given a decent barbed comment on the social structure of the Star Wars galaxy but feels rather unnecessary, structurally, and also, dare I say it, feels rather like an outtake from the dreaded Prequels. Indeed, this thread also manages to waste the always welcome presence of Benecio Del Toro.

While Johnson’s generosity to give everyone breathing room is commendable it does also see The Last Jedi surrender some of Empire’s structural elegance in favour of a more scattershot approach that leaves the film feeling a little overstuffed.

Still, this is a film with more on its mind than just rehashing the franchise for a new generation or showing off special effects. The relationship dynamics established are nicely developed, and not all in ways you might be expecting, Johnson keeps things surprising, and manages that to the very last frames. The Last Jedi is drenched in darkness but garnished with light and hope.

The consequences of familial actions, in particular those of fathers, is a deep running vein through the film, but it also suggests that family finds its own shape and can be forged in new ways.

Alongside all the drama Johnson gives us breathless action and some of the most gorgeous filmmaking and visuals of the series, using the colour red to particularly strong effect. An opening space battle and a dizzying lightsabre battle are among the highlights.

There are lots of callbacks (visually and thematically) to both Empire and Return of the Jedi, and a beautiful closing moment for one character which returns us right to the heart of Star Wars (Episode IV). To say any more would involve spoilers, but suffice to say there are some big emotional pay-offs.

As I mentioned before, The Last Jedi also features a sequence, possibly my favourite of the franchise, so balls-out audacious that it more than makes up for any deficiencies the film might have. You’ll know it when it arrives, a moment so glorious and exciting it will leave you very happy that Johnson is forging the future of Star Wars with his upcoming new trilogy.

I’m not certain The Last Jedi is quite the masterpiece many have been proclaiming, it’s too inelegant for that, but it’s eager to please and will leave you exhausted as you emerge from the cinema. It’s a shot of pure Star Wars adrenaline.

Like family, The Last Jedi is messy and doesn’t go the way you think. Ultimately though, you can’t help but love it.

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Miles Morales: Spider-Man Is Here!

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Comic book fans know that in the Marvel Universe more than one person wears the mask of Spider-Man, and now Sony Pictures is getting ready to launch Miles Morales onto the big screen.

The character was created in 2011 by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, with Bendis and Marvel editor-in-chief  Axel Alonso drawing inspiration from both then-U.S. President Barack Obama and American actor Donald Glover (who made a tongue-in-cheek cameo in Spider-Man: Homecoming)

The son of an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Alonso has described Morales as an intelligent nerd with an aptitude for science similar to his predecessor, Peter Parker. Originally existing in a separate reality from ¨ours¨, Morales has now crossed over and exists alongside Parker.

Now Sony has unveiled a brief teaser of its upcoming  animated feature “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” with a first look at the teenage Morales, as well as introducing audiences to the concept of the Spider-Verse (a conceit from the comics where Spider-Man exists in differing personas and forms across multiple realities).

The film is directed by Bo Persichetti, Peter Ramsey and Rodney Rothman, with the screenplay by Phil Lord, and is due to be released on December 14, 2018.

Look out, Spider-Man, here comes, uh… Spider-Man!

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Trailer

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Look, I know a lot of you liked Jurassic World, the box office numbers signal that clearly enough, but I’m afraid we must beg to differ on that one. Personally I felt it lacked not only the charm of Spielberg’s original but, perhaps more importantly, also the smarts.

Well, if that film was your bag, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (…oh boy, that title) looks to be right up your Jurassic alley. Here’s the trailer:

Sure it’s got plenty of thrilling looking visuals (and added Jeff Goldblum, which is always a good thing) but, y’know, they’re going back to an island to save Chris Pratt’s pet puppy, uh, sorry, man-eating Velociraptor, and to save a species which… ahh… they manufactured and can presumably manufacture elsewhere, from an island that suddenly – after four previous movies with no mention of it whatsoever – has a volcano! Where they built a multi-billion dollar theme park.

Oh, why am I bothering? You’ll go see this. Enjoy…

Epic! The Avengers: Infinity War Trailer Is Here…

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The trailer for Avengers: Infinity War has landed and, wow… you need to see this:


I know, right!?

