Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Rogue One and Yoga Hosers

Rogue One: A Star Wars Tale

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

George Lucas created a cultural phenomenon with Star Wars, later retitled “Episode IV, A New Hope” and shaped the lives of young fans and film makers for decades to come- the children of those movies (people who were lost in the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Princess Leia) are now adults and artists and film makers who grew up with games of their own and stories of their own and adventures of their own. All of these stories were given birth in the Star Wars Universe, where Jedi fought with lightsabers and space pirates ran Imperial blockades while a desperate band of rebels struggled against tyranny. And while the Episodes continue, Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise also brings us a series of new anthology stories… movies just off to the side of the primary source films that continue to follow the adventures of the Skywalker family.

Rogue One is not, actually, the first film to step off to the side in the development of an expanded Star Wars universe- George Lucas’ production team also brought a few Ewok films to life in the 80’s. He also brought the Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels cartoon series to life. But this is the first film under the Disney umbrella and the first real attempt to expand Star Wars cinematic scope- and it’s a Star Wars geek’s dreams come to life.

This is the Dirty Dozen of the Star Wars universe- a group of outlaws, spies, and saboteurs are on a mission to retrieve the Death Star’s lead science officer (played by Mads Mikkelson) and gain information on the Empire’s Secret Weapon- but things are far more dire than anyone realizes and it may be too late to prevent the creation of the weapon itself. The galaxy is torn apart by war and darkness and this is the darkest story in the Star Wars canon- a story of desperation and hope. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of that science officer, a girl raised in the desperate years of struggle against the Empire and an outlaw in her own right. She is recruited by a rebel spy and assassin, Captain Cassian (Diego Luna) to track down her father. They are joined by turncoat Imperial Pilot (Riz Ahmed), two temple guardians (Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen), and a reprogrammed Imperial Droid named K-2SO (Alan Tudyk, in a scene stealing performance).  

Let me get this out of the way- PETER CUSHING!!! I could not believe it when Gran Moff Tarkin turned and revealed the face of Peter Cushing, the original actor who had played the signature Star Wars villain from the first film- the very man who held Vader’s leash. To be honest, I expected some sort of a cameo- I knew I should expect Darth Vader (And no, you’re not REALLY expecting Vader to be like this… WOW!) but the truth is that I didn’t expect him to speak or even PERFORM for that matter. But Peter Cushing is one of the primary villains of Rogue One- he doesn’t just appear in a cameo, he is a driving force behind the film and appears in a number of scenes. This is some serious necromantic movie magic at play here!

9 out of 10. Must see in the theater, must buy for Star Wars fans.

Yoga Hosers

For those who don’t know, this is Kevin Smith’s latest cinematic venture into his True North Anthology. It’s currently planned as a trilogy, but one never knows where his Canadian fixation may lead him. The films are only slightly interconnected, and Smith immediately let’s the audience know that the tone of this film will be vastly different from the one set by the first film in his series. While both films feature horror elements, Yoga Hosers is a much stronger return to his comedic roots and bears strong similarities to his earlier work.

This film sees the return of Guy LaPointe (Johnny Depp) and the Colleens (Harley Quinn Smith and Lily Rose Depp) from Tusk. The two convenience store clerk teens are a best friend “pair” with a band and a reputation after being featured in the rescue of the Human Walrus experiment from the first film. Sarcastic, irreverent and dismissive of the world around them, the Colleens are super excited to be invited to a senior party when they’re plans come crashing down in a series of mishaps that uncover a secret underground Nazi experiment beneath their store. LaPointe returns to aid the girls when his investigation into a string of grisly murders brings him back to their store. There is obviously a lot of raw talent in the Colleens, who are carrying the majority of the film on their own backs. They overshadow the strange LaPointe at every turn and deliver fine performances on their own.

This isn’t really a “horror” film by any stretch of the imagination. In point of fact, this is a very odd film that sort of defies the ease of genre classification… but let me take you back to the mid-to-late 80’s and the local video stores stock of obscure titles: Munchies, Ghoulies, Critters, and a number of other low budget films- quirky “light-horror” films with less of an eye toward scares and much more of an eye toward a few thrills and low brow humor. That’s what this film is and in that regard it hits the mark. Smith wrote and shot a film that would appeal to the preteen kids and it should be measured as such… so with that in mind, the film is often silly, a little stupid, and incredibly crass.

But the film is also an endearing and affectionate homage to those films.

The film isn’t going to appeal to a majority of viewers, but I was entertained throughout and found myself feeling kind of happy when all was said and done. There were a few laugh out loud moments, some gross outs, and an impressive monster suit.

Unfortunately, whether budget constraints or a lack of shooting time prevented it; Smith’s lighting choices were not done very well in showing off the suit itself. Instead of looking like the gross and disgusting assortment of rotting meat that it was, the suit looked like precisely what it was- foam rubber and latex.

5.5 out of 10 and a low priority rental.

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