Review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

The expansion of the Star Wars universe is off to an outstanding start at Disney and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story just changed the entire game. The first stand-alone film in the planned anthology series, director Gareth Edwards’ war story centering around the legend of the rebel team that stole the plans to the Death Star is a tale many Star Wars fans have clamored to see and the director has delivered a unique, entertaining and satisfying film that will win over hardcore fans and novice alike.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has been on the run since she was a young child. Her father, research scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), was forced to return to the Empire to complete the design of the Death Star by Imperial Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) which, in turn, sent Jyn into hiding with the help of her father’s friend Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Fifteen years has passed and the memory of her father still haunts young Jyn.  An imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) has defected and smuggle a message to the Rebel Alliance with information crucial to their cause. The rebel forces have located Jyn with the hopes of recruiting her to help find her father and discover the secrets of the monstrous weapon. Rebel Officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) accompany Jyn on a mission to retrieve the message from Bodhi Rook on the planet Jedha.

After an encounter with imperial troops, the trio are aided by warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and mercenary Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) who join the cause to help Jyn retrieve her father. Quickly the mission becomes more about the preservation of the galaxy and the team set their sights on stealing the plans to the Death Star at the high-security base on the planet Scarif. The time is now for the rebels to take their stand, to secure the safety of the galaxy and destroy the most valuable weapon in the Empire’s arsenal, the Death Star.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a near perfect cinematic experience. Director Gareth Edwards and cinematographer Greig Fraser elected for a raw, gritty feel to the film and the tone plays to the subject matter perfectly. The script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy is smart and engaging and doesn’t over complicate the objective of telling this war story. Each frame of the film was envisioned with excitement and respect for the Star Wars franchise and the filmmakers have created an outstanding compliment film to the original trilogy.  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed and Wen Jiang, the members of the Rogue One team, were perfectly cast in their respective roles. The voice of Alan Tudyk for K-2SO added just enough comedic relief necessary in the right places. Mads Mikkelsen, in his limited screen time, helped enrich the emotional journey for Jones’ Jyn and provide the redemption factor we all come to know in the Star Wars universe. The stand out star in the film to me was Ben Mendelsohn. His menacing performance as the main protagonist never fell into cliche’s and provided a satisfying character arc.

Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an exceptional movie to be enjoyed on the biggest screen you can find. The journey never wearies and it will enrich your love for the franchise a little bit more. Next up…Episode VIII!!

4 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

Review: ‘Arrival’

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Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) is quickly becoming one of Hollywood’s must see directors, with his unique vision of storytelling and character portrayal, Villeneuve is revolutionizing how we watch films. Based on the short story “Story of Your Life” by author Ted Chiang and written for the screen by Eric Heisserer, Arrival explores extraterrestrial contact in a fresh, new way which pays homage to Close Encounter of the 3rd Kind and other greats from the past by taking aspects of those films and using them to enhance this lively new experience. This is a film to be cherished for many decades to come.

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Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is approached by the military to help decipher an alien language upon the arrival of multiple mysterious extraterrestrial spacecraft around the globe. Assisting Banks are mathematician Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) each pressured with the task of making contact with the new visitors and understanding their language and their intent. Tensions around the globe are running high as China and other foreign governments discuss the possibility of first strike if contact can’t be made. Banks and Donnelly head a team to enter the ship and use their expertise to find a common ground between our language and theirs to properly interpret the meaning of their arrival and stop global war, but the answer they receive may change everything they’ve come to know forever.

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The cinematography by Bradford Young is exceptional and sets the tone for the film. Director Denis Villeneuve uses these visuals as a supporting cast member as the camera work encapsulates you within the story and keeps you engaged throughout the duration of the film. Amy Adams‘s performance is crucial to the payoff and she is exceptional. Every step throughout this journey is commanded by Adams and, along with co-star Jeremy Renner, provide the human emotional element that drives each character to do whatever they must to complete their mission. Forest Whitaker stands strong as the moral center trying to keep the team on mission and the fate of the world in the front of his mind. The three are a perfect triangle of acting that play off one another to drive home the message.

