Harry Potter Top 5: Philosopher’s Stone

The magical world of Harry Potter is my first love and it always will be. Reading was my first escape from the real world, a way to find extraordinary creatures and wizards. The story shows you courage, strength and how the bookworm can be as strong as the jocks. As a 7 years old, Hermione Granger felt like my alter ego: a bookworm by day and a badass going on adventures with her friends after schools. J.K. Rowling made me believe that you can be nerdy and still be impulsive once in a while. So when the movie came out, I tumbled into that world and I never wanted to come out. This is my favourite Top 5 moments from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

1. Dumbledore, McGonagall and Hagrid 

The arrival of those characters with baby Harry Potter after the death of his parents shows the audience magic for the first time in this universe. Dumbledore walks down the street in full wizard robes with his long, white beard, the image we usually have of a wizard, and he uses a deluminator, taking out the light from lamp posts. He might not be grandiose, but he does it with such ease that the audience want the gadget at home. It’s mysterious and intriguing. McGonagall makes her entrance as her animagus, a cat. The transformation in front of Dumbledore felt so magical and she does it without batting an eye and Dumbledore keeps on talking which shows how normal it is in the universe. And when Hagrid arrives, on a flying motorcycle, we know that in this universe there are wizards in the muggle world, yet they are hiding from the muggles. They establish how the world works without going into long and boring exposition.

2. Harry, Ron and Hermione meet on the Hogwarts Express.

This is where the adventure began. Harry and Ron, best friends from the start. This feels like an important moment for Harry, because previously he never had any friends. From his early childhood, he was told by his aunt, uncle and cousin that he was a loser, a weight on their family and there he is on the train talking to someone his age who has something in common with him. Hermione has a bit of a rough start, especially with Ron, because she is his polar opposite. In one scene, we understand the character’s personality, but also their dynamic. We see character traits that will clash and what they might have in common.

3. Hogwarts and the Great Hall

During the first act of the movie, we spend time in the muggle world and on Diagon Alley, showing how far appart both worlds really are. Seeing Hogwarts for the first time is incredible, because it feels so tall, so magical. Students are gliding across the Black lake on boats when we see it, during the night with only few lights on. The contrast between the castle and the night sky makes it look even more imposing. The Great Hall shows you in one shot how the school works with its 4 long tables and the head table at the end of the room. The floating candles gives the Hall a warm glow and the magical nigh sky inside the castle gives the little bit of magic you need.

4. Quidditch Match

Having one quick scene with Oliver Wood explaining the Harry what it is and what are the rules is brilliant, because when the match starts we can jump right into the action. This is my favourite match, because you get to see it fully. The game is filmed like a game of football, so it’s quick camera work with a lot of cuts giving the audience a fast pace action sequence. Also, it’s a great idea to use the game as a plot device and a twist, letting the audience and the main characters think that Snape is the bad guy when in fact it’s actually Quirrell. When Harry gets to the Stone, it gives the audience a good surprise to find out that it was in fact Quirrell that was working with Voldemort. Also, I love that Quidditch is the first real link between Harry and his father. He craves for a family and he finds part of his father when he plays the game.

5. The Challenges to the Philosopher’s Stone

Each challenge is there to showcase some type of intelligence. Rowling, in the books, and Colombus, in the movie, they show the audience the importance of teamwork and friendship. Hermione might be a know-it-all, but they needed Ron’s sense of strategy during the chess game and Harry’s talent on a broom. Hermione might have figured out Snape’s riddle, but she needed her two friends to move to the next clue. Those challenges strengthen the bond between the friends. When Harry first sees the Mirror of Erised he wishes for his parents, to have them back. He sits in front of the mirror just to see himself with them. When he sees them a send time, he has a stronger bond with his friends who fought alongside him and who became his new family. He doesn’t need the mirror anymore.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone made me believe in a world of mystery and magic where spells, creatures and hidden castles exist. In the movie, we follow three youngsters who could be me or you and that’s what makes it so fantastic.

GRADE: A-

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Disney Reboot Mania

The ultimate question when you write and direct a movie should always be: why am I making this movie? And when it comes to reboots, the second question should be: can I bring something different, something interesting to the mix? Disney recently decided to remake all of its animated movies into live action movies. Why? The only answer I could find is money, because there is nothing new that is brought to those film. They are mostly shot for shot remakes of the original. If I can stay at home and watch the original for free than why on Earth should I bother going to the cinema to see the new one.

