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Sorry To Bother You (2018) Blu-ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Sorry to Bother You

Director: Boots Riley
Writer: Boots Riley
Stars: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Flower, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Danny Glover, Steven Yeun, Armie Hammer and the voices of David Cross, Lily James, Patton Oswalt, Forest Whitaker & Rosario Dawson.

Sorry to Bother You is full of surprises, never once unfolding like we expect it to. That alone make it at-least interesting, whether you end up liking the film or not (I suspect many viewers definitely won’t). That it’s also wickedly funny, completely original and features a charming, relatable protagonist makes it one of the best films of the year.

I know from personal experience that telemarketing is a shitty way to make a living, so I empathised with Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) almost immediately. Living in his uncle’s garage and desperate for cash, he lands a job at RegalView, a telemarketing company that pretty-much hires anybody who walks in the door. And why not? Telemarketers aren’t paid unless they make make sales. Despite rallying staff pep-talks by overly enthusiastic managers – “Stick to the script!” – telemarketing appears to be yet-another job he sucks at.

All that changes when co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) shows him how to use his “white voice.” In almost no time, he’s the star of the office and promoted to be one of the company’s Power Callers, who make huge deals with mega-corporations. I knew guys like this during my brief tenure as a telemarketer. They were usually the most overbearing assholes in the room. Cassius’ sudden success soon alienates those close to him, including co-workers Salvador (Jermaine Fowler) and Squeeze (Steven Yeun), who lead a strike against RegalView over unliveable wages.

Meanwhile, people everywhere are protesting WorryFree, a corporation that provides slave labor – working for basic necessities, but no wages – to other companies. When Cassius crosses the RegalView picket line, he becomes a national punchline when struck by a soda can. Still, he’s aggressively courted by obnoxious WorryFree founder Steve Lift to come work for him. It’s when Cassius learns how Lift wants to use him that Sorry to Bother You takes one of the most unexpected narrative turns I’ve ever seen, resulting in a final act that’s completely bonkers…in the best way possible.

Not that the film wasn’t already a little strange up to that point. Taking place in what can be described as an alternate universe, Sorry to Bother You presents a slightly dystopian society where labourers are commodities who are easily placated by mundane rewards and idiotic entertainment. The film itself is quirky and occasionally surreal, with a sense of humour that sometimes reminded me of  Idiocracy filtered through Wes Anderson. Along the way, writer/director Boots Riley aims satiric daggers at a variety of targets. And most of the time, he hits bullseyes. 

But all the self-assured cleverness in the world would mean nothing without engaging characters. As Cassius, Lakeith Stanfield is note-perfect, displaying a vulnerable likability, perplexed by his circumstances while simultaneously going with the flow…for awhile, anyway. Tessa Thompson is also effective as Detroit, his activist girlfriend who serves as his moral compass. Most of the secondary characters and antagonists are painted in broader strokes, but amusing nevertheless (Armie Hammer is an absolute riot). Certain characters’ “white voices” are hilariously rendered by a variety of well-known actors and comedians.

Despite RegalView’s company mantra, Sorry to Bother You definitely does not “stick to the script.” The result is a unique, offbeat satire that’s destined to polarise audiences for years to come. Those not on-board with its concept and ideas will want to get off this train before the first Equisapien even shows up. Everyone else will want to revisit the film again and again. This is an outstanding great directorial debut and I look forward to Boots Riley’s next.

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Panic Room (2002) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Panic Room Review

Director: David Fincher
Writer: David Koepp
Stars: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, Jared Leto

It’s hard to believe anyone other than Jodie Foster in the leading role of Meg Altman in the film Panic Room. For almost 2 hours of this Crime Drama Thriller it is Foster who carries the film and some might say a difficult film to keep the suspense up and intensity in what is set in a house in New York with a handful of cast members. Before production the role of Altman was Nicole Kidmans until she found out she was expecting the arrival of her daughter, Sarah. Nevertheless, Kidman would still “appear” in the film in another role, although a cameo as the voice of Meg Altman’s ex husbands girlfriend on the phone. Panic Room is about a divorced woman Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her diabetic daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) who take refuge in their newly purchased house’s safe room, when three men break-in, searching for a missing fortune. Only trouble is, the fortune is in the Panic Room.

