Anthropoid

In 1942, a group of Czechoslovak soldiers carried out Operation Anthropoid, an attempt to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, upon the orders of the Czechoslovak government in exile. Heydrich, being one of the most powerful men within the Nazi ranks, was also known as the Butcher of Prague—a moniker earned for his merciless reign of discipline in the city of the occupied country. The operation succeeded, after Heydrich was wounded and died in the hospital a few days afterwards. The retaliation from the German forces were severe; entire villages and groups of people massacred for the life of the man behind the Final Solution.

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Anthropoid tells the story of the assassination through the eyes of the two key figures behind the operation, Jozef Gabčík (played by Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubiš (played by Jamie Dornan). Sean Ellis (Metro Manila) wrote and directed, having been wrestling with the subject for twelve years before he’d finally finished the script. The film remained, however, a means for art and entertainment, not intended to portray the events in utmost accuracy. Though the general plot leading up to the assassination prevailed, certain characters and events have been modified to better fit the medium.

Anthropoid is certainly an emotional work. From ts very first scenethat of Jozef and Jan parachuting in the middle of the night amidst a snowy forest outside of Prague—to the very last, the film is unmistakably pregnant with emotion.

I’ll be honest here. As a big history buff myself, I suppose I expected some sort of “accurate” timeline, a real formulated events surrounding the operation. Sean Ellis defied my expectations. He did what many other historical films aimed for but often missed: He focused on the characters’ emotional journey—how they deal with the immense pressure of the order and how they somehow had to find a way to succeed in this near-impossible mission—and he did it in such a way that it didn’t feel overly romanticized.

The conflicts felt all too real; Jozef and Jan facing doubts and divisions in the Czechoslovak resistance movements, maneuvering in a city jammed to the teeth with Nazi officers, and their own personal struggle of having such a weight on their shoulders. All this is wrapped in sepia tones—all browns and faded greys—that push you deeper into the headspace of 1940’s Prague. I can’t tell you enough how accomplished Sean Ellis is in replicating the Prague of old. Ellis, already writing and directing the project, is also his own director of photography; during the twelve years of his process, he’d assembled many pictures of Prague at the time and gave it to his CG team to recreate.

 

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Sean Ellis recreated 1940’s Prague through extensive research and CG help.

The results? A beautiful, almost picturesque reincarnation of the city under occupation. Consistent to its initial vision, Anthropoid’s visual spectacle is that of simplicity and grounded landscapes. It was the story of the people setting the events in motion, closer to the ground as they were and not the grander sort of scheme often depicted in various historical adaptations. It was the story of the people indeed, and the cinematography certainly is an important element of the storytelling.

With an angle like that, the cast could make or break the project. Luckily, they found an enormous talent and leader in Cillian Murphy, whose acting chops needn’t be questioned anymore. He’s certainly the star of the show for me. Murphy, whose Jozef juxtaposes quiet determination and pain and conflict throughout the film, hits home every point that his character is meant to portray in the bigger scale of the story—and more.

Jamie Dornan starred alongside as Jan, the other side of the coin. More optimistic and uncertain, more idealistic and desperate than Jozef, Dornan delivered an exceptional performance and drove my sympathy level right up for both his character and Murphy’s.

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Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan star as Josef and Jan, the Czechoslovak soldiers tasked with Operation Anthropoid.

The relationship between these two men, these two soldiers tasked with what may well be a suicide mission, really is the center of the piece. I found myself being drifted away from my initial thoughts of historical trivia (What year was this mission conceived in? Who gave the order? What’s the impact to the immediate developments of the European theatre?) and into the vast emotional landscape painted beautifully by the actors. Anthropoid is certainly a bleak film, yes, but it wasn’t without its depths and diversity. The humor and levity provided by Dornan’s character and his love interest, Marie (played by Charlotte Le Bon), when contrasted by the more hopeless romance of Murphy’s Jan and Lenka (played by Czech native Anna Geislerová) and the professional burdens of their mission, proved a powerful combination to bring out the full gravity of the events.

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Josef (Murphy) and Lenka (Geislerová) on the streets of Prague.

