Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

I hold an overarching fear for the future of Star Wars. With Disney at the reins it seems that we may have another Star Wars movie every year until the end of time. Call me crazy, but I think we are really overdoing it. Yes we want more Star Wars, but do we need more Star Wars? Do we even deserve it?

Making so many movies will make an already complex universe ever more convoluted (just look at the prequels). It also takes the magic away from the original Star Wars trilogy. It was a simple story yet captivated us all.

Why the hell do we need to see the back story to Han Solo? Wasn’t what we got in A New Hope enough? Perhaps things like this are not necessary to dive into. Maybe part of the magic of Star Wars is that everything wasn’t spelled out for the viewer.

Alas, despite how I or anybody else in the world thinks, Star Wars will continue to go on. And that brings us to our very first spin-off film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

I would like to begin by saying that overall, I enjoyed my experience watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I felt very invested in the plot and would not mind watching it again in the near future. I say this now because I have many, many problems with this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place very shortly before the events of A New Hope. It stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, the criminal daughter of the inventor of the very first Death Star. Jyn is sought after and found by the Rebel Alliance, who enlists in her help to basically find her long lost father and unite the Rebellion . With the power of the force by their side, Jyn and her new Rebel friends must help save the Galaxy from the wrath of the Empire (its a little more complex than that but this is the short of it).

Now, my first complaint would be all the shoehorned cameos made in the film. I do understand that it takes place before the first Star Wars, so naturally we are going to see Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. But did we really need to see the pig nosed guy from the Cantina? For the brief couple of seconds he is on screen, the crowd loved it. Yet I couldn’t stop hating it. It was pointless crowd pandering that I feel Disney wanted in the film for nostalgic purposes. It served no purpose. Period. I rolled my eyes and did not crack a smile. The exact same went for when I saw C-3PO and some of the other nostalgic characters.

I would also like to briefly mention Grand Moff Tarkin’s role in this film. Again, I understand why he would be important to the story, but I don’t get why they put him in the film so much. Since Peter Cushing (the original Grand Moff Tarkin) died in 1994, his character had to be completely CGI. The design looked okay I guess, but from the get go I could tell it was fake. I really can’t blame them too much on this because they did the best they could. However everybody needs to stop pretending that this was some great performance or something. Because it definitely was not.

The acting was all around fantastic on all sides. I loved Felicity Jones as Jyn and thought she did a terrific job. I also loved the acting talents of our supporting cast members like Forest Whitaker and Diego Luna. Even though a lot of the side characters weren’t developed enough, which was another problem with this film .

Since so much time was dedicated to focusing on our lead hero Jyn (dealing with her backstory, emotions, struggles, etc.) we did not get as much time to learn about our other heroes. They were left a little on the bland side and could have been much better and more thawed out. They had their quirks and their moments but didn’t get much personality devoted to them.

The audience gets a good look at many new planets as well as the inhabitants of those planets. And in usual Star Wars fashion, they are all really awesome. The planets all seem so fleshed out and creative, I was wishing we the audience could experience more. There was one cool planet in particular that I could tell was inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien, my favorite movie. There are literally hundreds of different designs of characters, many of which were real costumes and looked really cool.

The ground combat of the storm troopers and the rebellion, something this film is heavy in, is phenomenal. I was always curious what gritty, up close combat would be like in Star Wars, and I definitely got it. The action scenes are intensely shot and keep the pace moving quickly. Enough new gadgets and tanks are brought into the fighting to make the combat at least feel somewhat refreshing and new.

The musical score was pretty good and went well with the film. It was different while still being reminiscent of the usual Star Wars composition. The music was able to vary while still keeping the general theme similar to John William’s style. This is good considering the new composer only had a month to write it.

Some aspects of Rogue One I was kind of give or take with. Darth Vader makes an appearance here and there, and those are hit or miss unfortunately. The same went for the new villain Orson Krennic, who would flop between being a predictable bad guy and purely diabolical.

The ending to Rogue One was probably my favorite part of the film. Without spoiling anything, I think that some very bold creative choices were made. I was glad to see the outcome of the film and left me feeling very satisfied. I think many others will disagree with me on how they handled the ending, but I loved it.

I recommend Rogue One to every Star Wars fan out there. Go watch it and make an opinion of your own! I believe it is an enjoyable, well made film with a solid story and great cast. I will try to remain as hopeful as possible for the next installment of Star Wars, even though my faith in the franchise wanes. I think I just need to remind myself that some movies are built on hope.

-Zachary Flint

South Park ‘Fort Collins’ Review

South Park returns again this week with a more focused and exciting episode then before. Packed with member berries, internet trolls, and even email scandals.

In this episode, we see a lot of focus put on the member berries, and Randy’s fruitless attempt at destroying them. He tries using both a blow torch and pouring chemical acid on the berries, but neither work. It looks like member berries have even become self aware. They actually escape Randy’s house and drive a miniature little car down the street. All while saying things like “Member where we’re going?” and  “Oh I member!”.

