Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Remember those secret Death Star plans R2 carried throughout the original Star WarsRogue One: A Star Wars Story is about the Rebels who stole them from the Empire during the darkest of times when the Empire was at its mightiest. The plot sets off with the Rebel Alliance rescuing  Jyn Erso, portrayed by the beautiful and talented Felicity Jones, from an Empire work prison to help contact her father, Galen Erso, played by veteran actor Mads Mikkelsen. Galen is one of the architects who designed the Death Star. The plot rockets away from this moment merrily easing to lightspeed as the movie progresses. Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards and was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Film Score: 4.5 out of 5 (nigh perfect)

Hagood’s Review (Spoilers ahead)

Thanks to Rogue One I now (happily) have a new order to my favorite Star Wars movies: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars, Rogue OneThe Force AwakensReturn of the JediRevenge of the SithClones, Phantom. I found few things wrong with it and a galaxy and a half that I like about it.

I’ll start with my criticisms: not enough character development, especially with Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. I loved them and hurt when they died, but a few minutes more about their backstory would’ve been welcome so the audience could learn why they were kyber crystal guardians and how they came to know one another. Same goes for Cassian and his wonderful sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Also, more screen time for the Imperial defector, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Why did he defect? How close was he with Galen? How did he escape his post? I realize Mr. Edwards, Mr. Weitz, and Mr. Gilroy had to efficiently tell this story and they did a fantastic job of pacing Rogue‘s plot. I’m just being greedy here and wanting another layer to this rich movie.

To discuss my the parts I enjoyed, I’d like to begin by responding to Joe Morgenstern’s review of the movie in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Morgenstern harshly criticized Rogue One stating that the movie’s connections to A New Hope and Revenge of the Sith and its “epic echoes are just about all this production has going for it.” He also called the movie’s action “chaotic” and believed the plot and its characters are all too dour. His critiques are all unfounded. The references to the other movies and Rogue‘s cameos were fun Easter eggs, not its basis. The movie’s character’s, plot, and action all stood on their own. If the Rebels were stealing plans to the design of Darth Vader’s Bacta tank in his Mustafar lair instead of the plans to the Death Star, I would’ve been just as intrigued and entertained. The build up to the movie’s climax and its climax were all well written and executed. Also, Mr. Edwards purposefully harried its action. The Rebels designed their attack to distract the Empire’s security and buy Cassian & Jyn time, not to make a sensical, thought-out attack, and their stern expressions and attitudes were a reflection of their lives under the cruel rule of the galactic Empire. As Cassian told Jyn, he’d been fighting for the Alliance since he was six and he’d done terrible things for the Cause. Jyn had been fending for herself with the crazed Saw since roughly the same age. What does Mr. Morgernstern expect of Jyn and Cassian? A god awful scene of frolicking shenanigans like Anakin and Padme on that field on Naboo? Mr. Edward’s tone for the film was right. It’s a war movie with intense sacrifices. Rogue‘s grimness was a welcome change, especially after Finn’s stupid, way-too-modern humor in The Force Awakens. In fact, the no-man-left-alive was one of my favorite facets about the movie. It revealed Disney is still open to taking risks and not making the family-friendly movie people have come to expect of the company with their live-action remakes and comedic and upbeat Marvel characters. I hope Rian Johnson takes Episode VIII in the same direction.

Please, go see this movie. It’s well worth your time if you are above the age of 10.

Recommended Audience: anyone above the age of ten (if you didn’t read the review, its a darker movie than most Star Wars movies).

Saul’s Review (Spoilers too)

I am glad to add Rogue One to Green Room and Paterson as the few exceptions to a disappointing year for Cinema.

Rogue One is the ideal movie for Star Wars fans who loathed the prequels, but found The Force Awakens to be a little underwhelming.

My expectations for Rogue One were fairly low when I bought my ticket. Following the rushed job that Disney had done slotting Doctor Strange into the Marvel Universe. I was worried that Rogue One would simply be a cash-in to tide audiences over until Episode VIII. Felicity Jones, who portrays Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso, also starred last year in Inferno where Jones’s character and acting stood out as poor. Despite all this, Rogue One is the only major blockbuster I have seen this year that did not disappoint.

