Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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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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Moana

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In Disney’s latest animated musical, Moana, the teenage daughter of a village chief, sets out to save her island and her people, with the help of a troublesome but fearless demigod named Maui.

We all know from previous experience you’ve got to rush to the theaters whenever Disney releases an animated movie – and this one’s definitely worth it. Moana is not a princess movie – even Moana herself denies that she’s one. There are story elements and character arcs that will remind you of Aladdin, Frozen, and more, but Moana is as distant from the “Disney princess” genre as it gets. Auli’i Cravalho, 16-year old Hawaiian native and newcomer to showbiz, voices our lead and brings tons of heart and independence to her character. Moana isn’t looking for a prince to save her – she knows only she can embark on this journey to save her island. Disney wouldn’t have thought to create a heroine like that 10 years ago, and I’m glad we live in a world where our next generation will be getting films like these. Cravalho not only delivers her character’s courageous soul, but also a few memorable musical numbers with a voice that I’m sure will get her somewhere soon. You know who else can sing? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who sings my favorite and arguably the catchiest song in the movie, and he also delivers a phenomenal voice performance as the self-absorbed demigod who reluctantly joins Moana’s adventure. Disney hired the right person to write Moana‘s songs in Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. Although there is less singing than in Tangled and Frozen, and you probably won’t catch your children singing the songs from this film like they did with “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let it Go” a few years ago, the songs here were much better written and a lot more enjoyable for me.

Should Moana enter the race to the Best Animated Feature Oscar alongside Finding Dory and Zootopia?  Well, I’d say that it absolutely should. Who thought that Disney could release two computer-animated movies in the same year without the Pixar trademark and they’d both be so successful? The animation is stunning, and the ocean and the creatures living in it, from sea turtles to stingrays, look gorgeous thanks to the hard work put into the movie’s visual appeal. The uniqueness and entertainment of Moana is why you should definitely see this one on the big screen. The movie’s humor is mostly aimed for younger audiences, but it still had me laughing hard throughout. Although some plot elements at one point feel too familiar from other Disney films, as well as the message about how every individual is important and can make a difference, it’s the way it’s executed that makes it all fit perfectly in the end, and will be sure to leave a huge smile on your face.

Disney has done it again with Moana, an extraordinary, heartfelt, and wonderfully executed musical adventure that the whole family is sure to love. A beautifully looking tribute to Polynesian culture and mythology, this is one entertaining journey that you should not skip watching on the big screen. Stay tuned after the credits for an extra gag, and make sure to be there on time for a fantastic short film before the feature.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

My rating: ratings5

In the near future, the sentinels have taken over earth in search for mutants, and have destroyed most of the planet. The only survivors are mutants that include Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), and Magneto (Ian McKellen), as well as their leader, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). They decide to send Wolverine back half a century to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who’s plan to assassinate Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), the sentinels’ creator, took a dark turn when she was captured and her DNA was used to upgrade the sentinels. Wolverine wakes up in his 1973 body, and he teams up with a young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Quicksilver (Evan Peters), and a young Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender), to stop Mystique from killing Trask.

This movie is very well done. Everybody does a great job acting, especially Evan Peters, who steals every scene he’s in, and Jennifer Lawrence, who does an amazing job playing Mystique. The movie is so well written, and so clever, that it’s probably the best X-Men movie yet, and maybe even one of the best comic book movies I’ve ever seen! All of the action scenes kept me on the edge of my seat, and I never knew what would happen, because it is filled with lots of twists!  The movie never stops entertaining, and is not too short or too long. The movie is very original, and has great visual effects. Everything in the movie makes a lot of sense, and you don’t go out of the theater wondering anything weird about the movie except, “What’s next for the X-Men movies?” (which isn’t actually a weird thing). The ending of the movie gives you nothing about the rest of the movies, which has made me even more anticipated for the next X-Men movie, which will come out in about 2 years. X-Men, by far, is my favorite superhero franchise other than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, except for the fact that X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine were both huge disappointments. X-Men: Days of Future Past was my most anticipated movie of the entire year, and it might also be the best one. Here’s my conclusion: Please, watch this movie. It’s very original, smart, well-acted, visually amazing, and makes a lot of sense. It is, by far, the best X-Men movie, and maybe one of my favorite superhero movies ever.

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