There is nothing like going to the cinema. I love the feeling of being transported to another time and place for a couple of hours, the world and its troubles fall away.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Black Widow

Director: Cate Shortland
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz, Ray Winstone, David Harbour, William Hurt, O.T Fagbenle
Released: 8th July 2021

Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has started in a very character-focused direction. WandaVision (2021), Loki (2021), Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) television series’ have each done well to flesh out characters that may have not had the opportunity to develop. Black Widow, the first MCU film since Endgame tries to fill in the gaps of the first female Avenger.

Set in between Civil War and Infinity War, Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) on the run from General Ross comes across a package from her ‘sister’ Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) who has newly defected from Russia. This package that threatens Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) Black Widow program puts Natasha in the crosshairs of Taskmaster a Russian solider that can mimic any person’s moves. It takes reuniting with her first family: Yelena, Melina (Rachel Weisz) and Alexei (David Harbour) for Natasha to finally wipe the red from her ledger.

At first glance, it can seem odd to do a solo film on an avenger that sacrificed herself in Endgame. Unlike the MCU television series released this year BW cannot just pick up where the characters left off from the last Avenger film. However, what it does is deal with the trauma of Natasha’s past to make her character's actions make more sense. Especially with her sacrifice in Endgame.

BW brings up a lot of elements of Natasha’s character from Avengers (2012). The polite acknowledgment of Natasha’s target giving her the information she needs with “Thank you for your cooperation” returns. Such as what had happened in the scene between Loki and Natasha. In one part of that scene when Loki tries to unnerve her by bringing up Dreykov’s daughter, BW uses this throwaway line to into a major plot point. Portraying one of Natasha’s darkest character moments using Dreykov’s child as a pawn to take out the man who took her childhood away. The ramifications of this violent act as part of Natasha’s defection to Shield leading to the evolvement of the Black Widow Program into its present-day iteration.

Natasha’s motivations in the MCU of wiping her red ledger clean in BW is used as a humorous scene between Yelena, Natasha, and their ‘dad’ Alexei. Alexei boasts about how proud he is of his girls happy to see how they grew up to be great assassins with “your ledgers must be dripping just gushing red”.

That interaction of Alexei talking like a proud embarrassing dad is telling of the theme of family featured in BW. Australian Director Cate Shortland expertly weaves the theme of family throughout BW. From the opening scene in Ohio 1995, Shortland sets up the comforts and happiness that the family unit was for Natasha. The playful and caring sisterly relationship of Yelena and Natasha. The motherly lessons Melina bestows on the girls “pain only makes us stronger” and the dorky but protective paternal role that Alexi played in their mission. When everyone does reunite everyone easily slips back into roles. Melina slips back into a motherly role telling Natasha to not hunch her back. Natasha herself has struggled with the concept of family, having thought her biological mother abandoned her she sought to fill that void first by believing in the Russian family living in Ohio and then her avengers family. She comes to realise by the end saying to Mason (O.T Fagbenle) “my whole life I thought I didn’t have any family turns out I have two”. Her Russian family is the one who raised her taught her how to ‘keep her heart’ despite the harshness of the red room whilst the Avengers became the family she chose, just as adults we choose our family from the close friends we make.

Another theme that is weaved into the narrative is female autonomy. The black widow program and the red room is only for women because Dreykov (like society) sees women as beings to take and use as he sees fit. In the title sequence, Malia J’s haunting cover of Nirvana’s Smells like Teen Spirit (apt song as it fits the setting of the opening scene) played over the trafficking of Yelena and Natasha and their subsequent training in the red room. The title sequence shows the constant training, they are put through on western cultural shows and the harsh weapons training. The cuts to the clinical rooms where they are given forced hysterectomy and that not everyone survives the process show. The audience a small snippet of the lack of control they were trained as.

Whilst Natasha was trained relentlessly to be a trained killer, Yelena and the current black widows experienced another level of control. The chemical manipulation that Dreykov employs is a tool for him to feed his ego and his need for control. You could see the chemical manipulation as an analogy for society’s way of conditioning women from an early age to adhere to the male-led society’s ideals of how women should behave. It is the black widows themselves (from the widow who stole the antidote and freed Yelena to Natasha and Melina) who take the power back for themselves, female allyship is the hero of BW.

