Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Film Review) – A Great Film That Expands Star Wars Lore

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a space opera film directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Rogue One is the first stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe and takes place just before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The story centres on Jyn Erso and her journey to obtain the plans for the Death Star which was unwillingly designed by her father Galen Erso, played my Mads Mikkelsen.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Rogue One

It is fair to say that this has been my most anticipated film of the year. In fact, every year that a Star Wars film will be released will automatically make it my most anticipated film due to my love of the franchise. I grew up watching the Original Trilogy on VHS (yes, the version of the Original Trilogy before it was ruined by the Special Editions) and that was really the basis for my love of film in general.

I owe this franchise a lot of gratitude even though it went through a very rough patch with the Prequels and the constant and unnecessary tinkering to the Original Trilogy with the Special Editions. For a time, that did leave me in a state of uncertainty about how Lucasfilm could recapture the glory days.

However, my faith has been restored in recent years. Under the ownership of Disney and the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm delivered a great film with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They have also been gradually giving hardcore fans such as myself with new canon material that is finally coherent and on an equal level of importance as the theatrical films. They have done a good job of paying homage to the Original Trilogy while setting up exciting new narratives.

Death Star firing on Jedha

Consequently, I was really eager to see if Rogue One would continue the great work that Lucasfilm has been doing so far. Going into this film, my experience would already be enhanced due to the fact that I read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, a book which came out a month before Rogue One was released.

The book is set before and ties into Rogue One by focusing on Galen Erso, his relationship with Orson Krennic and the Republic’s, and later the Galactic Empire’s, project to develop the Death Star. It was a really good book and I learnt a lot of back-story to Rogue One which I hoped would enhance my appreciation of what would be a great film.

My Thoughts on Rogue One

My hopes were realised. Rogue One is a great film that really expands the lore of Star Wars. Truly, this film ties in really well to A New Hope while giving us new information and a greater perspective of the wider universe. For instance, seeing the Empire and the Rebel Alliance be fleshed out was great to see. We get to see the extent of the Empire’ s control over the galaxy while also seeing that the Rebel Alliance are not the altruistic good guys we always thought they were. The way in which this film enhanced our understanding about the Empire and the Rebel Alliance was a really strong point about the film.

Another great thing about Rogue One was the ensemble cast who gave really good performances. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are great as Jyn Erso and Cassian Endor respectively. But, the standout characters for me were the droid K-2SO, played by Alan Tudyk, and Chirrut Îmwe who was played by Donnie Yen. K-2SO provides some really humorous moments with the dry delivery of his lines while Chirrut was an absolute boss in some of the action scenes while having a spiritual connection to The Force.

Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe on Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I also liked Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Orsen Krennic and his strained relationship with Tarkin which, if you read Catalyst, was established in that book and developed in this film. And yes, Tarkin is in this film and I thought the use of him was necessary given his connection to the Death Star and A New Hope. At the same, it was organic as it could possibly be given the fact that Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin in A New Hope, is no longer alive.

Tarkin is played by Guy Henry whose face is digitally manipulated to resemble Peter Cushing and, for me personally, the CGI used to accomplish this is the best I have seen in a film so far. True, it is not flawless but it never took me out of the film. In fact, it enhanced Rogue One for me and the same can be said when the technique used to bring Tarkin back to life was used on another character towards the end of the film. Again, it was another example of how successful Rogue One was in tying into A New Hope.

Darth Vader

Still, while Tarkin is a great villain and was used well in this film, one villain will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, I am talking about Darth Vader whose role in this film, while small, was very impactful. Certainly, I was captivated whenever he was on screen with one scene in particular instantly becoming one of my Top 10 scenes in Star Wars history.

Additionally, James Earl Jones came back to voice Vader and he did a really good job too. Selfishly, I would have loved to have seen more of Vader in this film seeing as he is my favourite Star Wars character and the greatest villain of all time. Still, his role made sense within the film. Moreover, it was another great way in which Rogue One tied into A New Hope.

