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Overall I feel like we have actually gotten a pretty decent January as it usually comprises of the most loathsome movies you could possibly imagine - and this is especially the case for the horror genre ('The Devil Inside' anyone?). But from what I was expecting, I can definitely say this is one of the stronger January's in recent memory. However, that does not mean we do not still get those stinkers, we certainly did and 'The Forest' is most definitely one of them.

The one word that entered my head as the movie started - was the same word I had when the movie ended = pathetic. 'The Forest' feels just like what a young person who grew up on modern horror movies (and modern horror movies only) would end up writing and directing once he or she got in the business. We have everything here you could imagine. Jump scares without any build up or established tension. A famous actress in the lead role in the midst of a bunch of C-listers. A silly premise that is difficult to take seriously. Mind-numbingly silly and desperate editing just to squeeze a couple of more jumps out of the audience. And of course, who could forget the most important trope of them all, poor use of CGI. The only thing it had going for it is that it is not found footage, but really that should not be all it takes to count as a positive. It is kind of amazing that we have entered 2016 and we still have not left this age but if there is anything I can praise it for - it is that it makes me appreciate movies like 'The Conjuring' and 'The Babadook' so much more.

From a production value point of view at first I was somewhat impressed as I knew it had a budget of a mere $10 million and the first 10 minutes show scenes in what I can only assume is Tokyo as well as several different locations in a short period of time and I was wondering how the rest of the movie was going to pan out... but then I remembered this movie was called 'The Forest'. And what do you know, a lion's share of the total screentime takes place in a boring and dull looking forward with poor color grading to make it look darker and "creepier" than it really is. When you get right down to it, it is just a forest.


The performances are nothing outstanding. Natalie Dormer brings nothing to the role and I doubt she is even really trying in comparison to what she does on 'Game of Thrones'. The other actors in the movie are also nothing special and just comes across as "those guys" that you see in horror movies like 'The House at the End of the Street' starring Jennifer Lawrence or 'The Boy Next Door' starring Jennifer Lopez. Nevertheless they bring nothing to an already empty movie on almost every front.

Overall, 'The Forest' is a shoddy piece of tripe that has all of the hallmarks that we see in most bad modern horror movies. The script is poorly thought out, the dialogue is on the nose and incredibly childish in its attempt to sound "mature". Then the ending comes that I think everybody naturally saw coming a mile away but it just emphasizes how little this movie has to offer even under the most basic of scrutiny. I am glad they did not at least try to pull a bigger twist just for the sake of it being a twist no matter if it does not make any sense. But it does not change the fact that this is just a terrible movie.

2/10


- Lucas
It is the return of the master of dialogue himself, Quentin Tarantino who this time has almost three hours of content for us to chew over and a roadshow event that has to be attended if possible. Yes 'The Hateful Eight' is a quite amazing.

It is not exactly news that Quentin Tarantino is one of the best film makers currently working and it should also not news that 'The Hateful Eight' is the best western since... well, 'Django Unchained'. I mean it has such classics like 'A Million Ways To Die in the West' and 'The Ridiculous 6' it has to surpass. Naturally it did that even before it entered production but I do want to make sure I emphasize that 'The Hateful Eight' may not be better than 'Django Unchained' - it is however one of the best movies of the year. Now whether or not that is a statement I will hold to in a year's time is something we will have to wait to find out but as of right now, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie both times I saw it and I expect I would if I saw it a third time. I have to say though, Quentin Tarantino is going to have to shake up some things if he wants his style to work again in his next film because it is getting kind of predictable at this point.

The very second I heard Kurt Russell was in the film I jumped and cheered that I would get to see him in another Tarantino film. He is a great actor and is also thankfully used really well in 'The Hateful Eight' as Jon Ruth the hang man. He is most definitely one of the most memorable characters in the film because of his schtick and that Russell's performance is very over the top (in a good way of course). But the main reason this movie works as well as it does is that there is not just this one character that stands out from the rest - they all do. Samuel L. Jackson gives probably his best performance since 'Pulp Fiction', Walton Goggins has a really fun role and probably plays the only character that has anything resembling an arc. Jennifer Jason Leigh completely makes the film and is very deserving of the best supporting actress nomination she got at the Oscars. Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Demián Bichir, Bruce Dern... they are all memorable and play ver well realized characters by an absolutely killer script by Tarantino.


