Screening Room: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

rogueonestarwars1

After last December’s palate-cleanser of a Star Wars reboot from J.J. Abrams, the franchise machine is cranking up with Rogue One, an in-betweener that fills in some plot gaps from the first trilogy without being burdened by so much baggage. That’s the hope, at least.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens this week. My review is at PopMatters:

Rogue One is initially set apart from J. J. Abrams’ Episode VII by the loudly deployed subtitle, “A Star Wars Story”. This leaves open the possibility for endless semantic wrangling over the difference between “Story” and “Episode”. Are Wookies confined only to the former? How come Darth Vader appears in both? Are we destined to see Rogue Seven: A Star Wars Bedtime Lullaby?…

Here’s one of the trailers.

Screening Room: ‘Inferno’

Felicity Jones;Tom Hanks

Well, another year, and another Dan Brown thriller comes to the screen. That would be Tom Hanks on the left as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, and Felicity Jones on the right as his latest brunette sidekick. This time out, Langdon’s hot on the trail of a genocidal madman who loves Dante and wants to destroy humanity. To Florence!

Inferno opens wide this weekend. My review is at Film Journal International:

“It’s good to have you back, Professor,” says Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) to Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) as they dash toward another stage in the latest Ron Howard-directed Dan Brown symbological scavenger hunt. She’s right. Hanks may not be exactly “America’s dad,” as he spoofed in a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit (“How ya doin’, champ?”), but there remains a reason that he’s one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars. As Langdon, the Harvard symbologist (still not a real job) who gets sucked into world-changing conspiracies with the regularity of “Murder, She Wrote”’s Jessica Fletcher, he’s usually the smartest guy in the room but only broadcasts it when there’s a need for some expository lecturing…

Here’s the trailer:

New in Theaters: ‘The Theory of Everything’

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in 'The Theory of Everything' (Focus Features)
Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in ‘The Theory of Everything’ (Focus Features)

theoryofeverything1The first of the year’s two fall films about brilliant British scientists (The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turning, comes later this month), James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is a romantic drama about Stephen Hawking’s early career and first marriage.

The Theory of Everything opened today around the country. My review is at Film Racket:

The Theory of Everything is a story about Stephen Hawking, arguably one of the most brilliant human beings ever to balance an equation. The screenplay is adapted from a book by his first wife, Jane Hawking, about the 30 challenging years they spent together. It has the stuff of riveting drama, from science-redefining theoretical discoveries to agonizing personal struggles. But the film, directed by James Marsh as though from the Twee Biopic Handbook, could not be more ordinary…

You can see the trailer here: