Movie 411: Star Wars, Rogue One

Directed by: 

Gareth Edwards

Screenplay by

Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy

Rated: 

PG-13

Release Date: 

December 2016

Genre: 

Sci-Fi, Action

The Hook: 

Um, because it’s Star Wars

Summary

Members of the Rebel Alliance decide to steal the building plans of the Death Star after finding out there may be a design flaw that could destroy the weapon. Intel is questioned when the source is known to be an Empire scientist who helped build the weapon.

The Review

All right. I’m just going to come out and say it. This one wasn’t on the top of my list of movies to watch in the theater. Don’t get me wrong. I respect the Star Wars franchise. I may not love it as much as others who are die-hards in this fandom (like, from the beginning beginning and not just in this past decade), but I do enjoy the movies. It just isn’t on the top of my list because there are other movies I wish to see on the big screen and this one I am good with waiting for the DVD or Netflix to pick it up.

That said, I am so glad I did watch it on the big screen because this is my favorite one yet.

The Plot . . .

I have to say that I appreciate this story line in the franchise. It’s the event that set things in motion. Though I don’t think that’s entirely accurate when you consider that it really has nothing to do with the conversion of Darth Vader and such. That part of this universe was in motion before this so allow me to rephrase. This event turned the tide for the Rebel Alliance and fills the gap between Episodes 1, 2, and 3 to Episodes 4, 5, 6. Anakin is already in Darth Vader mode, but Luke and Leia haven’t really entered the picture yet (for those of us who need to get our bearings  in this world because we aren’t die-hard Star Wars fans. And please feel free to correct me if I’m not quite getting it either). Rogue One revolves around the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans from the Empire so that Luke can blast at the Death Stars vulnerability and–ka-boom!–that is the climax of Episode 4: Star Wars. This story gap is brilliant. Who doesn’t love a good underdog-in-your-face kind of story? I mean, we all can guess what happens, but it still makes for an exciting adventure albeit a tragic one.

. . . and Presentation

I feel Garth Edwards is genius in his execution. He added his mark on this franchise and deserves all the accolades tossed his way. Weitz and Gilroy did a great job translating this story into a script Edwards brought to life. The story moved along at a steady pace and I felt the character introductions were done nicely and the plot points were well placed. Intense scenes were balanced with humor and I couldn’t help but admire the way things came together. This coming from my mind where I kind of knew what the ending would be and yet couldn’t help but watch, cheer, and get all pumped when our team accomplished its mission.

Of course, picture and story mean nothing without a cast who can carry the storyline to completion. Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso) did such a good job in this leading role. I haven’t seen her before this film so I can’t compare with past performances, but I can’t wait to see her in Inferno (which is on my list of theater-going movies because I am a huge fan of Robert Langdon, of the books–not that Tom Hanks isn’t doing a good job portraying this beloved fictional character of mine. I digress). Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) also does a good job acting Jones’ opposite. This duo did a good job leading this story and their chemistry blended well with Donnie Yen (Chirrut), Wen Jiang (Baze), and Alan Tudyk (the voice of K-2SO. And he did a great job for a robot voice. Great job meaning he brought personality to this robot voice and the comedic timing and tone on his lines were on point. So there.). Appearances by Forrest Whitaker (Saw Guerrera) and Mads Mikkelson (Galen Erso) added just the right touch to move the story along and give us fans more characters to . . . appreciate.

The Verdict

It is definitely worth the investment to add this to your library and I know that goes without saying (and not even a question) for this fandom. As I mentioned earlier, this one has to be my favorite one in this saga. It may be because I find this one the different from the rest. Unique. A divergence of the original story line (sort of). But that would be irrelevant if it weren’t for the way it was brought together so kiddos to Gareth Edwards and his production team for giving us another one to add to our library.

