The twilight of the Vampire genre I think has finally come at last. Where at one point vampire oriented films were hugely popular, now they are relegated to the backdrop. Unfortunately Underworld: Blood Wars is more of a speck on that backdrop due to a number of reasons. The original film that Len Wiseman directed which was released back in 2003 was amazing; the standard that all vampire films should be held to. Yet after he left directing the franchise things started to unravel. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans was a great film, mostly due to the cast, but the story was good along with several other things as well. Yet this film just doesn't really hit the target. Basically, picking up from where Underworld: Awakening left off, both the vampires and the werewolves are after Selene's daughter for their own purposes, so they attempt to capture her to force the truth out of her even though she doesn't know the answer. Meanwhile the vampires are having an internal power struggle that is threatening to destroy them from within. Kate Beckinsale as Selene was fine, although she didn't add anything to her character and the performance really came off flat. Theo James as David really pulled through in this film....even if his character came off a little like King Arthur, but he was definitely a compelling character. Lara Pulver as the vampire Semira was just lovely; would have been most excellent to see her role expanded more. Charles Dance returned which was awesome, and of course he was fantastic; also would have been amazing to have more of him in the film. Bradley James as the vampire Varga was also a nice touch; and of course once again it would have been nice to see more of him. The villain of the film, or rather chief villain, was the werewolf Marius played by Tobias Menzies. His character and performance were utterly dreadful; so poorly written, and I can't really say anything good of the actor's portrayal. For the most part, the casting was the best part of the film.
It seems I keep finding myself at this same point frequently with many of the films I have watched and then reviewed. The raw potential was there for this film to be really good, but it was the writing and especially in this film, the length of the film that made it come off flat. If the film would have been thirty minutes longer, it would have done so much to improve the film. The characters would have had more depth, and the film wouldn't have felt so rushed. How much of the blame falls on the director, Anna Foerster, or the writers, Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward, who knows; but all three of them share some of the burden of blame. I do have to say though that the cinematography by Karl Walter Lindenlaub was quite good. There's a part of the film that takes place in the icy part of northern Europe, and it was shot splendidly. And I have to give props to the costume designer Bojana Nikitovic; she really nailed the vampire garb down very well, and especially Selene towards the end of the film. The action was rather blah, but honestly I liked the original film more for the story and characters than the action, although it was also good. I don't recall the music score by Michael Wandmacher very well, so no motifs or themes really stood out, which is a shame that in now the fifth film of the franchise that there aren't any musical themes or motifs that have carried through all of the films yet. A lost opportunity. That might actually be the best way to describe this film. Better writing and more time would have improved this film beyond measure; and they should have axed the werewolf villain or re-written him. Honestly if you haven't been watching any of the "Underworld" film then don't bother watching this, and if you have well.....it's better than Awakening so....there you go. Certainly not a film for the cinema history books like the original was. Stepping into reality for a moment, I wish there was some good news to share, but honestly there is nothing. I have actually stopped watching any news and just mainly read the Wall Street Journal because it's so depressing, and most journalism has lost it's credibility and now is mainly focused on selling stories and printing gossip, and peoples' opinions rather than facts. There was a picture on the front of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that haunts me; it was the scene of the bombing that happened in Kabul. In the photo there is wreckage and smoke from the bomb everywhere, and what looks like a corpse. However, a man bloodied and injured is trying to pull himself away from the destruction and he looks up at what I'm assuming is the individual taking the picture and he makes this expression which could be construed as shock, or hopelessness, or perhaps.."why don't you try to help me instead of taking a picture..." look. I hear and see from pictures and videos of all the tragic things that are happening across the globe, and how do people particularly from the West and America act? They simply take picture and move on, and instead focus on celebrities and political controversies that won't mean anything in a couple of years. People live on forever though; they are perhaps the only things that continue on past this transient existence. If the entire world cared more about people, or just part of the world cared more about people, or even a fraction, then things would be different and change. But for now I wait for some really good news, and now I step down from my soap box. May the Force be with us all.
One of the things that I try to do every year is watch all or most of the Oscar nominated films for Best Picture. Moonlight was the film that actually won the coveted award...well at least once they recovered from their mistake of announcing La La Land. There was a lot of hype around this film due to the subject matter of the film; growing up as a black gay man in a subculture where that is highly looked down upon. The film was good, relatively well written and acted, but honestly I don't think it deserved the Oscar which I'm pretty sure it won for pure political reasons as opposed to mainly on merit alone. The film follows a young black man, Chiron, who struggles to survive in a world as a young black gay boy then as a man, and that's pretty much it. The film is divided into essentially three thirty-five minute vignettes starting with the main character as a boy, then a teenager and finally as an adult man. The three individuals who brought this character to life: Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes all did a fine job portraying this character and their performances were admirable. The character though was very dull and boring. Granted there was so much to explore and so much depth, but Chiron seemed to say very little throughout the entire film, and as soon as the character seemed to go somewhere the film would advance to the next chronological incarnation of the same character. It was this three part split which I believe sabotaged the film greatly; the majority of the film should have been spent when he was an adult finally coming to terms with his reality as opposed to suppressing it. His childhood friend, Kevin, whom he had a crush on was played by: Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome, and Andre Holland. A lot of potential in this character, but it was never really fleshed out well; quite disappointing. Naomie Harris played Chiron's junkie, abusive and neglectful mother; she did great, but her skills really weren't put to good use since her role was so small considering the impact such a character would have on a young boy and man (she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress). It was interesting watching her performance on screen as it reminded me of some of my previous clients' mothers. Mahershala Ali played Juan the drug dealer who was some sort of "father figure" for Chiron when he was a boy, and then he disappeared from the film without any explanation for his absence which was poor writing I thought. He won an Oscar for his supporting role, and it's probably because he had the best performance in the entire film even though it was small and very short. That was pretty much it, although Janelle Monae played Teresa, Juan's wife, who became a sort of surrogate mother for Chiron. She was a breath of fresh air for the film, but once again she vanished after the first two vignettes. That was essentially the entire cast, or rather what mattered the most in regards to the story.