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Overall, Arrival is a giant step forward for film making and awe inspiring experience like no other I’ve witnessed this year. A film that turns the science fiction genre on it’s head with an ending so unexpected that it will leave you speechless. This is the film to beat for 2016.

Stars:

4 1/2 out of 5

Trailer:

Watch the trailer for ‘Arrival’ starring Amy Adams

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Paramount Pictures has released the trailer for Arrival directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) and we have it for you below!

When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, an elite team – lead by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – are brought together to investigate. As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.

The movie also stars Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker

Arrival is in theaters November 11th

Review: ‘Southpaw’

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Southpaw, definition, noun, a left-handed person, especially a boxer who leads with the right hand or a baseball pitcher.

Why did this review begin with a definition of the title?  Two reasons, first, because not everyone knows what the term means.  The second reason is the more important one; I wanted to remind the screenwriter Kurt Sutter (“Sons of Anarchy”) what the term means as well.  You see a southpaw is a boxer who leads with their right hand and is usually, but not always, left handed.  This is a very important point to keep in mind while viewing this movie, because you will not see a single southpaw boxer in the entire film.  Not Jake Gyllenhaals’s Billy Hope, not Forest Whitaker’s Titus Wills, not Miguel Gomez’s Miguel Ecobar, not even any of the opponents or training partners.  Nope, you will not see a single southpaw in this entire film!

So why name this movie Southpaw?  Apparently Kurt Sutter wrote the part specifically for Eminem as a metaphor for Eminem’s custody struggles, and since Eminem is a white rapper that struggled to be accepted and a southpaw has a hard time being accepted as well.  Eminem is a lefty so it would make sense even in the context of the film.  Now they are going with the idea that the title refers to the fact that a southpaw struggles to become a good boxer and so does Billy hope, the film’s protagonist.

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The Basics: Jake Gyllenhaal plays Bill “The Great” Hope, the undisputed light heavyweight boxing champion who has never been defeated in the ring, well except for once, but that didn’t count.  He is the prototypical white boxer, a lovable dumb guy who can’t manage to survive without the help of others but is really good at taking a massive beating in the ring and pulling victory from the jaws of defeat at the hands of obviously superior boxers (sound familiar?).  Rachel McAdams plays his wife Maureen “Mo” Hope who came up through the foster system with Billy and has been by his side since they were 12 years old.  Mo is the decision making intelligent street wise brains of the family.  They have a daughter named Leila Hope played by Oona Laurence (Penny Dreadful).

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The first act is typical to a fault.  Billy wins a hard fought title defense, his wife wants to him stop boxing, his agent Jordan Mains, played by 50 Cent, wants him to sign an HBO deal, and his daughter just wants her Dad around more.  A smooth talking ranked boxer Miguel Escobar, played by Miguel Gomez, wants his shot and talks trash at a press conference.  Yadda yadda yadda, they have a show down outside of a charity fundraiser and Mo ends up getting shot and killed in scuffle.

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Billy loses his mind, puts up a pathetic performance in the ring, spirals into despair and drinking, and winds up losing his daughter to the state protective custody.  Down on his luck he goes to the gym run by the only trainer that ever helped a boxer beat him, Forest Whitaker’s Titus “Tick” Wills.  They have a hard time trusting each other, a random kids dies, they bond, the movie goes on.  If all of this sounds cliché, congratulations, you have seen a boxing movie before.  I won’t spoil the rest for you, but it plays out exactly how you expect it to.

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Conclusion:  Here’s the deal, Southpaw isn’t a bad movie (besides the lack of a southpaw which I find reprehensible).  It is just an average boxing movie.  If you have seen a few of them, then you have seen every cliché that gets checked off of the list in this movie.  It felt very Rocky III the whole time to me.  This is all the more shameful because of the solid performances given by the cast.  Gyllenhaal plays the punchy stupid white boxer (hello again Rocky) in an actually nuanced and method way.  Oona Laurence is absolutely brilliant as she bounces between love and hate of her father.  Forest Whitaker is Forest Whitaker.  Even 50 Cent turns in a great performance.

These great performances are over shadowed by a badly titled, poorly written, and ultimately color by number boxing film.  There are so many missed opportunities, plot holes, and dangling ends that it boggles the mind as to why they didn’t pursue any of those paths that might have made this movie unique in some way.

