My initial reaction to Rogue One – MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

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My initial reaction to Rogue One – MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

Just in case you missed the all-caps warning in the title, please take note:

This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

…so if you want to avoid them, stop reading and get the hell out of here!

Okay, you’ve been warned…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still here? Okay, well first off you may be wondering why I’m posting about Star Wars in my Denver Nuggets blog. Well, the answer to that is simply that I wanted to post them someplace and this is about the only place I’ve got to do it which (unlike, say, Facebook) allows me to include spoilers and give fair warning about it. That’s it.

Okay, so on to Rogue One… Where to begin?

I guess with the obvious, which is the bang-up job they did with Tarkin and Leia. As I myself was trying my best to avoid spoilers, and I just got done watching my first (but certainly not my only) viewing of the movie, I still don’t know the details of how they did it. Obviously, it was some combination of computer graphics, audio editing, live acting on the set, studio voice work, and probably other things. But all that is secondary to the fact that both characters were entirely convincing, and I think on future viewings after the initial surprise factor has worn off, will mesh seamlessly with their Episode IV original counterparts.

Sticking with visuals, that same seamless flow between this story and the next is really made possible by the exquisitely detailed work done on this picture to get the look of practically every visual element in absolutely perfect accordance with the original Star Wars. From the costume and ship design, to the look and feel of Yavin Base and the Death Star and Star Destroyer interiors, to the kinetic action of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter battles, to the Rebel pilot and Stormtrooper banter, they really nailed it, and clearly a ton of work went into making sure that they got just about everything along those lines just right. Throughout most of the movie, it did, for the most part, feel like that beloved Star Wars galaxy far, far away that the prequel trilogy largely failed to recapture.

For the most part, but not entirely. And the most outstanding reason for that was the glaring absence of a John Williams score. Now that is certainly not to knock the work done by Michael Giacchino, who obviously had Rancor-sized shoes to fill, and did as commendable a job as could be expected. Still, it just wasn’t the same atmospherically. Which isn’t his fault, as it is to be expected – and respected – that he wasn’t just knocking off Williams but instead worked to create his own original compositions. And the movie was intended to be at least in part a departure from The Saga in both storyline and tone, which is consistent with having a different musical environment as well. But in so many ways, John Williams’ music defines the texture and feel and emotional quality of what Star Wars is, and so the difference was palpable at times.

But man, it is hard to make too big a deal out of that when we were getting full-on balls-to-the-wall Star Wars action with blasters, Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, X-Wings (and I have to say the U-Wing is perhaps my favorite ship design of any of the post-OT movies), cool aliens and droids, new planets and worlds that looked lived in and worn… For nearly the whole movie, I felt like I was very much at home in the familiar Star Wars universe, just with a few tweaks here and there.

The story itself was solid and tight. I did have the benefit of reading Catalyst, the Rogue One pre-story novel, prior to seeing the movie, which definitely helped flesh out the details of the Erso family history and a subtext of motivations and psychological profiles of Galen Erso, Orson Krennic and Governor Tarkin. But even without that the movie did a good job of presenting them all in a way that made reading the book unnecessary, and the plot didn’t get bogged down with, say, trade negotiations or political disputes. The pace moved along quickly and the dots connected logically and neatly. I imagine some might consider it too neatly, but it worked for me.

My biggest criticism with Rogue One is that the dialogue got a bit rough at times. Chirrut Imwe’s incessant Force incantations were laid on entirely too thick; the theme of HOPE was sappily reiterated to an almost eye-rolling degree; and Vader’s “Don’t choke on your own aspirations” line was way too corny and on the nose, undercutting the more potently dramatic effect that scene might otherwise have had. It wasn’t all bad, and sometimes the callbacks worked, as with the aforementioned classic banter (it was nice to hear the T-15 get a hat tip), and in parts of the movie the light, sarcastic back-and-forths were effective in capturing a Star Wars-ian feeling. But in a movie in which much was done very well, the dialogue does stand out as one area where it fell short.