Jodie Foster is terrific as the mother Meg. Her primary goal isn’t to protect the house that she and her Daughter have just moved into. Her goal is to keep Sarah safe and suffering from diabetes adds to the complications that I spoke of in Koepps writing. Foster and Stewart do a great job as Mother and Daughter and you must remember that Stewart was only 11 or 12 at the time and shows a great level of maturity in her character portrayal and as an actor up alongside the veteran actor of Jodie Foster holds her own. I like the way that both are strong and focused (particularly Foster) in this plot. There are elements of fear that would come naturally to this scenario but Foster manages to portray Altman as a focused individual and in particular when she requires the cell phone and her daughters medical needs. Foster also portays the character as broken and hurt after her separation from her ex husband. You see this early on in the film where Foster appears distant, distracted by the situation of her relationship.

Junior (Leto), Burnham (Whitaker) and Raoul (Yoakam) as the villains word for me. I like the fact that all three men all have the same goal but how they go about succeeding shows the audience that all three have different approaches and characteristics. Leto’s Junior is the organiser who is a little impatient but will push to get the job done to an extent. Burnham is the technical expertise and helped build the panic rooms in his previous line of work and know the houses structure and outline. Burnam’s intentions are evident from the beginning, he means no harm and only wants the rewards in the most painless way possible. It’s also clear to see that originally from Burnham’s reaction in the arrival of the third member Raoul that the job was between him and Junior and somewhere down the line Raoul has been invited into the job by Junior. Leto as many know is one of the most famous method actors out there at the moment. Here I don’t really see that at this point in his career. His portrayal of Junior is erratic at times and petulant when push comes to shove. Whitaker is the calming presence amongst the chaos. The imposing towering stature of the man is the mirror opposite of his nature, Whitaker’s portrayal is a methodical and reasonable villain that he does well. Yoakam is possibly the biggest surprise of the three. His portrayal of Raoul in the beginning is mysterious and quiet, wearing a ski mask to disguise himself. It’s at the midway point in the film that we see the turn in his character and Yoakam’s performance is the one that stands out to me as he goes from quiet and sneaky to a nasty piece of work and reveals his intentions towards Meg and Sarah.

As far as David Fincher films go, Panic Room probably isn’t one of his best. That’s not to say it isn’t a good film. I mean it just isn’t up to the standards or as iconic as his previous films Fight Club or Seven (Se7en) I love a film that is set in an isolated environment and good writing and dialogue are relied on and in David Koepp we get exactly that. Koepp’s career as a writer is without question a success story in it’s own right. Films like Jurassic Park, Carlito’s Way and Mission: Impossible along with a few more have Koepp’s mark all over it. In Panic Room the writer invents realistic scenarios to keep the suspense going and lets be honest you need this in a film set in a house where one party wants to remain safe in the Panic Room whereas the other party want into the Panic Room for their rewards. Sounds like a bit of a stalemate unless there are obstacles in the way. Fincher’s style in this film is the first time I saw that keyhole camera effect where the camera can go through bannisters on the stairs and into the wall cavities etc and at times I felt like the Director had a new toy that he couldn’t put down and for the first 30 minutes or so it became a little annoying. Forgetting that, the look of this old house and the lighting is also one of the movies themes and tones. It’s old, but not creepy. There is a lot of darkness and grey throughout the film and also deliberate out of focus shots that add to mystery and suspense.

Overall Panic Room is an enjoyable and suspenseful experience. Foster and Whitaker are equally brilliant from different perspectives and the supporting cast (albeit small) in Stewart, Yoakam and Leto leave us with memorable characters. David Fincher’s direction created a suspenseful yet somber toned film using rather dull colours and themes creating an isolated feel to the environment these characters found themselves in. It is not Fincher’s best movie by far, but it is a pretty decent film. Recommend.

Taken 3 (2014) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

TAKEN 3

Director: Olivier Megaton (as Olivier Mégaton)
Writers: Luc Besson,  Robert Mark Kamen
Stars: Liam Neeson,  Forest Whitaker,  Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott

Taken 3 is rumoured to be the final installment in the trilogy of the franchise and the concluding chapter somewhat abandons its original idea, intent and formula and instead makes a DIET “The Fugitive (1993)” The Taken series no longer aims the straightforward formula or the context of the original. Don’t get me wrong while it’s still pretty fun to watch Neeson doing his best as Brian Mills, as an action hero, the movie somehow losses the senses of his character.

Mills used to be a clever guy who was always four or five steps ahead of everyone who could get out of any situation with careful, calculating precision. In this instalment he appears to be going out his way basically to make everyone’s accusation of him as a criminal even worse. He just couldn’t do the simple things, his actions always have to unreasonably lead from one disaster to the next. At least in the previous movies we can understand why he strikes his enemies without any remorse. In Taken 3, he comes off looking like the villain who just does things without reason, out of character and clumsy, in spite of his good intentions.