It’s not the same trailer that wowed audiences at this summer’s San Diego Comic-Con (yes, yes, I peaked at the leaked version) but if anything it feels even more epic.

Rumours are running rife that this may be the last time we see some of these characters (at least in their present forms), so better make the most of… hm, well, that would be telling, right!? In the meantime, we can look forward to the ultimate Marvel Cinematic Universe mash-up of The Avengers, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther and the Guardians of the Galaxy as they face up against the Josh Brolin-shaped cosmic might of Thanos.

Avengers: Infinity War arrives May 8th, 2018. The hype starts here…

Captain Marvel Gets Law. Jude Law.

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Here at Out of Dave’s Head Towers, we’re major fans of Jude Law and pretty much go by the rule of thumb which states that most movies can be improved with a bit of Jude.

So it’s great news to hear that Variety is reporting the actor is in negotiations to climb aboard Marvel’s forthcoming Captain Marvel, as “a mentor of sorts” to Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers while she “tries to figure out her new powers” as the title hero.

Supposedly, the film will be set in the ’90s, before the Avengers first assembled, and will also feature the ever-wonderful Ben Mendelsohn as the as-yet unnamed villain, while Samuel L. Jackson is expected to reprise his role as Nick Fury, possibly pre-eyepatch.

The film is directed by “Half Nelson” helmers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, with Kevin Feige producing.

Jude Law joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe!? March 8, 2019 can’t get here soon enough.

UPDATE: Variety have confirmed that Law will play Dr. Walter Lawson/Kree warrior Mar-Vell and the original Captain Marvel.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Justice League: Dawn of… Something.

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After a great deal of anticipation and no small amount of concern at its production woes, the best we could hope for with Justice League is that the film wasn’t going to be a complete mess.

Well, it is a mess, but it is also a lot of fun, more so than expected.

The Warner Bros/DC universe has been a wobbly affair from the outset. First of all, Zack Snyder presented a version of Superman in both Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman which suggested at best that he didn’t understand the character and at worst that he actively disliked him. This was followed by the incoherent Suicide Squad, and frankly the less said about that, ever, the better.

Finally, Patty Jenkins launched Wonder Woman (after a cameo in Batman vs Superman) with reverence and respect to the qualities that have made her such a much-loved character since 1941 and a palpable sense of joy. In a case more shocking than snow being white, audiences responded favourably.

While Diana of Themyscira was cleaning up at the box office, Warner Bros and DC decided on a spot of course correction for their characters. Joss Whedon (director of Marvel’s first two Avengers movies) was brought in to oversee rewrites and reshoots on Snyder’s Justice League. Industry scuttlebutt suggested this was an attempt to steer what had been Snyder’s overriding grim vision for the cinematic DC universe towards something more hopeful, and more fun.

A viewing of Justice League will clearly show this has been the case. In the opening moments Superman is given an introduction which attempts to make us understand why the world feels such a profound loss at his death. While welcome, it does come across as a rather clunky retcon, since what we’re shown fails to jibe with the lofty, distant character seen in his previous outings.

The film’s threat is then introduced and if you were hoping the casting of Ciarán Hinds would result in a character of subtlety and nuance then you’d have been better off hoping for a cameo from Batgirl as played by Adam Sandler. Steppenwolf is a CGI mope who wants to take over the world. And uh, that’s it. Frankly he makes the weakest Marvel villain seem like a character in a Mike Leigh film.

The rest of the plot, such as it is, sees the League introduced, but here again the film fails since these introductions feel more like trailers for forthcoming movies. This was always a danger for Justice League since DC decided not to put in the legwork that Marvel did, firmly establishing their characters in individual movies before bringing them together for The Avengers.

So we have a group of characters we barely get time to know, one whose place in the world is very obviously rewritten and a barely one-dimensional villain. As a film, it’s a shambles, but there is something more going on here.

Despite all of the above, the characters are a great deal of fun. That they are is testament to both the well-cast actors and, I strongly suspect, Whedon’s rewrites. Jason Momoa is obviously having a blast as Arthur Curry/Aquaman and that translates well (his ‘bro with a trident’ being more enjoyable than the trailers would have us believe), Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/Flash is a little more of an acquired taste – but his over-earnest shtick mostly works a treat, while Ray Fisher’s Victor Stone/Cyborg gets the shorter end of the stick and is barely developed at all. Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot (Bruce Wayne/Batman and Diana Prince/Wonder Woman) continue to do great work with their characters (but then we’ve been given time to get to know them). Gadot is definitely the MVP of the DC Extended Universe.

