Episode III – The Best of the Prequels

I have always held this opinion. The third movie in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith, is a good film. It’s not spectacular and doesn’t get to the dizzy heights of Empire Strikes Back, but it is good. It’s prime Ewan McGregor as Obi Wan and continues from the previous two films in that it has just made me more and more excited for his solo series. 

Episode III opens with a spectacular space battle, one of the best looking we have seen, and introduces the best robot in the universe, General Grievous. The name is just incredibly on the nose, but it works, and his weird fleshy eyes and heart, the smokers cough and the voice all combine to make one of the most unusual villains in the Star Wars world. I normally know a lot about characters in Star Wars, but he is a bit of a blind spot. I don’t know where he comes from, I don’t know how he works, but he uses 4 lightsabers at once in this movie and that’s just Baller as fuck.

Hayden Christensen isn’t the best actor in the world, but he does give it his all in this film. There are only one or two awkwardly written scenes with Padme in this one, although it is still cringe inducing when they are supposed to be cute together. It has a key role in this film, but this romance is probably my biggest problem with the entire prequel trilogy. I don’t necessarily think it’s the actor’s faults, but any chemistry they have is smashed into touch by the dialogue.

It took some big personalities in the original trilogy to take what George Lucas gave them and turn it into the real emotional moments. Han Solo’s “I love you/I know” moment was created by Harrison Ford and Director Irvin Kershner not George Lucas, and moments like that are an example of what is missing from the prequels.

This film does have its own very quotable, and much meme’d line though. I didn’t even think of it as it was about to happen, but when Obi Wan dropped down behind Grievous on Utapau and greets all the droids with “Hello there” I laughed out loud. It is so perfect, so Obi Wan. It’s a dad taking the piss when things are about to get serious and he’s saying it purely to get their attention. If he doesn’t say those words at least once an episode in the new TV show I will have no choice but to brand it a complete and total failure.

We get some more political intrigue with the Emperor finally becoming The Emperor after he turns Anakin, and again Ian McDiarmid is just perfect in this role. I don’t know exactly what capacity he is going to be in The Rise of Skywalker but getting one last serving of McDiarmid is going to be a great treat in December.

When it comes to lightsaber fights, nothing has yet topped the end scene of this film within the entire franchise. Rey and Kylo Ren are great but they aren’t up to the balletic battle at the climax of Revenge of the Sith. Switching between Anakin V Obi Wan and Palpatine V Yoda absolutely blew my 12-year-old mind in 2005. Yoda walking into Palpatine’s office and knocking out the two guards with a nonchalant flick of his wrist tells us that here to fuck around, he is not.

How did I get into the third film before I wrote in Yoda’s voice?

After some force power dick measuring, Palpatine and Yoda literally whip them out, and begin fighting lightsaber to lightsaber. Both becoming well rendered video game characters leaping around. Before they end it with Palpatine launching half of space parliaments furniture at Yoda. It’s quite a poignant scene, as I think someone should go into parliament and launch chairs around in real life. Only do it with all the politicians still in their chairs.

Useless overpaid incompetent twats couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery let alone Brexit. I don’t care which “Side” you’re on, the whole thing needs to be torn up and started again.

Anyway, back on spicy hot drop Mustafar (that’s a Fortnite/Apex reference, I am down with the kids) Anakin has finished slaughtering politicians and is waiting for his wife whom he loves so much. She turns up, unknowingly bringing Obi-Wan with her, and before she can even say “I didn’t know he was there he’s a fucking space wizard” Anakin chokes her out. That’s her dealt with for plot convenience sake. Now we can have Obi Wan and Anakin get their duel on. There is no Force dick measuring here, it’s all about the swordplay.

They battle in rooms, on railings, climbing up huge structures, floating on robots above flowing Lava. It’s a beautifully choreographed scene but one does have to question why they felt the need to move around the planet so much. They could have had the entire fight on the platform where the ship was.

I am glad they didn’t though, as it leads to an interesting moment in the Star Wars franchise. Having duelled with nobody getting a clear advantage, Obi Wan gets the high ground. Anakin leaps to get over him, and Obi Wan fillets him. Both legs and an arm swished off like trimming wings off a chicken. It’s brutal.