Boxing Genre Score:  2.75/5 – hits all the right notes, but is playing from a tired piece of music.

Mainstream Audience Score: 3.5/5 – if you haven’t seen the Rocky series or many other boxing movies it’s a good character drama with great performances

After Credit Scene?

None

Trailer:

Advanced Screenings of ‘Southpaw’ Nationwide! *AMC Stubs*

southpaw-posterAMC Theaters is sponsoring a bunch of advanced screenings for the upcoming boxing drama Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams on Tuesday July 21st and we have them for you now! You must be an AMC Stubs member to redeem your passes. Sign up at AMCstubs.com

From director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) and writers Kurt Sutter (SONS OF ANARCHY) and Richard Wenk (THE MECHANIC) comes SOUTHPAW – the story of Billy “The Great” Hope, Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World. When tragedy strikes and he loses it all, Billy enters the battle of his life as he struggles to become a contender once again and win back those he loves. SOUTHPAW stars Academy Award® nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz. In theaters July 2015.

The following cities will be receiving screenings:

Alexandria, VA

Alpharetta, GA

Altamonte Springs, FL

Arcadia, CA

Arlington, TX

Atlanta, GA (2 locations)

Auburn Hills, MI

Aurora, CO (2 locations)

Austin, TX

Aventura, FL

Baltimore, MD

Baton Rouge, LA (2 locations)

Bensalem, PA

Bloomington, IN

Boston, MA

Brandon, FL

Bronx, NY

Brooklyn, OH

Broomfield, CO

Burbank, CA

Charlotte, NC

Cherry Hill, NJ

Chesterfield, MO

Chicago, IL (3 locations)

Cicero, IL

City of Industry, CA

Clifton, NJ

Clinton Township, MI

Columbia, MD

Columbia, SC

Columbus, OH (2 locations)

Concord, NC

Coon Rapids, MN

Council Bluffs, IA

Country Club Hills, IL

Covina, CA

Crestwood, IL

Creve Coeur, MO

Cumming, GA

Dallas, TX (2 locations)

Danbury, CT

Danvers, MA

Dearborn, MI

Decatur, GA

Destin, FL

Dublin, OH

Dubuque, IA

Durham, NC

Eatontown, NJ

Eden Prairie, MN

Edina, MN

Edison, NJ

Edwardsville, IL

Elizabeth, NJ

Emeryville, CA

Evansville, IN

Fitchburg, WI

Framingham, MA

Freehold, NJ

Frisco, TX

Fullerton, CA

Gaithersburg, MD

Garland, TX

Glendale, AZ (2 locations)

Grapevine, TX

Grove City, OH

Hamilton, NJ

Hammond, LA

Hampton, VA

Harahan, LA

Harvey, LA

Highland Village, TX

Highlands Ranch, CO

Hodgkins, IL

Houma, LA

Houston, TX (3 locations)

Humble, TX

Indepence, MO

Indianapolis, IN (2 locations)

Inver Grove Heights, MN

Irving, TX

Jacksonville, FL

Kansas City, MO (2 locations)

Katy, TX

Kennesaw, GA

Kent, WA

La Jolla, CA

Lake Buena Vista, FL

Lake in the Hills, IL

Lakewood, WA

Las Vegas, NV

Lawrenceville, GA (2 locations)

Leawood, KS

Linden, NJ

Lithonia, GA

Littleton, CO

Livonia, MI

Lombard, IL

Long Beach, CA

Lynnwood, WA

Madison Heights, MI

Manteca, CA

Maple Grove, MN

Marina del Rey, CA

Mesquite, TX

Methuen, MA

Montgomery, AL

Morrow, GA

Mount Prospect, IL

Mountainside, NJ

Naperville, IL

National City, CA

New Brunswick, NJ

New Lenox, IL

New York, NY (3 locations)

Newport, KY

Northbrook, IL

Norwalk, CA

Oklahoma City, OK

Olathe, KS

Oldsmar, FL

Omaha, NE

Ontario, CA

Orange, CA

Orange Park, FL

Owings Mills, MD

Paramus, NJ

Phoenix, AZ (3 locations)

