As the first in the trilogy known as the "Star Wars Anthology", "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is being coined as a stand-alone or spin-off movie that will not affect the saga episodes. One might think --- as David did --- that these productions may not be as exciting or entertaining as 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", and --- like David --- they would be quite wrong.


Starring Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, whom we first meet as a child (Dolly Gadsdon), "Rogue One" focuses on a band of Rebel fighters tasked with stealing the design of the Death Star, the Galactic Empire's newest weapon of mass destruction created by Jyn's father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). He was taken captive and coerced by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, but as a retaliation on his part, Galen incorporated a flaw.


Now, Jyn and her Rebel comrades, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an officer, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind warrior, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), his companion and freelance assassin and their pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) must race to get the schematics of the Death Star before Krennic can turn it over to Darth Vader.


If you are or have been a "Star Wars" fan, you already know how convoluted some of these plots can become. "Rogue One" is no different n the beginning, but as the movie progresses, I found it was easier to follow than I expected. Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, director Gareth Edwards and the production company Lucasfilm Ltd. have generated a movie experience that is supremely captivating. As always, the special effects are superb and the cinematography by Greig Fraser is spectacular.


Jones may be petite, but she handles the role with aplomb and her fighting skills are impressive. David and I have adored her since we met her years ago in Chicago, and her career has skyrocketed. This character is such a departure from the one she plays in the upcoming film "A Monster Calls".


For me, the only drawback to "Rogue One" is the casting of Luna. I am not impressed with him and did not care for his breakout role in "Y Tu Mama Tambien". His slight physique is incongruent with what we might expect of a Rebel leader. And why is it always necessary for the female and male protagonists to initially dislike each other? I'm a tad tired of that scenario.


One of my favorite aspects of most of the "Star Wars" films is the humor, and "Rogue One" doesn't disappoint in that arena. As usual, many of the best chuckles come from one of the droids, this time K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Cassian's Imperial enforcer. He picks up where R2-D2 and C-3PO left



If you are not a fan, there must be something wrong with you. So don't see "Rogue One". But I digress --- However, if you love all this stuff and can't get enough (hey, we have a niece who owns a kick-ass "Star Wars" pencil skirt), then you absolutely must see "Rogue One".


Opinion:  Strong See It Now!




I've never been an edge-of-your-seat kind of moviegoer, unlike the young female sitting next to me at our screening of the latest "Star Wars" epic. "Star Wars" fanatics (I mean that in a good way), who were packed into our auditorium erupted when the legendary crawl "A long time ago in a galaxy farfar away" was superimposed. And, you could hear the proverbial pin drop throughout the 133 minute running time.


What all this means is that anyone can enjoy "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", not just the hardened devotees of the franchise. Director Gareth Edwards, and a team of writers --- including the screenplay by Oscar-nominated Chris Weitz ("About A Boy") and double Oscar nominee Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton", also the scribe for the "Bourne" films) --- keep the story lively and the action timely.


Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, the fresh face of The Rebellion, and the daughter of Galen Erso (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen playing a character other than a villain!). Jones' portrayal is quite different from what we have come to expect from the Oscar nominee, and she proves she can handle the role of an action heroine with surprising ferocity.


The other standout is Riz Ahmed ("Nightcrawler", "The Night Of") as Bodhi Rook, a pilot defector who joins the rebels. His character actually gives voice to the film's title, and provides much of the comic relief. Alan Tudyk lends his vocal talents as K-2SO, a droid with a brain and a heart in the best tradition of R2-D2 and C-3PO.


The usual dazzling visual effects and odd creatures so ingrained in this franchise are present. While they may not hold the same allure they once did to those of us who vividly remember seeing the original "Star Wars" 39 years ago, a new generation of fans will certainly be enthralled.


And "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" doesn't disappoint in the surprise department. Thanks to some brilliant technology, one of the most unexpected characters makes an appearance.


Opinion:  See It Now!