The best example of this narcissistic tendency at Disney is Beauty and the Beast. The company could be making interesting new movies, but instead its remaking a movie that they created less than 25 years prior. What’s the point? Especially since those movies are so well known. Everybody knows Disney movies so it’s not like the remake is a way for a new generation to discover the movies. No it’s a way for Disney to make a load of money with minimum effort. The script is almost written since the writer is bringing nothing new. It don’t see the point of repeating a story when there are a billion more to tell.

That being said, it’s not like the movie does not look nice. The camera work is interesting and each image is beautiful on its own. Each frame looks like a painting with perfect lighting, but that does not make a movie. The characters are mostly bland and the story feels stretch. In an animated film, you can have a 1h30 movie or less movie, but it has be 2h in a live action. The added sequences are mostly pointless. That was also the case with Cinderella. What I don’t understand is how the movie can feel less interesting that the original when you have a ready made script. The only interesting character is Le Fou and even then only in small doses. Gaston is even more a caricature than the cartoon. Everything feels fake and cartoony.

I did like the Jungle Book, but mostly for the special effects and because they were not afraid to change the story to adapt it for a live action film. It did not drag and the effects were out of this world. The characters were interesting and they were all animals. A live action adaptation can work, but it needs to be thought out and has to be different enough from the original to give a fresh new look on a well know story. Otherwise, why as a movie fan would I want to see the same movie twice.

I know that Disney is about to embark on a long journey of live action adaptation and I’m not sure I will see all of them. The trailers will need to convince me that it’s not just the same old story told the same way. We all know the Lion King well and it was made around two decades ago, so through that trailer the director will need to convince me that I’m not seeing a shot for shot remake of the animation. I have not lost hope on those adaptation due to the Jungle Book’s adaption, but I’m not sure I see their purpose either.

Review #3: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

This movie is a masterpiece. What Denis Villeneuve did was not only a sequel, but his own movie. I saw the original Blade Runner few days before seeing this one to prepare, thinking this new movie could never surpass the original, yet it did the impossible. To me, this movie is much better than the original which is a rare thing when it comes to sequels. This is not Harrison Ford’s movie, but Ryan Gosling’s and it’s a good thing. He shines in this performance. This movie is definitely in my Top 5 favorite science fiction movies of all time.

The strongest aspect of the movie is its cinematography. I cannot understand why Roger Deakins does not have an Academy Awards yet. Each image stands on its own like a painting, each color is thought through, and together they blend perfectly. In the first Blade Runner we stay in the city, exploring a gritty futuristic world, but it is contained to one location. In this movie, we have three locations that are mind-blowing. They each have their own color scheme, their own gritty futuristic characteristic. They stay in the same mind frame as the original, but we still explore more of the universe. The use of CGI not jarring, but it enhances the universe giving us new technology and decors that would not be possible if they only use practical effects. We have more establishing shots that makes it easier to enter this new universe that still familiar.

The characters are interesting in this movie, because there are not black and white. We are rooting for Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, but from many of his actions it is hard to know if he really is the “good guy”. The development of his relationship with Ana de Armas’s character Joi gives him a depth that we had not seen in the original movie. As for Deckard, Harrison Ford gives a performance that is similar to the previous film, but we can feel that life has not been kind to the character. The chemistry between both actors is great. We feel the tension and the mistrust, yet they need each other to move forward. The movie makes us think about what it is that makes us human in the end. What is the difference between us and replicants?

The story is the weakest point of the movie, but that is not a bad thing. This movie has a more philosophical approach like the original to storytelling which means it is slower than a regular blockbuster and it does not follow the “normal” story beats. I found it refreshing for the most part. The intrigue had me hooked for the whole movie, but it does move slowly taking it’s time to question each character’s motivation and the movie’s society has a whole. I found it fascinating since few movies do that nowadays. There is some actions, but it is not an action movie. The only problem had add was that there were too many call back to the original. I know a lot of people love easter eggs, but I thought there were too many for my taste. It did not slow down the story, but I thought it was a little too on the nose and the director Denis Villeneuve should have let to mood and the images speak for themselves when it comes to call back. It would have been enough.

All in all, I thought this movie was a masterpiece. Each image speaks for itself giving us the mood, sometime a clue and together they blend perfectly. Denis Villeneuve created is own movie with its own storyline that continues what the original started. It’s not a cash grab. There is a real story to be told and we should all listen to it, because it is spectacular.

GRADE: A+

Wonder Woman: Cameron’s Opinion?