I spent a lot of my life thinking this was a stupid end to the fight. Then my flatmate shared a bit of reasoning behind it that since then I have thought about a lot and I kind of wish there had been some way to show this in the film. Considering I watched this film 2 days after watching Episode I, the Darth Maul/Obi Wan fight was fresh in my mind. The jump Anakin tries to perform is the same one Obi Wan did against Darth Maul, only Obi Wan taught Anakin about it, so he is completely ready for it.

Obi Wan even says to Anakin “Don’t Try It”. In my head I like to think they have discussed that fight at length, and Anakin knows it is Obi Wan’s best moment. Being the egomaniac that he is, he wants to prove he can do anything Obi Wan can, so he tries to copy it. Of course, instead of landing behind Obi Wan and chopping him in half, Anakin gets butchered. It adds a bit more to the end to me, and I like to think that’s how it was meant to be.

All in all, the prequels are a brilliant story that isn’t done full justice by the execution of the movies. I can’t help but feel a little like the Sequel trilogy that ends with The Rise of Skywalker is the reverse of that. The new films look brilliant and are acted well. The dialogue is well written, and they’re directed expertly. There actual bigger story doesn’t seem nearly as well thought out or planned as the original or the prequels though. We will have to wait until December to find out.

‘Til tomorrow!

ChAzJS

 

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Episode II: Not all bad.

As hinted at yesterday, today’s post is about Star Wars Episode II. When I was 9 years old this was everything to me. It has lots of fight scenes, insect people, lightsaber’s coming out of all its orifices and Yoda flipping about like a bouncy ball launched into a cupboard. How does 26-year-old me feel about it? 

Well as it happens, I didn’t think it was too bad. The film starts with an attempt on Padme’s life, and the trauma she goes through leads her to mistakenly marry an immature child she met 10 years previously and has had no contact within the intervening years. At least that is what I must tell myself to buy into any of the romance between her and Anakin in this film. There are poorly written lines in most films, but somehow George Lucas saved all his worst lines for use exclusively in scenes between Anakin and Padme, when they’re supposed to be falling in love.

That criticism extends to the next film in the franchise but more on that another time. As for this film, that whole story line with them falling for each other is what punches this film down to a 5 or 6 out of 10. The rest of the film is a fun time with some heavy plot convenience, but I found most of it to be forgivable.

Attack of the Clones introduces us to the prime Ewan McGregor Obi Wan we all remember, with that beard and that hair and that voice. He reaches his peak in Revenge of the Sith, but his step fatherly relationship to Anakin is where the film gets a relationship right for me. You feel he cares for his protege deeply and is struggling to be the teacher he wants to be at times, with his pupil showing some signs of teenage rebellion. This film makes me very excited to see the Obi Wan series coming out on Disney Plus in the next few years, as you just want to spend more time following McGregor around on his adventures.

The entire section of the film with him hunting down Jango Fett (#TheBetterFett) I found entertaining, and if that’s a hint at the kind of things we could get from an Obi Wan Series I am all in. Also, the sound design of those bombs (seismic charges I believe to the nerds out there) that are deployed in the asteroid field is just something else. What a boom.

Hayden Christensen plays Anakin with a lot of commitment but I think the direction he is given is just all over the place. I think what we were supposed to see is a character who is being torn between the various desires he has and knows what’s right but also can’t ignore his feelings like he should be able according to the Jedi. It’s a role that requires an actor to be able to indulge themselves and really develop it from within themselves. I think director and creator George Lucas, for all his creative genius, may have struggled to get the best performance out of Christensen here. It feels like he was told to stick to the script word for word and to say it exactly how Lucas wanted it to sound, rather than giving him the script and letting him understand the character.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels wooden and jarring. It goes back to my comments yesterday about Jar Jar Binks (Who does appear briefly in this film in an unoffensive way). It takes a strong personality to stand up to a director and say, “no I think it should be done this way”, especially when that director is George Lucas who created this entire franchise that may make or break your career. This is all just my read on it though, and maybe this is just the best Hayden Christensen could do.

