*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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THE BOOK OF LIFE REVIEW

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There’s life in the animation. Shame there isn’t any in the story.

Definitely one for the little ‘uns but adults may find themselves fidgeting. Fidgeting towards the exit door.

Brought to you by Guillermo Del Toro. Meaning; He has nothing to do with it. Other than having a production credit.

The honours go to animation director Jorge R. Gutierrez.

So what’s it all about? Manolo (Diego Luna) is torn between fulfilling the expectations of his family and following his heart (Awww . . . Yuck). Before choosing which path to follow, he embarks on an incredible adventure that spans three fantastical worlds where he must face his greatest fears.

3D is not essential. It certainly would have made the animation more prominent but not a must.

It’s all a little slow to start with. An elongated subplot with a tour guide (Christina Applegate) that introduces the love triangle was all a little unnecessary. The boring spiel of a group of detention kids forced to go on a museum tour just broke up the real story. It felt like a lazy plot device just to explain why the characters are made of wood.

The flicking back and forth may have allowed the detention kids to deliver some funny one liners but the end result could be seen a mile away. Dreadfully corny.

The animated worlds are nearly worth the ticket price alone. Nearly. Especially with the Land of the Remembered. The colours, the detail. Breathtaking.

The love story very much focuses on three friends; Manolo (Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria (Zoe Saldana). The cast at Gutierrez’s disposal is fantastic. Diego Luna doesn’t do a bad job but his singing leaves a little to be desired.

Some of the songs that he covers sound a little flat i.e. Mumford and Sons – I Will Wait but his cover of Radiohead’s Creep was an unexpected surprise. To be honest, Luna seemed to grasp and sing the songs made for the movie better than the covers.

Tatum was brilliant. If anyone can play a deluded chughead, it would be him. Saldana does her best but her character is so bland and unmemorable. Merely the fire to spurn the contender’s passion.

The whole “love wager” between the rulers of the Lands of the Forgotten (Xibalba – Ron Perlman) and Remembered (La Muerte – Kate Del Castillo) was a little corny and didn’t really get as dark or as interesting as it could have been. Betting on which man Maria will fall for was done so lightly that any real conflict or tension is quickly disposed of.

Whoever lost would be forced to rule of the Land of the Forgotten – a desolate dull landscape whether the wandering spirits are left to disparate. You get an indication of what tone to expect by the fact the tour guide describes how Xibalba is made of tar and all “the icky stuff of the world”. Yeah . . . it’s that sort of film.

I understand it’s a children’s film but there was a moment in how Manolo crosses over to the Land of the Remembered that suggested something a little more macabre. I was hoping it might sneak into the Nightmare Before Christmas/Coraline territory but it’s all dealt with a little too cheesily and surprisingly quick.

So pace certainly wasn’t an issue. Something I always complain about. I couldn’t believe how many stars popped up in this. (Well, their voices). Hector Elizondo, Danny Trejo, Placido Domingo, Cheech Marin and . . . Ice Cube.

Ice Cube surprised me the most. The others I knew would be up for a laugh but it made a change to hear a different tone in Cube’s voice. His Candle Maker character looked strangely a lot like Zeus from Disney’s Hercules. Ron Perlman. I should have known he would pop in a Del Toro (produced) pic. He was delightfully OTT as Xibalba. A proper panto villain in this supernatural pantomine.

The gags are little hit and miss. The overenthusiastic singing nuns were incredibly irritating. But where one lot were irritating, another group were . . . really irritating. No, more mildly entertaining. The Mariachi band (led by Marin) brought the odd giggle, especially with their cover of Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?

It zips along, brings a few chuckles but despite it’s beautiful animation; the characters are dreadfully cliched and the story is oh so predictable. There’s enough to keep the little ‘uns occupied for 90 minutes but the adults might be caught kicking the seats.

2.5/5