James Cameron is a genius when it comes to making big blockbusters. Before I say anything else, I cannot take that away from him. He knows his job well and his movies are great to watch. Now, here comes the part that doesn’t make sense to me. The man has money beyond believe, he makes the movies he wants and he is not involved in Wonder Woman or the DCEU. So why is he talking about Wonder Woman or Gal Gadot?

My first thought was ego. He wants the attention all to himself. For years, Sarah Connor was known as one of the most badass characters in Hollywood and so was Ripley in Aliens. He knows how to create a strong female lead, but his movies never attracted the female audience that Wonder Woman did. While Sarah Connor is a strong female lead, the movie model is more male oriented and we could argue that the main if not more memorable character remains Arnold T-800’s Terminator. Wonder Woman was a symbol of hope and strength for young girl that they could do everything, that they can walk in a war zone and come out alive. Patty Jenkins created a character who discovers a new world, a world that is broken and tries to bring her down, but she fights through it even if she doesn’t have to. To me, that is a strong character.

That being said, I don’t see the need to compare both movies or characters. Both characters exist and they show strength in a different way. Sarah Connor fought a Terminator for her son, for his future. She showed weakness and strength to give him a better life. Wonder Woman walked through the no man’s land to help save lives and give hope to the people who didn’t have anything. She came from a utopia, a land of warriors with no wars to fight. She gave strength to people around her. They are so different that I don’t see how you can compare them, except the fact that they are both women.

Wonder Woman as a movie does have some flaws, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter. We as women have a comic book movie that represent us, that we can identify with and when we see Wonder Woman on screen we want to fight alongside her.

Star Wars Top 5: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

Here we are, finally caught up in the Star Wars movies. This is my last Top 5 favorite moments until Episode VIII in December 2017 for this franchise. Rogue One is the first anthology film and it divided the fans and the critics alike. Some loved the movie and some thought it was boring and pointless. I am more in the middle. I loved the third act of this movie, but I thought that the first act could have done with a little less exposition. There were a lot of new characters and we knew a lot about them, that being said they had no chemistry, especially between the two leads. And usually the best thing about Star Wars are the characters and how they fit in this huge universe, and it was missing from this movie. That being said, I was still entertaining throughout the movie and it did add a lot to the Star Wars lore which is always cool if you are a geek like me.

1. K2SO

Star Wars has a lot of amazing droids with C3PO, R2D2 and the new addition BB-8, but K2SO was probably the best character in the whole movie. He had a personality that added a lot to the movie and his sarcasm made horrifying situation hilarious. He was the best character because he had some chemistry with Cassian and Jyn, it didn’t feel forced which is ironic since he’s a robot. His death at the end of the movie was heart wrenching, because we knew that he wanted to help his friends and we felt a connection with him. He was not just on screen to advance the plot, he had funny lines and he felt more relatable than the other characters that were more one note. He could be funny and sarcastic, but at the end of the day, he would always be there for Cassian, so we had the time to build a relationship with the character.

2. Grand Moff Tarkin/Princess Leia

I know that a lot of people won’t agree with me on this, but I thought that the effect were great, especially in IMAX. Yes, there is still a lot of work to do to get them to be perfect. That being said, I felt that Tarkin’s presence in the story was too important and he needed to be there. He was an important figure during the creation of the Death Star and his relationship with other Imperial officials is too interesting to pass because the actor is dead. His relationship with Director Krennic made both character more interesting to the audience, showing that there was a lot of power plays in the Empire. As for Leia, it was a fun cameo and she was there for 15 seconds so I didn’t mind. And as it turned out, it was a great tribute to Carrie Fisher.

3. The Rebel Alliance

This is something I thought this movie did really well, they showed the audience a new side of the Rebel Alliance. In the Original Trilogy, the Rebels are seen as this perfect group who fight for the light and they are always fighting ethically. In this movie, we see Cassian killing one of their own, because he knows that the man won’t be able to escape and he doesn’t want him to get capture. They are in the middle of a war with next to nothing, so they need to fight dirty to win sometimes and that’s what this film shows. We see Cassian as a killer, a spy who does the dirty work for the Alliance. He will lie to Jyn, telling her that they are going to save her father, when in fact, he is ordered to execute him. We see that everything is not black and white when you are trying to win a war. Also, it’s interesting to see the different section of the Alliance that are not fighting the Empire the same way. They do not see eye to eye when it comes to using violence or politics in their decision process.

