*NEW* ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY REVIEW *NEW*

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Good film this is.

BUT cut pace they should.

Right, enough of that! In a nutshell, the Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

If I could post a sound clip of that shrill Death Star siren for my spoiler warning, I would BUT I can’t . . .

So heads up, I may mention plot points.

When I heard that Gareth Edwards was at the helm, I had mixed feelings to say the least.

Monsters and Godzilla delivered on the special effects, creatures and set pieces but on characters and story . . .

Let’s just say Godzilla was in my worst films of 2014 (https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/godzilla-review-2/)

I enjoyed The Force Awakens BUT felt the whole final act was one big retread of A New Hope(https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/new-star-wars-th…akens-review-new/)

None the less, I was still excited for another Star Wars flick (Lucky because we’re going to be getting a whole lot more).

I sat down awaiting the infamous and iconic opening theme music. Ready for the credits to deliver those tiny chunks of back story that scroll up into the ceiling.

However, NOT THIS TIME! I know, whaaattt? Edwards got straight to business. No messing about.

The only problem was that it was all a little bit slow . . .

I found myself a little fidgety as we followed another rebel origin story. It felt like it was going through the motions. Loss of loved ones. Tough upbringing. Believe in the force. Been there done that. Got 7 movies now.

It didn’t help that I just wasn’t emotionally caught up in Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Galen’s (Madd Mikkelsen) relationship. A shame considering the two leads involved.

I mean, come on. Even Attack of the Clones left me with a little lump in my throat when Anakin finally reunited with his mother.

Edwards and co certainly delivered on the effects and the creatures.

It flicked about from one wonderfully shot planet to the next as our rag team bunch of dysfunctional rogues were introduced and inevitably united. And what a supporting cast?!

BUT as well as new faces, we had a new (and annoyingly quotable) phrase: “I am one with the Force; The Force is with me”

I’m sure you’ve seen that mantra all over the Twitterverse. I could have done a drinking game with the amount of times that quote was uttered.

All thanks to Donnie Yen’s blind Kung Fu fighting kick ass Jedi, Chirrut Imwe. A legend in the making. I will say no more.

Riz Ahmed has come a long way from Four Lions and was very good as the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (What a name!).

BUT there was another character that just stole the spotlight for me. No, not Felicity!

Alan Tudyk delivers his vocal gravitas to yet another memorable robot (Another? Sonny from I, Robot? No?).

I don’t know what it is with Star Wars movies BUT they always have a knack for making scene stealing robots.

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K-2SO was brilliant as the re-programmed Imperial droid. Every time the pace (tragically) lagged, this long-lost relative of The Iron Giant would stumble in with some quick-witted one liners and sarcastic jibes. C-3P Who?

Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind) wasn’t as strong or as memorable a villain as I’d hoped. Shame. BUT he was always going to play second fiddle when the darkest intergalactic duo in cinematic history were involved.

Oh yes, Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth are back!

Cudos to the visual effects team. A CGI’d Peter Cushing drew more chills than anything Mendelsohn’s Krennic could muster. The CGI was a little cartoony BUT what do you expect when bringing back an actor that has long passed? If anything, it made him even creepier.

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And as soon as that rift blared out of the speaker, goosebumps were on the back of my neck. Darth Vader proved in his minute and savage cameo why he is still one of the most iconic super villains going.

If it wasn’t for all the little nods and cameos that popped up in this, I don’t think I would have quite enjoyed Rogue One as much. It tried to stand on its own two feet BUT the story was still the same old guff.

BUT the last 30 minutes, however, had me in awe. It was racy, riveting, action packed and delivered a fitting finale that led perfectly to the next chapter.

It certainly pushed the 12A marker with its darker undertone. BUT SW films have never been afraid to take risks with characters (Jar Jar Binks, no! I’m kidding).

Felicity Jones played a solid heroine BUT I felt her character got lost in the mix. There was almost too much going on with the Scarif beach battle that I actually forgot what Jyn and Cassian (Diego Luna – The Book of Life) were up to.

Luna and Jones worked well together. I just wish there was more of that relationship between the two.

Forest Whitaker’s strange performance as Saw Guerrera left question marks. I mean what did he actually do? Seriously. We didn’t see anything. And for those who have seen Rogue; what was he inhaling in that mask?

It’s always tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (*COUGH* Ep IV, V, VI *COUGH* Obviously. Just making sure) BUT Rogue One does enough to stand out in this ever-growing series.

The final act was fantastic and delivered that emotional punch I was looking for and I have to say I enjoyed it just a tad more than The Force Awakens.

