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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The Martian (2015)

After a mission on Mars does not go according to play, astronauts must leave and return to Earth, but the problem is, they leave astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) behind because he is presumed to be dead. After a few hour pass by, it turns out that Watney is very much alive and he is stuck on Mars by himself with not much supplies. Watney doesn’t have any way of communicating with NASA to inform them that he is alive. With an incredibly small amount of supplies, he is going to have to try to science the heck out of this and try to grow things on a planet where nothing grows. After being able to somehow contact NASA, the people back home are going to do everything in their power to make sure they can get Watney back home before his time and limited supplies run out. Can NASA pull this one-off and make sure that Watney returns safely back to Earth?

While it has definitely been hit or miss for Ridley Scott as of late, he sure as hell pulls this one-off and shows us one of his best pictures of his career. I love everything about this movie and it was definitely the best movie I have seen this year by a long shot. With this and Black Mass coming out a couple of weeks apart, we now know that this is a good time for movies. I was definitely worried that The Martian was going to be a little bit of a stinker because of the crazy amount of promoting this movie received. I can now absolutely say that this exceeded all expectations and won’t leave you disappointed in the least bit. This movie is actually very funny too and will have you incredibly entertained throughout.

The acting in this is some of the best I’ve seen in quite some time. I think Matt Damon gave the performance of his career as Mark Watney. I have always been a huge fan of Damon and this movie makes me understand why I like him so much. Even the small supporting roles from people like Jeff Daniels and Sean Bean made this movie a hit. The whole entire cast was phenomenal in this film and I loved all of them in this. I also think you could really make an argument and say that this is the best sci-fi movie that Ridley Scott has made to date. I really cannot give this enough praise because everything about it was damn-near-perfect. Ridley Scott definitely deserves all the praise he is going to get for this movie.

The greatest thing about The Martian is that you feel like you are there on Mars with Mark Watney. Besides the scenes with humor, you could definitely hear a pin drop in that theater because the audience was so invested in what they were watching. This is just an incredibly thrilling and adventurous film that will absolutely not make you disappointed. I can’t stress enough that this is a movie that you must say. A lot of people may disagree with me on this one, but I even thought this was better than Gravity, which was very hard because I loved everything about this movie. Please, do not be hesitant about whether or not this movie is good because I promise that it is more than worth it.

Overall, The Martian exceeds expectations by a long shot and proves to us that Ridley Scott definitely has some life left in him. With great acting and writing, The Martian does everything to make you sit back and enjoy the ride.

Grade= A