4. Final Battle on Scarif

This is one of the greatest Star Wars battles, because it mixed ground and space battles. It starts with our heroes on the ground trying to infiltrate the base to get the Death Star plans and it seems that everything is lost, because they are fighting a small group against the Empire. Then arrives the cavalry, the Rebellion with X-Wings  lead by Admiral Raddus. Some of the X-Wings will get on the planet’s atmosphere, but others will stay in space. The scale of the battle is bigger than we have seen before and it feels like a real war where the enemy is fighting on every front. Also, it has given us, brilliant space battle sequences, like the one with the two star destroyers that collides together to destroy part of the technology keeping Jyn from sending the Death Star plans. It is a well thought out battle sequence that shows us what it was like to fight the war for a Rebellion soldier.

5. Darth Vader

The first time we see Darth Vader is interesting, because the director is playing with the shadows and the music to show how powerful he really is. This is suppose to be Vader at his mightiest. The conversation between Krennic and Vader shows the audience the power play that happen in the Empire. It would have been impossible to make this movie without having Vader in it. The last sequence when he arrives on the Rebellion’s ship is like candy for a Star Wars fan. I loved that we only hear his breathing at first, so we know who is there, yet we can’t see him. Then it’s his red lightsaber in pitch dark hallway that starts everything everything. The way he fights those soldiers shows how merciless and angry he is, yet how in control of the situation he can be. This makes him terrifying. This was the sequence we have been waiting for. It is by far the best in the movie, because the director uses the light and the sound to show us what happen instead of explaining everything. It is Darth Vader at his might and we can see it.

So what did you thing of Rogue One – A Star Wars Story? It might not have been as good as it could have, since the first and second act were slow to start, but the third act made it all worth it. The new characters could have been more characterized or interesting, that being said, it was great to see a new side of the Rebellion and get a prelude to Episode IV. It is not necessary, but it is Star Wars, so who cares about necessity. The universe is still fantastic and for a fan we get to see new planets and new factions of the Empire and the Rebellion.

GRADE: A-

Star Wars Top 5: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

This is the first movie of the new Star Wars era when Lucasfilm decided to make one movie each year. Rogue One is the standalone movie that follows this one so I decided that in a throwback kind of way I would review every Star Wars live action movie with a Top 5 favorite moments. I was nervous, excited and just plain anxious to see this movie come out, since we have been waiting for almost 10 years, hoping to get a new film. When they announced JJ Abrams as the director I knew that it would be at least good since I loved his reboot of Star Trek and his Mission Impossible III movie. And I know that there has been a lot of backlash few months after the movie saying it was too much like a New Hope, but it is one of my favorite movie in the franchise. The pacing in on part, the actors are perfectly cast and the visuals are spectacular.

1. Opening Sequence

As per usual, the movie starts with a small battle on a planet that will launch the story forward. And, in this case, it is done perfectly, because it gives the tone of the movie while introducing the story and the characters. We start by meeting Poe, our Resistance fighter, who will give the plans to find Luke to his best friend, a droid BB-8, setting in motion the story. Then we are introduce through a brutal action sequence our villain Kylo Ren and we see him using the Force and his lightsaber. Finally, we are introduce to our second protagonist Finn, a stormtrooper who will defect later on. He is fighting, but he seems confused, scared and he refuses to shoot innocent civilians. He is spotted by Kylo Ren. In on scene, all the cards are on the table. Finn is ready to defect, Poe is kidnapped, Kylo Ren is aware of both of them and the audience has been given all the necessary information. To me, this is the perfect introduction sequence and it’s in a battle sequence, so we don’t even notice the exposition too much.

2. Escaping Jakku

This action sequence is the perfect blend of modern special effects and old-fashion running away from explosions in location. When Finn and Rey are running away from the TIE fighters to get to the Millenium Falcon, it was a great idea to do it on location in the desert so it feels more real, more grounded. Of course, it all starts with the chemistry between the characters. It was a brilliant idea to have Rey fight Finn and get pull into this only because she met him and she had BB-8 with her. I also love the idea that Rey started to like Finn because he is the first because who gave her a hand when she needed help. And then we get to the Millenium Falcon chase itself and there is nothing like it, because of modern technology and CGI. It was use perfectly. The fact that they are zooming through Jakku adds to the tension.

3. Takodana

Maz Kanata’s castle is maybe a little, well, a lot like the cantina, but I still enjoy it a lot. The music they used was really cool and I loved that they go through the whole castle before landing on Maz herself. She is not what we are expecting, a small alien, but after few seconds she just gets everyone’s attention, including Han, Finn, Rey and Chewie. Also, at that castle, Rey discovers her first path towards becoming a Jedi. She finds Anakin and Luke’s old lightsaber and she has a vision in which we see the knights of Ren and Kylo Ren himself. It creates mystery around her character, making more questions than answering them which is good in a trilogy like Star Wars.

4. Rey vs Kylo Ren

This fight is interesting, because we know that there is more to the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren, but we are still not aware of it at the moment. We don’t really know who is Rey in this universe and how she relates to those characters. That being said, the fact that Kylo Ren is hurt makes this fight more believable since Rey isn’t trained yet. And I just love the moment when the lightsaber passes in front of Kylo Ren when he is summoning it and it lands directly in Rey’s hand. That brings even more questions: why is it answering to her? Also this is the moment, she believes and discovers the Force for the first time. Yes, she uses a quick mind trick on a stormtrooper, but against Kylo Ren when she is up against that ridge, she has to find it to beat him.

5. The Quest to find Luke

I like the connection between Luke and Kylo Ren, because it’s more than just master and apprentice. Ben Solo was the son of his sister and his best friend, so when he turned to the Dark Side, he didn’t just killed Luke’s hope of a Jedi Order, but Luke felt that he failed his family. As always, Star Wars is a Skywalker story and this is no different. Ben Solo is also the grandson of Darth Vader and he aspires to become him. Luke went into exile thinking it was better for the galaxy since he created and trained the monster that was Kylo Ren and he could not protect him from Rey. I love that we learn all of that before we meet him at the end of the movie. This way, when we see him, we already know that this is a broken man who has been living years in solitude. When Rey finds him at the end of the movie, it adds more questions, will he train her or turn her away? Does he recognize her?  Even if he is not in the movie, his part in the film, is greater than any other character.

So what do you think of Episode VII- The Force Awakens? I personally don’t mind the use of a “Death Star” once again or a similar plot, because we have new characters that are engaging, new questions that keeps us wondering what will happen in the next instalment and we are expending the universe based on maybe similar storyline. JJ Abrams created an action driven movie that introduce new characters yet gave enough space to the legend generation to keep us satisfied and that in itself is an exploit.

GRADE: A

Star Wars Top 5: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

This is the Achille’s heel of the Original Trilogy for many including me. It is not as bad as Attack of the Clones, but there are many weaknesses to this movie including the return of the Death Star and the complete change of tone from the previous two instalments. That being said, the good things outweighs by far the bad ones in this film. This was supposed to be the epic finale of this spectacular trilogy, so in the end there are some let down, but I have to say that I was never bored or not entertained during the movie. It just lacked the iconic statue of its predecessor. To honour the arrival of Rogue One in the Star Wars Universe, this is the next instalment of my Top 5 favorite moments in each of the movies in this franchise.

1. Jabba’s Palace

When we see Jabba’s palace for the first time, there is some ressemblance to the cantina in Mos Eisley, because of the music and the people hanging around the gangster. Luke’s plan is a great idea to show the audience how powerful he has become. We understand that he plans ahead and tries to execute it and he even has a plan B with his lightsaber hidden inside R2-D2 in case he gets caught. As for the slave outfit, to me, it shows that Leia is ready to wear anything to save her friends and when the moment is right she will kill her captor with the chain he was using to control her. It shows how badass she is. Plus, there is a emotional moment between Han and Leia when they met again when he is out of his own prison. The escape from the Sarlacc’s pit is also a good way to reintroduce the new team that now includes Lando and show off how power Luke has become.

2. The Emperor’s Arrival

In the first two films, the main antagonist was Darth Vader and he was the villain leading the Empire. He was intimidating and impressive. When the Emperor arrives, the first thing we see is, Darth Vader getting down on one knee in front of him as a sign of respect. We understand immediately that he is the man in charge and even Vader has to take orders from him. We only saw a glimpse of the Emperor in Empire Strikes Back and like Vader, he is not completely a man, he was deformed by the Dark Side. Their interaction lasts only few minutes, but it is enough for us to understand how dangerous the Emperor is, because we see how submissive Vader is in front of him.