So the film was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won 3: Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture. Barry Jenkins wrote and directed the film which was based off a story written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, and for the most part they both did a good job. I just believe that what really sunk this film for me was how it was divided up into three distinct timeline with distinct characters which made it seem like three separate short films rather than one singular film. It also wasn't long enough. The ending was anti-climactic and seemed to happen far too quickly. The music by Nicholas Britell was somehow nominated for an Academy Award, and I would have to assume it was for political reasons as that's the only reason I could rationalize how it was even nominated as the music itself was blah, although there was a point where I thought a good motif was coming and then it just sunk. The cinematography by James Laxton was perhaps the best technical element in the film; it just worked so well for the narrative, and visually was quite striking at times; it too was also nominated for an Academy Award. Somehow the film was nominated for the Best Editing Academy Award, but I think that is what weakened the film so once again it had to be for political reasons. Overall I was very disappointed with the film. It had such great potential, but it just came across as three short films put together rather than one seamless piece of exquisite cinema which was just in reach since it was such a compelling story. That goes to show that you can have an awesome story, great characters, good acting, but if it isn't put together well then all of those other factors don't matter. Of all the films to win Best Picture, it shouldn't have been Moonlight. It was good, but it wasn't great and only truly great films should win the most coveted prize for films on the entire planet. I hate ending on depressing notes, but I read in the Wall Street Journal the other day that the Syrian government is reportedly using a crematorium to cover up mass murders that it has been undertaking. Yet, it seems the U.S. Congress and large portion of the U.S. public is more concerned about chasing conspiracy theories and settling political scores than history repeating itself again. Holocaust Remembrance Day was about a month ago, and here we have another tyrannical regime committing genocide and trying to cover it up the same way the Nazis did, and yet no one seems to care. There is something terribly wrong with my country the United States of America, and the world, and I am concerned that as time continues to pass that this kind of behavior will only worsen. People need to step outside their own circumstances and really contemplate what is truly important in life, and what matters.
Moonlight interview with Trevante Rhodes & Andre Holland
It's had to believe that 3 years ago the first Guardians of the Galaxy film was released, and here we are already on the second film of that series with a third and fourth most likely coming (because Hollywood has no creative original storytelling bone left in its body). So this film had a rather lame story and plot, and yes I am using "lame" in a technical sense; it's the best word to describe the story and plot....or rather lack of a good one. This film is about the characters is ensconces and only that....well perhaps the music as well as it seemed to serve as an existential character throughout the film. Basically, Quill finds his father who happens to be a sort of celestial god/planet that can do powerful stuff and everything seems to be going tritely wonderful.....until the proverbial ball drops and his father turns out to be rather less than honorable. If this plot sounds familiar that's because it is, I just can't recall at the moment what other film it was in. Anyways. Chris Pratt as Peter Quill was perfection; who else can play an obnoxious, arrogant, immature frat boy character with such stupendous humor and be very believable while doing it. Zoe Saldana as Gamora was fine. Either it's her performance that is boring and flat, or her character is just that way. Dave Bautista as Drax definitely improved in this film with depth of character and he was the one character that made me perhaps laugh the most. His second act was definitely good and an improvement. I don't have a clue what Vin Diesel did as Baby Groot voice wise or motion capture wise, but Baby Groot was at times a hoot, and sometime a little too much. Bradley Cooper as Rocket just goes to show that I really do not care for the majority of the films or roles that man takes in his career, and the sarcastic, irritating and vacillating raccoon character falls right into that. Needless to say I do not like that character whatsoever; in my opinion there is nothing endearing about him as a character, simply all negatives. Michael Rooker as the blue dude that can control the arrow thing with his mind, Yondu, was less obnoxious in this film but still there was something about his character I just didn't care for, especially the whole "adopted father" theme the writers were going for. Karen Gillan as Nebula was a great character and I loved how they gave her such incredible depth in this film.....and yet they did barely anything with it. Very disappointing. Kurt Russell of course as "Ego" the planet/celestial god/Quill's father was perfect. He was funny and had this callous/superior way of thinking and justifying the ideas of his character which added a good deal to the excellent performance. The rest of the cast was good, but nothing that really stood out....except for a brief appearance by Howard the Duck. I think I might have been the only person in the theater laughing when he appeared on-screen. Oh and of course the Stan Lee cameo was awesome as usual!
James Gunn (what a great first name by the way) directed and wrote the film, and while he crafted his vision of the characters and story perfectly, it basically wasn't my cup of tea just like the first one (although I think this one might be slightly more tolerable than the first) and I can't fault him for that simply because I don't really like it. Once again the special effects and the expanse of the universe was great and well done even it was on a slightly smaller scale this time around. Tyler Bate's musical score played second fiddle to the soundtrack of vintage rock music from the 80's or whenever (that genre of music I have to say is beyond my knowledge, or really taste), so it wasn't anything really to comment about. The action was mind numbing. It was designed to overwhelm the senses with sheer mass rather than awe with design and calculating the path of the action. Honestly, I didn't care for the film, but I didn't hate it and it wasn't dreadful; it was entertaining and it successfully distracted me for a couple of from life and I have to admit that I laughed a good bit. I believe millions of people will love this film and think it's amazing, and if you enjoy juvenile humor befitting of a kid in Jr. High with lots of action (I noted that this film seemed incredibly violent, and it was done in a way that made it appear comical; that disturbed me a little) then this film is for you. It would definitely be a great date night film regardless of which way you swing or what age you are. And once again I wonder when the 'Golden Age of Comic Book Films' will end?
Now for something with a little more weight. I just (literally) finished reading the biography on the 11th President of the United States of America James Knox Polk (and yes his family was related to Protestant Reformer John Knox). He was president from 1845-1849 and was proceeded by John Tyler and succeeded by Zachary Taylor. He was a member of the Democratic party (which was very different then from what is now considered the Democratic party) and he died a couple months after he left office around the age of 53. He was the successor of Andrew Jackson's legacy as appointed by the former President who did what he could to put Polk into office. Polk fought the war with Mexico over Texas, and added Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon. Washington, and California to the United States. He worked hard every single day of his presidency rarely taking a vacation all four years of his term and also rarely left the White House. Interestingly enough, his secretary of state was James Buchanan who would go on to be president just as the US civil war broke out (Buchanan is considered one of if not the worst US president ever; I guess former secretaries of state do not make very good presidents as John Quincy Adams was also in that same boat). Aside from the great name this former president has, Polk to me was quite admirable and happens to be considered by historians to be one of the top US presidents of all time. Unfortunately the author of the biography I read, Walter R. Borneman, did a lousy job so I don't think I quite captured as great of a picture of the man as I could have. What I admired most about him was his incredible work ethic, sense of duty to the American people, and more importantly his sense of duty to the idea of the American union; that as Americans we are all in this great democratic experiment together and thus it should forever remain. One of the last bills he signed into office created the Department of the Interior, which he had grave doubts about...."he feared its consolidating tendency, and thought that it would centralize power over public lands in the federal government to the detriment of states, where he thought the power belonged." He changed the geography of the United States almost more so than any single US president, and he I believe is the only president that vowed to serve only one term right at the outset of his presidency. He was a great president, an admirable man that spent close to 30 years in public service in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tennessee Governor, and other state politics. Good politicians like him are truly missed and lamented in this day and age.