Regarding the music, Guy Farley and Robin Foster’s collaborative feat is relatively unobtrusive. The melodies, quiet and unassuming more often than not, sweep the moments up in the right places without being too distracting from the center of the picture—that is, the actors’ performance. There is probably one particular moment in the film, overshadowed by an earlier one also close to the end, that captured me emotionally and musically poignant. A simple, ethereal, melancholy piano theme that begins in a very simplistic manner and gently gives way to an orchestra of strings accompanied the emotional peak of the whole movie. Now, to give it away here would be a massive spoiler if and when you decide to give the film a watch, but if you want to hear it, a quick search on YouTube with the keywords “The Crypt – Robin Foster” would suffice. Watch the movie before or after listening; the effect of the music and the scene it’s used in made me a sobbing mess until even the credits started rolling.

All in all, Anthropoid is a simplistic yet emotional take on one of the pivotal moments in the history of the Second World War. I recommend you, history buff or not, to find it and watch it at home, preferably at night and during cold weather, buried under blankets with tissues at the ready, and prepare for the emotional deluge you’re about to find yourself immersed in.

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A Spider-Fan’s Spider-Man Homecoming Rant


Lifelong Spider-Fan that I am, Civil War’s Spidey appearance easily became one of the movie’s highlight’s for me. Just seeing him quip at the heroes on both sides and showcasing his not-inconsiderable strength is a treat enough, and now we get a new Spider-Man movie? After the ambitious-yet-messy The Amazing Spider-Man 2, the prospect of a(nother) reboot is both salivating and cause to worry.

 

Fortunately, after watching Spider-Man Homecoming, those worries are now long-gone. The tone director Jon Watts went for is a newbie Spidey who still needs to learn a lot about the job, resulting in an occasionally stupid and klutzy hero not unlike Batman: Earth One. It’s frustrating at times, but through this we get to learn along with Spidey about how to be a hero. Most of you will be refreshed in knowing that Uncle Ben isn’t shown dying in this one, saving him from the Thomas and Martha Wayne curse of dying in every reboot.


My biggest worry going in, that the movie would turn into Iron Man and His Amazing Friend, fortunately went unrealized. Tony Stark’s screentime is limited, but he adds to the movie by providing a ‘hurdle’ for Peter to surpass in the journey to become a hero.

The Swingtime Club


The cast is great all-around, with the Midtown High kids lending the movie a very teen-movie feel to the school sequences. Jacob Batalon’s Ned is Ganke in all but name, playing off really well with Tom Holland’s Peter as believeable best friends. Being so used to the jock Flash, Tony Revolori’s ‘cyberbully’ Flash is still an asshole, albeit a different kind. For those familiar with the anime/manga Doraemon, this Flash is less Giant, more Suneo. Still, he’s the guy you’ll love to hate. Zendaya’s Michelle is the movie’s Allison Reynolds, a mysterious loner with a sharp tongue who provides more than a few gags. Laura Harrier’s Liz, while she’s not the most memorable of the bunch, still plays well with the other kids. May is still the loving aunt we all know and love, though she’s much more spirited this time around and has fun interactions with Pete and Ned. Happy Hogan unexpectedly ends up being a potential showstealer in his role as Peter’s ever-exasperated minder.

He’s gotta be good. He’s been a Birdman before


In terms of bad guy quality, Homecoming is one of MCU’s best. Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes is far from the one-dimensional disposable MCU villain that we’ve unfortunately seen all too often, and is one of the movie’s highlights. Michael Mando, who some of you might know as Far Cry 3’s Vaas almost steals the show in his limited screentime as another Spider-Rogue, and I hope he’ll be given more to do in the future. Donald Glover is entertaining as hell in his role as another player in the Spider-mythology, especially his one standout scene. And most shocking of all, the Shocker (Bokeem Woodbine as Herman Schultz) is somewhat more competent compared to the punchline he’s been made of in recent comics.

Setting this movie in a high school setting puts emphasis on the duality between Peter Parker and Spider-Man, showing his struggles in juggling between social life, school, and Spidering in a new light. This duality and Peter proving himself to be the hero that he could be is a major, timeless theme that’s true to the core of Spider-Man.