Wooden Anakin aside, the film develops some of the characters we met in previous films quite a bit, with Mace Windu and Yoda the clear leaders of the Jedi. What I have been enjoying most about the prequels though is Palpatine. Perhaps as a child I just didn’t notice it, but this entire trilogy isn’t the story of Anakin turning into Darth Vader as it seems. It’s the story of how a senator called Palpatine manipulated and rose to power and building the foundation of the Empire that we saw in the original Star Wars in 1977.

Ian McDiarmid in the role of Palpatine is really something. When you realise, he is consistently playing everyone in the room it feels like a different thing all together. I would love to have seen these films focus more on him, give him a little more to do and let us see him planning it out behind the scenes. As it is these films almost try to surprise you that he is the emperor when it seems obvious to me. I am a huge Star Wars nerd of course, so perhaps I am not the one they are trying to get one over on.

The last half of this film, when Christopher Lee is introduced as the Classy Count Dooku, is just one continuous ramp up of the action. From Anakin and Padme fighting their way through a droid building factory, to the climactic battle, there is not a lot of time for us to slow down. and process what’s happening. It’s an action-packed finale and for the most part it works. There’s a lot of digitally created fights, with flocks of droids doing battle with battalions of clones, but it all adds to the sense of scale and if you can look past the dated special effects it’s a decent effort.

There are a lot of cool moments and situations, the monsters fighting Obi Wan, Padme and Anakin lead right into that moment. The point at which 9-year-old me lost their shit. When I see 100s of lightsabers ignite around the arena and think “Oh damn it’s on now!”.

After that, we get a curved lightsaber handle, that seems to add little to the weapon at all, wielded by Count Dooku as he frankly batters Obi Wan and Anakin. Anakin wielding a blue and green lightsaber at the same time is cool, but again he is just being played with by the bad guy. Here we get a situation where he could have easily murdered them both and been on with his business. Instead he toys with them long enough for a little green dude turns up and shows off his power.

The best moment of the film for me is when Yoda opens his coat to reveal his kid sized lightsaber, and then it whips through the air into his hand. He then proceeds to bounce around and the fight is rather hard to follow, but it does feature some excellent faces from Christopher Lee. The film kind of ends on a stutter, with a few things hurried through, including Anakin marrying Padme right at the death of the film.

All in all, I think my appreciation for the prequels is increasing, but I can still recognise that these films are just not that great. The world they’re set in, the characters and the story are all quite good, I just think this film has been executed poorly. The two best films in the franchise were written by Lucas and directed by other people. Perhaps that is the formula that should have been used for the prequels as I just think someone who’s skills were more attuned for Directing rather than creating like Lucas’ skillset is might have taken these films to another level.

Anyway, that’s enough about Episode II, I have Episode 3 in my head now and I will talk about that on Friday. I will give it a break from the Star Wars talk tomorrow!

‘Til then!

ChAzJS

 

Prequel Problems

I settled down last night after getting home late because of train delays and making myself some dinner and began to flick through the various streaming services. For some reason I have had an urge to watch the Star Wars prequels for weeks. and suddenly there they were on Now TV, waiting to be “enjoyed”.

As Episode I began, with baby faced Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson with his glorious mane of hair, I was mildly optimistic I could find some more redeeming qualities in the film as I haven’t watched it for years. The opening 15 minutes are decent, not terrible by any means and some slightly dated special effects and questionable accents on certain aliens aside, I found it okay to watch. Then, they reach Naboo, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon bumps into Jar Jar Binks (literally bumps into him) and within a minute I was fast forwarding to the pod race to get away from that unequivocal error of a character.

The pod race itself has always been a bit of a weird one for me. I loved it as a kid, but then I remember when I last watched these films, I thought it was an odd scene. Watching it again last night I kind of enjoyed it and I realise that it’s very similar to the dog racing scene in The Last Jedi, only in The Phantom Menace it has a purpose (to show Anakin’s abilities).

Speaking of Anakin, this is the first time I have watched these films and thought about the fact this 9-year-old child ends up marrying this 18-year-old Queen. The ages in the films are meant to be a bit closer but Natalie Portman looks the same in all 3 films, whereas Anakin ages up and changes a lot, becoming Hayden Christensen. I did also watch Attack of the Clones last night, but I will ramble about that later.

The scenes around the pod race are okay. Qui-Gon has some odd sexual chemistry going on with Anakin’s mother, and her line about Anakin being a virgin birth, a fatherless child, is bizarre but I think Rise of the Skywalker may well explain it. It’s been explained in other mediums of the Star Wars franchise, but never in films. The idea is that Palpatine, the good old Emperor himself, used the force somehow and created Anakin as part of his plan to take over the universe.

Ridiculous right, but this franchise isn’t known for its realism so who knows where they will go. Or if this will ever even be explained. It’s at this point there’s more talking, more trade disputes, more things I couldn’t care less about. So, I skipped ahead again. I managed to get to the final fight, the only part of this film I wanted to watch. Darth Maul arrives and Ray Parks in that make up just looks bad ass.

I remember being so amazed by a double bladed lightsaber when I was little. I grew up playing pretend imagining I had a blue, green, or red one, but anything beyond that was just not realistic to me. Then here this guy turns up with a double sided one. How outrageous of him to just change the game like that. Then they begin to fight, and again the 6-year-old me was just blown away.

The fight is less actual sword play and more a choreographed ballet of movement and colours. The cinematography doesn’t quite make the most of it, but you can follow what is happening and where people are. The film takes notes from Return of the Jedi and splits into 3 distinct fights. One with Lightsabers, one with blasters, and one with spaceships. Only this time the Spaceship fight is being done by the 9-year-old boy we met earlier.

He has no experience flying anything in space, but he absolutely nails it. People have problems with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi because Rey picks up being a Jedi quickly. Well frankly there is no basis for this as apparently if you have it, you just have it. You don’t even need to be told how to use any part of this vehicle, if you got the force, the force got you and you’ll be blowing up space stations in no time.

Oh, I forgot about the other fight happening, the Gungans against the droid army. There is a reason I left this out, because Jar Jar is all over it and it should have been cut from the film. Nobody needs it. Nobody likes it. Get it out of my Star Wars. I want it gone. I want him gone. He’s a fucking diabolical choice by George Lucas. I know he created the franchise so had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted in these films, but why did nobody say “Uh George, yeah just a quick point on this Jar Jar character… He is fucking awful”. That’s all that needed to happen, but nobody back then had the confidence to step up to George Lucas and tell him what to do with Star Wars.

So, the film flicks between them all, and I skip through the stupid Jar Jar scenes, and I have to say I found it enjoyable. Even Anakin’s stuff in the ship is pretty fun, if a bit much when there are hundreds of trained, legitimate fighter pilots up there struggling to stay alive whilst he is doing his thing.

Everything comes down to the lightsaber fight for me though. With Obi-wan trapped he watched Darth Maul beat Qui-Gon and Liam Neeson bows out. Then Obi Wan comes out swinging and slashes the double bladed lightsaber in half, before doing the same thing to Darth Maul.

Important to note he does not kill Darth Maul. That’s right in the Star Wars universe having your legs and hips removed from the upper part of your body is but a flesh wound. Not to mention the fall down a huge shaft like the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Darth Maul shows up in several cartoons and even at the end of the Solo spin off film. He has robot legs, and it’s the best stuff the character ever does. Even better than the various times in this film when he looks broodingly into the distance.

So, there you have it, an account of my first-time watching Star Wars Episode I in over 10 years. I did this so you don’t have to. Just go straight to Attack of the Clones. Which is what I did after managing to fast forward through enough that I watched Phantom Menace in around an hour. I will go into that tomorrow or another time though.

Until then thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

SpiderMan Far From Home Review

I’m Back and so is Marvel, just a few short months after they released the mammoth that was Avengers: Endgame we have the return of Spiderman. Fresh from his exploits there, he is back and desperate to go on a school trip and have a break from the superhero life for his summer vacation with his school friends. What could possibly go wrong?

Well it turns out that quite a lot could go awry for Tony Stark’s protege, and indeed it does. The events that we see are hard to go into without spoilers, but I found the movie compelling throughout the whole run time, although there is a clear point in the film where things kick up a gear. This film is half about Peter Parker, half about Spiderman, but instead of feeling disjointed, i felt it really worked well showing the two sides of Peters life that he struggles to balance in every incarnation of the character.