Whether by design or coincidence, Rogue One is reminiscent of La Bataille D’Alger, the 1966 film about the Algerian War of Independence from France. The rebels, just like the Algerian freedom fighters, are fighting a superior enemy and take extreme measures to survive. Edwards depicts the Rebellion as a clandestine organisation, willing to kill civilians and its own members if they stray too far. The Empire equalled the rebels with its own infighting, operating like an old European royal court with high ranking officers clambering over one another to seek the Emperor’s ear. During the immediate viewing of the film, I was swept away by Rogue One’s plot. Since then, what has impressed me the most was how the Empire and the Rebellion both internally mirrored and differed from each other.

The rebels constantly felt at a disadvantage throughout Rogue One due to the excellent battle sequences. In every skirmish, the Empire had a clear superiority, with the Rebels clutching at guerrilla tactics and improvisation to stave the Empire off.

Rogue One’s enthusiasm to present the Rebellion in a darker light through Captain Cassian quickly peters out once he is alongside Jyn, with no real explanation why. This is Rogue One‘s sole failing but with such a great plot and cast, it is quickly forgotten.

Finally I remember being terrified of Darth Vader as a child, fast forwarding my VHS tape of A New Hope whenever he appeared. The final scene where Vader storms through the Rebel ship, massacring all within the gloomy corridor, gave me the same sense of dread. I hope Disney makes a Vader spin-off too.

Recommended audience: Die-hard Star Wars fans and anyone who wants to watch a decent blockbuster.

For the trailer see below:



Manchester by the Sea

Film Score: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)

Manchester by the Sea follows the period of life after lonely Lee Chandler’s (Casey Affleck), brother, Joe Chandler (Kyle Chandler), dies. Frequent flashbacks reveal the brothers’ backgrounds and their former lives. The present focuses on Joe’s son, Patrick Chandler (Lucas Hedges), who Joe left under the care of his loner brother. Lee doesn’t want to move from his Boston home to his hometown of Manchester where Patrick’s life is ensconced: he has two girlfriends, an established friend group, an indie band, and is a member of his high school’s hockey team. The movie shows the interactions between the uncle and nephew and their individual reactions to their brother/father’s death. It was written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

This movie is not a holiday movie. It is not a happy movie. While it does have its share of comedic moments, it is a depressing examination of death, love, relationships, parenthood, and family. I was not a fan. But that is not to say the movie was not good or well made. Lonergan deftly portrayed New England, its attitudes, its life, and its scenery. The ensemble-cast phenomenally embodied their roles. Even the tenants of the apartment complex Lee serviced were amazing. So were the regulars at the local pub, as was Joe’s fishing partner, George (C. J. Wilson). Each only had less than a minute of screen time, yet they managed to fully develop themselves in those brief moments. Lonergan’s strongly developed his characters. All had believable and motivating backstories, and I truly felt for each one.

However, at 2 hours and 15 minutes the movie dragged. The dour nature of the film eventually got to me, and with the characters’ few changes in emotion it was tough for me to continue caring for them. Also, Lee had no true revelation at the end. Other characters did, but Lee, at the end of the movie, was just as stoic as he was at the beginning. I desired more character change to all the heartache that I witnessed. I’m certain that this lack of revelation was intentional as Lonergan left out nothing else in this tragedy. However, the movie would have benefitted from such a conclusion or realization by Lee. Side note: I’m purposefully not discussing those moments because they were the most powerful moments of the film and I do not want to spoil them.

I recommend this movie to only serious cinephiles and older audiences. Otherwise, you might get bored in the details of Chandler’s life. It’s a long, slow trek through pain and suffering to arrive right where Chandler began at the beginning of this movie.

By Hagood Grantham

Target audience: mature audiences, cinephiles, & New Englanders.

