Kevin Strange’s Star Wars: Rogue One Review

Lucasfilm and Disney took a HUGE gamble by breaking from the traditional Skywalker storyline with its “A Star Wars Story” franchise which follows characters only tangentially related to the saga of Luke, Leia, Obi Wan and Darth Vader.

Does this gamble pay off or does ROGUE ONE turn out to be a giant, unmitigated disaster?

STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE was directed by Gareth Edwards who last helmed the big budget American Godzilla film from 2014 (and incidentally shows Darth Vader here about as much as he showed Big Green in that film.)  So he’s no stranger to taking on franchises with a ton of history behind them.

But to be tasked with creating the first STAR WARS film outside of the Skywalkerverse? Lots of pressure. And rumors of massive re-shoots only months before the film was set to be released only intensified the feeling of unease as we inched closer and closer to its December 2016 release date.

As Han Solo famously says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

So does it crash and burn like a Star Destroyer after one too many laser blasts from a squad of X-Wings? Or does it soar into nastalgia-land and do enough fan service to earn its place in the pantheon of STAR WARS films before it?

For me, it lands somewhere in the middle. It’s not as good as Episode 7 and still worlds better than any one of the prequels without touching the brilliance of original trilogy. ROGUE ONE is the kind of STAR WARS movie I EXPECTED to see back when THE PHANTOM MENACE came out.

It’s a big, loud, dumb blockbuster with enough heart to propel it forward while failing to create that charm that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had in the original trilogy.

None of the characters stand out as the kind that people will be talking about for years to come. For me, the only character I really gave a shit about was Forest Whitaker’s batshit crazy turn as Saw Gerrera the robot-legged, oxygen-huffing rebel who helped Jyn Erso (played wooden and dead-eyed by Felicity Jones) escape after the imperial general Orson Krennic comes for her father.

Mads Mikkelsen, who I normally love, phones it in as Jyn’s father Galen. The rest of the cast is a fairly generic (but ethnically diverse because, you know, political correctness) group of rebels who deliver the equally generic hero dialogue with little conviction and then die on command as the story calls for tragedy.

Even the android here, K-2S0, failed to impress me. Of all the droids in all the STAR WARS films, this one impressed me the least. He’s a cheap C-3P0 worry-bot knock off who looks like a rejected IRON GIANT prototype.

The only characters outside of Saw Gerrea that even held my attention were the duo of Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and his friend Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen. These two would have been awesome characters in a better movie. In fact, I would have loved to see them in their own movie.

Same goes for Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. I would have much rather watched a movie about him going crazy and losing his feet, slowly drifting further and further away from the rebel alliance’s core values until he practically becomes their enemy.

But we don’t get that movie here. We get 6 or 7 story lines all rushed to get us to the final attack on the imperial garrison on Scarif which, admittedly, is a breathtaking scene. It’s a scene that, by itself, makes Episode 4: A NEW HOPE a better movie.

It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film doesn’t have the same emotional gravitas as the brave rebel team’s doomed final mission at the end of the movie. There are so many cut scenes to new planets, new characters, and convoluted exposition scenes explaining which video-game-like task they need to complete next, that the film seems both rushed and boring at the same time. No story thread is given enough time to unwind in a natural way.

Even the score seems overly loud, driving us impatiently from one character death and set piece explosion to the next until we’re both bored and numb from all of the elaborate visual effects space ship fights and CGI aliens shouting orders at each other.

ROGUE ONE isn’t a bad film. But it suffers from trying to serve too many masters all at once. The re-shoots didn’t help to shore up the story lines. The score doesn’t help to add emotion to scenes that simply needed more time to connect with the audience, and ultimately, while the movie serves as a great lead-in to A NEW HOPE, it only manages to show how much better of a film the original STAR WARS is, rather than existing as a great  STAR WARS story in and of itself.

I give it an 89% chance of having 3 out of 5 Strangeheads.

Kevin Strange’s Review of Rob Zombie’s 31

“Murder school is now31poster_0 in session!”

My friend has this theory about Rob Zombie. It goes like this: Rob saw Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 only once, a long time ago, and he can’t remember the name of the movie.

So every film he makes is his attempt to recreate this elusive movie sitting in the back of his head that he just can’t quite place. My friend thinks that one day, someone is going to show Rob Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and he’s going to flip out like, “OH MY GOD! THAT’S THE MOVIE!”

And so it goes with his newest horror film, 31. Hike up the most barren mountain in the world and shout the name Rob Zombie and someone will ride up the mountain behind you with sled dogs just to give you their opinion on his entire filmography. He’s the most divisive horror filmmaker since Eli Roth.

And I don’t really understand why because he really does make pretty much the exact same movie over an over again. This should come as no surprise because he pretty much records the same album over and over again in his music. His style and form has deviated very little since White Zombie. So why do people expect him to re-invent the wheel every time he sets out to make a new horror movie? If you’ve seen three or more Rob Zombie movies, or if you’ve heard three or more Rob Zombie songs, you know what this guy is capable of! This is what he brings to the table. This is all he’s got!