An Amazing Fantasy indeed


Spider-Fans with eagle eyes will have a field day with the amount of easter eggs and homages to classic moments and even some iconic shots of the Wallcrawler from his extensive comics history. While I wouldn’t say that Homecoming is 100% comics-accurate, it honors the spirit of Spider-Man in its sort-of reinvention, like another update on the Spider-myth a la Ultimate Spider-Man, with more than a few influences from classic teen movies and modern superhero movie sensibilities.

While it is by no means a perfect movie with some bits feeling a little draggy and a little anticlimactic though unconventional final act, Spider-Man Homecoming is still an amazing movie that spectacularly heralds the arrival of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man to the MCU, hopefully being the first in a web of great movies in the future.

A Sense of Awe — A Musing of Wonder Woman

 

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Let me just say this and say this once:

DC FINALLY DROPS A HELLA GOOD MOVIE, Y’ALL.

Alright, the sentence above is completely subject to argument, as many would passionately argue that DC has done plenty of good movies before. But when we’re talking about the DC Extended Universe, let’s face it, the results have been less than satisfactory. While I personally harbor a strong yet apprehensive affection for the three previous movies, namely Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Suicide Squad, I’ve got to admit that I still wanted something more from DC, something bigger and better in every way. (Preferably nothing too grim dark, thank you.)

Wonder Woman answered the call for longing, surpassing each and every expectation I’ve had for this movie in the first place—which, I have to say, was already pretty damn high.

Wonder Woman is a milestone in so many ways. When so many of the superhero adaptations we’re getting nowadays are grim, dark, and bleak in attempt to make them realistic, Wonder Woman chooses to show its realism by veering into the other side of it all: hope and light and goodness. These three things are not immediately visible within the first scenes of the movie, however; after all, the secret to a good storyline is good conflict.

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Diana, accompanied by allies, going to the battlefront.

Taking place during the first World War, the human world is bleak as it can be when Diana (Gal Gadot) first step foot outside of Themyscira after Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a war pilot/spy crash landed off the coast of the island. Having lived in Paradise Island all her life, she has no concept of war and the brutality mankind is capable of save by the stories her mother, Queen Hippolyta, told her. At the beginning of the movie, Diana is very much an idealist who believes, without a shred of doubt, in the general goodness of mankind and of the universe. Diana’s naivety, however, soon is put to a test when she is thrown into a battle even she couldn’t conceive.

Wonder Woman is very much a coming-of-age story, chronicling how Diana of Themyscira from the year 1917 became the Diana Prince, the Wonder Woman we’ve seen in 2015’s Batman v. Superman. The somewhat juvenile character of Diana in the beginning of the movie goes through the first of the many trials she was to face through the years, from a girl who grew up in the company of warrior women in the most serene place imaginable to a woman of her own woes and wiles while still maintaining a sense of positivity about the world around her, even after seeing what she’d seen in battle.

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Diana and Steve in London.

While the movies we’ve seen so far pretty much remained grimdark all the way to the end with scarce chances of light, the way the various conflicts and events in Wonder Woman are handled and executed is a topic of its own wonder (no pun intended). Again, being set at the end of one of the bloodiest conflicts in history gives Wonder Woman every chance to go grimdark like all the others—but the film perseveres in its delivery of constant light and good-heartedness found even amid the most desolate of conflicts.

The highest kudos must be given to the director of this movie. Having watched a lot of her interviews, I’ve inferred that Patty Jenkins, aside from caring so much about the character and what she represents, knows what she’s doing, and what she’s doing, she does with an amount of passion that translates into her words and onto the screen. It was clear that Wonder Woman was handled with an amount of care only generable by someone who cares not only about representation in media, but also what makes Wonder Woman a truly unique and timeless character, one that a lot of people could look up to and find optimism in their own often dark world.

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A warrior must also be kind at heart.

Generations of comic book writers have written Diana in a lot of ways, but what makes her distinguishable from every other character is what she represents. If Clark Kent represents hope and Bruce Wayne represents justice, then Diana represents truth. Diana is a character who, we can pretty much say, has seen it all: Born and blessed with longevity, Diana (at least the DCEU incarnation) has lived for a hundred years among mankind, and eons before in the company of the Amazons. Despite that, Diana remains true to herself and what she believes in, willing to fight that others couldn’t fight for themselves.

