Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

Directed by Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

Music by Michael Giacchino

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Rogue One follows a group of Rebel spies on a mission to steal design schematics for the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star.

My Opinion:

This is going to be really short because a) I have a headache & want to go to bed and b) I’ve realized that no one actually reads anything that I write anyway. Ha! 😉 So I’m more interested in having a discussion about this movie with all of you in the comments instead of me rambling on about the movie for ages. So spoiler-free review but spoilerific in the comment section once you’ve all seen this. Here are my initial thoughts:

I might come back to this movie in a week and give some further thoughts on it here like I did a few days after my initial review of The Force Awakens (review HERE). With The Force Awakens, I wanted to re-visit it a few days after my excitement died down to see if I really DID like it as much as I seemed to (my initial reaction was right – I still love it). Rogue One is quite different in that I don’t instantly love it in the same way I did The Force Awakens. Not even close. I think it’s known by now that this is a very “different” Star Wars movie and I can confirm that that’s indeed an accurate statement. This one is going to take some getting used to. Will I like it more after some time has passed? I honestly have no idea. I hope so…

This isn’t your typical “family” Star Wars movie. This isn’t your straightforward black & white, good vs evil type of story. So many shades of gray to these characters, which is great & very grown-up. But that will also make for a much more divisive movie. And, no – your kids probably aren’t going to like this one very much. If at all. Do NOT let this one be their introduction to the Star Wars universe! FYI – the proper way to introduce kids is to show them in release-date order in my humble (and correct) opinion. If you don’t start with A New Hope, you’re doing it wrong! 😉

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is another strong female lead, which I’ll never complain about. I’m loving this current movie trend! She’s no Leia or Rey, though. I didn’t have the instant connection with her like I did with Rey. With Rey, I was shocked to find by the end of the film that I cared about her just as much as I do the original trilogy characters. Same with Finn & BB-8 – these characters ARE Star Wars to me and I absolutely cannot wait to see them again in the next movie. Unfortunately, I can’t say I felt any connection like this with any of the Rogue One characters. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and lead up to A New Hope, my favorite of all the films. But I just felt a bit empty by the end. I didn’t really care about these people. Oh man… I don’t want to say that about a Star Wars movie!

Okay – I did like two characters a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I really did like Jyn Erso but she wasn’t my favorite character in the end. The two who really stole the show were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe & Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus. Actually, I loved these guys! Great characters, but they didn’t feel like “Star Wars characters” (not that anyone really did). I’d happily watch a standalone movie with these two characters, though – they were fantastic. They kicked ass, were super cool, and had great chemistry. Without them, I’d probably rate this movie quite a bit lower to be honest. I was thankful they were in it as the movie seriously picked up once they showed up.

Sorry – I said this would be super short. I’m going to end here & see how I feel about Rogue One a week from now. I certainly didn’t hate it but I also know I don’t instantly love it the way I did with The Force Awakens. I’ve not read any reviews yet to avoid spoilers but the one thing I kept seeing on Twitter was that it “feels like Star Wars!”. I’m not sure I agree with that statement. Sorry….

My Initial Rating: 7.5/10

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Elysium (2013) Review

Elysium (2013)

Directed & Written by Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

My Opinion:

I had a bit of a “Matt Damon sci-fi” weekend: I watched Elysium & The Martian (finally – I’ll review that on Wednesday). I did really like Blomkamp’s District 9 and was very much in the minority, I think, in quite liking Chappie. I missed out on Elysium but after it got such bad reviews I didn’t rush to watch it. I still planned to watch it someday, though, as I love sci-fi and am always far more forgiving of flawed films in that genre. Elysium was a tiny bit better than I was expecting (but my low expectations due to bad reviews probably helped). Don’t get me wrong, though – it’s a total mess.

Elysium actually started out quite promising but, man oh man, it really lost its way. It looked impressive so I enjoyed watching the sci-fi elements such as the robots (that looked a lot like Chappie) and the utopian space station Elysium (although it was very derivative). I thought Matt Damon did quite well and I liked the story involving his childhood friend. I didn’t read any reviews of this in detail as I knew I’d watch it someday but I assume the main complaints were about the “baddies” (Jodie Foster & Sharlto Copley). They’re godawful! There are some pretty big problems with the script but the one-dimensional bad guys (with some really weird accents) are what let this film down more than anything else. Atrocious.