The movie has to go through all of these reasons to make it a lot exciting. There are some action sequences that look great and are shot spectacularly those sequences, but the fast paced editing hurts every action scene, unable to focus in many of its angles, making It harder to follow and can even cause motion sickness in the same way some video games do this.

Taken 3 should have been the topping finale to an excellent franchise with the first class cast who signed up. With the original Neeson, Janssen and Grace carrying the story forward and the addition of the brilliant Forest Whitaker (playing his version of Tommy Lee Jones “Sam Gerard”) and Dougray Scott replacing Xander Berkeley as Stuart, husband to Lenore (Famke Janssen)

As an actor, Liam Neeson hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the role of Brian Mills, at least, but his talent deserves better than what the movie has done to itself. Taken 3 is a rather difficult thing to experience, not because it has a excellent and complex story, but because of its lacking consistency. Taken and Taken 2 consist of the same actors and storylines link together well with the first sequel having a knock on effect with the events of the first and original. The action looks larger and stylish than before but it still doesn’t make for a good replacement.

Forest Whitaker is always a good addition to the movie and does make it a little better, but even he, the ever suspicious FBI detective, tend to just follow Brian Mills around and then proclaims he knew all along what happened because the bagels were still warm. Give me strength.

One of the biggest disappointments was how little screen time Famke Janssen is given and is promptly killed off at the beginning of the movie for the films basis. Now, hold up this isn’t a spoiler so don’t be having a go at me. On the movies original trailer release it was surprisingly revealed and shockingly exposed that Lenore was being killed off. Before I went to see the movie in the cinema the basis of this film left me a little depressed that after everything Brian went through in Taken 2 to ensure his family was safe in Istanbul was quickly removed in the third instalments opening 15 minutes….yes, 15 Minutes.

Maggie Grace as Kim begins to really show her age. In the original she barely passed for a teen, but in the sequels she shows more of her age. A convincing college girl now?  I have to say she was possibly the weakest actor in the movie. Maggie Grace  reprises her role here but since Famke Janssen’s character dies very early at the movie’s beginning, Grace has the added burden of carrying the movie opposite Neeson but falls under the weight of the expectation levels of a character who previously was the “Damsel in Distress”

Dougray Scott replacing Xander Berkeley as Stuart St. John. Here is the link and only link to the previous movies. It was mentioned in the 2008 original film that’s Stuart had some dealings with Russian businessmen and nothing more was said or implied in that conversation. Here Besson and Kamen’s use this as a vehicle for the movies badguys but with a twist at the end which I will not spoil. Dougray Scott, who like Neeson and Whitaker also is much better than the material he’s often given, he tries to make it as the grieving widowed husband with more to him than meets the eye.

Director Olivier Megaton uses a Jason Bourne style of hyper fast edits for the action scenes but they actually come across rather cheaply and messy. Megaton relies on multiple cameras to capture the action throughout the 109 minutes.The film lacks the  energy and action of the first two films. Too often the film halts for deep emotional scenes or plot exposition. To be honest Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen’s screen writing skills have not been severely tested in this instalment in the franchise.

The movie wasn’t the greatest but it wasn’t the worst either. It was just a run of the mill adventure movie with Neeson that has distanced itself not on purpose from the rest of the franchise. Unfortunately Taken 3 looks like the cash in to complete the trilogy with a quickly knocked off and poor script, which is a pity as it could have been a flawless trilogy we would all be talking about in years to come.

Arrival (2016) Movie Review By John Walsh

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Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Eric Heisserer (screenplay), Ted Chiang (based on the story “Story of Your Life” written by)
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Arrival in its most basic concept is a story of Alien ships arriving on Earth. Twelve of them to be precise, dotted around various different locations. It focuses on the ever more frantic attempts of two scientists, one a linguistic expert, Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and the other, an Astro physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), in their attempts to communicate with two large Alien creatures, before the worlds military declares all out war. Thankfully, at the heart of this sci-fi drama, is a considerably more complicated movie. Language is the key focus here, not the war or violent struggle for supremacy with galactic overlords that we normally see in films within this genre. It’s a wonderfully introspective look at humanity, how it deals with grief, compassion and most importantly communication.

Amy Adams, the standout performer in the film, delivers a confident, impressive performance as the linguistic professor tasked with the unenviable challenge of deciphering the alien language of two ‘Heptapod’, other worldly creatures, that seem resemble a cross between ‘Thing’ from the Addams Family and an Octopus. Louise has been asked to seek the answer to a simple question from the military, headed up by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker): What do you want? It doesn’t take her long to understand that written communication is required, with the Whale like vernacular proving impossible to translate. After a few visits with the otherworldly beings, she even manages to partly decipher their complex, inky circle, writing style. As both she and Ian face a race against time to convey the crucial question to the aliens, we see glimpses at the wider worlds growing uneasiness at the situation. With various news reports around the world flashing up on tv screens, providing regular updates on the ongoings of China, Russia and Pakistan. All of whom seem ready to nuke the visitors on their doorsteps at a moments notice throughout.