Darth Vader and Orsen Krennic in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Additionally, the use of cameos of characters from A New Hope in Rogue One was also a nice nod to the fans without feeling forced. Still, there is plenty of stuff within this film that has never been seen in a Star Wars film. For one, the variety of locations we got to see in this film was great to see, the cinematography is the best we have ever had in a Star Wars film and the action in Rogue One is fantastic. Certainly, there is great action throughout but it reaches its peak in the final act, especially with the space battles which are stunning.

As well as being a great action film, Rogue One is also quite emotional when it matters, especially in relation to Galen Erso and Jyn Erso. It is even more emotional if you read Catalyst. Indeed, hardcore fans of Star Wars who are immersed in the new canon will appreciate this film to a much greater degree due to the references and links to the wider material that is available.

A Great Film…But Not Perfect

As you can see, I think Rogue One is pretty great but I do feel that, like every film, there are some minor flaws. For one, I thought the text used in the title for Rogue One at the beginning of the film could have been much better. I’m not sure why they could not have used the same text for Rogue One as they did for the other films in the franchise. Also, I thought the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, was just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it was not bad and at certain moments it is very effective but I struggle to think of a memorable piece of music from it.

I would have also cut out one scene involving a CGI creature which I thought was unnecessary but these are my only issues with Rogue One and they didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of it. Moreover, I might not see these as issues upon multiple viewings of the film. One thing I will mention though is that I can completely understand if people are upset with the lack of an opening crawl. I respect the fact that some will have an issue with it but, for me personally, it never held the film back from being as great as it is.

X-Wing in Battle of Scarif in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Overall, Lucasfilm has once again given us another worthwhile entry in the Star Wars franchise with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While there are minor issues, there are plenty of great things in Rogue One to help it achieve the tough task of expanding the lore of Star Wars while making sure it both ties into A New Hope and enhances it in the process. The great action, the cinematography, the strength of the ensemble cast, the characters, the use of Tarkin and the CGI used to bring characters like him to life as well as the added bonus of Darth Vader make this a great film which you need to see as soon as you can.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 11 (Television Review) – A Strong Progression of Maul’s Storyline

We have come to the mid-season finale of Season 3 of Star Wars Rebels and, at this stage, this season is on the path to being the best we have had so far in Rebels. Sure, we have had a mix of episodes which have focused on the main story-line and episodes which have essentially been side-quests which has frustrated some fans of the show.

My Thoughts on ‘Visions and Voices’

For me personally, this did not bother me and this mid-season finale, titled ‘Visions and Voices’, was a great episode which will please all fans of the show. The main reason why this episode was so good was down to the use of Maul. Certainly, Maul is a great character for Rebels to use due to his history in the Star Wars universe but, more importantly, due to the affect that he has on Ezra. We see in this episode that Ezra is suffering from a form of PTSD after his experiences with Maul and it was interesting to see their dynamic showcased in this episode.

Ezra and Maul in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 11 Visions and Voices

Additionally, this episode progressed Maul’s storyline as he is now one step closer to achieving his obsessive aim of finding Obi-Wan Kenobi while Ezra is now closer to finding the way to destroy the Sith which also requires him to find Obi-Wan. As we can see, the journey that these two characters must go on are intrinsically linked which really excites me for future episodes.

Another interesting aspect of this episode was Sabine’s recognition of the darksaber; a weapon which is a symbol of Mandalorian leadership. To me, this infers that Sabine has some sort of connection to an old leader of Mandalore, perhaps Satine Kryze who was a character in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Certain Episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars are now Vital Viewing

This leads me onto the biggest highlight I took away from this episode which was that I am now really eager to watch the best/most important episodes/arcs of The Clone Wars, an animated TV show in the Star Wars universe which I have not watched. By doing this, I will further immerse myself within the lore of Star Wars and enhance my appreciation of Star Wars Rebels which has a strong link to The Clone Wars.

