Rogue One - Manchester By The Sea - Hell Or High Water
It's finally here! The movie we've been waiting for since last December! Now we can finally see the backstory behind the tragedy that jettisoned Casey Affleck's humble New England family life into a tailspin! Sit back, relax and enjoy the Bostonian fan service (oh, the accents!) in Disney's Manchestah One: A Wicked Pissah Story.
Oh, and Rogue One came out, too.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
I've been living under a rock, what is this? This is the first step towards Disney having a Marvel Universe franchise on their hands, as they plan on releasing multip- wait, what did you say? Disney already owns Marvel Studios as well? Oh, ok... Let me start again.
This is the second step towards Disney having another multi-billion dollar franchise of countless movies and sequels and spin offs and - Wait, they own Pixar too, right?
This is the third step towards Disney having a....
SO, HOWWWWWW WAS IT? It is a totally fine action movie. The final battle sequence on Jamaica Planet was pretty rad. I don't even hold it against them for having palm trees in Star Wars. I mean it makes sense, if the Empire had to build a base somewhere, why not choose the tropical resort? There are even Beachtroopers (couldn't tell if they were wearing tactical cargo shorts)! Anyway, the second half of this movie was totally legit. The ending (and I mean the ending before CGI Carrie Fisher) was pretty freaking great. It wasn't what you'd expect out of a Star Wars movie, as it was dark and downright depressing even.
But theeeeeeeen, there was that whole first half. Which I found sloppy as hell. And slightly boring (but not full on boring). I think it didn't help that most of the characters were boring, one-note archetypes. I'm not sure if the actors did the best they could with the material given, or if the material given was brought down by the actors? I'm going to guess the former, but I didn't really have an attachment to many of the characters in this movie.
I know a lot of people loved Comic Relief Droid 2000, but I actually most enjoyed Forest Whitaker's bizarre voice acting decisions and Donnie Yen's blind wise man role which he seemed to actually be having fun with (unlike most everyone else). One person who shouldn't have been included at all is back-from-the-dead CGI Grand Moff Tarkin who, despite pretty impressive computer technology, only looked 90% human and distracted me to no end. I don't even remember a line of dialogue he said in the movie because I was just staring at how weird it was to computer animate a dead guy for a spin-off movie.
People who also didn't need to be included were the drunken pig nosed guy from Mos Eisley, C-3PO and R2D2, and Jimmy Smits. The only fan service throwback role I actually enjoyed was Darth Vader, and not just because Darth Vader is cool in general, but because they *actually* did something neat with him at the end of the movie. If this movie did anything legitimately worthwhile as a lead-in to A New Hope, it was establishing a justifiable fear of Darth Vader for the rebellion.
But I don't know, I thought it was a good movie; definitely not a great movie. This is proof that I don't have to love something simply because it's a Star Wars product (I mean, I didn't even like the prequels [to this prequel]). Let's see if this helps illustrate my reaction to Rogue One... I saw Force Awakens three (maybe four?) times in theaters, and it genuinely excited me. For Rogue One on the other hand, I don't plan on going back to the theaters for even a second time. I'll watch it again when it's on Blu-ray, but... ...it just kind of lacks the excitement needed for mouth-watering repeat big screen viewings that I don't even expect necessarily out of just a Star Wars movie, but out of like, *any* movie.
Would you recommend it to me? Sure. If you're a Star Wars fan, you've probably already seen it, so I don't need to recommend it to you. If you're not, and you're on the fence about it, I would say that you will be entertained (especially by the end), and you won't regret seeing it, but you probably won't be blown away. I anticipate this, and a lot of the other spin-off movies, will be like the Ant-Mans of the Star Wars universe. They're alright, entertaining enough, but yeah, they're just kinda there to hold you over until they bring out the big projects. I wouldn't call this a cash grab, because actual effort appeared to be put into it, but it also didn't feel entirely like a passion project either.
MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
This sounds boring, what is this? I literally knew nothing about this movie other than looking at the poster once, and vaguely hearing it had good word of mouth. Sometimes it's nice to go into something completely blind to the marketing for it and just figuring it out as it goes along. For all I knew, this was going to be boring awards bait, like Mr. Turner or something. When I learned it was about a depressed Boston janitor who hates the world, I was 100% invested.
So, you liked it? No, I kinda loved it. It was easily the most emotionally moving experience I had at the theater this year. I like when movies try to make my eyes water up, but I like it even better when they do it without (seemingly) trying that hard. Don't get me wrong, this was one of the most depressing movies I've possibly ever seen, and at the same time I probably laughed out loud a dozen times throughout this, too. The writing and atmosphere, and balance between the light-hearted and heart breaking tones of this film were off the charts.
And they don't challenge the audience's intelligence by over-explaining everything. They give you just enough that you need to know, sometimes with just a vague visual cue, and they let you formulate the story yourself. This is a fantastic example of how to write a good drama movie where they have a bunch of characters, and all of them have different things going on, yet at no point did I feel like they were overwhelming me with needless plot lines. I was actually invested in (all) the characters' lives, and at almost 2 hours and 20 minutes, I probably would have sat there if they kept it going to three hours.
And oh man, the acting... Nuts! If Casey Affleck doesn't win the Oscar, I'll be super angry. Mind you, he did a insanely good job acting in a role that isn't based off a real person or from a book adaptation. That should give him extra points. But I give credit to everyone in this, as they all tore it up. Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Gretchen Mol; they're all great in this. Buuuuuuuuut, yeah, *especially* Casey Affleck.
I don't think I really had a realistic favorite to win a bunch of Academy Awards in 2016 that I would be cool with, since everything has just kind of been "Yeah, ok, I guess that could win?" But now I have something to root for.
Would you recommend it to me? Yes I would, but only on the condition that you acknowledge that you're walking into an intentionally slow-paced, very sad film with amazing character development and top-notch acting. This is a human experience kind of movie, and you have to commit to the full emotional roller coaster, or you'll just come back and tell me that you fell asleep. If you're looking for crazy bursts of energy out of nowhere and people punching each other repeatedly, well... that actually happens in Manchester By The Sea, too. But if you'd like to see that happen in space, go see the other movie that came out this week.
I feel like kind of a lame film snob in a way for loving this movie more than the one above it. But if you told me a week ago that I'd like a heartbreaking drama about a janitor arranging his brother's funeral more than a new Star Wars movie, I wouldn't have believed you. But here we are.
HELL OR HIGH WATER
What is this? This is the story of two sibling bank robbers in Texas (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) as they STEAL MONEY BACK FROM THE BANKS WHICH STOLE FROM THEM. GET IT? THE BANKS ARE THE BAD GUYS BECAUSE THEY STEAL FROM EVERYONE ELSE. THAT'S THE PREMISE. Sorry, I had to put that in all caps because this movie beats that point over your head repeatedly for 100 minutes.
So, you didn't like it? Nahhhh, not really. I didn't even know what it was until I saw it got nominated for a bunch of Golden Globes, and then I concurrently saw it was available to rent on Playstation Network. My wife was busy with Christmas presents and I had nothing better to do, so I gave it a blind rent. Oh, and I might add that I paused it about an hour into it, took a nap, and finished it later.
Listen, it's not the worst movie ever made, by a long shot, but if a vast majority of people and critics watch this movie and think it's *great*, they are freakin' bonkers.
For starters, this is the least subtle "prestigious" movie of the year (had to include "prestigious", because I also saw a Rob Zombie movie this year). It just tries way too hard to punch you in the face with social commentary. Dumb one liners are present throughout. An old cowboy is explaining to the sheriff (Jeff Bridges) that he saw the boys rob the bank across the street, as he says "We watched them rob the banks that have been robbing us for years". Who says that to a sheriff? The movie even opens up with a shot of graffiti painted on a wall of a deserted building: "$3 billion in bailouts, but none for us".