The underlying feminist themes are why this film works today rather than in any of the previous 11 years that Natasha Romanov has been in the MCU. The explosion of the Me Too movement and the rights that feminism still tackles such as control over women’s bodies gives this film more profound weight in 2021.  

The influence of the women can be felt in the script as well with actresses Johansson, Pugh with director Cate Shortland and writer Jac Schaffer. Only women could include a counter-argument to a man (in this case Alexei) commenting on a woman acting up is caused by her period. The joke being on Alexei, that as Yelena explains she does not get her period explaining to him about the forced hysterectomy ripping out her reproductive organs. Also, only a woman could produce a scene where two women excitedly talk about how awesome that a piece of clothing Yelena has bought comes with so many functioning pockets.

 Black Widow is an action-packed film that gives Natasha the send-off she deserves. Pugh stands out as Yelena bringing in a nuanced emotion to Yelena in a way that does not diminish her prowess. The tied fight between Yelena and Natasha in Budapest sets up Yelena as the worthy heir to the title of the Black Widow in the MCU. Black Widow narrative neatly ties Natasha’s story up filling in the holes of her defection to Shield. The Taskmaster though not introduced as a hundred per cent comic book accurate. The twist on the character works with the feminist themes that BW is about. By the end of BW Natasha is set up in a place heading towards Infinity War and Endgame where her ledger is finally wiped clean.

5 stars.


Friday, 21 February 2020

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn

Harley frickin Quinn rides again

Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime
Released  17th February 2020

Emancipation is the name of the game for the ladies of Gotham, in this Harley Quinn spinoff. Emancipation from a toxic relationship, Freedom from workplace politics, liberation from the shackles of revenge and even the sweet release of a glittering diamond blocked bowl. At the insistence of the lead actress and producer, Margot Robbie Harley Quinn is joined on this freedom express by other lesser-known DC female characters: Renee Montoya, The Huntress and The Black Canary.

Taking place after Suicide Squad (2016) Harley Quinn (MARGOT ROBBIE) is soul searching in the wake of her breakup with the Joker. Harley's explosive closure to that part of her life causes a lengthy line of her enemies to come out of the woodwork. Looking For a way to save her skin, Harley joins in the chase for Cassandra Cain (ELLA JAY BASCO), a young thief. Cain unknowingly picks the wrong pocket drawing the fury of monstrous criminal Roman Sionis otherwise known as Black Mask (EWAN MCGREGOR). Also joining the chase is Detective Renee Montoya (ROSIE PEREZ), assassin Helena Bertinelli (MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD) aka The Huntress and lounge singer Dinah Lance (JOURNEE SMOLLETT-BELL) aka The Black Canary. Though each has its own agenda, ultimately the bigger threat of Black Mask forcing everyone to band together.  

The conscious choice by star/producer Robbie to not maintain the focus of the film purely around Harley Quinn represents a sensible move on multiple levels. One aspect is that it does well temper Harley’s eccentric character with others of lesser chaotic personalities. The intended result is that her kooky personality doesn’t wear thin but also become a pleasant break when in contrast to the other characters. Another facet is that it becomes a platform to showcase other minor female DC characters. The female cast whilst for most of the film are on opposing sides, their interactions aren't catty but when they do team up everyone is supportive of one another. In the midst of the final big battle (at one point shot impressively on a moving funhouse turntable), Harley (ROBBIE) sees Dinah (SMOLLETT-BELL) frustrated at her long hair getting in the way aids her with a hair tie so she can see what she fighting without her hair in the way. It’s a small thing but it is refreshing to see women who are often seen in this genre with long flowing locks acknowledge when it is not practical in a fight.

