Film Review: “Alien: Covenant” (2017)

“Alien: Covenant” falls flat in delivering the origin story that this franchise deserved

Review of Ridley Scott’s latest addition to his ever-developing “Alien” franchise

By Carter Bagley

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Ridley Scott returns yet again to helm another installment of the classic “Alien” franchise he created way back in 1979. Scott was at one point a revered filmmaker after making films like “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator” but despite the occasional classic he isn’t very consistent. One thing he is great at though in all of his MV5BNzI5MzM3MzkxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkyMjI4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgfilms is world building and his talent for directing memorable shots. So, naturally, “Alien: Covenant” is very beautiful and eery to look at. However, it lacks the coherent story that all those films I mentioned above have. In all of his years at directing he still has an eye for huge scopes and making an arching story. He attempted to do this with the “Alien” franchise back in 2012 when he made the prequel “Prometheus” which many considered a flop despite being fairly enjoyable in my opinion. That film contains a better story and better characters than this film though which is a shame because this is the film that explains the origins of the classic Xenomorph aliens, it falls flat though in almost every department. To be fair the ties to Prometheus are well crafted and Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride all give entertaining performances. The main characters aren’t the issue here, it’s the mythology this film relies on that weighs it down. It seems rushed and not as complex and fascinating as it should’ve been considering these creatures are the classic alien design that has been terrifying audiences for nearly 40 years. Fassbender gives his all in this film despite having been given some questionable dialog at points. Sometimes the films is suspenseful like in the first and third act but the film’s extended second act is what tears this otherwise simple, science fiction thriller apart. Ridley Scott tries to weave this deep, philosophical, thought-provoking narrative that on it’s own has some interesting parts in it but when paired with the rest of the film and the franchise as a whole it just seems jarring. The characters were mostly put there to just be killed off and even the main characters don’t have much to them and it’s thanks to the talent of Waterston, McBride, Fassbender and Billy Crudup that this film is even somewhat intense at points, it’s not in the writing. The beginning of the movie and the end were quite enjoyable and interesting but as a whole film it left me confused and unsatisfied. Some great cinematography, music and performances can’t stop this film from feeling bloated in it’s muddled, pretentious plot. If you enjoy sitting back and just watching science fiction films this might be decently enjoyable for you, but if you’re going in expecting the next “Aliens” then you better lower your expectations.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: “Kong: Skull Island” (2017)

“Kong: Skull Island” is a well-shot enjoyable action film with some glaring issues

Review of the latest attempt to bring back the classic movie monster

By Carter Bagley

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After seeing the entertaining “Godzilla” reboot back in 2014 it seemed that Warner Bros. was planning something big and when they announced “Skull Island”, later titled “Kong: Skull Island”, it became clear exactly what that was. It was announced that these films were leading up to a King Kong vs Godzilla film, that sounds like a blockbuster that everybody wants to see. Although before we got that we were getting this new King Kong reboot. That’s not a bad thing though I was actually very excited going into it because we’ve never gotten an amazing look at Skull Island itself. So does it hold up? Kind of. The positives were pretty positive but this film had some pretty glaring issues. It features an amazing cast and crew led by director Jordan Vogt-Roberts who directed one of my favorite films of 2014, “The Kings of Summer”. The cast includes A-list actors like Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John C Reilly, and John Goodman along with newer blossoming stars like Toby Kebbell, Thomas Mann, Jing Tian, Corey Hawkins & Jason Mitchell. There’s no reason that this film should be anything other than wildly entertaining and well-made blockbuster. However, this film reeks of studio interference and Vogt-Roberts clearly didn’t get to make the film that he wanted to make. The action was incredible and the film features several sequences which that will stick in your head months after viewing and it does a great job at establishing the setting and introducing Kong himself. The big problems are the story and the characters. There seems to be no story here at all, pretty much what happens is that John Goodman’s character knows there’s an island full of monsters somewhere in the pacific so he takes a group of soldiers and scientists to go check it out. Once they arrive they start blowing up the ground and Kong shows up and takes down all the helicopters and from there it’s just the characters trying to get off the island. No one has any motive to do anything. Samuel L Jackson plays a Lieutenant who wants to kill Kong just because he killed some people. Even Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson are usually great in the films they’re in but here Brie Larson is reduced to a walking stereotype of women from the 70’s. Hiddleston is usually charming and interesting to watch but he looks like any other leading man in this film which disappointed me. The 70’s setting was kind of overbearing at times also because there’s no reason for it to take place back then and it features a great soundtrack of stereotypical Vietnam-era rock songs. Although “Kong: Skull Island” has some obvious flaws it still has great action sequences and a good setting and some genuinely creepy moments with various monsters on the island. For a film that could’ve been “Apocalypse Now” with monsters (which it wanted to be) it ended up just being an entertaining monster flick. Despite the characters not being very great some of the actors managed to stand out. John C. Reilly plays a World War II veteran stuck on the island and his character easily steals the whole movie. John Goodman and Samuel L Jackson are also very watchable and have an undeniable presence though their characters are pretty one note. Thomas Mann even has a couple good scenes and lines and proves that he’s one of the better rising stars today. Kong himself is fleshed out enough for you to care for him and the film ends with you wanting to see more of him. In the end “Kong: Skull Island” is a watchable blockbuster that has vibes of a classic monster B-movie and anyone who enjoys good action and incredible cinematography will enjoy the film enough.

