Film Review

The Truman Show

It’s been a while since I’ve done a full film review (in this format) but it’s time again now. It’s not that I’ve not seen any films, it’s just that very few have been worth blogging about. So this week’s entry is about The Truman Show.

Why did I watch this film?

This is a film that a few people have mentioned over the last couple of years, and mostly in a “this film is iconic, you must have seen it” kind of way. I had never even really heard of it so I assumed it was fairly recent and I had somehow just passed over it. Turns out it’s from 1998 (the computer screens definitely date it to around this period), so it’s not quite old enough to be a proper cult film, and not quite recent enough for me to have seen when it came out. Anyway, I came across it on Netflix at the weekend and decided it was worth a shot.

What did I think of this film?

When describing this film, people had always explained that it was about a guy who was constantly being filmed for reality TV, but that he had no idea that he was. I never quite understood the full premise behind this but it sounded like an interesting concept. So it wasn’t until I had seen it that I fully grasped how it worked. And I realise that I’ve not explained it the best way either so I would just recommend watching it for yourself.

It is generally a funny film but there are a few more serious moments too. It definitely made for some light-hearted Sunday evening viewing that didn’t require too much thinking about, whilst at the same time not being a complete switch-off film. The idea that reality may not be what it seems reminded me a lot of Inception (a film I do really like). Afterwards you start to wonder if your own life might actually be just for someone’s reality TV viewing and what the consequences of that would be. If that is the case and you’re watching me right now, I’d like to apologise for having to watch me write this post over the last half hour or so. (Don’t worry, I don’t actually think that is happening.)

Will I watch it again?

I did really enjoy this film and would probably put in my favourite films. It’s not quite in my best ever films yet, but I would definitely watch it again and I think it could only go up in my favourite rankings. In fact, I’m tempted by a second viewing just so I can take it all in again knowing what’s going to happen at the end. Highly recommended.

Film Review

Star Wars Holiday Special

This post is at the special request of one of my readers who complained that I didn’t include the Star Wars Holiday Special in my recent Star Wars viewing marathon. [Side note: Suggestions for future blog posts are always welcome.]

The most obvious reason for not including it in my viewing marathon was that it’s not on Disney+ which is where I was watching all of the other films and TV series. It’s apparently never been released officially since its original showing, so I didn’t feel too bad about searching it out on YouTube.

The other big problem is that it’s not part of the current Star Wars canon. Yes, whilst it stars all of the main characters and some of the concepts from it may potentially be canon again, it’s an incredibly low quality production and it just doesn’t feel like a Star Wars film.

The only thing I liked about this film is that it shows real life in the universe outside of wars or major events. In the main films there’s not much time to show how real people (or wookies) spend their time. This film did that, but in an annoying comical exaggerated way which I didn’t like. There are now plenty of (canon) examples of real life in the TV series (Star Wars: Rebels and Star Wars: Resistance) which aren’t confined by the movie film format so this isn’t too much of a concern for me.

I also didn’t like the interlude sections which were mainly random musical sideshows. I really didn’t need to see Chewbacca’s child watching the world’s worst video of a robot that breaks down every 5 seconds whilst giving instructions on how to build a radio, or Chewbacca’s Dad enjoying what is clearly adult VR content. The animated interlude featuring Boba Fett was interesting though, especially since this is technically his first appearance in the Star Wars universe (by production chronology, not by universe chronology).

Another major character point that made me not like this film, and would be a major problem for me if this was canon, is that if this film is Chewbacca going back to his family, that also means that he left his family, including his young son, alone to just go travelling with Han Solo for no specific reason. Although the Holiday Special implies that he goes back to them fairly regularly (or at least video chats them), I can’t imagine Chewbacca leaving his family for such a long period to go off with Han, particularly as he’s possibly away from the events of the film Solo, even all the way out to Episode IX (a period of around 45 years).

At the time it came out, this was probably (but more likely not) a welcome addition to the Star Wars universe which at the time only consisted of one film. Nowadays, we have far more films and TV series, and I don’t think there’s really a place for the Star Wars Holiday Special. And if I count this in my Star Wars viewing marathon, do I also need to add the various Lego Star Wars series, and how about Star Wars: Ewoks and Droids? And the original Star Wars Clone Wars TV series? And what about the books and comics which actually are canon?

I would say it was maybe worth the one watch for completeness, but would I watch it again? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Not for the general viewer.

Film Review

A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away

So, not actually that far away, actually just a few metres away from where I am now, but fairly long ago. Back on the Easter weekend (10-13 April), I decided that since I had four days free and we were still near the start of lockdown and there wasn’t much to do outside, I would watch all of the Star Wars films over the four day weekend.

I then expanded this to include all of the Star Wars TV shows that were on Disney+, apart from The Mandalorian (because I was in the process of watching that separately) and anything that was Lego Star Wars (because that’s not canon). Whilst I’ve seen all of the films before, this is the first time I’ve watched any of these TV shows [side note: I was a fan of the previous, now non-canon Clone Wars TV series]. Last weekend I finally finished my challenge of watching them all in canon chronological order. Here’s my thoughts on each show/film:

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (Lifetime watches: A lot)

Whatever anyone else says, this is clearly one of the best Star Wars films. It has so many quotable lines, it introduces the Jedi properly and has a load of new planets. Anyone who says Jar Jar is terrible should really be blaming Episode II where he becomes a recurring character – he was really just a one-off character in Episode I. It probably helps that I was 11 when this film came out and so was probably target market.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (Lifetime watches: A lot)

Another of my favourite films (you can tell I’m a prequels fan). I’m a big fan of clone troopers and this story is a great introduction to the clone wars series.

The Clone Wars (TV series) (Lifetime watches: 1)

This series is the reason why I didn’t complete my challenge in a four day weekend. With seven series leading to a solid 86 hours of watching, there was no way I could achieve my task. Once I realised it wasn’t possible, I slowed down quite a bit. Which is actually a good thing, because it turns out the 7th (and final) series hadn’t been fully released when I started, but I could now time my viewing activity with the new episode releases. This is my favourite of all the Star Wars TV series and I could easily watch much much more of the clone wars (if it was ever released).

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (Lifetime watches: Slightly less than a lot)

This is the first (and so far only film) that I’ve ever watched on release day at the first possible showing. It was during my GCSE exams and I didn’t have an exam that day so what else would I do? It’s also one of the few films that I’ve seen in the cinema more than once. The only problem is that you always know where the film is heading (Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi etc) but it’s fun to see the journey there.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Lifetime watches: 3)

And probably the worst of all the films. Watching in context with the Clone Wars adds a lot of background (crime syndicates, Darth Maul) but it doesn’t help this film improve in my ratings.

Star Wars: Rebels (TV Series) (Lifetime watches: 1)

Following the Clone Wars, this series was always going to struggle. It took a while to care about the characters, and most of them are incredibly annoying. However, by the end of season 4, I was wishing there would be more episodes, as these TV series really help to fill in the back story around the films.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Lifetime watches: about 5)

Another of my favourite Star Wars films (which probably says quite a lot about me). This film is also incredibly sad when you realise that everyone is going to do. And I say that having seen this film several times now.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Lifetime watches: A lot)

I can’t remember the first time I saw this but I must have been 9 or 10. Quite literally a classic film. Watching it now, there’s a few things which could be changed for continuity purposes or for better graphics, but that’s opening up a whole can of worms…

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Lifetime watches: A lot)

This has always been my least favourite of the original trilogy films, probably due to the lack of massive space battles. There’s definitely a lot more going on story-wise though, which I don’t think I’ve always appreciated before.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Lifetime watches: A lot)

This was the first ever Star Wars film I watched. It was at the end of a school year in one of those video-watching-lessons-instead-of-real-lessons slots. Annoyingly I had to go to a recorder lesson part way through so I missed some of it. This was my favourite Star Wars film for years (at least until newer stuff came out), but I’m not sure if Episode IV now beats it for me.

The Mandalorian (TV Series) (Lifetime watches: 1.5)

I wasn’t planning to include this in my viewing marathon as not all of the episodes were out and I was watching it through separately. However, by the time I got to this to point, all of the episodes were out so I included it, even if it did mean re-watching a few episodes I had watched very recently. I quite enjoyed the Mandalorian but it took me a couple of episodes to get into it. The hardest part for me was remembering that he wasn’t a Jedi and couldn’t just use the force to do things.

Star Wars: Resistance (TV Series) – season 1 (Lifetime watches: 1)

I don’t know what it is about animated Star Wars TV series and having really annoying characters but this is another example of it. (Maybe because they’re aimed at children/teens?) Once you get over that, this series really adds a lot of background to the Resistance and the First Order which really helps to understand what’s going on episodes 7-9.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Lifetime watches: 3)

I first watched this film at the IMAX at the Science Museum which was impressive. The film itself is fairly average and just seems like a copy of Episode IV (which may be what they are going for).

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Lifetime watches: 2)

The sequel films fit into the wider universe, but I don’t really feel like they sit at the same level as the prequels or the original trilogy (feel free to @ me). This film very much blurs into the previous one (although I did watch them back to back so that could be why). This is the film which I’ve watched the fewest number of times, so that may also influence my views.

Star Wars: Resistance (TV Series) – season 2 (Lifetime watches: 0)

And this is where my watching marathon ended because Star Wars Resistance season 2 isn’t on Disney+ UK yet. By the time it is added, The Mandalorian season 2 will probably also be out so I’ll have even more to watch through.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (Lifetime watches: 3)

I watched this film twice at the cinema. Probably not because it’s good but because I went with two different lots of people. The second time I watched it in 4D so it had moving seats and an airblower in your face and a thing that poked you in the back. It added a bit to the experience but it didn’t help to fill in the major plot holes in the film. Maybe (hopefully) they’ll add another TV series to do that.

Final Thoughts

Other than there being far more to watch than is possible in just one weekend (albeit a four day weekend), my main takeaway is that the TV series really add a lot more background to the films and do a much better job of explaining things. Maybe more of the films should be in an episodic format. Would I watch it all again? Maybe, although probably not for a while. At least not all in one go.

Suggestions for what I should watch next are welcome.