The Founder

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It’s Throwback Thursday! And while I’ve got a few more recent film reviews in the pipeline that I’m working on at the moment, tonight I thought I’d share one from a fond film memory of mine. Whilst doing an internship last June I got the opportunity to attend my first media preview screening for the recent film The Founder. It was such a great experience, and even though my review of the film never got published, I can publish it here! So please enjoy my thoughts on The Founder:

A movie about McDonald’s might sound like one big ad for the company, trying to showcase their “humble beginnings” and showing them off as an “all-American brand”, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Whilst you might be craving a burger at the end of The Founder, you’ll probably feel even sicker every time you eat at McDonald’s from now on.

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The Founder follows Ray Kroc, a Midwestern salesman who discovers two brothers with a restaurant that would revolutionise the food service industry: McDonald’s. And, as he claims their idea and turns it into the biggest franchise the world has ever seen, he alienates himself from his family and friends in pursuit of success.

Michael Keaton is wonderfully intense as Kroc, the ruthless businessman who will stop at nothing until McDonalds is all his and the biggest restaurant in America. As you watch him, Keaton gives Kroc a perfectly conflicting sense of both sharp and unstable at the same time, and he so uncannily portrays Kroc’s descent into greed and self-obsession as he screws over the McDonald brothers and estranges himself from his family.

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For Keaton’s layered performance, however, other elements suffered. Laura Dern was wasted as Ethel Kroc, from both a blandly written character and an unenthusiastic performance, and hard as you try to feel sympathy for her, you just don’t know her well enough to care. Many other characters also felt underused and there only to serve the plot, such as BJ Novak as Harry Sonneborn, who was only introduced to give Kroc one idea, and even Dick and Mac McDonald (Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch respectively) were underdeveloped. Though Offerman felt familiar as a symbol of small town America (he will always be Ron Swanson for many), his best scenes explored Dick’s brotherly relationship with Mac, and their joint ambitions and struggles. However, this wasn’t explored very well, so when the time came to root for them, there was less impact.

Despite all this, Kroc’s quick-talking salesman made for a dynamic, fast-paced script, which was also very critical of its own events. McDonald’s will never be toppled as a commercial giant, but this damning portrayal of its founder must be pretty hard to stomach. Sound familiar?

7/10.

Here’s my list of my top five favourite films and TV showsstarring the cast of The Founder:

  1. Spotlight – Michael Keaton
  2. Parks and Recreation – Nick Offerman
  3. The Fault in our Stars – Laura Dern
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Linda Cardellini
  5. Jackie – John Carroll Lynch

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4276820/mediaviewer/rm3368754176
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4276820/mediaviewer/rm2303736320
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4276820/mediaviewer/rm2471508480

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La La Land

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Classic film is merely a memory for many; a haze of rain-soaked afternoons with our grandparents in front of the television, of singing about our favourite things and dancing in the rain, a long forgotten time when a films colour was advertised in its opening credits and actresses still had that glamorous pan-Atlantic accent. It was one of Hollywood’s most successful times, and with such a different environment in today’s Hollywood it would take a master of cinema to return us to such magic.

Luckily for us, we have Damien Chazelle. His 2014 film Whiplash was met with great success and acclaim, and now he’s telling an entirely different musical story, mixing traditional and modern storytelling to create a new classic in La La Land.  In the sunny Hollywood hills, aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) fall in love as they attempt to find themselves and their place in the world, and in this tender romance can be found this years’ best film.

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La La Land is an homage to classic film, and yet its own thing entirely; it draws on classic film tropes yet subverts them, bringing a great sense of nostalgia as Mia and Sebastian chase their traditional Hollywood dreams in a city that’s moved on. Mia is writing her own one-woman show; Sebastian dreams of opening his own jazz club; and as Hollywood throws their plans and tests their dreams, they remain achingly real, through all the heartbreak and success they experience.

Recreating the glamour of Hollywood but pairing it with such a real, grounded romance and imperfect characters highlights the magic of their love, and of loving Hollywood. Though this magical realism is most obvious in the dazzling planetarium scene and Mia and Sebastian’s waltz amongst the stars, it is at its bittersweet best in the final montage scene of Mia and Sebastian’s life, the Hollywood painted sets and dream-like Parisian streets melding together to create a perfect surreality.