I wonder if film studios are ever going to stop making comic-book films at the pace which they are currently? You would think that at some point people are going to grow tired of them or the phase will be over, but perhaps not. I have to say that I wasn't expecting much of Doctor Strange but I have to say that after recently watching it, I wasn't annoyed or bored as I had anticipated. Now granted, I didn't see it in 3-D which I would have loved to, but you work with what you have. Obviously the story follows a phenomenal surgeon who damages his hands to the point where he can't really use them again and he embarks on a crusade to correct the issue which leads him to a group of mystics that teach him to essentially harness magic and find the inner peace for his troubled soul. However, along the way a bad sorcerer seeks to release the ultimate evil Dormammu which will destroy the earth and thus they set out to stop him. Kind of your routine plot line for comic-book films these days. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the good doctor, and I have to say that he of course performed masterfully with the title character. He was empathetic, humorous, and vulnerable in a way that made him believable as opposed to ridiculous (which was what unfortunately happened to Ryan Reynolds in The Green Lantern). The role worked for him and he did well with it; I actually believe the next Doctor Strange film will be better than the first because he knows his character so well. Chiwetel Eijofor plays Mordo (who becomes a pretty big baddie in the Marvel world) and his character was boring and typical of the type often cast in that position. Rachel McAdams plays the love interest of the good doctor, Christine Palmer, and she's a good fold for him. Hopefully that get's played out a little more in the next film. Benedict Wong plays the character Wong, a sort of what I thought was a sidekick to the good doctor, but he plays a librarian that knows a lot. The two men when they have scenes together are quite good; lot's of good on-screen chemistry, and got me to laugh a number of times. Mads Mikkelsen continues to showcase his talent in big name movies and franchises (James Bond, Star Wars, Marvel) and of course he was great; a bit flat and boring, but a good villain as always. Perhaps the most ridiculous of all casting decisions was to make Tilda Swinton the Ancient One; the Sorcerer Supreme. While I have to say that they could have cast other people that might have worked and definitely looked the part, the actress did a fantastic job herself with the character and shouldn't be castigated for taking the role. She came off with all of the necessary elements of a mystical Yoda type character, but definitely not as wise or relatable. All in all it was a great cast.
The technical elements of the film were of course pretty good. Director Scott Derrickson did a fine job and the writers as well, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill. Michael Giacchino composed the music and did a fairly good job as well, although I don't know if he really came up with a very distinctive motif or theme for the good doctor unfortunately. The actions sequences were very dynamic and new, which I believe was a credit to all of the magic that was being used as it gave the creators a lot of good material to work with and shape into something cool. The only thing I thought that was over the top and rather ridiculous most of the time was the red cape that he wore which seemed to have a personality and will of its own. I think it would have been just fine had it been simply a cool, magical cape; there was no need to make it cognizant. Overall I would have to say that it was a good and entertaining film; it's not the best comic-book film, but it balances the dark and light humored very well without coming off too serious, but just serious enough. In that regard the director deserves a very loud round of applause. It's a film that would work well for date night, watching it with your family of any age (except for very young children), or if you simply want to forget how much reality sucks. Well the end of April is here, and the USA along with the rest of the world is still around without anything apocalyptic occurring. I hope the next one hundred days only gets better and better, oh and while I am at it, God be with the French people as they choose a new direction in which to take their own destinies.
Granted one of the books I am looking at is fictional and the other is non-fiction, but both of them deal with that topic and especially the theme of effective leadership. Aside from James Luceno, Timothy Zahn is the finest Star Wars in the business, although Drew Karpyshyn and Matthew Stover rank up there as well. I used to read a lot of that, but not really anymore since I've gotten into my non-fiction/biographical kick. However, my sister sent me Thrawn which my brother in-law was also reading, and since Grand Admiral Thrawn is my favorite Star Wars character of all time I sat down to read it recently. Definitely not Zahn's best work I have to say; Outbound Flight might rank as my most favorite of his books, even though the original Thrawn trilogy was great, I don't like reading about my character losing and dying...although with Disney's takeover, who even knows if that ends of happening. Of course Thrawn himself was written perfectly, and Zahn elaborated on a character that was introduced in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels Governor Arihnda Pryce. He did an amazing job with this character (and yes I know I am cheering for the villains....what can I say), from growing her from nothing to making her almost on the same level as Grand Moff Tarkin; that was excellent writing. The other major character that was introduced was Eli Vanto whom Thrawn took under his wing and taught him almost as if he were grooming him. He was okay, but I think Zahn did a much better job writing Admiral Pellaeon. I also liked Colonel Yularen's presence as well (he was heavily featured in the Clone Wars often fighting alongside Obi-Wan and Anakin). The story was how Thrawn entered service to the Empire and crawled up from being a lieutenant to becoming Grand Admiral, which was the highest rank in the Imperial Navy. He basically had a nemesis that he fought along the way; think Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. I have to say the ending wasn't very satisfying; it felt forced and/or rushed, which isn't very typical of Zahn; but overall it was a very enjoyable reading experience. Granted I really enjoy Star Wars, or I used to before The Force Awakens, and it is difficult for people who do not enjoy it as much as I to get into a book like this, but even if you really enjoy science fiction then you'll enjoy this book. Oh, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the cover art!
Now I've never read the memoirs of a former US Secretary of Defense (or what used to be Secretary of War) until former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently. I had been wanting to read his memoir Duty for quite some time, but I had never gotten around to it until now. I do have to say that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is one of the finest men who have ever served in that position, and as a citizen of the United States of America I am proud of his record and thankful that he served both former US Presidents G.W. Bush and Obama in their administrations. And yes if you can't tell I pretty much have nothing but glowing things to write about this man and his memoirs. First and foremost the richness in detail about his day-to-day work as Secretary of Defense was brilliant; I have no idea how the man did it for 4 and a half years. I enjoyed reading how he "went to war on the Pentagon" bureaucracy, or how he dealt with the zealous, partisan idiots from congress (regardless of party), or even how he had disagreements frequently with both former Vice-Presidents Cheney and Biden (the latter he seemed to have less positive to say about), but what I enjoyed reading the most was how much he cared for the men and women in uniform whether they were a captain, admiral, private or near death. I think that was his greatest strength and what made him extraordinarily fantastic for the job of Secretary of Defense, aside from working previously in the CIA; he also worked with Presidents: Ford, Carter, Reagan, and H.W. Bush. Perhaps the only complain about his memoir was that at times it became very technical or very rote; as if he was merely writing in a log with no passion or interest, he was just writing the information down. I had no idea how ridiculous the procurement process was for the US Armed Forces, and if the average American really knew the kind of crap the US Congress pulls, they'd not re-elect several Congressional delegates. The other fascinating part of this memoir was reading about the culture of the military, and especially of the higher up officers (Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretaries of the various military branches, commanders of the different theaters of operation, and others I'm certain I'm forgetting) and how all of that works with promotions and appointing the right people to the right field commands. One of my brother in-laws is in the military and I think he's a captain in the army, and I talk to my sister who also has discussed the culture of the army officers and specifically being an army officer's wife and what all of that is like and what is expected of everyone. I think military and officer culture was something that former President Obama never understood, and never attempted to understand and that was perhaps why there was a good deal of enmity between him, his White House Staff, and the Pentagon. I could go on and on about incredible details concerning the book, but take my word for it; Duty the memoirs of former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was an awesome read and every single American should read it. And if people who aren't Americans want to better understand this country and what makes it tick, then I encourage them to read it as well. I'm hoping to read former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's memoirs as well next, but for now I've returned to biographies on former US Presidents, which every American should be reading as well. I guess the moral of the story is read more, watch less or no cable news, and ignore any "news" you come across on Facebook; my suggestion is never trust anything but rather go straight to the source for the most accurate information. In the end the your time spent will be well worth it.