The opportunities for this many women to be front and centre of an action film (let alone a comic book film,) have been few and far in between. The feminine presence also extends to behind the camera with the director Cathy Yan (her second directorial film) and screenwriter Christina Hodson. Their influence assists with the female characters to feel more authentic rather than cliché. Repeatedly women in the action genre are viewed by the male gaze. Women often seen in outfits that tight and scantily clad. Scenes of them kicking ass only to be saved by their (romantically connected to) male lead. God forbid they be shown to be capable enough to get themselves out of trouble. The contrast of Harley Quinn’s initial appearance in Suicide Squad (2017) to B.O.P. represents a key example of what happens when you withdraw the male gaze. In Suicide Squad (2017) there is a scene where everyone is gearing up. The male characters are conveyed to almost change from prison outfits instantly into their main get-up except for Harley. The camera pans up her body to show her wearing fishnets, red and blue hot pants and matching bra, just as her shirt is being pulled over her chest. All of this done publicly in front of military personnel, who are shown to stop and stare at her changing her clothes...Insert cringe here. However, with B.O.P. the women changing their outfit for the pivotal battle are handled with the same instant change as men usually are. Even one of the clothing pieces, a red and black corset (the print a hark to Harley’s comic book outfit) whilst provocative looking is later revealed to be made of Kevlar hidden underneath, saving one of the characters. Who says you can’t wear an outfit that is both sexy AND lifesaving?

Though it isn’t revolutionary, Birds of Prey: and The Fabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn offers a fun, entertaining action-packed ride. A ride filled with energetic fight scenes that do well to satisfactorily reflects each person’s distinct fighting style. While this ride of a film narratively moves around a lot, it is filled with a stellar cast whose chemistry together is a genuine joy to behold and makes one drooling for more. Another tick in the box for DC’s current winning streak. 

4 stars

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Ocean's 8

Director: Gary Ross
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Helena Boham Carter, Richard Armitage, Awkwafina, James Corden
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Released: June 7 2018

  Heist movies have remained a cinematic staple going as far back as the 1940s. Throughout the years what has become apparent is how rare a female-led caper is. Most films that are led by women tend to be of people who aren't career criminals just turning to crime to overcome financial problems. Director Gary Ross aims to change the game with a group of female criminals succeeding in what they do best con steal and hacking their way into one of the most exclusive events in the world, the MET Gala.
Debbie Ocean (SANDRA BULLOCK) fresh out of prison recruits a group of people with her second in command Lou (CATE BLANCHETT). Their goal to steal a one of a kind diamond necklace, the Toussand. Throwing spanners in the works is prominent actress Diane Kluger (ANNE HATHAWAY) and Insurance fraud investigator John Fraizer (JAMES CORDEN).
  Hollywood is experiencing a new era with the world pushing more and more for diversity in both people of colour and female-led big budget films. Some films like Black Panther have been met with rapturous applause, others such as the female-led reboot Ghostbusters(2016) have been met with the intense fury of the Internet. A lot of the reactions from Ghostbusters seem to stem from people perceiving that their nostalgia has been ruined by the female reboot. Unsurprisingly, because of this when Ocean's 8 was announced much of the unpleasant thoughts still lingered from that film.
Side-stepping the reboot label, Ross alongside co-writer Olivia Milch establishes early on that BULLOCK'S Debbie is Danny's sister. The familial relationship is referenced often throughout the film even goes as far as to show one of her prized possession is a watch she stole from her brother (who naturally snatched it from someone else). The writers add a subtle touch by fleshing out this connected universe by featuring a couple of characters from the original Ocean's trilogy in some key cameos.
  As fresh as Ocean's 8 feels in its diversity there are nevertheless some key heist boxes that they tick off. There always involves a crew typically made up of certain roles like the mastermind (Debbie), the partner in crime (Lou), a hacker (nine ball), the pickpocket (Constance), the acquirer (Tammy), the insider (Rose Weil). Debbie's Mastermind, you are unlike her brother are witness to her skills. In less than 24 hours out of prison with $40, she secures makeup, accommodation and luggage and clothes. Having such a small crew in comparison to Ocean's 11 means they invests further time with each character. You are able to see how each of their skills fit into the heist and also their personalities feel more fleshed out. It's hard not to keep drawing distinctions between the Ocean siblings, Debbie's past is delved into more in comparison to Danny's. You grasp why she's has spent so much time on this plan and how she ends up in prison in the first place. Her brother, on the other hand, seems to just instantly decide out of prison to rob three casinos at once in some twisted way to get his ex-wife back from the owner of those casinos.
  While Ocean's 8 isn't revolutionary, it is a crime how enjoyable this film is. The cast are all on their A game, the story-line is engaging and unflagging in its pacing and its twists will joyfully surprise you. Crime has never looked this glam.