For the trailer, please see below:


Future Imperfect (Blade Runner 2049) (2017) -Teaser

All those moments are rebooted in time

A Blade Runner sequel has been rumoured for a long time. I was hoping a sequel would never materialise but we live amidst a swathe of reboots, spin-offs and sequels.

The original Blade Runner was in a reality where human sentience had become mass produced, leading to android slaves who were disposed of and hunted by natural humans. Thirty years later, I felt a nagging wave of irony that Blade Runner 2049 has replaced Harrison Ford, who played the original Blade Runner Deckard, with a younger model. Gosling’s character is an updated Deckard, a version that will may reach Blade Runner 2069 before his own ‘retirement’.

Blade Runner was a complete arc that needed no addition. I am wary that this new film is simply a reboot, the vanguard for a cycle of spin offs which belittle the world penned by the great Phillip.K.Dick.

Many have forgotten that Blade Runner was not a box-office smash. The film has become acclaimed over time due to its influence over following generations of filmmakers, writers, film theorists and other creatives. We live in a time where nostalgia is profitable, but if Blade Runner 2049 will match the original, it will have to bear an intellectual profoundness that is starkly different from the nostalgia action experiences of recent years.

I am disheartened that Ridley Scott is only acting as the executive producer for Blade Runner 2049, but Denis Villeneuve is an excellent director who most know for Sicario. His earlier film, Enemy, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in a tale of doppelgangers, proves that Villeneuve is willing to make films that challenge viewers.

The new film is still going to be set in the 1980’s conception of L.A in the near but radically different future. In the trailer, Gosling’s character ventures outside of L.A., into some hazardous hinterland where the environment has become a dust-bowl. Having read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? four years before watching Blade Runner, I am curious to see how much of the land beyond L.A will be formed from the book, a world ravaged by Soviet-American nuclear war.

Blade Runner is a statement about existence, reality and whether we can leave a legacy after we die. Every time I watch the original, I am both relieved and unsettled, unable to answer all the questions the film raises. If Blade Runner 2049 does not deliver the same reaction, I hope it is forgotten, like tears in rain.

By Saul Shimmin



Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Film Score: 1.5 out of 5 (Poor)

Newt Scaramander (Eddie Redmayne) is a British wizard and expert of magical creatures, who has arrived in New York and is bound for Arizona. Through accident and misfortune, Newt plunges into a conspiracy between good and evil. Fantastic Beasts, a prequel to the Harry Potter series, attempts to emulate the original story’s grandiose narrative of good versus evil.

The result is a stunted tale full of omissions which would confuse even ardent Harry Potter fans and will bore younger children attending the film. Unlike the original Harry Potter series, which gradually became darker as the story progressed and its target audience aged, Fantastic Beasts consists of schizophrenic extremes. The film veers from lighted-hearted magic tricks to the darkness of a Lemony Snicket novel but lacks the black humour. One scene was disturbingly reminiscent of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and would have deeply unsettled me as child.

The film lacks structure, resembling a garbled first draft of a script repeatedly punctured by holes. The opening scene is not a scene at all, but a barrage of news headlines concerning the actions of a dark wizard who has left a bloody trail from Europe to America. These articles are impossible to read as they flit by so quickly before the camera cuts to Newt Scaramander arriving in New York.

The cut between the newspapers and Newt embodies a recurring flaw throughout Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Many key elements of the plot’s context and the characters involved are hinted at but are never outright revealed. This attempt to hint at a more complex world would have been better suited in a slow-paced thriller.

The film’s denial of answers to many of the questions that it raises is a clear attempt to entice viewers into the following part of this new story arc. Yet the film’s conclusion feels cheap, gutted of any exciting revelation or premonition, retreating into the romance angle which is commonplace in blockbusters. Fantastic Beasts is the producing and screen writing debut of J.K.Rowling. It is clear throughout the film that Rowling still writes like a writer. Many aspects of the plot are left to the viewer’s inference, as though they were reading a novel.

