Star Wars: Rogue One – Trailer

r1_payoff_1sht_v6_lgSet between the time of the Prequels and firmly in the “Dark Times” of Imperial rule, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the daring tale of how the Death Star plans got in to the Rebellion’s hands in Star Wars. Blending the feel of The Clone Wars, Rebels and Star Wars, this could be the best Star Wars movie since Revenge of the Sith!

The movie stars Felicity Jones of The Theory of Everything, Mads Mikkelsen of Casino Royale, Ben Mendelsohn of The Dark Knight Rises, Forest Whitaker of The Last King of Scotland and Alan Tudyk of Firefly. The release date is December 16th, 2016.

Make sure you check out the Star Wars: A 602 Club Collection on iTunes for more great Star Wars reviews and conversation as well as Aggressive Negotiations: A Star Wars Podcast.



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The Hollars – Review


Life is so unpredictable and the choices we make are made with so little information, yet they can lead to the most unexpected things. The Hollars, John Krazinski’s new film, is all about life in its messy, glorious joys and sorrows. The story revolves around John Hollar, who is recalled home when his mother is diagnosed with a brain tumor. He is quickly dragged back into his utterly flawed family, a pursuant ex-girlfriend and the need to juggle the pregnant girlfriend he left back in New York. What follows is a poignant reminder of just how important living life to the fullest can be.

The Struggle of Manhood

I really like the way the movie deals with the issue of manhood and how hard it is to live up to society’s expectations as well as our own. John Hollar is in a job he’s not proud of, with a dream of being a graphic novelist, yet he feels inadequate for the task of completing his book. On top of that, he’s left feeling like he’s a failure in the eyes of his girlfriend. She comes from a wealthy family and he knows he can never provide the kind of life she’s accustomed to.

Don Hollar is John’s dad. He’s spent his life running a plumbing business that is now falling apart. The pain for him, as his life’s work crumbles and the love of his life is in the hospital, threatens to crush what’s left of this sensitive soul.

Ron Hollar, John’s brother, is by all accounts the black sheep of the family. Divorced and forced to live in his parents’ basement because he’s out of work, he’s wrestling with the consequences of his life decisions. It was he that wanted the divorce a few years ago, but now he’s realizing the mistake he made and how much he wishes he could go back.

Each one of these men portrays a different aspect of manhood and just how hard it can be to navigate. Feelings of inadequacy drive men to do many things–pull away from those they love, search for greener pastures or just give up. Each Hollar man in the movie has to find the courage to move forward in the choices he’s made. John finds a way to fully commit to his girlfriend Rebecca, Ron must face the consequences of breaking up his family and Don must find the strength to deal with his business and his wife’s illness. In each situation true manhood shines when responsibility is taken for where their decisions have led them but also when they realize that manhood does not require you to walk though life alone.


A Few Quick Things 

As a quick aside, the marriage of Don and Sally Hollar is just beautiful. Both young when they married, they might have gone on to do other things, yet they honor one another in the commitment they made to each other. And they show true sacrificial love towards the other, being the rock each other needs in the worst of times. They are far from perfect in their marriage, but they are inspirational.

Another quick aside. Ron’s ex-wife Stacey is seeing the new youth pastor at the church. Now, many times the “Christian” character in the film is there to be the butt of jokes, but here, he’s actually everything you’d want him to be. He’s kind to Ron, looking to actually help him. He steps in after Ron has been arrested in the movie and “rescues” him from the police. He does not force his beliefs on Ron, but gives him a sounding board and helping hand. It’s always a pleasant surprise when Christians in movies are portrayed in a positive light.


The Hollars is one of those rare films that comes along, in the midst of towering blockbusters, to remind you of the power of a well-told story. I recommend you go seek this one out and enjoy the simple pleasures of explosion-free cinema.

The Magnificent Seven – Review

mag7_926x1460The 21st century has seen a serious lack of westerns in theaters as they have gone out of style in favor of superhero films. So, who better to bring back the swagger than Antoine Fuqua, director of films like Training Day. This remake of the 1960’s movie stars Denzel Washington as Sam Chisolm, Chris Pratt as Josh Faraday, Ethan Hawke as Goodnight Robicheaux, Vincent D’Onofrio as Jack Horne, Byung-hun Lee as Billy Rocks, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Vasquez, a Mexican, Martin Sensmeier as Red Harvest, Haley Bennett as Emma Cullen and Peter Sarsgaard as Bartholomew Bogue, the film’s villain. What follows is a tale of good vs. evil in a western that’s more progressive and just down right fun.

