DVD & Digital

DVD review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Aside from the seven episodes of cinema produced previously, other areas of the Star Wars expanded universe have long been explored through mediums such as novels, comic books and video games. A series of stand-alone spin-offs are now planned which are being referred to as the Anthology, and the first of this kind is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Directed by British filmmaker Gareth Edwards, it is set in between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy, shortly before 1977’s Episode IV – A New Hope. The plot follows rebel fighter Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a societal outcast who is approached by The Alliance to assist with their mission to thwart the Galactic Empire’s plan to build a deadly super-weapon. Reluctantly, she agrees, teaming up with fellow rebel Cassian (Diego Luna) and reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), but the merciless Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) will stop at nothing to see his assignment through to the bitter end.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Inferno

Following on from The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, which were released in 2006 and 2009 respectively, the third in the thriller series is Inferno, based on Dan Brown’s novel of the same name. Ron Howard returns to the director’s chair for the latest instalment with David Koepp resuming screenwriting duties. When Professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) wakes in a hospital bed in Florence, he is suffering from both amnesia and a head injury. Luckily for him, on hand to assist is Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) who helps him fill in the blanks while they figure out how and why he got there. They come under attack from a mysterious assassin and a wild-goose-chase ensues as they attempt to foil a plan to release a deadly plague, conceived by visionary scientist Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) who is desperate to solve the world’s overpopulation problem.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: True Story


If you see that Jonah Hill and James Franco are in the same film, you’d be forgiven for assuming it would be a lightweight comic affair, given their mutual associations and previous work. However, in artistic theatre director Rupert Goold’s first foray into film, laughs are nowhere to be found. The mystery thriller ‘True Story’ is based on the memoir of the same name by former New York Times writer Mike Finkel, following his journalistic fall from grace. After losing his job due to fabricated storytelling, Finkel (Hill) discovers that Christian Longo (Franco), who is awaiting trial for the murder of his wife and three children, is using his name as an alias. Eager to explore the matter further, he arranges a prison visit, which triggers a psychological meeting of the minds that changes both of their lives forever.

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DVD & Digital

DVD review: The Theory of Everything

In a biopic heavy cinema season, great men and their stories have been immortalised on film, their strengths and achievements never to be forgotten. Based on the memoir ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’ by Jane Wilde Hawking, director James Marsh documents the tragic, yet triumphant life of British physicist Stephen Hawking. With a hugely impressive central performance from Eddie Redmayne, the film tracks Hawking’s life from his complex marriage to Jane (Felicity Jones) to his scientific accomplishments. When studying at Cambridge University, he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease and given a mere two years to live. Despite his sense crippling illness, he persevered to subsist, his fulfilled existence defying the odds and making him one of the, if not the most decorated scientist of his generation, specialising in cosmology and writing a best-selling book ‘A Brief History of Time’.
  The narrative moves surprisingly quickly through the stages of Hawking’s life and the deterioration of his senses, and uses montage as a technique to almost gloss over key events such as his wedding day and the births of his children. I think because so much time passes, there is a lack of focus as to what the film is actually about. Is it about his illness? Is it about his marriage? Because Hawking is such a well known character, the retelling of his story does little more than offer some insight into his personality. With the same restrictions as Hawking himself, Redmayne does a fantastic job at portraying the internal struggle as well as the physical hurdles encountered as a result of his condition. Similarly, Felicity Jones is very good as his long suffering wife. The responsibility of caring for Stephen and of course her unwavering love for him takes its toll on her character as she loses the man she fell for in cruel instalments, and she expresses the range of emotions powerfully and effectively.
  In coaching superb acting turns from his romantic leads, director James Marsh succeeds and therefore it comes as no surprise that both Redmayne and Jones have been recognised with nominations for their suitably nuanced performances at the forthcoming awards ceremonies, both doing their counterparts justice throughout the severe highs and lows. However, the lack of direction in terms of exploration of themes was frustrating, leaving questions unanswered, particularly around the field of science. The subject matter is presented clearly, openly and honestly, but unfortunately doesn’t show all of the working. ‘The Theory of Everything’ is the study of nothing.
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DVD & Digital

DVD review: Breathe In

Written and directed by Drake Doremus, ‘Breathe In’ muses over female lead Sophie (Felicity Jones), a British foreign exchange student with a passion for music, who moves in with a family in suburban New York. To the non-inquisitive eye, head of this family Keith (Guy Pearce) is living an idyllic existence with his loving wife and daughter, teaching piano as a day job whilst enjoying his cellist duties for a local orchestra. It soon appears that Keith is in mourning of his lost youth, having been forced to settle down too soon for the sake of his child. He stashes old band photographs in his desk and yearns for a chance to break free from his humdrum routine. So when Sophie, an attractive young musician enters the fray, he is inspired to pursue his previously disregarded ambitions.
  This is artistically shot, a dulled watercolour palette washing over us to create a shadowed setting, shrouded by missed opportunities, which seems separated from the real world. The orchestral soundtrack compliments the visuals, and is apt yet predictable given the subject matter and the vocations of our leads. The longing stare is used a little too frequently as a suspense builder as Keith and Sophie grow closer, and having adoringly studied Jones previously in Like Crazy, it poses the question if director Doremus himself wants to be the romantic male lead alongside the pale skinned beauty. In one scene, the two sit side-by-side playing the piano, and the direction felt all too obvious, and remarkably similar to a moment in Park Chan-Wook’s psychological take on the dysfunctional, Stoker, but unfortunately carried off with less conviction.
  Guy Pearce certainly looks the part as the middle-aged family man, wishing he was twenty years younger again, and he and Jones do what they can with a rather stilted script. An on-screen chemistry slowly presents itself but the surrounding plot lacks originality, fizzling out after the preliminary ‘will they, won’t they?’ opening third. Amy Ryan puts in a fine turn as Keith’s wife, Megan, satisfied with the quiet uninteresting lifestyle, collecting cookie jars and attending grown-up dinner parties, or gatherings. Mackenzie Davis fits in well as the OC-esque spoilt teenager, drinking too much and falling for the wrong boys. Her shallowness is a nice contrast with Sophie’s deeper, mysterious personality but Felicity Jones really only has to look good on camera for the most part and with Drake Doremus pulling the strings, she can do no wrong.
  ‘Breathe In’ feels very personal, and is gift-wrapped in pretty aesthetics. Well acted and dressed up in striking cinematography, it challenges the idealistic family set-up, presenting the conflict and fine lines between a middle aged man’s fantasy and reality, whilst also commenting on the importance of age gaps in relationships. It touches upon these topics and shows ambition, much like the central character, but resumes normality when the initial excitement runs out too soon.
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