Wednesday 19 December 2018

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - if you're even half interested go see for yourself

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been sent to find Luke Skywalker
Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been sent to find Luke Skywalker

Can you bear one more opinion on this latest Star Wars episode? If you can it is, in brief, that The Last Jedi is good, in parts very good but not as good as The Force Awakens. It's too long but not tedious, it's often funny and full of action. I felt it was, at times, more imitation Star Wars because although it brandished its characters and tropes, its sensibility is quite superhero.

The Last Jedi picks up, not from last year's Rogue One but from 2015's The Force Awakens. The Rebels, under Commander Leia (Carrie Fisher), are being pursued through space by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), his protege Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and their military commander Gen Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Renegade rebel Poe (Oscar Isaac) prefers attack to flight so the film opens straight on to a fabulous action scene.

Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been despatched by Leia to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), holed up in the Skelligs. While Luke leads the Force thread, the battle between good and evil, the rest feels a bit standard issue action film lurching through one, or two, too many cycles of near peril. This is in part down to writer-director Rian Johnson and also down to patchy leads. Hamill and Fisher are above discussion, obviously Driver, Gleeson and Isaac really deliver on juicy characters, Rey is a bit earnest and the Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) side adventure and pairing are weak.

It's a thin enough story padded out with too many crises but it's got girl power, laughs and lots of action so if you're even half interested go see for yourself. And it is best to have seen The Force Awakens first. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor


Cert: G; Now showing

As with comedy aimed at grown ups, comedy aimed at children very much depends on whether the central comic character hits your funny bone. Although there is humour sprinkled throughout this animation, the main source is Lupe, the comedy goat, voiced by Kate McKinnon, so, subtle it isn't. Although it is unlikely to enter into the realm of animation classics, Ferdinand is sweet and well-intentioned.

Lupe is, apart from a brief appearance by a little girl called Nina, the only female character in a film based on male stereotypes. Adapted from a children's book of the same name the cartoon examines, albeit subtly, what it means to be a man in the super macho environment of a bull ranch in Spain. All of the young bulls want to grow up to be like their fathers and to gain the supreme honour of being chosen to fight in a bullring. The young Ferdinand is already against fighting when his father does not return from a bullfight so the calf runs away, finding an entirely different life on a flower farm. He grows into a remarkable specimen of giant bullhood (voiced by wrestler turned actor John Cena) and although assumptions are made about his nature, Ferdinand defies the stereotype.

As well as its gender message, Carlos Saldanha's film is clearly anti- bullfighting. It is lazy in places, resorting to tried, tested and overdone comedy tricks and baddies. Fun for younger kids. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

The Prince of  Nothingwood

Club Cert: Now showing

French documentarian Sonia Kronlund has, since 2002, broadcast a regular radio show whose objective is to show either new things or things that are generally only presented one way. In Afghanistan she found a subject worthy of both descriptions; Salim Shareen, prolific actor and filmmaker, a huge part of Afghan life, swamped wherever he goes, but simultaneously a symbol of a lesser-known Afghanistan.

Sonia and Salim travel together in the interesting dynamic of her filming him whilst he makes a film based on himself, one of the four films he is making at the time. She records his fictionalised version and the real version, to the extent that he will allow it. When she gets to his home, she can speak to his eight sons, but not his six daughters or either of his two wives. The second wife he describes as a kind of treat to himself because his first one was older than him and a bit ugly.

Kronlund's chain-smoking presence in the doc works well, her genuine anxiety over safety in the still violent country contrasting with Salim's very visible disregard for caution. The civil war was worse than the Soviet War they say, many, including Shareen, are barely literate because war stopped their education. They talk about it light-heartedly, even though most of them have lived through horror. It's one of many contradictions about the Taliban, defying yet traditionalist film maker Shareen, that make this documentary fascinating to a specific audience.

★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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