The plot’s romance element falters. Once Newt pairs up with comedic relief, and muggle, Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler), the film matches them with the magical Goldstein sisters, Tina and Queenie. The pairing is an arranged marriage gone wrong, Newt and Tina simply do not work together. There is no sentiment of attraction between the pair, interacting with each other for the bulk of the film like individuals who have been forced to work together. Then suddenly, near the end of the film, we are supposed to believe that they have developed feelings for one another.

Queenie and Jacob, both being more comedic characters, do work together. However, the relationship between Newt and Tina is glaringly artificial, making the overall romance element unwarranted and causing the plot to become disjointed, clashing with the film’s darker overtones and dragging out the end of the film. Fantastic Beasts would be vastly better if it had focused on Newt and Jacob. The partnership between the pair is reminiscent of Laurel and Hardy, with Newt’s introverted and awkward persona mingling with Jacob’s warmth and natural comedy.

The acting is varied. Redmayne and Fogler perfectly fit the role of Newt and Jacob. I hope both characters return as the principal protagonists in the next film of this new franchise. Colin Farrell, who has been given the thankless task of being a very one-dimensional villain, still portrays the character with a convincing ruthlessness that does not feel cheap. Ezra Miller brings a sense of brooding to Credence, the adopted and abused son of Mary Lou Barebone (Samantha Morton), the leader of the anti-wizard organisation, the New Salem Philanthropic Society.

However Tina Goldstein is an unlikable character. Portrayed by Katherine Waterson, Tina is completely unsympathetic and acts in an illogical manner. She alternates between breaking the rules to following them, then balks at the consequences of enforcing the very rules which she had just broken beforehand. Due to the amount of screen time given to Tina, the character drags down the rest of the film.

Initially, I thought that Tina’s flaws solely rested upon how the character had been written. However, Katherine Waterston delivers the same portrayal for Tina as when she played the love-interest, Fay, in Inherent Vice. Both Tina and Fay are immature and melodramatic, seeking other people’s help for their problems. Tina, with a different portrayal and better writing, could have been a strong woman facing moral quandaries. Instead, she acts like a childish damsel who changes her persona between government agent to victim when it suits.  I hope that Waterston moves beyond this weak character type in the upcoming Alien Covenant, and delivers a stronger performance.

The rest of the cast do perform well especially as many of the characters outside of the two ‘couples’ are essentially side-notes. This is where the plot truly breaks down. We are introduced into this new magical world across the Atlantic, but the world is half formed. Many characters lack basic exposition, devoid of any history where their motivations are unknown and their actions are feigned, particularly in regards to the President of the American magical community in the final act.

I hope that the next film within the ‘Fantastic Beasts’ series learns from the errors I have highlighted above. I am doubtful this will occur due to the commercial and critical success of the first film. I probably hold a contrarian view, but the Harry Potter franchise has such a cultural hold in modern society that few are willing to properly critique it.

By Saul Shimmin

Target audience: Younger children, teens, and fans of the Harry Potter films.

For the trailer see below:



Dunkirk (2017) – Teaser

The next movie for one of the all-time-great writer-directors, Christopher Nolan, is Dunkirk. The movie is about a little-known battle that took place in the spring of 1940 in Dunkirk, France. The movie stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and the legend, Kenneth Branagh. The cinematographer attached to the film is Hoyte Van Hoytema, the man behind of the lens of Interstellar, so audiences are in for a visual treat, at the least.

Hagood’s thoughts:

Admittedly, I know little about this particular battle, but I’m seeing it. No questions asked. My favorite actor, Tom Hardy, is in it, and one of my favorite directors is helming it. I have no doubts that it will be amazing. I’m interested to see if Nolan inserts his signature plot-twist at the end of it since this is a major genre change for him. Even though one could argue Nolan doesn’t work in one genre with his diverse catalogue of movies: Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, The PrestigeInception, and the most recent Interstellar. I’ll be most disappointed in you if you don’t go see this film.

Saul’s thoughts:

Hagood’s description of Dunkirk as a ‘little-known battle’ reveals not only how narrative is shaped by so many layers, be it identity, culture or nationality, but the risk Warner Brothers has undertaken in committing to this film.