The acting itself was fine. As with most Star Wars movies, it tilted toward the earnest side and nobody will be winning any Oscars, but the lead actors (especially Diego Luna) held up their end of the bargain well enough, although I don’t feel, at least on a first viewing, that any of them really hit it out of the park like Daisy Ridley did with Rey in The Force Awakens.

Finally I should mention all the references and call backs, of which I’m sure I missed many. Having Red 5 get shot down (thus, presumably opening up that slot for Luke) was a well thought-out detail. Dr. Evazan was the perfect side character for a call back, as he (including his voice) is so recognizable, and is the kind of character that does get around the galaxy (as we know since he has the death sentence on twelve systems). The brief display of Artoo and Threepio was mercifully understated. And the sole appearance of the lightsaber in what is arguably the most kick-ass outing of Darth Vader ever put on screen was just delightful. Like I said, I’m sure there are a ton more I didn’t catch, but they were mostly done tastefully and smartly, even space Jimmy Smits and Mon Mothma talking Obi-Wan and Leia without mentioning their names.

Additionally, very little about this movie dramatically altered our understanding of Original Trilogy events, which is a good thing. The only major exception (unless I missed others) is the insertion of the plot point that Galen Erso intentionally and secretly designed the Death Star’s ultimately fatal flaw into its architecture for the Rebels to exploit later. I’m still on the fence about this one. On the one hand, it feels like it takes something away from the original movie’s presentation of the Death Star defect, especially in light of Tarkin’s hubristic refusal to recognize it, as a symbol of the cracks of weakness which will always appear in the seemingly impenetrable armor of authoritarian systems, of their very unsustainability. But then again, even if the flaw was added subversively rather than it being an Imperial mistake, in either case the inability or unwillingness of the Empire to identify it or acknowledge its potentially destructive power is a critical oversight that leads to their own undoing, which would leave the fundamental dynamics less altered than they might appear.

But overall, I am satisfied with Rogue One – for what it is – and I don’t think that will change too much on subsequent viewings. I mainly had a blast watching it, and if there were a few slightly off-putting moments here or there, they were vastly out-shadowed by the pure, unbridled joy of what seemed like the imagination of a kid playing with his Star Wars toys projected onto the big IMAX screen in 3D (which, by the way, is definitely how the movie should be seen).

Quite honestly, I had lowered my expectations for Rogue One based partly on the trailers and partly on rumors (and confirmed stories) of production troubles, and as such, I was, again for the most part, happily surprised. Was it perfect? No, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and for the 85-90% of it that they got right, I can forgive the few schlocky moments – none of which were even remotely as cringe-worthy as “Yippee!” or “Wizard!” or “I hate sand” or every single frame which Jar-Jar Binks was in.

My current rankings, which are always subject to change:

Star Wars

Empire

Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens

Rogue One

Revenge of the Sith

Attack of the Clones

The Phantom Menace

Game Notes: #Heat at #Nuggets 11/30/2016

Game Notes: #Heat at #Nuggets 11/30/2016 – Denver is Diagnosable

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I missed this game live, and now it’s about six hours after it ended. But I have successfully avoided finding out the score, so what follows are my notes on the game as I simulate a live viewing of it after the fact. Here we go…

1st Quarter

10:37 Gallo back from injury. Was at the perimeter, about to go iso, wisely runs a P&R with Jameer instead, and Nelson drains the 3. Great to have Gallo back, but biggest concern is that it’ll mean the ball starts sticking. Good to see it didn’t there, something to watch going forward.

10:14 Dragic has Gallo switched to him at the perimeter, nice D by Danilo.

9:26 GREAT chase-down block by Faried leads to Denver ball and Mudiay sinks the open mid-range jumper.

8:58 Whiteside’s foot speed >>> Nurk’s footspeed. Puts nice post move on him for the layup & 1 (missed).

8:11 Mudiay drives past his man, SLAMS down the two-handed dunk. More finishes like that, please, Emmanuel.

6:53 Nurk not having the greatest game so far. Gets the ball taken away by McBob extending his dribble out pretty far on a post-up.