Sabine Wren and the Darksaber in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 11 Visions and Voices

Indeed, the use of characters from The Clone Wars in Rebels such as Ahsoka Tano and Rex is evidence of this along with the mention of past events/easter-eggs in certain episodes such as this one which will please fans who have a deep attachment to The Clone Wars. I am not one of these fans yet but, for now, this episode is strong enough to please a wide array of fans due to its use of Maul and the development of his and Ezra’s story-line along with Sabine’s recognition of the darksaber.

All of this excites me for the future while, at the same time, encouraging me to go back and delve into The Clone Wars. This is something I would never imagine happening due to the hesitation I had about learning more about this time period thanks to the poor execution of the Prequel Trilogy. This is a credit to how good Star Wars Rebels is.

Sully (Film Review) – A Well-Crafted Film About Heroism

Sully is a biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney and Tom Hanks. Hanks plays Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who performed the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009 in which all 155 passengers and crew survived. The story of this film focuses on the landing as well as the subsequent publicity and investigation and how it impacted Sullenberger.

My Knowledge and Expectation of Sully

I remember when this event happened and the intense media coverage surrounding it. It was dubbed as the “Miracle on the Hudson” and I was interested to see if this film could effectively tell this story. My confidence about how good Sully would be was boosted thanks to the talented people involved in the making of this film. Certainly, Clint Eastwood has proven what a great director he is in addition to his prowess as an actor.

Tom Hanks in Sully

Films he has directed such as Unforgiven, Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino among many others prove that he is a force to be reckoned with when telling stories. Additionally, having Tom Hanks is enough to give any film a chance of being great. As you can see, this film had a lot going for it. An interesting true-life story, a great director and a great actor in the lead role meant that Sully had all the right ingredients to be good.

My Thoughts on Sully

I am happy to say that Sully does not disappoint. This is a good film for several reasons. For me personally, the main reason why this film is good is because it is has been crafted very well. Indeed, Sully is paced well thanks to the non-linear storytelling and the running time is perfect.

The film does not drag and I give a lot of credit to Eastwood for telling this story in such a way that you are always connected to the story and never feel bored. I also liked how Sully celebrates the heroic acts of normal people and how people can come together in difficult situations.

Clint Eastwood and Aaron Eckhart in Sully

Another great strength of Sully was the performances. Certainly, Hanks is very good in the lead but, for me, Aaron Eckhart gave my favourite performance in this film. He provides levity in what is a very serious film, especially as it brings up issues such as PTSD. You need Eckhart’s character, who was the co-pilot to Sullenberger, to bring some light relief and comedic moments which gives the film a soul.

Overall, all of the talent involved come together to make a very good film which tells an uplifting story about the heroism of normal people. Eastwood effectively directs the film and tells the story in such a way that you are constantly engaged in the story while Hanks and Eckhart give good performances which, in the end, makes Sully a very worthwhile film to see.

Paterson (Film Review) – A Celebration of Normality

Paterson is a drama directed by Jim Jarmusch and stars Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver. The story focuses on a week in the life of Adam Driver who plays an inspiring poet and bus driver called Paterson who lives in the city of Paterson, New Jersey in the film called Paterson (I know, extraordinary).

My Knowledge and Expectations of Paterson

I had heard a lot of good things about this film from critics who had seen earlier releases of Paterson at various film festivals throughout the year. My interest in Paterson was also increased due to the unique nature of the film’s plot. It seemed to be quite different compared to other films in cinemas at this moment and that is one of the great things about independent films like Paterson. It offers us the chance to experience intimate stories and this was my expectation going into Paterson.

Golshifteh Farahani and Adam Driver in Paterson

My Thoughts on Paterson

I have to say, I was right to think this way. I enjoyed Paterson. I wouldn’t give it the lavish praise that film critics have but I did enjoy it. This was largely down to how the film celebrated people and the normality of regular life. Truthfully, I felt like I was intruding on people’s lives, eavesdropping on their conversations (just like Paterson did while driving his bus) and I give a lot of credit to Jim Jarmusch for structuring the film in a way where we feel a real connection to the characters because they are just like us.