Rating: 6.5/10

Film Review: “Life” (2017)

“Life” is an entertaining science fiction thriller albeit not an original one

Review of Daniel Espinosa’s newest science fiction film that borrows a lot from “Alien”

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve been slacking a lot on reviewing things on this site and I contemplated whether or not to review this film since it came out a while ago. I ultimately decided that by the end of the year I’d rather have it in my review catalog than not so here I am writing this. Daniel Espinosa has managed to make a career in the past several years of making life-posterentertaining if not forgettable thrillers or action flicks and it seems he may have done it again but not entirely. There are many interesting things happening in “Life” to make it memorable enough to mention to a friend but sadly it fails to make you think about what you see which is something I think it was going for. The good parts of the movie are really good, the performances are great and the entire cast is actually phenomenal. Jake Gyllenhaal does the best with what his character is given and Rebecca Ferguson impresses again a female lead after her breakout in the “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. The two standouts for me however are Ariyon Bakare and Hiroyuki Sanada. Two names that I was not familiar with before going into the film but they had some of the best character development of any of the characters. Bakare plays Hugh Derry, a scientist who is the one that is tasked with taking care and keeping the specimen they find in a stable environment. Things quickly go awry when the specimen begins to grow and become intelligent. The crew quickly realize that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they brought this creature aboard the ship. “Life” takes some obvious ideas from “Alien” which is definitely not a bad thing but it does make it difficult for the film to stand on its own. To be fair the script is pretty clever in how the characters find ways to stop the alien from getting stronger. “Life” manages to be very entertaining and gripping but by the end of it you kind of saw it coming and it doesn’t stick with you. At times it’s very predictable and some of the dialogue and actions made by the characters seem a little unbelievable. Overall, if you are a science fiction fan than it will probably be a fun time but otherwise there’s no real rush to go out and check it out.

Rating: 7/10

Film Review: “Logan” (2017)

“Logan” stands out ahead of most comic book films as a real human story told through the unique perspective of a beloved comic book character

Review of Hugh Jackman’s final portrayal of the character that made him an international star

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve always loved superhero films and I grew up watching “Spider-Man” and “X2: United” and those were some of the earliest films I remember really loving and being obsessed about. The X-men franchise has been steadily releasing films throughout my entire childhood and I remember being extremely excited about each one. I will say that it hasn’t cuaiczwueaaid_w-jpg-large.jpgall been perfect and there’s been many lows (I’m looking at you “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”) but there’s been some incredible films to come out this series. Films like “X2: United”, “X-Men: First Class” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past” are truly great. If there was one thing that has always worked in the series however, was Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine. Unlike some comic book movies where the actors are clearly phoning it in for a paycheck, Jackman has always given his all to this amazing character and he’s been playing him for 17 years now. He’s getting older and him and director James Mangold decided to team up one last time to give a proper send off to this character. The movies have always been PG-13 and marketed towards kids and teenage audiences but this film is definitely not. If you know anything about the comic books you would know that the character of Wolverine is a complicated one. He’s aggressive, strong and reclusive but has an obvious vulnerability to him. He’s a character that has encountered so much pain in his life and he’s bottled it up and separated himself from everyone he cares about. Though there’s one thing about him, he can become very scary when he’s angry. This film is interesting in a way that Wolverine whose real name is Logan is old now. It takes place in the near future and mutants have pretty much gone extinct. Logan is taking care of his mentor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who is very old and sickly and is one of the only soft spots left inside Logan. He’s addicted to alcohol and isn’t healing properly like he used to and he wants to live out his days working as a limo driver and taking care of Charles. This changes however when a little girl named Laura comes to the attention of Charles and Logan. Charles who used to teach mutants wants to help this girl who he says is special and powerful but Logan being the old selfish man he is refuses. When an army of men come after her however they realize how powerful and important this young girl really is and Logan agrees to help her out. “Logan” is not like any other superhero film I’ve ever seen. In many ways it transcends the genre and becomes an indie film at parts or a western and that’s what makes it so brilliant. Hugh Jackman is amazing in the film and so is Patrick Stewart and you feel for these two characters more than you have in any other X-Men film yet. The R rating really works for this film because you get to see the pure animalistic side to Wolverine in a way we haven’t experienced yet. The action is incredible and bloody and brutal and Jackman takes it to the extreme in almost every scene. The little girl played by newcomer Dafne Keen is an interesting character as well and the little girl gives a very impressive performance. Boyd Holbrook also gives a great and intimidating performance as the main villain. “Logan” is exciting and perfectly directed by James Mangold and it’s filled with insane action, award-worthy performances and enough emotion to invest people who wouldn’t normally be interested in these kinds of films. This film marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new type of superhero film at the same time, and years from now I could easily see people look back on “Logan” as a very important and classic film in the genre.

