Saturday, December 31, 2016

Phil sees ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY in 3D from Lucasfilm/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures - December 16, 2016

With the release of last year's holiday blockbuster STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, Lucasfilm and Disney revitalized the STAR WARS franchise and showed that there was a new generation of fans out there who may have never seen any of the movies before. While Episodes VIII and XI are scheduling to be released in 2017 and 2019 respectively, between these installments are special stand alone movies that focus on a particular story set between the much beloved episodic entries. The first one out of the gate was the recently released ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY in 3D and yours truly was there for the opening night screening.

The film's official synopsis: This prequel to the very first Star Wars movie tells the thrilling story of how a ragtag band of freedom fighters -- including a former soldier-turned-prisoner (Felicity Jones), a Rebel Alliance insider (Diego Luna), a Jedi (Donnie Yen), and a sentient robot (voiced by Alan Tudyk) -- worked together to steal the Death Star's secret blueprints. Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Jimmy Smits co-star.

Expanding on the mythos of the STAR WARS saga, the film is a very much welcomed story that really shines a light of the untold story of this band of brave rebels, who against all odds, must complete this very important mission the could shift the tide towards the burgeoning Rebel Alliance. But while it looks and feels like a STAR WARS film, it's actually a war movie, and it's one of the best war movies I've seen in a long time.

Filmmaker Gareth Edwards does a phenomenal job directing this incredible and moving film. His style has gradually matured since his two previous films: his 2010 debut MONSTERS indicated that he was going to someone important, while 2014 GODZILLA really pushed him into the spotlight. His set-ups, compositions, sweeping camera pans and his intimate close-ups really brings forth the characteristics of our lead protagonists and the beauty and ugliness of war. Truth be told, Edwards gave us fans the prequel we've been waiting for since 1999. Credit also goes to writers Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll and Gary Whitta for delivering a smart and emotional script that deals war, belief and fighting for what's right. It is both political and social commentary story that is very poignant in today's world.

The entire cast was fantastic in the movie! First props to Felicity Jones' intense performance as our heroine Jon Eros. She's just amazing to watch up on the screen as she battles with the film's main antagonist and all around evil Orson Krennic, played by Ben Mendelssohn. Alan Tudyk's K-2SO is my new favorite droid in the STAR WARS franchise as he had the best and funniest lines in the whole movie. Martial artists and Hong Kong action superstar Donnie Yen (from the IP MAN franchise) portrays Chirrut Îmwe, who single handily created a new catchphrase with his, "I am one with the Force. The Force is with me." So far I've seen several T-shirts with this one them already. My only real complaint is that I wish we had more of Forest Whitaker's character Saw Gerrera. His character ties to the computer animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series and I wanted to see more of his story and where has he been since then.

Another aspect I really enjoyed about the film is the use of real locations, practical special effects and sets that had to be built from the ground up. It looks more closely to the original trilogy rather than George Lucas' overblown, CGI heavy, prequel trilogy. Now there comes a time when CGI is used correctly and the final battle scene between the Rebellion versus the Empire looks spectacular! The space battle as well as the battleground on the surface, the quick editing, the musical score creates a magical third act that will thrill STAR WARS fans worldwide!

By now, the whole world knows about the CGI inclusion of Grand Moff Tarkin, which was played by the late, great Peter Cushing from the original 1977 film. I really enjoyed seeing the inclusion of this iconic villain and it serves the film purposely, as it connects directly with A NEW HOPE. And with the CGI Princess Lea, it really ties into the original film.

And last, but not least, the return of Darth Vader to the silver screen. Fans of this legendary character were really pissed off at the way Lucas had him at the end of REVENGE OF THE SITH. Now, he's a bad ass again. An evil, vicious, ruthless bad ass! Basically, we got our Darth Vader back!!

ROUGE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is one of the greatest STAR WARS films of all time, one of the greatest science fiction films of all time and one of the greatest war films of all time!! This is, without question, the prequel film fans have been waiting for period! And I for one cannot wait to see it again!! 5 out of 5 stars!! Highly recommended!!

ROUGE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is currently playing at a theater near you. Check your local listings to see where it's playing in your area.

Thanks for reading, and my the Force be with you!

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