Cartman finally takes the jab at the 2016 Ghostbusters remake that I have been waiting patiently for, and it totally pays off. Ghostbusters is even brought up on multiple occasions, as Cartman is now paranoid that his girlfriend Heidi will learn of the horrible things he said about the women in the movie. He is now willing to go to great lengths to make sure his girlfriend never knows it was him. This is all done in the traditional Cartman fashion of overracting.

The Danish decide to run a beta test for their website Trolltrace.com, where they plan on releasing everyones internet history to weed out online trolls. The scene in which this test is carried out on the town of Fort Collins, Colorado is the funniest part of the entire episode.  The whole town is in flames, with people committing suicide and murdering others. One of the trolls that had been working with Gerald named MLKKK is lit on fire and burned to death in the ensuing chaos. All of this because he called a redneck’s handicap daughter R2-D2.

Mr. Garrison (our Donald Trump-esque character) is now prodding the citizens of the United States to vote for Hilary Clinton instead of him. Garrison says that a vote for Hilary is like honestly admitting The Force Awakens wasn’t actually that good. As Mr. Garrison puts it, “It was more of a Happy Days reunion than a Star Wars movie.”

On the other side, it now seems that Hilary Clinton will have to get involved in the Trolltrace.com fiasco too. Hilary is afraid that her email history will compromise her chance at winning the election. She may actually have to enlist in the help of Skankhunt42, aka Gerald. I have to say I didn’t see this coming, but its really great. It’s both a clever and comedic way to work Hilary’s email scandal into the season.

I really liked this episode of South Park. It seemed a little more focused then previous episodes this season, while still being clever and over the top crazy. Where the season will go from here, I have no idea. Whoever wins the Presidential election will significantly determine how this season continues. Whatever it may be, I’m sure were in for a treat.

Zachary Flint

South Park ‘Douche and a Danish’ Review

The newest episode of South Park, accurately titled “Douche and a Danish”, was both funny and engaging. It deals with recent topics and starts to bring some of the complex plot threads this season full circle.

In this episode, Mr. Garrison has begun using a new tactic to aid in losing the Presidential race, offending women. This satirizes the audio tape recently released of Donald Trump having an offensive conversation about women. The satirization of the reaction to Trump’s audio tape is great. It seems like South Park specifically takes a few jabs at female Trump supporters that found this tape to be hurtful. In the show, women were totally okay with Garrison saying he’s going to “fuck immigrants and refugees to death”. But when he told a few jokes about women is where he crossed the line.

Also going on in the show, Eric and Heidi have united the boys and girls of South Park Elementary by starting a fundraiser. They will raise as much money as possible to help aid the Danish in funding Trolltrace.com.

I think there are some really funny moments with Eric and Heidi regarding their relationship, but I can’t help but wish Eric was doing something else. I would like to see him fanning the flames between the sexes, like in the episode World War Zimmerman. Where Eric thinks that a World War Z style race war has begun between blacks and whites.

The Danish are also getting closer and closer to launching their website Trolltrace.com. However Gerald and his internet troll friends decide to step in and take action. They launch a Twitter assault on Denmark asserting that Lego has been funding ISIS. The scene when the trolls launch the attack is comical, and it is done in the vain of the death star attack in Star Wars. Gerald and his troll friends call out there aliases like “Skankhunt42, standing by. Anonymous8942, standing by.”

 

Speaking of Star Wars, South Park also had some enlightening views towards the newest film. That perhaps, The Force Awakens wasn’t as good of a movie as we all think. By recycling all the old Star Wars material they weren’t giving us anything new, and just reusing ideas can’t make the movie good. Definitely some food for thought. This all quickly gets over the top and ridiculous (as South Park does) when Randy Marsh has the revelation that J.J. Abrams may be the cause of our countries problems. They even show a picture of J.J. Abrams wearing a “Make Star Wars Great Again” hat. I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams is going to be involved in this whole mess in the near future.

The Member Berries even get involved in this episode, with Randy has even uncovering that the Berries were involved with the downfall of the Roman Empire. Randy has now equated our society with the end of the Roman Empire.

The Member Berries are even the reason why people are voting for Donald Trump/ Mr. Garrison. It’s even for the same reason that we love The Force Awakens. Americans yearn for the nostalgia of the past. We’re at a point where the past looks better than the future, and therefore we aren’t moving forward.

This most recent episode is much funnier than the previous, and it seems that we are heading towards some big events in the show. Plot threads are finally coming full circle and soon we will hopefully get an epic climax to a pretty good season.

Zachary Flint

 

Remakes and Reboots and Sequels! Oh My!

Well folks, its happened. Hollywood has completely run out of ideas for major film releases.