Bad Religion

The movie begins with Bartholomew Bogue terrorizing Rose City in the town church as the city had gathered to discuss what to do about his threats. He marches into the meeting, flanked by gunmen, and proceeds to preach his twisted version of religion. To him, America, capitalism and God go together, and to oppose him is to oppose all three of those things. It’s a distorted corruption of religion for the benefit of one man. It’s nothing new.

What makes the movie different than most is the way in which it counters the perversion of religion by showing true faith at work. In the center of Rose City stands the church, and because the pastor there is a man who firmly stands with the people of that city, the church is a beacon of hope. The pastor is willing to lay down his life for the people in the town, to help buy back their freedom. It’s a beautiful picture of faith in action.

There is one more nice dichotomy at work between these two world views. As Bartholomew Bogue makes his speech in the church, he talks about how the gold he is mining outside the town is the true meaning of life. In fact, it’s the thing that the townspeople will live for as well as their children. Yet, midway though the film, after the first wave of Bogue’s men have been driven from the town, there are a few nights of normalcy. The preacher talks to Sam Chisolm and thanks him for bringing back this simple pleasure to the people, if only for a moment. Life is so much more than gold in the bank–the true riches are the small moments between people that happen every day. Lastly, Vincent D’Onofrio’s Jack Horne lives out John 15:13 as he mentions to the rest of the seven that there is no place he would rather be than in the service of others with men he respects.


Phoenix Rising

Sam Chisolm and Goodnight Robicheaux have one of the most interesting relationships in the movie. Sam, a black man, saved Goodnight, a Rebel soldier from a group of Yankees who were going to beat him to death. Sam explains his reason to Goodnight by saying, “The war is over for us”. By the time of the movie, Sam and Goodnight are fast friends and they have this saying between then, “What we lost in the fire, we find in the ashes”. It is a timely reminder that after the wars we fight, we have to move on, learn the lessons of the past and work to rebuild, together, something better out of those ashes. There can be beauty from ashes, but it always takes work to make it so.


The Magnificent Seven is fun, but it also has some interesting things to say along the way. While not perfect, it’s a reminder that the western still has a place today and here’s to hoping that we get more. The movie is rated 4 out of 5 stars.

Nutshell – Review

nutshell_mcewanInnovative storyteller Ian McEwan has been exploring the depth up humanity for years. His latest novel Nutshell, just may be his most important and penetrating examination of the 21st century to date. Nutshell is a crime story unlike any other, told from the point of view of an unborn child who bears witness to his mother and uncle’s plot to muder his father. It’s a heart wrenching story of just how far our society has devolved and the mess we’ve created for the next generation.

Lies Will be the Truth

McEwan brilliantly portrays the world of the 21st century though it’s poetry described as, “…Too much about self, too glassily cold with regard to others, too many grips in too short a line.” We’ve become a world of pessimists since, “Pessimism is too easy, even delicious, the badge and plume of intellectuals everywhere. It absolves the thinking class of solutions. We excite ourselves with dark thoughts in plays, poems, novels, movies… We’re bloated with privileges and delights, as well as complaints…”.

The picture throughout Nutshell is one of a world reeling with it’s preoccupation with self in light of it’s rejection of any truth outside our own perceptions. The amoral malaise of a godless society is on full display as the unborn child says to himself, “Who knows what is true? I can hardly collect the evidence for myself. Like everyone else, I’ll take what I want, whatever suits me.”Later on adding, “My selfhood would be sculpted by pleasure, conflict, experience ideas and my own judgement as rocks and trees are shaped by rain, wind and time.” There are no more absolutes or truth, just feelings.

I declare my undeniable feeling for who I am. If I turn out to be white, I may identify as black. And vise versa. I may announce myself as disabled, or disabled in context. If my identity is that of a believer, I’m easily wounded, my flesh torn to bleeding by my questioning of my faith.Offended, I enter a state of grace. Should inconvenient opinions hover near me like fallen angels or evil dijnn (a mile being too near), I’ll be in need of the special campus safe room equipped with Play-Doh and looped footage of gambolling puppies. Ah, the intellectual life! I may need advance warning if upsetting books or ideas threaten my very being by coming too close, breathing on my face, my brain, like unwholesome dogs. I’ll feel, therefore I’ll be.