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The movie’s beautiful message about the integrity of Hollywood and what success and failure mean to each of us is beautiful and compelling, and Emma Stone’s performance as Mia as she goes through the ups and downs of the studio system is heartbreaking but subtle. Her true talent is on display, both as a performer and a comedian in the film’s many musical numbers, but especially as an artist, culminating in her powerful final audition that is unbelievably moving. Ryan Gosling is also fantastic, oozing charm and wit, but also sadness and passion as he detours from his dream to ultimately open his jazz club. His relationship with Stone was sweet, intimate and lovely, and their romance is so real; they love and support each other through their dreams, but are still normal, not grandiose, but right for each other. Their chemistry crackles as they perform together too, their soft singing voices blending together perfectly to create highlights in the film’s sublime soundtrack.

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This soundtrack, of course, is a masterpiece, blending elements of jazz and classical music to make catchy big performance numbers and unforgettable instrumental themes. Because it’s not the big set piece performances that are the most memorable; the film’s brassy jazz, heartfelt themes and gentle piano score is the best part, adding layers of love, tragedy and a feeling of dreaming to every scene. Sebastian is right; everyone should love jazz.

And yet, the La La Land’s cinematography is the most transcendental part, with Chazelle’s whimsical yet intimate direction enhancing every emotional beat of the film, whether light or more sober. The purple-skied Hollywood landscapes and sunny sandstone-housed streets are a dream; the old red theatres and and low-lit jazz bars reminiscent of Hollywood’s finest times. And the dreamy planetarium is a stunning feat of cinema, with the silhouetted star waltz creating real life magic.

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In one scene in the film, Sebastian and his friend Keith argue over how to keep jazz alive, and, much to Sebastian’s horror, Keith says that jazz is dead, and has to fundamentally change to stay alive. La La Land is a remedy to that school of thought in Hollywood; it is a love letter to what made Hollywood sparkle in the Golden Age, but is still its own film, innovative and different. It takes the glamour and dreaminess of the classics, and grounds them in real stories and characters, and creates a timeless tale full of fun, heartbreak and love. La La Land keeps one foot on the ground, but isn’t afraid to walk amongst the stars.

10/10 (Can I go 11?)

And what a brilliant cast. Here’s my top five favourite films starring the cast of La La Land:

  1. Crazy, Stupid, Love – Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling
  2. Easy A – Emma Stone
  3. The Notebook – Ryan Gosling
  4. The Big Short – Ryan Gosling
  5. Zootopia – JK Simmons

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/mediaviewer/rm1388644608
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/mediaviewer/rm2541358848
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2016 – A Year in Film

Full of ups and downs, 2016 has somehow managed to be an even bigger year than the last. Despite its fair share of sadness, including the tragic loss of some of our most iconic childhood characters, 2016 in film has been a pretty good year on this end. I had the fantastic opportunity to intern with not one, but two of my favourite publications in the film world, and got to tick off my bucket list some amazing firsts, like getting published in my favourite magazine! I also managed the seemingly impossible task of seeing 50 movies in cinemas this year, plus countless ones at home, and I definitely feel like I’ve grown in my love and knowledge of film.

I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings me in the movie world, what knowledge I’ll learn and what fantastic films we’ll all get to experience, but before we look forward, let’s take a look back at the films of 2016. There were certainly a lot of busts, some movies that didn’t meet expectations or just sucked in general, but tonight’s not about them. It’s about the brilliant, the ones that moved us, made us laugh, and got us extremely excited. To celebrate the year that was, here’s my top five favourite films of 2016:

  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

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This film has made pretty much all of my top five lists this year, and that’s because my love for this film is endless. I notoriously don’t like Australian film, but New Zealand film is one of my new favourite loves, and all because of one man: Taika Waititi. His entire back catalogue is brilliant, but this one film, about foster kid Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his Uncle Hec (Sam Neill) going bush to avoid being caught by bumbling child services officer Paula, is his best work, equal parts funny and touching. Sam Neill is utterly enjoyable as he navigates his way around firecracker Dennison, and their experiences with crazy bush men and haikus will keep you laughing for hours. But the little moments, as Ricky recalls his days as a foster kid and Hec mourns his lost family, are just as brilliant, testing its talented cast and drawing you in all the more. It’s an absolute joy of a film (plus I saw it on my birthday, so bonus points), and one of the highlights of my year.

