‘Rogue One’ Celebration Reel Impressions

Hold on to your butts. In just three months we’ll be fully engrossed in another Star Wars Christmas season being yet again introduced to a slew of new characters, ships and planets never before seen in the ever expanding Star Wars galaxy.

Hold on to your butts. In just three months we’ll be fully engrossed in another Star Wars Christmas season being yet again introduced to a slew of new characters, ships and planets never before seen in the ever expanding Star Wars galaxy. Only time will tell whether or not Garreth Edwards was the right choice to helm the first of many Star Wars spinoffs but as it stands Edwards looks to have crafted what could be the most immersive experience yet in the film franchise. Even the biggest skeptics, including myself, who were left bored by Edwards’ other films are scratching their heads wondering how the hell this film could be boring after that action-packed sizzle reel.

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Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Cap. Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Lucasfilm)

The reel opens showcasing a battle scene that is no doubt the Star Wars version of Omaha beach. The film looks to have pulled many visual influences from war films such as Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, and Platoon. Yet the film still feels unquestionably Star Wars. This has many of us wondering what other kinds of genres could be blended into the Star Wars universe going forward. The possibilities really are endless.

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Garreth Edwards behind the camera. (Lucasfilm)

As with any Lucasfilm production, you would expect there to be some incredible filmmaking behind this project and Rogue One looks to be no different. In much of the reel Garreth Edwards can be seen being a boss behind the lens during sequences featuring practical effects. In some shots, rather than using green screen, Edwards has chosen to use projection screens giving the actors something to look at as well as act off of. This will surely help to avoid the wooden performances captured in the blue screen vacuums the prequels were filmed inside of.

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Ben Mendelsohn as Director Orson Krennic. (Lucasfilm)

What might be most exciting is how many new things we will see for the first time in the Star Wars universe. In the Skywalker Saga things are usually black and white. However, some of the new canon novels have delved into grey area of the galaxy. As we learned in Lost Stars, there are good people in the empire. Good people who end up on the wrong side. Rogue one will explore the grey area. Fans of the Clone Wars are familiar with the character of Saw Gerrara but in December, Forrest Whittaker will introduce a wider audience to a rebel freedom fighter whose tactics are considered too extreme for the rebellion.

We will also be treated to the first hand to hand combat action scene in the franchise. In past Star Wars films we have experienced the most jaw dropping and breathtaking action sequences in history. From the trench run to the lightsaber duel on Mustafar, the action has always been epic. Maybe that’s what makes the action in Rogue One look so refreshing. Sure, punches have been thrown throughout lightsaber duels in the past but never has anyone just ripped off their gloves and gone fist for first.

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Felicity Jones and Diego Luna taking on Stormtroopers. (Lucasfilm)

While Godzilla and Monsters weren’t very good, one impressive quality about both films is how Edwards managed to hone in and focus on the characters against the backdrop of something large and fantastical. Judging from the teaser trailer and the celebration reel, it certainly seems Edwards has managed to do that again. Maybe that’s why he was Kathleen Kennedy’s choice to helm the first spinoff of the franchise.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters December 16, 2016. 

‘Stranger Things’ Season 1 Spoiler Review

The Duffer Brothers have managed to blend 80’s nostalgia into an exciting and heartfelt supernatural thriller. The series doesn’t just echo the classic films of the 80’s, it’s DNA is made up of them.

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The Duffer Brothers have managed to blend 80’s nostalgia into an exciting and heartfelt supernatural thriller. The series doesn’t just echo the classic films of the 80’s, it’s DNA is made up of them. What is most impressive might be how it all blends together into something unique and refreshing.

The series opens with the vanishing of Will Byers and the launching of the investigation into his disappearance. Stranger Things earns its title as things quickly get strange and we discover there is a larger conspiracy at play in this small town after a young girl escapes from an experimental government facility. A young girl who recognizes Will when she sees a picture of him.

Stranger Things biggest strength is its characters. Hats off to the casting director for putting together a group of kids whose chemistry rivals that of The Goonies. Winona Ryder and David Harbour lead the series with fantastic performances but the series’ core is the friendship between the group of children, most notably the connection between Mike and Eleven. A relationship that mirrors E.T. and Elliot without becoming a rehash.

Millie Bobby Brown is a superstar. She delivers an extraordinary performance that steals the show and your heart. Millie packs a powerful and emotional punch into every word she speaks. She is able to express more emotion through her eyes than even most adult actors are capable of.

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Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven in Stranger Things. (Netflix)

Stranger Things is so fantastic that its weaknesses feel more like nitpicks than actual weaknesses. There are a few scenes involving visual effects that could have benefited from a larger budget and/or more time, but they are easily forgivable. The series proves if you have great characters and a great story complemented by nearly masterful directing you can easily get away with less than stellar visual effects. The only real negative is the thin layer of cheese that comes with Nancy’s storyline. The teen drama could have been dialed back a bit but like the visual effects the series does not suffer from it. There’s just a few beats between Nancy and her Mother that don’t land right. You could argue there are plot holes in the overall explanation of what exactly is happening with the upside down but science isn’t always clear and Matthew Modine even admits they do not understand the monster they are dealing with.

In a time when we have an abundance of formulaic television series its refreshing to have a show that doesn’t waste any time with filler. The story is thoroughly engaging and constantly pushing forward building momentum to its satisfying finale. Stranger Things could easily have suffered from a lack of originality and seemed like a rip off of almost every classic 80’s film there is. But the production comes together forming something exciting and unique. From the directing to the music to the production design, Stranger Things captivates the mind and the heart taking you back to the simpler times of the 80’s when movies were hopeful and full of adventure.

9.8 – INCREDIBLE

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