To me, a British person, Dunkirk did shape our world as the trailer declares in text between cuts of soldiers dying in cold water and scrambling for cover on the shore. By June 1940, Germany had overwhelmed France in a matter of weeks. In the British Army’s retreat, Nazi forces trapped them in Calais. The British troops fought in desperation against German encirclement so that they could escape through Dunkirk. Personally, Dunkirk was something close to Pearl Harbour, a defeat transformed into a victory which imbued the country with a resolve to fight on, becoming the island nation that defied the Nazis alone.

I think that sometimes, people outside of Europe forget how much the continent is shaped by World War Two. New Order and Joy Division take their name from Nazi phraseology, Liverpool still had bombsites from German attacks until the 1990’s. During my first time travelling through Europe, each country I visited bore scars from the war.

To keep this review brief, I think this film is going to be a masterpiece. The trailer alone is an intricate encapsulation of the story, conveying so much emotion through sound and vision. The audio beings with a faint of a Jericho trumpet, attached to German Stuka bombers to intimidate those below, which then builds with a stopwatch counting down until we see British soldiers being mowed down by planes above.

All the major World War Two films set in the Western Front have a morality to them. The Allies are on the side of good and the Germans are the incarnate of evil. Even Saving Private Ryan‘s trailer, a film that deals with the horrors of war, ripples with patriotism and good-will. The Nazis were evil and they needed to be stopped. Therefore it is refreshing to see a film that removes the binary trope of us-vs.-them where the soldiers are not heroes but men, who wanted to survive, and go home, just like Cillian Murphy’s character. In the end if you were on that beach, or any front, you probably were not thinking whether the side facing you were good or bad, but whether you would see tomorrow.


Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Teaser

Spider-Man : Homecoming is the reboot of Spider-Man following the replacement of Andrew Garfield by Tom Holland as the titular character. The film is directed by Jon Watts, whose previous work includes the thriller Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon.

Saul’s Thoughts:

I have yet to see Cop Car, but the film’s trailer showed a brooding figure that recycled many parts of the classic 1995 film Night of the Hunter, where two children are plunged into the adult world, hunted by a monster posing as an authority figure.

Homecoming’s trailer does follow the more light hearted approach of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. Although  Holland may only be known through Cop Car, he does have experience in comedy, having directed episodes of satirical show The Onion News Network  in 2011.

I do have my concerns with Spider-Man: Homecoming following Doctor Strange, where Disney slotted a lesser known character into the Avengers-Marvel ensemble. The character of Spider-Man has far more clout in pop culture than Doctor Strange, due to the Spider-Man cartoons and the Spider-Man films by Sam Raimi in the 2000’s. The biggest issue with Doctor Strange was that the film pursued both comedy and serious drama in an origin story. The combination of the three elements shaped Doctor Strange into a rushed introduction of a character on Disney-Marvel’s course to greater and bigger films.

Spider-Man: Homecoming may suffer from the same issues as Doctor Strange in that both characters arrived late to The Avengers film group. Plus Spider-Man and Doctor Strange have not received the slower pace of a Netflix series. Therefore they have to quickly catch up with the wide audience appeal of more established Avengers characters such as Iron Man or Captain America. Doctor Strange did feel like a rushed attempt as mentioned above, and Spider Man: Homecoming may share this flaw.

The replacement of Andrew Garfield by the younger Holland for the Spider-Man reboot, alongside the injection of ‘Homecoming’ into the title, is a ploy to grab audiences in middle-school and below.

The Homecoming teaser trailer supports my theory about Disney’s current strategy towards the film market. Disney appears to be dividing  Star Wars and Marvel into two streams, with the first stream adopting a gritty tone,  counterbalanced by a second stream of action films designed for families and children.

Captain America: Civil War is far more brooding in comparison to the earlier Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On the other hand, Guardians of the Guardians of the Galaxy reels in the laughs and is being followed by a sequel and Doctor Strange, which was funny in parts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year was a rehash of A New Hope for a newer and younger audience.