Timothy Zahn on his book Thrawn
Grand Admiral Thrawn at his finest in season 3 of Star Wars: Rebels
Interview with Robert Gates
Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser (hopefully it's better than its predecessor)
It is such an interesting day in American culture when very, very nasty villains suddenly become the saviors and heroes of the day. The main character (whether or not he is the antagonist or protagonist is something I still don't understand) is a professional assassin that kills without peer or regard. The next main character is a psychotic killer that has so many psychiatric problems in reality she would never leave a psychiatric institution. And then the other tow main characters are a cross between a corrupt government official that believes that the ends justify the means, and a man who struggles between duty and decency (he's probably the only really likable and good character in the film). Not really an inspiring message to start with. I was not a fan of Suicide Squad before or after watching the film. The story follows a group of villains who are rounded up and forced to work for the US Government to kill far worse bad guys. Such bad guys occur in the form of an ancient evil enchantress and her equally powerful brother who want to destroy humanity and rule what's left, or something like that. So, yeah not a very interesting story. And the characters are interesting, but I think they focused on the wrong ones. Will Smith as Deadshot was dreadful; let me say that I have never been a fan of his at all. Independence Day, Men in Black, and Wild Wild West are his only work that I actually like and enjoy and that is mostly in spite of his presence on-screen which I could have lived without on any of those films. He just isn't that talented of an actor; he just plays the same character over and over again (which he did in all 3 films I mentioned above). So having him be the main character in this film I knew it was already heading in the wrong direction. Fortunately Margot Robbie saved the day with her portrayal of Harley Quinn. Forget Will Smith as Deadshot, people are going to remember Harley Quinn portrayed by Margot Robbie and the Joker played by Jared Leto. She was funny, sympathetic, and had a fascinating backstory, but was also quite evil as well. Jared Leto as the Joker unfairly had a small role (because Will Smith probably demanded a huge role if he was going to be in the film) which was a shame; I would have loved to have seen more of him and Harley Quinn together. These two will most likely be remembered as the best part of the film. Viola Davis as Amanda Waller (the person in charge) was perfect; it was like she was playing the same character as she does in How to Get Away with Murder. Joel Kinnaman played Rick Flagg, pretty much the only really good guy with any amount of screen time, and he did a good job, although it would have been a better story arc to follow him more closely than Deadshot. The rest of the villains: Killer Croc, Diablo, Captain Boomerang (really?), and Slipknot (even worse) were rather boring and just kind of there just to be there really, which is typically indicative of bad writing. As for the villain, the Enchantress played by Cara Delevingne, was pretty uninteresting although her backstory was quite fascinating.
David Ayer wrote and directed Suicide Squad and honestly, I have to say with as much source material as they had to work with, that the end product isn't really that impressive, good or even interesting. I suppose it's an okay action film, but when it comes down to it there's just a lot of shooting, running and physical fighting which is something every action film has in spades; what's difficult is to breathe new ideas and fresh life into action, and this film falls so short. The story writing was atrocious, and the dialog was alright. Steven Price did the music, and I don't even know who that is; I can't even recall the score of the film. The cinematography was okay, and the costume design wasn't too bad. The technical elements of the film weren't really all that impressive. On an interesting note, one of the Executive Producers of the film was Steven Mnuchin, President Trump's current Secretary of the Treasury. I am concerned that Americans are (just like in the 1970's) turning to darker films and darker heroes due to the malcontent and discouraging social and cultural environment currently in the United States of America. Honestly, what the world and this country needs are good, wholesome, and sacrificial heroes like Captain America, not like Deadshot. I would only recommend this film to watch for Harley Quinn and the Joker, other than that it's boring and not worth the time. Hopefully DC films become a whole lot better, even though this film did make a lot of money. Well apparently one of my favorite James Bond villains of all time (Elliot Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies) was correct..."There's no news, like bad news." And the media and world is full of it. You know, a lot of good news would be great right about now.
Harley Quinn and the Joker in Suicide Squad
Margot Robbie being Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad
Kingsman: The Golden Circle (should be interesting)
Alien: Covenant prologue (now this is what I am talking about! Looks great!)
So I was mindlessly perusing Netflix recently when I came across a show 13 Reasons Why that had just been posted. The premise looked interesting, and given the rating I knew it was going to have a more adult theme to the drama than annoying teenage angst depicted in most shows directed at that age group. I have to say that I got pulled into that show like a moth to a flame. I don't think I've ever binge watched anything in my entire life as I did that show. Regardless whether or not it is critiqued in a positive or negative light, you have to admit that by the end of each episode you wanted to see what would happen next, and where the story narrative was going. The show is about a young woman, junior in high school, that killed herself due to many factors and the title of the show is connected to those factors. She recorded the reasons why she killed herself on 13 audio cassettes, and each side of the tape revolved around a specific person that in her mind participated in her psychological and emotional deterioration. The 13 audio tapes are each passed on by the people about who they are about until they get to the main character of this show, Clay Jensen (played excellently by Dylan Minnette), who struggles greatly listening to the emotional angst that his friend experienced. All thirteen episodes of the show are about him systematically listening to the audio tapes and dealing with the people that they are about, there are also frequent flashbacks as the reasons for why she killed herself are all pieced together by Clay. The performances were pretty good I have to say, although there were some moments that were a little ridiculous. I didn't care either that it seemed on more than one occasion the girl who killed herself, Hannah (played very well by Katherine Langford), was blaming other people for why she killed herself rather than taking responsibility for her actions which led to her demise. There are a lot of highly emotionally charged scenes, as well as some disturbing scenes depicting rape, and then there was the scene where she killed herself. This show has brevity yes, but for the most part it is dark, painful and tortuous drama that can unfold (and I'm sure does) in a young person's life. I for one didn't experience anything like that as I was homeschooled for most of my life and then went to small private Christian schools, of which I am very thankful after watching this show. If this is really what high school is like these days, then God be with every young woman and man. But regarding the show, I'd re-watch it, but if you prefer non-serious, lighthearted fare it would be best to avoid.
