Movie Review – The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson, Gary Oldman, Carla Gugino, BD Wong, Janet Montgomery, Peter Chelsom, and more.

Directed by: Peter Chelsom Screenplay by: Allan Loeb Story by: Stewart Schill, Richard Barton Lewis, and Allan Loeb Cinematography by: Barry Peterson Music by: Andrew Lockington

Premise: An accidental pregnancy discovered after the launch of a mission to Mars, becomes a secret to avoid scandal and the withdrawal of funding. Sixteen years later, Gardner’s existence is still a secret. But when he finally gets a hold of his mother’s belongings in storage, he longs to follow the clues she left and see his father, if only for a moment. So when he has the opportunity to go to Earth, he escapes the facility to meet his only friend on Earth and track down his missing parent. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Asa Butterfield does a marvelous job as Gardner. His wonder at seeing what Earth has to offer is infectious. Britt Robertson as the thick skinned Tulsa was perfect. It was fun watching her well placed and shored up emotional walls slowly come tumbling down. Gary Oldman as Nathaniel Shepherd was poignant as a man who’d lost sight of what the dream was about. Carla Gugino gave depth to the awakening of Kendra Wyndham’s feelings and realizations about her charge.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The film begins before Gardner is born, so we see the actual launch of the mission to Mars. The take off sequence looked great. The views of Mars and later Earth from orbit were fantastic.

Since the story is set several years in our future, there were lots of little technical upgrades to everyday life. The crystal/glass computers looked super cool. Centaur, the robot on Mars, looked like something a kid would make. The kick me sign on the back of his head was hilarious and also reminiscent of the cool SF film called “Moon.”

The barn explosion was BIG! A little overdone, but they did do a great job with the wind and smoke to obscure the view from those spying from above. 😛

3) Plot/Story – Neutral: This is one of those films where you don’t want to look too closely at what is being told, or it starts falling apart. Overall, the concept is fun and entertaining, and it even has a couple of twists. The growing relationship between Gardner and Tulsa and their trials are what keeps us interested. Yet the film also took a few corners by omission and some of the science is ignored, so they don’t have to figure out a way to work around it.

The primary driver of the film is how Gardner can’t handle Earth gravity. And they did take the time to introduce a way to help his bones stand up to the higher gravity, which was great. What they ignored is the fact that going into orbit or into space, multiplies the gravity, which would, in turn, kill Gardner outright. They could have used a gel container or even a water tank to help offset some of the effects, but they didn’t use anything at all.

They also ignored some facts with Sarah getting pregnant in the first place. No woman who fought and clawed her way to being the leader of a four-year mission to Mars would then blow it all away by getting pregnant. Birth control would have been the first thing she would have taken care of. To spend so much time and effort to gain her position, she wouldn’t have just thrown it away. (And they never have the decency to tell us what she died of! Argh!)

The same lapse in mentality shows up again when Gardner and Tulsa have a “night” together. As a child in foster care, she would be very aware of the type of situations which might have been the reason she got into the system. I doubt she’d be wanting to make the same error to another child. (And there’s also the fact with Garnder’s health problems, he would have probably died from the act due to the stress on his enlarged heart, but we won’t go there…) 😛

A couple of more nitpicks. 1 – Things Gardner found unfamiliar didn’t quite work. Since he had access to entertainment on Mars, it’s hard to believe he didn’t know what streets were, or horses, even dogs. It would have been more fun for him to know what they were but touching them, smelling them, that part that would have been new and would surprise him. Much like the fun scene at the bus stop in the rain. He knew what it was, but actually experiencing it was something else altogether. We needed more of that! 2 – If Gardner had access to social media/chat rooms – why was Tulsa his only friend? 3 – Communications between Earth and Mars were pretty much instantaneous. Yet nothing was said about how this is possible. Especially since lag times currently run from four to twenty minutes each way!

4) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The cinematography on this film was fantastic. The shots are themselves a love story of sorts. One to get the audience to see and fall in love with our planet as much as Gardner does. So many gorgeous shots!

Conclusion: An adorable love story with bits of mystery carried forward by a great cast. As long as you don’t look too closely at the details and science, you’re in for a nice ride.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Starring: Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, William Levy, Rola, Ever Anderson, and more.

Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson Cinematography by: Glen MacPherson Music by: Paul Haslinger

Premise: Having survived a trap in Washington, D.C. Alice gets contacted by the Red Queen – Umbrella’s AI Computer. She warns that in 48 hours the three thousand plus humans left on the surface of the planet will be exterminated. Their only hope is for Alice to come back to the Hive to retrieve the antidote for the T-virus. One the Umbrella Corporation has kept hidden from the world. The ultimate secrets are about to be revealed. (Rated  R)

Review:

1) Acting – Thumbs Up: Familiar and new characters fill the cast. Milla Jovovich, Iain Glen, Ali Larter, and Shawn Roberts reprise their previous roles in the Resident Evil universe. A couple of them get to play more than one. 🙂 Milla Jovovich continues to give Alice some nice layers with what little she’s given to work with. Iain Glen looks to have had a lot of most fun playing multiple roles in this one.

