Movie Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Watch the trailer to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story here:

 

This is my last Star Wars review for a long time, I promise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or simply Rogue One was the last Star Wars movie to release before Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While it is not a part of the current trilogy, it holds an important story about how the original trilogy came to be. The beginning seemed riveting enough that it made me watch 20 minutes more than I wanted to at the time. (It was 3 AM and I wanted to hold off, but I watched the first 20 minutes anyway.)

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is imprisoned in a labor camp for her “crimes” against the Empire. Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) has been working as a scientist for the Empire against his wishes for fifteen years now. He sends a holographic message to Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) through cargo pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) telling him how to bring the Death Star down. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Rebel intelligence officer, learns of this and frees Jyn from the camp. She is taken to the Rebel leader where she is told to find Galen. While Jyn wants to find her father, Cassian’s orders are different. He is ordered to kill Galen, not to bring him back.

And when Gerrera, who’s based on planet Jedha, shows Jyn the message from her father, she realizes what he has done to keep his world upright. Meanwhile, Imperial military strategist and weapons man, Orson Krennic has launched a test shot on Jedha. Now, Jyn along with Cassian, Bodhi, spiritual leader Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), and his friend Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), must get out of the crumbling planet and extract the Death Star plans to save the galaxy. This is against what the Rebel leaders have decreed, so they name their project Rogue One.

First thing about Rogue One that I found disappointing was: the scroll at the beginning of the movie. WHERE IS IT? It is one of the things I have come to expect from a Star Wars movie. Without it, the entire movie seems lost and desolate. But that is not an issue when you put the scale of the movie in perspective. [I am still miffed, but the movie sort of redeems it for me. ;)]

The setting up of the story, the visuals, and the acting is so good, I didn’t look for Han Solo anywhere yet. They have brought in Grand Moff Tarkin from the original movies through CGI, mapped to Guy Henry’s face. The effect is almost animated (quite literally), because you can make out the difference, almost as if his face is leaping at you to say, “Notice me! I’m not Peter Cushing!” This happens with another character at the end of the movie, too. It’s almost comical to see. Almost. But it doesn’t become so. Because I was so eager to make the connection, it filled me with glee to watch the late actor’s young face projected on screen.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is as good a movie as The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. The story gets off to a good start and develops well, and so does the acting. For example, Felicity Jones didn’t impress me at first. I almost felt like Hayden Christensen was back again. But I am being unfair to her. She was nowhere near as bad as him and redeemed herself early on in the movie. [Read my review of the prequel trilogy to see what I mean.]

I liked the movie enough to give it a 4. So until the next episode of Star Wars that is scheduled to release in December 2019, you won’t hear (much) from me about the franchise. [Or not! :D)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: starwars.wikia.com !

P.S. My chronology of reviews of the movies (as explained in my review of the original trilogy) looks something like this, based on timeline:

  1. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983) – Because it all started from there.
  2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Because it is the chronological sequel to the original trilogy.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – Because it is the sequel to episode 7.
  4. Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) – It is here that the series jumps back before the events of A New Hope.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – (This post) Because it is the chronological sequel to the prequel trilogy.

Movie Review: Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005)

When I started watching Star Wars, which was not long ago, I had, for some reason, a feeling that the Original Trilogy is just the beginning. And that the prequel trilogy was the set of movies that would awe me the most. Unfortunately, that was not to happen. The Original Trilogy, for me, remains the best of the lot.

Agreed, I began watching it mainly to catch up with the times, and because Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi was releasing. But I’ve been sucked into the vortex. Now, I am much more possessive and protective of the original than any first timer could be. And I am proud to admit so.

Unlike what I did for Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983), where I wrote the summaries for all three movies, I will write a collective review for the prequel trilogy. I will tell you why.

The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith have much to go by if storyline is to be considered. These movies are the story of Anakin Skywalker from the moment he was found to the time his dark side takes over him to make him Darth Vader. This, in reality would make for a compelling story, revealing who Darth Vader was before becoming Darth Vader.

With the emotion-heavy story of the most powerful Sith lord in history, the movies could have been so much more in so many departments. The soundtrack, as usual, is great. There is humor in places that you wouldn’t expect but doesn’t seem out of place. Ewan McGregor does his job well in all three (though it seems forced in places), while Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn is the best of the lot. It is not without reason that Neeson is called a good actor. While these two do their job well, there are others who let the franchise down heavily.

Acting:

While The Phantom Menace has Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker, a cute yet focused and ambitious kid, the second and third in this trilogy are done a great disservice to by Hayden Christensen, who plays the grown-up Anakin Skywalker.