Plainville, CT

Port Chester, NY

Redondo Beach, CA

Riverside, CA

Rockaway, NJ

Rockford, IL

Roseville, MN

San Antonio, TX

San Diego, CA (2 locations)

San Francisco, CA

San Jose, CA (2 locations)

Santa Clara, CA

Schaumburg, IL

Schererville, IN

Skokie, IL

Somerville, MA

South Barrington, IL

South Bend, IN

South Miami, FL

Southfield, MI

Spokane, WA

Springfield, PA

Springfield, IL

Saint Charles, MO

Sterling Heights, MI

Stony Brook, NY

Sugar Land, TX

Tampa, FL (2 locations)

Torrance, CA (2 locations)

Tucson, AZ

Tukwila, WA

Tulsa, OK

Tustin, CA

Tyngsboro, MA

Universal City, CA

Vernon Hills, IL

Virginia Beach, VA

Washington DC

Wauwatosa, WI

Wayne, NJ

Webster, NY

Westbury, NY

West Chester, OH

West Homestead, PA

West Nyack, NY

West McLean, VA

Westminster, CO (2 locations)

Woodbridge, VA

Woodland Hills, CA

Woodridge, IL

Wanna go?! Click on the link below to grab a pair while supplies last!

Tickets

Good Luck!

Advanced Screenings of ‘Southpaw’ Nationwide! *Regal Crown Club*

southpaw-posterRegal Crown Club is sponsoring a bunch of advanced screenings for the upcoming boxing drama Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams and we have them for you now! You must be a Regal Crown Club member to go..membership is FREE! Sign up at Regal Crown Club

From director Antoine Fuqua (TRAINING DAY) and writers Kurt Sutter (SONS OF ANARCHY) and Richard Wenk (THE MECHANIC) comes SOUTHPAW – the story of Billy “The Great” Hope, Junior Middleweight Boxing Champion of the World. When tragedy strikes and he loses it all, Billy enters the battle of his life as he struggles to become a contender once again and win back those he loves. SOUTHPAW stars Academy Award® nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Rita Ora, Naomie Harris and Victor Ortiz. In theaters July 2015.

The following cities will be receiving screenings:

Albany, NY

Albuquerque, NM

Alexandria, VA

Astoria, NY

Bellingham, WA

Boise, ID

Bossier City, LA

Brooklyn, NY

Buford, GA

Cary, NC

Chamblee, GA

Charlotte, NC

Deer Park, NY

Downingtown, PA

Fresno, CA

Fort Myers, FL

Gainesville, VA

Greenville, SC

Honolulu, HI

Houston, TX

Indianapolis, IN

Kingston, MA

Knoxville, TN

Lacey, WA

Lansing, MI

Las Vegas, NV

Laurel, MD

Lexington, KY

Lincolnshire, IL

Long Beach, CA

Mason, OH

Miami, FL

Midland, TX

Minneapolis, MN

Moorestown, NJ

Nanuet, NY

Nashville, TN

Ontario, CA

Orlando, FL

Philadelphia, PA

Salisbury, MD

San Antonio, TX

San Bernardino, CA

Silver Spring, MD

South Gate, CA

Staten Island, NY

Suffolk, VA

Tigard, OR

Warrington, PA

Washington, DC

Wanna go?! Click on the link below to grab a pair while supplies last!

Tickets

Good luck!

Jack Huston Exits ‘The Crow’ Remake

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Variety is reporting that Jack Huston (“Boardwalk Empire”) is bowing out of the upcoming Crow remake due to scheduling issues.

Jack Huston is unfortunately unavailable to continue with us on ‘The Crow,’” says director Corin Hardy  . “‘The Crow’ is an amazing project, and I am grateful that we have the time and patience to get it right. We look forward to unveiling our new lead and starting to film over the next several weeks.”

Huston is the second actor to exit the project as Luke Evans was previously attached to play the role of Eric Draven but departed the project earlier this year.

In other Crow news, Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker is in talks to play a role in the remake. The role is rumored to be that of Sergeant Albrecht which was played by Ernie Hudson in the 1994 original.

More as it becomes available