2) Special Effects – Thumbs Up: It’s hard to say if it was due to budget cuts or the direction the group was ordered to follow, but some of the filming choices made a lot of the special effects look cheap or mediocre. Which is a shame, because there were some neat effects in there.

The first creature that attacks Alice is filmed in such a way the audience can’t get a sense of what it look like. All you see is a blurred, giant blob of flesh. Between all the shaky cam and giggling, weaving viewpoints. They did slightly better with the next creature, but even that one the good glimpses seemed doled out rather than consistent.

Great work on the zombies. The ones hung from a bridge and only reacting when the trucks drove beneath them were an awesome detail. There’s one that shows up in the Hive that gave it all he had despite being hung to dry, poor thing. He looked great!

The Hive itself was fab. The recreations of several familiar places and the transformation of others were well done. The evil laser corridor makes a comeback. Bwahaha! The bridge/walkway coming up out of the water was awesome.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Down: Hubby has loved this franchise since day one. I’ve gone and seen all of the films with him. Some have been better than others, yet you don’t tend to expect too much in that department. The action and special effects are what people truly come for, and they usually deliver quite well on that aspect of things.  This time, though, they failed at both. 🙁

The plot was awful. Too much of it was contrived for convenience. No real surprises.

It was bad enough that the audience gets thrown into the deep end with little explanation. (And with information that doesn’t match info previously given in other films!) Then we’re “told” Alice survived a trap in D.C. but got to see none of it. New characters are thrown at us, but the audience is given no time to get to know them. Yet we’re expected to care when they die…

Alice has 48 hours to get the antidote and save humanity. Yet the story has the characters waste hours upon hours preparing for a coming attack on the human “stronghold” rather than just go to the Hive to save what little of the human race is left. Instead, Alice leaves herself two measly hours to break into and infiltrate a giant underground facility and find the elusive antidote. One that could be locked up anywhere in the facility and not easily accessible. Right…

Wesker’s job is to keep people out of the Hive. He knows Alice is coming. He and Isaacs keep talking about doing lockdowns and having all the security primed. So what does he do? He keeps the giant door leading into the hive WIDE OPEN! Even taking into account the supposed “power grid issues” he still had plenty of time to close the thing but doesn’t. (What’s hilarious about the super convenient “power grid issues” is that if they truly had rolling power outages, all of the people in the cryo tubes would be DEAD!)

Don’t get me started on how the “power grid issues” get used to make convenient problems for the infiltrators. Ugh.

As if the plot issues weren’t bad enough, they ruined most of the action shots with shaky cam, blinking lights, wobbly angles and any excuse to not get a good clear shot of the action. Made no sense. You’d get one impressive bit of fighting, then a ton of jerky crap you couldn’t keep track of. *sigh*

4) Stunts – Thumbs Up: Lots of stunts and neatly choreographed battle scenes. But they too suffered from the horrible shaky cam, wobbly angles, and strobe light effects. Boo! It was frustrating to get something super cool and then something almost unrecognizable. Double boo!

5) Music – Total Thumbs Up: The one bright spot of the movie was the music. Paul Haslinger’s “A Force so Evil” track which is used as the film opens got the blood flowing and built a growing sense of excitement. Too bad the plot and bad filming couldn’t follow through on what he created with the score.

Conclusion: The final installment in the “Resident Evil” saga will not leave a good impression overall. Bad plots might be expected in films like these, but when they muck with the action, they’ve drained what little fun could be had at all.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better for Matinee.)

Movie Review for Underworld: Blood Wars

Underworld

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Theo James, Tobias Menzies, Lara Pulver, Charles Dance, James Faulkner, Peter Anderson, Clementine Nicholson, Bradley James, and more.

Directed by: Anna Foerster Screenplay by: Cory Goodman Story by: Kyle Ward and Cory Goodman Based on Characters Created by: Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride Cinematography by: Karl Walter Lindenlaub Music by: Michael Wandmacher

Premise: Having lost her lover, daughter, and family, Selene feels she has no reason for living. Hunted by both werewolves and vampires as they seek her daughter for her blood, they won’t believe her when she tells them she doesn’t know where she is. Meanwhile, a new leader has risen amongst the werewolves. One whose been able to unite all the tribes and successfully destroyed a number of vampire covens. This could be the ultimate battle for both species. And Selene is once more stuck in the middle of it, whether she wants to be or not. (Rated R)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Kate Beckinsale reprises her role as the vampire Selene. Her dark, poignant looks are as sharp as ever. Theo James also returns as David. A young vampire Selene saved in the last film, he stands by her side whether she wants his help or not. Lara Pulver is pure gold as the manipulative Semira. Charles Dance and James Faulkner bring their strong presences into the cast giving it some weight.

2) Special Effects – Thumbs Up: A lot of effects fill the film. Most are quite nice. Several considerably gory.