It is not coincidental that Rogue One is arriving between The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode 8. Trailers for Rogue One infer a darker tone than The Force Awakens. While the protagonists of the main Star Wars series so far are teenagers trapped on backwaters who dream of adventure, Jyn Erso, the lead of Rogue One is a criminal on the fringes of the galaxy. Her criminal record is gleefully announced at the beginning of the Rogue One trailer, stressing how different and mature this spin off will be.

If Disney’s strategy is to partition Marvel and Star Wars between older and younger audiences through films ranging in maturity of content, then I think that is clever. The strategy does risk a potential overlap where both strands try to entertain different audiences with distinct tastes depending on age, but the films end up not satisfying both.

Disney could succeed, but there must be consistency, particularly with the films designed for older audiences . The Dark Knight series was about a superhero that attained critical and commercial success, while containing darker themes such as the human condition, nihilism and redemption. Disney just needs to take a risk and really step outside its comfort zone of entertaining children, teenagers and families. Otherwise, the I.P conveyer belt will become lacklustre.

The Circle (2017)- Teaser

The Circle is a drama coming out in March of 2017. It stars heavy-hitters Tom Hanks & Emma Watson with Star Wars newbie John Boyega, and  veteran character actors Bill Paxton & Patton Oswalt. The movie is an adaptation of a David Eggers novel of the same name. James Ponsoldt (director of The Spectacular Now)  both directed the movie and adapted its screenplay from the book.

Hagood’s Thoughts:

While this movie isn’t the first big data commentary to come out of Hollywood (think The Fifth EstateSnowden), it is the first to view big data from the perspective of a tech company. I’m glad this is happening because major tech companies like Facebook, IBM, Google and Apple hoard and exploit date to raise their advertising prices through more accurate user profiling. The general public seems only aware of the NSA’s data gathering, but ignorant of Silicon Valley’s. Hopefully this film will wake people up. I’m not saying data gathering is a negative thing, but I think it is something we all need to be cognizant of. Also, millennials need to be critiqued with how quickly we share our information online. Most of us do it without hesitation, and I believe it is something we need to think twice about.

While the star power is strong with this movie, the plot appears all too familiar. Big corporation saying they’re helping society, but in reality they’re participating in illegal activities. Hopefully this trailer is a misdirection and the movie’s plot does more than blindly follow this trope.**

**I’ve never read the book so I don’t know its plot details.


Film Score: 5 out of 5 (Perfect)

Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who spends his spare moments conjuring up poetry, drawing his inspiration from the sleepy New Jersey town that bears his name. The film is a week in the life of Patterson, as he wrestles with his unwillingness to reveal his poetry to the world.

Paterson is an ode to the vibrancy of small-town America, tinged with nostalgia for a  past way of life.  Through the shared name, the protagonist is the embodiment of the town, warm, charming, and happy to stand apart from the modern world.  Driver’s character is from a different time, sporting a blue collar each day and a metal worker’s lunch box. He seems drawn from the idealised version of America’s working class of the 1950’s, just like the town around him. The plot satirises the generic tropes of Hollywood films, building up certain scenes to fit the formula of gun-fights and explosions, only to return to reality. These scenes are when Paterson is at its most endearing, proudly stating to the audience that an enjoyable story can be grounded in the everyday.

Paterson is not a prodigal poet who reels off soliloquises. Internal monologues reveal his repeated attempts to create new poems, while the camera over imposes his bus routine with images of where he finds inspiration. This overlapping of images is a credit to Frederick Elmes, the film’s cinematographer, as it smoothly conveys us between the town and Paterson’s thoughts. Witnessing Paterson struggle with his art adds to the realism of the film and makes the character even more likeable.

