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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray) - Apr 10
Director: Gareth Edwards

Main Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Lunda, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen

Rating: 4 out 5

Enlisted by the Rebel Alliance to track down her father, the reluctant Imperial scientist responsible for creating the most powerful weapon ever created, Jyn Erso (Jones) joins a misfit band of fighters who would just as soon kill her Dad as save him. Along the way they discover the one fatal flaw in the Death Star. Can they retrieve the plans before it becomes operational and destroys them all? I wasn't sure how I felt about this when it was announced. At some point Disney is going to saturate the viewer with endless Star Wars films and negate their specialness in the process. Still, the first spinoff story is arguably the best entry since the original trilogy. Despite a bit of a muddled and plodding beginning as all the various characters and locations are introduced, when the action finally kicks in it's non-stop and a visual thrill. I was worried when I learned that roughly a third of the movie was reshot months after filming originally wrapped due to concerns from Disney execs. Such studio interference is usually a recipe for disaster (cough, Alien 3, cough). But if nothing else, it gave us a particular scene of Vader (who wasn't previously in the movie) that is awesome beyond words. We FINALLY get to see him being appropriately badass! In addition to the somewhat rambling beginning, I also wasn't a fan of the CGI used for Tarkin and one other character. In the case of Tarkin, where the actor died years ago, I get it, what else were they supposed to do? There seems to be a 50/50 split between those who thought the CGI was amazing and those who thought it was terrible. I tend to be in the terrible camp. I found it distracting and it took me out of the film. On the flip side, the Imperial world of Scarif is the best location since Hoth and Endor and the space battle above the best since the epic battles of Return of the Jedi. This is Star Wars back to basics with the quality and thrilling spectacle that the horrific prequels sadly lacked. May the Force be with you!

Now You See Me (Blu-ray) - Apr 2
Director: Louis Leterrier

Main Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher

Rating: 1 out 5

Four magicians are brought together by a mysterious summons and end up performing more and more outlandish shows together involving stealing huge sums of money using nothing more than 'magic'. How far can they take things while avoiding the FBI agents determined to bring them down? On the surface this is a fun, entertaining movie. It's got a great cast, Isla Fisher is lovely to look at, it looks and sounds amazing and has decent performances all around. But the entire plot revolves around 'surprise twist' at the end. A twist that anyone with a moderately functioning brain stem will instantly cry out 'bullshit' when revealed. I don't want to spoil it although I'm tempted to because again, this is an absolutely moronic film of the highest order - but here's a tip for would be aspiring screenplay writers: In order for a 'surprise twist' to work, upon reflection the viewer must be able to replay previous events through their heads and go 'oh, ya, ok, I can see how we got from point A to point B. In hindsight there were clues and hints along the way'. But this garbage is lacking such a logical trail. In fact, they consistently throw things in which are such an affront to logic that they're dangerously close to opening a gap in time and space and destroying us all. My mind literally aches at what I just wasted my time watching. According to reviews the prerequisite sequel is rated even worse. I honest to God don't know that's even remotely possible.

The Handmaiden (Blu-ray) - Feb 20
Director: Chan-wook Park

Main Stars: Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri,  Ha Jung-woo, Jin-woong Jo

Rating: 4.5 out 5

In Japanese occupied Korea, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), an orphan pickpocket is recruited by a con man to be the handmaiden to a Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) who has designs on marrying and inheriting her fortune - before ultimately disposing of her. Things become complicated when Sook-hee begins to fall in love with Lady Hideko and she wonders if she can go through with the plan. I didn't know much about this film other than it was supposed to be quite risqué, and the director is generally regarded as a brilliant newcomer (to Western cinema at least). Despite the long runtime and despite the Japanese and Korean subtitles I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. My biggest issue is how to categorize it? Is it simply erotica the likes of Emmanuelle? I won't lie, there are a number of scenes that are quite arousing. Is it a thriller with double crosses and misdirection aplenty? Or is it a female empowerment movie the likes of Thelma & Louise? Ultimately it doesn't matter because when taken as a whole everything works to perfection. The narrative is split into three parts with each part showing events from a different character's perspective. Such a structure is needed to fully delve into the plot twists and not leave the viewer feeling manipulated like so many thrillers do. In addition to the twists and turns, the movie is beautifully shot with gorgeous scenery serving as the backdrop to all the emotional violence unfolding all around the characters. A delightfully subversive journey that satisfies on all levels.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (VOD) - Jan 5
Director: Tim Burton

Main Stars: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Samuel L. Jackson

Rating: 4 out 5

Jake always had a special relationship with his Grandpa. As a child he would tell him bedtime stories consisting of fantastical tales of strange children he lived with in an orphanage on a remote Welsh island. Now a teenager he has long since regarded those stories as silly fantasy. But one fateful night leads him to believe that maybe those stories were true after all. It feels like it's been forever since I've actually enjoyed a Tim Burton film. Sweeney Todd was probably the last one and that came out a decade ago. So I was prepared to once again be disappointed - but surprisingly I really enjoyed it. While I wouldn't say it's his best work, for the most part it recaptures the beauty and wonder of his classics. Visually it is beautiful. Full of vivid saturated colours that are his trademark. In terms of the actors, Jake is played by Asa Butterfield whom I really enjoyed in Hugo and Ender's Game. His love interest is played by Ella Purnell who is enchanting to look at and Eva Green is lovely as always. But the best part was who wasn't in the film - namely Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. The only bit of casting I didn't like was that of Samuel L. Jackson whom I'm really getting tired of seeing in almost every single movie - and doing the same role over and over again. He's quickly approaching Nicolas Cage territory of self parody. Yes, things got a bit convoluted near the end and felt rushed, but at 2.5hrs it was already pushing most people's time tolerances. Most of the criticism of the film is really a criticism of the source material which is the novel by Ransom Riggs. As such, it can't be faulted for staying true to the book. This is a children's film for adults and a welcome return to form for Tim Burton.