The outside area of the northern stronghold, especially the frozen waterfall, was fabulous. The obfuscate skills from the north flowed quite well. And the vampire cocoons were a neat concept.

I couldn’t remember from the previous films, but it seems that the werewolves in this franchise get less and less hairy with each movie. Hairless werewolves look less like werewolves and more like muscle heavy people with long muzzles. The vampires too seemed less than they should. They either had elongated teeth all the time or not at all.

3) Plot/Story – Neutral: At a mere 91 minutes, there’s not much time for any real story development. Complications and backgrounds are served at breakneck speeds with no time to savor or absorb them. Character development is minimal. Lots of new enemies that just seem like more of the same because they’re not given any real time to prove they’re in any way different from the rest.

To increase the blood and carnage, both the werewolves and the vampires seem to lose a lot of their powers. Their sense of enhanced smell, strength, and more. A lot of wounds that should repair themselves in moments don’t heal at all. (Not every blade would have poison on it.) The touch of the sun and the UV bullets now kill instantaneously. Selene and Varga’s cage match showed potential for cool combat skills the vampires never once use on their werewolf enemies.

A lot of the motivations seem concocted and convenient. Without building the characters some of the things they do make no sense. Thomas knows Semira and her techniques, yet ignores what he knows and makes some of what follows hollow. Varga’s explanations for his actions late in the film are completely belied by his previous actions, but no one seems to notice. (And when do you put someone in a room as a prisoner without removing all the weapons? As if this huge place wouldn’t have a set of cells!)

It’s also never good when you repeatedly tell the audience how impossible something is, and yet it’s taken care of easily. Worse, once the vampires realize what has been done, they do nothing to correct the issue and get the benefit of added security instead of being massacred. Oh well.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of hand-to-hand combat. Sword fights, gun fights, and combinations of those and more. The choreography from the battles was overall well done.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The gorgeous vistas, especially when they go north, almost make up for the plot issues. The shots from the train over the mountains were fantastic! The frozen lake with the northern lights behind them was a beautiful sight. I loved the shots of the frozen waterfall.

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: Selene wears her signature corset, leathers, and long coat. Later things get shaken up a little with some contrast changes. All the southern vampires are emo to the max. It made for a huge contrast when we’re introduced to the northern coven. A strange ying and yang effect. I loved the touch of Viking and Valkyrie influence on the northern group, especially for Lena.

Conclusion: If you love watching Selene kick buns, and some gorgeous cinematography, you’ll enjoy the film. Just don’t expect much else.

Rating: 3.25 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Better For Matinee)

 

Movie Review – Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Denis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, and more.

Directed by: Justin Kurzel Screenplay by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage Based on the Video Game Series Created by: Patrick Désilets, Corey May, and Jade Raymond Music by: Jed Kurzel Cinematography by: Adam Arkapaw

Premise: Cal Lynch was sentenced to death for killing a pimp. Except instead of dying, he finds himself in Spain rather than Texas. Due to his DNA, he’s been picked up for a research program. One that taps into his genetic memory. The Institute is using this research not only to study violent behavior but also to find clues as to the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden. A prize that has been pursued by the Templars and the Assassin’s Creed for centuries. The stakes are higher than Cal would ever guess. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Michael Fasbender does a great job with the double role of Cal and his 14th-century ancestor Aguilar. The two characters are polarized in different directions. It’s fun to see the two figuratively and literally face off against each other and what drives them. Marion Cotillard as Sofia was also an interesting character. She’s a brilliant scientist, yet is mostly blind as to what her research is being used for and her father’s real goals. Jeremy Irons is masterful as ever. A charismatic man with giant agendas who doesn’t care who and what he uses to achieve his goals.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of lovely and subtle touches from the special effect’s team. In the game, the eagle is a symbol of the Assassin’s Creed (since it is a bird of prey) and is used in several sequences. For the film, they expanded on this and used the eagle in both the present and the past. I thought it made for a beautiful tie between the two men and a nice sprinkle of mysticism besides.

The recreations of the ancient cities were wonderful. They even made sure to add in the towers and a lot of the look and feel of the original game.

The concept of the Animus, a virtual reality machine used to project the genetic memory of the subject, was altered somewhat to make it more cinematic. Still, I thought it was great! The 3D visual representations as seen by the doctor and techs gave everything a ghostly, haunting quality, while for Cal being in the past was solid reality.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: You get a little backstory on Cal, which serves to help the audience understand him. It’s also used to set up some reveals further on. In general, I felt the plot was pretty straight forward with few surprises. That might also be because I know a little about the franchise. (Got to play the original game years ago – though I didn’t get far. The baud rate on the main character’s white room at the institute was low. So it would make me very dizzy, even though no one was moving!)

Some neat explorations of free will, violence, even faith. There’s even some fun mysticism thrown in for flavor. Magic, technology, God, the audience is left to draw their own conclusions.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The film has a lot of cool CGI and regular stunt work. Watching the assassins run through the old streets and roofs of Madrid was a lot of fun. Lots of hand-to-hand combat.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: The film was shot in the UK, Malta, and Spain. The flavors of the locations come through in both the past and present. The cinematography throughout was excellent, taking total advantage of the sites. Several scenes are from just behind a flying eagle, and they were gorgeous.