McEwan has nailed us as a culture, “I’ll feel, therefore I’ll be.” We reject the facts that,”Biology is destiny, and destiny is digital, and in this case binary.” With no perceived shackles of “normalcy” or “truth” we seek to control life by the only standard we deem appropriate, our feelings and since they are transitory, who we are is as fleeting as chaff in the wind.

The culmination of this is mirrored in the mother of the story who has helped her brother-in-law kill her husband, so that they can reap the benefits of millions in the sale of the marital house. Her unborn son realizes that, “…my mother is in step with the new times. She may no know it, but she marches with the movement. Her status as a murderer is in fact, and item in the world outside herself. But that’s old thinking. She affirms, she identifies as innocent…Lies will be her truth.”(Italics in the quote from the book).

This is the world we’ve created, this is the legacy we leave to our unborn. Lies for the truth. Nutshell reads like Romans 1 where the Apostle Paul says,

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:18-32 ESV)


The Unborn

Nutshell is tragically pro-life, showing the utter disregard that our society has for the unborn. Since we as a society see reality in only what we feel, biology no longer applies, therefore the unborn are only children if we feel they are. Otherwise they are victims of our perceptions. We exchange the truth for a lie to enable apathy and at worst contempt which facilitates wholesale murder. Nutshell is a reminder to those of us that are pro-life, it is not just saving the precious babies, but caring for it and the mother afterwards. For children who are born and are unwanted, we have a responsibility to step up and provide the homes and families, welcoming them into love. If we don’t, the life we save will be lost to a world that clearly has no regard for it whatsoever.


Nutshell is a tragic masterpiece that illuminates the dark recesses of our world, reminding us that life is ugly and cruel without hope. It’s an important, worthwhile read and one of the best books of the year.

Hell or High Water – Review


On the plains of West Texas, two brothers systematically rob banks in a desperate attempt to save the family ranch, while a pair of Texas Rangers slowly piece together the evidence leading to a race against the clock. Director David Mackenzie’s new film Hell or High Water intelligently tackles issues of poverty and corporate greed while not losing the heart that leaves the audience thinking long after the last shot.

The Big Short

Last year’s masterpiece The Big Short opened our eyes to the ways in which the banking industry continually tries to find new methods to make money at our expense, and Hell or High Water feels like a spiritual successor to that theme. Toby’s mother was swindled by the bank into a loan that kept her just poor enough to never truly make ends meet. The bank’s goal is to be able to foreclose on her land, which happens to include an oil mine. Following her death, Toby enlists the help of his convict brother Tanner to rob the branches of the bank that has screwed them over in a plan to save the ranch and allow Toby to set it as a trust for his two sons. The parallels with The Big Short are clear, as both films show the financial system taking advantage of poor people and leaving them feeling powerless to overcome their situations.

On top of this, Toby says something profound about poverty, “I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation. But not my boys, not anymore.” Poverty is so much more than just bad life decisions. It is something that can be passed down in families as people get caught in a maelstrom of systematic financial ruin due to a lack of choices and opportunities as well as unwise actions, in places as wide-ranging as the plains of West Texas to the inner city.

It’s not just the bad choices or lack of opportunity, it’s the depravity of human nature that accentuates the problem. One of the Texas Rangers, Alberto poignantly says, “All this was my ancestors’ land, the lease folks took it, and it’s been taken from them. Except it ain’t no army doing it, it’s those sons of bitches right there [as he points to the bank across the street].” From the beginning of time, since the Fall in the garden, humankind has been taking advantage of others for selfish gain, and this movie does a magnificent job of painting a very clear picture of how broken the world is.


Hell or High Water is the best movie I’ve seen this year. The themes, character work, direction and acting are fantastic. Don’t miss this movie. Hell or High Water is rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Star Wars: Life Debt – Review

aftermath-life-debtGet The 602 Club Review!


