Reference Overdose! Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Review

After seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story my initial reaction was positive; I enjoyed it. However, as I reflected on the experience I discovered many significant flaws. In terms of world building the film is brilliant, but I thought the story and characters (the most vital elements of any piece) could’ve been a lot stronger.

Rogue One is essentially a prequel to A New Hope; it tells the story of Jyn Erso, a young woman who joins a group of resistance fighters to steal the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance.

It was obvious to me that the Original Trilogy was just a single story out of thousands in a shared world. Even though we only see the Galactic Civil War from the perspective of several characters, it’s clear that the Empire is ruling and oppressing hundreds of other worlds.

rogue-one-pic
Tastes like raw chicken…..

Rogue One shows us some of those worlds such as Jedha. This desert world is shown in the trailers so I’m not spoiling anything by examining it.

With a Star Destroyer always hovering over the capital city and Stormtroopers constantly stopping and searching civilians, the film visualises the fascist regime the Empire has established more clearly than the previous films. Throughout the sequence in the Jedha city there’re always little visuals reminding you of the Empire’s presence, even something as minor as Stormtroopers in the background.

The characters are quite weak, we don’t get to know their desires or backstories. They’re pretty vague hence difficult to empathize with.

Jyn Erso’s character however has the most development. Parts of her history are a bit unclear but we know that her father, who she hasn’t seen since she was a child, is a lead engineer on the Death Star. Jyn wants to track him down both for the weapon’s weakness and a reunion with her parent.

This plotline could’ve been stronger but Rogue One deserves credit for implementing such an emotionally engaging subplot in a story with an action-orientated premise.

The referencing is very gratuitous. Some of it is appropriate such as the appearances of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, however there are many references that feel forced. They are very distracting and makes Rouge One feel artificial.

In conclusion, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story presents an amazing view of the Star Wars universe but with weak characterizations its certainly not one of the best entries in the series.

I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a decent 6 out of 10.

UPDATE: Sorry for the lack of content recently, Uni and life are to blame but I haven’t got nothing, I have put some new stuff out there for you guys.

I’ve got a new article up on MoviePilot about ‘Enemy Mine’, one of my favorite films so go ahead and check that out. Also look on my Facebook Page for some illustrations I’ve posted, let me know what you think. Should I get a Deviantart account?

Unfortunately I haven’t had the time do any stuff for YouTube this Christmas but feel free to check out the little special I did last year.

Anyways, there should be more to come in this last week or so, so keep a look out. Hope you’re all having a Merry Christmas!

Thanks,

Luke

Meh, It Does Its Job. Doctor Strange (2016) Review

Dr Strange is an engaging superhero film with a unique world and mythology, however in terms of story it conforms to the effective but predictable origin story.

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a surgeon who loses the use of his hands in a car accident. Seeking for a cure he joins an enclave in Nepal but he discovers that the group is an army of sorcerers, preparing to battle a dark force bent on destroying reality.

dr-strange-pic
PFFFT.

Stephen pretty much goes through the same arc as Tony Stark did in the first Iron Man film. He starts as an annoying egotist and by the end is an empathetic savior. Unlike Tony who was in love with indulgence, Stephen is in love with his work. He just wants to fix his hands so he can be a surgeon again. He’s a well written character.

The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) is also pretty well written. She’s Strange’s teacher and you’d think she’d be the stereotypical film mentor who is all wise with no personal flaws. Not in this film. I won’t spoil anything but I will state that her past actions viciously contradict the code of the enclave. She’s an original take on the mentor archetype.

The other characters however are your standard archetypes. They’re a bit two-dimensional but I don’t think they’re supposed to be anything more considering how minor their roles are. There’s the love interest (Rachel McAdams), the comic relief (Benedict Wong) and the monstrous villain (Mads Mikkelsen).

As someone who’s unfamiliar with the comics I liked the film’s mythology. It showed a world where magic is a practical, scientific ability that has to be taught and practiced. I appreciated how unique the world was especially in the age of Harry Potter, those books and films had a major influence on how worlds of sorcery are constructed.

The main issue I had with Dr Strange was how similar it was to previous Marvel films. The structure was so familiar the film became predictable. For example, the opening scene shows the villain breaking into a compound and stealing the McGuffin of the film. Avengers, Captain America, Ant-Man and Thor: The Dark World pretty much all have the exact same opening.

Despite the recycled plot Dr Strange does bring some good characters and unique concepts to the table and is a must see if you want to keep up to date on the MCU. I recommend it.

I give Dr Strange a good 7 out of 10.

UPDATE: Sorry about the lack of content over the last few weeks, been busy with Uni as usual. In case you didn’t see them I put up a new article on MoviePilot, it’s a list of 3 actors who’d be better playing Captain Planet than Don Cheadle.

I also managed to crank out a Metalico Halloween video, I know it’s November but I’d appreciate it if you all checked it out.

Hope you’re all having a good 2016. -Luke

 

There’re Some Positives…SOME. Blair Witch (2016) Review

I understand the large negative response Blair Witch has received with its unoriginal plot, cliché characterizations and cheap scares. However, I don’t think the film is as awful as everyone says it is. For the most part it’s an above-average horror film but it does have some good elements that deserve to be recognized.

This sequel to the 1999 original is about a student leading a group of his friends into the woods hoping to find his sister (Heather from the first film). As they get deeper into the forest time distorts and all hell breaks loose as the legend herself attacks.

blair-witch-pic

Right, positives first. The film features some unique and truly disturbing ideas, the best being one of the students getting a wound in her foot that widens and cuts deeper by itself. This makes for some graphic scenes that I thought were genuinely cringe worthy.

While many people have criticized Blair Witch’s lack of subtly I actually appreciated it. The thing I love (and hate to an extent) about films like Donnie Darko, Cloverfield and the Five Nights At Freddy’s games is the thirst for answers they leave me with. The Blair Witch Project is another example. I wanted to know what made those sounds in the woods, I wanted to know if the witch was real.

Blair Witch provides answers but also leaves some mystery. We learn more about the blair witch mythology, see how time is distorted and, without giving too much away, get a glimpse at what could be the witch herself. I know a lot of people feel this film ruined the mystery of the original but I wanted answers and I praise Blair Witch for being creative and providing those answers.

Now onto the negatives. I think most of the characters are boring. I wasn’t expecting them to have fully fleshed out personalities but I thought they should’ve felt like real, everyday students like in the original.

James, the student looking for his sister, is obviously a horror film everyman like Ben in Night of the Living Dead or Billy in Gremlins. He leads the group and unsurprisingly survives most of the film. His character feels very inappropriate for the realistic blair witch aesthetic. Peter is the comic relief. He presents a confident and jokey persona, which makes him feel even more out of place than James.

The film features an annoyingly large amount of fake jump scares. Every time someone comes back to the camp or walks into shot there’s a jump scare. I personally thought this technique lost its effect years ago. Everyone knows about it now. I think modern horror audiences are too advanced to be scared by it, yet in Blair Witch there are countless fake jump scares.

Overall despite the unique ideas and revelations I think the film’s negatives outweigh the positives. If you’re a fan of the original and want to see more of the mythology I’d recommend it but if you’re looking for something as good as the original I’d avoid it.

I give Blair Witch a mediocre 4 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got another new article up on MoviePilot. This one’s about Babylon 5, a space opera from the 90s I’m really into, you can see it right here.

BEAUTIFUL!!! Anomalisa (2016) Review

Like Motivational Growth, I think Anomalisa is something you witness rather than experience. The film won’t have you shedding tears at any point however the themes and ideas will stick with you for days. I wasn’t sure if I liked Anomalisa when I first saw it but that was nearly a week ago and after some reflection, I think it’s quite magical.

This stop-motion drama directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson tells the story of Michael Stone, an inspirational speaker who lives in a dull reality where everyone has the same face. While staying at a hotel he meets Lisa, a quirky young woman with a unique appearance and voice. Michael immediately falls in love with her but as he spends time with Lisa he begins to make some unflattering discoveries.

anomalisa-pic
Couldn’t get a good quality pic of the poster so I thought I’d just use a still. 