Louise is not short on emotional depth either. “I used to think this was the beginning of your story” we hear her narrate at the beginning of the film, whilst several visions of her young daughter, who sadly dies in her late teens play out. These visions reoccur, becoming more regular as her work aboard the shell gathers pace. These prove to be absolutely vital to the story and the key to finally transcribing the alien calligraphy. Adams never resorts to overacting in these delicate scenes, instead settling on using subtle expressions and body language to convey her mood and feelings perfectly. Her characters emotional conflict during these moments creates a deep undercurrent in the film, helping to steer it through a middle act that is often on the verge of lagging.

Bradford Young’s visuals are on point and absolutely spectacular. The black obelisk, shell of a ship is gargantuan in size, as it darts upward from the ground, though never actually touching it, every bit unnatural looking in stark contrast to the natural land that surrounds it, seemingly for miles. The first time it’s revealed is a thing of beauty, as the helicopter carrying the team to the site slips out from the fog that seems to cling to the air. The inside shots of the shell are not neglected either. Whether it be the equally foggy domain of the ‘Heptapods’, the beautiful inked rings they project onto the invisible barrier or the smooth, black alien interior of the walls or floor. It looks every bit an extraterrestrial vessel.

Also, how could I possibly finish talking about cinematography on this film without mentioning the gravity flipping ninety degrees as the team of scientists climb in for the first time? Young’s work on this only further increases my excitement for the forthcoming Han Solo standalone, which will see him apply his outstanding talents to the world of Star Wars. The brilliant visuals are equalled by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s wonderful score, which really brings an eerie sense of trepidation to the early encounters in the film and an equally powerful, mellower hit of sadness at the end.

And speaking of endings. The film has been described as ‘thinking persons sci-fi’ and given the slow, deliberate pace it takes throughout, not to mention Villeneuve’s penchant for gradually releasing information to his viewers, it really would be hard to disagree with such an assertion. Arrival has a rather major twist in the final act, which I’d prefer to leave unspoilt, it truly should be experienced in the moment to be fully appreciated.

What I will say is that the ‘eureka’ moment is not too dissimilar in style to Christoper Nolan’s Interstellar. It’s a better film than Interstellar though, succeeding where the former failed in being at once epic, and yet also introspective and intimate. We hear Adam’s uttering the prophetic words “Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it and welcome every moment of it”. Bringing up the conclusion to the film, with Max Richter’s goosebump inducing music On the Nature of Daylight playing sombrely in the background. It’s a profoundly powerful and moving end to what is an excellent film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Movie Review By Kevan McLaughlin

ROGUE ONE.png

Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay by), Tony Gilroy (screenplay by)
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen

Right, if you haven’t seen it by now then it really isn’t my fault if I destroy your day with spoilers like the Empire destroyed Scariff. Oh, no! Did I just ruin everything? Well, tough luck. The title of this review is ‘A Spolier Story’ so if you don’t want any more you shouldn’t have read this far, although you really should have seen the movie by now.

The first thing we have to encounter about this Star Wars side-adventure (and there are a LOT of new things for us to get our collective heads around) is that we have a whole host of new characters we haven’t seen in the movies before. A Battalion’s worth of new characters. A whole rebellion full of them. Sure, a lot of them are introduced in the much grander Star Wars universe through cartoons, animated series, comics and novels but this is the first time we get to see all of them together in the live-action format. And their names don’t role off the tongue like Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie. But with multiple viewings (and you will be viewing this movie a lot for the next, say… 40 years) Cassian, Chirrut, Baze and co will be just as familiar.

The story, if you don’t know by now, is about how the Rebels obtained the plans to destroy the Death Star. We already know they succeed. So, why bother? BECAUSE, COOL STUFF. Let me elaborate. A New Hope succeeds without an introduction. It has for almost forty years. It doesn’t need Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones scrabbling around 10 minutes before Leia ejects her bleeping pedal bin stuffed with a hidden message onto Tatooine to make it the perfect movie it already is. And that’s kinda the point. A New Hope doesn’t need the story before the story and vice-versa. Rogue One’s band of tired freedom fighters don’t need to see the fruits of their sacrifices realised by an exiled Jedi, a Princess, a farmboy, a smuggler and his walking carpet. Both of these movies work perfectly well by themselves, but together…well, it’s a thing of flawless beauty. It is actually seemless. Watch Rogue One in the cinema and rush home to watch Episode IV and see for yourself. I guarantee everyone will be doing it when the Blu-ray is released.