2. Captain America: Civil War

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As a massive Marvel fan, the build up to this movie for me was so intense: not only was it the Russo Brothers’ return to the studio after the smash hit of Winter Soldier, but it also heralded the debut of Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther, and the first ever Spider-Man (AKA my favourite superhero) appearance in the MCU. It had a lot of expectations to match, and it did that and more. Not only did we get brilliant characters, who all got the perfect amount of screen time, and the best Spider-Man performance to date by the wonderful Tom Holland, but we also got a tense political and family drama in Steve Rogers’ battles with Tony Stark. As they warred over which path to take the Avengers next, lines were drawn and crossed, but the most important thing this movie did? It made you wonder how the MCU will ever be the same.

3. Kubo and the Two Strings

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It astounds and saddens me how few people saw this film, but then again, I got to see it, and for that I am grateful. In a year of reboots, sequels and adaptations, Kubo was fresh and original, a beautifully simple tale about a young boy with mystical powers who sets off to find his father’s suit of armour and finish his ancient quest. Laika Studio’s stunning stop-motion animation added another layer to this already magical fairy-tale, as Kubo meets new friends and old enemies on his road through his family’s history, but despite its animation, Kubo is more than just a kid’s movie. It’s actually haunting, full of ghosts and the supernatural, and this blend of the pure and the scary added depth to the film’s opposing forces. With an unforgettable shamisen soundtrack, Kubo is wondrous, each moment deserving to be savoured.

4. Arrival

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Oh, man. Arrival was absolutely breathtaking. Amy Adams is brilliantly flawed as Dr Louise Banks, a linguist who is recruited by the military to create a new language after 12 alien vessels land across the Earth. Denis Villeneuve is a visionary, armed with a powerful script that explores human interaction and our severe distrust of each other, and from this he gives us stunning visuals, stark glass and cloudy ink, creating life right before our very eyes in the most poetic way. And yet the highlight of the film is still Amy Adams; her Louise is strong but scared, smart but selfish, and it is her ultimate sacrifice and act of courage that gives the film its heartbreaking twist, leaving the audience thinking about the powerful story for days after. Blade Runner 2049 could be in no better hands then Villeneuve’s.

5. La La Land

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My final film in theatres for 2016, La La Land was hyped for me to the point of near disbelief – the craziest thing is that it still exceeded expectations. As we follow aspiring actress Mia and jazz pianist Sebastian as they fall in love and try to find their place in Hollywood, we are treated to a beautiful blend of tradition and modernity. La La Land is a love letter to the Golden Age of Cinema, but still manages to be its own thing; it has the glitz and glamour of the city and the time, but is still grounded, achingly real and sweet, and as Mia and Sebastian fall for each other we fall for them too, flaws and all. More than this, La La Land music is infectious and sublime, full of inspiring showstoppers and sombre themes, and its masterful cinematography and direction gives Hollywood a special magical glow, an iridescent purple shine at night and a bubbly sunshine during the day, which makes the audience dream of being there, no matter the struggles. Here’s to the ones that dream; foolish as they may seem.

And that’s a wrap on 2016! Here’s to 2017; may it gift us even better movies, characters and stories!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3783958/mediaviewer/rm2541358848
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4698684/mediaviewer/rm2541543680
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Top Five Favourite Characters of 2016

As the year comes to a close, it’s very easy to get caught up in the things that made this year in film (and in general) pretty bad. And there were a lot of them! But there were also a lot of things that made this year pretty damn fantastic, so I thought I’d count them down for us in the lead up to 2017.