Biblio 411: A Turn for the Bad (County Cork #4)

Author: Shelia Connolly
Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Read: February 15, 2016
The Hook: Ireland, Cork County, Maura + Sean possibilities, Maura + Mick possibilities, just everything in this world.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy this series. I really can’t. I can’t think of a good enough sentence or the best adjectives to use to describe how much I love Maura and her world. For those of you who need a recap, here are my other reviews on this series:

Biblio 411: Buried in a Bog (County Cork #1)
Biblio 411: A Scandal in Skibbereen (County Cork #2)
Biblio 411: An Early Wake (County Cork #3)

 

Summary: Maura has been in Ireland for a while now and she’s getting used to life there. As she’s getting comfortable with Cork County, Cork County is getting comfortable with her. She has regulars, a routine, and she’s starting form attachments. Not just with her pub, but with the town and … suitors! We met Sean Murphy in the first book and we see them go on a date in the second book and in the third … well. Let’s just say things get interesting as Mick is now a potential candidate. Yep, Mick. The whole crew is back as well, with Jimmy and Rose. Gillian, from book two returns as well and actually ends up staying with Maura for a bit (and I hope for a bit longer).

As for the conflict in this one, it’s another good one. There’s some suspicious activity and a missing persons. Since Cork County is getting used to Maura, and that she’s a pub owner, most people gather at her pub for news. And since they are becoming more familiar with her, family of the missing person confides in her to help with what they think may have happened–with encouragement from permanent customer and beloved bar patron, Billy. And things get interesting. With the help of a local alcohol sales rep, the new whiskey brewers for help, Mick, Gillian, and others Maura helps the gardi figure things out and Cork County is, again, filled with mystery and adventure.

It totally rocks.

In general, I’m ambivalent about book series but I really love this one (and a few others). As much as I can’t wait to see how the story ends, I really don’t want it to end! County Cork mysteries is one of two Shelia Connolly series I follow, the other being Relatively Dead, and I really enjoy her writing. I’m not sure how to put it. Some people will think it’s rather dry and maybe a bit boring or slow-moving, but I like it. I like that Maura still hasn’t made an official decision to stay in Ireland (I hope she does! I know I would). I like that it’s taking forever for a love interest to develop on Maura’s part (I mean, she’s had to deal with a lot since her grandmother past). I like that mystery is wrapped around history with the touch of genealogy. I love the package deal I get with this series. It’s similar in Relatively Dead (which I still have to read the recent release, which was back in October!). The story may be moving along slowly compared with others, but I love how it’s written. There’s no big drama or suspense or on-the-seat-biting-your-nails moments, but it suits me. And I love it.

And let’s not forget that it is set in Ireland. I love that.

So, thank you for another great read, Ms. Connolly! Can’t wait for next year’s release.

#TBT: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Blog_ScarletLetter

Throw Back Thursdays

Remembered because … 

It was the story that made me fall in love with classic literature.

If you want to get picky, Shakespeare is really the literary works that made me fall in love with classic literature but since his style is different … The Scarlet Letter is the first classic novel I read and made me appreciate the value classic literature provides for the mind.

Plot: For those of you haven’t read it yet. You should. But back to the plot.

First published in 1850, in America, The Scarlet Letter is about this woman who is found guilty of adultery. Her punishment is to be branded with an “A” on her clothing and to also be subjected to public humiliation by standing on a scaffold for three hours. She is also pressed to give up the name of her lover, but she refuses to give up the name of her lover. This sets off a series of events that takes place over a span of years and *SPOILER ALERT** ends in sadness for all parties involved. **END SPOILER ALERT**.

Most memorable part: The opening scene. That’s really what drew my attention in the first place (well, after noticing that the author’s name was Nathaniel and I love the name Nathaniel–if I’m being honest). Chapter 1 is titled “The Prison Door” and it talks about the town and the prison-house. It describes the house and the area surrounding it. But the thing that struck me the most about this book, and motivated me to read it, was this passage:

This rose-bush, by a strange chance, has been kept alive in history; but whether it had merely survived out of the stern old wilderness, so long after the fall of the gigantic pines and oaks that originally overshadowed it,–or whether, as there is fair authority for believing, it had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Ann Hutchinson, as she entered the prison-door,–we shall not take upon us to determine. Finding it so directly on the threshold of our narrative, which is now about to issue from that inauspiciousportal, we could hardly do otherwise than pluck one of its flowers and present it to the reader. It may serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow.[1]

I distinctly remember pausing in my reading to ponder that passage. I remember thinking to myself how odd it was that the author would take great pains to describe the town and the prison and yet focus so keenly on this rose. I couldn’t help but see it as a foreshadow of some sort and took it to mean that he was setting the tone in which the story will unfold. I remember feeling both intrigued and uneasy because I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this story won’t end in a happily ever after. In fact, I think I stopped reading a couple of chapters from the end because I couldn’t take it.

WUS!

I know! But  did skim ahead because as much as I couldn’t bring myself to read it all the way through, I wanted to see what happened to our cast of characters and, at the time, I felt it was a sin to not finish reading book.

And I chose this book for a high school book report my sophomore year. It was to draw a movie poster of the book you’re reading and I’m not an artist so I didn’t finish it (that and I was also a procrastinator so I didn’t really start drawing my poster until the morning it was due) but I did draw out what I wanted. I drew the prison house and the rose bush. My idea was to highlight the rose bush somehow.

This book opened my mind to the possibility of reading other classical works and I am forever grateful that this Nathaniel decided to right a book, and that his parents decided to name him Nathaniel.

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, (Eldritch Press, 1999)  Accessed January 21, 2016, http://www.eldritchpress.org/nh/sl01.html.

Photo credit: Fiction Writers Review

Movie 411: Age of Adeline

Directed by: Lee Toland Kieger

Screenplay: J. Mills Goodloe (Best of Me) & Salvador Paskowitz

Released: April 24, 2015

Rated: PG-13

Genre: Drama, Romance (I’m thinking it may be worth while to add this)

The Hook: Imagine being long-lived?

I was debating what movie I should review for this post and I admit, I went back and forth for a while. I’m planning and doing reviews for all, but which one did I really want to review first? You know? Well, as you may have guessed, The Age of Adeline took this round.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested in this one. I was hooked from the moment I saw the trailer. There’s something … bittersweet when time and romance are involved, whether it be time-travel, immortal, or in this case long-lived.

Summary: Due to a several coincidences that occurred all at once–including a car accident, weird weather, and genetic make up–Adaline stopped aging at the age of 29. At first, she thought it was just because she took good care of herself, healthy diet and exercise. But a traffic stop at the age of 45 and the cop second-guessing her age, asking her to bring her birth certificate to the office, Adaline knew something was off. So she left her daughter, who was in the middle of college and could easily pass off as her sister, and ran. After extensive health research, she confirmed her suspicions that she just was right, all while trying to ditch people who were trying to “study” her. On the run, she meets the second love of her life but due to her condition she had to run. Fast forward around fifty years and she meets her third love of her life, against her logical judgement. She can’t help falling in love with him, as he did with her. And fate, or destiny, or whatever you want to call it, takes another sudden twist that makes Adaline question the walls and choices she’s made.

Review: #SpoilerAlert #JustSayin

I enjoyed this story. I’m not going to lie. Like I mentioned about, imagine what it would be like to withstand time? To never age. To know you’ll never get old. I mean, stop and think about that for a bit. The loneliness you must feel at times, knowing you could never grow old. Sure it has it’s perks. You’ll be near immortal. You can see things. Learn things. Do so many different things. But to never share a finite life with someone? To outgrow them? I mean, wow. Do we really not want to grow old if you don’t have anyone to share that with?

So, yes, I love this story. It’s not necessarily original, but it’s another perspective on that well-worn question of immortality.

With that said, I do think it was just a tad bit weak. I know, I know, but I need to be honest. Some parts seemed a little slow moving and there were other parts where I felt the story could have been strengthened just a little more, whether it was elaborating a little on her second love or perhaps giving us a little more story on her third, I can’t say. I just felt that a lot was left off the table.

