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Star Wars: The Last Jedi. FILM REVIEW

*VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD*

“Amazing. Every Word Of What You Just Said Was Wrong” – Luke Skywalker

2015’s The Force Awakens not only established a new trilogy in the Star Wars saga, the film also paved the way for many more exciting adventures and characters to come to us. While the last film was merely the stepping stones to the sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi shows the full potential of a Star Wars movie in this millennium and gives us the best entry since The Empire Strikes Back.

Beginning very shortly after the last film, the rebels are trying to escape the advances of The First Order in one of the greatest cinematic space battles I have ever seen. At the same time, we finally get to see what happens as Rey meets Luke Skywalker (yes, he does get to speak in this one). Rey needs Luke to help with both her own understanding of the force and help the resistance in their fight against the darkness.

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Early in the film, we catch up with Finn, Poe, Leia, Chewie and well…everyone! We also get to see just how much of an impact the destruction of Starkiller Base has had on The First Order. The war is at its high point in this movie and the stakes have never been higher. The shocks are there and the action is breathless throughout, whether it was in space or amongst allies.

One thing we needed in this film was an answer to some of the big mysteries. We get a few answers and there is maybe one or two times in the movie where we have to accept we aren’t gonna be given everything! We also get to physically see Snoke, who inspires much evil and fear in his prominent appearance. Then we have Luke, we get to see what kept him away for all this time and we see just exactly how he feels about the war and his feelings about his nephew, Kylo!

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Same as The Force Awakens before it and the spin-off hit Rogue One, The Last Jedi is a spectacle beyond my mere skills of explanation. The blend of practical effects and the best CGI that money can buy presents us with a depiction of the Star Wars universe that is impossible to hate. While a certain appearance will please the fans of old, one seen of a ship going into lightspeed presents possibly the greatest jaw-drop of the whole film.

Where as Episode VII was the first step back into this world, the new movie embraces what has come before it and ensures us that Star Wars is not afraid to break the cycle. Too many fans were possibly expecting a 2017 edition of The Empire Strikes Back, but that is not the case! Rian Johnson has created a piece which not only slots in perfectly to the established narrative, the film gives a sense of closure to some highly debated questions while keeping our excitement for Episode IX.

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If I could pick my favourite character, I would only change my mind 5 minutes later. Mark Hamill does in this film what Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens, this is a LUKE SKYWALKER film where as the last part was a HAN SOLO film. Without too much of a spoiler, we get to see a complete story for Luke and the pay-off is incredible.

Daisy Ridley is indeed the heart of the film, Rey is the character we are on the journey with and we do feel her need to learn and embrace the emotions she experiences on this story. Rey and Luke have a dynamic which is reminiscent to Luke and Yoda, but a lot more conflicted. Also, if you had any doubt about Kylo Ren as a villain, Adam Driver shows you in this movie that he is the most dangerous person (if still conflicted within himself) in this universe and someone you do not want to mess with.

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We also get some other characters who shine in the extra screen time. Oscar Isaac’s Poe is fun and inspiring, Anthony Daniel’s C3PO gets a few decent laughs and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran gets to have a lot of fun with John Boyega’s Finn! We also sadly say goodbye to our Princess in this entry. Carrie Fisher has had a lot of attention on her in the last few years and it was her passing which really hit the fans hard. We all knew The Last Jedi was her last filmed appearance in this universe, but I can honestly say that Leia will be going out on such a great note. Nobody could ever replace Carrie Fisher and all I can say is that I wish we had maybe just a bit more from Carrie in this film.

The few gripes I have are just that, almost not worth the hassle. The film is a spectacle throughout and embraces the emotional and intimate beats perfectly. The action scenes remain fantastic and breathless as before. The only main issue I would have would be in the lightsaber battles, you need to watch the film to fully understand why. I just want to say I do like them, but there is nothing that compares to that fight in The Force Awakens!

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With great character progression on multiple fronts, a real push in the story and a great set-up that will probably help for an easier wait for the fans wanting to see Episode IX, this film delivers all it needed to. Sure a few people may not like some of the choices, but you will indeed be surprised by this film and I for one can not wait to see what happens when J.J. Abrams comes back to conclude the trilogy.

Final rating: 9.5/10

Written by Jonjo Cosgrove

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Moana Review: An Inspiration From The Sea (SPOILER FREE)

By Joanna Cosgrove

Personally, I had been waiting a long time – a long long time – to see Moana since I first heard of it being announced. It just felt like it was going to be an adventure differing from previous ones we had seen from Disney and its vast collection of heroines. It was different. A good different. An exciting different.

There is so much to try and condense down into a review, but it all needs covering. First of all: “I’m not a princess!”
Moana is a large, strong leap from the Disney princesses of the 1950s, who were created to fulfil the “damsel in distress” stereotype that sadly, many grew up with. With Moana’s constant correction to Maui, who calls her a princess repeatedly as an undermine of her abilities, by stating “I’m not a princess, I’m the chief’s daughter”, it brings a new sense of character to the leading female. She isn’t rich, she isn’t entitled, she doesn’t have it all handed to her; she refuses to have her work done for her and her dreams crushed for what’s expected of her. I personally felt deeply inspired by Moana’s character – imagine what many other young girls must feel after seeing what is possibly the best animated example for them on the big screen.

