Category Archives: The 602 Club

Best Films of 2016

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If the title is linked, you can find the full review. Plus don’t miss The 602 Club links for the podcast episodes done on many of the films gracing the list.

13-hours-5747c2d34ab3a13 Hours

This movie was a fantastic way to kick off the new year and told the story behind the events of the Benghazi terrorist attack of 2012. This is far and away direct Michael Bay’s best film. Casting is brilliant and the story will have you glued to your seat the entire time. This movie is not to be missed.

 

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The Nice Guys

Director Shane Black delivers a funny buddy movie with Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe that perfectly captures the 70s. It’s not deep or thought provoking, yet it’s still just a joy to watch. Great soundtrack and perfect for a good laugh.

 

batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-ultimate-edition-5776c6dd47d33Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 

No movie this year sparked more debate online that this. I love this movie. It’s Ultimate Edition should have been what was released in theaters and to me, that’s the only version I will watch from now on. My original review, while too long to put here sums up the film well,

“This movie is a comic book on screen. It is fun too, do not let the reviews out there fool you, there were moments I was cheering and having a blast. I like that the plotting of Lex throughout the film brings all of the heroes together in the end, as well as sets up the need for the Justice League to form. I thought that Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor was a refreshing take on a well known character. He brought a manic malevolence to the performance that set him apart from other Luthors we have seen. I also enjoyed the final climax to the movie as the three heroes try to find a way to defeat Doomsday and not destroy another city. The movie is not perfect, but I like is immensely and cannot wait to see it again as well as Zach Snyder’s Director’s Cut on blu ray. This is 4 and a half stars out of 5 for me.” Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

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Captain America: Civil War

The second superhero movie this year where the heroes fight and the second best hero film of the year. My original review encapsulates my thoughts,

“Captain America: Civil War is a fantastic movie and honestly the Avengers movie we all hoped Age of Ultron would be. While I do have some minor quibbles, I feel Spider-man is shoehorned into the film and would have rather had his time devoted to other characters like Agent 13 or Black Panther, it does not detract too much from the enjoyment of the film. This is rated four shields out of five.” Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

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Star Trek Beyond

2016 was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and honestly and Paramount Studios and CBS Television did an awful job of celebrating. Sadly Paramount’s marketing department dropped the ball with Beyond and it did not perform as well as it could have at the box office which is a shame because the movie is good!

“There are a couple things I don’t like about the film. One, I am not crazy about the action editing which often leaves the viewer wondering what just happened. It is so fast and cut so quick that it is sometimes hard to see or understand what transpired. I also have to say there were no surprises about the story, I leaned over to my wife a few times and called all the “reveals” or plot points well in advance.

What the movie does do well are the characters. The way in which we see them interact and grow is spot on and the introduction to Jaylah is a joy. Here’s to hoping that this is not the last time we see her in Star Trek. On top of all of this, Michael Giacchino has crafted a beautiful score that harkens back to The Motion Picture in some places as well as the best from every Trek movie since.

Star Trek Beyond is a fantastic way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek and with the announcement of a 4th film coming in the “Kelvin Timeline”, the future is bright. The film is rated 4 out of 5 detached saucer sections.” Don’t miss The Ready Room episode on it.

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Hell or High Water

“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…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.”

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The Hollars 

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 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.

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The Magnificent Seven

“The 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…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.

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Moana

Disney has struck gold again and this time  it’s using Oceanic mythology to tell the coming of age story of it’s title character. The music is fantastic, in fact I like the big song “How Far I’ll Go” much better than Frozen‘s “Let it Go”. The messages here of finding out who you are are classic Disney, yet it’s the addition of the story of community and it’s importance in our lives that set this film apart. It also has an important message about the need to learn from and remember our history. Don’t miss this one.