One neat section went from a painting depicting a scene in 1492 to later diving into the location back in time. Lovely!

Conclusion: “Assassin’s Creed” is a fun action film with some history and mysticism thrown in for flavor. While not exactly like the game, it keeps the most important points and makes for a satisfying ride.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

Movie Review – Passengers

Passengers

Starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Julee Cerda, Aurora Perrineau, Andy Garcia, Vince Foster, Kara Flowers, Conor Brophy, and more.

Directed by: Morten Tyldum Written by: Jon Spaihts Cinematography by: Rodrigo Prieto Music by: Thomas Newman

Premise: The colony ship Avalon is on route to Homestead II. It’s carrying 5,000 passengers and 258 crew all in suspended animation for the 120-year trip. 30 years in, the ship encounters an asteroid field. One of the asteroids is massive enough that it breaks into pieces when hitting the ship’s shields rather than be vaporized. The ship sustains some seemingly minor damage it is able to repair. However, a chip on one of the hibernation pods shorts out, and the passenger is awakened. Something which has never occurred in the history of the company. And something the ship was never programmed to handle. So Jim Preston finds himself alone, with 90 years of the journey still to go. His only companion in a ship of over 5,000 people, a semi-intelligent bartender android. And the ship wasn’t actually able to repair all the damage… And it can only hold out so long. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence did outstanding work in film. They also have great chemistry together. Something that’s crucial since for 95% of the movie they are the only ones carrying it forward. Chris gave real emotional weight to Jim’s problems when he first wakes up alone and later when he battles himself over a major decision. Jennifer Lawrence also runs the gambit once she’s brought awake, and again later when she learns a horrifying truth. Michael Sheen is fabulous. His portrayal of Arthur as the semi-intelligent android and the passenger’s only available outlet was top notch. You could almost see his programming struggling to do more and to understand more than his software could handle. Laurence Fishburne also added a lot as Gus Mancuso. The whole cast was fantastic.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: Lots to love with regards to the special effects. The Avalon is a gorgeous ship! Self-repairing, auto maintaining, and so beautiful. A lot of care is taken on scope and view angles. When Jim goes on his first spacewalk, his position feels stationary as everything around him is spinning. In reality, though, the two are swapped. (Don’t watch the surrounding stars for too long as it will make you dizzy!) Tons of lovely attention to detail!

The Dance Dance Revolution type game was hilarious. And all the 3D holograms and interactive systems looked great. The pool area was fab. And what they do with it when gravity fails at one point was awesome.

The gorgeous views of the universe, and especially the gas giant, will make you feel it’s those who are asleep that are missing everything and not those who are awake. A lot of fantastic visuals. Totally worth the 3D price.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: True science fiction is more than just about spaceships, aliens, and weapons. It’s a medium for exploring human behavior, the human condition. “Passengers” definitely explores several levels of both. They also have fun playing with the hubris of corporations and how nature and Murphy’s Law care nothing about it. lol.

The science is, for the most part, solid as well. So that’s a bonus. Though the film does take a few things to unbelievable extremes. The spacesuits in the Avalon are beyond miraculous – heat shield or no heat shield. The autodoc is too, once you get past the pesky restrictions. lol.

The film is a combination of “Silent Running,” “Robinson Crusoe,” “Cast Away,” and more. It’s also a great date movie. These are things to keep in mind as it will probably not resonate with some viewer’s expectations. Hubby and I, however, were quite pleased.

One bit that gets done wrong or is misleading in way too many movies is the act of writing. Aurora is a journalist and a writer. And they show her just speaking out her thoughts and the computer typing them for her on a screen. While that’s all well and good, the part they do not cover is EDITING! You can just jumble stuff down on paper, but NEVER is that the final product. NEVER! You have to go over it, prune it, add to it, change it, make sure it flows, that it makes sense, that it’s legible. Even this movie review is not just typed and posted. Editing happens to it too! Gasp, wheeze, breathe. *Ahem*

The fabulous acting, gorgeous vistas, and well thought out scenarios will help audiences overlook the overstretched items. And some little things did show a lot of thought. At one point we see Jim drawing on the deck for something he’s working on. And he thought it through thoroughly. Many will probably miss it, but what he does is a real achievement, especially since he’s trying to avoid damaging any systems. You’ll know it when you see it.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: From about the middle to the end of the film there are several scenes with stunts. And most look to have been done by the actors! They meshed quite nicely with the CGI of what was going on around them. Great job!

5) Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: I believe that between “Prometheus,” “Avatar,” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” that other films’ visual effects and cinematography have a high bar to compete against. “Passengers” works hard to get near the three. The spanning space shots. The views of different parts of the ship. The gas giant, the asteroid field, and more are presented in fabulous ways. There are even some beautiful gas clouds during the end credits that take full advantage of the 3D. Nice!