Hayden Christensen looks like he is a cross between Andrew Garfield and Liam Hemsworth, only with neither of their acting chops. There is so much to emote, such a huge story to tell, and Christensen destroys the essence with his unimpressive acting. There is neither emotion on his face, nor weight in his voice. I don’t have any reason to believe him when he acts, something that is crucial to the art of acting. They could have gotten a better Darth Vader. It’s a shame such an important character was dealt such an unfair hand.

Even Sheev Palpatine, once transformed, becomes gory to watch act. In those few minutes, I wished I could stop myself from comparing the two actors, but Ian McDiarmid and Hayden Christensen looked like they were battling for the spot of worst actor in the franchise. McDiarmid recovered quickly. But Christensen, in both the movies that he played Anakin, is beyond saving and beyond redemption for character murder.

According to the Original Trilogy, Master Yoda is supposed to have a glint of mischievous humor in his conversations. But the prequel trilogy overrules it all by having Yoda be all serious and getting to do a number of action scenes in especially the final instalment, Revenge of the Sith.

And Jar Jar Binks! Oh good Lord! Mesa yousa wesa! Maybe it is his reputation that precedes him or maybe it’s just the character himself, but I started hating Jar Jar pretty soon. As the movies progressed, I could see why he became the most hated character in the Star Wars franchise. Justifiably so.

Dialogue:

Though there are a few hard-hitting dialogues even in such a let-down as the prequel trilogy, there are many points in the movies where it is fragmented to the point of no return. An uneasy ping pong of words is annoying, and that is what happens here, with no flow and continuity at all in some places.

Effects:

One of the biggest reasons why I became a Star Wars fan is the effects. The Original Trilogy had such amazingly believable effects that it is difficult to believe that those movies came out between 1977 and 1983.

The prequel trilogy however, trashes all those effects and turns the movies into an amateur CGI field, where you can see your hopes and expectations from it being dashed to the ground. Revenge of the Sith, the third instalment in the prequel trilogy, has much better effects than The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones. But even it doesn’t compare to the original trilogy by a long shot. It is so disappointing to see, almost a cringe-fest. Then again, there are worse movies than this. So let’s take heart from this fact.

All in all, the Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy that includes Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is hugely disappointing for one who goes in with a lot of expectations. Because of Hayden Christensen, I take away 2 stars and give the prequel trilogy a 3.

Unfortunate, but cannot help it.

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

P.S. My chronology of reviews of the movies (as explained in my review of the original trilogy) will look something like this, based on timeline:

  1. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983) – Because it all started here.
  2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Because it is the chronological sequel to the original trilogy.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – Because it is the sequel to episode 7.
  4. Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) – (This post) It is here that the series jumps back to before the events of A New Hope.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Because it is the chronological sequel to the prequel trilogy.

Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Watch the trailer to Star Wars: The Last Jedi here:

 

The eighth in the chronological order of the Star Wars universe, The Last Jedi, finally released last Friday. It was for this reason that I began watching the movies, because I wanted to catch up to the madness that the fandom emanated. And at this point, I’m proud to say I’m catching up quite remarkably. 😀

Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes off a little after where The Force Awakens ends. At the beginning of the movie, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher’s last role before her sudden demise last year), is evacuating their base, thanks to the First Order’s relentless pursuit of them, even through hyperspace. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is still conflicted as to which side is more powerful within him. Rey (Daisy Ridley), along with Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), after reaching the island on which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, of course) has taken abode, asks him to teach her, while Luke flat out refuses. There’s a history to why he does so and it is satisfying to Star Wars fans.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), along with droid BB-8, are up to something, trying to save the Resistance. Whether what they are doing is right or wrong is another matter altogether.

Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is confident that Rey can be turned over to the dark side. Will he be proven right? If yes, who will do so? And if not, again, who will prove him wrong? Will General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson – oh, Bill Weasley! What have they done to you?) be the one to carry out Snoke’s orders?

At two and a half hours, The Last Jedi is the longest movie in the Star Wars franchise so far. The first half of the movie is dragging, and it made me wonder why the movie is so long. The second half, with its stunning visuals and compelling action, more than makes up for what the first half has done to the movie. Episode 8 has given me more confidence in Daisy Ridley’s acting chops. She has shown more of the natural acting talent than what we saw in The Force Awakens. In Episode 7, she reminded me of Tamannaah Bhatia from Baahubali. [Inward cringe.]

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has more depth and meaning than The Force Awakens. While Episode 7 had a freshness, thanks to new characters carrying old values that were painfully nostalgic, The Last Jedi has exciting elements with the underlying Star Wars theme of light versus dark that blend in well and make for a compelling watch. The Force Awakens began the story afresh – it was light, it was laying the baseline for how the latest trilogy would hold up, and it brought out a new angle from where to watch the characters while retaining their personalities.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi maintains the fresh angle, but it is much, much bigger. You can feel the stakes soaring with each passing minute; in your bones, if you think you are a Star Wars fan. I could feel it, and I am fairly new to the fandom. The conflict is bigger than it has ever been before, but there are similarities in how we see the characters fighting with this conflict. This leads to a desperation on both sides of the battle. While the Resistance is desperate to free the galaxy of the dark side, the First Order is equally desperate to bring it within the clutches.