Rating: 9.5/10

The Top 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

2016 managed to be a rough year across the board but despite all that some great films were released. This is a countdown of the greatest films of the year.

Countdown of the Twenty-Five greatest films of 2016

By Carter Bagley

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Last night was the annual ceremony where Hollywood comes together and awards some of the greatest films of the past year. To celebrate the 89th Academy Awards I’ve put together my personal favorite films of the calendar year of 2016.

Movies That Almost Made It

“Indignation” – James Schamus, 2016

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“Zootopia” – Byron Howard & Rich Moore, 2016

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“War Dogs”- Todd Phillips, 2016

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“Sully” – Clint Eastwood, 2016

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“Sully” Review

Now Here It Is, The 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

25. “The Accountant” – Gavin O’Connor, 2016

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A film I didn’t expect to like as much as I did at all was “The Accountant”. It’s the perfect example of what an action movie should be and it gives me hope for the future of the genre. From start to finish it was emotional and exciting and I’m excited to see if this film could get a sequel.

“The Accountant” Review

24. “Star Trek Beyond” – Justin Lin, 2016

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The latest film in the “Star Trek” universe managed to be action-packed while having the same feel and tone as the classic TV series. Justin Lin did an outstanding job on his first film for the franchise and since I had a lot of fun with this one I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

23. “Green Room” – Jeremy Saulnier, 2016

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An amazingly suspenseful and brutal horror film that has one of the most original and terrifying plots in recent years. With a great performance by the late Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart portraying the scary and intimidating bar owner, “Green Room” manages to be intense and memorable.

22. “Snowden” – Oliver Stone, 2016

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This film was bound to be controversial from the moment it came into fruition but I think people overlooked the film way more than it deserved. “Snowden” was a very well made film with an excellent performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

“Snowden” Review

21. “Oasis: Supersonic” – Mat Whitecross, 2016

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An all inclusive documentary on one of my all-time favorite bands so I may be biased here but it’s definitely a powerful and well made documentary.

“Oasis: Supersonic” Review

20. “Doctor Strange” – Scott Derrickson, 2016

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Marvel continues to entertain mass audiences with their crazy visuals and great storytelling. “Doctor Strange” is different than the rest though and manages to stand completely on it’s own as an original and fun film.

“Doctor Strange” Review

19. “Lion” – Garth Davis, 2016

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Another film I saw very recently and I’m glad I caught it in time because it’s a beautiful, tragic and redeeming tale of family that will make anyone tear up just a little.

18. “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins, 2016

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This film has received a lot of love and praise and took home the statue last night (after an unfortunate mixup) and despite being good I don’t think it’s the greatest film of the year by any means, but that doesn’t take away at all from it’s good qualities.

“Moonlight” Review

17. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – Gareth Edwards, 2016

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Another year. Another “Star Wars”. This one, however, isn’t another sequel and instead tells an unconventional story that isn’t perfect but manages to be completely thrilling and entertaining.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Review

16. “The Jungle Book” – Jon Favreau, 2016

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There’s no way in hell I expected to love this film as much as I did. This adaptation of the classic Disney film and novel may be the best one yet and it’s the perfect family movie for anyone to love.