The one thing I have to point out is how much I love the dynamics between Steve Trevor and Diana. And Hippolyta and Diana. And Antiope with Diana. And Etta Candy with Diana and Steve. And Trevor’s crew with…well, everyone, really. Wonder Woman gives us a healthy dose of everything—from the romance between Steve and Diana that’s so subtle and so tear-jerking that you’ll never see it coming once you’ve started shipping them, the heart-wrenchingly beautiful mother-daughter relationship between Hippolyta and Diana, the harsh-yet-sincere mentor-student dynamics with Antiope, and the sustained camaraderie with Etta and Steve’s band of seasoned war veterans, who were so much more than eye candies and provide the story with more depth than it already possesses. The writing of each character is so good and so humane, in a way that’s easily relatable with the human connections we have and encounter every day.

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Diana’s first meeting with Etta Candy.

The use of disposable villain(s) is one of the main problems found in recent superhero movies, but Wonder Woman is not one of them. Despite having multiple villains, Wonder Woman manages to use all of them effectively. Each of them contributes something to the storyline—none of them is there only to look evil and menacing and does absolutely nothing to drive the story forward (I’m not gonna name names, but, go figure).

Regardless of the differing tone and generally everything, Wonder Woman still feels very much like a DC movie. It somehow manages to find itself in the established universe with subtle characteristics DCEU fans would notice, for instance, over-the-top action sequences. These sequences, however, don’t come off as bad extra (as in Qui-Gon-Jinn-cutting-through-a-blast-door-with-a-lightsaber extra), but good extra. Patty Jenkins explains in an interview with AOL Build Series that the slow-motion effect used in many of the scenes is meant to emphasize Diana’s point of view, as she is experiencing the situations of a real battle for the first time. Extra-ness aside, those scenes did look cool—without being too tacky.

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Extra, but good extra.

A review by me is not complete if I don’t go over the music. And let me just tell ya—Rupert Gregson-Williams is quickly becoming one of my favorites.

Having been exposed to his work in The Crown and Hacksaw Ridge, Gregson-Williams’ music is one I like to think I was getting familiar with. Listening to his score in Wonder Woman, I could place his style immediately—the melodies and the dynamics, for example—and boy did he outdo himself in this film. Gregson-Williams’ music in Wonder Woman offers dimensions and depths like I haven’t encountered in both titles mentioned above with new themes illustrating Diana’s world and experience in Themyscira and the outside world. What gives me more delight is that Gregson-Williams uses the track introduced in Batman v. Superman that has now become iconic, Is She With You? in the battle sequences, which further provides the movie with many a “HOLY SHIT” moment.

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To be released on June 2, can’t freaking wait.

The one downside of this movie—if there is any—is the lack of nods to the comic book runs. While Wonder Woman manages to incorporate elements of Diana’s origin from both the original and New 52 (nicely and with respect to both, might I add), I couldn’t help but felt like there could have been more of the Amazons and the vast lore of Themyscira to be shown in the movie. The two Amazons featured in the movie, namely Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) and General Antiope (Robin Wright), are badass enough as they are, but as a fan of the comic book mythos, of course I wanted to see more of the Amazons.

Small disappointment aside, Wonder Woman is without a single doubt the best DCEU film I have seen so far, as I’m sure many people would agree once they’ve seen it. It is a movie done with complete earnestness and faith and generosity to the original source material without being stiff, providing the audience with twists and turns for it to remain entertaining. It is the first female-led superhero movie in recent memory, and one to feature a truly strong representation of how a woman could be in a world we live in now. It is a movie that makes me cry and laugh and swoon within the span of two hours. It is a movie that gives you everything and, though feeling more than satisfied with what you’ve just been given, it leaves you wanting more.

I’m sorry that I’m not sorry for the length of this post, guys. I’ve been a patient DC fan for years and finally those years of patience have been paid. Wonder Woman is really, honestly, whole-heartedly, that good. Don’t believe me? Go see the movie and decide for yourself.