3. Yoda’s Death

This is a pivotal scene done perfectly well in this movie. We are standing in Yoda’s little house, so it feels familiar and intimate between the characters. Also, as promised Luke came back from his fight with Vader, proving that he did not fall for the Dark Side, showing his strength to Yoda. His death also means that there are no more Jedi except for Luke, so he is the last hope for the galaxy in a way. We also see a full body appearance by Obi-Wan’s force ghost explain to Luke why he lied to him and also telling him that Leia is his sister. In this one sequence, we have an emotional moment between two characters, before the last and final battle, and we are given some exposition that seems less obvious because of the death of an important character, Yoda.

4. The Final Battle

This is what the last two movies have been building up to. Yes, it has some issues, mainly with the Ewoks, but the pacing between the space battle and the one on the ground is on point. We follow the Rebellion as they fall into a trap set by The Emperor and Vader as Luke watch from the Death Star his friends being killed. It is a nice twist on a New Hope’s ending. It builds up the tension being the last movie we are not sure if the heroes will win. The fact that not wit and strategy, but the Ewoks saved the day, annoy me a little, because it looks a little bit ridiculous on screen. Yes, it is more kid friendly, but in Empire Strikes Back, it was Han’s quick thinking that got them in and out of trouble. It was the Leia’s badass, yet logical reasoning that got them out of the Death Star in a New Hope. In this case, it feels like a Deus Ex Machina. That being said, the effects are still spectacular and the space battle has gotten even more exciting since the New Hope.

5. Luke and Darth Vader

Luke is now ready to face off not only Darth Vader, but his father, and he wants to turn him back to the light. We see how Luke has changed from an impatient young boy looking for adventure to a patient man waiting for the opportunity to bring his father back to him. This lightsaber battle between them is intimate and personal unlike anything we have seen or will see in future Star Wars films. Then we have the Emperor who is trying to bring Luke to the Dark Side, but bringing his friends into a trap and by using his one true weakness: his need for his father. The fight feels grounded and since it happens in only one room it creates this claustrophobic element. And the ending of the fight is the perfect ending for Vader and the saga. By saving his son and killing the Emperor, in a way, Vader redeemed his soul and in his last living moment turned to the light. His death was necessary, because he gives more weight to his last action.

So what did you think of Episode VI – Return of the Jedi? I really enjoy this movie. It is my least favorite in the Original Trilogy, but it is still really entertaining. The last battle spectacular and it has two great key emotional moments. It has so many memorable moments and it is an amazing ending to a iconic trilogy.

GRADE: A-

Star Wars Top 5: Episode V – Empire Strikes Back

After seeing Rogue One, I decided to review every Star Wars movie and I must say that this is the one I was waiting for. I also think that in terms of ton it is quite close to Rogue One, since both are darker and the Empire comes out much stronger than the Rebellion at the end of the movie. And just like in Rogue One, in this movie, losing the battle at end of this film, means higher stakes at the beginning of the next one. Unlike other sequels, this movie tries to change the formula from the first movie by splitting the main characters and giving them different mission to developed different side of their personality that are necessary to the story.

1. Battle of Hoth

In Episode IV, we saw our first space battle, in this next instalment, we see the power of the Empire on the ground as well. This expend also the vehicles and the weapons both armies use like AT-ATs for the Empire and speeders for the Rebellion. Though, this shows how powerful the Empire, since the AT-AT is much bigger, and more powerful than the speeders. This also gives us a chance to see how clever the Rebels are when they use the cables on their speeders to bring down one of the AT-ATs. In this sequence, the special effects, using models, are spectacular, to this day. They feel grounded on the planet and not added by computers. Finally, this battle gives the audience the tone of the movie, that even if the Death Star was destroyed, the Empire is still more powerful that ever.

2. Luke’s Training on Degobah

On Degobah, we were introduced to Yoda for this first time and he is a great addition to the characters. It was a great idea to first introduce him as a crazy little creature and then show his real power as a Jedi Knight. Yoda is Luke and, at the same time, our last link to an older time, to the Republic when the Jedi Knights were at their height. Yoda brings a more philosophical and spiritual strength to the franchise, explaining the Force by training Luke. With Yoda, we finally understand how powerful you can be by using the Force when he uses it to lift an X-Wing even if he is quite small. To me, this is the best way to explain the Force. It is mysterious, but learning to control it will make you stronger than your adversary.