Make sure to take a good look at the end of the film when the crew awakens and goes into the main concourse! It’s super fast but super cool. And there are so many details it’s hard to take them all in before it goes away!

Conclusion: Whether you go see “Passengers” for date night or for social SF or just the cool visuals, the film is definitely worth it. Add in a little suspension of disbelief at a couple of places, and you’re in for a treat.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

 

Movie Review – Rogue One

Rogue One

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Ben Daniels, Guy Henry, Ingvild Deila, and more.

Directed by: Gareth Edwards Story by: John Knoll and Gary Whitta Screenplay by: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy Based on Characters Created by: George Lucas Cinematography by: Greig Fraser Music by: Michael Giacchino

Premise: A cargo pilot defects from the Empire, claiming to have information about a weapon which can destroy worlds. The pilot falls into the hands of an ostracized militant faction of the Rebels. To try to get the information, the main group of Rebels track down the daughter of the man the information came from. She also happens to who knows the head of the faction holding the pilot. So the main group is hoping to use her for an introduction with the splinter faction and mend fences. Jyn has been hiding her true identity for most of her life, her father torn from her and her mentor leaving her behind years before. But when she does this one favor for the Rebellion, she starts seeing there is much out there she had no idea about. And that what the Empire is planning is bigger and more horrifying than she ever imagined.

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: The cast is a fun and quirky set of characters. At first, it seems they won’t fit together, but they end up meshing very well. Felicity Jones was fun to watch as Jyn Erso. The character has built a thick, protective shell around herself. Felicity does a wonderful job of showing it slowly cracking and eventually falling away. Diego Luna as Cassian Andor also did a great job. Having done unspeakable things in the name of freedom, he too finds his shell cracking as he’s made to deal with Jyn. Alan Tudyk was awesome as K-2SO. Not only for nice bits of levity but also for some truly poignant moments. Riz Ahmed brought a lot on as Bohdi Rook. The poor pilot goes through so much just to try to do the right thing. Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were a fun duo that added some extra fun layers to the team.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects team did a superb job. The devastation from just a small blast from the Death Star was jaw dropping. The multiple views of it from the ground and from space were amazing.

They brought back all the old favorite ships and machines as well as several new ones. Loved seeing the main dish being placed on the Death Star – made for a nice backdrop to the conversation between Tarkin and Krennic.

But what was truly impressive work from the department, a lot of people won’t even realize is happening. And that is the work they did with Guy Henry and Ingvild Deila to recreate the characters of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. It was both eerie and amazing on how well the CGI and the new actors meshed together to bring back these characters of almost forty years ago from when the original Star Wars Episode IV first came out. (Peter Cushing passed in 1994 and Carrie Fisher is much older now than she was back then. :P)

A lot of the locations were recreated and made to look as we’d seen them before. Others were brand new. We even finally get an awesome tropical beach location! (Best outpost to be assigned as a trooper ever!)

Darth Vader’s Sith temple was also quite cool looking. The only planet location in the film they did not disclose. lol.

Tons of shooting, explosions, pistols, rifles, bombs, and more! But for the first time ever – no lightsabers! *gasp*

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The Good – A lot better thought out than The Force Awakens! So, yay for that! Lots of good bits and homage/in-jokes in the film from other Star Wars films. They went to a lot of trouble to replicate places and things as we’d seen them in the original set of movies. Bringing in Tarkin and making him part of the whole thing was awesome. Adding K-2SO was genius. Mouthy robots are in lately. lol.

Layered characters with thought out motivations. They pulled at the heart strings in several places. I thought it hilarious that after going through all the trouble to make it so Han Solo didn’t shoot first, they turned around and gave us Cassian Andor. The first scene with him definitely left no doubts as to who did what.

Like Titanic, we pretty much know how this will end, but it was worth watching it happen. And the way they tie the end of the film to the beginning of Episode IV was great. (Aside from the nitpicks below.)

The Bad – There wasn’t much. And for most people, it won’t make a difference. But I must do my duty. 😛 (We watched Episode IV right after so I did a double check!) Mon Mothma did not make an appearance until Episode VI, but she was the main focus person at Yavin 4 in this prequel. They also had a character that sounded and looked like Admiral Ackbar, which didn’t make sense particularly in the large battle. (*Warning – Spoilers!*) Worse, the transmission was not a beamed transmission to one location, but one sent wide to all ships in the area. So how is it that some of the rebel ships escaped but we still only had one copy of the data? What…? If I somehow missed something explaining this, let me know!

One last nitpick. This is a big galaxy. There are bound to be wide variations in clothing styles and home architecture. But you’ll note a lot of the costumes are familiar, pilfered from different areas of the first three films. While some are expected, especially since they are recreating some of the locations, it didn’t make sense everywhere. Where it worked the least, in my opinion, was the humid planet where Jyn’s father has hiding. Subterranean houses in this environment would be terribly risky. And do they not believe in rain gear in that world?