To kick us off, 2016 was a huge year for characters we already know and love making it to the big screen, and an even bigger year for surprising and unexpected characters to steal our hearts. A film’s characters are always the most compelling and important part of any movie for me, so here is my Top Five Favourite Characters of 2016:

  1. Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilderpeople)

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Resident skuxx and gangster, Ricky Baker stole the show in New Zealand film Hunt for the Wilderpeople, one of my favourite movies of the year. Played by the wonderful youngster Julian Dennison, Ricky is a foster kid with a heart of gold who gets up to all sorts of crazy antics with his foster Uncle Hec when they decide to go bush, warring against bumbling child services officer Paula. Ricky was effortlessly funny with his haikus and dancing, but also vulnerable as a child who’s been chewed up by the system, and Dennison balances this perfectly, creating a character who is incredibly close to home. Surrounded by veterans in director Taika Waititi’s and Sam Neill, Dennison stole almost every scene, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

  1. Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland – Captain America: Civil War)

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Ever since Sony and Marvel announced that Spider-Man would be re-joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans have been on the edge of their seats waiting for his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War. As the year’s first billion-dollar movie, Civil War was spectacular, giving each character the perfect amount of time despite being jam-packed, and Tom Holland’s Peter Parker was by far one of the standouts. Holland’s youth allowed him to bring Peter something we’d never really seen before – a young Peter, who’s actually learning to deal with being a teenager and a superhero at the same time, and his chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. was so electric that Downey Jr will even appear in Spider-Man: Homecoming. But the highlight was his stunts: from his banter with Falcon and Bucky to his Empire Strikes Back takedown of Giant-Man, it was a joy to see Spider-man join the MCU. How far away is Homecoming?

  1. Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them)

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Every single Harry Potter fan had been waiting for the day that a new Harry Potter film would come out –  and this year we got our wish, when, on November 17th, we finally made our trip back to the Wizarding World. This time following a magizoologist named Newt Scamander (the delightful Eddie Redmayne), we got to explore 1920s New York as he sets out to recover some magical beasts that have escaped, with a sinister plot to expose magic to the Muggle World brewing under the surface. And though we were introduced to a marvellous cast of characters, including No-Maj Jacob Kowalski and witch Tina Goldstein, it was her sister, Queenie Goldstein, played by Alison Sudol, who stole the show for me. A beautiful legilimens (mind reader) with a kind heart, she owned her sexuality in a time when she wasn’t allowed to, and was lucky enough to find a man who saw past that – Jacob – and form a sweet friendship with him, as she introduced him to the Wizarding World. She may be an odd choice for many as a favourite character of the year, but she struck a chord with me, and with a now five-movie franchise in the works for Fantastic Beasts, I can only hope we get a lot more Queenie.

  1. Louise Banks (Amy Adams – Arrival)

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Arrival is another of my favourite movies this year, and Amy Adams, who is one of my favourite actresses, absolutely shines in it as Louise Banks, a linguist who is brought in by the military to decipher an alien language when twelve alien vessels land all over the earth. Smart but selfish, brave but terrified, Louise is one of the most real characters I’ve ever known, and Adams gives her such a strength and vulnerability that had such an impact on me as I watched the film. And even as the film twists and her greatest power becomes the source of her tragedy, she still fights through it, standing strong. In a sci-fi film which could have easily centred on a man, Denis Villeneuve has made an absolutely outstanding, visually stunning film which would win all the Oscars in a perfect world, but I’ll just settle on Adams even being nominated for an Oscar because she gave the best performance of the year.

  1. Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool)

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How could I not put Deadpool on this list? Even though Deadpool wasn’t quite the film I wanted it to be, it was still unbelievably good, mostly because of Reynolds’ performance as Deadpool. When a black market cure for his terminal brain cancer leaves his skin wrinkled like ‘an avocado had sex with an older avocado’ (thanks, T.J. Miller), mercenary Wade Wilson goes on a revenge mission against his torturer and becomes Deadpool, an unkillable man and anti-hero. As well as subverting the traditional origin story and giving it a harder, fourth-wall breaking edge, Deadpool’s success can be put down to Reynolds: his dedication to bringing the character to life the way he deserves and brilliant comedic performance as Deadpool is what made the film fantastic. As well as this, the film’s no-holds-bar humour, kickass hip-hop soundtrack and self-referential quality brought it over the edge to make it a refreshing comic book film that injected life into the dying X-Men franchise and gave Marvel Studios character envy. Plus, the cameo possibilities are endless, and after this year’s X-Men outing, Deadpool would surely have a lot of great material.