One Last Time, Bub-Logan Review

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After 17 years, Hugh Jackman’s run on an iconic role finally comes to an end. In the pop culture consciousness, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is up there with the likes of the original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late, great Carrie Fisher in being so attached to their roles. And what a sendoff to give our favourite grumpy Canadian, too.
The aptly-titled Logan is just that, a deeply personal story about Logan and his struggles coming to terms with what he’s done in the past and dealing with the demons it summoned that plague him even now. Taking place in a not-so-far future where mutantkind is all but eliminated, Logan, now a limo driver reluctantly takes care of a senile Professor X with the help of Caliban. But when a girl with suspiciously similar powers to him, Logan is forced to go on the run with them to evade the forces who mean to do them harm.
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Pierce and the Reavers, about to drop the hottest album of 2024

As befitting a last outing, Hugh Jackman gave it his all as Logan. Time hasn’t been kind to this old dog, and he’s more jaded, more cynical, and more world-weary than before, so much so you just can’t help but feel bad for him. Patrick Stewart, regretfully also in his last outing as Professor Xavier, is nothing like the Xavier we’ve grown to know and love throughout the years. This Professor X is senile, a bit loopy, and is more like that cheeky old grandpa who refuses to take his medicine and messes with his caretakers all the time. But still, shades of the old Xavier is there somewhere, buried in regret and a whole lotta meds. The showstealer, and arguably the emotional heart of this movie, though, is newcomer Dafne Keen’s Laura, also known as X-23. Despite not speaking for most of the movie, her expression and movements are all that it takes, not to mention that she clicks right into the dynamic between Xavier and Logan as the ‘child’ of the trio.
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The years haven’t been kind

The R-rating of this movie is well-earned. For the first (and sadly last) time, we finally get to see what those claws are capable of doing, in full bloody glory. Slicing up limbs, going through faces and everything in between, it’s all fair game. Which lends well to its intense fight scenes, some of the most brutal and most violent in the X-movies. Despite the abundance of violence, this story is very much an emotional one, ‘family’ being the word of the day. Three people, broken in their own ways, managing to find a way to function together even through the hardest of situations. Logan has equal parts of laughs, tears, and heartwarming moments that all hit really, really well.
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I’d warn him about putting someone’s eye out, but I think that’s what he’s going for

Logan isn’t a superhero movie. It’s not about people in spandex trying to save the world. Instead, it’s a story of Logan, as the title implies, and how he embraces his ‘family’, dysfunctional as they are. And in that, a movie that I dare say is the best X-movie is born. Logan is the perfect sendoff for a truly iconic character.

The Magical and The Bat-Justice League Dark Review

DC hasn’t had too much luck with adapting the occult into other media. With the dearly departed Constantine TV series and the long-rumored Justice League Dark/Dark Universe movie still in development hell, there isn’t much success in adapting the more…magical fare onto the screen. Which is why the Justice League Dark animated movie is a pleasant surprise.

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Alternate title: Batman and His Magical Bitches

Helmed by Jay Oliva, Justice League Dark is the first outing for DC’s titular team (stretching the word a bit) of mystically-inclined heroes (again, stretching). Consisting of John Constantine, Zatanna, Deadman, Swamp Thing, and Etrigan, alongside Batman as the ‘outsider’, the team must face an ancient evil threatening to destroy both life and afterlife alike.

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Say hello to the new Robin

The plot isn’t exactly anything new, but boy, does the cast make it a fun trip. Matt Ryan absolutely steals the show in his return as John Constantine. John is every bit the loveable bastard we’ve grown to love from the show, and his lines are sharp as ever. Jason O’Mara provides the straight man to the rest of the craziness as Batman, Camilla Luddington brings a balance to the team as backwards-talking magician Zatanna, Nicholas Turturro is annoyingly yet endearingly chipper Deadman, Ray Chase plays both man and rhyming demon Jason Blood and Etrigan, and Roger Cross rounds up the main cast as the protector of the Green, Swamp Thing. Jeremy Davies also makes a return as John’s long-suffering friend Ritchie Simpson, and Alfred Molina is Destiny, the main villain of the piece and live-action Skeletor lookalike.

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Toldja

Justice League Dark’s strongest suit is its characters. Most of the main cast play very well off of each other, but what surprised me pleasantly was the inclusion of Batman, who I thought would likely be shoved in there for marketing purposes, to turn out pretty good. He wasn’t overused and hogging the spotlight, but conversely he isn’t just /there/ either. He strikes a good balance between being the perspective ‘everyman’ character and the major source of snark and the occasional grunt. John Constantine is easily the best part about this movie, which is exactly what most of us came here for. If this is the direction for John we’re going for in the CW Seed series, then this is going to be fun.