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Let’s continue with the cultural background of the story, because this is where we all must feel our proudest.
As we all are too aware of, Hollywood has a thing about celebrating minority cultures. They don’t do it – and if they do, it involves white people who are lying right to our faces about it. Moana, however, does it all right. Most importantly, the voice behind the lead character is Auli’i Cravalho. She is a young, Hawaiian-born actress who auditioned for the role despite feeling like she would never be chosen – and look what happened!
Cravalho has a rich ancestry, being of Chinese, Puerto Rican and Portuguese descent, to list a few. Having an individual like her, who portrays the character more closely than possibly any other girl who auditioned, is going to make girls and women of colour grow up with hope and confidence in their talents and skills. “Representation matters”, as they say, and I believe it.
But Cravalho and the cast aside, the story of Moana of Motunui is one which believe me, many would not have expected to be told in a film. To my knowledge, I had never known a film with such a high backing as Moana had from Disney that was telling a story based on Polynesian mythology. It proves that every corner of the globe has a culture with stories that are worth sharing. It could inspire young movie-goers to seek out and learn more about the mythological figures of various cultures. I know I’m very intrigued to learn more. Best yet, you can tell the culture was greatly researched beforehand; those working on the movie took research trips to islands such as Fiji and Tahiti, and conversed with those who were native to the South Pacific about their culture; they didn’t want to get a single detail out of place, which makes me very proud. They were careful of their content, and wanted to honour the culture wholeheartedly. This is what all movies should aim for: do your research!

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Let’s move to the music, because we all know Disney loves their tunes in their movies. Moana, of course, was no exception.
We have all sort of grown bored of the cheesy, overplayed songs of Disney hits (Let It Go, anyone?), but I felt differently about the ones in this movie. Every song was heartfelt, and used elements of music styles you would find from musicians of that culture.
Special thank you to music genius Lin-Manuel Miranda for his major involvement in this movie’s score. As a great music (and Hamilton) enthusiast, I was ecstatic when I learnt that Miranda was lending his skills and his vocals to these songs – it just made me more impatient to see it – and let me say, I was not at all disappointed. The songs were well-placed, served their emotional or humorous purposes (thanks for the laughs, Dwayne Johnson), and just well done, Disney. These are songs I would love to hear over and over again.

Finally, and I wouldn’t always comment on the animation and the look of the film, but I had to. The rich use of colours, and every fine detail took my breath away.
The movie focuses on nature and preserving what the Earth has given us, and never trying to tamper with it, no matter the intentions you had behind it. The stunning aesthetics on the big screen were blinding, but in a beautiful artistic way. I had never seen clearer how gorgeous nature truly is away from real life, but Disney did it in Moana. It drives home to themes of nature, spirituality, and in general, living life how you wish.

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I really recommend seeing this movie, if you hadn’t already. Well, if you have already too. I know I wanna see it again!
Well done, Disney. Keep doing us and our little girls proud.

Rating: 10/10

Inside Out. Movie Review

Inside Out Review: An Emotional Rollercoaster

By Joanna Cosgrove

First announced in 2012, Inside Out was highly promoted as a Pixar movie for the ages. Stemming away from the usual sweet and happy themes throughout a picture created by this animation company, Inside Out gets deep, personal and – in all honesty – emotional.

It has a concept you can truly believe: our emotions are small beings in our mind that run a business that revolves around keeping your mind healthy and keeping your memories safe. We all experience emotion from the day we are born – as shown at the start of the movie, with baby Riley giggling softly as the newly created Joy (Amy Poehler, Parks and Rec) activates her very first sensation of emotion. But only 33 seconds later, Joy meets her counterpart in Sadness (Phyllis Smith, The Office), who bursts the newborn into tears.

As Riley grows up, she develops the understanding of other common emotions: Fear (Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live), Anger (Lewis Black, Root of All Evil) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling, The Mindy Project). Each emotion has the ability to save a memory of Riley’s, expressed in their designated feeling, and they can store it in Riley’s long-term memory – seen on-screen set up as a maze, made from shelves filled with orbs of memories of gold, blue, purple, red and green.

The movie itself revolves around Riley’s family moving from Minnesota to San Francisco and her emotions trying to help her cope with the changes around her. But when one of her “core memories” – the memories that represent important aspects of Riley’s personality such as friendship, family and hockey – is turned sad by Sadness and causes an emotional slip in Riley, Joy – her main emotion – attempts to secure the memories again before more turn sad. However, she almost loses control of them and as they are accidentally sent to the long-term memory, Joy and Sadness follow them. Without those core memories, Riley would lose aspects of her personality and simply lose everything important to her.

Internally in Riley’s conscious mind – the emotions’ Headquarters – the remaining emotions try and keep her at a balance but as they have no way of keeping Riley happy and joyful, she slowly falls into a depression. Without the core memories to keep alive her five personality islands alive, each crumbles one by one as Riley takes the differences to heart: her failing a tryout for the new location’s hockey team, her best friend at home finding a new friend, and her anger at her parents resulting in her considering running away back to Minnesota – an idea suggested by Anger at Headquarters.

As the movie resolves Joy and Sadness come to an agreement that yes, Riley’s core memories should remain joyful, but that joy also comes from sadness – and it’s only humane to have happiness and hurt forever in your mind.

A glimpse into the future sees a vast development in Headquarters, with a larger control console to help all five emotions manage Riley’s feelings – including a warning button labelled “Puberty” that’s just no big deal – and further development of Riley’s personality with more islands built. There are also more memories being created, with emotional combinations retained.

My Feelings

I want to give praises to the whole crew who worked on this movie because I believe this is one of the best movies to come out of Pixar.

Inside Out is a movie for the ages, as I stated in my opener, as it deals with the philosophical matters of the human mind, the importance of emotions and meanings of memories adjusted in a media that would help young children understand.

It also deals with emotional distress and depression, and I feel the representation is highly important as it’s been stigmatised greatly when young people have been diagnosed with mental health issues such as depression. In this movie, it perfectly portrays Riley’s depression as a serious matter of a minor cause; she felt homesick and with the absence of Joy, she cannot gain a happy state of mind about her new home in San Francisco. I believe this storyline was unique and expressed amazingly in this animated flick and even though director Pete Docter said he never plans on a sequel, if he at all changes his mind, I would proudly support him.

I would recommend taking your child, sibling, any young person in your family to see this – both for their viewing pleasure and benefit, and your own. They will learn that sometimes it’s okay to feel sad about life, and you’ll learn that a young person’s emotions are indeed valid.

Hey, it’s not unknown for adults to learn from children’s entertainment.

Rating: 9/10

MY TOP TWENTY FILMS OF ALL TIME. #16: Aladdin

It’s time to get onto some Disney now. So, why not start with one of the greatest animated films of all time. Aladdin is one of them Disney movies which just seemed to get everything right. The 1992 movie explores the story of Aladdin who is joined by his pet monkey Abu. He is a young thief in Agrabah who does what he can to survive. Along his way, he meets Princess Jasmine, whom he saves from an angry merchant at the market. They quickly become close until Aladdin is arrested. Jasmine is later told by her father’s advisor, Jafar, that Aladdin has since been executed. This is a lie, as Jafar is actually looking to use Aladdin to obtain a magical lamp for his own need for power from the Cave of Wonders, a cave that can only be entered by someone who is a “diamond in the rough”. Jafar attempts access into the cave early in the film just for the petty thief he hired to get killed once he enters. Jafar, dressed as an old man, uses Aladdin to obtain the lamp. He and Abu are warned they can get the lamp, but must not touch anything else in the cave. While in the cave, the duo meet the magic carpet (Disney’s first ever CGI character) and the carpet helps them find the lamp. When Abu traps them in the cave, Aladdin then rubs the lamp and is stunned to see a genie emerge and sings the catchy ‘Friend Like Me’. The Genie (portrayed by the legendary Robin Williams) comes to Aladdin’s rescue and gets him out of the cave. The Genie then reveals he can grant his “master” three wishes. So we continue…

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Aladdin, after making his first wish to become a prince, re-enters Agrabah in the hopes of winning over Princess Jasmine. The Genie helps to make his entrance as grand as possible and the song ‘Prince Ali’ introduces Agrabah to Aladdin in his new look (Let’s just say it, the songs are brilliant and the ones with Robin Williams singing are just superb). Jafar attempts to stop any potential suitors for Jasmine as he wants to marry her for the power of being Sultan. Jafar, still upset about not getting the lamp, hatches a plan once he realises that Prince Ali is Aladdin and that he is alive because of the Genie when he sees the lamp. Aladdin has used two wishes and the third was originally to free Genie so that he could be free from the lamp and do what he wants, but Aladdin doesn’t want to give him up as he feels he will be nothing without the Genie by his side. Later, Iago, Jafar’s parrot, steals the lamp and brings in to Jafar for him to use the power. Aladdin, powerless and exposed as the thief that he once was, is banished from the kingdom and Jafar uses his new powers of sorcery to remove Aladdin. With the genie under the control of the evil Jafar and him taking over Agrabah, it is in the end a self-inflicted wish which sees Jafar finally defeated.

The film is very much a delight and thrill ride throughout its run time. Whether it’s flying on the magic carpet singing ‘A Whole New World’, exploring the beautifully created Cave Of Wonders or just the effortless comedy from Robin Williams as he makes Genie a pop-culture icon, this film has a lot going for it. The magic carpet shows that a character can show emotion without a voice and without a face as it becomes the heart of the movie as it helps the characters get out of certain dangers. The music is brilliant throughout, Robin Williams has a great presence in every scene he is in and the music he contributes his voice to is beyond amazing. Aladdin is definitely one of the all-time classics and an achievement on so many levels in both what you see and what you feel.

Written By Jonjo Cosgrove.