Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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The standalone film set in the Star Wars universe, Rogue One, is a mostly-successful outing that tells the story about how the rebels came to possess the plans to the Death Star, the planet-killing weapon of mass destruction that was destroyed at the very end of the first Star Wars movie.  Rogue One takes us back in time a bit, back before Luke Skywalker became involved with the cause, and tells a darker story than we might be used to in this kind of universe.

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Arrival (2016)

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There are some fictional events that I think are irresistible to filmmakers, simply because there’s a million and one ways to tell that story, and you can tell it so personally and make it so your own.  There’s the “end of the world” scenario, where it can either be a personal apocalypse or something troubling on a theological level.  It all depends on what the passions of that storyteller are, what drives them.

And then there’s the “first contact with aliens” scenario, which has all the wiggle room in the world available to tell a story as rooted in optimism as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, or as capitalistically cynical as Independence Day.  Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival has it both ways.  It sees the opportunity and the meeting as an important meeting of the minds with fantastic implications for advancement for both species, but one with disaster looming in every moment, because humans are, by nature, a distrusting bunch.

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