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Even seeing his name caused Batman to cut himself shaving

Deadman is an unexpected favorite, playing comic relief for most of the movie, and both Etrigan/Blood and Swamp Thing’s albeit brief appearances, they made a sizable impact in the movie. Especially Etrigan and his mad rhyming skills. It’s a bit of a shame Zatanna’s spotlight seems to dim a bit compared to the other team members, but she still proves interesting in her backwards magic and reining John in.

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I’m sure he gets this a lot

What I loved about this movie is that it doesn’t exactly shy away from the dark, the creepy, and the strange. The intro builds the sense of dread well enough, and sets the scene that what they’re facing this time is something else. And one of the more fun set pieces is around the middle, when the thing made of shit comes along. It was wholly unexpected, and to be frank, I loved it. The climax leading up and all the way to the ending was also quite the highlight, and kept me at the edge of my seat along the way.

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And now the literal shit has hit the proverbial fan

While I liked most of the movie, I do have several gripes regarding it. One of the major ones is that John doesn’t even so much as gets near a cigarette during the whole thing. Even the NBC series, when he ostensibly can’t be shown smoking, he’s still shown holding a cigarette and in some of the last episodes he’s seen outright smoking. While this may look like a minor thing to some, cigarettes are part of his iconic look, and not even teasing that feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. Black Orchid and Felix Faust were also sort-of wasted in their roles. While Black Orchid had one great exchange with Batman, Felix Faust felt like just another speedbump in our heroes’ journeys.

With all that said, I enjoyed Justice League Dark very much. A fun, solid ride that did what it set out to do, despite several points of contention. But nothing’s perfect, right?

Battlefront-Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

The Star Wars Battlefront series (not the EA one) have always been my favourite Star Wars games, even now. That feeling of being one of the rank-and-file soldiers on the ground, fighting tooth and nail to gain ground, it’s amazing and makes you appreciate the common soldiers more. To me, Rogue One is close to an adaptation of that.

Rogue One tells the tale of how the Rebels come into possession of the Death Star plans, resulting in [40-YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT] the destruction of the Empire’s planet-killing superweapon. [40-YEAR OLD SPOILER ALERT] A ragtag team of outcasts even by Rebellion standards, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a key Imperial scientist, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) an intelligence officer in the Rebel forces, Captain Andor’s loyal reprogrammed Imperial droid K2-SO (Alan Tudyk), defecting imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and Chirrut’s companion-slash-bodyguard with a blaster the size of a Warhammer storm bolter Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) goes rogue (get it?) to steal the Death Star plans and get it to the Rebels before the planet-killer can be used against them.

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About to drop the hottest mixtape this side of the Outer Rim

The first thing that stands out from Rogue One is how it feels…grittier, and not in a bad way. We’re right there with the Rebels in the trenches and with the great chemistry of the cast, being attached to them is no tough feat. The stars of the day were truly the Alliance, the brave beings who laid down their lives in service to the cause.  As their foil, Ben Mendelsohn is Orson Krennic, the director of the Empire’s advanced weapons research division, along with Guy Henry, with the help of CG to bring back the late, great Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, and a special appearance by Darth Vader.

Without giving out too much of the plot, Rogue One manages to fit snugly in the canon etablished by the Original Trilogy without contradicting (to my knowledge) anything that isn’t already made non-canon. In its execution, the plot does have its cliches, but given the amazing chemistry of the ragtag band of Rebels and the great interaction between them, I don’t much mind. Emotionally, this movie hits all the beats. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll drop your jaw in amazement, this movie has everything. Even when most of us know what’ll happen in the end, it still doesn’t help when the feels train hits. And it hits hard.

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Trooper squad goals

For all the fanboys, this movie is LOADED with easter eggs. From Dejarik tables, references to classic lines, to little offhand mentions of canon characters from other media, it’s fanservice central up in here. They even pulled the “May the force of others be with you” line from the early 1974 rough drafts. Even the set designs echo a lot of the design cues from the Original Trilogy and some shots feel like they were lifted from the Original Trilogy, making it feel old yet new at the same time. As I’ve said and I’ll say it again, someone needs to line up all the Imperial architects out back and shoot them. Just about everything they build is a workplace accident waiting to happen. But damn if they don’t look cool!