Adam Driver is really good in the film. He gives us a very quaint, reserved performance in a film which is quaint and reserved and it is likeable because of this. Certainly, there is no big set piece or dramatic twist in Paterson and that does mean that certain people who watch this film may find themselves to be bored. Certainly, the pacing is slow which will annoy some people. It didn’t affect my viewing of Paterson too much but it does affect the film’s re-watchability.

Masatoshi Nagase and Adam Driver and Paterson

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed Paterson for what it was. It is a unique film which celebrates ordinary life and ordinary individuals. It is well directed and Adam Driver gives a good performance. I admit that the film will frustrate some people due to its slow pacing which does limits the re-watchability of Paterson but if you go in knowing what to expect then you can enjoy it.

Westworld: Season 1 Episode 10 (Television Review) – A Great Season Finale

We have come to the end of the first season of Westworld, a show which HBO hopes will help fill the void that Game of Thrones will leave once it ends. Obviously, that is a tough task for any show to accomplish. But, the strength of this first season means that it is off to the best possible start. I have really enjoyed watching Westworld and my expectations were high going into ‘The Bicameral Mind‘.

My Thoughts on ‘The Bicameral Mind’

On the whole, I found the season finale to be really satisfying in a number of ways. For one, we got the overdue confirmation that William was Ed Harris’ Man in Black in the past. While this has been obvious for a while, it was good to finally see this particular theory proved to be correct. We also learnt that Dolores was actually Wyatt, the supposed ultimate villain within Westworld. This was something that I and some other fans had suspected for some time. Nonetheless, it would have been a surprising reveal for a good amount of people.

Samurai's in Westworld Season 1 Episode 10 Season Finale The Bicameral Mind

It was nice to get closure with these particular story arcs even if we did not get closure with other characters. Indeed, we don’t know what happened to characters such as Elsie and Stubbs which means we will have to wait until the second season, which is scheduled to come out in 2018, to find out what has happened to them. I understand that the show had to focus on wrapping up more important story-lines but it would have been nice to have some inkling about what happened to them. Still, it is a small gripe.

One of the other elements of this episode that I found really exciting was the tease of their being multiple parks. Indeed, seeing the Samurai warriors was a great way to show us that other worlds besides Westworld exist. Moreover, it is also an indication that this show has huge potential to tell greater narratives and expand its scope.

The Performances

I also thought that Evan Rachel Wood gave her best performance as Dolores in this episode. She was already giving really good performances in previous episodes but she really showed how much range she has an actress in ‘The Bicameral Mind’. We also saw Thandie Newton continue to excel in her portrayal of Maeve. Her arc in this story provided us with some really good action sequences and it proved that she is not as free-willed as we were led to believe.

Man in Black and Dolores in Westworld Season 1 Episode 10 Season Finale The Bicameral Mind

Still, Anthony Hopkins shines above all the others in this show. Undoubtedly, he has been my favourite part of this season of Westworld. He gives the show real gravitas through his portrayal of Robert Ford whose real intentions were finally laid bare in this episode.

Personally, I have been going back and forth trying to figure out whether he wanted the same things that Arnold and the Man in Black wanted. At times it seemed like he did and at other times he did not. Yet, we finally realised that he did want the same things as Arnold and, to some extent, what the Man in Black wanted too.

As a result, Ford has now started something which cannot be undone. This just added to a season finale which did a really great job of setting up what will probably be a more unhinged second season which I cannot wait for.

Star Wars Rebels: Season 3 Episode 10 (Television Review) – A Great Return to Lothal

There has been some angst among fans of Star Wars Rebels who have been disappointed in the last couple of episodes. This recent disappointment stemmed from the feeling that this season of Rebels had shifted too far away from the main story-lines and, in the process, had stagnated.