This movie had a good concept so I wish Blomkamp had managed to actually explore the themes and issues he clearly had in mind. Instead, the story becomes a messy & predictable action film in the second half.  It was just disappointing as I wanted the film to be a bit “deeper” than it ended up being. There are loads of mediocre sci-fi action films like this – I wanted a “smart” sci-fi (something like Moon or Ex Machina). It’s just frustrating when a film has the right elements but can’t make things work due to a weak script.

Summary:

I didn’t hate Elysium but it was certainly a disappointment. It “looked” good, though, and I liked the first half of the film plus I thought Damon did a good job. The movie showed a lot of promise until the second half when it totally lost the plot. A weak script that doesn’t at all explore the social & political themes as well as truly horrible, one-dimensional bad guys really let the film down. I’m glad I finally watched this but I’d only recommend it if you’re a big fan of sci-fi, otherwise you’ll probably feel like you’ve wasted two hours of your time. 

My Rating: 6/10

The Book Of Life (2014) Review

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The Book Of Life (2014)

Directed by Jorge Gutierrez

Produced by Aaron Berger, Brad Booker, Guillermo del Toro, Carina Schulze

Starring:
Diego Luna
Zoe Saldana
Channing Tatum
Ron Perlman
Christina Applegate
Ice Cube
Kate del Castillo

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
Manolo, a young man who is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart, embarks on an adventure that spans three fantastic worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

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My Opinion:

Hmm. I liked this movie and did think it was lovely to look at (but was probably a bit “too much” visually – they could have toned it down). As an adult, it’s not always fun sitting through kids movies but I enjoyed the story well enough in this and didn’t just want to sleep through the whole thing like I pretty much did during the horrible Boxtrolls movie. The problem with this one, though, is that I think adults may almost enjoy it a bit more than really young kids as I think the story is too confusing for those under maybe 8 or so. There’s no reason that younger kids can’t go to it – I just think they won’t like this one as much as it’s very fast paced, the story is too complex, and it’s just very “busy” – you’re constantly bombarded with the visuals, the story, the songs… I found it hard to keep up myself so I doubt a five-year-old really could.

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As I said, I did quite like the story. It’s actually told as a story that’s being told to a group of kids at a museum and I wasn’t sure that would really work at first but it wasn’t too bad – it just made it a bit harder to get into the characters who are in the “story within a story”. I put the very simple plot synopsis at the top but here it is from Wikipedia in much more detail to show you exactly what the central story is about (although, as I said, it’s more complex than this):

The spirits La Muerte, ruler of the Land of the Remembered and Xibalba, ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, appear at the San Angel’s Day of the Dead festival where they set up a wager after seeing two boys, Manolo and Joaquín, competing over a free-spirited girl named María. La Muerte bets that Manolo will marry María, while Xibalba bets on Joaquín. If La Muerte wins, Xibalba can no longer interfere in mortal affairs, but if Xibalba wins, he and La Muerte would switch lands.

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The girl in this is pretty good – she’s feisty and when the boys are fighting over her says something like “I belong to no one!” so I was all for that as too many female characters in kids movies are horrible role models to young girls. Her pet pig was pretty adorable and there weren’t any annoying or unlikable characters.

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The jokes in this are actually somewhat funny, even for the adults (well, one joke was SO dirty that the hubby & I looked at each other in disbelief! Don’t worry, though – your kids would NOT pick up on it. Just don’t laugh at it if you can help yourself. I couldn’t help myself…). There’s also a lot of music in this film which was sometimes fun as they did some popular stuff. Although I wasn’t sure if I should think it’s cool or if I should be pissed off at them doing Radiohead’s Creep… But, hey – it’s the first time I’ve heard Biz Markie’s Just A Friend since 1989!

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Summary:

The Book Of Life is a decent enough film that adults probably won’t mind sitting through as well. I do think it’s too complex for the very young but, aside from one dirty joke they won’t get anyway, I wouldn’t say there’s really anything inappropriate for kids (other than maybe the issue of “death” being discussed but you get that in most Disney movies anyway). Obviously, it’s not Pixar or Disney so it’s still just a kids film to me & I never rate those as highly as I’d rather watch a grown-up movie. I liked this okay, though, and think most kids of at least 7 or 8 probably will too.

My Rating: 6/10

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Here’s some Radiohead for Cara. 😉