Last year during the craziness of Force Friday, fans tried to satiate their desire for anything Star Wars with new toys, coffee mugs, shirts and books. In all the mayhem, one book stood out from the rest as the one that people could not wait to devour, Aftermath. This was going to be the start of the new canon, the story of what happened after Return of the Jedi and set up for The Force Awakens. Sadly the reception for the first book, a planned trilogy, was lukewarm at best, leaving fans hoping that the second book would redeem the series.


There are a couple of interesting themes in the book. The first is the way in which the Empire looks to reestablish itself after all the losses it has sustained. It’s idea, propaganda.They will just feed the populous a fictitious narrative backed up by various acts of staged benevolence to sell the facade. There is an exchange in the book between Rae Sloane and and Gallius Rax that feels chillingly familiar,

“He stops her there. “Rae, do you know much about opera?”….“I know opera, though I am not an enthusiast.”
He clasps his hands together. “Become one. It will make our partnership more rewarding for you. Opera moves me. And yet none of it is real. Therein lies the crux of what you need to understand: Something does not need to be real for it to have an effect. The instruments and song, the drama and melodrama, the pathos and tragedy. It’s a lie. A fiction. And yet what happens on the stage speaks a kind of truth just the same. Facts and truth are separate things. I am more interested in truth than I am fact. I am comfortable with artifice when it suits our needs. And here, it does.”

The idea of truth as weaponized artifice created at will, and that facts are not really important, is the best theme of the book.

Second main theme is the struggle of the New Republic to establish itself in the galaxy, finish the war with the Empire and continue to bring freedom to enslaved planets. It is clearest in the character of Mon Mothma and her reluctance to liberate Kashyyyk or to truly see what needs to be done to finish off the Empire for good. She’s become tired of war, looking at people as numbers in equations instead of living beings with a right to life. She’s looking for ways to demilitarize before the war is truly one, sticking her head in the sand and crafting a narrative for herself that they’ve done enough. It’s powerful, poignant and sadly all too commonplace today. The theme is crystallized in Leia’s conversation with Mon Mothma,

“We argue,” Leia says suddenly, “about whether it is the time to build up the military or to dampen its effect. And all the while we forget that we have the privilege of arguing from comfortable chairs many parsecs away. We argue about what’s prudent or what’s practical while people suffer. Do you know what people want to see from the New Republic? Do you, truly?”
Mon cedes the floor. “Please.”
“They want us to be heroes.”
A moment passes where everyone chuckles uncomfortably. At least until they realize she’s quite serious.
Mon says: “I know. You’re not wrong. And you are a hero, and you helped us all be the heroes needed to get to this point. But such passion and idealism have to be tempered by reality. This is a government. It has a lot of moving pieces.”
Leia stiffens. “And that is where we’ll fail. This isn’t a machine, Chancellor. When did we start to see this as a government and not a collection of people helping people? We’ve started seeing…territories and battle logistics and votes. We’ve stopped seeing hearts and minds and faces. The more we do that, the more we lose. Of ourselves. Of the galaxy”

Frustratingly, the themes of the book are not truly fleshed out to really give them the resonance they deserve. They are there and that is a positive, but they lack the followthrough to ring clear as they should.

The Story

The story is pretty simple. A new leader begins to emerge in the fractured Empire, who has  a plan to destabilize the New Republic. His plan has it’s fingers in every part of the story as he channels his inner Palpatine, using Han’s desire to liberate Kashyyyk in an attempt to deal the New Republic a serious blow and weed out road blocks in the Empire to his rule.


One of the complaints about Aftermath was favoring new characters over established ones, and that failed to resonate. In Life Debt, readers are given more of Han, Leia, Mon Mothma, Wedge, Chewie and a few others; this should be a plus.

The problem is they are not written in a recognizable way and they lose any recognizable voice (except Chewie). When using established characters, the most important thing in tie-in fiction is to write them so they sound like themselves. When you read the dialogue, you should be able to hear the actor’s voice.


The new characters do not fair much better. Norra Wexly and her motley crew are relegated to CW melodrama, as bad romances are popping up all over, plus there is a twist worthy of Days of Our Lives. Unfortunately these characters are just not given interesting arcs or written well enough to be stimulating.


Life Debt is all over the place. It lacks the focus to tell a good story. There is too much going on and none of the stories feels coherent enough to be satisfying. The best storyline is about the Empire as it slowly morphs into what will become the First Order. If this had been the major focus, like Lost Stars it could have been great. I had hoped that with the release of The Force Awakens that Life Debt would benefit from more freedom and opportunity to give us the old characters.