Some characters, however, are underused in the entirety of the film. Finn and Rose, along with codebreaker DJ, are all trying their best, along with Poe to save what they know is dwindling by the day. In all of their adventures (if you can call it that), it feels like they could have been doing so much more. It’s a tad bit disappointing to see that John Boyega’s humor has not developed, but instead stayed there, if not deteriorated. If this happens in the next instalment, too, it could result in a staling of the character, and that’s not a very good thing to think of, let alone let happen.

But if you look at the movie in the bigger picture (oh, wow!), it is everything a Star Wars movie should be. The scale is grand, many characters now have arcs that are developing wonderfully, and we now have a better insight into what the characters think plus how the storyline is going to go forward.

On the whole, I loved Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. So much that I can claim, despite a limited popular opinion, that The Last Jedi is better than Star Wars: The Force Awakens because of reasons discussed before.

May the Force be with you!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: StarWars.com!

P.S. My chronology of reviews of the movies (as explained in my review of the original trilogy) will look something like this, based on timeline:

  1. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983) – Because it all started from there.
  2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Because it is the chronological sequel to the original trilogy.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – (This post) Because it is the sequel to episode 7.
  4. Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) – It is here that the series jumps back before the events of A New Hope.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Because it is the chronological sequel to the prequel trilogy.

Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Watch the trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens here:

 

In honor of the release of the ninth movie (technically) in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, I decided to do a marathon of all the Star Wars movies. I had never watched them before, though I’d heard a lot about the grandeur and the goosebumps it induced. So when I did join the audience, I knew what they were talking about and why they did so.

The predecessor (in the episode sequence) to The Last Jedi, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the Galactic Civil War where there is no Empire. In its place is the First Order, ruled over by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the new Dark Lord. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is his apprentice and General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) leads his army. The rebel army is now called the Resistance and is led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and has the support of the new government called the Republic.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger who lives from hand to mouth doing what she does on a planet called Jakku. She comes across storm trooper Finn, who has just escaped the clutches of the Order by helping pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The plan of the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, important for the Order to lay claim on the galaxy, is placed by Poe with his droid BB-8. The Order, detecting the presence of BB-8 on Jakku, launches an airstrike, and Rey, Finn, and the droid are thrown together. What follows is a story of confrontations and revelations that explain how history as we know it came together.

Daisy Ridley was touted to be the next Jennifer Lawrence, but I see more of a certain Keira Knightley in her. The eyes, the pout, the acting – everything reminds me of Knightley. I went in to the movie with a lot of expectations. But Ridley’s performance, I felt, was forced. [My husband retorted, “Because she has the Force.” I facepalm-ed.] Having said that, there is a fierce spark in her that is going to take her only upwards from now on. Murder on the Orient Express is a prime example.

The story of Star Wars: The Force Awakens seems like it has taken the most important parts of the original trilogy with a few different characters that are related to the earlier ones. It is a mix of all elements with the most important of all being the light versus dark debate that every character in the Star Wars Universe has going on internally. This gives you a heavy sense of déjà vu, but the overall outlook is fresh and awes you immensely.

Harrison Ford as Han Solo retains the charm, wit, and sarcasm as his character all those years ago. BB-8 has now replaced R2-D2 as my favorite droid. C-3PO hasn’t much to do and I am disappointed. Chewbacca on the other hand, seems stripped of all his hair. I like the Chewie from the original films.

The weird part of watching the original characters is how not ready I am to have to see them age. It feels like this person isn’t the one from so many years ago. This happened the most with Mark Hamill. As young Skywalker, Hamill was sprightly and charming in his own way. He is yet so, but it has grown deeper, as if I cannot recognize him anymore; as if I lost something as I watched young Hamill age into who he is now. Yes, I know this is what usually happens when years pass, but it’s just a feeling that I wanted to put out there.

The best part of The Force Awakens, however, is not the story. Instead, it is the way the spirit of the original trilogy has still been maintained. Star Wars: The Original Trilogy had visuals that were so realistic that they could have been made now and not way back when. There wasn’t much you could point out in terms of looking artificial or over-the-top. And The Force Awakens takes that legacy forward, using the technology of today and taking the effects and the CGI to the next level. The best part of it all is that it retains the essence of the original Star Wars movies.

Star Wars is, without a doubt, one of the biggest movie franchises to ever be made. And to get such a grand welcome back to the screen makes it all the more special. It’s energetic, it’s warm, it’s humorous, and it’s nostalgic. So many qualities that makes a highly worthy sequel. Director J.J. Abrams, who took over the mantle from Star Wars creator George Lucas, does as much justice to the film as Lucas did, if not more.