3. The Plot Twist

If you ask anyone what is the best plot twist of all time, it always comes back to this famous line: No, I am your father. For someone living in this day and age, it seems almost impossible to keep something like that a secret, but I would have loved to have been in the movie theatre without knowing it in 1980 with everyone else. Imagine if you had to wait 3 more years to know if Vader was telling the truth to Luke. Also, to me, this is the ultimate win of the Empire over the Rebellion. Yes, Vader did not turn Luke to the dark side, but he did hurt the Rebellion by making Luke realized how close he is to it. Now Luke is afraid to become is father when he is training, yet he knows that he will have to fight him at the end of the day to end the war. It burdens him even more.

4. The Asteroid Field

This is a cool chase scene, because the hyperdrive is broken and they are trying to fix it while evading the Empire. It is a tense scene and thrilling because the director is switching between nerve breaking scenes between asteroids and calm scenes between Han and Leia to put emphasis on the action. It starts with one problem: the Empire is chasing them and then they add another one with the asteroid field and then another and it continues on and on for a long time. And it is never boring, because of those calmer moments between those exciting sequences. This is how you build the tension. Without those calm moments, the sequence would not be as tense. Also, like on Hoth, it is not technology that will save them, but ingenuity when Han hides with the garbage, before the Destroyer goes into hyperspace.

5. Banter Between Han and Leia

The banter between them is a way to release the tension between the action sequences during the movie. There is great chemistry between Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher which gives us hilarious and entertaining interactions. We also see them evolve from Episode IV through Episode V and how much their relationship changed. Unlike the relationship between Padmé and Anakin in the Prequels, it doesn’t feel cold and clinical between them. And it doesn’t feel sudden when they kiss or they say I love you, since the attraction is shown in the previous movie. So at the end of the film, it pays off, it doesn’t feel corny or cliché, because we have seen in the last 2 movies how close they have become. Well it might be a bit corny, but it is part of the charm.

So, what did you think of Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back? Like most Star Wars fan, this is my favorite instalment in the franchise. The story and the characters are engaging, the writing is clever and the action is thrilling throughout the movie. We get to see a darker side to the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. The special effects are still amazing to this day, making us believe that Star Wars might be real.

GRADE: A+

Review #2: XXX – The Return of Xander Cage (19 January 2017)

I have no words to say how much I hated this movie and this is coming from someone who loves the Fast and Furious franchise. I went in expecting a dumb action flick, but this was way beyond expectations. There is something to be said when you come out of an action movie such as this laughing at the unintentionally dumb dialogue or the terrible editing. I wanted to enjoy this movie so much, because I really like the first one. It was a fun, yet over the top movie about a extreme sports and spy agency. Yet, in this one, I was bored for most of the movie. How can you go so wrong with that type of premise? Anyway, this is xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.

This is the sequel to the 2002 movie xXx and the 2005 movie with Ice Cube xXx: State of the Union. The first movie was as I said before, not perfect, but a good action flick. It has great visual and a fun story. It is meant to be a little be extreme and over the top which makes it so great. The second movie Vin Diesel was replace with Ice Cube and it was meh. I honestly only saw it once and I thought it was a bad story and a little bit boring. This third instalment is the continuation of the franchise with the return of Diesel. He and his gang are working for the government looking for a device.

This is a simple premise so why is it so hard to get it right? I have to say that the 10 first minutes with Xander Cage in this movie are enjoyable. It is the only action sequence that is well edited and it feels like there is a flow through the sequences. It’s the scene with the skis at the top of the tower. That is enjoyable. Then it all goes downhill. It doesn’t feel like someone took the time to even write a story, they just went along and made the movie. A lot of scenes or plot points just go nowhere. We go from one scene to the next and they are not even connected together in the story, making it quite hard to follow. As for the dialogue, some lines are the worst I have heard in decades.

Of course, the acting in this movie is not helping. The only good actor is Donnie Yen who is amazing. Some of his lines are wooden, but it is not the worst. I enjoy watching him doing martial arts throughout the movie. He was actually the only likeable character and of course he is badass. I was excited to see Vin Diesel come back in this role, but here, it just looks like he is clocking it in. I know how cool he can be in the Furious franchise, but he puts no effort in saying his lines and his actions sequences seem lazy. Nina Dobrev plays a nerdy character and she is barely memorable and quite annoying with time. Ruby Rose had few funny lines, but not enough to make her likeable. The other characters are either barely in the movie or they are cardboard cut-outs so I can’t remember them.

Finally, the introduction to the character was stollen from Suicide Squad and it just felt lazy, like the writer and the director had no idea what else to do and they didn’t want to write something original, so they took it from that movie. It was lazy then and it is even worst now. Plus, the information given was pointless, so what was the point anyway.