Not too long ago I decided that I was going to read a biography on every American president before I die. So far I read George W. Bush's memoirs, and I just finished reading a biography on Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States of America. I didn't know too much about the man before I read the 800 plus page volume, but I think I have a firm grasp of him now. I believe I would say he has become one of my favorite presidents. He pushed himself throughout his entire life against all odds. He was very sickly as a child, he had asthma, but he pushed himself physically to be tough, and was very much a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of man. He experienced great tragedy in his life though. His father died when he was about 19 years old. His mother and first wife died essentially on the same day when he was about 21 right after his first child was born. And then later on during WWI when all of his sons (5 I think) were in the war, one of them died in a plane crash. He believed in doing something because there was a moral necessity to do so, particularly when it came to foreign affairs and domestic progressive policy against business. He constantly bucked his own party, Republican, which was very pro-business and he began the process of breaking of the great trusts of his time: Rockefeller, Carnegie and JP Morgan as well as other large companies. He was progressive in favoring workers over businesses, he decided to build the Panama canal, he balanced relations between the German, Japanese and Russian Empires and while he was president there were no major world wars or conflicts that boiled out of control. Now I'm going to make a parallel here, and even though I haven't read many presidential biographies, so far President Trump is very similar to President Teddy Roosevelt in personality style, leadership style, governing style, and both came from wealth and were not very well liked in their own political party. He was a bombastic man, but what I like about him was his belief in the simple, ordinary, every day American who he believed made this country great and those were the people he enjoyed being around and championing. He wasn't afraid to take anyone on who he believed threatened the security and well being of this country; from his friends to his own political party. He made a decision and he would follow through on it. I think he balanced Federalism and the rights of states very well, and although he made some strategic mistakes as every president does, nothing he did irreparably damaged the US and only magnified the greatness in which he imbued on the office of President of the United States. Here is a quote from some his final writings before he died:
"Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die, and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are parts of the same Great Adventure..."
I definitely recommend that each person reads at least a few biographies of these great men who ran/run the greatest experiment in democracy of all time; there are 45 to choose from, so where will you begin?
13 Reasons Why cast interviews
The History Channel on President Theodore Roosevelt
Yes that's right, I am referring to Wolverine, or Logan if you're not in an X-Men mood. I recently saw the film Logan and went in very few expectations, and granted it wasn't a dreadful film honestly. Now I will preface this review stating that I am not a comic book guy, so I know of very little of the universe of all this stuff as it happens in the actual comic book universe. So apparently many, many years after....some kind of events that aren't ever really explained, there are essentially no mutants anymore. Wolverine is dying somehow finally and is therefore in a weakened, depressive state, and Professor X is ancient and having seizures that wreak havoc on the world around him. Wolverine is essentially taking care of the Professor when they come across this young mutant girl who is being hunted down, and thus they help her and are chased around leading to an epic and climactic face-off. So obviously the highlights of this film are Hugh Jackman as Logan and Patrick Stewart as Charles, and both men did an astounding job with their characters. I actually liked what the writers did with their two characters making them more down to earth, less flashy, and more gritty; it was a very interesting concept. The young girl, who barely speaks the entire film, was played by Dafne Keen and her name is Laura. For an actress who didn't speak much, she performed quite well and provided at times a counterbalance to Logan for levity. Stephen Merchant played Caliban a mutant who helps out Logan with Charles, but the writers didn't do much with him unfortunately; a rather boring and insignificant character. They should have brought back an older version of one of the previous mutants, it would have worked out better. Boyd Holbrook for all intents and purposes was the primary villain in the film, Pierce, and I have to admit that he played that role very, very well; but that was it. And Richard Grant played Dr. Rice, who I suppose you could say was the chief villain, but didn't have as menacing of a presence as the other guy. Those were essentially the major members of the cast; this was a more intimate film than blockbuster. Overall I would say that the casting was mostly well done.
Director James Mangold is a very talented director as he's directed successful dramas, action film, and drama, and I have to say that he did a fine job with this film; he was able to successfully weave together drama and action in a universe dominated by special effects and fancy action sequences. The writers, including the director, Scott Frank and Michael Green did a pretty good job with the story and dialog. There was a good deal of character depth for Logan and Charles in this film, but they could have given it more and that's where I disagree with the direction they took this great idea of a story. Marco Beltrami composed the music, and I honestly don't recall a single note; since I usually recall film music easily if it was good, I'm gonna write that it most likely wasn't, although I will go back and check it out. Given the nature of the story, it should have been a runaway score easily with intimate strings or sweeping woodwinds, or a soaring lone trumpet....alas, it was absent. Even the cinematography by John Mathieson seemed to be lacking. Now, the movie definitely wasn't bad at all, but that doesn't imply that it was good either. This is the best comparison I can provide, Logan is like The Hours but with action and extreme violence. This film is extraordinarily depressing, and everyone dies. It is also a very, very violent film, and I was kind of surprised by the amount of on-screen violence perpetrated towards children that was showed. Just as with the film The Hours, the film Logan is pretty good in regards to acting, the story, and dialog, but it's just so doggone depressing that it overshadows everything, and honestly in this day and age who wants to subject themselves to over 2 hours of that. So, in the end if all of that is your cup of tea then you'll love this film, for everyone else I would say that you aren't really missing anything. Oh and one thing, if you as a parent, friend, guardian, or other take children under 14 to see this film you should be ashamed of yourself subjecting a child to such a depiction of violence. When I saw the film with a friend, this one mother, guardian, friend or other (have to be politically correct) took three small boys to see the film and I'm pretty certain one of them was 7 years of age or younger. Please remember at such a young age the brain is still developing as are a child's emotional and social perceptions and behaviors. Exposing children to such things is never good in the long run, so please be responsible and go watch a Pixar film.