Though Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn’t match up to the awe that Star Wars of 1977-1983 created, it is, in its own way, a worthy successor to the original trilogy.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: impassionedcinema.com !

P.S. My chronology of reviews of the movies (as explained in my review of the original trilogy) will look something like this, based on timeline:

  1. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983) – Because it all started from there.
  2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – (This post) Because it is the chronological sequel to the original trilogy.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – Because it is the sequel to episode 7.
  4. Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) – It is here that the series jumps back before the events of A New Hope.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Because it is the chronological sequel to the prequel trilogy.

Movie Review: Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983)

Watch the collective trailer for the trilogy here:

I knew I was missing out on an experience that was one of its kind because I hadn’t watched the Star Wars movies. Things came to a head with the impending release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I finally knew I had to watch them. I know I am late to the party, almost gatecrashing it. But what a party it is!

So in honor of the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I will be uploading reviews of all Star Wars movies, one a day. However, I will be clubbing my movies of the original and prequel trilogy movies as follows:

  • Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi under Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983), which is this post.
  • Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith under Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005), which will follow this post.

The remaining movies, Star Wars: Episode VII –The Force Awakens, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will have reviews of their own.

*

I went in to the Star Wars trilogy with a lot of expectations. The hype surrounding the franchise was great. The most I knew of the trilogy was a few characters’ names, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo being the most prominent. I was also confused as to what sequence I should follow while watching these movies. But then, it’s as simple as learning the alphabet. You start from the first movie that was released. A no-brainer, really.

Thus it was that I began watching Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with Star Wars. The first one was enough to influence me to a great extent.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977):

Following Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca through this unexpectedly successful movie was an absolute delight. When one movie in a franchise makes you want to watch more, you know it is a resounding success.

The Rebellion has the Death Star plans and must now escape the Empire whose army is led by Lord Darth Vader. But Vader and his storm troopers capture Leia, just before she sends a holographic message to Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and the plans through an astrotech called R2-D2 and a droid called C-3PO. Obi-Wan now lives on a planet called Tatooine where Luke Skywalker also lives with his uncle, and the arrival of R2-D2 and C-3PO sets into motion a series of events that being Luke to the forefront of a galactic battle against the Empire.

The first thought that came to me when I started watching this movie was related to the effects. Star Wars: A New Hope released in 1977, but the effects the makers used were so good, everything looked as close to reality as today’s CGI can make them look. The first movie itself was absolutely jaw-dropping for me. So imagine my delight when I started on the second one, which is supposedly the best in the series.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back:

The Empire obviously doesn’t take well to being slighted by Luke Skywalker and his friends. So they start hunting the rebels down, resulting in them needing to evacuate the planet of Hoth where they have taken refuge. While Han leads his friends to Cloud City, which is now under the governance of Lando Calrissian, who Han believes to be a friend, Luke Skywalker, after a request from Obi-Wan, heads to the Dagobah system to receive Jedi training from Yoda, the exiled Jedi master.

Before Skywalker completes his training, he comes to understand that his friends, thanks to Calrissian’s betrayal, have been captured by Darth Vader. He decides to head out to save them, despite Obi-Wan and Yoda’s warnings that he shouldn’t leave his training incomplete. What follows are revelations that are so mind-numbing, they gave me a joy that I cannot quite explain!

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is so much more engaging as they say it is. I loved every part of the movie, from the evolution of the characters to the effects, and the intriguing plotline that gets more compelling with every frame.

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi:

The third instalment in the Star Wars franchise and the sixth episode, when compared to its predecessors, is a little ridiculous, mostly because of the Ewoks.

Han Solo is in Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine, but his friends, masked, infiltrate the place and free Solo after a brief battle. Luke heads to Dagobah with R2-D2 to find that Yoda is dying. The revelation from The Empire Strikes Back as to Luke’s ancestry is confirmed by Yoda, who adds that there is another Skywalker. Luke realizes who it is, receiving confirmation from Obi-Wan’s spirit.

When the Rebel Alliance gets wind of the new Death Star that’s being built, they build up an army to bring it down. Luke surrenders to Darth Vader, who takes him to the Emperor, who in turn tries convincing Luke that he belongs to the dark side. What happens next will literally blow your mind.

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy – My Thoughts:

Finishing this trilogy was one of the easiest things I have ever done. I say this, because there are very few films that manage to instill the level of awe that Star Wars does with such ease. With its stunning effects, a feat that was accomplished in the late seventies, a time when technology in movies was only getting started, Star Wars established a hold that is quite difficult to beat. George Lucas was way ahead of his time when he set the ball rolling for this out-of-the-world (literally) franchise.