One bit I thought cute and not cute was an obtuse bit of homage. In the original Star Wars, Lucas based the characters of R2D2 and 3CPO on two side characters in the Japanese film “The Hidden Fortress” by Akira Kurosawa with actor Toshiro Mifune. In turn, this new film has a scene with the character Baze Malbus that was very reminiscent of another Akira Kurosawa film. Heck, in the scene, you’d swear the actor Wen Jiang looked just like Toshiro Mifune! (Or I have too wild of an imagination? :P) But doing it didn’t feel quite right?

Overall, though, it was a good film! Yay!

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up:  Tons of explosions also means loads of stunt work. Rebels and Storm troopers are blown about all over the place. Throw in some excellent staff combat by Chirrut Imwe and the stunt people were kept quite busy. 😛

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: I was very pleased to note they didn’t use the same cheat they did with “The Force Awakens” concerning locations. They actually went out of their way to find a new look for several of the new worlds. For the planets already known, they did a great job bringing back the same look and feel as they’d had previously.  So yay for trying to prove all worlds in the vast galaxy aren’t all the same!

6) Music – Total Thumbs Up: I’ve read that this is the first Star Wars film without a John William’s score. Michael Giacchino took the reins of this one. And while creating several new tracks, they also kept some of the old ones. A nice way to mesh the two sets. Giacchino also kept the spirit of the style created for this franchise, so it was in good hands.

Conclusion: Rogue One has some minor flaws, but overall it beat the pants out of The Force Awakens. 😛 Great addition to the franchise!

Rating: 4 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)

Movie Review – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Colin Farrell, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Samantha Morton, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol, and more.

Directed by: David Yates Written by: J. K. Rowling Cinematography by: Philippe Rousselot Music by: James Newton Howard (Main Theme by: John Williams)

Premise: A socially awkward wizard from Brittain comes to New York on an errand. Unbeknownst to him, there is a lot of unrest in the city as various unexplained phenomena have the citizens growing ever more alarmed. This, in turn, has raised tensions amongst the wizarding world as they fear they’ll be exposed to the no-mags (muggles) – something that could very well lead them to war. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Eddie Redmayne was adorable as Newt Scamander. Despite his awkwardness around people, it’s fun watching him get pulled out of his shell by a most unexpected acquaintance – the muggle Kowalski. Dan Fogler does a great job as Kowalski. The audience shares his wonder and awe as he’s shown the secrets of the wizarding world. Watching his relationship shift and change with Newt, Queenie, and the animals is a lot of fun. And he’ll steal your heart when you’re not looking. Katherine Waterston as Tina did a great job as well. Her focus shifts and changes as she follows her heart despite all she’s done to do the exact opposite. Alison Sudol as Quennie added a lot of charm and a smile with a ton of wattage. Colin Farrell was slick and oily as the head Auror Graves.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: The special effects for the film were lovely. All the creatures were fascinating, and several tried to steal the show. 🙂 Lots of creativity went into them. Some resembled familiar animals while others were different from anything seen before.

The inside of Newt’s suitcase was a wonder all by itself. Somewhat like the owner, a shabby exterior holding endless wonders within.

Several cool sequences of repair magic. The cooking scene in Tina and Queenie’s apartment was super neat and warm.

The rebuilt New York of the late 20’s looked fantastic. And expect even more once you go into the wizards’ government building!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: The film contains all the things we’ve come to know and love about J.K. Rowling’s universe. Loveable underdog characters, sinister plots, hidden social commentary.

The film explores multiple themes. The disappointing second child, social awkwardness, being taken advantage of, getting condemned without being heard or understood, and more.

A ton of red herrings and several surprises abound. Watching the chaos and funny antics by Newt’s charges are half the fun.

4) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Awesome work on all the locations real and imagined. Beautiful shots of the city, underground areas, central park and more. I loved the recreation of the New York Zoo. The shots inside the wizarding building were also quite amazing. The varied fake worlds inside Newt’s suitcase, even more so.

5) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: The hair styles, the clothes were all very 20’s. Great job with the look and feel. The makeup work on Credence Barebone and Grindelwald were very apt and creepy as well. 😛

Conclusion: Fantastic Beasts and Where They Come From is a great addition to the Harry Potter Universe. Strong enough to stand on its own as well. Very enjoyable.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)

 

I would also highly recommend the movie “Arrival” – got super dizzy from a bad case of sinus so didn’t get to post a review! Great SF!

Movie Review – Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, and more.

