Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

*Related Update: Carrie Fisher, R.I.P.

Every once in a while a movie catches you completely by surprise.  You go in expecting perhaps nothing more than a mediocre couple hours, and possibly even a complete disappointment, and you walk out thinking “WOW! I really enjoyed that.”  That film, for me, was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

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Rogue One is the 2nd Star Wars offering from Disney since buying the franchise as part of a $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm.  What is essentially Star Wars Episode 3.5, Rogue One fills in the gap between 2005’s Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vadar, and Episode 4: A New Hope from 1977; what most of us old-timers would call “the original Star Wars.”  I’ll be honest, while I love the Star Wars franchise, I have not been completely interested in it since 1983’s Return of the Jedi.  That could be due to my youth interests at the time, or could be due to the fact that every Star Wars film since then has been relatively weak in comparison.  The simple fact is Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 7 have over-told the story.  They try too hard to give story and character background, and just pile far too much onto the viewer.  And that doesn’t even begin to address the terrible acting featured in all four films.

But Rogue One is different.  It isn’t burdened with a huge backstory to tell because its time frame is very small.  The film tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance steals the plans for the Death Star and smuggles them to Princess Leia.  Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) stars as Jyn Erso–daughter of Galen Erso, the primary architect of the Death Star.  Jyn meets up with Rebel Alliance Captain, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna – Open Range), and his droid, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk – A Knight’s Tale), and together with members of “an estranged radical movement within the rebellion” (H/T commenter Dead Rabbit) and a renegade Imperial pilot, the pair cause a fury of chaos and destruction as they locate, penetrate, and raid the Empire base that holds the coveted Death Star plans.  No less than the full power of the Empire, including the notorious Darth Vader, stand in their way.

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Director Gareth Edwards, a relative newcomer, does a fantastic job bringing writer Chris Weitz’s story to life.  The sets were not overly expansive, but loaded with believable detail, even for a science fiction film. The special effects were of the quality one comes to expect from the masters at Disney and Lucasfilm, even bringing to believable CGI life the long-deceased Peter Cushing as the face of Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Carrie Fisher as the face of Princess Leia.

Rogue One has chases, shootouts, dogfights, and tense, palm-sweating drama and excitement that makes it one of the most enjoyable films I have seen in quite a while.  The film is rated PG-13, but that is probably because of its laser-blasted violence.  To be honest, I didn’t see anything that younger viewers would need to be sheltered from.  As a special treat, we watched it in 3D and had DBOX seats.  This did accent the experience but wasn’t worth the added cost.  The film stands on its own just fine without those extras. But, with that stated, seeing and hearing it in a theater environment is an absolute must, so don’t wait long, as it is already in its second week.

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Fake News, Part 2 – What’s to be Done?

In my previous post I discussed the main stream media’s complicity in the evolution of “fake news”. In this essay I answer what should be done about it. My answer: absolutely nothing. 

I suppose I should rephrase that. What should be done is ensuring that after the 10 to 16 years that the average American attends school, they are able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Let me be frank. Anyone who believes the Sandy Hook massacre never happened or that Hillary Clinton ran a child trafficking ring out of the basement of a pizzeria that had no basement, is a friggin idiot. And let’s be clear: that exemplifies fake news. 

Saying Hillary Clinton endangered national security with a rogue email server is NOT fake news. At worst, it’s partisan opinion but it ain’t fake. Saying Debbie Wasserman Schultz was corrupt as hell isn’t fake news. The fact we learned this from hacked email doesn’t make it fake. 

And that brings me back to my original prescription of doing absolutely nothing. Those who monitor what goes on the internet have no obligation to protect idiots from themselves. Any attempt to do so starts us down a very slippery slope from censoring the totally fabricated (pizza-gate) to censoring information that exposes corruption simply because we don’t like the source of said information. 

Facebook is contemplating a plan to run “news” through a fact checker like Politifact. Problem is many so called fact checkers lean liberal. 

So we’re back where we started. Stop worrying about the purveyors of fake news and start worrying about the consumers. If we’ve got a country full of idiots who believe everything their crazy uncle sends them then Vladimir Putin is the least of our problems. 

What do you think? The bar is open. 

Fake News

Worries about “fake news” are all the rage right now. It’s gotten elevated attention lately due to “pizzagate” culminating in some nutjob firing a semi in a Washington DC pizzeria. Pizzagate, for the uninitiated, is a false conspiracy theory stating that Hillary Clinton was running a child trafficking operation out of the basement of a popular DC pizzeria. (From what I’ve heard, said pizzeria has no basement.)

What is striking to me is that no one in the MSM is fessing up to where fake news finds its roots.

“News”: Barack Obama disparages the white working class of America by saying “you didn’t build that”.

“News”: Hillary Clinton tells Pat Smith that her son died because of an offensive video.

“News”: Michael Brown is savagely gunned down by racist Ferguson cop.

“News”: Donald Trump says Mexicans are rapists.

“News”: Trump attacks gold star mother.

“News”: Countless other stories about Donald Trump.

The pattern is clear. Over the past eight years (at least), the MSM has been feeding us incendiary pop fluff (sometimes outright lies) for profit. The boundary between straight news (which utilizes FACTS, not hearsay and innuendo) and opinion/propaganda has become incredibly fuzzy. Thirty years ago you could not tune into a network like MSNBC or Fox News Channel and get four hours of propaganda on a nightly basis.

It was only a matter of time before someone caught onto the idea of pulling stories straight out of his ass and publishing them as news to a public hungry to satisfy confirmation bias. The only shame is how our “legitimate” news sources lack the introspection to realize how they contributed to the current mess.

What do you think? The bar is open.