But it is not only the effects that the movies boast about. A gripping storyline, evolved characters, each of whom have their own quirks, and a star cast that made us believe the characters they played – all of these made sure that Star Wars became the most engaging franchise to be ever made.

Popular opinions dictate that Luke, Leia, Han, and Darth Vader count among the most loved Star Wars characters. But I have a different opinion. I think the protocol droid C-3PO has the most brilliant lines of all characters. C-3PO is all of us, thinking, fearing, and talking like a person who wants to be where the action is, but is also scared of taking a misstep. I personally think the character is underrated, because C-3PO has a certain knack of bringing out the truth inside all of us.

So when Han Solo smirks and makes a sarcastic wisecrack, Leia is exasperated at his cockiness, Luke Skywalker is his noble self, R2-D2 beeps away incessantly, C-3PO airs his thoughts without a filter, Chewbacca makes known his feelings with his utterances, and Darth Vader bites out another of his commands to bring the Rebel Alliance down, you know you have the characterizations memorized. You almost see everything coming, but then again, you don’t!

So when I say I am now officially in the Star Wars fandom, I know what it’s all about! It’s the madness, it’s the largesse, it’s the characters, it’s the characterizations, and most of all it’s the futuristic effects that make the franchise what it is! And despite my being late, I am thrilled to be here. Because the party’s just getting started for me!

 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Picture Courtesy: thelongcenter.org, anakin022.deviantart.com, and europalace.com!

P.S. The half star that I took away was because of the minor annoyance that Ewoks created in Return of the Jedi. But it’s all in jest because it could well be 5/5 once they’ve redeemed themselves. 😉

P.P.S. My chronology of reviews of the movies (as explained in my review of the original trilogy) will look something like this, based on timeline:

  1. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977-1983) – (This post) Because it all started from there.
  2. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – Because it is the chronological sequel to the original trilogy.
  3. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi – Because it is the sequel to episode 7.
  4. Star Wars – The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005) – It is here that the series jumps back before the events of A New Hope.
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Because it is the chronological sequel to the prequel trilogy.

Swiss Army Man – Crazy, Comic, Cataclysmic Coming Together of Dans

Watch the trailer of Swiss Army Man here:

The first thing you notice about Swiss Army Man when you research it before watching is the abundance of Dans in it. Like John Green’s abundance of Katherines. Paul Dano and Daniel Radcliffe are in it, while the directors are called Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. It is only fitting that the movie starts off with the words: A Film by Daniels.

Swiss Army Man is the story of Hank Thompson, a man stranded in the wilderness, who has lost all hope of reaching civilization again. On the brink of committing suicide, Hank, played masterfully by Paul Dano, spots a corpse that’s washed up on the shore. It’s ironic in its own way that when Hank tries to commit suicide, a corpse stops him from doing so.

This sets in motion an interesting sequence of events, where Hank, after finding out that the corpse is flatulent, befriends it and calls it Manny. Using the power of Manny’s farts, Hank motors them, but Manny gives out in the middle of the sea and they are both washed up in what seems like another deserted island. Grateful to Manny for having saved his life, Hank decides to haul Manny wherever he goes.

Hank babies the corpse, one that almost comes to life after looking at an old magazine. He also uses Manny’s body like a Swiss army knife, hence the name. Irrespective of this, feelings are born, Manny looks like he is reborn. And when Manny thinks that the phone that has fallen out is his, Hank plays along and convinces Manny that he was in love with Sarah when he was alive. Manny, pulled into the romance of it all, fails to notice (how could he, he’s just a corpse) that Hank is using Manny to get back to civilization and to Sarah.

What follows is absolute, beautiful chaos. With a riveting, haunting soundtrack, it makes the craziness of watching a corpse and a living person engage in conversation seem almost nonexistent. Every situation seems absolutely mental, but it is also poetic and depictive in everything it does, in its own weird way.

Somehow, Swiss Army Man brings a different perspective to things we think about and experience every day. It makes you look at reality in a very raw sense. It is an A-certified film, but more than enough suggests that adults need to watch the film and understand the nuances to get the message. The strangest part of the movie is that its poetry lies in its creepiness.

Swiss Army Man does all the work to confuse you all shades of Sunday. But it is this very weirdness that makes it indescribably adorable (for lack of a better word). And when you think in layman’s terms, like the movie makes you, everything seems to shoot a question at you while seeming impossibly funny.

The movie is gross, but keep an open mind while you watch it, and you’ll enjoy the whole experience. You might even glean the intended meanings behind some scenes, which are absolutely brilliant. As metaphors go, these are woven into the storyline beautifully.

As for the acting, Paul Dano has done a brilliant job as the lost Hank Thompson. But it is Daniel Radcliffe who takes the cake. Acting out expressions in itself is a tough job. Acting as a dead man who is relearning everything about this world, learning about feelings and the heart is a whole other job altogether. And Radcliffe has absolutely killed it. His lopsided smile works so well with him on this character. He is no longer just the Harry Potter kid. Oh my. He has grown up. And how!