You probably heard that this film was shot in 70mm by this point and whether or not you know what that is - go and see it in 70mm if you can as it is an absolutely gorgeous looking movie. I like that they do confine this extremely wide scope into a tiny little cabin as it is a nice contrast and it also helps to establish the layout of this room that we spend the majority of the movie in. I must also applaud Quentin and Robert Richardson (director of photography) for making probably two hours inside of one cabin - never become boring to look at. All the shots are very well composed and because it is shot in 70mm (well technically 65 but who cares) they could really get in close to each actor's face and still have enough room to progress the story with things happening in the background.

Now the main problem with 'The Hateful Eight' is that it does sort of become yet another Tarantino movie that just ends in a bloody mess (I mean that literally, the movie itself never becomes a mess). I was hoping it would go in a more interesting direction with all these characters and completely subvert expectations but nope, Quentin has to have exploding heads and a comical amount of blood.

Overall, 'The Hateful Eight' is a film that is a lot of fun to watch if you like dialogue and Tarantino movies. I would not say it is his BEST film but I would also not say it would belong in the latter half as I did enjoy it a lot and seeing it in 70mm was truly an experince I will not forget anytime soon.

9/10


- Lucas
It is here. After all this wait, after all this speculation and after all these unfathomably good trailers - 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' has arrived. Is the franchise here to stay or does this feel like the beginning of yet another disservice to the title? Well I literally just got out of an IMAX showing and I feel ready enough to give my answer to the question.

All right Star Wars fans out there. You can all take deep breaths and calm down because 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is not the beginning of yet another trilogy as terrible as the prequels. This movie is great. If I was born back in the 70's and had watched all of the original trilogy movies in the theater I would not have felt the force as much here as I have since 1980. Yes rest assured, 'The Empire Strikes Back' remains the greatest Star Wars movie ever made (and I doubt anything will top it) but 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is up there with the best movies in the franchise and further emphasizes just how bad the prequels were. This is not to say this is a near perfect movie however, there are flaws to be found but the sheer and utter blast I had while watching it completely overshadowed all the things the back of my head were picking up. Of course I will still get to those things later on in the review - but not in a spoiler way. I will keep this whole review as spoiler free as possible because while there have been bits that were revealed through various sources - the movie does still thankfully have a couple of surprises up its sleeves so for your own sake, let them be surprises when you watch it.

Right of the bat, the opening title crawl is excellent. I know it is kind of silly to praise text but considering just how dull the entire prequel trilogy (and even 'Return of the Jedi' to some extent) were - this title crawl gets you excited and pumped about what is about to come which of course is what the classic Star Wars title crawl SHOULD DO. Naturally the audience (including me) erupted in applause when the Lucasfilm stamp appeared and then of course later when the epic John Williams score began. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the theater.


The real victors in this movie however are thankfully the characters. Both Rey and Finn played by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega respectively are fantastic and utterly destroys every performance given in the prequel trilogy and even tops several in the original trilogy as well. Their chemistry is perfect and they both have a whole plethora of standout moments both together and individually. Harrison Ford is not phoning it in here like he kind of was in 'Return of the Jedi', this is the Han Solo that we know and it is a very logical progression from where he was when we last saw him. He also gets things to do here the whole time which he really has not since 'The Empire Strikes Back'. He and Chewbacca (who is also great) have their banter again and you really feel like both of them truly have returned - and the same can thankfully also be said about Carrie Fisher as Leia. We also have a great new villain in Kylo Ren who I justifiably feared might become a little too close of a character to Darth Vader - but once I saw the movie it became very clear that this was not going to be the case. Adam Driver does a great job in the role and the script gives him a lot of memorable moments.

