It wasn’t my idea to rent The Secret Life of Pets.
My wife, on a whim, brought it home from a Redbox — she had a coupon for a free movie — and since we don’t watch too many movies together anymore because of our busy schedules, I made it a priority to sit down and be in front of the television while it played.
The trailers for the movie seemed uninspired, filled with tired jokes and boring sight gags. The premise — going behind the veil to see what our pets really do when we’re away — only a hair or two from Toy Story. I planned on doing other things while the movie played.
But let me tell you, I was in for a treat — The Secret Life of Pets isn’t half-bad or slightly bad. It’s actually pretty good — especially if you’re owned by a pet or two.
Everything that is wrong with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story can be summed up in one thing.
Well, there are a lot of things wrong with Rogue One: paper-thin characters, a middling pace, a largely forgettable (and, within the mythos, unnecessary) plot.
But the tank – the TX-225w “Occupier” combat assault tank, as Wookiepedia tells me – is the perfect vehicle to address Rogue One’s fundamental problem: a superficial guise and muddled tone.
Because while the film purports to be a gritty war drama – tanks! firefights! no Jedi! – it never fully divorces itself from the character of the rest of the series.
And that has serious repercussions.
Star Wars – despite a misleading title – has never really been about warfare. In the series, wars merely act as backdrop and motivation for the melodramatic blood feuds of space wizards: a former slave is seduced by dark magic and rebels against his mentor (the Prequels); a farmboy learns magic to defeat his fallen father (the Original Trilogy); an orphan scavenger discovers magic and proceeds to beat up some goth kid (The Force Awakens).
The climax of these films usually feature a battle of some kind, yes, but it is the emotionally-charged contest between individuals that form their central focus: Luke vs. Vader (the battle of Yavin), Luke vs. Vader (the occupation of Bespin), Luke vs. Vader vs. Palpatine (the battle of Endor), etc.
Before Disney felt it needed to add A Star Wars Story to the title — you know, for all the uninitiated viewers who needed a green light to go buy a ticket — it was just Rogue One, the first of what could be an avalanche of anthology movies set to release as Disney begins its plans to release at least one SW movie per year from here on out.
Apart from the three new episodes, these standalone movies — the next one is a young Han Solo movie for 2018 starring Alden Ehrenreich as Han and Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian — can be viewed either as boons or boondoggles. They are at once many things and nothing — a wasteful cashgrab to extreme purists, an insult to committed followers of the expanded universe, and/or a welcome addition to the family by pretty much everybody else with an open mind.
For the casual fan wondering what the fuss is, Rogue One isn’t a major episode, and Luke Skywalker is nowhere to be found. It does have Darth Vader, and several other cameos, but the focus is on a set of characters who have never been mentioned by name before, and — for all intents and purposes — may never be mentioned in any new movie ever. (Notice I put down “new.”)
So if you have no desire to watch this, but you’re still excited about the Force Awakens and the next two episodes, you won’t miss out on anything critical — though it will ease some of your doubts about the convenient way the plot sort of connects itself. And if you’re partial to the prequels — meesa thinking some of you are — it won’t really change how you feel about those movies.
It will, however, have a profound effect on fans of the original Star Wars movie, the one simply titled Star Wars at its release — it didn’t get the Episode IV or A New Hope subtitle until 1978 or 1981, depending on which source you trust.
When I first saw the trailer for Arrival, my mind went immediately to Robert Zemeckis’ Contact, the 1997 movie starring Jodie Foster about a scientist who receives and deciphers alien communication.
In Contact, Foster’s character Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Ann Arroway fights setback after setback in order to achieve her goal of finally making contact with an unknown alien communicator. When the alien appears as her father, Ellie’s expectation of seeing something radical, different, or monstrous — and by reason a look at the bigger picture of the universe — is washed away by a mirror that points her back to the human race for answers.
In Arrival, Amy Adams stars as renowned linguist Dr. Louise Banks, who becomes a critical asset for the United States government after an alien ship touches down somewhere in Montana. Eleven other ships have landed in various parts of the world creating fear and tension for their hosts, and no one knows whether the aliens have come in peace or to wage war.
House meets Inception meets Iron Man in a special effects bonanza that sorts out Stephen Strange’s mystical origin story for the silver screen as he goes from world-renowned surgeon to universally known sorcerer.
As one of the Avengers most powerful members, Dr. Strange exists in the comics as Earth’s protector against threats that transcend the physical. Wielding the Eye of Agamotto, Strange basically has a limitless array of powers at his disposal to go along with his masterful intellect.
In his cinematic debut, Strange is more or less the same character — changes were made to make him fit in line with the impending Infinity War. We’re introduced to the character at the height of his arrogance as he pokes fun at public health care, sorts through a drawer full of high-end watches to fit his tux for a speaking engagement, and handpicks his next surgery case.
A strange x-ray keeps his attention too long while he speeds along a coastal cliff in his Lamborghini. He sideswipes another vehicle which sends him spinning through the air and down the face of the cliff until the car face plants into a watery ditch. Strange wakes up in a public hospital with his hands stitched up and filled with pins. He doesn’t need a second opinion to tell him he will never perform another surgery again.