Thrawn, Governor Pryce and Agent Kallus in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 10 An Inside Man

I was not one of these fans as I enjoyed these side-quest episodes for what they were and they were of a much higher quality than similar episodes we received in previous seasons of Rebels. Still, I also believed that we needed to return to the main story-lines in order for the show to progress.

My Thoughts on ‘An Inside Man’

I am happy to say that the most recent episode, titled ‘An Inside Man’, achieves this. Indeed, we returned to Lothal; Ezra’s home planet which has always had an importance in this show. Moreover, we saw characters from previous seasons return such as Ryder Azadi which is a great example of how Rebels connects seemingly inconsequential characters/events to the wider story at play.

The story in this episode involved Ezra and Kanan infiltrating an Imperial factory on Lothal in order to gain intelligence on a new weapon the Empire is developing (No, it’s not the Death Star). However, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also present at this factory and we once again see just how ruthless and calculating he is.

Agent Kallus, Ezra and Kanan in Star Wars Rebels Season 3 Episode 10 An Inside Man

In fact, Thrawn had a huge involvement in a very dark moment in this episode which showed that Rebels can be mature when it wants to be. Thrawn continues to develop as a great villain in Rebels and he is still continuing to let things run its course while he secretly plots the downfall of the fledgling Rebel Alliance.

Development of Agent Kallus

We also got a really interesting development with Agent Kallus who is having a great character arc since ‘The Honorable Ones’ in Season 2. We learnt in this episode that he is one of the many “Fulcrums” who are providing the Rebel Alliance with secret information which really shows us that Kallus is changing as a character and is on the way to deserting the Empire and joining the Rebel Alliance (Unless he dies…).

Another positive aspect of this episode was the great action sequence at the beginning of the episode which shows how far the quality of the animation has come in Rebels. This really added something to an episode which I had no problems with. Overall, this was a very strong episode which sets us up nicely for the mid-season finale which I hope will deliver.

A United Kingdom (Film Review) – A Likeable Film About Love

A United Kingdom is a biographical romantic drama directed by Amma Asante which stares David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama, Prince of Bechuanaland (Botswana), and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Williams Khama. The story is based on the true-life events detailing the interracial marriage between Seretse and Ruth in 1948 which at the time was highly controversial. They must defy the social and political unrest both in the United Kingdom and South Africa to stay together and lead Bechuanaland to independence.

My Knowledge and Expectation of A United Kingdom

I was going into A United Kingdom expecting, at the very least, good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They have proven in the past that they are great actors capable of delivering performances with great range and emotion. Certainly, Oyelowo was great in Selma and in Queen of Katwe which I recently reviewed.

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in A United Kingdom

Rosamund Pike herself gave a chilling performance in Gone Girl which really announced her to a wider audience as being a talented actress. Because of this, I was looking forward to seeing if this film would deliver good performances as well as deliver on the promise of giving us an uplifting story which was advertised in the trailers.

My Thoughts on A United Kingdom

On the whole, I would say that A United Kingdom does achieve this. It has its flaws but it is a very decent, likeable film about love. What I liked most about the film was the relationship between Seretse and Ruth and that is solely down to the performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. They really give A United Kingdom a soul and it was nice to see Amma Asante bring the story about this couple to life. The supporting cast were good too but Oyelowo and Pike were the standouts and Asante deserves credit for crafting the film around them.

Jack Davenport and Tom Felton in A United Kingdom

However, as I said, A United Kingdom has flaws. I felt that the first act, which focused on Seretse and Ruth’s blossoming relationship, was a bit rushed in its pacing. I would have liked to spend a bit more time focusing on their initial relationship. You can see that the film wants to get to the main story-line, which was their struggle of staying together and ruling Bechuanaland, as soon as possible.

Still, once we get there, A United Kingdom really finds its footing and delivers a captivating story about how their marriage was consistently hindered in the face of corrupt politics. Overall, while it has some flaws in its first act, A United Kingdom is a very decent film which is very easy to like and admire thanks to the good performances by David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike and its uplifting message.