Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

rogue-one

The Walkers have returned for Rogue One…

There are many elements of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that make it stand alone from other films in the Star Wars saga, but that does not make it any better. I won’t go into spoilers, but there is one key part of a Star Wars movie that you would expect to have and this film does not. I won’t say what it is, but when you see it, I hope you are not as let down as I was.

I was always a Star Wars fan since I first saw it at the age of 7 or 8 (the original trilogy came out before I was born), yet I admit I still was unsure of what to expect with the movie, but about twenty minutes or so into it, I started getting “a bad feeling about this”. If you don’t know the Star Wars films (and you should), Rogue One is supposed to take place right in between episodes three (Revenge of the Sith) and four (A New Hope). It tells the story of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose mother is killed after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is taken by an Imperial Commander, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), to return to the Empire to help finish the Death Star, despite not wanting to go.

Eventually, Jyn  meets up with another rebel named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who is accompanied by a scene stealing K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). While he has nothing on R2-D2 (possibly my favorite character of all time), K-2SO does hold his own. We get other characters including a blind Baze Malbus (Donnie Yen), his friend Chirrut Imwe (Wen Jiang), pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and the mysterious gritty Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

One of the main problems that the movie (along with The Force Awakens, which I feel was much better) is that it lacks a good villain. Krennic is an imperial officer who does have other authorities to report to, mainly Moff Tarkin (originally played by Peter Cushing in the first Star Wars, though now is CGI enhanced on actor Guy Henry, which I must admit looked pretty awesome). Still, there is no way around the fact that it is Darth Vader (still voiced, as he always should be, by James Earl Jones) that commands the screen. No matter your thought on this or any film in the franchise, the image of the all black suit sends chills down your spine.

This also causes a dilemma, because the movie was apparently supposed to be known as a stand alone. Sure, some minor characters make appearances that I would consider as “easter eggs”, but we get other main characters (besides Vader) who make brief cameos. While I was ok with the one at the end of the film, there was another during a lift off scene that was totally tacked on and not needed at all (much like the titles of the names of all the planets).

Parents, despite it being a PG-13 movie, there is nothing completely wrong here at all that a child of 8 or 9 could not see. Characters die, but if they have seen any of the other films, they are fine here.

Is this movie better than the originals? Heavens no. Is it better than the prequels? I don’t know (it has been a while since I saw those, although I am still confident my least favorite of all Star Wars films is Episode Two). For one reason or another, Rogue One does seem to miss the gravitas that makes the Star Wars universe so wonderful in the first place.

Overall: Two and a Half Stars ** 1/2

 

Suicide Squad (2016)

Suicide Squad

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in “Suicide Squad”

It took me a lot of thinking as to how I wanted to respond to Suicide Squad. Like most people, I am rather disappointed it did not live up to the hype. However, I did still find some good things in it as well.

For those who don’t know, Suicide Squad tells the story (not long after this year’s earlier disappointment that was Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice) of a politician (of some kind) named Amanda Waller (the always talented Viola Davis). There is a situation that is far too complicated to explain, and would also be far to boring for you to read. All I will say is that it involves Enchantress, who takes over the body of June Moone (both played by Cara Delevingne).

Waller’s plan: gather up the worst bad guys and have them take care of the situation in exchange for shorter prison sentences. Roll Call: There is Deadshot (Will Smith, who, of course, is one of the last actors anyone would expect to play a bad guy), who never misses a shot. Harley Quinn (a wonderful Margot Robbie), who is only the second craziest character in the film, Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), who is, you know, a crocodile. Boomerang (Jai Courtney, who gives a performance not entirely unseen in other movies). Slipknot (Adam Beach, in one of the worst roles you could ask for), who is able to escape easily. Finally, there is Diablo (Jay Hernandez), with pyro power (and regret for previous actions). The first 10-20 minutes of the film provides you with more information than I have already said (and maybe more than we needed to know in the first place).

They are under the control of Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), who is also dating June Moone. Protecting him is Katana (Karen Fukuhara), whose Katana sword contains the souls of those it has vanquished.

I save the one character everyone was eager to see for last. That, of course, is The Joker, played by Oscar winner Jared Leto. Bottom line, while he does do a good job, he is not better than Heath Ledger’s immortal performance in The Dark Knight. Perhaps one of the main reasons is that Leto does not get as much screen time as we would like. I mean, in my opinion (and I doubt I am alone), when you have the greatest villian in comic book history, wouldn’t you want to see more of him?

It also does not help that the action is more of the same we have seen in other comic book films (slow motion action is really getting old to me).

Parents: The PG-13 rating is justified. There is swearing, some violence, action, and innuendo (Harley Quinn does wear some rather revealing clothing, and there is one scene in a night club. No stripping, however). High School and above.

All others in the movie do what they can. My favorite in the movie would go to Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, because she looks like she is undoubtably having the most fun. Will Smith (who at least did this and not Independence Day: Resurgence) is still possibly the most charming actor in movies today, so while he does a good job, it is still so hard to believe that he is playing a bad guy (though movie does try to remind us he has a heart because of his 11 year old daughter).

Still, as Hitchcock once said:

“To make a great film, you need three things-the script, the script, and the script.”

Overall: Two and a Half Stars ** 1/2

 

Ant-Man (2015)

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Paul Rudd discovers his future in “Ant-Man”

Back in 5th grade, I was told to do a poem based off of an animal that I was like. My pre-teen, short stature self decided on an ant, who was small, but a hard worker. I thought of this poem while entering “Ant-Man”, hoping for a sleeper of a film to be entertaining and possibly more. Sadly, it was not the case.

Paul Rudd, one of Hollywood’s most charming actors, stars as Scott Lang, a recently released cat-burglar trying to make ends meat and pay child support so he can see his young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) is now dating a cop (Bobby Cannavale), who (surprise!) does not like Scott.

Eventually, Scott steals the Ant-Man suit, only to realize it was planned for him to do so by its creator Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, who can never make a role boring to watch). He is wanting Scott to help steal a piece of armor from Hank’s former partner Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). While I am sure he is a talented actor, Stoll gives us one of the most forgettable villains in recent super hero films, and when a super hero film has a sub par villain, you are in trouble.

Other characters include Hank’s daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, recently returned from Middle-Earth), who is, of course, opposed to Scott but eventually likes him, and Luis (Michael Pena), a kind hearted friend but, to me, annoying at the end of it all.

Of course, we expect the action (or is it ANTtion?) scenes to be stellar, and they do for the most part. Fighting scenes vary from the inside of a suitcase to a toy train set. We also get a quick cameo from an Avenger, which was nice in its own way.

Paul Rudd does fine as the title character (mainly because there are enough times for him to be Paul Rudd), and Douglas succeeds because, well, he is Michael Douglas for crying out loud! The problem with the film, mainly, is the script. For example, the time to train Scott in the Ant-Man suit is limited (according to Hope) to days, yet the montage (and there has to be one of those, of course) seems to suggest they train for weeks.

Parents, there is some swearing, and action, but nothing else. If your kids have seen any of the other Marvel movies, they would be fine seeing this. I would argue, however, that it is not one of Marvel’s best efforts.

Overall: Two and a Half Stars **1/2