Everything new is old again with the latest release in the Star Wars universe. “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story” is sure to pack the theaters for the next few weeks and will most likely be the movie you see with your family (or anyone) over the Christmas holiday. “Collateral Beauty” will be the movie your mom wants to see.
Rogue One – A Star Wars Story
Reviewing a Star Wars movie is a tricky thing. No one wants to read anything that minutely resembles a spoiler. So as a brief synopsis, I’ll just say this – Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, a rebellious warrior with a history tied to the Empire. The Rebel Alliance looks to use her in a covert mission, where she finds out that the Empire will soon threaten the existence of the galaxies. Along the way, she joins forces with various vigilantes that she must trust with her life.
If you’ve seen Episode Four: A New Hope, just know that this is the direct prequel. Rogue One should be considered Episode 3.9 considering how directly it ties into the original movie. In fact, there’s a 87% chance that you’ll want to watch the original trilogy immediately after this movie ends.
Rogue One brings the magic of Star Wars in a few vital ways – There are various alien races, created with practical effects. The crew of the Rogue One visit new and unique planets in their quest. Lastly and most importantly, the look and feel of this movie just feels right. It purposely dates the machinery, ships and even pilot jumpsuits to match the sketchy look of the originals. This does take place a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, after all.
Your inner child will rejoice at the classic X-wing and Tie Fighters dogfights. This type of action is always welcome and brings you right back into the enjoyment you felt when Luke took on the Death Star for the first time.
However (you knew this was coming), I haven’t really cared to mention much about the characters in the movie. Sadly, they’re easily the weakest part. Not being able to connect with them takes away from the extreme importance and danger of their mission. They all have types, but no character development – Strong female, arrogant rebel, funny robot, skilled fighter and guy with a gun. Little is done to advance these characters. They are just means to an end. The best character introduced is Ben Mendelsohn’s role as the aspiring Empire general Orson Krennic. He plays the role with an insecure ambition that doesn’t allow him to stop until his goals are realized.
If you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie (I’d like to meet you), you will have little care to watch Rogue One. It provides a mostly unnecessary story that was briefly mentioned in A New Hope. It’s so tied into nostalgia and a mythology that millions hold dear, that it doesn’t stand on its own.
I hope to one day find out what the extensive reshoots did to change Rogue One, because there are scenes where you see director Gareth Edward’s vision, even moments where he took the time to show the crew’s dangerous plight. Yet, in a following scene, the look and feel of the movie change dramatically. The unfortunate aspect is that the 2nd act feels overly bloated and sadly boring. Even the standard (Disney) formula of adding jokes to quicken the pace, did little to liven it up.
Rogue One should be considered a success. It brings each viewer back to the happiness of A New Hope. The majority of the movie is sluggish, with poorly written characters and motivations. Yet, the final third of the movie will have you cheering and you’ll leave the theater with a smile. That smile will be directly tied to one short scene where you see the first lightsaber in the movie. Shoot, there I go giving spoilers. Sorry. B-
The marketing for Collateral Beauty is a bit misleading. The recent trailers have depicted this movie as a feel good holiday flick. While there may be a bit of soul-warming eventually, it takes a lot of sadness to get there.
Will Smith plays Howard, a successful business owner who was once the main motivator for his team, until a personal tragedy changes everything. For years, he struggles as a broken man who doesn’t give attention to work or personal relationships. As a bit of therapy, he writes letters to the cosmos, notably – Time, Death and Love. His monotonous life is thrown asunder when he receives strange visits from Death (Helen Mirren), Time (Jacob Latimore) and Love (Keira Knightley). In the midst of all this are Howard’s intrusive coworkers (played by Kate Winslet, Edward Norton and Michael Pena) who are worried about the state of the business now that Howard has become largely apathetic.
Full disclosure – Collateral Beauty is a saccharine-filled melodramatic flick. It beats you over the head with an overwrought emotional struggle. But, here’s the thing – It’s actually pretty effective. Yes, it’s manipulative and it knows it, but it will pull a few heart strings to the point of being a sweet movie in the end.
The cast is far better than the material they’re given, but at the same time, they’re all fun to watch. Just think of this as a emotional Christmas movie and not a serious drama and you’ll like it far more. I would recommend this for a girls’ night out or if you’re looking for a temporary cry fest. C+