So far this year we have received remake after reboot after pointless sequel. And as expected, most fell flat on their faces. Only a select few will stand the passage of time as memorable films.

And from the looks of it, 2017 isn’t going to be any better. So far on the roster there’s:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tale
  • Power Rangers
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Transformers: the Last Knight
  • Star Wars VIII
  • Alien: Covenant
  • War for the Planet of the Apes
  • World War Z 2
  • Baywatch
  • Despicable Me 3
  • Fast 8
  • Annabelle 2
  • Cars 3
  • Jumanji
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • etc. etc. etc.

Like, what the hell is going on? Everything on this list has already been done!  I didn’t even name all the damn superhero movies coming out, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Now I don’t mean to judge these movies without seeing them, and when I do see them I will judge each based upon their own merit. It’s just very disappointing for me (and many others too) to see so many movies being needlessly and shamelessly redone. Especially when we know its just because studios want to make a bunch of money.

Not one film that I listed above needed any sort of remake or sequel. Some of these films may be good, they may even be great! But they all beg the question why? I love Blade Runner and Pirates of the Caribbean, but the stories are over. Go home. It’s finished. Stop adding to stories already made and make something different.

Alien is my favorite movie of all time, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t pumped for Alien: Covenant. But if film makers just keep giving me the same stuff I always want, how will I ever be challenged to try something new? I want to be challenged with new themes and new concepts on the big screen, so maybe its best if we put some of these films to rest.

I’m starting to get pissed off at all these remakes. Hollywood executives don’t care about movie fans and only have an interest in making money. I think that some day soon people are going to catch on to all this remake/sequel bull crap. And when they do, Hollywood will have to get clever and stop redoing things that have already been done.

Zachary Flint

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens serves as the welcome home of an old friend we used to know and love. It is the crème de la crème of J.J. Abrams work and his stylistic brilliance matches perfectly with the magic of the Star Wars universe. I spent every minute of this film waiting in anticipation for what would happen next.

The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the destruction of the last death star. The galaxy is now ruled by the villainous First Order, led by Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver. The First Order is searching for a droid that holds a map with the location to Luke Skywalker, who had vanished long ago. The droid eventually becomes acquainted with a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and an ex Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega). The three voyage together and attempt return the map to The Resistance, who oppose the First Order. Along the way they come across some familiar faces. Including both Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who join Rey and Finn on their quest to return the droid.

The film climaxes with an intense space battle between the Resistance and the First Orders new super weapon, and a brilliantly choreographed lightsaber duel between Kylo Ren and Rey taking on the position of the new Jedi apprentice.

There comes few weaknesses to a story so finely crafted and so strongly acted. The amount of hard work and dedication put into The Force Awakens by everyone involved is self-evident, and it all pays off. Many of the effects are practical, the dialogue enjoyable, the writing as good as ever, and a wealth of great acting.

I was however disappointed in the utilization of the computer generated images. It was extremely easy to pick out what creatures were real and which were not. Perhaps this was due to how well the costume designs and makeup effects were done, and the CGI was just naturally conspicuous. Each monster in the film has their own unique characteristics that help to expand the audiences understanding of the universe in which Star Wars exists. There is even a Cantina styled bar sequence that reminisces of the past with just as much creative design in characters.

It’s also no secret how The Force Awakens completely mirrors the plot of A New Hope. This is something that did not sit well for some viewers, feeling that taking from the plot of A New Hope cops out on creating something new and original. I felt somewhat the opposite. Seeing a completely new story I am sure would have been great. However we did not necessarily need a completely new story because we first needed the assurance that a ‘Star Wars’ feeling movie could be made once again. All three of the Star Wars prequels hardly felt like  ‘Star Wars’ movies and left vast amounts of people disappointed. So Abrams had to test the waters a bit and play it on the safe side by borrowing from A New Hope. Now that fans know what a Star Wars film feels like again, future installments can freely mix it up.

The Force Awakens being such an epic, grand scale film comes at a price. With so many profoundly crafted scenes to fit in to just one film, some characters (such as the Stormtrooper Captain Phasma) do not get much needed focus and some scenes do not get explained enough.

There is a great speech made by General Hux of the First Order just before he gives the signal to eradicate the Republic. The monologue is very compelling and well written and seems to unbeknownst to itself or the audience mask the question of, why blow up the Republic? We know they are the enemy of the First Order and continue to plot against them by funding the Resistance, but surely this plot detail could have been explored much more.

Despite the nitpicks and flaws, The Force Awakens spectacularly breathes new life into the Star Wars franchise and leaves me in anticipation for the next film in the series. It’s fast paced, rich in story and character, and reminds me of why I love Star Wars in the first place. Star Wars fans old and new will be able to come together to enjoy this adrenaline pumping, nostalgia inducing flick. Let’s hope that just as much love, care, and effort will be put into the next installment.

Zachary Flint