Thankfully, the gloom and doom portentousness of Man of Steel and Batman vs Superman has been entirely done away with, instead the mood here is downright pulpy, with events unfolding at a breakneck pace (that studio-dictated two-hour running time has really paid off). While the characters suffer from that, there is at least no time to be bored.

And then, of course, there’s Superman. It’s not really a spoiler to say the Man of Steel returns in Justice League, as his resurrection was teased just moments after his demise in Batman vs Superman. What is a pleasant surprise is that we are finally given a more recognisable version of the Last Son of Krypton than either of his previous outings. Even Henry Cavill’s super-suit has been colour-graded (in glaringly obvious post-production) to more closely resemble its comic book counterpart. Incidentally, Cavill’s real-life moustache, grown for the filming of  the newest Mission: Impossible movie and unable to be removed for Whedon’s reshoots, is also given a post-production erasing with frankly bizarre results.

But it’s pleasurable to see Superman, the real red and blue Superman, in action. It’s impossible to imagine Snyder’s version of the character asking “Is this guy still bothering you?” as he hurtles head-long into the villain. Let’s hope the long-in-gestation Man of Steel 2 picks up on this revitalised iteration.

The ultimate problem with Justice League is that, Wonder Woman aside, each of the films has left us hoping that DC/Warner Bros will learn from their mistakes and get it right next time. So much was riding on Justice League: this should have been the movie to get everything right, set up the individual characters and firmly establish the world and the tone of the movies to come. Instead we have a film where everyone is given rushed introductions, a dull villain to fight and some of the worst CGI seen in a major movie since The Hobbit trilogy.

Let’s be clear, just the fact that it tries to inject heart and hope into the flagship DC legends means that it’s already way more fun than either Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman (and it’s light years ahead of Suicide Squad, despite its similarly troubled production).

The film is not the complete disaster many were expecting, but neither is it the triumph many were hoping for.

While it’s a positive sign that the company has taken notice of Wonder Woman, at what point precisely can audiences stop hoping for DC to get it right next time and just enjoy the movies as they arrive!?

These iconic characters deserve a better movie. Maybe next time they’ll get it. But then I’ve said that before…

Deadpool 2 Teaser Gets Arty (And Wet)

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Having just recently revealed their first teaser poster, the Deadpool 2 team have now dropped this trailer:

Fans of Bob Ross will either be happy or outraged, while those looking forward to seeing Josh Brolin as none-more-90s Cable will no doubt be overjoyed at their first, brief glimpse of the character in action.

Deadpool 2 is directed by David Leitch from a script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, with Ryan Reynolds returning in the title role. The film will be released June 18, 2018.

Live Action Star Wars Series To Debut on Disney Streaming Channel!

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In a double-whammy of Star Wars news, Disney’s CEO, Bob Iger, announced today that Lucasfilm is developing a live-action Star Wars series for their new streaming service.

Set to launch in 2019, the still-untitled service (though you’d probably be safe betting on something along the lines of Disney TV) will also see new series based on Pixar’s Monsters Inc. and the High School Musical franchise.

Today’s news comes soon after Iger confirmed that all Disney movies, including Marvel and Star Wars films, will be removed from Netflix in 2019.  This will also dash the hopes of the ABC network, who have been in talks to collaborate on the Star Wars show for some time.

Nothing more is known about the series, but we can probably rest easy that it will be more successful than previous live action Star Wars TV efforts, including the two Ewok movies (Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor) and the legendarily awful Star Wars Holiday Special.

Image c/o Pinsdaddy

Rian Johnson To Create All-New Star Wars Trilogy!

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In news sure to blow the heads off Star Wars geeks everywhere (excuse me while I collect the pieces of my head off the floor), Lucasfilm has just announced that Rian Johnson, writer and director of the forthcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi will create an all-new trilogy of adventures.

Details are scarce of course, but Lucasfilm say Johnson will write and direct the first new film with longtime collaborator Ram Bergman onboard to produce.