I'm not saying that this movie *shouldn't* have been about how the banks screwed over the brothers, but I am saying they could have told the story in a more subtle way, and without just directly yelling it in the audience's face. That'd be like if the X-Men movie kept inserting dialogue about how it's actually a metaphor for gay rights. Like, the audience figured it out through good storytelling, not through telling it like it is a dozen times.
Whoever wrote this movie went super heavy on two things: Bank hate, and Native American jokes and/or insight. One soliloquy even tied the two things together! Again, subtlety this movie has not.
All that being said, I enjoyed the parts of this movie that were actually good. There's a handful of parts like that. That t-bone steak scene with the waitress was pretty great.
Would you recommend it to me? I mean, it's not awful. It's just kind of mediocre and unmemorable. If you're looking for Texas cowboy sheriff wisdom in a modern movie, I could probably name you some better examples of things to watch instead. No Country For Old Men is much, much better; off the top of my head.
My daughter asked me what the new Star Wars movie was about. I told her it is about Disney printing more money.
That being said, I was really surprised. This was not like the other Star Wars films. It was the most mature film. Plus I hated the "Indie film" feel it had. You know, where it is the most exciting battle ever and the music is very subtle instead of big and fun like in the other films. As for the sad ending. I still can't believe they did that!
Scott, I have to disagree with you on the pig face bar guy. I thought that cameo was great and I laughed the second I saw him.
Amen on the Darth Vader remarks. I felt that was the scariest and toughest version of Darth Vader ever. I'm surprised you didn't see everyone pee their pants at the end. By the way, I love how they tied that together at the end. I also love how they explained the little things that people complained about in "A New Hope" so there was a legitimate reason for it. I can't say what because that would ruin the film.
May the Force be with you!
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The RedLetter Media guys, Mister Plinkett's "Half in the Bag" crew, did a very perceptive autopsy of this film, and I have to agree with most of what they said. The main thrust of which is, Rogue One was a successful fan service movie that gave fans what they wanted in terms of visuals, but that it lacks a deeper core at the overall story level that contains any overall meaning. There was much said in the fan press about massive re-writes and re-shoots and a completely different third act. Considering what a mess things were behind the scenes in development, what was put together was effective and visually exciting, and I'm sure it will be a commercial success and sell many toys, but overall it is not very moving emotionally.
A lot of Forest Whittaker's story line seems to have been cut in favor of adding more "fan service" references that make for nice audience touchstones but don't move the actual story along. Whittaker's character becomes the caretaker for fugitive child Jyn... and seemingly abandons taking care of her J at some point before the movie begins, because he doesn't want her to become the kind of terrorist criminal he himself has become, but she sees that abandonment, not a as kindness but as disapproval and rejection and betrayal. That stuff is what makes the bones of a believable, relate-able character, but it doesn't sell toys, so they cut it, and in cutting it, they took away what makes you root for and care about the character.
I thought the first reel was pretty jumpy in terms of rapid changes to various locations that didn't really matter that much overall to the story. The heroine is under-developed in her back-story, again, something that looks to have been telescoped in the re-write. Going back to 1977, look at how much development is given to Luke all along the plot of the film, and the same can't be said for Jyn. At the same time, while the art direction is fantastic, something I felt was missing was to give more of a sense of how the galactic empire was getting along and how the people in it were reacting to that. There's a throw-away line or two regarding that, and it was good, but I think the audience needs more.
You guys make too much of the CGI acting; two of the x-wing pilots were also formerly dead actors brought back to reprise their roles, and nobody said boo about them, only about Tarkin and Leia. While I thought they made Leia too tall and chubby-faced for a 19-year-old, I thought Tarkin worked okay, because Tarkin is supposed to be a sort of exaggeration of an archetype anyhow. I just re-watched the 1977 movie and they way overdid his face makeup to skeletonize his face back then.
Overall, I'd rate the film as a successful space opera, but a dramatic failure, even considering the gutsy decision regarding the necessary ending.