For its glorious soundtrack, the cinematography, and the acting, I give it 3.5 stars. I’d have given it 4, had it had a more dramatic ending, but hey! It’s just my opinion! 😉

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Picture Credit: rogerebert.com !

Murder On The Orient Express – Mixed Bag of Impressiveness and Disappointment

Watch the trailer of Murder on the Orient Express here:

I am a HUGE Agatha Christie fan. I don’t have to say it but her style of writing is unparalleled. There has been no one in history so far who has been able to build mysteries and solve them as well as she has been able to. And to think that she did this with an array of eccentric detectives? It’s something that places her out of reach of any limit. Indeed, she is as limitless as limitless can get.

I also like to think that I landed a job because of her, so that makes her all the more special for me. The interviewer, on seeing ‘reading’ among my hobbies, asked me who my favorite author was. And I immediately took Agatha Christie’s name. Murder on the Orient Express remained at the top of my list for ages to come. Until, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd happened, that is. But that’s beside the point.

When the film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express was announced, I saw it had an impressive star cast. Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Willem Dafoe… Phew! But the most important of all, that of eccentric Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot was going to be played by Kenneth Branagh, who would also direct the movie.

I was mightily disappointed, because Poirot is supposed to have an egg-shaped head. He’s supposed to be someone whose misery, when is as well-written as Agatha Christie writes it, becomes comic to the reader. He’s supposed to be quaint, weird, strange. I didn’t think Branagh was the best bet to play Poirot. But then again, he is an Academy Award nominated, critically acclaimed actor and director. So pretty reluctantly, I did give him the benefit of the doubt. [Look at me, acting all high and mighty.]

When we decided to watch Murder on the Orient Express, I was excited because one of my favorite novels was going to come to life on screen. Yes, there was an undercurrent of my displeasure with Poirot, and there was also the nagging feeling of truth that most bookworms experience. “It will never be better than the book.”

Of course, no movie (bar a rare few) has been better or even matched up to the book it has been based on. And Murder on the Orient Express is no different.

Even though Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot has many of the quirks that his creator intended him to have, there is not the overall eccentricity that is expected of him. Yes, he is supposed to be smug. Yes, he is supposed to be particular about certain details. But there’s just something about the genius of Kenneth Branagh that still falls short. While in his other movies, you cannot separate the character from the actor, here, in Murder on the Orient Express, you can tell that he is trying hard. And yet, he doesn’t quite live up to Poirot.

Michelle Pfeiffer, on the other hand, does a wonderful job as Mrs. Hubbard. She is equal parts ruffled and equal parts the siren that she somehow wants people to see her as. Penelope Cruz also deserves a special mention when compared with the other cast members. The others haven’t done a bad job. It is just that in the entirety of Murder on the Orient Express, there are just two that stand out.

My complaint with Kenneth Branagh’s Poirot is because I am an Agatha Christie fan. And when on the whole, the movie isn’t as engaging, I also become a stickler for detail. If you ask me years from now whether I liked Murder on the Orient Express, I’ll still maintain that the book is better than the movie. The movie might then be relegated to one of those that I wouldn’t care much about. And that’s a shame.

They could have done a better job with the length of the movie, the first 20 minutes could have been just five. But they didn’t. They could have made Poirot look like he’s supposed to look. But they didn’t. They could have made the screenplay crisper than it now looks. But they didn’t.

And it is these “buts” that pull my opinion of Murder on the Orient Express further downwards to a mere 3 stars.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Picture Credit: teaser-trailer.com !

Coco – A Terrific Combination of Tradition and Feelings

[Coco has been nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category at the Academy Awards 2018.]

Watch the trailer for Coco here:

The trailer of Coco seemed to me to be bright and happy and intriguingly heartwarming. There’s music, there are smiles, there are tears, there’s anger, there are people who you can relate to, and then, there are skeletons in the closet. When I say skeletons in the closet, I mean it in the most honest, literal way ever. And oh, what a terrific combination this turns out to be!

Coco is about 12-year-old Miguel Rivera, a little boy in the small Mexican village of Santa Cecilia. Miguel’s family shuns music, thanks (or no thanks) to Miguel’s great-great-grandfather who left his wife, Imelda, to pursue a career in music. Imelda, angered at the betrayal, bans music and turns to shoemaking, a business that has since continued in the family. Imelda has long passed but her daughter, Coco, Miguel’s great-grandmother, still lives and is suffering from memory loss that comes with old age. But Miguel loves music, his idol being Ernesto de la Cruz, a singer of Imelda’s time.