In Rogue One we start with Galen Erso, played to understated enigmatic brilliance by the always compelling Mads Mikkelson. Galen is a brilliant scientist and pacifist who has come to realise that his intellect and vision are being exploited by the Empire’s scheming Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to build a gargantuan weapon of global destruction. We join him in his new life on a farm on Lah’mu with his wife Lyra and their young daughter Jyn. Krennic shows up with a smile, a hoard of Death Troopers and a puny argument about how their work on the Death Star is all about promoting peace in the Galaxy because, you know, you should always trust a guy who shows up on your farm with a squad of Imperial killers in slick armour.

Galen lies to Krennic that Lyra is dead right before she pops up, wounds Krennic and he kills her. The well-hidden Jyn evades the Death Troopers ordered to hunt for her and Krennic, the freakishly tall murderers-for-hire and a devastated and dejected Galen leave to continue to work on Krennic’s intergalactic Nobel Peace prize project. And that’s where Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera comes in to rescue the Erso youngling and take her under his wing.

Next we’re introduced to Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Cassian learns from his mate that an Imperial pilot has defected and is telling people that the Empire are making a planet killer using Kyber Crystals and Galen is involved in the construction. It’s here we see how ruthless and desperate the Rebellion have had to become because, in order to escape and avoid detection by the clostraphobic presence of the Empire, Cassian kills a couple of Stormtroopers and his panicky, paranoid pal. Because it had to be done. That’s the real shift in tone in this movie. We don’t have the luxury of the Force morally guiding our heroes to always do the right thing. They do what’s necessary and that includes shooting your pal in the back if you think he might be a liability.

From there we go to Jedha to see this defector pilot (Riz Ahmed) for the first time. He’s looking for Saw because he claims he has this message from Galen. Naturally, Saw’s pals are a little dubious. The pilot, Bodhi Rook, is taken to Saw and is then mentally tortured by a mad psychic squid thing to make sure he’s telling the truth. This is the measure of Saw. Although I don’t be distracted by the larger Star Wars universe, it’s important to note that Saw has been fighting this war for a very long time and he’s become paranoid and dangerous, even by the Rebellion’s standards.

When Saw is interrogating Bodhi he’s revealed to be horribly disfigured through years of fighting and losing. He clunks onto our screen as it’s revealed he’s more machine than man in a not-so-subtle, yet awesome, nod to Obi Wan’s description of Darth Vader in Episode IV. Saw Gerrera continues to mirror Vader by taking a long, deep inhale of his breathing aide whilst looking hard and equally long at Bodhi and his reaction. Bodhi is frightened. Through the fear Ahmed brilliantly portrays, we’re given an idea that Bodhi has seen Vader before and this powerful, radical man in front of him now bares an uncanny air to the Sith Lord.

And then Peter Cushing makes an interesting career move by appearing on our screens for the first time since he was in Biggles in 1986. Bold. Except, of course, this isn’t Peter Cushing but the combination of actor Guy Henry’s motion capture performance, Disney and Industrial Light and Magic creating something wonderfully exciting. To some, using the image of a long-dead and much loved thespian is a step too far. For this piece, I’m not getting into that argument. Nor am I going to debate the Uncanny Valley. I’m not. It’s my belief that Tarkin HAD to be in this film. He had to. And it’s with great effect that he’s in Rogue One. It’s also my belief that the CGI was brilliant. If you can tolerate Binks and Jumping Jack Yoda then you can certainly enjoy this next stage of computer-based technology enhancing our screens. All of these arguments detract from Henry’s performance, which is incredible.

Yes, Cushing made the character his but Guy Henry takes it and runs. He’s still as deliciously sly and arrogant as ever, outpacing the impertinent and overly ambitious Krennic. And that’s the joy of having Tarkin in this movie. He’s a cunning foil to Krennic’s slimy charm, seething jealousy and combustable temprament. Henry nails it and should be applauded for HIS portrayal of this character.

When we meet Jyn again years later it’s clear she doesn’t exactly have a life plan. We find her in the back of an Imperial paddy wagon waiting to be transported to a fresh hell, not that she looks all that bothered by her grim circumstances. Jyn is then ‘rescued’ by a gang of Rebels and thanks them for their efforts by slapping them silly. As she tries to flee, the surprising comedic hero of Rogue One introduces itself by ragdolling her to the ground (I’ll talk more about Alan Tudyk’s amazing turn as K-2SO shortly).