I have to say that I didn't think much of Hacksaw Ridge when I first heard about it. Part of that is most war films that are made after 1970's just aren't that good. 1940's-1970's period saw the best war films ever made, and just after that success (critically and commercially) tends to be elusive, at least for my taste. Granted there are great blips like Saving Private Ryan but I would say that tends to be the exception. Another part is that I'm not really a big fan of Mel Gibson as an actor or director; The Patriot is really the only film of his that I enjoy, and for the most part Signs, but other than that nothing else. The last part I was uncertain about was the story angle of the film which was the main character being a conscientious objector right in the middle of a war; didn't sound that great. Just like many of the characters in the film, it turns out I was so very wrong about my preconceived notions. The film follows the real life story of Desmond Doss who volunteered to participate in WWII as a conscientious objector for spiritual and personal reasons, and how he navigates that as he goes through training and then when the fighting actually takes place. Andrew Garfield is clearly a superior actor (a lot of that probably has to do with the fact that he is British and was schooled in theatre there) and he did such a fantastic job of bringing the real man, Desmond Doss, alive on the screen. He was nominated for an Oscar for the work that he did, and even though I doubt he'll win, he certainly deserves to. Teresa Palmer as his love interest Dorthoy Schutte did equally well as Garfield, and the two of them had amazing on-screen chemistry. Hugo Weaving really showed great depth as an actor as he depicted the war torn veteran soldier father of Garfield's main character (Tom Doss) who suffers from PTSD and has become an alcoholic. Rachel Griffiths as the mother Bertha Doss was lovely as ever of course, and brought even more heart to the story and the central struggle going on with the characters. Sam Worthington (Captain Glover) and Vince Vaughn (Sgt Howell) were both great characters, although Worthington played the more transformative character with greater depth, but Mr. Vaughn was able to play a character that I didn't find overly obnoxious, so that was pretty awesome. The rest of the ensemble cast, particularly the soldiers that trained and fought alongside Garfield's character, were spectacular; they captured the camaraderie and group dynamics that you often saw in earlier (1940's & 1950's) war films with the cast aside from the main characters.
So I enjoyed the film a lot. I laughed, blanched more than a number of times, held back a lot of tears, and I was inspired. Mel Gibson definitely did a fine job as director and deserves that Oscar nomination for Directing and for Best Picture. The screenplay written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight was for the most part pretty good, although the one major complaint I had was that the film went very, very slow up until Garfield's character enlists and begins boot camp. After that transition, the film doesn't miss a beat. Simon Duggan did a fine job with the cinematography (should have been nominated for an Oscar), John Gilbert received an Oscar nomination for Best Editing, although I disagree that the editing was that good, but it wasn't dreadful. Rupert Gregson-Williams composed the music and I honestly cannot recall if it was any good, but I want to say yes, although if it was really good I would definitely would remember; so not entirely certain on that. The technical aspects of the film were well done; the film was nominated for two Oscars for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. All in all, it was an amazing film and definitely worth watching, and worth watching again. What I really enjoyed about the film was the real aspect of the film, and what you see at the end of the film just made it all even more amazing. I definitely tip my hat off to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to defeat the Nazis and Imperial Japanese forces during WWII; there are no greater American heroes than they, and they should be regarded with such reverence and respect. Individuals like that should be the role models for young women and men, not petty celebrities or arrogant athletes. Well one month later, the United States is still functioning as is the rest of the world, despite the antics of terrorists and several dictators; a little less then 8 years to go.
I suppose a lot of people feel like Alice right now....tumbling down the rabbit hole, or more befitting taking a stroll through the looking glass. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was visually stunning beyond imagination, and utilized 3-D perfectly, but didn't care much for a lot of the story, but the characters were amazing. And of course Alice Through the Looking Glass continues that tradition, and many of the others as well. So Alice is starting her career as an adventurer, which many don't approve of especially her mother, so she is struggling with that and other social norms that she is not conforming to. However, she gets called to Underland to help the Mad Hatter get better, and in order to do this she has to change the past so she steals time essentially from...time I suppose. A rather fascinating notion actually. Mia Wasikowska as Alice was much better this time around in my opinion, but there wasn't really anything new and dynamic to her character really, although they tried, but she had a good performance. Johnny Depp was as funny and clever as the Mad Hatter, and they got a little deeper with his character, but not really much to stand out. Still as always he was the main draw to the film. Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen was of course amazing as always; such a talented actress. Sacha Baron Cohen played time, and he was a little over the top of a character at times, but I actually really enjoyed his character and performance overall. Then there were of course the minor roles/cameos and talented actors and actresses such as: Rhys Ifans (played the Hatter's father), Matt Lucas (Tweedledee & Tweedledum), Lindsay Duncan (Alice's Mother), Leo Bill (Hamish), Andrew Scott, Richard Armitage, Ed Speelers, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Stephen Fry, and Michael Sheen. The film had an excellent cast, although a lot of them could have been utilized more effectively.
The director, James Bobin, did an okay job directing, which considering how much was going on in this film must not have been an easy task; in a blockbuster style film like this there are a lot of moving parts. Perhaps where I find a lot of fault in this film is the writing by Linda Woolverton; the dialog, story, and plot were all interesting ideas but the entire film had a rather scatterbrained feel to it. And yes I know Through the Looking Glass, the book, is rather like that as I have tried to read it on several occasions, but it is so doggone confusing to read. But there can be a certain appeal to something being scatterbrained, that is if it is crafted corrected.....which this film was not. Granted I found it quite entertaining and enjoyable most of the time, but it was also quite ridiculous and senseless as well frequently. There were relatively good special effects, and I didn't see it in 3-D but I imagine it was comparable to the first film. Danny Elfman did the music and it was good, but the music for the first film was quite better. The production design by Dan Hennah was very impressive; all of the sets looked so cool and very interesting. All in all the film was good and enjoyable, but if you miss it then you miss it; it's not one for the record books or enduring time vault. It does provide a most excellent escape from reality though, and judging bu people's moods as of late in the United States and the world, it might be just what the doctor ordered. Although, it was the last film Alan Rickman participated in before his death, so that might help it go down in history for something.
So one of the disadvantages sometimes of living on the West Coast is that things are on earlier if they are scheduled early on the East Coast, like the Presidential Inauguration. So I got up bright and early at 7am and began watching the coverage of the 2017 U.S. Presidential Inauguration. As everything unfolded and led up to the swearing in ceremony, it was very cool to see previous presidents, former House Speakers, the Supreme Court Justices, and other political figures from the past gather to celebrate this fantastic democratic civil ceremony. This entire peaceful and pleasant transfer of power is why our democracy works and continues to do so and has done so since George Washington handed power to John Adams down to G.W. Bush Handing power to Barack Obama. The festivities went off without a hitch, there was a little rain but nothing too much, and everyone looked pretty spectacular. My sister, brother in-law, and nephew were there as my nephew was part of some sort of leadership summit for the STEM program that he participated in this past summer. I am so proud of him and his accomplishments at only almost 11 years of age. Him and his fellow students are going to put a proposal together dealing with technology that is going to go before Congress and President Trump. He's a smart and talented kid. It was very surreal for them, but a very cool experience to participate in. I got to watching everything from home which was great, but it would have been something to be there in person. One day I'll make it to an inauguration ceremony. Well, God bless President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence and their families, and I hope that they are successful and bring about a greater America in the next four years. Now, back in 2013 for President Obama's last inauguration I wrote a little blurb about it and made some predictions of the future for the 2017 Presidential Inauguration. It goes without saying my predictions were quite wrong, but not all of them. I predicted that Marco Rubio and Chris Christie would run for the GOP ticket, and they did, they just didn't acquire the nomination. I suggested that Joe Biden would run, but he didn't. So for the Presidential Inauguration of 2021 I predict that Donald Trump will run for office again, and that the Democrats will pony up at least Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Joaquin Castro as presidential contenders. Now I predict, barring anything disastrous from occurring, that Donald Trump will indeed win a second term. It should be fascinating to see how things tee up in the fall/summer of 2019 though as the candidates prepare to announce their candidacies. Well, you may not like the president, but I think we can all agree that the ceremony is what was important regardless of the outcome, and that hopefully there will be another 45 peaceful and cooperative transitions of power to come and more beyond even that. May God continue to bless and watch over the United States of America.