But when, on Dia de Muertos, a talent show is announced, Miguel’s plans to participate are squashed when his grandmother, Elena, smashes his guitar to the ground. Angered, he runs away to the talent show with a picture of Imelda and her family that he damaged earlier. He is there told that he must have an instrument to perform. His is disheartened and approaches the statue of Ernesto de la Cruz to draw strength. But it is there that he puts together that the greatest Mexican musician of all time is his great-great-grandfather. Gaining hope from this, he decides to steal de la Cruz’s guitar to take part in the show.

What follows is an emotional chaos that is heartening to watch.

The concept of the movie revolves around Day of the Dead, a Mexican festival that celebrates their ancestors by placing their pictures on private altars called ofrendas. It shows how there is actually a land of the dead and how, when we honor our ancestors, they do actually hear it and appreciate it as much as we want them to. Maybe more. And because of this, Coco turns from being just a boy in search of ways to bring out his talent to a movie that tells you to remember your roots.

Coco is a beautiful mixed bag of revelations that takes imagination to a whole new level altogether. Who would have thought that this tradition could have been brought out as a story? Who could have thought that such brightness could hold such sorrow and such darkness hold such joy? It’s so beautiful and warm that one could run out of superlatives trying to describe Coco.

Pixar has been on top of the animation game for a long time now. And it doesn’t look like they are going to stop being there any time soon. It would be a shame if they did. Till the time they keep bringing out visual and dramatic masterpieces such as this, our world will remain being quirky and interesting. Coco is a breakthrough in terms of adapting traditions to the large screen. From talking about feelings of inanimate objects to exploring post-death existentialism, Pixar knew what it was doing and this is

With its all Latino cast that brings an authenticity to the story and the characters, Coco brings a lot of clarity to the Mexican culture with a touching sensitivity. The visuals of skeletons might be jarring for children at first, but once the beauty of the story starts (pretty soon, in my opinion), the whole experience becomes one-of-a-kind. There are so many beautiful lessons to learn from the movie, not only for children, but for us adults as well. God knows we need it more than kids do these days.

The end of Coco is not hard to guess. But the movie is made to make your heart clench, to make you cry. You’d never had thought that you could see things in the way Coco portrays them. It is unwavering in the way it owns the tenderness through the rage, the joy through the sorrow, and the sorrow through the happiness.

If you want to watch a reassuring movie that quells your doubts about tradition and family, or if you are just on the lookout for a feel-good blockbuster, Coco is the one to watch.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Picture Credit: Disney.com !

Tumhari Sulu – A Sweet, Lively Dose Of Reality

Watch the trailer for Tumhari Sulu here:

 

If I could tell you what I think of Tumhari Sulu in a nutshell, I couldn’t. That’s because there are a lot of positives about the film, but there are also a number of ‘buts’.

Tumhari Sulu starts out as a fun, easy-going film in which Vidya Balan plays Sulochana or Sulu, the housewife who wants to do something in life. Sulu hasn’t completed her education, failing 12th, and her father and twin sisters don’t let her forget the fact. But her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) is supportive, though his tongue freezes when Sulu’s father and sisters come over. They have an 11-year-old son, Pranav, who has taken to sharing magazines and DVDs with provocative pictures at a daily price in school.

Sulu enters contests on the radio and has already won a few. But when she goes to collect her gift this time, she sees a poster that’s announcing an RJ contest. Much to the amusement of RJ Albeli Anjali (Malishka Mendonsa), she persists and snags an audience with the boss, Maria (Neha Dhupia). The end result is that now, she has her own late night show called Tumhari Sulu on the lines of a crasser meaning of “Saree Wali Bhabhi.”

Thanks to this job, Sulu’s life is thrown into a spiral that refuses to straighten out. At the same time Sulu lands this job, Ashok’s job is in danger. And an Abhimaan kind of scenario rises. Everything keeps coming back to bite Sulu’s head off and she is absolutely furious at how everyone seems to think everything is her fault. [Which is unfair, really.] How Sulu straightens it all out forms the rest of Tumhari Sulu’s story.

While the supporting actors have done a commendable job, special mention for Manav Kaul who plays Ashok to almost-perfection. And Vidya Balan as Sulu shows that she can act normally, too. I have always found her acting exaggerated and overhyped. But in Tumhari Sulu, Vidya Balan proves that she has the ability to adapt to change. A well-rounded off happy, strong character, Sulu knows what’s right and wrong. She’s only exasperated with the people around her and their inability to comprehend simple truths. She knows the truth, but she isn’t smug about it, doesn’t come across as self-righteous.

There’s rib-tickling comedy in the first half of Tumhari Sulu; everyday things twisted to bring you generous doses of laughter. The second half is sure to make you cry. At the unfairness, at the anger, at the hypocrisy, and at Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul’s realistic portrayal of a middle-class couple going through so much more than they bargained for. Abhishek Sharma, who plays Sulu and Ashok’s son, Pranav, also does a commendable job.