The plot is not that deep or heavy which might be the best direction they could have gone for a movie like this. The first 'Star Wars' movie was not very deep either but left the doors open for a heavier sequel with 'The Empire Strikes Back' (which it pulled of perfectly, of course) and this is no different. The things that are layered are only what really should be layered - which are the characters. I had no problem with the movie not focusing completely on the plot but the one we have is not exactly dull in any stretch of the imagination (but I would not give it an award any time soon).

This is the third Star Wars movie were I feel like the pacing is pretty much perfect. It does not waste any time as you never feel like it spends too much time or too little time on any of the locations. It also does not feel like it tries to skimp passed the character development to get to the action scenes. J.J. Abrams knows what is important and has thankfully decided to have that be the main focus.


If you do not want to know anything about the movie then you probably will have to stop reading right now if you do not want to risk anything. Now however I begin with the flaws of the film. For me some plot points felt a little too much like the original 'Star Wars' and hell even 'The Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi'. I am talking plot point by plot point at times and I know George Lucas' classic "poetry, it rhymes" quote gets made fun of a lot (and it should) but I feel like J.J. Abrams might have followed it just a little too closely. However that being said, it is not annoying. There is just enough new things here to balance it out and by the end you are not exactly going to leave the theater thinking it is a clone of the original trilogy. There are also a certain scene in the second act that I could do without. It is not completely useless but when you look back at the whole thing it does stick out from the rest. The third act is were the flaws start to creep in the most though (I was even reminded of 'Terminator: Genisys' at one point) but again, nothing detracts from the enjoyment and honestly, a lot of the things throughout the movie that I thought were going to lead to flaws - only ended up being a diversion for greater things which was beautiful to see.

Overall, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is a wonderful return to form for the franchise with great characters, overwhelmingly enjoyable action set-pieces, lots of memorable moments and the most important positive of all - it feels like Star Wars again. This is the first good Star Wars movie I have ever seen in the theater (saw 'Revenge of the Sith' back in 2005 and 'The Phantom Menace' in 3D) and it certainly will not be the last unless my credit card says otherwise. Star Wars is back, and it is here to stay.


9/10

- Lucas
As we get closer and closer to the eventual release of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens', let us look back a little on where this entire franchise began. Does it still hold up?

Watching 'Star Wars' again I could not help but feel like I should watch these movies more often. I am a strange creature in that I rarely re-watch movies I have already seen and somehow in the midst of having that mindset I forgot just how re-watchable the original trilogy is from purely an entertainment standpoint. 'Star Wars' is pretty much the perfect amalgamation of all the tropes you see in classic boy-turned-hero tales. Not everything works from a logical perspective but purely as a character story - this is a pretty much perfect movie. It has a very logical progression from a simple environment to a huge and epic space adventure.

Now what kind of a Star Wars review would this be if I did not mention the score. One of the very few things that has remained consistently great in all of the Star Wars movies is John Williams' epic music. Whether it is the opening titles, the individual themes for all of the characters or even just the music that is played in Mos Eisley Cantina. Practically all of the different scores are some of the most memorable and greatest ever composed for a movie and I can without a shadow of a doubt say that this franchise would not be what it is without it.


One of the main strengths of this movie is just how many levels it can be enjoyed on. It is a blast for both kids and adults for many different reasons whether it is the really tight editing to keep you engaged or the different themes that are present. This is how the original trilogy (or at least the first two) has survived this long and remains on many people's favorite movies of all-time lists even after growing up. I cannot entirely sympathize and say this is one of the greatest of all time but it is definitely a masterful starting point for what was to come.

Now to some negatives about the movie that I discovered (well more like rediscovered because I was already aware of them but whatever) while watching the movie again. We have a rather weak leading performance from Mark Hamill (who of course was only like 25 at the time of shooting) who overacts in places and comes across as whiny in others - which can also be attributed to the script. And speaking of the script, people seem to have this weird notion that George Lucas changed drastically when you compare the original trilogy to the prequels. I respectfully disagree in that I feel like he is very much the same man - just without all the money in the world and a whole bunch of yes-men around him who will do whatever he wants. Many lines in this film ranges from being cringeworthy to almost terrible.