It’s revealed in the subsequent interrogation at the Rebel base on Yavin that Jyn doesn’t know where her father is and hasn’t seen Galen for 15 years and hopes him dead. Mon Mothma (more on Genevieve O’Reilly’s take on this character later) and Cassian question Jyn about her relationship with Saw Gerrera, knowing he has the defected pilot, information about the Death Star and that it was Galen who sent Bodhi. It’s apparent that Jyn is their only way to speak with the extremist, having severed ties with the increasingly erratic and paranoid Saw. If Jyn helps the Rebellion with this meet-and-greet with Saw, Mothma is hoping to extract Galen and have him testify to the Senate regarding the Empire’s dastardly plans and also give Jyn her freedom.

The scene switches tone from an inquisition to a moral barter, with a little bit of blackmail and bribery thrown in. It’s subtly implied that the Rebellion is offering Jyn the chance to atone for her father’s perceived crimes. For Jyn it’s the chance to see her father and, perhaps, finally know the truth about him. Cassian, on the other hand, has no plans to capture Galen safely, not that he’s letting Jyn know that. Galen is the enemy and he must be taken out. And with that Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO are off to Jedha to have a chat with their buddy Saw.

With barely half an hour into the movie it’s apparent that almost every one of the main characters has an ulterior motive. Galen is helping build the Death Star yet he has a secret plan that involves dispatching a pilot with his secret message. Jyn is a wonderful mess of contradictions. She hopes her father is dead but wants him alive to finally get some answers. She doesn’t have the luxury of political opinions but spent her formative years with a man too extreme for the Rebellion. She’s indifferent to the Rebellion but takes on increasingly difficult missions as the film progresses. Cassian is cold. As I’ve already said, he has to be. He outright lies to Jyn about extracting her father. He has one sole purpose and that’s to assassinate the man he thinks is single-handedly responsible for the construction of the Death Star. Krennic is more obvious with his intent. He’s a psychopathic careerist. His aspirations consume him to the point where he’ll almost choke to death to get what he wantsbut he’s not adverse to using his slyness and cunning to advance his position.

This is what makes the movie so compelling in parts. The mistrust. Two of the most honest characters in the film are a guy who used to pilot for SpaceNazi airlines and the neurotic Universal Soldier, and when Bodhi is confronted by the derranged Gerrera he struggles to make his case that he’s not a spy because of the years of espionage, guerilla warfare and doubt within the Alliance. Even when Saw sees Jyn for the first time in years he is unsure of her motives and even asks if she’s there to kill him. Jyn Erso was like a daughter to him and now he’s fearing that she might be the one to end HIS war. This is how insane things have become since the days of the old Republic.

We’re reintroduced to a familiar face in Rogue One. Caroline Blakiston, in her own words, spent a grand total of “twenty-six and a half second” as Mon Mothma in Jedi. And although Genevieve O’Reilly spent a considerable amount of time learning Blakiston’s mannerisms and speech patterns, her role was diminished to a non-speaking part in Revenge of the Sith and a couple of deleted scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray extras. For a character to make such a considerable impact in the Star Wars universe is an outstanding accomplishment, considering most people still don’t know what a Bothan is, or how they died. It’s with enormous relief that O’Reilly had another shot at the role because she is simply excellent. O’Reilly captures the solemn essence of Mothma and makes us realise how vital her diplomacy and rationalism is in this turbulent and fragile alliance. Even when all around her everyone is losing their minds she remains the calm and reassuring voice that’s sorely needed.

As alluded to in Part Two, K-2SO is the comedic foil of the piece. A tad more optimistic than Marvin the paranoid android and not quite as neurotic as C-3PO, Alan Tudyk’s reprogrammed Imperial security droid is more like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper in that he has trouble filtering “whatever comes into his circuits”. The scene in which K-2SO pretends to be a not-umprogrammed-Imperial-security-droid slapping Cassian around is genuinely one of 2016’s funniest moments in cinema. In a movie filled with tension, Turyk’s stroppy robot is a much needed boost for the audience and a far cry from Binks. Thank the maker.