A little long at the tooth BUT the force is still very strong with this latest adventure.

3.5/5

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EX MACHINA

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It may be a little mechanical in parts but it’s certainly not one for the scrap heap.

A ha . . . Anyway. Finally a film that didn’t make me question the purpose of my cinema pass.

A brooding, atmospheric and suspenseful thriller that ponders the existence of artificial intelligence and the very essence of life.

So what’s it all about? A young programmer (Domnhall Gleeson) is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtaking female A.I. (Alicia Vikander)

Brought to you by the guy who penned 28 Days Later and Sunshine. Now to me, I instantly had high hopes. I loved both. To some, there may be doubts.

The premise is hardly original but it’s take is certainly a breath of fresh air.

It does sound a little pretentious. And in parts it can be but it’s all helped by an original script and a small (No seriously. Four actors) but talented up and coming cast.

Domnhall Gleeson has been on the radar for some time featuring in such hits as About Time and Unbroken. He proves once again why he is one to watch. He plays the geeky programmer with aplomb and delivers his lines with an impeccable accent.

What I loved about the opening was how quick cut it was. It didn’t mess around or linger unnecessarily. Just straight to business. It set the tone, the pace and got the story going. Main character. Situation. Bang, bang, bang.

The cinematography by Rob Hardy was outstanding. Especially with the breathtaking panoramic landscape shots as Gleeson’s Caleb descends upon the Jurassic Park-esque compound of the reclusive genius Nathan (Isaac).

Oscar Isaac was brilliant as the eccentric inventor. A scene stealer at every chance. A chameleon with a tough poker face. Isaac is certainly banging on the door with his performances; Inside Llewyn Davis, Two Faces of January and A Most Violent Year.

As soon as “Day One” flashed across the screen, the game begins. A suspenseful, haunting voyeuristic journey into madness.

When Caleb is first introduced to Ava (Alicia Vikander), it makes for slow burning but engaging viewing. The pair sharing pleasantries and sussing each other out. There is great chemistry between Gleeson and Alicia Vikander.

She will certainly be one whose face you will have to get used to. Appearing in several future releases and one current (Testament of Youth); Seventh Son, Son of a Gun, Man from UNCLE.

However, if her performances are anything like this then I won’t be complaining. And no! That is not because she is a naked Swedish robot who has stolen my heart (What?)

The tension begins to bubble as the days count down. Strange things happen around the enormous techno compound. Unexplained power cuts that automatically lock every room. CCTV footage on every TV channel of Ava.

An air of unease and suspicion shrouds the house (and the film). The paranoia beginning to rear its ugly head.

Loyalties soon divided, perceptions blurred. The eccentric Nathan watching the couple’s conversation under a microscope. Ava desperate to escape. Warning Caleb not to trust Nathan.

This certainly kept my attention for the majority of the film as I tried to suss out what was really going on here.

The debates between Caleb and Ava made interesting points and certainly pondered the question of what is real? Can a robot feel? Judge what is right and wrong. Their chemistry igniting more and more.

The only issue is that with all the conversations, the slow burning pace and the beautiful landscapes, it does go on a little bit.

I could feel myself kind of wanting Day 7 (it occurs over a week) to reach it’s finale a little quicker.

It’s almost Kubrickian. The long sweeping shots, the hallways. God, the endless hallways. No creepy twins in this one. Only a sultry Japanese robot servant named Kyoko (Sonoya Mizuno). Alluring one moment, unsettling the next.

Garland even goes for a bizarre encounter involving a choreographed disco routine that really showed Nathan’s eccentricity (and that Isaac can dance). He also delivered the best retort I’ve heard in some time.

An angry Caleb storms in and asks why Nathan tore up something. His response? “I’m going to tear up the dance floor, dude.” Brilliant.

The finale was a little predictable but how it come about still surprised me and left me nodding my head in approval. That can’t be said for a lot of films these days.

I don’t want to divulge too much as I would like you to give this a gander.

The special effects were very good. The detail on Ava and Kyoto was remarkable. No over-indulgence on the CGI which made them look a lot less cartoony and more realistic.

I mean that could be down to the fact this had a much smaller budget but always a plus in my book in this day and age of relentless, OTT animation.

It’s certainly a dark broody affair. If you’re expecting fast action and bang for your buck with sexy robots, then watch I, Robot or Transformers but if you want a little bit of philosophical sci-fi then give it a go.

It’s not perfect. A little long at the tooth but engaging enough.

A step in the right direction.

3.5 (just)/5