Michael isn’t a likeable character. He’s cynical and a bit antisocial. The first half of the film is all about establishing the world. Through that we begin to understand Michael and the state he’s in. The world bores him. He feels guilty about ending a good relationship for reasons he’s unsure of. We feel empathy for him rather than sympathy, this makes his scenes with Lisa very engaging.

When Lisa enters the story we get an engaging but slightly concerning insight of Michael’s true character. She turns Michael’s world upside down, he’s absolutely mesmerized by her. At this point we see a different side of Michael. He’s polite to Lisa most of the time but occasionally comes across as controlling and even creepy. He eventually forms a decent relationship with Lisa.

The rest of the film expands on Michael’s issues and leads to a haunting conclusion. I won’t spoil it but I will say that it suggests that Michael may somehow be responsible for the mundane world he sees every day.

I think Anomalisa is uniquely mesmerizing; it has an empathetic protagonist who we’re constantly fascinated with and a fantastic surreal world. I highly recommend it for everyone.

I give Anomalisa an incredible 10 out of 10.    

An Underground Gem Everyone Has To See. Motivational Growth (2013) Review

I think Motivational Growth is almost like a modern Eraserhead. It’s a unique and strange film that deserves much more attention, there’re so many interpretations that can be extracted from it.

This independent film tells the story of Ian, a depressed man who has remained in his apartment for over a year with only Kent, his old TV, as company. After failing suicide Ian discovers a mould that has formed in his bathroom.

The mould starts talking and motivates Ian to get his life back together. However, the mould has other intentions, intentions that may become very unpleasant for Ian.

motivational-growth-pic
DAYUM.

Motivational Growth isn’t really an emotional experience but I don’t think its supposed to be. Its more like something you witness. You absorb the characters and dialogue and plot beats as they are and make your own judgment.

Now don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t so vague that it becomes a meaningless, pretentious student art-film. There are a few clear themes that I think most people can recognize.

For example, depression is a key element in the story.

At the very beginning its established that Ian is in a paralyzed state. From the monologues he delivers to the audience we learn of the quality of his life, how getting up from the sofa and going to the toilet is the highlight of his day.

If that isn’t a display of depression Ian’s apartment pretty much visualizes his state. The place is a mess; the floor, tables and sofa are covered in takeaway boxes.

Another clear theme that I think everyone can recognize and relate to is the overall, ruthless shittiness of life.

We don’t know why Ian has locked himself away but we know that he’s terrified of the outside world. In his monologues he almost justifies his isolated life. He points to the door and tells us that we could get killed out there. As he does as the mould suggests, trying to ‘improve’ his life it seems that his life just gets worse.

I won’t spoil it but I will say that Motivational Growth deserves a larger audience. People should be talking about it and sharing theories because I’ve only scratched the surface of the amount of ideas and material in the film.

Motivational Growth is a dark, funny, twisted and extraordinary film and I highly recommend it for everyone.

I give it a fantastic 8 out of 10.

Seriously. See it!!!

 

NOICE. Sandman A Game of You (1993) Review

While it’s not as good as Seasons of Mists, I think A Game of You is the best of both worlds in that it works as both a standalone story and part of a larger arc.

This fifth volume of the Sandman series centers around a woman (Barbara) re-entering her childhood dream land. She discovers that it has been conquered by an evil entity known as the ‘Cuckoo’. While she journeys through the land with a trio of odd friends, her friends in the waking world try to intervene and save her.

The main plot concerning Barbara’s journey is charmingly simple, very reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz. It’s a nice addition considering how complex most Sandman stories can be.

sandman 5 pic
Not gonna lie, I’m starting to run out of ideas for these pictures.

Morpheus is more of a supporting character in A Game of You. The story is mainly focused on a different cast of characters, all of which are beautifully diverse.

For example, Barbara made her first appearance in Doll’s House. In that volume we saw that she was mysteriously overoptimistic and jolly. In this story she has broken up with her husband, hasn’t dreamt in years and can’t remember anything about her childhood. Her life’s a wreck.