The characters are well-written, and the story well-woven. Tumhari Sulu succeeds in showing the ambitions, dreams, and daily struggles of middle class. The mentality that surrounds the middle-class family, the most frequent reason for them to stop wanting to follow their dreams, is portrayed so bluntly, so blandly in the movie, that it brought tears for my eyes. Oh, the injustice of it all!

In spite of these positives, something didn’t quite sit right with me when the movie ended. A lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up, and issues that weren’t resolved made me feel a bit like I was left hanging on to a thread. It might have been done so on purpose, to give free rein to the audience’s imagination.

But it didn’t succeed for me. I want to know how everything was ironed out. I want to know if Sulu succeeds in her job or if she gives up. I want to know if Sulu gave it to her sisters for haranguing her since forever. But they didn’t tell me. Tumhari Sulu could have been a straight 5 star movie, but because of how it ended, I’m not even going near 4.

If I ignore the way it ended and write up a Utopian ending of my own without cribbing that the makers didn’t give me even an ending, leave alone Utopian, I would say Tumhari Sulu is one of the best Bollywood movies to have come out this year. But they didn’t give me closure. So I’ll just settle with saying that Tumhari Sulu is one of the better ones to have released in 2017. I like it, but I just feel let down a little.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Picture Credit: Times Now !

Justice League – Enjoyable But Has Lot of Room For Improvement

First off, let’s get one fact out of the way. I’m a sucker for good superhero action films. If you can get me a little wit, a little sass, lots of well-choreographed action, and a little humor in one film, then I’m down hook, line, and sinker. And Justice League does that very well for me.

Watch the trailer for Justice League here:

Of course, it’s no Thor: Ragnarok, because that’s unparalleled in my opinion. But you get the general idea.

Justice League is very, very enjoyable to the point where you can ignore the fact that there’s not much of a bigger picture in it. It all comes down to the team of superheroes fighting together to bring down the bad guy who’s threatening to end the Earth. In fact, he claims he is the end of the world. I don’t think he took into account the six badass superheroes who were ready to take him on to save the world.

[Come on, you knew this was going to happen. It’s just a question of how, not a matter of if the world was going to be saved. :P]

The CGI was believable, the unexpected humor was well-placed, and the little revelations that were scattered throughout the movie made it all the more enjoyable.

However, throughout Justice League, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that DC was trying very hard to emulate Marvel in all aspects. Some witty, some snarky superheroes, overenthusiastic newbies, over-the-top but connected-to-the-story villains, undermining the villain’s henchmen, competitive superheroes – the list doesn’t seem to end.

While we’re at it, the soundtrack, too, makes an appearance on this list. While Thor: Ragnarok turned to Led Zeppelin, Justice League turned to The Beatles to their closing for them. But why worry when it all paid off in the end? All’s well that’s ends well, I guess?

The second best part of the movie for me were two superheroes: The Flash and Aqua Man. Yes, Wonder Woman is wonderful, but the freshness of Ezra Miller as Flash and the hunkiness and ferocity of Jason Momoa as Aqua Man overpowers even the strength of the fierce Amazonian princess.

The best part of Justice League is Superman. The most beloved of all DC superheroes, Superman got nothing less than the most excited of whistles and cheering in the theater. Not to forget the sass that he added in this movie. Henry Cavill is amazing as Superman and inculcated every change admirably. His entry got goosebumps crawling up my skin!

Justice League is lighter than its predecessor films (with the exception of Wonder Woman). While Batman vs. Superman and Man of Steel brought all the somberness into themselves with just a hint or two of humor, Justice League made us laugh. And I cannot help but observe again that DC might be trying to glean their comic inspiration from Marvel in a bid to go head-to-head with them.

The sad part is that DC doesn’t seem like it is going to catch up to Marvel anytime soon. There’s a lot of work that they have to do to pull the franchise up. Just a generic superhero-beats-bad-guy might have worked in Justice League, but it simply might not be enough for upcoming movies. The characters need to have layers – something that Marvel has been doing admirably for years now.

But hey, why fall into further comparison when we can enjoy this movie? We’ll have time for retrospection and probably an overhaul that will bring more sunlight into the DC Universe. Until them, Justice League is several steps ahead of BvsS, though a couple of notches lower than Wonder Woman.

Final Verdict:

Justice League makes up in fun quotient what it lacks in depth and innovation. The CGI and action sequences are remarkably awesome. Ezra Miller is phenomenal as The Flash. So until the next time we see this badassery again, let’s hope they’re only climbing the ladder and not sliding backwards and downwards.

Rating: 4/5 stars

P.S. 1.5 extra stars for the fun, humor, and action.

Picture Credit: StarluxCinema.com !