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Arrival 

This movie blew me away. I did not know what to expect walking it but walking out I was stunned. Beautifully pro-life and profoundly thought provoking as it tackles the ideas of communication and it’s foundational importance in our existence as humans.  I cannot recommend a movie more, 5 out of 5. Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

“This is the first of five movies in the Fantastic Beasts series, written specifically for the screen by J.K. Rowling. There is a really strength to this since there are no books to compare it to leaving the audience free to enjoy the film for it’s own sake. The movie does a good job of laying the foundations for the world of wizardry in this time period as well as what’s to come in the series. The cast is outstanding, with the relationship between Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein and Dan Fogler as Jacob Kowalski being a true highlight. James Newton Howard’s score is good, even if it never reached the heights of Williams and the production value, character design and world building is, well, magical. The film nicely begins it’s journey to telling the history of the Harry Potter universe that we got hints of in the previous series, making it a wonderful addition and expansion to the world, yet, at the same time, it stands on it’s own. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is rated 4 out of five Bowtruckles.” Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

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Hacksaw Ridge

This is the newest film from director Mel Gibson and it tells the true story of conscientious objector Desmond T. Doss who single handedly saves 75 men in some of the fiercest fighting seen in the Pacific theater during WWII. Desmond’s determination and faith are some of the most inspirational things you will see this year. Don’t miss this movie.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

There is so much to say about this one but my review wraps it up well,

“I’ll get personal, this movie is everything I wanted a new Star Wars movie to be. Pushing the boundaries of what it means to be Star Wars while at the same time respecting the history and the franchise as a whole. Here’s to hoping the rumors of Edwards wanting to direct a Kenobi movie are true. Rogue One is rated 4.5 upside down Death Stars out of 5.” Don’t miss The 602 Club episode on it!

This list is likely to be revised since I have yet to see La La Land and Passengers.

Find The 602 Club on iTunes

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Ahsoka – Review

tsc-s23-th-square-1440In 2008 Star Wars fans were introduced to a brand new character that no one expected, Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, Ahsoka. She immediately polarized the fan community and it took years for some people to warm up to her. Fast forward to March 7th, 2014 where she walked away from the Jedi order in the last broadcast episode of The Clone Wars, breaking fans hearts but also relieving them as they knew Ahsoka lived. Now, with her fate in the balance once again, fans can’t get enough Ahsoka and they’ve got a new book to keep us satiated.

In this supplemental episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by fellow Jedi Masters Bruce Gibson and John Mills to talk about the new Star Wars book, Ahsoka. We first discuss the Lando casting, our expectations coming into the book, the end of Ahsoka’s world, interludes, becoming something else, the Imperial way, stormtroopers of clones, kyber crystals, Inquisitors, a failing order and our ratings.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – Review

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterThere are Spoilers in this review.

2013 was a massive year for the Star Wars franchise as George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for four billion dollars. Yet the biggest surprise from the deal was the announcement of more Star Wars films in the Skywalker Saga, meaning the long rumored sequel trilogy would finally come to fruition. Since that time, fans have excitedly and trepidatiously awaited December 17th, 2015 for Episode VII. Anticipation built throughout the year as the movie’s coming was heralded by soup cans and action figures alike. The film’s release has seen a maelstrom of emotion from fans and critics as The Force Awakens has become the best reviewed Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, but the question is, “Is it really that good?”.

Themes and Story

As I have gotten older, one of the joys has been the realization that the Star Wars saga is about more than just good and evil, it was George Lucas’ way of giving a history lesson about freedom. The Original Trilogy was about how freedom is won back from a dictatorship, the Prequel Trilogy was about how freedom is lost as bureaucracy and corruption undermine a democracy and now the Sequel Trilogy looks to be just as timely.

It has been thirty years since the Return of the Jedi and the galaxy has seen the end of the Empire and the beginning of the New Republic. As the Republic has taken hold and a new generation has been brought up in relative peace, the idea of vigilance against evil has gone out of fashion. The Republic keeps it’s fleet close to home and the loss of the Jedi to Luke’s nephew’s turn to the dark side has left the galaxy vulnerable. It has given rise to the First Order, a regime even more fanatical and bent on completing the failed mission of Darth Vader and the Emperor, bringing “order” back to the universe.

The New Republic, unwilling to acknowledge the threat of the First Order, secretly sponsors the creation of the Resistance, lead by Leia, while publicly denouncing them. Leia is a child of war, understanding the price of freedom and is willing to sacrifice again for it’s continuation. Unfortunately there is resistance to seeing the First Order as more than a phantom menace in the senate and the correlation could not be clearer to the situation we face in the real world with ISIS, which has challenged the entire western world yet certain world leaders refuse to acknowledge the full threat.

starkiller base scifidriveAnother correlating theme is that of recognizing evil and facing it. Maz Kanata, the thousand year old bartender says to Rey and Finn, “The only fight: against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow is spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them. All of us.” She sees the First Order for what it is and calls it out, it is evil and it must be apposed. What a timely message. We live in a world that is unwilling to call out evil for what it is and confront it, but Maz is absolutely correct that it must be named and fought. In this way, The Force Awakens proudly upholds the tradition that George Lucas began in A New Hope.

