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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Southpaw (2015)

Billy “The Great” Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal), is the reigning lightweight champion of the world right now and everything is going well for him in life. He has the prefect wife, daughter, mansion, and all the money in the world. His wife, Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is the person who has always been by his side and supporting him with everything. She is really pushing for Billy to give up fighting now that he has nothing left to prove as a fighter. After a tragic event happens to their family, Billy collapses and everything starts to change. He loses his family, his house, and his manager. Billy is then suspended from boxing and can not box again for a few months. Billy really needs to come back strong and hires a new trainer, Tick (Forest Whitaker). Tick is well-known for his knowledge and great training of boxing. With his future on the line, Billy has to prove that he can have his family back and is still the champ.

First off, Southpaw has been one that I have been looking forward to seeing for a very long time and I left very disappointed. I often go into movies like this with very high expectations and I always end up more disappointed than I should be. There really wasn’t all that much about this movie that showed me it was a good film. The writing is where I noticed a major problem with this movie. I thought it was pretty cartoonish and sloppy. This is the type of movie that a lot of people are looking forward to seeing and I feel like with a better writer and a better director, this movie would do some great things. The first hour or so of this movie is pretty unwatchable, but it does pick up a tad bit once Billy loses everything.

The main reason I would say to see this film is because Jake Gyllenhaal is really good. Other than that, this is one I think you can wait on or skip. Gyllenhaal is pretty good in this movie and he was really the only reason I kept interest in this while watching it. He pretty much saved this movie from being bad to okay. Rachel McAdams is a very good actress, especially in HBO’s, True Detective. She showed me no signs of a good actress in Southpaw. She had a weird accent that bothered me throughout and it changed throughout the short time that she was in the movie. Forest Whitaker was pretty great though. I always enjoy seeing him do roles like this and he did not disappoint me at all. Gyllenhaal and Whitaker are the saviors of this film.

Southpaw really isn’t the type of sports movie that will make you say, “Wow!” This story gets very deep and serious, but the problem is that it just doesn’t go anywhere and when it tries to go somewhere, it is very predictable. This is the type of film I feel like I have seen over and over again, which sometimes can be okay, but there was nothing about this movie that showed me it was good, let alone enjoyable. It just gets very dull and everything turns into a revenge kind of story and it seemed like they really did not have all that much idea on where to go with this one. This is a movie that I think you can wait on if you are considering seeing it in theaters.

Overall, Southpaw does nothing more than disappoint. Even though we see some good performances from Gyllenhaal and Whitaker, the movie fails to be a good film.

Grade= C (Okay)

Dope (2015)

Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a High School senior that is trying to get his life in the right direction and start planning his future while starting college soon. He wants to get out of his neighborhood and do some bigger and better things with his life. Malcolm hangs around with his two, nerdy best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolon). Things start to get crazy when he is at a party with his friends and he accidentally picks up a bag that looks exactly like his. The problem is that there are drugs and a gun in the bag he picked up. He took this bag from big-time drug dealer, Dom (A$AP Rocky). Dom now needs Malcolm to take the bag to someone who can handle it and bail him out of jail. Another problem is that Malcolm has some dangerous people after him and will have a tough time getting out of this situation.

First off, I have to say that I am pretty shocked by the way this movie turned out. I really enjoyed this one and I think it was an all-around solid movie. This movie gave us a lot of laughs and a very interesting story about a young teenager in a tough neighborhood looking for a way out and getting stuck in the middle of some nonsense. I even thought the cultural trends we see in this movie are pretty cool. You see all different kinds of this throughout the entire movie. While it started to drag on a little bit, there are still so many things that make this movie really enjoyable. It hardly ever gets dull and every puzzle piece starts to come together perfectly and give us something that everyone can enjoy.

I really enjoyed the acting in this movie because I did not really know much of them and I thought they showed the audience that they are really capable of some good acting. I really think that everyone was a lot of fun to watch and never bored me for one minute. While the movie may have felt like it drug on for a little while, I still think that all the acting was pretty solid and they never made me lose interest at all. I really like what was done with Dope and I feel like the director, Rick Famuyiwa really wanted us to be interested in Malcolm. I just really think that everyone exceeded my expectations and this was a job well-done with the cast.

There was a lot about Dope that really surprised me. Even though this movie dealt a lot with drugs and dealers, I still think that there was a heartfelt message behind this with some great humor. There was definitely tons of humor in this that really made me laugh. This is really a movie that some people should check out. I think it can teach people a lot and it is also just a pretty solid movie overall that really entertains and humors you. This is a movie that deserves more credit than it is getting and I highly recommend going to see this one while you still have the chance and do not have to wait for the DVD release.

Overall, Dope may drag on a tad bit and start to get a little over-the-top by the end, but it still provides a good movie watching experience with a really cool story.

Grade= B