Honorable mentions go out to Kubo (Kubo and the Two Strings), Black Panther (Captain America: Civil War), Newt Scamander (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), Eilish Lacey (Brooklyn) and Chirrut Imwe (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, purely for potential)!

What were your favourite characters of this year? Let me know in the comments below, and here’s to another great year of characters in 2017!

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4698684/mediaviewer/rm2541543680
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2543164/mediaviewer/rm4281993472
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Moana


It’s Disney’s most wonderful time of the year, with one of their most anticipated films of the year finally getting its coveted Christmastime release. With a lot of heart, and their catchiest tunes to date, Moana has finally washed up on Australian shores.

Destined to become chief of her village one day, young Moana has lived on the island of Motonui her whole life. When her island begins to feel the effects of an ancient curse, Moana must answer the call of the ocean to find the ancient demigod Maui and make things right. 


As Disney’s first princess film where the girl doesn’t have to get a man, Moana is a brilliant story of empowerment and discovery. Torn between serving her people as chief and sailing the ocean like she always dreamed, Moana’s conflict between duty and desire is relatable and moving, her love for her family absolutely shining in her relationship with cheeky grandmother Tala. Her journey across the sea is exciting as she befriends Maui and becomes more confident in her wayfaring skills, and getting to know Maui is also a delight, as Dwayne Johnson’s charisma and charm translates wonderfully to the self obsessed yet kind demigod as he guides Moana to her destination. 


Yet even he is more than he seems, and his tragic backstory makes the film yet more moving, and watching him triumph against his demons is just as sweet as when Moana does. A highlight of the film is also Maui’s little Mini-Me tattoo, which works as the film’s best comic relief, against the slightly dragging chicken name Hei Hei. The film’s only slow point is it’s detour to the Cave of Monsters, resulting in a painful scene with a giant crab, but the beautiful ending as Moana finally reaches Te Fiti to lift the curse is worth it as the high point of the score and animation. 


Because Disney’s animation only keeps getting better: Moana boasts some of their most beautiful animation to date, with the animated water so realistic (even better than Finding Nemo) that it looks like it was filmed live. This dazzling hyper-realism is complimented beautifully by vividly colourful islands and creatures, including an imaginative dream-like sequence and a haunting ghostly scene, which are enhanced by the film’s Polynesian setting and mythos and make the film so much richer. 

And the all-important soundtrack is also a beautiful celebration of Polynesian history and culture, with Mark Mancina’s score working wonders with Opetaia Foa’i and Lin Manuel Miranda’s original songs. These songs are bound to get stuck in your head (I’ve been singing You’re Welcome for weeks now), and the whole voice cast is brilliant, both in singing and vocal performance, but especially Auli’i Cravalho. She may be a newcomer, but she gives Moana such strength and passion, kindness and humour, and armed with words from Lin Manuel Miranda, she is even stronger when she sings. 


On the surface, Moana’s journey to break the curse and save her island is what makes her strong. But her greater victory is against her conflict between her duty to her people and her own happiness, and that love for her family is what makes her journey compelling, making Moana easily one of Disney’s greatest princesses. With wonderful characters and a moving story, breathtaking visuals and an extremely catchy soundtrack, Moana is a beautiful film about following your heart.8/10. 

I’m a bit of a fan of The Rock. Who isn’t? So here’s my list of the top five films starring the cast of Moana:

  1. Fast Five – Dwayne Johnson
  2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Rachel House and Oscar Kightley
  3. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – Temuera Morrison
  4. Big Hero 6 – Alan Tudyk
  5. What We Do In The Shadows – Jemaine Clement

Talk soon, 

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDB.com:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3521164/mediaviewer/rm3060204544

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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With a Star Wars movie coming out every year for the rest of our lives, one might say that we better get used to it. Disney’s going to keep making them, and more than likely we’re going to keep seeing them. But lately the franchises that Disney owns (i.e. Marvel) have become some of the most reliable series in terms of quality, and after the smash hit that was the Force Awakens last year, surely Star Wars should follow that pattern too?

