Skip to main content

Rapid Reviews: Hidden Figures and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The last few years have brought an endless supply of Civil Rights and Civil War era films, making it more and more difficult for writers and directors to keep their subject matter fresh with each subsequent release. St. Vincent helmer, Theodore Melfi, faces this exact quandary with his 2016 late-year effort, Hidden Figures. Thankfully, this remarkable true story incorporates the unique backdrop of science and mathematics to provide the necessary originality needed to stand out amongst a crowded field of similarly-themed stories.

It's the early 1960s and the United States are in a fragile race to space against Soviet Russia. And after falling behind, the folks at NASA are forced to double-down on their efforts to get astronaut John Glenn into space and orbiting our planet. Yet, as racial tensions divide our nation, a trio of hardworking and sophisticated African American women (Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae) lead a united charge to help ensure that the United States defeats Russia on this scientific front.

Admittedly, Hidden Figures comes with a wide range of ups and downs. Throughout the duration of the film its Civil Rights subplot is addressed via an all too familiar approach. Absolutely no new light is shed on this unfortunate historical truth. Instead, Melfi and co-writer Allison Schroeder deliver stereotypical examples of racial injustices that tip-toe the line of embellishment considering how difficult it becomes to spot a sympathetic Caucasian within the structure of the film. However, this minor blemish falls by the way-side as the film's unbelievable real-life story begins to magnify. While the gluttony of math and science dispersed throughout its more than two-hour running time is likely to draw a yawning response from some audiences, I found it to be a refreshing and genuine examination of the common adult world where problem-solving has become a lost art. And through this eye-opening approach, Melfi and Schroeder manage to pen a strong collection of characters that are captured wonderfully by the film's three leading women. The entire trio deliver strong performances, but Janelle Monae happens to shine just a tad-bit brighter than co-stars Octavia Spencer (who will most likely earn an Oscar Nomination for the role) and Taraji Henson. Praises are also in order for Kevin Costner, who delivers his finest turn in years. Hidden Figures comes with many lulls and a few obvious flaws, yet the film centers around a soaring true story that deserves to be told and the entire cast and crew do a fine job of telling it.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

We're only a week into its release and Gareth Edwards' Star Wars spin-off, Rogue One, is already climbing the box office ranks. The film has already topped $350 million globally and its still going strong. However, a larger question still looms. Is Rogue One a worthy entry into the Star Wars universe? Because, like it or not, Disney is opening the flood gates and, much like Marvel's massive expansion, everything we have known and loved about Star Wars is destined to get a drastic make-over.

Set just prior to the opening of George Lucas' 1977 pioneering effort, Episode IV - A New Hope, we're introduced to Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and his family who are hiding in a remote location. But as members of the Imperial forces bear down on their dwelling, Galen instructs his daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones), to disappear into a hidden compartment deep in the caves. Galen is taken by the Empire and forced to construct the Death Star, while years later his daughter Jyn works in tandem with the Rebel Alliance to steal the plans to the planet-destroying weapon.

Rogue One opens in an unflattering fashion, relying on lazy dream and flashback sequences to inadequately enhance character development and stir emotions. Soon after, the film introduces its second main character, Rebel fighter Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who continues to underwhelm thanks in part to more writing deficiencies and a middling performance. Throughout its first and second acts Rogue One continues to introduce a multitude of new characters that never earn their stripes, but ultimately command your feelings during the film's final showdown. I was all but tuned out going into Rogue One's third act, and then the film suddenly goes into "hyperspace". This small side-story in the grand Star Wars saga delivers a phenomenal knockout punch as its eerily reminiscent overlap with A New Hope takes shape. It's a rewarding conclusion that leaves a sweet memory as its brilliant score launches into the final credits. Although, I must admit that there many shortcomings evident all throughout the film. Enough for me to question Disney's clear intention of watering down this iconic film franchise.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-


Popular posts from this blog

The Glass Castle

Destin Cretton is anything but a household name. Yet, the gifted filmmaker turned heads with his massively overlooked 2013 drama, Short Term 12. The effort bridged together Cretton's singular story and vision with the remarkable acting talents of Brie Larson. Since then Larson has gone on to win an Academy Award (Room), but her career comes full circle in her latest collaboration with Destin Cretton in the adapted film The Glass Castle.

Told non-chronologically through various flashbacks, The Glass Castle follows the unconventional childhood of gossip columnist and eventual Best-Selling author Jeannette Walls (Larson). Prior to her career as a writer, Walls grows up under the dysfunctional supervision of her alcoholic father (Woody Harrelson) and her amateur artist mother (Naomi Watts). But as Jeannette and her siblings begin to mature and fully comprehend their squatter-lifestyle and impoverished upbringing, they must work together to escape the clutches of their deadbeat parents.

ATHIRAH (2016) REVIEW : Urgensi, Relevansi, dan Intimasi dalam Film Biografi

Urgensi, kata yang tepat dan selalu menjadi poin menarik di setiap film-film tentang seseorang atau biografi. Menilik tujuan seperti apa yang ingin diwujudkan lewat beberapa sineas setelah menyelesaikan proyek film biografi. Beberapa poin ini memang terkadang masih terkesan bias, karena masih ada kepentingan politik yang berusaha ingin disampaikan. Memang, film sejatinya bisa digunakan sebagai alternatif penyampaian pesan, film memiliki misi dari pembuatnya. Sehingga, metode ini kerap digunakan sebagai medium untuk membangun atau mengembalikan sebuah citra.
Juga ada Relevansi, kata yang tepat setelah menonton sebuah film biografi. Apa yang berusaha dibangun dan ingin disampaikan oleh menonton akan berdampak pada bagaimana seseorang memiliki paradigma dengan sosok tersebut. Dua poin itu juga yang membuat Riri Riza ingin mengabadikan secara visual tentang sosok Ibu Jusuf Kalla bernama Athirah. Memoir tentang Athirah telah pertama kali dituliskan ke dalam bentuk buku oleh Albethiene En…

The Best Performances in Christopher Nolan Films

Like a writer pushing his deadline, guest-writer Greg Rouleau has stepped in to deliver the first of a three-part Movie List of the Month featuring the magnificent Christopher Nolan just before the calendar changed to August (June's list). To begin the upcoming movie list series Greg begins by highlighting the Top 10 performances featured in Nolan's film catalog. Here's a look at the selections:

#10. Matthew McConaughey - Interstellar (2014)

The apex of the “McConaissance” came when McConaughey, fresh off an Academy Award win for Best Actor, signed on to star in Nolan’s big-budget sci-fi epic, with an ensemble that included its fair share of Oscar winners and nominees.  Heading this cast in impressive fashion, McConaughey’s Cooper perfectly embodies the rural American family man who can’t deny his dormant thrill for exploration when he’s chosen to lead a team through a wormhole in hopes of discovering a new home for Earth’s inhabitants.  Coop’s great balance of heart, herois…