Movie Reviews: 'Rogue One,' 'The Bounce Back' and 'Collateral Beauty'

  • Written by Catholic News Service
  • Published in Movies & TV
Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." Photo: CNS/Lucasfilm Ltd. Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and Jiang Wen star in a scene from the movie "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story." Photo: CNS/Lucasfilm Ltd.

Recently reviewed by Catholic News Service

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - With "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," last year's promising reignition of the iconic franchise, "The Force Awakens," gains a worthy -- and equally family-friendly -- companion.

Interstellar derring-do is once again the order of the day as this latest film in the series provides a rousing prequel to writer-director George Lucas' 1977 original, subsequently dubbed "Episode IV - A New Hope."

"A New Worry" might be an apt subtitle for "Rogue One" since its plot is driven by the fact that the evil Empire -- served, most prominently, by Grand Moff Tarkin (a computer-generated projection of the late Peter Cushing) and Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) -- is on the verge of deploying a game-changing new weapon, the Death Star.

With its potential to wipe out entire planets, the Death Star could doom the efforts of the gallant Rebel Alliance, headed by Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly), to resist subjugation.

This crisis draws the movie's main character, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), to center stage. As the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the brilliant scientist who unwillingly developed the technology behind the Death Star while being held captive, she has reason to believe that the armament can be sabotaged from within.

To prove this, she'll need the help of intrepid Alliance officer Capt. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as well as that of his mechanical sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). An amusingly straight-talking android, K-2SO is the source of most of the movie's wry comic relief.

In crafting an exciting epic, director Gareth Edwards keeps the mayhem inherent in his story of armed conflict virtually bloodless. And the script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, celebrates altruism while also briefly tackling the morality of obeying some military orders.

But the ambiguous nature of the spiritual "Force" cultivated primarily, in this installment, by blind Buddhist-style monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) may be a source of concern for the parents of some teens. Since the Force can be interpreted in any number of ways, including a vaguely Christian one -- the famous blessing it inspires having an almost liturgical ring to it -- youngsters may need guidance to arrive at sound conclusions.

For all others, "Rogue One" offers old-fashioned entertainment in the best sense: an engaging showdown between plucky goodness and elegant villainy with a bit of delightfully innocent romance thrown in for good measure.

The film contains frequent but thoroughly stylized combat violence, religious elements requiring mature discernment and some frightening images including a scene leading up to mental torture.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

The Bounce Back movie still
Nadine Velazquez and Shemar Moore star in a scene from the movie "The Bounce Back." Photo: CNS/Viva

The Bounce Back

By Kurt Jensen, Catholic News Service 

NEW YORK - "The Bounce Back" (Viva) is a pleasantly compact and diverting romance in which everyone goes out of their way to be both polite and well-attired.

Since the entire cast is attractive to begin with, and the characters they play are, on the whole, morally and emotionally well-grounded, this is not much of a stretch. But it's not the intention of director Youssef Delara, who co-wrote the screenplay with Victor Teran and Staci Robinson, to delve into life's messier aspects.

Matthew Taylor (Shemar Moore), the author of a best-selling self-help book, makes a lot of money showing others how to solve their relationship problems. Yet he himself is divorced and commitment-phobic.

Kristin Peralta (Nadine Velazquez) is a licensed therapist who hasn't been involved with anyone in six years. One evening, her gal pals take her to one of Matthew's seminars where, infuriated by his pat answers to life's complicated dilemmas, she stands up and challenges him.

Their snappy exchange is recorded, goes viral, and the two of them are quickly launched on a nationwide media tour so the customers can enjoy their bickering before purchasing his book. Their conflict makes for good entertainment.

To her friends, Kristin concedes that the attraction their quarreling barely masks is mostly physical: "If he looked like Dr. Phil, he wouldn't have a gaggle of blondes hanging on his every word."

But the realities of adulthood eventually press in, so Matthew makes sure Kristin gets acquainted with all aspects of his life before the story-ending twist -- in this formula, such a turn-around is practically mandatory -- finally arrives. The upshot: enjoyable escapist fare for grown-ups.

The film contains implied nonmarital sexual activity, light banter and fleeting rough language.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 .

Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

Collateral Beauty movie still
Will Smith and Keira Knightley star in a scene from the movie "Collateral Beauty." Photo: CNS/Warner Bros.

Collateral Beauty

By John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

NEW YORK - "Collateral Beauty" (Warner Bros.) is a strange, pretentious drama about overcoming grief.

While that's obviously a subject about which a good film -- perhaps many of them -- might be made, the treatment of it in director David Frankel's quirky mess of a movie is at once too bizarre and too pat to yield any insights.

The talented cast certainly do their best to redeem the proceedings, though ultimately their effort proves futile. Will Smith plays Howard, a formerly successful advertising executive so emotionally paralyzed by the death of his young daughter that he endangers the future of his firm by his neglect of clients.

In response, Howard's three principal colleagues -- Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet) and Simon (Michael Pena) -- hire a trio of actors, vain Brigitte (Helen Mirren), fetching Amy (Keira Knightley) and skateboarding street kid Raffi (Jacob Latimore), to prove that Howard's distress has rendered him incompetent. And this is where things get rather squirrelly.

The thespians are to prove that Howard has gone off his rocker by impersonating the three abstractions -- death, love and time -- to which, as private detective Sally (Ann Dowd) has discovered, Howard has written, and mailed, angry letters. Sally will capture the resulting exchanges on her mobile phone, the players will be edited out of the footage, and Howard will be shown ranting away to himself.

Cuckoo, Q.E.D.

To take the blatantly unethical nature of this maneuver on the part of Howard's partners, who also claim to be his friends, seriously would first require a jumbo-sized suspension of disbelief. The fact that the death-love-time triad also just happens to fit the life situations of these treacherous amigos similarly strains credibility.

The occasional jokes that leaven the dialogue in screenwriter Allan Loeb's script, moreover, are far outnumbered by fortune-cookie sentiments the audience is clearly meant to receive as nuggets of wisdom. Some of these come from the picture's moral-compass setter, Madeleine (Naomie Harris). A bereaved mother who leads a therapy group Howard reluctantly joins, Madeleine also shares the anecdote from which "Collateral Beauty" takes its title.

If you've ever heard the one about "silver linings," you pretty much know what the moral of that story is going to be. Those willing to endure the blizzard of cliches of which the eponymous phrase forms but a flake will, however, find a warm endorsement of marital fidelity waiting for them at the wrap.

The film contains an adultery theme, at least one use of profanity as well as several crude and a couple of crass terms.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.