I enjoyed the way the story was put together. It’s pretty straight-foward, but there are key moments in the story that a narrator steps in, very briefly, and that adds a nice touch to the film. Camera work is done well. As mentioned, it’s pretty straight forward with nothing too fancy. There’s an old-timey feel to film which is nice. It really does feel timeless.

That leaves the acting. Blake Lively is … well, awesome. She does have that ageless look to her and she does so well carrying the weight of this film in Adaline. She does “sadness” well and I loved the way she carried classy. I loved her chemistry with Anthony Ingruber (Young William Jones) more than I did with Michael Huisman (Ellis Jones), but it’s really a matter of preference than it is acting, I think. And what can I say about Harrison Ford? He did his part exactly as it should be: loosing his mind, then not loosing his mind, then acceptance, then shock, and then back to acceptance. You could tell both Adaline and William take their own trips down memory lane as they come to grips with the current reality. And of course, Ellen Burstyn (Flemming, Adeline’s daughter). It’s a well-rounded cast and they did a nice job moving the film along.

It’s a beautifully down movie that’s enjoyable. It did lack that “stunning” quality, but I would watch it again for the fact that it does nostalgia nicely. It makes you appreciate that your life is finite. It is drama so it runs a little slow and is a bit touchy-feely, but if you can handle that, I’d go for it.

Movie 411: Woman In Gold

Directed by: Simon Curtis (David Cooperfield – 1999)

Screenplay by: Alexi Kaye Campbell (first credit as a writer)

Rated: PG-13

Released: April 10th, 2015

The Hook: Art and World War II

I admit, this movie was never on my radar until a patron returned it to the Circulation Desk letting us know it froze in the middle of the movie (ICYMI, I work at a library). Doing my duty, I popped it into the computer to double check it and I minimize it to a small screen while I continue with other work. And just so you know, I mute it. Every now and then I’d glance in that corner to make sure it was still playing and what captured my interest was they kept showing art work and then I saw Nazi flags. This got me thinking, “what movie is this?”

So I read the summary.

And then I was hooked.

And then I went home to watch it with sound and subtitles.

And now I’m writing a review.

Because it was a good movie.

A really good movie.

Based on true events.

Summary: The story takes place in 1998, or thereof, with flashbacks of the World War II era, just before the Nazi’s took over Austria. It follows the story of Marie Altman (Helen Mirren). Her sister died and she inherited her things which included some letters between her sister and a lawyer in Austria. The letters discuss some family paintings the Nazis stole but now sat in an art gallery in Austria, including the beloved painting of her aunt which is known to the world as “Woman In Gold.” Marie heard some discussion about the art restitution laws in Austria changing and decided to ask a family friend’s son, who is a lawyer, to look into it to see if she had a case.

What started out as a possible big payday for Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) turns into an emotional journey that becomes personal and close to the heart as he and Marie take a trip to Austria to build a case against the gallery to return those treasured paintings to the rightful owner.

Review: This seriously gave me the feels. Tugs at your heart is what it does.

The overall story is just … wow. It’s based on actual events and the personal experience of Marie Altman. And since it’s based on actual events, I can’t really comment much on originality, plot, and design except that the screenplay was well-written. As with any film based on actual events, the exactness of events are embellished in the film, but the overall facts remain the same. I’m not judging on how close they kept to actual events; just want to make that clear. The story flowed from one scene to another and I think the flashbacks weren’t overdone. They added to the story and enhanced the journey. It didn’t override it like some films do. It added just the right amount of history to appreciate the journey Marie was taking to reclaim her past and face her demons.

The camera work was also done well. There’s not much call for flashiness or special effects, but the filters for the flashbacks were nicely done. It added the feel of a flashback without taking away from the “reality” of it. Camera placements didn’t detract from the storytelling either. The sets were beautiful and costumes where nicely done. Again, I’m not judging on historical accuracy so if the costumes had some historical mistakes it’s overlooked for the fact that it did its job; it made you understand when you were in 1998 and when you were around the 1940s.