Forty years ago, one of the biggest movies of all time opened with this one line of text: “During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR”. A seemingly pivotal moment in the Rebel fight, yet one we know nothing about. Who were the spies? What was the battle? What happened to them?

Set just before A New Hope, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story follows lone wolf Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of Imperial scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), as she is caught up with the Rebel Alliance and a ragtag group of fighters in an attempt to find her father and destroy his Imperial weapon: the newly built Death Star.

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Despite its strong, affective opening following young Jyn and her family, Rogue One falls victim to a slow burning plot which, for the first two thirds, presents itself in clear sections: go to Jeddah, find Saw, then go to Eadu, find Galen, and so on. At first feeling episodic, with no main motivation carrying us through, Rogue One really picks up in its final act, the slow burn turning into fast-paced action and a tense race for Jyn to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. Relationships climax, and tension rises, as we know that not all of our heroes will make it, but that makes the inevitable victory all the more bittersweet, knowing they fought for a cause they believed in. 

However, the slow moving plot is hindered by the fact that the Empire, with no clear plan for their new weapon once it’s actually built, doesn’t pose as significant a threat as we’re used to, instead caught up in its own internal politics, so by the time things gear up in the third act, the power struggle between Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic and Grand Moff Tarkin is underdeveloped and seems petty. 

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But as Star Wars’ first true war film, Rogue One is every bit as gritty and action packed as it should be. The spectacular starship fights are some of the most skilled we’ve seen, showing off the power and artillery of the Rebel Alliance before it was decimated to what was left in A New Hope. These clashes are second only to the film’s earth-bound battles: the breathtaking Maldives scenery in the final act is set to be one of the series’ most iconic settings, and the hidden, rain-soaked forests on the planet Eadu earlier in the film are incredibly tactile and imposing. The planet Jeddah also lends the film its shady, roguish (if you will) feel – we are, after all, following a band of criminals, spies, defectors and extremists.

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These rogues might have been next in a long tradition of brilliant Star Wars characters, but only just manage to live up to their awesome potential. Felicity Jones’ Jyn is not nearly as much the reluctant hero as the trailers made her out to be (even her infamous “I rebel” line was cut), and what could’ve been her fascinating backstory as a criminal (she’s in jail when we meet her, for goodness’ sake) is missing, but her personality and belief in good grows as she becomes closer to Cassian and her crew and slowly becomes part of the rebellion. Her relationship with Cassian and the rest of her crew isn’t fully developed, not capitalising on huge potential and the hints of great chemistry, but what is there is still sweet, a blooming friendship and romance that manages to hit the sweet spot more than once, and make hearts swell. 

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Despite the fact that Cassian’s oft-hinted to background as an assassin leaves us with only an image of what his character could have been, Diego Luna gives a resilient but tender performance, and the entire supporting cast is brilliant in the face of their oh-so-intriguing characters not being given the spotlight they deserve. Wen Jiang’s kind soldier Baze Malbus and Donnie Yen’s blind, martial-arts fighting, force-believing Chirrut Imwe have enough chemistry and possible backstory to helm their own stand-alone film, and Riz Ahmed’s defected Imperial pilot offers something so interesting and fresh to the franchise, yet their characters weren’t explored very deeply, leaving the audience wanting more in the saddest kind of way. 

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Alan Tudyk’s droid K2SO was brilliant, however, a sarcastic converted Imperial droid that says whatever he thinks, and his humour was a nice touch that was actually preferable to C3PO’s usual alarmed narration. Though Ben Mendelsohn’s villain Krennic was sardonic and menacing, his imposition was undercut by a ridiculously cartoonish reimagining of Peter Cushing’s grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader’s much-speculated appearance was too more fan service than a necessity to the plot.

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Rogue One is a classic case of ‘okay, but they could have done more’. Though the plot finally makes it to exciting and tense, it takes us a long way to get there, and characters with such potential only reach half of it, leaving us wanting more. But with spectacular visuals and some beautiful, moving moments, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is still powerful and spectacular, but if Disney is going to continue making Star Wars films, they need a stronger focus on the human element, otherwise we’ll just get lost in space. 

7/10.