I will start with the obvious for a Marvel flick now, the action. They nail it again, and even though the earlier fights feel a bit odd and Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio is given a number of cooler moments than Spidey. I didn’t mind too much, as I enjoyed everything about Mysterio in this film (more on that in a sec), but I did feel Spiderman felt a little under-powered. It is explained through the film why he might seem that way, but I wanted more from the early scenes.

In the latter part of the film the action picks up and goes to another level. Peaking at the end of the second act. I have loved these two characters, Spiderman and Mysterio, for a long time, and seeing them playing out the scene they do genuinely had my jaw dropped in disbelief. The film sets everything up in such a way that everything that happens feels feasible, something I never thought I would say about Mysterio. He has always been the one Spiderman villain i couldn’t see how they would ever get him into a movie. But my god did they nail it.

The look and the skill set of Mysterio is one thing, but getting an actor as talented as Jake Gyllenhaal to portray Quentin Beck is a masterstroke. The character’s arc is surprising, and I loved the way the film played him. It was a departure from what I expected in many ways, whilst also being exactly what I wanted. I will say no more as I can only imagine how fun this film is if you have no idea what to expect from Mysterio.

Now that the action and spectacular stuff has been talked about, I can get into the real shining light in this film. Tom Holland is unequivocally the greatest Peter Parker we have ever had on the silver screen, but a big part of that is the chemistry he shares with his supporting cast. Jacob Batalon as Ned, Zendaya as MJ, Tony Revolori as Flash all return from Homecoming, with a few new members of the group, most notably Angourie Rice as Betty Brant. They all really sell the idea of them being a group of friends, and provide some amazing comedic moments alongside their teacher Mr.Harrington played by Martin Starr.

The stars though are Tom Holland and Zendaya, who share chemistry that neither of their characters know quite how to deal with. This leads to some really genuine feeling moments of awkwardness that we can all relate to when we think back on our teenage years. I really hope as the franchise continues we see these characters grow together and deliver on the potential they have to replace, and arguably outshine, Tony Stark and Pepper Potts as the power couple of the MCU.

Those two are absent from the movie, but playing a key role is Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan. He was there, acting and directing at the start of the Marvel Universe in Phase 1, and here he is at the end of phase 3. How they managed to film his parts in this film whilst he is also busy directing the Lion King, which comes out in two weeks time is an absolute marvel in scheduling. He was a distant contact for Peter in Homecoming, but now he has stepped up to be much more of a caring Uncle to peter, perhaps too caring in some ways. He and Peter share a scene which should have felt like a cheesy, too obvious wink at the camera, but the pair act the hell out of the scene and it earns it place as one of my favourite quiet moments in the entire MCU.

So there we have it, every MCU film we know of has now been released, and for the first time ever, we don’t know what lies ahead. The 2 after credits scenes hint at some things, but nothing obvious. Spiderman Far From Home feels like Marvel showboating. Showing off their Cinematic Universe with a wink and a nod, whilst also giving us a really fun teen comedy and delivering some of the most memorable moments we have had so far. Marvel is a movie machine, and Far From Home is another great film to add to the list.

Good: Spiderman, Peter Parker, Chemistry with the entire cast, an astounding action sequence, and two great after credits scenes.

Bad: Well at this point if the MCU isn’t for you, steer well clear. Also you will need to do your homework and see Endgame and probably Captain Marvel to understand everything in this film. Although you don’t have to see Endgame 5 times over like I did.

9/10 – Mysterio is in this film. Go see it.

Rocketman Review

Last year we got Queen, this year we get Elton John. Taron Egerton takes on the role, allegedly handpicked by Elton John himself. Could he follow in the footsteps of Remi Malek and smash this out of the park. Dexter Fletcher, the uncredited director of parts of Bohemian Rhapsody, and after what he did with that film, I was excited to see what he could do with this story. 

That is the end of the Bo-Rap comparisons for now, as I don’t want to discredit the film by just comparing it to another movie. Elton John’s story is one I knew of vaguely, but none of the details were clear to me. The film shows the pure talent of the musician, but also dives in deep to the core of the man. We see the highs and the lows, and it doesn’t pull any punches.

Getting the right actor to be Elton was always going to be the element that would make or break this film, and I have to say that Taron Egerton absolutely smashes this role. He becomes Elton for the duration of the film, and he shows he can carry a film and deliver on the emotional moments that are scattered through the film. On top of that, he has the voice and physical ability to carry off all the singing and dancing this film throws at him.