Pacing 

As wonderful as the themes are in the story, they are not all completely fleshed out in the film. To get the full picture one must dive into The Force Awakens novelization, Before the Awakening or the Visual Dictionary to get everything I mentioned above. Director J.J. Abrams has made a Star Wars film that is truly faster and more intense. It flies at a breakneck speed and barely slows down to let the character breathe. Unfortunately this leads to some scenes that would have fleshed out the political landscape as well as the motivations of the villains on the cutting room floor. Honestly, it seems like an over-reaction to the Prequel Trilogy and it’s frustrating since the politics here are a crucial story point and resonant theme for the times in which we live. It’s still the thing I have the biggest issue with in the movie.

Cyclical Nature 

Star Wars has always referenced and mirrored itself as Lucas would use themes and motifs in both trilogies to create the saga’s tapestry. As this new trilogy beginnings it’s clear that the same thing is happening, yet it’s not as well done as before. Regrettably The Force Awakens is much more than a homage or layer of the tapestry, it is a remake of A New Hope. Plot points line up almost perfectly as you think about each film and exact beats from Star Wars are repeated in The Force Awakens. Frustratingly this means that there is absolutely nothing surprising in the new movie, if you have seen A New Hope then you will pick up on exactly where this story is going including the death of a major character as well as the use of yet, another super weapon. The movie is clearly more worried about appeasing fanboys than truly inspiring the next generation of fans.

Characters

rey__bb_8_star_wars_the_force_awakens-HDThe true salvation for this film is the casting. Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Oscar Isaac as Poe and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren are all phenomenal. They are the key to the success of this film as they immediately bring you into the story and it’s their performances that cover a multitude of cinema sins. By the end of the movie you will care about each of them and be so invested as to what will happen, you’ll be wishing Episode VIII was next month.

Alongside the new characters there are old favorites that have returned, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Peter Mayhew are all back. Ford has not been this engaging on screen in years and it seems he is firmly invested in doing justice to Solo, especially in light of his character’s demise near the end of the film. Carrie Fisher brings an understated grace to Leia which is a relief to anyone that’s seen her on the talk show circuit and Hamill has little more than a cameo, whetting the appetite of fans to know exactly what happened to Luke Skywalker.

Interestingly for me, it’s not the old characters or their stories that captivated me, it was the new. Sadly the meta knowledge of Ford’s desires for the Han character robbed me of the emotional impact it was suppose to have. The film’s adherence to the formula of A New Hope and The Phantom Menace where the old, wise character meets their end does the same since you can see his death coming for miles. There is also something that just does not seem earned in Han’s death, story wise it makes sense for the character of Han and Kylo, but it’s just lacking something for me personally. I find myself much more invested in the character of Rey and where she will go next. Daisy Ridley has cemented herself as a star with this performance which is good news for the rest of this trilogy.

Real Sets, Practical Effects

11895123_1007878895930378_4624932683842585912_oThis has been the mantra of this movie since it’s inception. It’s a dig at the Prequel trilogy even though Abrams has praised the fact that without Lucas’ breaking every rule in his work on the Prequels, the new trilogy would not have been possible. Where this idea works best is in the character of BB-8. The result is astounding. I challenge anyone not to fall in love with this new droid and struggle to not name him their favorite as credits role. The way in which the onset effect and the sound effects work to create a fully realized character is incredible.

Where it did not work as well is with some of the creature design. The Happabore that drinks next to Finn on Jakku looks like a character from a Disneyland ride and the luggabeast that Teedo rides, lumbers at the pace of a desert turtle, making it the most impractical mount ever. In both places CGI would have been more effective in my opinion and more “real”.

With all of the incessant chatter about the practical effects, one of the best new characters in the film is CGI. Maz Kanata is an outstanding achievement in character design in the same way Gollum was in The Lord of the Rings. You truly feel like the character is on screen with Harrison Ford and it’ll leave you longing to know more about her history.