It seems unfair to only talk about Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) in relation to each other because both characters are brilliant to watch, but it’s hard to seperate them as they spend most of their screen time together. Donnie Yen does his Donnie-Yenniest since Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The blind Chirrut is the only glimpse of the Light side of the Force we see in Rogue One and his faith is as beautiful as it is tragic. Chirrut’s mantra of ‘I’m one with the Force; the Force is with me’ as he embraces insane danger is perhaps even more inspiring than Obi-Wan or Luke bending the will of the weak minded or mind-lassoing a lightsabre from a snowdrift. Chirrut has faith. Chirrut and his protector and companion Baze are Guardians of the Whills, protectors of the ancient Temple of the Kyber. Or at least, the were. Now, they’re begging and preaching on the streets of Jedha. Baze is an enigmatic fellow. He works in harmony with Chirrut and Jiang’s performance is more than adequate. But, simply because Yen has more screen time, has a lot more to say and it’s great fun to watch him treat Stormtroopers like piñatas, he’s much more memorable over the course of the film.

Think back to the early 90s. For those of us of a certain age Star Wars had been part of our entire lives. To most of us, it was a huge part. A sizeable chunk. And Darth Vader was the baddest baddie of them all. But it was done. No more on-screen adventures for Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan, the tin-can twins and the man on black.

We could, of course, always stick on the video of Return of the Jedi that we’d taped off the telly at Christmas and enjoy Speeder Bike chases, Jabba’s Palace and not being able to read Bib Fortuna’s subtitles because widescreen TVs hadn’t been invented. In the 1980s George Lucas had been adament that he had no desire to return to the Star Wars universe he’d envisaged whilst creating the first film in the saga.

By the 1990s Star Wars saw a resurgence in popularity, largely because of the Dark Horse comics and Timothy Zahn’s trilogy of novels. There was STILL an audience. We already knew that but it was the confimration Lucas needed to think about returning to his idea of a prequel trilogy. In October 1993 Lucas announced in Variety exactly that – there would be more Star Wars. More Darth Vader.

In the days before the internet was in every home and on every phone (and before it was even useful to most people) information on the subject was scarce. Non-existent would be more accurate. In 1998 we were given a gift in the form of a very simple teaser poster – a young lad on a sandy world, casting an awesome and eery shadow.

It was everything. We were going to see Darth Vader: The Early Years. Two more trailers would follow and they melted many a dial-up modem.

Fast forward through Midi-chlorians, Podracers, Yippeeees, teen-angst, an unconvincing romantic plot, a scene where he doesn’t understand how democracy works, younglings, a pretty awesome, if completely unrealistic (they were 6mm from lava – they would’ve been sitting in puddles of gravy made of their own legs) lightsaber duel and a burned, broken and disfigured Anakin.

This is what we were waiting for. The disillusioned and vengeful young man who lost everything was now fully transformed. Yes, Palpatine had made him a Sith Lord and gave him his new name but THIS was the moment he was truly Vader. And what did we get afte six years of Binks, endless Parliamentary debates, horribly racist stereotypes, a criminally under-utilised Samuel L  Jackson and Boba Fett needlessly shoe-horned into the plot? Hayden Christensen in his Halloween costume.

We could forget the fact that we were promised The Omen on Tatooine but got Little Orphan Anakin. We couldn’t forgive that all we got in the end was a skinny Vader crossing his arms and looking into space. NOOOOOOOOOO!

It feels like Rogue One has finally delivered on some of those earlier promises. We get Vader. With a lightsaber. Being outstanding. We find him on the only unnamed planet in the movie.

Seriously, every other planet is named onscreen but, by omission, we know it’s Mustafar. It’s only right that this is where he’s set up shop, as this is the planet where Vader was born. This planet made him what he was to become. Mustafar is a not-so-subtle- metaphor of Vader himself. It smoulders and rages. It’s violent, not through cruelty, but by it’s nature. Curiously, we also see Vader without the suit, albeit through smoke and steam, bobbing around in an unsettling, vulnerable state in his bacta tank. We’re reminded (however you may feel about him) that this is a disfigured Anakin. That same little boy who built C-3PO.

When Vader summons Krennic to his Castle we’re reminded of his feelings regarding the anything non-Force related. While Krennic is busy worrying about who’ll receive credit for the Death Star it’s clear Vader is irritated by such trivial distractions. The Death Star, to him, is a mere tool. It gets the job done. It gets Vader a step closer to what he wants. Krennic is even less important than that. And he does what Vader is prone to do when he’s annoyed by insigificance.

He chokes Krennic to remind him of his place, like a master rubs his mutt’s nose in it’s own mess. Vader really springs to life in the closing moments of the film, effortlessly cutting his way through a band of infuriating rebels who get in his way with a series of deft swipes of his lightsaber, returning blaster fire like Rafa Nadal and flinging them around like dirty laundry. But, of course, he doesn’t to get those annoying Death Star plans in time.

There is an argument to be made that, perhaps, the person to have the biggest effect on the Star Wars saga, other than George Lucas, is John Williams. His overall contribution to music in film is immeasurable with his majestic and unmistakable scores giving us the soundtrack to our collective childhoods. Williams is synonymous with Star Wars.