That brings me to the most fun element of Rocketman, the music. I went in expecting some of the biggest hits and a few concert recreations, but that is not what Rocketman delivers. This is a full-on musical, just with world famous songs that are positioned at the perfect times to fit the story. If you watched the film with no idea of Elton John or his music, you could easily think the music was created originally for this film. “Saturday Night Alright for Fighting” to “Your Song”, a big handful of Elton’s best-known music is served up.

The music punctuates key scenes, and for me worked at its best when it functioned as the exclamation point on key scenes. The other interesting use that may not work for everyone, is the use of his songs to stop the audience dwelling on any of the lower moments. We see Elton hit rock bottom, the lowest he could go, and it leads into a rendition of the title song. The way the song is filmed and performed, it worked perfectly for me and kept the movie from feeling too heavy at any time.

So far, it’s all been about Elton in this review, but whilst he is of course the main character, we do get some really good work from the supporting cast. His mum played by Bryce Dallas Howard is excellent as is his co-writer and best friend Bernie, played by Jamie Bell. Both have key roles in the film and share the stage with Egerton without ever outshining him, although I am not sure that would have been possible in this film.

The other major character in the film is John Reid, Elton’s manager and lover. He is played by Richard Madden, who does well in the role but the character itself is the main flaw in the film for me. Whilst the music numbers are fantastical and dreamlike, all the character moments between them felt real. As the film progresses John Reid goes from slightly manipulative to being full on moustache twirling evil. I felt he became a bit too cartoonish by the end of the film and that is a real shame as that is pretty much the only element of this film I didn’t enjoy.

Rocketman delivers on the potential the story has and is an incredibly fun time in the cinema. A brilliant performance by Egerton, that for me outdoes even Remi Malek in Bohemian Rhapsody, is one of many reasons to go and see this film. Unless you hate Elton John’s music, you will have a great time watching this.

Good:  Taron Egerton’s performance may be the best in 2019, Musical numbers that will have your feet tapping and a smile on your face and will leave you with a new appreciation for Elton John.

Bad: I found one character a bit too over the top evil, and that is the only real knock I can have. Oh and no Circle of Life. Come on.

9.5/10 – Leaves you feeling like a little kid. 

 

 

Aladdin (2019) Review

I am back after a few weeks off writing other things (maybe one day you will see what) and to get me back in the saddle I had a choice of John Wick 3, Rocketman, Brightburn or Aladdin. As you can tell from the title of this post, I went for the re-imagined Disney classic. My memories of the original Animated Aladdin are a little hazy, but A Whole New World is a certified banger and you all know the words, and that alone puts it high on the list of all time Disney movies. 

Of course a huge part of the animated film was the Genie, brought to life by great animation and arguably the greatest comedic voice acting performance ever given by Robin Williams. I think a major concern everyone has with the new Aladdin is that Will Smith, even with all his charisma, couldn’t possibly be up to that historic performance. I am so glad to report that he gives a brilliant performance as the Genie, and does it completely in his own way. Much like the 1992 Genie was a vehicle for Robin Williams’ improvisational personality, this 2019 Genie is gives Will Smith the same platform for letting his own brand of entertainment ensue.

I’ve started with the Genie because he is a huge part of the film, and every scene with him in he owns the screen and you could watch him having fun with his unlimited powers all day. Smith shows that the Genie isn’t a character who can only be played by Robin Williams, just that it’s a character that needs to be played by someone with a huge personality and Will Smith certainly brings that in spades. As entertaining as he is, he is by no means the only star in the show.

As a complete newcomer to my eyes, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Mena Massoud in the title role. He is great casting for Aladdin, and he plays the role with the right amount of cheek and wit. Him and his monkey Abu have a somewhat believable bond, even if the monkey does seem a little too smart at times. I found it hard to have any real problems with him though and there was enough chemistry for me to buy into the budding romance between him and Jasmine.