So when she enters her dream land Barbara rediscovers her optimistic childhood world and also discovers how her imagination and past led to the state she’s in today. Her backstory and the situation she’s thrown into make her a very compelling character.

Thessaly, one of Barbara’s neighbors, is another great character. She obviously knows a lot about the Cuckoo and Morpheus’ world, who or what she is is never revealed but you want to find out.

Hazel and Foxglove, the other neighbors, have a vicious conflict when Hazel reveals she slept with a man. While they come across as mostly stereotypical lesbians, their conflict elevates them from this into a decent couple who may not function well together.

Overall apart from some underdeveloped characters, the characters that are developed I think make A Game of You a strong entry in the Sandman series. I just hope that future volumes are more like Doll’s House and Season of Mists. 

I give A Game of You a strong 7 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got a new video up, this one’s a Counsellor 6 which you can see right here. This’ll probably be the last video I’ll have out for a while as I’m going back to Uni this month so please check it out! In the mean time, there shouldn’t be any shortage of reviews and articles so keep an eye on Duffhood for future updates 🙂

 

Oh dear. Suicide Squad (2016) Review

Its difficult to say anything that hasn’t already been said about Suicide Squad. While I think its a mediocre film, I do have a few positive things to say about it.

For starters the film is vastly superior to Man of Steel and Batman V Superman in terms of character development.

Deadshot, for example, is a hitman struggling to maintain his relationship with his daughter. He’s shown to be a conflicted character, wanting to survive the mission so he can redeem himself in the eyes of his daughter.

Now Deadshot won’t have you tearing up, but compared to the bland characters in the previous DC films he makes Suicide Squad quite engaging.

suicide squad pic

Harley Quinn is also an interesting character. She adores the Joker and wants to be with him again, even though its quite obvious their relationship is driven by obsession and madness. She’s a tragic individual and I wanted to see more of her story.

I should say I actually didn’t mind Jared Leto’s Joker.

I can understand people’s complaints about him being inaccurate to what he is in the comics but I appreciated that he was a less conventional interpretation. I thought him being a psychopathic gangster was a good, original take on the character.

The great problem with Suicide Squad is the structure.

Like Batman V Superman there are too many characters and backstories to make a clear, emotionally-engaging narrative.

Deadshot and Harley Quinn get the most development but their stories are overshadowed by six other characters and backstories.

If a couple of subplots were cut I think the film would’ve felt a lot more defined.

Despite the cluttered structure, Suicide Squad is the best cinematic effort from DC so far and suggests that perhaps we may see a DC film that’s on par with the Marvel films…some day.

I give Suicide Squad a worthy 5 out of 10.

It Just Gets Better and Better! Sandman Season of Mists (1992) Review

Sandman Season of Mists is another great volume in the same vein as Doll’s House.

Centuries ago Morpheus fell in love with a woman called Nada. He sent her to hell for rejecting his offer of becoming his queen. During a meeting, the Endless argue that what he did was unfair.

Morpheus agrees and journeys to Hell to get Nada back. However, when he gets there he sees that Hell is changing and soon discovers that he has a larger, more delicate responsibility.

sandman 4 pic
Delicious.

One issue I had with the previous volumes was the presentation of Morpheus. I didn’t think he was very empathetic and never got challenged in any of the stories.

Season of Mists is better in this respect. Morpheus is emotionally involved in the arc, he wants to rescue his love and apologize to her.

Now I wasn’t shedding tears for Morpheus but I certainly empathised with him more than I did in the first three volumes.  

Another strength of Season of Mists is the world. We get to see a whole lot more of the Sandman universe.

We see all of the Endless; what they look like, what they represent.

We learn more about Hell; how old and vast is it, where the demons come from, the responsibilities of Lucifer.

One significant problem I had was the ending to Morpheus and Nada’s arc. I won’t spoil it but I will say that it was sudden and didn’t get as much development as I was anticipating.

Overall, the Sandman series has just been getting better and better. With a more empathetic protagonist and greater insights into it’s world, Season of Mists is another fantastic story arc.

I give Season of Mists a strong 8 out of 10.  