4 stars 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

The Shape of Water

Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones, Octavia spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, MIchael Stuhlbarg
Genre:  Adenture, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Thriller
Release Date: January 18th 2018

 Guillermo Del Toro has inevitably been a unique director. He has made a career of writing/directing stories about the unconventional characters across many genres e.g. Gothic romance, animation, fantasy, sci-fi. This makes his newest project both astonishing yet unsurprisingly, a film about the relationship between an amphibious creature and a mute cleaner set in the early 1960s. If unpredictability had a face, its face would be the teddy bear like joyous face of Del Toro's.

 Elisa Esposito (SALLY HAWKINS) mute since birth works as a cleaner at a government laboratory, her days spent working alongside chatty co-worker Zelda (OCTAVIA SPENCER) and  spending time with neighbour Giles (RICHARD JENKINS). Each day playing out the same until one day, shady security agent Richard Strickland (MICHAEL SHANNON) brings in a mysterious "asset" (DOUG JONES) captured in South America. Elisa's curiosity soon gets the better of her and she soon discovers the "asset" is a godlike amphibious creature imprisoned and tortured by Strickland all in the name of the US government and its obsession with the space race. As her relationship with the creature grows, she hatches a plan to free him from the slowly unravelling Strickland.

At the core of the story, The Shape of Water is a story of love and understanding. Both Elisa and the creature connect with each other through their shared experience of being looked down upon. The narrative comes across as an organic evolution into love than a starry-eyed checklist typical of most romance film. The other people in Elisa's life are also outsiders in their own respects; Giles Elisa's neighbour is a closeted gay man who like Elisa struggles to find love and acceptance in his own life outside of his platonic love for Elisa. Zelda her co-worker strains in her own marriage for equality. While the minor arcs (in particular Zelda and Giles) do not have a rosy-tinted ending but at least have clarity of self-worth. 

With the communication between Elisa and the creature being predominately non-verbal, it takes an extraordinary kind of actress to keep your attention on her. Sally Hawkins is compelling from the beginning and seeing her arc from timid dreamer to ballsy heroine demonstrates how she's been earning all the awards nominations. The way Hawkins conveys her emotions without uttering a word, never leaves you with any doubt about how her character is thinking or feeling in the moment. The surrounding cast put in a solid effort as well, no one overshadowing each other. Even Michael Shannon, who has made the career portraying somewhat intense characters, does not diminish Hawkins' presence when they are playing scenes across one another. His intensity is the immovable object against Hawkins calm unstoppable force.

 A beautiful fantastical film like The Shape of Water requires a unique score. Alexander Desplat (winner of best original score Oscar for the Grand Budapest Hotel) composes a score that has a romantic whimsy feel that even the title score sounds like water. The main title score envisions the ebb and flow of water, transporting you into Elisa's world just as the opening scene navigates through her apartment under water. Elisa's own theme captures her own hopeful demeanour perfectly. The only lyrical song You'll never know' (as seen by Elisa on the TV in the film) comes at a pivotal point in Elisa's arc as she realises her feelings for the creature comes crashing over her.

Only Del Toro can create a film about the bond between an aquatic creature, and a female mute be delightful and poignant. A film about the lesson of acceptance that love can bring, a love that in all forms should flow freely like water surrounding everything and everyone without prejudice.

4 ½ stars   

Friday, 25 August 2017

La La Land

Director: Damien Chazelle
Cast: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, Rosemarie De Witt, John Legend, J.k Simmons
Genre: Musical, Comedy, drama, Romance
Released date: 7th December 2016