6:04 Dragic pump fake has Nurkic looking like a statue. Malone really ought to sub in Jokic by now.

5:41 Hate to keep harping on Nurkic, but he TOTALLY fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t even try to get over and protect the rim when Dragic Iso’d on Mudiay, drove past him, and then had nothing but blue sky all the way to the hoop.

5:20 Nurkic lazy pass, turns it over. Seriously don’t know why Malone’s leaving him in there at this point. He clearly didn’t get enough sleep last night or something. Head totally not in the game.

5:14 Faried definitely should’ve been called for goaltending there. But that was some crazy-ass athleticism on that play.

2:54 Whiteside blocks Jokic, but the Joker gets it back and puts in his 2nd attempt. In fairness to Nurk, I should note that on Jokic’s first defensive possession against Whiteside, Hassan scored right over him pretty easily. So he’s giving both Denver Cs trouble.

1:30 Jokic with the really nice low post move for 2. Chandler kind of struggling out of the gates, has missed a couple shots. I don’t think Jameer has rested the entire 1st quarter. I know Malone is leaning heavy on him now, but at his age & injury history, I don’t think these kind of minutes are sustainable for him.

0:23 Murray ratchets up the aggression, drives in for the layup with contact and 1. Missed a 3 on the previous possession, wise of him to take it to the rim to get himself going.

0:00 Terrible end to the quarter, Jokic gets the ball stripped and stolen, Tyler Johnson takes it down the other way for a buzzer-beating dunk. What might have been a 32-26 lead is instead 30-28.

2nd Quarter

10:52 After a nice offensive possession where Chandler did some work to dribble into the lane and get himself a better shot for the 2, he gets TOTALLY robbed on the BS foul call on a clean block.

10:32 Then he gets into the paint for a runner again.

7:59 With perhaps the sole exception of Wilson Chandler, this 2nd Q has not gone well for Denver. Defensive lapses, turnovers leading to fast break points, discombobulated offense. 10-2 run Miami. Nuggets gotta regroup.

6:30 Another turnover (Mudiay), another fast break score for the Heat. This is getting ridiculous. Plus the Nuggets, like only they can, are turning Luke Babbitt into Kyle Korver. And Nuggets offense has completely flatlined. Miami’s run now 15-2.

5:42 Mudiay finally puts the brakes on the Heat run, taking it the length of the floor for an and-1 layup, but misses the FT.

3:50 Worst quarter by the Nuggets in … a while, including that 3rd quarter against the Suns, which was bad, but in some ways just failure to execute rather than this total collapse into ineptitude. Just sloppy as shit, no clue what they’re trying to do offensively, completely on their heels at the other end. They don’t turn this around fast, Miami could well put this one away early.

0:33 Nuggets showing signs of life, and doing the opposite of what they usually do by finishing the quarter strong. But after a great 3 in the flow of the offense, Jameer forces up another one, doing the thing where he starts trying to do too much after doing some good stuff. He really wants to be the hero, but he’s gotta restrain that crap, especially as the vet leader.

0:00 Nuggets down 5 at the half, but after how badly they shit the bed in that 2nd quarter, they’re lucky not to be down 10+. Hopefully they come out with more focus in the second half.

3rd Quarter

11:05 After a pretty bad first half in which he didn’t score a field goal, Nurkic gets his first one by battling down low after pulling down the offensive rebound of a Gallo miss. Let’s see him take it to Whiteside more – if he can.

7:48 Energy is everything for this team. A wild sequence with a big save from Faried that culminated in a Gallo dunk. When they play high energy, they thrive on it, when they play low key, everything withers on the vine.

6:20 Gallo misses 2 FTs, Heat secure the rebound. When overall they’re playing this badly, they can’t afford to be giving up easy points like that.

5:59 Couldn’t tell what Nurk got T’d up for (I’m sure that’s already well known by now), but whatever it was, he’s getting frustrated and pouting. Might not see him much more this game. Once he goes into Bad Jusuf mode, hard for him to shake it.

