On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 4, 2017

"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet." It is with these words that the original Star Wars introduced fans to a galaxy far, far away nearly forty years ago; despite the nearly four decades between then and now though, those words couldn't be more relevant today. It is in these two short, but descriptive sentences that one can understand the basis of where Rogue One comes from and its relevance in setting up the dots that will be connected throughout the original trilogy of films. For a Star Wars fan, this is nothing if not incredible-that the smallest of details from within the universe can be fleshed out so as to expand upon the rich layers of the world George Lucas created all those years ago seemingly opens up endless possibilities. For writers Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Cinderella) and Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) though, one could see how this might be more than a little intimidating to take on. As one might be inclined to do in such a situation Weitz and Gilroy have more or less crafted an old school genre film out of a franchise brand that has more or less become a genre of its own. And so, Rogue One is a genre film executed in a film universe that has defined the science fiction blockbuster genre since its inception forty years ago. That may sound inherently disparaging, but it really isn't. Rather, adjusting the Star Wars universe to fit that of a "(wo)man on a mission" template is rather inspiring and director Gareth Edwards (Monsters. Godzilla) has skillfully adapted the rich and textured aesthetic of 1970's sci-fi to this story that takes place just before Princess Leia sent her trusty droids to seek out an old Jedi friend. Though Rogue One may not ultimately break any new barriers and will undoubtedly serve more as the rule than the exception when it comes to this new breed of Star Wars stories we'll be receiving consistently for as far as Disney's bank accounts can go (hint: they go really far) it is still a more than competent action/adventure story that introduces a few new memorable characters, worlds of which we've never seen before, and a narrative that despite every single person in the audience knowing where it's headed still manages to keep us on the edge of our seats. Video review here. Full review here. B

What is there to say about a movie that knows exactly what it is and executes itself in competent fashion? Turns out, not too much really-especially when one is talking specifically about something as frivolous as Office Christmas Party. After watching this hour and forty-five minute comedy my friend and co-host at Initial Reaction summed up what we'd just experienced perfectly. Describing the "here for a good time" flick that actually ends up overstaying its welcome as a raunchier version of one of those holiday themed, multi-plotted, department store advertisements as directed by the late Garry Marshall. Office Christmas Party piles on the recognizable names and faces (Hey! There's Jennifer Aniston again!), juggles a handful of plotlines, and ultimately comes off as trying too hard to have some kind of genuine heart when we all know the only reason it actually exists is to cash in on certain weekends of the year when viewers seek reminders for how they should/would like to feel around the holidays. This wouldn't be so bad considering Office Christmas Party has a more than capable cast and isn't nearly as hokey as those aforementioned Marshall pictures, but the film ultimately tries to do too much with very little when it would have been fine had it simply allowed its talented comedic ensemble to feed off one another. While Marshall's films more or less turned a holiday of its choosing into a combination of Crash and any Hallmark movie ever Office Christmas Party at least has a driving plot that keeps the focus on only the characters involved in the central narrative and has each of them chasing and contributing to the same goal. There are no extraneous stories that have to strain to connect all the random characters together, but that doesn't mean every subplot should have been kept either. It is in its inability to restrain from both following one too many superfluous factors as well as devolving into something it clearly had no intention of being until it realized the credits had to roll at some point that Office Christmas Party suffers, but when it is having fun, making jokes, and letting the comedic talent it has enlisted to roam freely it's a consistently hilarious time that delivers on what its promotional campaign promised. Video review here. Full review here. C+

Observations that are insightful and honest don't automatically render them entertaining. And maybe entertainment isn't exactly what writer/director Jim Jarmusch is shooting for in his latest endeavor, Paterson, but it can't help but to seem that boredom outweighs any merit born from the introspection on display. More than anything it seems Paterson might be the auteur pushing his limits to their breaking points-seeing just how far people will follow him down the poet hole without promising them much in return. In Paterson, Jarmusch coerces a group of individuals and their routines into a "week in the life" structure that sees the titular Paterson (Adam Driver) going about his business, observing others, and ultimately leaving little impression of his own. Some may argue that the quiet charm of Paterson comes from the way in which he doesn't necessarily participate in life, but how he observes and interprets it as communicated by his writings that are sprawled across the screen. One might say Paterson's appeal comes from the small truths that are highlighted in his relationships with those he encounters on a daily basis whether that be with his wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), his boss, Donny (Rizwan Manji), or the bartender (Barry Shabaka Henley) at his favorite spot that he visits each night not necessarily to shoot the breeze himself, but rather to hear others vent about their own lives. The one aspect in which I could see such a point is in the dynamic Jarmusch allows to play out between Paterson and his dog Marvin. Marvin is a posh little English bulldog who clearly sees himself as the protector of Laura and with whom he shares something of an equal disdain with Paterson. Watching the two eye one another and the contemptuous nature of the relationship go back and forth makes for some of the films biggest laughs and unfortunately for some of the only entertaining moments in an otherwise routine film about routine. In essence, Paterson is a film not without its charms, but its paper thin premise proves unable to support its two hour runtime with the intention to uncover how a very structured and sobering existence might still prove to be surprising only revealing as much to be just as ordinary as one may expect. Full review here. C

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