  Los Angeles, the city of angels, tinsel town, the home of Hollywood, this La La Land where so many people flock to to make their dreams come true. No other city is as synonymous with the silver screen as L.A., director/writer Damien Chazelle blends the old and the new Hollywood together. Following the tempo of the Whiplash director Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone once again come together to show us life and Love in L.A. Chazelle takes a left turn from the tension filled Whiplash (though it still does involve a nice drive by through the Jazz district) delving into a magical homage into the golden age of Hollywood romance.
  Mia (STONE) and Sebastian (GOSLING) are just one of them many chasing their dreams in Los Angeles: Mia as an actress, sebastian as a jazz musician. Their journey together (getting off the ground after a rough couple yet comical interactions) as a couple and in their careers, changes like the seasons leaving each of them forever changed. It is a bringing together the modern realities of life with the nostalgia of an old cinematic romance. Ripped straight out of the old Hollywood playbook, the musical numbers spread throughout the film are breaths of fresh air standing out like the stars Mia and Sebastian aspire to be.
  A good sign of a musical is if the songs linger in your mind long after the credits finish rolling. La La Land definitely offers music that can resonate deeply. The songs (composed by Justin Hurwitz, lyrics by Pasek and Paul) vary from big sweeping joyful numbers (another day of sun) to the more romantic fare (City of Stars) each and every song comes into the scene so naturally you would almost forget you are watching a musical film. While STONE and GOSLING aren't the best singers, the tempos of the songs they sing (together and on their own) do not push their vocals into areas that feel unnaturally suited to their vocal ability. The melody of the music scores also is quite fantastical often lifting the scene and capturing the mood like a dream made real. The only tune that felt out of place was John Legend's song Start a fire. While it may have been, the point to have something that is feels completely different (because of what Sebastian becomes a part of in order to make a living) it still doesn't feel like something that fits in organically with music as a whole unit.
  Having a story that revolves around the two lovers Mia and Sebastian, it is key to flow of the story that the leads need to have good enough chemistry to be believable as a couple. The fact that this is STONE and GOSLING'S third movie playing each other's love interest it certainly shows. Their easy chemistry allows their banter to surface effortlessly; you can easily accept them as two people who fall in love. Out of the two leads, STONE in particular shines. Mia's make or break audition in the third act showcases the raw vulnerability that Mia is feeling at this point in her life and these emotions just surge out of her as she tells a story that perfectly flows into a song. You can see how STONE cleaned up during the awards season with just that one scene alone.
  After GOSLING and STONE, the next big star is the city itself. With director CHAZIELLE and cinematographer, Linus Sandgren highlights the some of the beautiful and historical areas of Los Angeles that in particular have played as backdrop to many movies and TV series such as the Warner Bros Studio and the Griffith Observatory. To shoot practically across many landmarks spread throughout LA is a very nice touch. It serves as a nice deference to a city that has been the birthplace to so many classic films, TV shows, and musicians. The way that some of the places were shot (e.g. Griffith Park) gives the scenes an ethereal look about it, it almost made you think it wasn't real.        
  This is a film that from beginning to end shows why it did so well in the awards season in areas such as music, cinematography, acting, and production design. While it may not be an easy film to get into (as it isn't based on a famous musical or involve acapella versions of pop songs) for those who are more familiar with films from a golden age of Hollywood you will find plenty to enjoy. La La Land feels fresh yet familiar in its world full of the hopeful dreamers driven by their passions in life and in love set in a city that epitomises the dream to reach for the stars.

                    4 ½ Stars                         

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Assassin's Creed

Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ariane Labed, Denis Menochet
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Released: 1st Jan 2017

