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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story / Collateral Beauty

Dearest Blog: Yesterday I (or, more specifically, the driver) braved inclement weather to get to Marquee Cinemas for the promising double-bill of Rogue One and Collateral Beauty. Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. 
First up: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Episode 3.5: The Rebel Alliance risks everything in hopes of finding the key to destroying the Death Star. Rogue One is basically the story you don't (or didn't) know that lays the foundation for the one you do. 
Familiar elements provide a nice touch, but the movie makes every effort to stand on its own. It's a little slow getting started, but, ultimately, it's solid enough to recommend to even those who have never seen a Star Wars movie before. That being said: The first act of Rogue One could have been better paced. 
The movie spends a good deal of time laying groundwork that really isn't all that complicated; then, as if that weren't enough, it wastes even more time flashing back to stuff that happened only 20 minutes before. It's awkward and frustrating. Warming up to our heroine, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is no easy task; she's not even half-likeable until she meets up with Rebel pilot Cassian Andor (Diego Luna).  (Disclaimer: Opinion may be based entirely on the fact that I don't like Jones or her weird teeth.) 
Once the picture gets moving, there's plenty of action to go 'round, and it becomes much easier to get invested in the characters...perhaps because they're just better characters. The movie really finds its heart when Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) turn up, and, unlike Jyn, it's very easy to root for them. Ahmed, in particular, is terrific and does scared and conflicted about as well as anyone. Rogue One has a fair bit of humor, some that hits the mark and some that's just too silly for the situation. 
Michael Giacchino provides a rousing score, though, ultimately, it's those hints of John Williams' original music that really feel like home. Large sections of the picture are too dark to see what's going on, and the runtime is a little excessive (which could have been remedied easily if only that first half had been better plotted), but, for my money, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a fun outing that's even better than The Force Awakens. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story clocks in at 134 minutes and is rated PG13 for "extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action." 
Rogue One is another worthy installment in one of the greatest movie sagas of all time. Do see it on the big screen while you can. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Rogue One gets seven and a half. 
Fangirl points: Ben Mendelsohn! Mads Mikkelson! Jimmy Smits! *swoon* 
Next up: Collateral Beauty. After the loss of his young daughter, a grieving man begins writing theraputic letters to Love, Time, and Death. Much to his surprise, Love, Time, and Death offer the favor of a personal reply. 
When I went to buy my ticket for Collateral Beauty, I accidentally asked for Collateral Damage, which anyone who knows anything about me will TOTALLY understand. Collateral Beauty isn't really my thing, but the trailer promised some Oscar-worthy performances, and, since none of the really good awards contenders--La La Land, Manchester By The Sea, Nocturnal Animals--have played here (I'll hopefully add a "yet" to the end of that bit), it became my default option for a weekend so deep into Awards Season I couldn't afford to take a pass. 
Collateral Beauty has two chief strikes against it: First, it is a criminal waste of everything that normally makes Will Smith such a compelling lead. Smith is more than capable of tackling this sort of drama, but he's got an inherent charm that's suffocated by this lifeless character. 
Even when he gets really angry, it's a flatline. Secondly, everyone outside of Smith is just SO. DAMN. EARNEST. A little of that goes a long way, and so much makes these individuals seem insincere, like one-dimensional paper dolls. Helen Mirren is always a delight, and, if there's something that's almost as cool as Helen Mirren with an RPG in RED, it's Helen Mirren as Death, even if that's not *quite* what the trailer leads you to believe. 
The remainder of the cast is more than solid, but they're drowning in broadly-drawn characters that are about as subtle as a dollar-store greeting card. Collateral Beauty's finale is unspeakably hokey, but, if you didn't guess from the trailers that hokey was on the menu, you probably weren't paying attention. 
Ultimately, Collateral Beauty fails to tick any of the boxes that make a quality motion picture, but it's got a warm-and-fuzzy holiday vibe and, to be honest, I liked it better than it probably deserves. (But Collateral Damage is still way better.) 
Collateral Beauty runs a very reasonable 97 minutes and is rated PG13 for "thematic elements and brief strong language." The awards contender that wasn't, Collateral Beauty will still satisfy any cravings for sentimental holiday fare. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Collateral Beauty gets four and a half. 

Fangirl points: My beautiful New York City! Naomie Harris (even if her accent is all over the place)! 
Until next time... 

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