“We had the time of our lives collaborating with Lucasfilm and Disney on The Last Jedi,” Johnson and Bergman said in a joint statement. “Star Wars is the greatest modern mythology and we feel very lucky to have contributed to it. We can’t wait to continue with this new series of films.”

Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said “We all loved working with Rian, he’s a creative force, and watching him craft The Last Jedi from start to finish was one of the great joys of my career. Rian will do amazing things with the blank canvas of this new trilogy.”

No release dates have been set for the new films, but you can start speculating wildly about which characters the trilogy will feature right about…

…now!

Johnson’s upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in cinemas (here in Norway, at least) on Dec. 13, 2017.

Have You Heard The One About Thor: Ragnarok?

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Thor: Ragnarok has laughs. Plenty of them. Perhaps too many. Allow me to explain…

I’ll start by saying there is a huge amount to love about Marvel’s third solo outing for the God of Thunder. First of all it’s the most fully rounded vision of Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby’s four-colour hero to date, Kirby’s cosmic visuals are like a roadmap for Thor: Ragnarok. It’s also yet another step forward for both the Thor solo franchise and indeed the Marvel Cinematic Universe in embracing its comic book roots.

There’s little desire to coddle non-comic book fans with grounded scenes set on Earth (and the whistle-stop moments we do get on our home planet actually push things into even geekier comic books realms, particularly in one cameo sequence, teased at the end of a previous movie). Within the first twenty minutes or so we’ve been taken to Hell (or the Norse equivalent), Asgard (including another couple of genuinely jaw-dropping cameos), Earth and then into the vast reaches of outer space. It’s all colourful, exciting and breathtaking, and the pace doesn’t really let up, cutting between Thor’s adventures in space and events back on Asgard.

We’re also given the best version of the onscreen Hulk yet, realised by Mark Ruffalo along with state of the art mo-cap, animation and fine attention to detail with character so he now has full Hulk-speak dialogue scenes (and jokes) with other characters. Special mention to Tessa Thompson too, for giving us a delightful, kick ass version of a much-loved Marvel character. I really hope we see more of her in future movies. Idris Alba is given a little more screen time as Heimdall but still feels wasted. Director Waititi features as another comic character, alien stone man Korg, engaging and pretty much played for laughs.

The film also mostly succeeds in breaking the curse of the underwhelming Marvel villains by giving us several of them, all in various hues and shades of villainy. Cate Blanchett is obviously having a bad guy ball as Hela, Queen of the Underworld, Karl Urban crops up to reaffirm his geek cred as Skurge, The Executioner, there’s the ever mercurial Loki brilliantly essayed by Tom Hiddleston, of course, plus we have Jeff Goldblum doing his best Jeff Goldblum thing as The Grandmaster. They’re all layered, interesting and fun.

Ah yes, then we get to the laughs. Ragnarok might best be described as Marvel’s first comedy, so far do Waititi and his team push the humour of the film. I’m all about seeing Marvel broaden their canvas, playing with expectations and giving each film a fresh tone,  an approach that’s paid dividends with the likes of James Gunn and it mostly pays off here as this is most definitely a Taiki Waititi film. It’s an approach which should help the longevity of Marvel movies and keep audiences on their toes (and anyone who thinks of Marvel films as being cookie cutter affairs really needs to open their eyes to the palettes of movies as far apart as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and now Thor: Ragnarok).

So far, so Marvel dandy. However, we’re also here for the drama, and occasionally the jokes are laid on so relentlessly in Thor: Ragnarok that they frequently end up severely undercutting the drama.

A major event, foreshadowed all the way through, actually comes to pass near the end of the movie. It should be quite the dramatic moment, as it affects most of the characters and shakes up some of the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, a big deal. There’s a nice, humorous set up to the moment, then straight after it happens any drama arising from the scene is wiped out with a not particularly firing-on-all-cylinders quip. It’s unnecessary, and damaging to our empathy for the characters we’ve been following for six years since Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor movie. That’s quite an investment, and one that takes a hit for the sake of a throwaway gag.

I should reiterate, Waititi and Marvel have produced a top-notch film which will undoubtedly leave you with a smile on your face and the knowledge you’ve spent a good night out at the cinema. But finding that sweet spot between drama and humour takes a careful aim, and this time it feels like Thor’s hammer missed the target by a few inches.