5:27 Gallo made a shot. Someone finally made a damn shot. I hate to advocate for this, because I normally am against it as standard operating procedure, but the Nuggets might need a little hero mode action from Gallo in this game since the team overall is playing like butt.

4:59 Mudiay drives down pretty much reeling out of control but manages to get it to Jokic in the nick of time for the layup. Now on: Mudiay-Jameer-Gallo-Wilson-Jokic. If any lineup can get the job done of getting the Nuggets’ lead back, this should be the one to do it.

4:26 Nuggets cut deficit to 3 on Jameer layup, Spo calls timeout, not liking the looks of Denver clawing their way back into this one.

2:34 Great sequence for Jokic. Stands his ground against Whiteside to contest his shot for the miss, then sinks a jumper from the paint on the other side. More like that, please. Tie game.

2:18 Gallo sinks FT on Whiteside tech, Jokic sinks both FTs on the regular Whiteside foul (pushed him out of bounds), Nuggets go up 74-71 to reclaim lead for the first time since, I believe, early in the 2nd quarter. Hassan to bench, let’s see if Denver can use this to build some momentum and extend that lead.

2:12 Defensive 3-second violation on Nuggets this time. If I’m not mistaken, Miami has already had two themselves. Then Ellington misses the FT. Then Reed w/ the loose ball foul and Gallo hits both FTs to bump the lead up to 5.

1:34 Dragic was totally NOT set but the refs call Murray for the charge after his great steal and drive. Bullshit call that should have put Jamal on the line. Dragic misses the 3 at the other end. Ball don’t lie.

1:04 Jameer to Chandler for the bigtime dunk. Could the Nuggets be any more Jekyll and Hyde? This team is clinically diagnosable.

0:00 And of course immediately after the above comment the Nuggets fail to make two defensive stops and Miami cuts the lead back down to 3, but Chandler bails them out with a buzzer-beating offensive rebound and putback. Up 5 going into the…

4th Quarter

11:22 This to me is the Nuggets’ best offensive play of the game so far, and it exemplifies when their teamwork is at its best. Mudiay has the ball at the top of the arc with Jokic down at the low post. Murray runs baseline and curls around the Jokic screen up to the elbow, where he receives the pass from Mudiay. Jokic then comes up to the elbow where he gets the ball room Murray, who clears out. Jokic and Mudiay then run a pick and roll, with Mudiay moving up to the elbow, and Jokic cutting into the lane where he gets it back from Mudiay, who splits the defenders with a bounce pass, and float up the runner for 2. Just a perfectly executed set play.

10:09 Yet another Nuggets turnover, yet another Heat score off the fast break. Miami cuts the lead back down to one, Malone calls time out.

7:32 More turnovers, more crappy defense, once again losing sight off how they want to run their offense, and all of a sudden the Heat are back up 5.

7:04 Once again, Heat just playing with more energy, Nuggets just look lethargic and listless. If they don’t match or exceed that intensity and hustle, they’re cooked in this one for sure.

5:30 Missed 3 after missed 3 for Denver. Meanwhile, the Nuggets making Wayne Ellington look like an All-Star and now Miami’s lead is 8.

4:57 Stop. The. Presses. The Nuggets actually made a shot. Gallo for 3.

4:23 But of course the Nuggets can buy a stop to save their lives. Whiteside scores easily over Faried.

3:44 Whiteside scores easily over Faried.

3:13 The Heat drank coffee before this game. The Nuggets smoked weed.

2:09 Murray with the corner 3. Help us Jamal, you’re our only hope.

1:57 Whiteside dunk. Miami is basically the big brother bullying the little brother at this point, grabbing the Nuggets arm and whacking them repeatedly, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”

1:44 Of course Jameer misses his first FT. In this game, that’s just how the Nuggets roll.

1:21 Murray for 3. Maybe is really is our only hope…?

0:42 Then Murray drives straight in to the guy who blocks all the shots. Much to learn he has.

0:00 Nuggets blow another winnable game. But what else is new? One thing’s for certain: If they play as unfocused and lackadaisically as they did tonight against the Rockets, they’re gonna get trounced.