Sadly it all feels as hollow as a burned-out wroshyr tree. Life Debt is rated 2 out of 5 stars.

Suicide Squad – Review

suicide-squad-movie-2016-posterThe 602 Club Review.


As the would continues to reel from the death of Superman, the U.S. Government wonders what it is going to do without the alien. Having realized how fortunate they were to have a person that shared their values they now worry that the next “superman” might not and if that is the case, who’s going to stop them? Amanda Waller has a plan. She will take the the worst villains and form Secret Task Force X, a group that can be sent against threats while at the same time, thrown under the bus if the mission goes south. Director David Ayer brings this motley crew to life with a deft hand and continues the DC Comics universe. It’s a comic book movie unlike any other and in world crowded with “Franchise” films, it’s a welcome change of pace.

Total Depravity  

The most interesting moment thematically happens in a bar, as the “heroes” begin to share how they got where they are. Diablo tells the heartbreaking story of losing everything that was important to him because his anger caused him to lose control of his power and murder his family. Harley Quinn tells him that he should own who he is, as Boomerang tells her that while she may be pretty on the outside, the inside is dark. She responds back that we’re all dark. It was a well drawn picture of the total depravity of human kind. As Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way…”. Each and every character, no matter who they are in the film has darkness in them, even the “good guys”Amanda Waller and Rick Flag, no one is clean. No matter the facade we create we are all as white-washed tombs.  

What is fascinating, is to see that unless the character is psychotic, they long to be better than they are. Deadshot wants his daughter to know him as more than an assassin, Rick Flagg wants to save the woman he loves and Diablo wants to find a way to atone for what he’s done. The struggle of humanity is alive in these characters.

Deal With the Devil

If you could make a deal with the devil for you soul but you would receive in return your heart’s desire, what would that be? What do you worship above all else that you would give anything for? It’s the question that a few of the characters face at the end of the film as Enchantress entices them to join her and in return she will give them what the desire most. The answer was telling, what they want most is a relationship, to be known and loved by someone. Even Harley Quinn wants to be “normal”, two kids and a Joker that is not “The Joker” but a man that works 9-5 and is a loving husband and father. It brings back the picture of Isaiah of each of us going our own way, trying get what we want through our own means yet never achieving it. It’s why the second part of the verse says, “…and the LORD has laid on him, the iniquity of us all.” We cannot be made clean though our own means, what we put on the throne of our lives will determine who we are. Even the good things of family, relationship and love are not strong enough to save us. The world has part of the answer, we are all meant to be know fully and loved, not just temporally but eternally.


The Movie

One of the real strengths of the film is the way that it uses the existing DC universe. With Superman dead the U.S. Government worries who will protect it from the rising meta-human treat. Plus (Spoilers), this movie also leads directly in to Justice League and why Bruce Wayne is so keen to create a group of heroes. Which, in and of itself is another interesting theme as he looks to create a group of friends, whereas Waller uses leverage and blackmail to get what she wants.

The Joker is completely different from Nolan and Ledger’s which is wise, but also just as creepy. In fact, he feels more like the comic book Joker in many ways, he even has goons that run around in goofy carnival suits which is just unnerving. Honestly, Joker is a minor character in the movie and that is fine. It’s a real strength of the movie that neither Batman or Joker take over the movie, like a comic book they are in a section, play their part and then fade to the background.

Margot Robbie is perfect as Harley Quinn, she looks and feels like the character we’ve know since Batman: The Animated Series. Will Smith is his usual, bad-ass self as Deadshot and his swagger is perfect for the role. Viola Davis is terrifying as Amanda Waller. She is uncompromising and ruthless. Who I want to see more of is Karen Fukuhara as Tatsu Yamashiro aka Katana. She has a presence on screen and the small parts of her story that leak out in the film make me excited to see her again.


Suicide Squad is fun, different and full of interesting themes. The DC Comics universe continues to blossom and it’s a joy to behold. It’s wonderful to see the DC films completely embrace the comic book universe where supermen and magic all exist side by side and that’s just the way it is. Like Kevin Smith, I cannot wait to see it again and I have a feeling my rating may only go up. This film is rated 3.75 out of 5 Bat sightings.