Directed by: Scott Derrickson Written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, and C. Robert Cargill Based on the Comics by: Steve Ditko Cinematography by: Ben Davis Music by: Michael Giacchino

Premise: A world famous surgeon loses the use of his hands after a terrible car accident. Determined to find a cure, he eventually ends up in Kathmandu, Nepal where he meets the Ancient One. Driven to succeed so he can go back to his old life, Strange finds himself embroiled in a conflict that could well decide the fate of the planet. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Benedict Cumberbatch did a great job as Doctor Stephen Strange. Cumberbatch took the character and made it his own. Though he’s played many roles with ego filled men with hearts they deny, he still found a way to make Strange unique from all his other performances. Kudos! Tilda Swinton  was quite convincing as a female version of the Ancient One. Mads Mikkelsen was wonderful as Kaecilius. His conversation with Strange in the NY Sanctum was wicked and fabulous on so many levels. Not to be outdone, Chiwetel Ejiofor holds his own as Mordo. (For those who know the comic series, they do push him in the right direction by the end, so go with it.) Benedict Wong (I swear they made an in-joke of the fact they had two Benedicts) was a perfect and fun foil for Strange. Rachel McAdams was fun as Christine Palmer. Her reactions at a couple of places were priceless! 🙂

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: If you can possibly see this film in IMAX 3D I would urge you to do so! I get motion sickness easily, but didn’t have trouble with the film, so I think it should be safe for most people. All the warping of reality looked spectacular!

The special effects team also handled a silent actor who just about stole the show – the Cloak of Levitation. Totally unexpected handling of the ancient artifact and it worked so well! Loved what they did with it!

The mirror universe, Dormamu’s universe, and all the weird manipulations of reality were fantastic. Dormamu himself, which you get a hint of during Stephen’s first introduction to the unknown, looked fabulous! Wish we’d gotten a look at the Mindless ones, but I’m sure they’re saving those for later. 😛

The spells themselves were super cool. The physicality added to them made them seem more real, which added more to the film than just straight visual effects would have. Awesome choice.

The Eye of Agamotto doesn’t much resemble the iconic image used in the comics, but was still very cool. And wait untill you see the astral fight through the hospital! Fab!

And wait till you see what they do with the apple. Fantastic! And the backwards while still going forward combat was sublime!

3) Plot/Story – Total Thumbs Up: This is an intro story and most of the important facts fit with the stated mythology from the comics. Doctor Strange is hubby’s favorite all time comic book hero so he’s been slobbering to see it. 😛 And he was quite happy with the treatment.

Three major changes from the comics  were in the film. The Ancient One is now female – though it was pulled off quite nicely. The second was the introduction of Kaecilius as Stephen’s first nemesis. But that’s only so they could build up what they’ll be doing with Mordo later. Bwahahahaha! (Ahem…) The third was the addition of Christine Palmer into the origin story. But she made for a nice counterpoint with Strange. In essence, all the best parts of what make up Doctor Strange were definitely there.

The film had a lot of interspersed humor. It was quite a surprise, but it added a nice layer of fun to the film.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: Between the training, the fighting and the effect of magic on others – the stunt team was kept very busy. Fights weren’t on just the usual planes of existence anymore. This made for some challenging hand to hand combat! Even escaping was a major stunt trial. lol.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Both the real and the imagined locations were great! They had great flavor. They even used a couple of places where you saw one thing, but heard another, throwing the whole into a new context. What fun! Filming occurred in the real Kathmandu, Nepal. Also in Hong Kong, London, New York, Los Angeles and more. The addition of the Avenger’s tower outside of Stephen’s view was a nice touch.

And wait till you see the New York Sanctum. Sweet!

6) Costuming/Makeup – Total Thumbs Up: Major kudos to the makeup department, Benedict Cumberbatch, and the special effects group with respect to Stephen’s messed up hands. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that they weren’t the same as they’d been when he wakes up in the hospital after the accident. And later you can see the scars from the repairs and additional surgeries he had performed in an attempt to get them fixed. A constant reminder of his loss.

The group also did a fabulous job recreating Strange’s unique look from the white in his hair to the blue gi like uniform. Great attention to detail!

Conclusion: Doctor Strange is an awesome rendition of the famous comic series. Fans will be please with how technology has finally caught up enough to bring this fabulous character to the world in the right way. There are two (yes two!) extra scenes during the credits. So stay all the way to the end! Stan Lee also has a cameo! (I know – like DUH!) 😛

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again!)

 

Movie Review – Inferno

Inferno

Starring: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Irrfan Khan, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Ben Foster, Ana Ularu, Ida Darvish, and more.

Directed by: Ron Howard Screenplay by: David Koepp Based on the Novel by: Dan Brown Cinematography by: Salvatore Totino Music by: Hans Zimmer

Premise: Robert Langdon wakes in a hospital in Florence, Italy. He has no memory of how he got there. A cryptic email from a friend and the fact someone tries to kill him make it clear that he’s gotten himself into some kind of mess. The weird hallucinations of blood and hell don’t help matters. Aided by the young doctor at the hospital, Professor Langdon tries to put the broken pieces back together. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Tom Hanks reprises his role as Professor Robert Langdom for the third film of the series. He has great rapport with his rescuer Dr. Sienna Brooks. Felicity Jones does a great job as Brooks, showing multiple facets of her complex personality quite well. Irrfan Khan turns out to be a real treat in the film as the pragmatic Harry Sims. There’s some real sizzle between Tom and Sidse Babett Knudsen once some of the secrets are revealed. Great job from all parties.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: There are special effects of all kinds in the film. Lots of surreal imagery with lots of detail. There’s a painting in the Hall of the 500 in the Palazzo Vecchio which gets brought to life. Looked fantastic.