I have to say first and foremost that I am a fan of Tim Burton, and that I do like and prefer darker films, so my expectations were pretty much in line with all of that when I watched Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It is not light subject matter in regards to the story I have to say, but I rather enjoyed the idea overall along with the characters. The basic premise is there are "peculiar" children in the world with unique peculiarities, talents, or powers; think mutants from X-Men, but less action oriented. These children live in protective environments guarded by certain individuals who can manipulate time, and they live there to protect themselves from humans, and also from people who are hunting them down for something that they possess. The main character, Jake, has a unique peculiarity which is greatly helpful for the group of children that he meets after his grandfather dies. With Miss Peregrine's guidance he explores a side of himself that he never knew existed. Asa Butterfield plays Jake the main character, and he did an excellent job and has grown up so much since being young Mordred in the British series Merlin. He was exceptional with his young, albeit rather flat character. Eva Green as Miss Peregrine was in my opinion the best part of the entire film, but I have to admit that I am highly biased when it comes to her. Her character was mysterious, fascinating, cool and highly complex; like there is something more to her than meets the eye, and I wish that they would have spent more time focusing on her and developing her character more. Ella Purnell who played Emma Bloom was essentially Mr. Butterfield's "love interest" did a lovely job, but her character was also rather flat, but pleasant and enjoyable. Samuel L. Jackson plays the villain of the film, Barron, and for some odd reason they chose him rather than somebody else who might have been a far better fit. A lot of directors do that with Sam Jackson; they just have him in the film to....well....have him in the film even if it doesn't necessarily make sense. For some odd reason Judi Dench had a rather highly irrelevant role which I wouldn't classify as a cameo, but it really felt that way; not certain why a woman of her caliber would take such a role, but I'm certain she has her reasons. Terrence Stamp had a lovely role as Jake's grandfather, and Rupert Everett had a delightful cameo role as well, along with Allison Janney. The individuals who made up the cast of the children were also quite good, and it was really awesome to see Milo Parker from Mr. Holmes as one of the young actors. All in all a pretty decent cast.
There may be some disagreement about Tm Burton's directing abilities considering the film was not much of a success, at least based on how much money it made in comparison to how much it cost to create and market. I believe he did a fairly good job, although things did come across as a little scatterbrained at times and not necessarily quite fluid considering the subject matter of the story and plot. Apparently the screenplay written by Jane Goldman is based upon a book by Ransom Riggs, which is a very fascinating concept and I think that I shall get around to reading the books. The music by Michael Higham and Matthew Margeson was good from what I can remember but nothing really extraordinarily good or memorable. Special effects were relatively good as was the action, even though this is more of an adventure story than action film. The cinematography by Bruno Delbonnel was quite good, and the set design was especially good; something that Tim Burton always seems to nail. And of course Colleen Atwood did the costume design which was marvelous as always; she is quite incredible at her job. I have to say that I really enjoyed the film. It wasn't amazing, and at times was rather disgusting and disturbing, but I liked it a lot and will definitely end up watching again in the future. It's more of a family film for older children not so much younger children, and it is dark, but still good like all of the great Gothic fairy tale stories. Definitely recommend this one. Well in regards to world events and news, this weekend in the United States of America is going to be one to remember no matter what you're perspective. Hopefully everything anyone says or does will be done in a respectful and safe manner in the spirit of democratic freedom and courteous, polite attitudes. If not...well....things will definitely get interesting. May the Force be with us all.
The Peculiar Children
Eva Green on Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
(looks interesting despite the fact that they got the psychiatry totally wrong)
I find myself finally catching up with all of the writing and film reviews that should have been completed last month; perhaps it is the cold weather? Fantastic Beasts: And Where to Find Them is a new way for Warner Brothers' studio to keep the Harry Potter franchise relevant to keep bringing in the cash, of which it was rather successful. It was a fairly entertaining film with a lot of magic, so perfect for families and younger audiences, and tolerable for those who are older. It was okay, but honestly it came off rather weak for me. Ironically it suffered from a similar problem, in my opinion, that Rogue One suffered from. I think there is something that big "blockbuster" filmmakers are forgetting, and that is it was simplicity and small/focus that made a lot of blockbuster films very successful and enduring (Alien, Star Wars, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Terminator, and The Fellowship of the Ring).
So the story of this film is basically this wizard, Newt Scamander, is traveling through New York City to deliver a specific animal to Arizona when the several of the creatures in his suitcase menagerie get loose and he has to round them up. Add to that a side story of anti-magic sentiment in the US (probably mirroring something akin to racism that was actually happening; J.K. Rowling is losing her subtlety regarding how she conveys her themes, messages and topics. This film was rather preachy), with some sort of "creature" running around killing people and causing a wreck of the city. Voila! Eddie Redmayne as always was perfect; the man can act like no other, and he brought to life Newt Scamander in a heartwarming and charming manner, but also brought humor to the role as well. Dan Fogler as Mr. Kowalski was a muggle or "nomage" (how they describe a non-magic person in America apparently) and he was also charming and funny, but his character came off as more of a prop used by Newt and his magical associates than being able to stand on his own as a unique purposeful character. Katherine Waterston who played Tina and was the other lead to the film came off as wooden, boring, preachy, and had extraordinarily poor chemistry with Mr. Redmayne. Perhaps it was her character, perhaps it was the writing, or perhaps she just delivered a fairly bad performance; all are equally possible, and quite possibly all are probable. Alison Sudol who played her sister, Queenie, suffered from the same problem, although I'm not even certain what the point of her character was except that she romantically falls for Mr. Kowalski. Those four are the main actors on screen. Colin Farrell plays a small but significant role as Mr. Graves, who is some big shot at the local ministry of magical law enforcement and does fine, boring character but it works out in the end. Jon Voight has a small role as a media mogul and is atypical of that time period. Ron Perlman has a small role as a goblin gangster, which was odd seeing a goblin speak with a Brooklyn accent and smoking a cigar, and I'm still not certain if it worked. And then Johnny Depp had a brief appearance as Gellert Grindelwald, of which he will return in the series and I'm assuming Dumbledore will also appear at some point. What was missing from this film which was present in all of the original Harry Potter films was the stellar British acting talent, but I guess you can't have everything.