The film is a visual delight, comprised of a small range of scenes at certain locations which are repeated throughout the week in Paterson’s life. Every frame, from when Paterson wakes up next to his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), to his beer at Shade’s Bar after work, are composed with a beautiful geometry. The film’s colour scheme is a clash between Paterson’s wardrobe of black, blue, and white set against the black and white geometric patterns worn by his wife Laura. Through colour, composition, and montages, we see the town and the world through Paterson’s eyes. This clash of colours adds to the film’s composition, bestowing a simplistic beauty to every scene.

The film’s motif of pairs blends with the montage between Laura and Paterson’s respective routines, revealing their clashing creative approaches. Paterson is focused upon his poetry, yet he is stuck in a loop of self-doubt, mimicking his repetition of the same bus route. The camera cuts from Paterson’s bus route to Laura continuously reinventing her wardrobe and the house’s décor, seemingly uncaring of potential public criticism of her new ideas.

Both Driver and Farahani are utterly convincing as husband and wife, interacting with one another with the intimate affectations of a loving couple. All the actors involved in Paterson deliver a robust performance that brings life to their characters. My personal favourite was William Jackson Harper in the role of Everett, a local at Shade’s Bar who is highly strung, love-sick and unpredictable. Harper is able to render Everett sympathetic although his behaviour could easily be perceived as selfish and immature.

The film, from its acting to its cinematography, is a masterpiece which blurs the distinctions between the town, the poet, reality and imagination; culminating in a life-affirming statement from Jim Jarmusch that inspiration and beauty surround us in the mundane.

I hope that Amazon studios, which financed Paterson, will continue to support independent films which stray from the generic film formula.

By Saul Shimmin

Target audience: Art-house cinema lovers, Jim Jarmusch fans and older audiences who wish to watch something a bit different.

For the trailer see below:



Film Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Moana is a story about family, destiny, and Polynesian mythology. The main character, Moana, (voiced by gifted newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho) yearns for the open sea and an adventure away from her small, home island. However, her father forbids her to leave. Yet the dark forces of Te Kā, set free some millennia earlier by Maui (Dwyane Johnson), a demi-god, when he stole the heart-stone from the island goddess, Te Fiti, are now annihilating the island’s crops and wildlife. Moana must find the lost Maui, and seek his help to return the heart-stone to Te Fiti and restore life to their island’s ecosystem.

Moana thoroughly impressed me. Despite Disney’s repetitive use of the trope of the royal child going against his/her parent’s will (Pocahontas, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Brave [yes, I know it’s a Pixar film]), Moana is a thriving movie full of ear-catching songs, loveable characters (Maui in particular), and clever fourth-wall breaks. The fourth wall breaks were particularly interesting. Directors Ron Clements and John Musker tastefully interjected them, especially with Tamatoa’s scene (voiced by the all-mighty Jemaine Clement) e.g. his “I hope you liked the song” comment.

Honestly, I don’t want to say much about this movie (also, it’s finals at UVA so time is scarce). I want you to go see it and hear the life Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa’i, and Mark Mancina pumped into this gorgeous movie. It’s not a ground breaking plot, but Disney still managed to jerk some tears from my eyes in the movie’s climax. If it says anything, upon returning from the movie, I purchased a copy of the movie’s album and will be listening to it on repeat as I fondly relive the adventures of Maui and Moana. But please, Disney, don’t make a sequel. Make another great, new story about another different culture and life perspective.

Target Audience: Everyone but teens who would act to above it all to enjoy this enchanting tale. Children, pre-teens, adults, parents, and grandparents.

By Hagood Grantham

For trailer, see below:


Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) – Teaser

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, & Sylvester Stallone. Written and directed by James Gunn.

Hagood’s thoughts:

Who didn’t love Baby Groot dancing at the end of Guardians Vol. 1? Well, Marvel heard the love and will now provide us with over two hours of Groot cuteness. Beyond that exciting factor, this trailer (thankfully) reveals little about the movie’s plot beyond a few comic moments like atomic-bomb-toting Baby Groot’s simple mind.

I am quite excited for this movie, especially learning how Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone fit into Marvel’s light(er)-hearted, space-Avenger-esque squad. Enjoy the trailer and feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comments.