15. “Hell Or High Water” – David Mackenzie, 2016

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An unexpected success story, “Hell Or High Water” is a thrilling and smart heist movie set in small town America and despite it’s small setting and simple premise what it has to say is by no means small.

14. “Don’t Think Twice” – Mike Birbiglia, 2016

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A relatable and simple film set in the world of improv comedy. It doesn’t have much to say but it says what it tries to in such a lovely and entertaining way that it will have a soft place in your heart after you watch it. The cast is fantastic and fun and “Don’t Think Twice” is simply just a fantastic film.

13. “Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson, 2016

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Mel Gibson’s comeback film that’s brutal yet inspiring and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a man who’s courage and moral compass is so admirable that you can’t help but at least enjoy this film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Review

12. “Hunt For The Wilderpeople” – Taika Waititi, 2016

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A film that I didn’t get a chance to see until recently but it was totally worth. It’s quirky and odd but completely deserves your attention.

11. “Everybody Wants Some!!” – Richard Linklater, 2o16

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Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused” is just pure entertainment that’s funny, charming and filled with classic music that’ll take you back to a time that’s passed… even if you never lived it to begin with.

10. “Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve, 2016

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Denis Villeneuve is a masterful filmmaker who’s made great film after great film and “Arrival” is no exception. I just can’t wait until I get a chance to see his take on “Blade Runner”.

“Arrival” Review

9. “Midnight Special” – Jeff Nichols, 2016

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Directed by Jeff Nichols who is starting to become one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation after directing “Take Shelter” and “Mud” which are each brilliant in their own right but now he’s topped himself with a compelling modern sci-fi film that proves he’s poised for great things still.

8. “Swiss Army Man” – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Sheinert, 2016

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A movie that must be seen on it’s insane premise alone. It could’ve easily sold itself on shock value alone but instead it uses quirky comedy and the excellent performances by it’s two leads to craft an odd yet effortlessly charming story.

7. “Captain America: Civil War” – Joe & Anthony Russo, 2016

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Another film that’s gotten a lot of hate from the time of it’s release until now but after rewatching it, it still stands as a near perfect blockbuster and one of the greatest superhero films to date.

6. “Nocturnal Animals” – Tom Ford, 2016

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A movie that was a bit divisive in many ways but it’s incredibly clever and packed with powerful performances.

5. “Deadpool” – Tim Miller, 2016

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A near perfect action-comedy, Ryan Reynolds pushed this thing along for years and it turned out perfectly. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favor and go see it as soon as possible.

4. “Manchester By The Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan, 2016

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One of the saddest but most powerful films I’ve seen in a long time. Casey Affleck really amazes here and completely deserves all the praise he’s receiving.

“Manchester By The Sea” review

3. “The Nice Guys” – Shane Black, 2o16

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Hilarious. Entertaining. Overlooked. This film needs more attention because it’s truly amazing and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an incredible duo. Go watch “The Nice Guys” if you haven’t already.

2. “Sing Street” – John Carney, 2016

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Horribly marketed by the Weinstein Company upon release and overlooked this is a lovely little film that sadly will be forgotten about. Though to the people who saw it, it left it’s mark and to me it’s simply one of the most personal films I’ve seen in years.

“Sing Street” Review

1. “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle, 2016

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This is one of those films that will get tons of hate for a little while and for some reason it’s kind of cool to hate it. This seems to happen to a couple movies every year but while others are released to praise and later get swallowed by the hate this one will be one to overcome it. “La La Land” is a beautiful and entertaining tale that will one day go down as a Hollywood classic. There’s simply no other film that belongs at this spot.

“La La Land” Review

Film Review: “Passengers” (2016)

“Passengers” flashy visuals, great cast and acclaimed director cannot save it from mediocrity

Review of Morten Tyldum’s ambitious science fiction follow up to “The Imitation Game”