PRINCESS LEIA
Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash. I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board. 

All the bad lines, stilted performances, pointless story detours and the soulless exposition were all there at the start. Thankfully we got three heroes (there is literally no other way to describe them) in the names of Richard Chew, Paul Hirsch and Marcia Lucas who took footage of what would otherwise have been a disaster of a film - and made it into what it is today. You can really see in the deleted scenes that this could have been a very different film if these three did not come in and "fix" it. What was originally just a mess of a story - got turned into one of the most influential movies ever made and for that we must applaud these editors. In fact, other than John Williams' amazing score - the editing is the most important reason why this movie works and why it is so good. The pacing is pretty much flawless (unless when it is being tampered with by the special edition changes) and there are multiple brilliant and effective cuts scattered throughout. If there is one minor nitpick I had to mention it is that this was of course a very messy script before a large chunk was taken out and sometimes you can definitely see that in the way it jumps around at times.

Overall, 'Star Wars' is still a great movie with an overwhelming amount of creative designs and memorable moments. This truly was the starting point for were the summer blockbuster was going and judging by the anticipation that has loomed around the world for the past three years about 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' - I think it is pretty safe to say the franchise has not lost its fanbase despite the very valid attempt with the prequels.

8/10

- Lucas
As part of an annual movie night during St Lucy's Day (ask your Scandinavian friend) - which basically means we spend the entire night watching three upcoming movies - the audience and I were sadly subjected to the upcoming 'Point Break' remake as the first film we got to see. Now as someone who has actually not seen the original Kathryn Bigelow classic I cannot comment on whether or not it follows the original beat for beat or if it actually deviates and becomes its own thing. What I can comment on though is whether or not it works as its own movie coming from someone without any bias.


Seeing as we were not told what the movie is going to be beforehand I did not know until the title popped up but what I DID know was that whatever it was - I was probably not going to enjoy it from a directing and editing standpoint. This is a very flat and dull looking movie with no real excitement in any of the action sequences which should have lead to more reliance on the characters being interesting - but they were not. There is nothing special about it whether it is memorable lines, characters or moments and to my understanding the original film is filled with all of those which again lends me to believe we have reached yet another 'RoboCop' & 'Total Recall' esque remake that will come and go. It is basically the epitome of a movie that will be completely forgotten after it leaves the theaters. Luke Bracey is a flatline and does nothing to carry the movie except stand around.

One of the worst sins the movie commits is like I said at the start - not even the action sequences are particularly exciting or inventive. They are very shoddily shot and there is no sense of tension or excitement to any of it despite all of the great locations that are involved. Of course a lot of blame can be put on the screenwriters being really poor at making us care for the characters but everything seems to be done so indifferently that I do not even know what the director was trying to focus on. 

The dialogue ranges from just being flat to downright horrible. The movie tries to give Johnny Utah (who is apparently a 'character') somewhat of a love interest and there were times during some of their conversations that felt like they were written by George Lucas himself. "I do not like sand" would not be a line totally out of place with what they were saying most of the time. Then there is also Bodhi (played by Édgar Ramirez) who constantly spouts out spiritual lines that could very well be written by a film student trying to sound poetic but failing miserably. The pacing is all over the place due to the stop and start type of structure the movie is going for. There are not enough moments to let us get to know the characters we are going to have to invest our time on and whenever these rare moments occur they are drab and uneventful. It is like the writers find these scenes to be more of a burden than anything.

Overall, the 'Point Break' remake is exactly what we expected it to be. Mindless nonsense with no characters to latch on to and nothing to really push it to the level of even the most generic of action thrillers out there. The performances are weak, the directing is flat and the script is emptier than a blank sheet of paper. Really the only thing I got from it is that now I more than ever want to see the original just to see how this premise could work in the hands of a proper film maker.

