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“Rogue One”a step in the right direction


Last year, Disney reintroduced the Star Wars franchise to a new generation with “Force Awakens.” The positive of that was to see a new story on the big screen from the galaxy far, far away. However, my greatest disappointment was how so much time was spent rehashing material from the first movie instead of being its own thing. “Rogue One” has the upper hand because its a true prequel. This one has the advantage to expand on the universe while being a true link to “Star Wars.”

The main center of the story is a heroin named Jyn (Felicity Jones) who reluctantly assists a group of rebels to find out what the evil Imperial army is up to. I like how at first she doesn’t show interest but suddenly shows a sign of care once faced with what’s to come. Although she has little to no appeal in the space battles, her curiosity peaks when she learns how her father is in the mix of this. She is rebellious yet cunning. Honestly, I can’t think of a female character in the Star Wars universe that wasn’t highly determined.

Joining for the trip is an officer named Cassian (Diego Luna) whose only there to do his job. Tasked with the mission at hand, Cassian shares the same instincts but knows his limits. In one crucial moment, he’s told to assassinate someone vital to bringing down the Rebellion. Once in the moment, he hesitates questioning what value it would bring.  I like how he’s not stubborn to a new idea and at least there is no romantic pairing with Jyn. He’s an honest companion that questions his rights as a fighter.

Other rebels on the way range from a blind man who believes in the Jedi ways and his friend who is more militant. There’s sort of a ying and yang idea going on here as the two have different fighting methods. One is more resourceful on spiritual belief while the other is more into physical action. Its elements like these that make me wonder why “Force Awakens” wasn’t this clever with ideas like this. Sure it had Finn questioning if he’s a human or a fighting machine, but “Rouge One” was built around a fresh story.

To be fair, this one doesn’t shy away from reheating leftover elements. Case and point is an android named K-2SO. He’s obviously the C-3PO type who is very knowledgeable despite being the comic relief. Thankfully, Alan Tudyk’s performance saves the character from being a predictable variation making K more open to fighting when needed and hilariously pessimistic. In a way, this bot reminded me of Marvin the Depressed Robot or some kind of creation that only Douglas Adams would delight in.

Like I said, “Rogue One” doesn’t shy away from the bin of “oh, look its this from the other films” or “wow, that answers this.” I can’t begin to describe the amount of Easter eggs and things I’m sure Star Wars fans of old will be overjoyed in. The one I’m most surprised is a CGI recreation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. I guess now in days you don’t need to hire a new actor with heavy make-up and I should be too shocked considering this same method was done in Tron Legacy to Jeff Bridges. Still, I liked how limitless this movie went when it came to linking itself to the older entry.

When you boil it down, “Rouge One” is hard to talk about without giving away most of the plot details. For fans of old and new, this will certainly be a nice Christmas treat. I know considering how much of a kick I got out of seeing real sets instead of CGI crafted ones, actual planet environments instead of studio built ones and intense battle scenes that challenge or match the charm of the original trilogy. I can’t tell you how much I smiled to see the AT-TA walkers during the big finale. This is a fun ball of nostalgia while also delivering a complex movie about power and fighting back.

Though parents, be fair warned. “Rouge One” is highly recommended not for smaller fans. This is a radically different movie as director Gareth Edwards wanted this to be more like a  war movie and I feel he succeeded. Despite the PG-13 rating, this is packed with many intense battle scenes and shootouts that parents might want to reconsider this as a Christmas gift for their kids. Even bigger of a debate is the ending (which I will try to avoid ruining) as key characters get killed off to which I’m certain will upset some viewers. For alternatives, I suggest taking them to either “Moana” or “Fantastic Beasts.” Both films have a kind charm that are better suited for the holiday. “Rogue One” is a good entry and an improvement over last year’s entry. But what irks me is how it won’t be canon with the new trilogy. Apparently, the idea is to make a series of Star Wars anthology movies that are more in line with the original films. Honestly, I’d more inclined to see them than watch the continuing retreaded adventures of Kylo Ren.

Rental Corner: “Theory of Everything” heartbreaking as every bit fascintating

TTOE_D04_01827.NEFEddie Redmayne must had a hard time trying to perform Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” This is not an easy role to take on but somehow he makes to translate the story of a brilliant mind that kept moving forward to an interesting feature in the pursuit of ideas and trying to live. Most biopics of today tend to be romanticized, over-bloated and go as far to change facts just to “spice” things up. The problem today is that no biopic is perfect and will had its detractors. “Hitchcock” and “An Adventure in Time and Space” are a good examples because they are presented more as a  tribute while showing real life events. But then you have those like “Buddy” or “Jobs” that will change events for the sake of creativity liberties in making a story creating an uneven narrative that doesn’t know what it wants to say. “Theory of Everything” is more than that.

Eddie’s performance is rather surprising showing Stephen’s college life early on before the effect of his motor neuron disease. It gives us a chance to see his time before the disease overtook his body and shows how brilliant he was. I can only imagine how hard it was to sell viewers the idea of a person with damaged functionality. Once he starts to loose control of his limbs, it gets hard watching Stephen convey his theory of black holes and time while he deals with his weakening body.

For me, this was the center of the movie. When Eddie Redmayne acted like his body was deteriorating bit by bit, I was convinced. This is a man whose knowledge is expansive yet resourceful which only makes you wonder how could he be confined to a wheelchair. The fact he kept his theories and expanding on them while still moving through life makes for a good motion picture about self-confidence and living with your flaws. The special effect is the actor as he has to convince us he is in a weak state and as the movie went on, I too felt bad for everything Hawking went through as much as the real one.

But I can’t say “Theory” is completely perfect. A subplot with Felicity Jones as Hawking’s love interest almost drags the movie down as his condition gets worse to the point she is going camping with a close male friend of hers and worries that his wheelchair bound husband might be cheating. Its the usual biopic stock that is done just to give conflict to the picture. The movie would have been more powerful if it remained on Hawking and his condition and I do admit, it would be interesting to see how his mobility affects his friends around him but this is as close as we get.

Aside from that, “Theory of Everything” works. For every fleeting frame, I felt like I was watching Hawking’s life as he moved on from wheelchair to the next, one mode of communication to an electronic voice box and so forth. The moments that work best are when it focuses on Hawking and his struggles as the condition spreads from his limbs to even his vocals. I kept watching wondering what would happen next and in the end felt satisfied. Its an emotional piece of cinema that’s not overly powerful like “12 Years a Slave” but yet a unique look into one of the most amazing minds that surprisingly exists today.