Pegg Gets It Right. Star Trek Beyond (2016) Review

Star Trek Beyond, in my view, is the best Trek film from the rebooted series so far.

It maintains a pretty good balance of character-driven scenes and thrilling action sequences, while wittily and subtly paying tribute to the original series.

Three years into their five-year mission, the Enterprise is attacked and the crew is forced to take refuge on an uncharted planet.They discover the attack was directed by Krall, an alien dictator searching for an ancient artifact to use as a part of a bioweapon.  With the majority of the crew held in Krall’s camp, Kirk, Spock and their small army must overthrow Krall before he can complete his bioweapon.

The story has a charming, Star Treky feel to it. Beyond is basically a new episode from the original series, with more development and budget.

Star Trek Beyond pic
So much right.

There’re no intergalactic wars or gigantic end-of-the-universe-battles, just a simple, small conflict between two fractions on a planet.

The restricted setting allows more room for character development, giving the new crew some fantastic scenes.

Kirk is smarter and more mature. He feels more of a captain and less of a student, which makes him easier to invest in.

Spock also receives some good adjustments. His relationship with Uhura gets less attention in the plot, letting Spock embark on a different, more personal arc.

This isn’t a spoiler but it is revealed that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has died. Throughout the film Spock worries about his species’ mortality. He considers leaving Starfleet to continue Ambassador Spock’s work on New Vulcan.

Unlike Star Trek Into Darkness, which just shoehorned iconic quotes from The Wrath of Khan, the referencing is handled a lot better. Very much like The Force Awakens, the references are used as conversational mentions of the film’s universe, races, worlds and technology.

The only problem with the film is the villain. I thought Krall was a bit dull. He has a good motive but he isn’t fleshed out enough to be more interesting or three-dimensional.

Despite the bland villain however Star Trek Beyond transcends the first two films in terms of story, character and referencing. It’s a clever and fun journey and I recommend it.

I give Star Trek Beyond a strong 8 out of 10.

UPDATE: I’ve got another video up, this one’s got Captain Sweden in it. I thought it was about time I did something with that character. You can see the new video right here and you see original here.

 

 

Let’s Get This Over With. Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Despite the dreadful anticipation the film has gotten from the media, Ghostbusters does get a few things right but as a comedy the film is as mediocre as the trailers suggest.

This reboot sees a group of female scientists teaming up to catch a number of ghosts across New York City. They soon discover that these hauntings are linked by a mysterious criminal planning to open a vortex that will unleash an army of dead spirits.

With the Mayor against them the girls try to take on the army themselves before the spirits take over the world.

One thing the film does that the original didn’t is show the group’s growth from amateur scientists to professional exterminators.

Ghostbusters pic
Keep reading. Its not perfect.

The film starts with them just experimenting in a rented room, then developing and testing their equipment and getting a new place.

I was hoping this growth would continue through the whole film like Batman Begins, but unfortunately the arc comes to a premature conclusion within the first hour when the group suddenly get their signature uniforms, weapons and car.

The film’s antagonism is also unique. Unlike the previous films where the antagonists were simply demonic entities with an army of random spirits, the reboot’s villain is a man trying to release an army gradually.

All the ghosts in the film have a purpose. They don’t just appear at random to put the team into action, they’re attacks from a bigger threat, that gets stronger and more dangerous until the team encounters the antagonist himself.

Ghostbusters works as a decent supernatural, action film. Whether it works as a comedy however depends on your sense of humor.

If you laughed at Trainwreck or Special Correspondents or any of Judd Apatow’s stuff, then you’ll like the Ghostbusters reboot.   

For me the comedy wasn’t great. It consisted of pop culture references, sexual innuendos and awkward banter. It wasn’t a fun watch.

In conclusion the Ghostbusters reboot does succeed in differentiating itself from the original but ultimately fails as a comedy. I wouldn’t recommend it.

I give Ghostbusters a mediocre 3 out of 10.

UPDATE: I have a new article on MoviePilot which you can see right here. Its a list of 5 horror sequels that we’re all waiting to see. Check it out and see if you agree with some of the choices.