By Carter Bagley

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Morten Tyldum’s last film “The Imitation Game” really blew me away back in 2014 and was one of my favorite films of that year. This is large part was due to Tyldum’s directing passengers_ver2.jpg
expertise and even though he was a relative newcomer, it put him at high demand for studios who needed a talented director for hire. Then when it was announced that he was attached to direct a space sci-fi film called “Passengers” starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence of course I was excited. The pot of this film is extremely intriguing as it focuses on two passengers who wake up from cryo-sleep 90 years too early on a journey to another planet. With a great crew, an intriguing premise and two of the biggest young movie stars on the planet,  “Passengers” was destined for greatness. So what happened? Well the directing was great, that was not the problem. It really looked and was made with obvious effort and technique. Chris Pratt does his usually charming, everyday guy-next-door thing and Lawrence actually turns in a surprisingly good performance. There were many good qualities to be seen here and it was just filled with potential and I could see it in almost every scene. For a film that should’ve been intriguing and twisting and a throwback to 1970’s science fiction films, it instead reflected many problems with modern day Hollywood. It took a potentially genius science fiction concept and turned it into predictable, forgettable romantic slop. I was really looking forward to an interesting and unique film but instead was given the same film we’ve seen many times before. The script was obviously tampered with many times by the studio and it was clear their only intention was to produce an easily digestible adventure for audiences to eat up around Christmas time, and that is what really disappointed me. Morton Tyldum clearly tried to work with what he had but what was written for him was so inconsistent and annoying that it completely ruined the rest of the film. “Passengers” was a film that was should’ve been exciting and original but sadly it got too mixed up in the Hollywood machine that it ended up being completely watered down. Interesting visuals, a competent score, and two great lead actors couldn’t save this film from mediocrity.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” (2016)

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is an extremely exciting and memorable film despite it’s noticeable flaws

Review of the first Star Wars Anthology film about the brave team that stole the plans for the Death Star

By Carter Bagley

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Disney and Lucasfilm announced “Rogue One” a couple years ago now and despite being the massive “Star Wars” fan that I am I was never as excited for this as I was for “The Force Awakens”. It probably had a lot to do with the fact that the idea of another prequel didn’t sit well with me but there was never any doubt that I would end up seeing the film on opening night. The director of 2014’s “Godzilla” remake was recruited to direct it and I am still not sure if he was the best choice but I have to say that he did a fantastic job at directing this story and the many mind-blowing battle sequences throughout the film. Felicity Jones plays the brand new character of Jyn Erso, the daughter of an imperial rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6.jpegscientist  who is responsible for designing and constructing the death star for the Empire. The film takes place just before “A New Hope” and tells the story of the crew of rebels who stole the blueprints for the death star that were used to destroy it in the original film. Jones’ performance and charisma is most definitely the factor that brought this film together in my opinion because many of the other characters didn’t grab you all that much. Mads Mikkelsen absolutely blew me away despite how little screen time he actually had and that just shows how capable he is as a performer. Despite those two I really can’t say I resonated that much with any of the characters on a personal level rather than just thought they were cool to watch. Diego Luna tries his best and brings charm to his character as a loyal rebel soldier though he never gets fleshed out as a character the way he deserves to. Other actors like Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen were fun to watch and had some great lines but their characters just unfortunately had little to no depth to them. This is disappointing to me because my favorite part of “Star Wars” was always the characters and these just didn’t grow on me like Rey and Finn did in “The Force Awakens”. All these flaws didn’t nearly stop this film from being extremely entertaining though and I was pretty much hooked the entire time. Michael Giacchino handled the score on this one too and I have to say the music was very noticeable and I think he even did a better job than John Williams did on “The Force Awakens”. It certainly still retained the magic that all the other films in the saga have and the things that tie this film with the original trilogy is what excited me the most. It also fixes a major plot hole in “A New Hope” that fans have been complaining about for years and I won’t spoil it but it was very satisfying as a lifelong fan of the movies. The visuals are absolutely stunning and the cinematography was breathtaking and absolutely gorgeous but there was one completely CGI character that was really distracting and I’m not going going to spoil any details but you will definitely notice it immediately. The thing that brought this movie to new heights though was the final act of the film. This is the part where you see the battle on the beach that was shown in the trailers and it’s everything you want it to be and more. It’s truly some of the best action the series has ever given us and if this represents what we’ll see from the series in the future then I am beyond excited. Darth Vader himself even shows up in a few scenes throughout the film and he has two incredible scenes that show how scary he is as a villain and how badass he truly can be. I have seen a lot of excitement flowing around this film and from an audience point of view it’s fun and adventurous and exciting but from a critical standpoint there’s some definite gaping flaws that take away some of the quality but not necessarily the excitement. I will say that if you enjoy “Star Wars” you will definitely enjoy the film and I would also recommend it to anyone just don’t go in expecting a film on the same caliber as “The Empire Strikes Back”. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” wasn’t exactly everything I think it was capable of being but it made up for that in memorable scenes and an ending that can rival any in the entire series.

Rating: 8.5/10