Power Rangers star Naomi Scott plays Princess Jasmine, and I personally liked a few of the new choices they made with the character this time round. Her desire to be a good ruler for the people is a little bit heavy handed at times but I liked the idea they were going for. The new solo song “Speechless” is heavy handed in a lot of ways but again, I appreciated the message even if it was hammered home a bit too much. Outside of the singing, I think she did a great job playing the princess as a strong character, with her own ambitions beyond just the love of a prince.

I like all of the protagonists a lot, and I wish I could say the same for antagonist Jafar. Marwan Kenzari is fine in the role, but he did become a bit too over the top at times, and he didn’t bring that menacing presence I was hoping for from the character. This kind of makes some parts of the film, mainly the scenes involving Jafar being intimidating, fell a bit flat for me. His sidekick Iago always felt like an evil version of Zazu in Lion King in the animated version, but here he is a relegated to just being a super intelligent parrot, similar to the role Abu plays for Aladdin.

Aladdin doesn’t break any new ground beyond a few lines of Jasmine’s dialogue, and in terms of the plot there is nothing new. If you have seen the ’92 film, you know what is going to happen. The enjoyment I derived from this was seeing a new vision of that story, with a new genie and for me it was a really entertaining film. To some, this film could feel like nothing more than a well funded tribute act, but for me it was like a great band did an awesome cover. This is the movie equivalent of the Fall Out Boy cover of Michael Jackson’s hit Beat It. It’s not the original, but it’s pretty damn good, and you can sing along to every word.

Good: Will Smith crushes it as the Genie, Great breakout performances from the two leads, and the songs are brilliant.

Bad: Jafar underwhelmed me, and if you have recently watched the ’92 Aladdin, it may well give you Déjà Vu.

8/10 – Not a whole new world, but an entertaining one. 

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile Review

The Ted Bundy story is a horrifying and disturbing one. I have listened through a lot of crime podcasts about the story, and the fast someone so charming was capable of the crimes he performed is borderline unthinkable. This film, with Zac Efron in the role of Bundy, goes through the events of his crime spree and the events that led to his eventually conviction. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it would play out like a normal crime drama. 

The film took a different path to the one I expected. Coming from the director of the Ted Bundy tapes on Netflix, I figured it would go relatively straight through the events. However director Joe Berlinger decided to show us a different angle for the first act of the film, deciding to show Bundy as a handsome, charming man who falls in love with a woman called Elizabeth.

This choice I found very odd at first. Knowing so much about the story I felt it to be painting a horrific man in a positive way. As the movie went on, I realised the reason behind showing this side of him is to show the audience that Ted Bundy seemed like a very unlikely suspect. Zac Efron’s charismatic performance is perfect for this part of the film. He oozes confidence of a man who knows he is attractive, and knows how to use it.

I can imagine if you did not know the story going in, it may add an element of “Did he, didn’t he” to the film. In the real world, there is not any doubt about whether Bundy committed the crimes. At times the film makes you question if he is a potentially innocent man, which had the effect of making me feel very uncomfortable. By the finale, we are given the answers but the journey there makes for some really interesting moments.

Zac Efron is excellent, but his equal in the film for me is Lily Collins as Elizabeth. There is a scene towards the end where you can see her character beginning to buckle under the weight of what’s happened, and she carries it perfectly before the pay off in that scene. Her back and forth with Efron in that moment makes it one of my favourite dramatic scenes so far this year. The rest of the cast are solid, but the focus is very clearly on Efron and Collins, with only Kara Scodelario being given a moment to shine. She plays Carol Anne Boone, the woman who refused to believe Bundy was guilty and mothering his child while he was on death row. Proving just how charming of a man the murderer was.

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a movie I wish I had watched before I knew about the Bundy case. I can imagine the shocking revelations in the third act would have real impact on someone without the prior knowledge. As it is, I found it to be a very interesting way to tell this story, and I was captivated throughout, but mainly because of the angle the story was being told from. At no point did I really get a feeling that he was a really evil man, and that makes me a feel a little uncomfortable. At times it almost seems to be sympathetic towards Bundy, and that made me feel quite uncomfortable with it.

Good: Great performances and a really captivating subject with a different take on the story.

Bad: Left me feeling very uncomfortable with the way it portrays Ted Bundy, as I don’t think there is room for any sympathy for the man, and that leads to a confused tone.

7/10 – Ted Bundy was a horrific person, This depicts him a little too nicely.