Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Former scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) lives on a farm with his wife and young daughter Jyn (Felicity Jones). Galen and his wife are just trying to raise their daughter and have her grow up in a peaceful environment. That is until everything spirals out of control and the evil Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) takes him away from his family. After many years have passed, Galen is now the Empire’s lead engineer for the most dangerous weapon the galaxy has to offer, the Death Star. Knowing her father is the only one who knows how to destroy the Death Star, Jyn joins forces with Diego (Cassian Andor) and a Droid by the name of K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) to fight against the resistance and give “Hope” to the Empire.

When people ask me about Star Wars films and if is necessary to watch the others before watching a new one; I always respond with yes. Only for the obvious reason of being able to fully understand the story and follow along as it goes. After seeing Rogue One, I can gladly tell you to not worry about seeing other Star Wars films before this one. Even though this movie is essentially a prequel to A New Hope, it still acts as a standalone movie, which is one of the major reasons why this film succeeded in every way. Starting a franchise with now eight films may seem incredibly intimidating to someone who isn’t a movie nerd, like me, but I strongly believe that after seeing Rogue One you will happily look forward to watching A New Hope.

Rogue One is the new standalone film of the Star Wars franchise that we have not been used to seeing. Gareth Edwards gave us a film that often became dark and depressing, but still provided us with enough action to leave the theater more than impressed. The casting was great and I especially liked how much of Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO droid reminds us of C3PO with the humor. It would have been nice to see more of Mendelsohn as a character because he is just incredible in everything he is in, but we have to take what we’re given here. Jones really impressed me with her lead character because I wasn’t all that sure this was the right role for her considering others where she’s been the lead or somewhat of a lead character. Gladly she pulled this off and was fun to watch. I was all for Riz Ahmed being casted in this movie after seeing his performance in The Night Of, but he is not very memorable because his scenes are limited in Rogue One.

From the beginning of the movie they let us know that this was going to separate itself from the “Star Wars Movies” to the “Star Wars Stories.” Rogue One leaves you with a mark of its own and even though it is not the “fan pleaser” that The Force Awakens was it still should be more than satisfying to any Star Wars fan. This film is one that even if the other Star Wars movies do not exist, you could leave saying that was a really good movie. And that’s exactly what I love about this movie. The fact that we can put this movie by itself and it is becoming just as much of a success as other Star Wars films is something that is making me very excited for what is happening with this Star Wars franchise. Seeing what’s in store for the next “Star Wars Story” movie is something that I really look forward to and if it’s anything like Rogue One, it will be an awesome flick.

Overall, Rogue One is intriguing, exciting and at often times dark, but still delivers on what you would want to see from a Star Wars film even though its stands by itself. Rogue One is filled with well-written and well-acted characters that leave you with probably the most memorable Star Wars film to date.

Grade: A

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Mississippi Grind (2015)

Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is the type of guy who has his life fall apart because he is addicted to gambling. He loses his daughter, his home, and even his marriage. He is constantly behind and always owes people money. He has to pay off all of his debts, but he still goes out an gambles everyday. While at a blackjack table, he meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). Curtis is a real jokester and he and Gerry become very close after he buys him a drink at the table. Curtis sees that Gerry is the type of guy who he can go out and party with and also go gamble with. However, while on the road at a huge gambling event in Mississippi, Gerry and Curtis start to run into some problems with each other, especially when they are losing. It all goes down hill for them there because they are still two degenerate gamblers who do not know when to get out.

First off, this is a gambling movie that is a boatload of fun to watch. Going into this movie I was a tad bit skeptical given what it was about, but I am very glad that this movie did not disappoint.  The greatest thing about this film is the character development. They really go int depth on the personal lives of Gerry and Curtis, which is something that I really like to see in a film. Mississippi Grind is one of the better films about gambling that is out there. It was great to see the troubles of an addicted gambler and how they absolutely cannot stop going to the race track and the casino. Mississippi Grind does a really good job of showing how these two cannot overcome their addiction and what it does to their lives.

The acting in this is pretty great, which really surprised me. I usually feel like it is hit or miss with Ryan Reynolds, especially after the last few films that he has made, including Self/Less. I do however, feel that he really did an outstanding job with this and he ended up being your favorite character throughout the entire film. The same goes for Ben Mendelsohn. I’ve never been his biggest fan either, but he showed that he can really act when he is in his right element. Mendelsohn has never really showed me anything from his work that has really intrigued me. i have heard he is good in Netflix’s new show, Bloodline, but I have not seen that yet.

What you get from Mississippi Grind is a really fun and energetic movie about the struggles of gambling and what they can do to you as a human being. When watching this film, you really find yourself becoming very engaged and never bored. There is constant entertainment in this and really never a dull moment. I think that all of the credit for this goes to Mendelsohn and Reynolds because with their outstanding chemistry together, they provide a movie that is well worth watching. This is a smaller release that many people may not have heard of from 2015, but you should definitely check this out.

Overall, Mississippi Grind provides a large amount of entertainment and a really cool and fun story. With fantastic performances from Reynolds and Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind does everything it can to impress you.

Grade: B