Me? I dig this shit. I’m white trash through and through. I dig his dirty, foul mouthed characters. His 70s aesthetic. His groovy soundtracks. His wordy anti-hero villains. His wife’s sexy butt.

I don’t know what exactly it is people who criticize him expect him to make. This elusive Rob Zombie movie that horror fanboys think he has in him. He makes very violent movies that star his wife. That’s all he’s ever going to do. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. The next one, whatever it ends up being, will just be another slight variation on his trailer park horror gimmick. If you’re not sold on it by now, you never will be.

So 31. Some filthy pothead carnies are driving their piece of shit trailer to the next town to rip off some more locals when they’re ambushed by a group of lunatics who lock them in a giant industrial complex and set a group of sadistic killers lose to murder them violently one by one for the entertainment of several dainty bourgeois in powdered wigs and flowing garments surrounded by hot naked girls and lots of candles.

Stand out moments indoomheadclude a naked girl with a plastic blow up doll sewn into her skin with wires set as a trap by a pair of maniacal clowns wielding chainsaws. And a couple called Sex Head and Death Head who look like they fell right out of a Ramstein music video.

But the shining performance of this movie is Richard Blake’s Doom Head. The film is book ended by psychotic rants performed with shocking earnestness by this dude. He’s every bit as iconic in his delivery of Zombie’s dialogue as any of the nasty exploitation horror icons Zombie loves to pay homage to in these films. Doom Head is the god of this world and I for one hope we get to see some more of him in this 31 universe in the future. Here’s one white trash weirdo’s vote for 32, sooner rather than later.

Kevin Strange’s Suicide Squad Review

Before social 12489243_1674589672821667_4430624289856009994_omedia, I didn’t have to justify liking movies that weren’t critically acclaimed. In today’s social media driven world, Rotten Tomatoes is king because it’s super easy to share a link with “88% certified fresh!” or “33% rotten LOLZ!”

The aggregate site adds up the number of reviews it decides are positive, and the ones that are negative, and uses that subjective formula to create its “fresh” or “rotten” percentage. That’s it. So if a lot of people kind of liked a movie just a little more than they disliked it, it’s “90% certified fresh!” or whatever, even though it’s considered by most people to just be OK.

You can explain this to people until you’re blue in the face, but it’s like explaining the lottery and the astronomical odds against you ever winning money. People do not get it. They just shrug. They want to be told what’s good and what’s bad. I’ve been saying this for YEARS now. People don’t want to invest the time in actually watching movies. They’ve decided if they like or dislike a movie based on the first couple of images or the trailer released by the studio. Actually shelling out the money and sitting in a theater for two hours is too much to ask from most people.

And that’s fine. Except that people like me who love weird movies, cult movies and bad movies end up finding ourselves trying to defend ourselves against a sea of mockery when we talk about a cool ass movie like Chappie or Batman Vs Superman because some guy named Butt Johnson from the Houston Chronicle said he kind of didn’t like it along with a hundred other professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anyway, Suicide Squad falls right into the same category. It’s trendy for fanboy types to shit all over DC movies for whatever reason. There has to be a Marvel Vs DC thing and nobody’s going to let that die anytime soon, apparently. It’ll be interesting to see how long this goes on. Warner Bros. ain’t gonna stop making DC movies, so I’m guessing by Wonder Woman or the Aqua Man movie, the nonsense will die off.

So Suicide Squad. If you’re looking for a Marvel comics Iron Man joke-a-second kid’s movie, you’re going to be disappointed. This ain’t Disney and it ain’t for kids. I’ve been a fan of David Ayer since he wrote Training Day. Most people Don’t even know he directed this movie or that he’s the dude that just made Brad Pitt’s Fury last year. He’s a FANTASTIC ensemble cast director and writes excellent dialogue. He knows how to handle bad guys in gritty situations and he did a great job here. I was actually surprised at the scope of this film, since most of his movies are very small and character driven. It was cool to see him handle a movie with so much action and special effects.

The Joker and Harley Quinn are highlights of movie. We get awesome scene after awesome scene between these two and I personally, as a life-long fan of Batman the Animated Series, couldn’t stop smiling at the fact that I was FINALLY seeing one of the coolest dysfunctional relationships in comics come to life in front of me. 

But Will Smith’s Deadshot was surprisingly heartfelt, too. I was into all his drama and even though there wasn’t a whole hell of a lot going on, story wise, I was totally into the movie and thought that The Enchantress and her magic was beautiful in IMAX 3D.

All in all, it’s not fucking The Cider House Rules or Driving Miss Daisy. It doesn’t fucking have to be. We don’t have to justify why we like our movies. The percentage of positive reviews from film critics means absolutely nothing to me today, never has before, and never will. I like what I like and I don’t owe an explanation to anyone.