So, when it was reported in March 2015 that Alexandre Desplat would be composing the score for the new stand-alone Star Wars adventure some were…curious. Was this the ultimate statement that Disney could make regarding their most recent and expensive acquisition regarding the direction they sought for the franchise?

Maybe not considering that two years prior they had announced that Williams would be returning for The Force Awakens. It was, most likely, their intention to indicate that having a new man in charge of the score would set this new movie apart from the saga. This was a a new movie that just happened to be set in the Star Wars universe.

The proverbial spanner was thrown into the works when in September 2016 re-shoots on Rogue One meant that Desplat was no longer available and Michael Giacchino was to step in.

With the Premiere scheduled for December the clock was ticking and fans were anxious.  This was not inspiring confidence in Disney’s direction for the franchise. In four and a half weeks Giacchino, fresh from composing the score for Doctor Strange, had done it. Maybe this wasn’t such a huge risk after all. He already had a couple of Star Trek films under his belt along with Lost, Jupiter Ascending and Jurassic World.

This is a reknowned and highly respected composer. And he had a vision for the film. He called it a “World War II movie” at it’s heart, and “it was also an incredibly emotional movie as well”. Seemingly, he got the essence of Rogue One and incorporated Williams themes into the movie, so it wouldn’t be the radical departure we feared. Right? Well, yes and no. It becomes apparent that, yes, his score is based on (and incorporates) Williams’ previous work into the film, but he not-so-much pays homage to Williams as hangs on his coat-tails. Some elements of the music are akin to Star Wars parodies such as Space Balls or Ace Rimmer’s theme in Red Dwarf.

Unfortunately, this was always going to be the criticism, no matter who composed the music or what it actually sounded like. It’s even more unfortunate that Giacchino is obviously a hugely talented composer and Disney view him as such as he’s scoring Spider-man: Homecoming.

It seems like Kathleen Kennedy is determined to kill off every fanboy in the galaxy, with either massive coronaries or them choking to death on a combination of disgust and Cheerios.

No John Williams, no Skywalkers and no opening crawl. “We felt that’s so indicative of what those saga films are. Initially, we probably will begin the film in a way that is traditional, with just the title”, Kennedy said in November. This was how serious Disney were taking their stance that this should be a film that stands alone. The lack of crawl doesn’t harm the film but, on first viewing, it’s a little distracting. Uneasy even. But like the score we’ll get used to it. Not that either of these actually harm the film in any way. It’s just that we’ve become SO used to how a Star Wars movie should be.

Maybe it was about time someone slapped us and gave us something a little different. Thanks Kathleen.

It’s clear that Director Gareth Edwards is a Star Wars fan. Even if he hadn’t spoke on numerous occasions about how the original movie inspired him to become a filmmaker, it’s clear how much the saga means to him. It’s not just the inclusion of blue milk, Gold leader or his cameo. It’s the fact he’s comfortable enough to take the existing material and add something without trying to change it entirely. And he’s not just paying homage to the ‘good’ trilogy.

Take the bacta tank scene. Seeing Vader simmering in the tank reminds us that Anakin is an amputee and a burn victim. In a robotic suit. It’s easy to think of Vader just as the shiny black-suited, lightsaber wielding psycho. He’s also that little boy on the sandy planet. The stroppy teenager. And the guy who’s best friend chopped his legs off and watch burn. It mirrors the helmetless scene in Empire so well without trying to compete for its level of shock. It seems ridiculous to consider anyone but Edwards as the logical choice for Rogue One, given his history in visual effects. It’s where he shines in this movie, not in the CGI Tarkin scenes, but in using the effects to tell the story.

Rogue One is its own movie. In fact, without it (in a bootstrap paradox kind of way) we couldn’t have Star Wars. Episode IV would’ve been about an irritating dweeb living on a farm, talking endlessly about power converters. In its essence it’s a tragedy. Yes, it’s science fiction, action and adventure. But it’s ultimately the sacrifices our band of new heroes make that defines this film (if you don’t at least gulp when K-2SO is destroyed you’re a monster). That’s not to say there isn’t brevity, suspense, drama and epic space battles. That’s what we want from a new Star Wars film but it’s the ultimate price our Rebels pay that sets it apart from the saga, not the lack of crawl or the score. Then there’s the realisation of what this film is leading to – Princess Leia about six minutes away from hiding the stolen plans in R2-D2. The transition into Episode IV is flawless. The final seconds of Rogue One leave you with a sense of…hope.