The top five counts are back! Rogue One drew a huge cast, so here’s my top five favourite films and TV shows starring the cast of Rogue One:

  1. The Theory of Everything – Felicity Jones
  2. Big Hero 6 – Alan Tudyk
  3. The Terminal (yes, I actually enjoy the Terminal, and I especially like him in it) – Diego Luna
  4. Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Jimmy Smits
  5. Arrival – Forest Whitaker

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528/mediaviewer/rm2058748672

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528/mediaviewer/rm839575808
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Café Society

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Only recently did I discover and fall in love with the filmmaker that is Woody Allen, but trust me, I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. His iconic settings and larger-than-life plots are coupled with realistic, flawed characters, and it is the realism of the stories that he tells that remind us that life isn’t perfect, but it goes on. His most recent film, Café Society, may have some issues, but it definitely has the trademarks of a Woody film.

In Café Society, New York native Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) moves to Hollywood in the glitz of the 1930s to work for his big-shot producer Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), and falls in love with his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who is in love with a married man.

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For all their humour, Allen’s stories are always full of achingly real characters, and Bobby’s starry-eyed, often one-sided pursuit of Vonnie’s love is doomed from the beginning, just as Vonnie is destined to never be happy. Her thrill is in the chaase; her flightiness sends her from one man to the other; and her spellbinding nature continues to captivate Bobby even through his marriage to other women, leaving Blake Lively’s Veronica stuck in the middle of a selfish love triangle. Couple this with Bobby’s workaholic uncle with his devastating secrets and his gangster brother who’s always pushing the envelope, and Café Society is pretty damn tragic, especially given his penchant for unresolved, unhappy endings. That is, if it weren’t so funny.

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Because Allen’s talent in portraying real life also encompasses its absurdity, and an early, fumbling encounter between Bobby and a call girl sets the tone for both the awkward character and his sometimes bumbling escapades. His family provide much of the comic relief, from Ben’s (Corey Stoll) stylised gang warfare to Evelyn’s (Sari Lennick) neighbour wars, and his sparring Jewish parents (Ken Stott and Jeannie Berlin) are a highlight, accompanied by a classic Woody voiceover. Though these scenes make up the majority of the dragging second act, they do allow the film to breathe amidst all the romantic drama in the lead up to the big third act.

Café Society has a wondrous and glamorous sense of time and place: the classic Hollywood architecture and the jazzy, booze-filled parties are a dream, and whether it’s palatial cinemas or suburban Jewish homes, the only thing more alive is the people. As Bobby floats between the glitzy Hollywood social scene and his classy New York night club, Allen’s love for the era and the films of Golden Age Hollywood is infectious.

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Leading its star-studded cast is a favourite of mine and Woody Allen regular: Jesse Eisenberg is neurotic and brilliant as Bobby, a classic but enjoyable Woody character, and his chemistry with Kristen Stewart shines, as does she. Her progression from quirky LA secretary to Hollywood socialite is stunning, and the cast around her brings out a charm in her that is delightful to finally see. It’s interesting to, for once, see Steve Carell play the most serious man in the room (and even he wasn’t that serious), and Blake Lively is heartbreaking as the forgotten housewife in the final act, but his hilariously dysfunctional family lighten the tone to give us the homely feeling that Bobby feels in New York.

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What I like most about Woody Allen’s films is that his best ones have a message that appeals to the soul and the heart, rather than just the brain. Though Café Society’s message isn’t quite as strong as, say, Midnight in Paris’s (“don’t live in the past too much, or you’ll always long for something more”), Café Society is a wonderfully tragic message that you never forget your first love.

8/10.

I love this cast so much, so here’s my top five favourite films (and TV shows) starring the cast of Cafe Society:

  1. Now You See Me – Jesse Eisenberg
  2. Adventureland – Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg
  3. Gossip Girl – Blake Lively
  4. Ant-Man – Corey Stoll
  5. The Big Short – Steve Carell

Talk soon,

Jessica x

Photos taken from IMDb.com:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaviewer/rm4292546816
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaviewer/rm1164907520
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaviewer/rm447679488
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaviewer/rm2222461440
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4513674/mediaviewer/rm533795072