Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


Set before the events of the original Star WarsRogue One follows Jyn Erso, whose past connects her to the Empire and the construction of the Death Star, as she joins a team of Rebels on a seemingly hopeless mission to steal the plans to the Death Star and stop the Empire from using it to take over the galaxy.

Rogue One is definitely the movie that all Star Wars fans, including myself, have been waiting to watch this year. I was excited to watch this movie like any fan would be, but I was slightly skeptical as this is Lucasfilm’s first Star Wars spin-off. I was mostly satisfied with what I got. By no means does it reach the heights of The Force Awakens, but my inner Star Wars fan had a blast watching Rogue One. The impressive action sequences, terrific cast, and gorgeous visual effects make this film a treat to watch on the big screen. The style feels somewhat different than what we’ve received in previous films of the saga, and the action doesn’t feel too similar or borrowed, either. There’s a different approach to the violence and buildup because of this movie’s efforts to feel like a grounded war film, which it succeeds at very well. The fight scenes which include the classic X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter battles, Stormtrooper-filled shootouts, and other nostalgic callbacks are all shot and directed very well by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, whose ambition for this story and franchise mostly pays off. Felicity Jones plays a strong female lead with a great backstory and lots of reasons to root for her. She and costar Diego Luna both bring lots of fun to their characters and carried the film very well, although Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor could have used more development. Ben Mendelsohn stars as an antagonist who opposes Jones and brought a great new character to life through his interesting performance. The supporting cast, including Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk are all phenomenal, although some of the heroes we are rooting for aren’t fully realized and lacked some of the development that I wanted from them. You’ll definitely also recognize Forest Whitaker in an over-the-top but fun and key role in the film.

Although Rogue One‘s visual appeal and high enjoyment level make this a must for all fans of the series, it fell slightly below my expectations. Like I said before, not many of the characters are fully developed and although they’re all awesome to watch on screen, some of the writing for their backstories and motivations were missing. The opening act is too rushed and passes by a lot, with editing that could have been stretched out a little longer and scenes that could have been made more memorable and meaningful. The film just kept getting better as the run-time went on, though, with the themes soon becoming more powerful and relevant and the style becoming more distinct than the previous films. The final act of the film is when I was really convinced that this was the Star Wars film we deserved – the last 45 minutes alone are worth the ticket price, perfectly setting up the original movies and giving us a great touch of what we love from ’70’s and ’80’s sci-fi. Rogue One also features tons of memorable cameos from our favorite characters from 1977 and onward, which is guaranteed to be nostalgic for all audiences. With its surprisingly thoughtful and interesting themes that younger viewers will enjoy as well, and a spirit that brings us back to the golden age of sci-fi cinema, Rogue One will not disappoint Star Wars fans looking for a serviceable spin-off with a satisfying plot, cast ensemble, and jaw-dropping nostalgia.

Packed with great action and visual effects, as well as a strong cast and themes, Rogue One is the prequel all Star Wars fans have wanted since 1999. It’s not as great as I think it could have been, as some characters are underdeveloped and the editing and pacing could have been more effective in the first act, but overall, Rogue One is a must-see for all fans of the saga and one of the most entertaining action films this year.

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La La Land


A jazz pianist and an aspiring actress, both pursuing success in the city of Los Angeles, fall in love, but the dreams they worked so hard to achieve threaten to break them apart.

From the brilliant mind behind Whiplash comes by far the most entertaining, heartfelt, vividly smart, and well-shot film of the year. Damien Chazelle has reached the heights of his previous film with a musical that pays homage to the golden age of Hollywood musicals yet comes up with something so original and relevant to our generation. La La Land is one of the most passionate and ambitious projects this year, and embraces its themes and emotions about pursuing your dreams in every moment of its run-time. From the beautifully shot musical numbers to the terrific leading performances from Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, there’s nothing to this film that can be missed. The marvelous cinematography that almost never cuts in between scenes, the cheerful and praiseworthy music, and the incredible set pieces help make this film a wonderful visual experience as well, and there’s no doubt that it’ll get awarded for all the technical categories that it so beautifully masters. Gosling and Stone have excellent chemistry on screen,  and they were perfectly cast in their roles which they portray with tons of strength, character, and charisma. There is some excellent use of imagery and symbolism throughout that isn’t hard to notice. Every shot in this movie is something new, filmed like no other movie before in recent years. I did not think Chazelle would be able to reach the heights of Whiplash with his next film, but he was able to do it in the best way, and his career definitely won’t stop here. La La Land uses its incredible sets, camerawork, music, and acting talents to build a wonderful and extraordinary experience, and although tough, it’s ultimately settling in the most beautiful way.

La La Land is truly a special movie that tops nearly every movie I’ve seen this year with its emotional and visual brilliance, with a superb cast and unforgettable music. There’s no way you won’t love this movie if you go see it, so I highly recommend you watch it on the big screen, because you won’t regret it.

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Nocturnal Animals


Susan (Amy Adams) is an art gallery owner who receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal). As she reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings (also played by Gyllenhaal), a math professor whose family vacation turns violent.

Nocturnal Animals isn’t the ordinary film you’d go to the movies to watch – I knew this from the moment the film started. It’s not simply a thriller, or a drama, either. It’s hard to fit Nocturnal Animals into one genre of film – that’s why it does so well on its own. Gyllenhaal outdoes his work in this year’s Demolition as both the author of the fictional novel of which the film’s themes revolve around, as well as the novel’s protagonist, and what shocked me is that he was able to deliver two completely different performances in one film. Michael Shannon is also scene-stealing as a detective who will go far distances to see justice done, or even do it himself. Adams also delivers a strong emotional connection with the audience as we dig deeper into her character’s past and feelings, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is unrecognizable and frightening in a role like nothing he’s played before. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the sound editing is gripping and realistic. From the film’s first act, my heart was pumping and I was always on the edge of my seat. Every scene demonstrated the cast and crew’s marvelous talents, and always brought some new feeling or reaction into the film, and in a great way. This is easily one of the most thrilling and unpredictable films of this year. The way the director combines different story-lines and beautiful visuals to create an extraordinary story is haunting but also memorable. The film may sometimes by tough to watch for some viewers, but I found myself constantly intrigued and never pulled out of the film. The ending is also something I did not see coming, leaving me still thinking about how everything so cleverly connects, with the movie’s writing, performances, visuals, and excellent execution adding up to pure cinematic brilliance.

Although I can’t say everyone will enjoy watching Nocturnal Animals, I personally found it to be an intriguing and masterfully done piece of cinema, with strong emotions that are conveyed indirectly and brilliantly to the audience, with strong imagery and fantastic acting that I think most moviegoers may appreciate and love like I did.

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