What did you this of xXx: The Return of Xander Cage? All in all, I thought it was one of the worst movie I have seen in a while. I like Donnie Yen and one action sequence, but that is not enough for me to like this film. When I went to see this movie I expected a popcorn flick like Fast and Furious, but instead I got Transformer: Age of Extinction.

GRADE: E

Star Wars Top 5: Episode IV -A New Hope

This is the movie where is all started not only for George Lucas, but for most of us. Rogue One stopped only few moments before Episode IV started, so when I came out of the theatre I wanted to see this movie more than anything. As I watched the whole series again, I decided to do a Top 5 of my favourite moment in each of the films. This is a timeless movie, because it reinvented a genre that was becoming tired, and Lucas made it the biggest blockbuster of all time.

1. The Opening Shot

To this day, special effects cannot uphold to that sequence. You can feel the imposing stance and form of the Destroyer hovering over the camera. Immediately we are intrigued by the story and the owner of such an imposing ship. It takes most of the screen, moving towards a small planet far away, following and then swallowing a smaller ship. As soon as we see it, we know they are the “bad” guys, because the Destroyer means power over the other small ship. That’s what filmmaking is all about, images tell the story better than words.

2. The Rescue of Princess Leia

We have met our three main heroes before in the film, but this is the first real test they will face together. So we get an idea of their dynamic and chemistry together, and since they are faced with a dangerous situation, we explore quickly their real personality. We learn that Luke is still the optimist, naive farm boy who is craving adventure, and that Han is this cool smuggler who has seen it all, so he thinks he knows it all. And we have Princess Leia who we know that on one side is royalty and distinguish, but on the other side, does not mind a good fight and kicking ass to get what is necessary for the Rebellion. This all come together in one sequence.

3. Darth Vader

The most recognized, if not the greatest villain of all time. He has become part of our pop culture and he is known across the world. There are many reasons for that: the music, his voice played by James Earl Jones and his costume together, they create the perfect monster. He is only in this movie for 12 minutes, yet in our mind he is the main antagonist. The first scene explains why this character became this iconic in our mind. When he arrives, the music intensifies and the background noises stop, except for his breathing. We focus only on him. With his helmet and his cape, he seems imposing and intimidating. Then the first thing he does is interrogate someone and then kill him. We know that he is in charge, he has also powers that we do not understand. He is mysterious. We are attracted to those qualities in him. This is why I love Vader in the Original Trilogy, we only learn what is necessary, the rest is a mystery.

4. The Death Star Battle

It is the best space battle of all time. The only flaw the first time I saw it was the exhaust port where they shot the torpedoes to blow up the Death Star, but it was explained in Rogue One, so now I have no more complaints. The sequence feels futuristic, because of the spaceships and the battle station and the lasers. Yet, there is something familiar with the battle itself, because Lucas used World War II plane technics that was recorded to create his own battle. He recreated complete sequences from documentaries in his own movie, only in Lucas’ film, it happened in space. Also, I have to say, that I like the clean up and the special effects Lucas added in the Special Edition of the movies. It makes them look a little bit less dated without changing anything to the action itself, only the colour and some effects. And using trenches around the Death Star is brilliant since it can be use to build the tension, never knowing if the character will make it to the end. This is how you build a finale in a movie.

5. Destruction of Alderaan

This is a key scene in the movie, because we now understand how powerful and dangerous the Empire is. We understand how impossible it is for our heroes to defeat them. Also, later in the movie, when the Empire is about to use the Death Star again, against Yavin 4 and the Rebellion, we understand that there is no chance of survival if they are hit. So, when we see how little time they have to destroy it, we are sitting at the edge of our seat, hoping Luke will hit his target. When Alderaan is destroyed, it also gives a higher purpose to Princess Leia. Of course, she is part of the Rebellion, so she wanted to bring the plan to the  Rebellion and she would give her life for them. But with Alderaan destroyed by Tarkin and Vader, it becomes personal for her. She has lost her friends, her family, her home. So she will take the pain and turn it against the Empire. The Death Star becomes the greatest obstacle the Rebellion and Leia herself has ever seen.

What did you think of Episode IV: A New Hope? With this movie, Lucas didn’t just create a blockbuster that will make millions, but a huge Universe that everyone has a chance to explore through books, movies, music, comics, games or TV shows. It was a new creative world with characters with whom we connected and a great villain that will stay in the mind of generations for the next 40 years.

GRADE: A+