David Yates directed the film, and he directed Harry Potter films: 5, 6, 7 pt.1, & 7 pt.2. From what I hear he's going to direct all remaining four Fantastic Beasts films, but we'll see how that goes even though he is off to a successful start (at least fiscally). I think they needed someone fresh to the world to give it a new feel and look, like Guillermo del Toro, or bring back Alfonso Cuaron, but they've stuck with him for some odd reason. J.K. Rowling should stick to writing books, and leave screenplays alone; it wasn't an atrocious screenplay, but it wasn't nearly as good as any of the previous Harry Potter franchise films. James Newton Howard composed the music, and it wasn't half bad, but it doesn't compare to the work John Williams did with The Sorcerer's Stone or Prisoner of Azkaban, or what Patrick Doyle did with The Goblet of Fire, or what Nicholas Hooper did with The Order of the Phoenix and The Half-Blood Prince. If anything he's on par, perhaps even better with what Alexandre Desplat did on The Deathly Hallows 1 & 2. I wasn't impressed with the cinematography or costume design at all really. The action sequences were negligible also, so the technical elements of the film weren't even that impressive. Aside from Eddie Redmayne, his cast of magical creatures were perhaps the best parts of the film; they were empathetic, funny, dark, and quite complex for CGI.
I felt the film was essentially flat; not really that good, and not really that bad. It was entertaining enough, but suffered from a slight problem of having too much going on all at once. The story should have been more focused on Newt and his newfound friends, but then the film would follow this other story line of a tortured boy and his family preaching the evils of magic. Also, unlike in Harry Potter where audiences were slowly shown how cool magic can be to being dazzled by the end of series, right off the start in this film people are bombarded by magic, so it quickly looses its "coolness" factor and becomes commonplace unfortunately. So Warner Brothers Studio threw money at David Yates and the production and they went all out and I think that is what nailed them, in my opinion. If you think back to the original Harry Potter film, it was far more simpler than this film, and I think that made it much more enjoyable. I will probably watch it again and all of the future films, and I'm sure they'll all be entertaining. I doubt however if any of them will possess that magical sparkle that fired an entire generation's imagination with the original Harry Potter franchise.
Well, Happy New Years everyone....albeit 16 days late. So I did see Rogue One back in Late December with my family while visiting for Christmas, and yes I might be in the minority once again with my perspective on Star Wars films post George Lucas, but I did enjoy and like the film better than The Force Awakens. So I had high expectations going into this film, and perhaps that was not a good thing, as I didn't think it was a great Star Wars film.
The plot is about how the Rebels steal the death star plans to the first Imperial battle station, and all of the various characters that were a part of that endeavor. Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the main character of the film. She is the daughter of one of the designers of the Death Star, and has sort of sailed the galaxy causing trouble after she was removed from her parents. Ms. Jones does a pretty good job with the character most of the time, but she ran into a problem that most of the characters ran into, Diego Luna played Cassian Andor, a very interesting and fascinating character that was a rebel commando captain of sorts from what I could gather. He was one character that more depth or focus on would have been great. Alan Tudyk played a droid K-2SO, and was single handedly the one of the best parts of the film. Humorous, clever, and interesting; he had all of the elements of a great character, but once again suffered a flaw. Donnie Yen played the blind man who was a Jedi wannabe, and Wen Jiang played Baze Malbus who protected him. Both were completely irrelevant and shouldn't have even been in the film at all. Ben Mendelsohn played Director Orson Krennic, and he was indeed my favorite character. He had the look, the command, relatively good dialog and story, but he should have been the primary and only villain. Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin crowded him out of the top spot, and his ending wasn't really that great. Forest Whitaker as Saw Garrera was another pointless character that shouldn't have been in the film, although they could have re-worked his character to make it better. Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook (the defecting Imperial pilot) was another pointless character unfortunately. Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa), and Genevieve O'Reilly (Mon Mothma) were all fantastic to see in the film and did amazing jobs, although it would have been nice to see more of them, and perhaps see the Imperial Senate at work rather than just hear about it.
The major problem of this film was it had too many characters at the forefront all vying for screen time which made it all come across rather weak and pointless at times. It was all entertaining, but not necessarily put together the best possible way. Gareth Edwards did great as a director with Godzilla (2014 version) and I thought he would knock it out of the park with this film, but not really. The screenplay was mediocre at best, which was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy; it could have been much better. Michael Giacchino disappointed me greatly with his score for the film. I thought he would be a perfect fit and channel the creative might of John Williams, but the score for the most part is just a cacophony of brass with no really notable themes or motifs, which is an insult to Star Wars as a great score is highly important for any film in the franchise. The cinematography by Greig Fraser was pretty good at capturing the grittiness of the young rebellion, and the imperiousness of the Galactic Empire. The costume design was amazing, and I have to say that the Death Troopers and Director Krennic's outfits took home the gold for me, which were done by David Crossman and Glyn Dillon. The special effects by Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) were incredibly impressive, and notably bringing Governor Tarkin and a young Princess Leia to life will forever be burnished in people's memories. The 3-D was negligible, I don't even remember anything impressive about the fact that it was in that format. The action of the film was mediocre; nothing really overly cool or exciting really, or even new and dynamic, aside from seeing Darth Vader brandishing his lightsaber.
In essence, Rogue One was a commercial success for Disney, and thus many more films relating to Star Wars will be made until they have sucked the very life out of it. Oh, by the way, the ending of the film sucked; I'm not a fan of everyone dying, literally. It was like watching the Titanic sink. Once again, I will be in the minority when I write this, but I believe the single element that is missing that would have made this film and The Force Awakens great is George Lucas. Now maybe not at the director's helm, but definitely as executive producer and story writer and have someone else direct but have it be his vision. He created Star Wars, and thus he is the only person who knows what characterizes the franchise and what does not, although there might be one other individual who has that ability as he was trained by George (Dave Filoni). It should be interesting to see how the next 2 "saga" films are like and then the subsequent "anthology" films. In regards to news and what not happening in the world currently, I think everyone should gird themselves and prepare for a very interesting year. If there is one thing an enemy loves seeing in it's foe, it is chaos and seeing them divided rather than unified; and I assure you that is something that will be taken advantage of unless the citizens of the United States of America come together and push on as one. God protect us all.
How Tarkin and Princess Leia were created for Rogue One