Rivers of blood running down modern city streets. Physical renditions of Dante’s Inferno as painted by Botticelli. Reality and myth all wound together in disturbing imagery. Tons of lovely work.

There are a couple of falling deaths that were well done. Both looked incredibly painful. The work on the second body and the closeup on the face were gruesome and poignant.

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: Doors are a main theme. Those we open, those we close, and those whose frame we stand in. The play with the concept is rather fun and viewed in many angles. Love and its many facets are also explored.

I don’t want to say too much and inadvertently spoil several of the surprises in store. Watch for the ‘odd socks’ as they are hints. A thing or two that seem like mere plot devices are actually something else.

Overall, it all holds together pretty well. They do pound a couple of things more times than necessary, but didn’t prove overtly irritating.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The film isn’t filled with them, but the few there are were well done. The knife fights were quick and well choreographed. A little shaky-cam was used during a water fight, but it didn’t detract too much.

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: One of the best parts of the Professor Langdon movies are the locations! Salvatore Totino has been involved in the cinematography of all three films. As you view the lovely exotic locations you’ll realize why. Several gorgeous panning shots of Florence and other locals will fill the screen. The aerial views from the drone in the park by the Palazzo Vecchio looked great. There’s a shot of Istanbul with a huge setting sun that was fantastic. Lots and lots of lovely vistas. I very much enjoyed all the shots of the historical places, especially the areas where normal visitors are not allowed. 🙂

Super loved the location for the climax. Looked so cool!

Conclusion: Inferno is a nice addition to the Professor Langdon historical mysteries. Another cool puzzle buried in historical trivia and awesome locations. Even has food for thought!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price)

Movie Review – Jack Reacher: Never Look Back

Jack Reacher: Never Look Back

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Aldis Hodge, Patrick Heusinger, Holt McCallany, Madalyn Horcher, Robert Catrini, and more.

Directed by: Edward Zwick Screenplay by: Richard Wenk, Edward Zwick, and Marshall Herskovitz Based on the novel by: Lee Child Cinematography by: Oliver Wood Music by: Henry Jackman

Premise: Jack starts having phone conversations with Major Turner after a successful sting. He invites her to dinner and makes his way to D.C. to meet her face to face. When he gets there, however, he finds out she’s been removed from her post. She’s been placed in jail while waiting to be tried for treason. Something about this doesn’t seem right. Reacher becomes sure of it when he finds himself being tailed. (Rated PG-13)

Review:

1) Acting – Total Thumbs Up: Tom Cruise reprises his role as the loner, ex-military man, Jack Reacher. As always, he’s a lot of fun to watch. Love all his little telltale expressions. Getting caught between Turner and Samantha made for a lot of amusing scenes. Cobie Smulders as Turner had some nice back and forth chemistry with Tom. Both characters are quite set in their ways and are a bit like mixing oil and water. Making the mix even more chaotic is Danika Yarosh who plays Samantha. Her character reflects facets of both of the two as they all go on the run.

2) Special Effects – Total Thumbs Up: This is an action film, so bullets and explosions are pretty much a must. Great job by the special effects team on all of them. Especially memorable was the scene at the warf. A ton of lead flying everywhere!

3) Plot/Story – Thumbs Up: I’ve not read the Jack Reacher book the film is based on, so apologies for not being able to give any opinions between the two. I have read one of the other books and enjoyed it quite a bit! Just need to find time to read more. 🙂

For once the previews did not reveal all! There’s an added and unexpected element thrown into the plot they didn’t give away. This added a different dynamic which for ends up prodding Reacher out of his comfort zone. While this particular complication is not new in the plot world, it made for a nice surprise. Especially since sneakily kept it out of the previews. Yay!

Action films do tend to let a few things slide so things will work out how they want. So there are a couple of bits. Sticky details like stewardesses and airport security. But they blank them out in such a way you don’t realize it for the most part.

The pace is fast and slows down very little throughout.

Samantha is super street savvy yet also conveniently clueless. But it’s so much fun watching Jack having to deal with the unexpected situation that it’s easy to ignore the convenient manipulation.

4) Stunts – Total Thumbs Up: The film has lots of lovely hand to hand fights and on foot chase scenes. Major kudos for the kitchen fight scene. The rooftop chase/fight was painful and awesome!

5) Locations/Cinematography – Total Thumbs Up: Lots of nice cinematography. Loved the wide overhead shots of Turner and Reacher running in several scenes. New Orleans was a great venue for the last section of the film. Especially with the Halloween parade and fireworks. The closeup shots, especially during the last scenes, made them even more poignant.

Conclusion: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a fun ride. Full of mayhem and chaos, we get a lot of action scenes and close combat. Watching Jack squirm emotionally though? Priceless. 🙂

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 (Hubby’s Rating: Worth Full Price to See Again)