Strangely the CGI work at the end of the film is not as sharp as one would expect. The X-Wing battle above Starkiller base seems like an afterthought and looks muddled. The editing lacks the Lucas clarity in the geography of the setting and it’s one of the clearest examples of the magic he brought to the films truly lacking.

Another important piece that is missing from this new movie is the addition of exciting new ship designs. All the ships here are just variations on Star Destroyers, Tie Fighters and X-Wings and the new ships like Ren’s shuttle or the Resistance transport are either forgettable or just plain awful.

Sadly, there are also no fun alien cameos in the movie. Abrams seems preoccupied with creating new alien designs, which is fun but the lack of anything familiar in this area is a regrettable lack of connective tissue to the rest of the saga.

Conclusion

This is not the best Star Wars movie, that honor still belongs to The Empire Strikes Back, but it is a better one than I initially thought. It has some problems in the pacing, lack of clarity in the story and themes as well as a death that still leaves me numb. Furthermore, the movie lacks a score that is as strong as John Williams other work in the saga. There are a few nice cues and Rey’s Theme by far the strongest new musical motif, but you won’t find yourself humming anything as you did with the Imperial March, Duel of Fates or the Forrest Battle.

Seeing the movie four times has helped me to overcome a lot of the problems I still see and the performances of the new cast have me sold on this new trilogy. I would recommend seeing the movie more than once, since the first time can be a little jarring with it’s fast-paced nature and important story points almost glossed over because of it.  I’d give the movie 3.75 lost lightsabers out of 5.

Be sure to check out The 602 Club’s episode on the film, you won’t want to miss it!

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The 602 Club 61: Faster, More Intense

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

December 17th, 2015 will be a day long remembered, it has seen the end of one era of Star Wars and the dawn of the next. With the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney came the promise of new films in the Skywalker saga and that promise has reached it’s fulfillment in Episode VII.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by newly awakened Jedi Bruce Gibson, Darren Moser and John Mills to talk about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We discuss our Episode VII experiences, the new characters, old characters, Han’s death, abandonment, the villains, the history of a long time ago, what about R2?, humor, one quick thing, music and design, wrapping up with final thoughts and ratings.

 

The 602 Club S8: How to Add to Canon

The Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

tsc-0s8-th-square-1440In this supplemental episode of The 602 Club Jedi Masters Matthew Rushing and John Mills dive into some of the new Star Wars books released on Force Friday. We talk about Weapon of the Jedi about Luke, Moving Target which is Leia’s story and Smuggler’s Run that is a Han and Chewie adventure. While each one of these books takes place in the Original Trilogy era they each include clues to the upcoming movie The Force Awakens. As we dissect each book we look for the clues as well as consider how each story adds to the canon knowledge of Luke, Leia and Han, ending with our final thoughts and ratings.

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The 602 Club S5: Holy Shiitake Mushrooms!

tsc-0s5-th-square-1440Star Wars Rebels Season 2 Premiere.

Disney has given Star Wars fans a Summer surprise by airing the premiere for season 2 of Star Wars Rebels before if comes back for the rest of the season in the Fall.

In this supplemental episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by fellow rebel John Mills to break down Star Wars Rebels season 2 premiere. We discuss our first reactions, the weight of Vader, an Inquisitor question, what the heck happened to Darth Maul, being in an Empire Strikes Backs state of mind, Lando, the apprentice lives, bringing Obi-Wan in, who survives, more character discussions, Ezra, the music in the show and our final thoughts.

 

The 602 Club 21: Crying Droid Tears

tsc-021-th-squareStar Wars Rebels Season 1.

In October of 2012 it was if millions of voices suddenly cried out in joy, followed by agony, as we learned that Disney bought Lucasfilm and with that came the cancellation of The Clone Wars. Soon afterwards Disney, announced it was creating a new animated show, helmed by The Clone Wars Supervising Director Dave Filoni and Simon Kinberg that would chronicle the beginning of the Rebellion.

In this episode of The 602 Club host Matthew Rushing is joined by fellow Rebels John Mills and Tristan Riddell to talk Star Wars Rebels first season. We discuss our reactions to the news The Clone Wars was cancelled as well as our initial impressions of Rebels, the struggle for shows to survive in today’s TV market, continuity, the Lando episode, the progression of villains, the characters, the huge ending, music, links to Luke Skywalker and our ratings.

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