The acting. My gosh, this film had two favorite stars: Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. I don’t think I can say more than that. Helen Mirren did an outstanding job, as always and Ryan Reynolds added just the right amount of charm with the movie as serious as it is. They played their parts well. And I just have to say that I loved seeing King Edward IV (Max Irons) in this? I loved Max Irons in the White Queen. Just binge-watched that this weekend and so it was nice to see he segued into a film with two of my favorite stars. Katie Holmes did well as a supporting role to Reynolds. I haven’t seen her in a while and I liked seeing her.

Verdict: I loved this movie. I can watch it again and again. Art and history. Love them. But times are changing. I don’t know if I’d actually buy the DVD to add to my physical library. It’s definitely a must-see for any movie lover, especially those who love drama, who love art, and who love history.

Credits: IMDb for movie credits, MovieInsider for movie poster, & Deadline.com for “Woman In Gold” portrait.

Movie 411: Jurassic World

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow 
Screenplay by: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Colin Trevorrow, & Derrick Connolly
Rated: PG-13
Released: June 12, 2015
The Hook: Because Jurassic Park came out over twenty years ago and it was awesome.

Plot Summary: Two brothers visit their aunt who is a top-level employee of Jurassic Park. The aunt is busy doing her thing. She’s running her park, especially overseeing their latest experiment which is a genetic making of a new species of dinosaur. This new dinosaur breaks loose and wrecks havoc on the park. There are deaths and chase scenes, and if I’m being honest, seems almost like a reboot of the first one, but not. Does that make sense?

Anyway, as I mentioned, it seems almost like a reboot, but not one because there are a lot of new elements that are “refreshed” old elements. It just feels like history repeats itself, except with a new, bigger and badder dinosaur. I have to admit, even though a lot of things are similar to the original movie, it was still pretty cool to watch. I was excited throughout the whole movie. I mean, what kid wasn’t fascinated by at least one dinosaur growing up? Plus, they touch on genetics. They skim over the pros and cons of experimenting. I understand that some of the terminology or ideas may be completely fabricated (it’s fiction, after all, and not a scientific documentary) and way off base, but the underlying principle (should we be messing around with genetic mutations?) is still there. You still discuss the ethics behind this kind of science and I think that’s what fascinates me the most. The directors of the park wanted a bigger and better monster, but at what costs? And how much is too much. If you are thinking it’s a totally new take on an old tale, you may be disappointed. It’s more like an old tale “refreshed” for a newer generation of dinosaur-loving geeks.

I admit. I have to watch it again to get a better feel of the graphics. Overall, I love the cinematography. It had a good action flick feel to it which is one of my favorite kinds of feeling. The filters did seem a little dark, but I think this can go into the “need-to-watch-again-to-be-sure” category as well.

The acting … let me just say while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t spectacular either. I did enjoy Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard separately, but together–#spoileralert–it just felt like they didn’t have the right chemistry that supposedly gets them together at the end. I’m sorry, I didn’t feel it. It was kind of like Anakin Skywalker and Princes Leia. I mean, you know they’re love interests and you can accept that they’ll eventually get together, but you can’t quite process the why or how. You just accept it. But, like I said, I enjoyed their respective roles. I did like the sibling bond between Ty Simkins and Nick Robinson. That’s how brothers are supposed to act. If I had to grade the overall acting, it would be a B.

I was excited for this movie. I’m happy I got a chance to watch it, but it’s one of those movies where you just have to watch it again, just to be sure of how you actually feel towards it. Until I do, this one sits on the border. I’d probably add it to my movie collection because the entire Jurassic Park franchise is a classic and a must-have if you’re a movie buff. On the other hand, if I was new to the franchise, I’d probably hold off buying thing this immediately. As of now, it’d be in the rental or Netflix category and not necessarily a must-add to my personal collection.

Photo Credit: https://barfanibaba.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/jurassic-world-poster-4-4-l_cover.jpg?w=593

Updated 07/21/15 – grammatical editing