   Video game adaptations like books are a tricky business to convert into film. whereas books have had more successes with the big screen e.g. Lord of the rings, Harry Potter, Gone with the wind  the kind of billion-dollar success has always eluded video games. Taking a leap of faith to break the video game curse, Macbeth's Justin Kurzel teams up again with his Lord and Lady Macbeth (Fassbender and Cotillard) taking on the popular stealthy history leaping video game franchise.
  A mysterious company called Abstergo abducts Callum Lynch (Fassbender), a man sentenced to death in prison. Telling Callum they need him to help obtain an artefact lost in history, he relives the memories of his ancestor Aguilar (also Fassbender) an assassin in 15th Spain. These memories bring to light an ancient war between the group of assassins known as the Assassin's creed and their foes the controlling Templars. Callum must decide for himself his role in this everlasting conflict and how much will he let the past dictate his future.
  The main problem with trying to converting a medium you can spend countless hours on into film is how do you balance a story that will keep the audience engaged while still being able to capture the spirit and excitement of a game. What Kurzel and Co. gets right is the essence of the kind of action Assassin's creed is famous for with most of the best action sequences taken placed in the past. Throughout these action sequences, they throw everything in including assassin weaponry such as wrist blades and smoke bombs and parkour like moves such as leaping across rooftops, banners, jumping from one building to another. One particularly great inclusion from the stealthy franchise is the Leap of the faith, a manoeuvre where the assassin swan dives from a building landing safely into a bale of hay. Choosing to shoot the stunt practically instead of 100% CGI, is a move that gives the scene a more realistic feel (also keeping it within the realm of realism you do not witness the landing) and earns them the title of highest stunt performed in film history.
  While the expertly executed action is a joy to watch, unfortunately the same care has not been put into the details of the story or its characters. The balance of the past and present comes across rather uneven, with most of the character development spent in the present. Aguilar's back-story isn't explained, you don't know why he joined the creed or what lead him there you are just meant to accept that he woke up one day and decided 'I think I am going to join the assassin's creed today' because that pretty much is where his story starts, at his initiation. His entire story is meant to serve as a way of keeping an eye on the artefact, the apple of eden with incredible action scenes thrown in. With present day protagonist Callum, his development is more fleshed out yet that is not without its plot holes either. He starts off as a kid witnessing a murder of a family member then next minute it's 20 years later and he is on death row for murder (for a pimp you later find out, even for Law & Order standards that is quite the sentencing leap). As the protagonist, Callum is not a very sympathetic character to get behind with his ambiguously violent past and somewhat mentally unstable behaviour there is not much to keep the audience on side, the supposed villains actually come off more sympathetic than the lead himself (at least in present day they do).
    As far as video game adaptations go, it isn't the worst film to have emerged. There is as much to like, as there is to crinkle your brows at puzzled, the thrilling action scenes keep your eyes glued to the screen and for the fans, the easter eggs are a nice touch. Assassin Creed is less of a hero's journey and more of a tale of how an evil corporation push a convicted felon to have a phsychotic break, causing him melded with the memories of his 15th century assassin achestor…..Bring the kids!

 2 ½ stars 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars story

Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Wen Jiang
Genre: Sci-fi, Action, Adventure
Released: 15th December 3016

  Rogue by name; rogue by nature the first standalone Star Wars film to venture away the Skywalker Saga. Godzilla's Gareth Edwards brings to life a story based on one sentence from the opening crawl of Epsiode IV: A New Hope 'Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet'. What a better tale for the studio Lucasfilm to explore than one that does not need all the knowledge of the previous movies to get but can introduce new fans to the Star Wars Universe.
  In the midst of a war between The Empire and The Rebellion, The Rebellion recruits criminal Jyn Erso (FELICITY JONES) and together with Intelligence officer Cassian Andor (DIEGO LUNA) they must retrieve a mysterious message sent by Jyn's father Galen Erso (MADS MIKKELSEN) that will aid them in this fight. Hot on the heels of Jyn, Cassian and their rag tag team is the Empire director Krennic (BEN MENDELSOHN), a man desperate to hold onto his power on the Death Star and will do anything to do so.
   Rogue one's story whilst is one that is self-contained yet because it flows on onto the events of Episode IV, there is involvement of a couple of characters from Episode IV (to help with the continuality of these events). Since it has been decades since Episode IV was released (1977), there is the problem of how do you have characters show up in a film years later when those who have played them are either haven't drunk from the fountain of youth or no longer alive. The wizards at Industrial Light & Magic (who has done the special effects of every Star Wars film) have pushed the envelope once more with their use of CGI; they have been able to replicate the appearance of these faces with such realistic quality that you would think Episode IV was made this decade not 40 years ago.
  Having a predominantly fresh set of characters in Rogue one, the cast all bring interesting qualities to the table. As Jyn, Felicity inserts her with a Strong Steely presence with a touch of vulnerability that slowly seeps through as the film progresses. Diego has a palpable intensity as Cassian, presenting a man hardened by years of being a rebel, but his newest mission that tests his morality. As great, as Diego, Felicity and the rest of the cast are there is a standout performance in Donnie Yen as blind monk like warrior Chirrut Imwe. Donnie steals scenes with snappy memorable dialog and puts his martial arts prowess to good use, knocking back stormtroopers as if they are pins in a bowling alley. 
  Whilst Rogue One feels more like a war like heist film than the more traditional Star Wars film, there is still elements of classic Star Wars: the humour, epic aerial fights, that one line that appears in every film and of course Darth Vader. That one epic fight scene involving Vader is one for the books as one of the best Vader scenes in Star Wars history. For those who have not drunk from the Star Wars kool aid, get ready to quench that thirst you never knew you had with a heart wenching adventure across worlds that will make you want to explore more of that galaxy far far away.

4 stars