3/10

- Lucas
Okay. No muss, no fuss. No beating around the bush. No messing about. Just straight to the point. 'Heaven Sent' is pure unadulterated art. If there was ever an episode of 'Doctor Who' that could easily be put in an art museum, it is this one. I thought 'Listen' would be the magnum opus of the Peter Capaldi era... but oh was I wrong.

I might have to stop calling episodes awesome by this point because it got redundant several weeks ago. Though judging by the reaction 'Heaven Sent' has received around the internet I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that this episode is going to go down in history as one of the finest we have ever gotten. Whether or not it is the best piece of television 'Doctor Who' has ever produced overall has yet to be decided as we should give it a couple of months and let it breath first. If this kind of excitement and wonder remains next year when we look back at it then we know for certain just HOW good 'Heaven Sent' is (the same goes for Series 9 in general). What I personally do know for sure right now though is that it is definitely the best episode the show has produced since probably 'The Big Bang' from Series 5.

Peter Capaldi is utterly transcendent here. Encapsulating everything we know about the Doctor in 50 minutes and brings us the best performance any actor has ever given on this show. He has proven time and time again throughout Series 9 that he is a magnificent actor and one the BBC would be stupid not to promote for a plethora of awards when the time comes. From his speech in 'The Zygon Inversion' to his angry hatred towards Mayor Me in 'Face the Raven' to this entire episode - if you are someone who stopped watching because the Doctor no longer looked like a dashing young gentleman... then I seriously pity you. This is an actor who singlehandedly carries all the emotion weight of this episode near the end. You cannot even comprehend how good he is with words because if you have read my reviews for this season you know how I constantly praise his performance - and yet here he tops everything he has done. What can I even say about an actor like that?

Naturally he is also blessed by an amazing script by Steven Moffat who proves yet again why he is the showrunner and that no matter how flawed some things in his era have been - he still remains the best writer the new series has. 'Heaven Sent' is poethic, layered and so very clever. Steven has been saying for months how this has been the most difficult script he has ever written but the end result (and probably the greatest achievement of it) make it look easy. The narrative unfolds so well and effortlessly that you really have to applaud him for being able to pen episodes as good as this even after ten years of writing for the show. The re-watch value here is incredible as you constantly notice more and more things to like about it and thankfully it is all being shot by the brilliant Rachel Talalay who returns after the astonishing work she did on 'Dark Water' and 'Death In Heaven' last year. She brings such a Ingmar Bergman-esque feel to the whole thing in a way 'Doctor Who' has never really done before (again continuing the risks Series 9 has been taking). 

The final piece of the puzzle that truly makes this episode what it is, is Murray Gold who seriously continues to top himself. This is his finest hour as a composer. Bringing us a whole new style of music that again reminds me of Ingmar Bergman. It is through these main four people working in harmony that this episode works as well as it does.


The Veil itself is not one that will stand up next to the classic monsters the show has had but it serves this story perfectly. It is not a creature that even tries to draw attention to itself and there is really nothing special about it other than that it is always walking towards you a la 'It Follows'. The idea of a creature always walking towards you and once it reaches you you are dead is scary though and honestly it was done better here than in that aforementioned movie. The presence of The Veil is always there as you never get the feeling that the Doctor is in a safe position. Naturally we probably will not be seeing The Veil appear again and I will be very thankful for that as I felt it was used very appropiately and there is really nothing else you can do with it.

Steven Moffat bringing the mind palace from 'Sherlock' into the show worked surprisingly well. I will admit I was a bit hesitant once it first appeared but the more it was used - the more appropiate it felt for this kind of story and by the end it makes for some heart breaking scenes as we truly get into the mind of the Doctor.

Overall it is through the brilliant metaphors, poethic dialogue, pitch perfect editing and Peter Capaldi, Steven Moffat, Rachel Talalay and Murray Gold working together in complete harmony were they are all in their A game - that 'Heaven Sent' transcends everything else I have seen on Television this whole year and emphasizes that 'Doctor Who' is at the top of its game right now. It is time to send this show to the Emmys.


10/10


- Lucas