That said, all the sameness, while I’m not complaining, would probably rub some people the wrong way. And I can’t help but feel K2-SO is like HK-47-lite, but maybe that’s just me being bitter. K2, along with Chirrut and Baze’s banter still stole the show for me.

Bottom line, Rogue One is just as it’s advertised, a Star Wars story. While it’s not a standard Star Wars movie,  it’s fun, it’s heartwrenching, and by god, it’s awesome. Any opportunity to explore the galaxy far, far away is one that’s always welcomed to me.

I Had Bad Dreams Over This — A Look Into Clean Room

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As a reader, I like to be kept in the not-know when I jump into a new title. The sense of discovery as every panel progresses along every issue is one of the things I look forward to, as well as all the good ol’ things that makes a comic a good one: among them plot, visual, and characters. And these are all what Gail Simone and Jon Davis-Hunt’s Clean Room provided.

I like to say that I’m not new to the horror comic book scene, having read Hellblazer years prior and the Scott Snyder-Jock project Wytches on the same day I started reading Clean Room. I’d say my basics of horror lore are none too shabby. And so, with a certain degree of expectations, I jumped in.

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The first three panels of Clean Room.

When I started on the first issue, I knew nothing about the title aside from its title, publisher, and the fact that Gail Simone is writing the book—all of which are enough reasons for me to start reading it. It being a Vertigo title, I knew from the start that some grisly contents were in store. What I didn’t take into account, however, was how brilliantly delivered those contents are. While the two titles mentioned above deliver horror in a traditional (yet still unconventional and genius in their own ways) sense, Clean Room is something else. It’s a detective story, science fiction, and horror tale thrown together in the blender that is Gail Simone’s mind, birthing something that doesn’t quite sit in any genre.

It’s grotesque, it’s smart, it’s emotionally moving, and most importantly, it’s deliciously unsettling—in a sense that it gave me my first real case of bad dreams for the first time in weeks. Yep, reading Clean Room before I went to sleep definitely wasn’t one of my brightest ideas. I woke up delighted, however, because that’s how I knew that this title is special.

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Demons behind the corporation–so to speak.

So what’s it about, you may ask? The first issue centers on Chloe Pierce who, after trying to kill herself in the wake of her fiancé’s suicide a few months prior, goes out to seek the truth behind her previously-happy lover’s untimely demise. Her quest brings her to Astrid Mueller, horror writer turned self-help guru, and the shady lot of activities she and her followers have apparently been doing behind the façade of motivational corporation. Those activities concern demon-like creatures that drive people crazy (or “hyper-emotive”, as preferred in the characters’ narrative) and can apparently only be seen by certain people. Astrid Mueller’s corporation is seemingly involved in a war against a greater force, but as bodies start dropping and questions start to be asked, Chloe Pierce vows to get to the bottom of whatever it is Astrid Mueller is doing.

It’s all going to feel pretty meta, especially in the first few issues, but as the story progresses, the pieces dropped here and there from the beginning will start to make sense—as much as they do, anyway. One of my favorite things about this title is how huge the mysteries in the lore are, leaving still enough holes in the fabric of issue-by-issue understanding that even when things are beginning to be revealed, I’m still left baffled and curious as to how the pieces of information will fit in the big picture.

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Bet this guy’s baffled, too.

The story is conveyed through the pencils of Jon Davis-Hunt with colors by Quinton Winter, and as opposed to the dark-and-twisted edge associated with conventional horror art, the panels in Clean Room are colorful in their realism. Davis-Hunt provides exceptionally detailed, tidy interiors, made even more eye-popping with Winter’s color palette. Make no mistake, however—the atrocity displayed in Clean Room is as graphic and delightfully detailed as in any other Vertigo title.

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Don’t say we didn’t warn ya.

Clean Room is cerebral and provoking and deeply psychological as well as being rooted in reality—a twisted one at that, but a reality nonetheless. It’s the type of story whose spirit you can feel crawling over your skin as you read on—and, let’s be real, a horror story that gives you goosebumps and bad dreams while still being visually realistic must be a hell of a good one.