Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" (2016)

A long time ago, in a galaxy not far, far away... this movie came out in theaters.  And I finally saw it on New Year's Eve for the first time, and again last weekend.  I have a ton of things to say about it, and I don't know if I'll find the words for them all.  (I've been writing this post for four days more than a week now, ever since my brain started reviving after the flu).  But know this:  I am not marking spoilers.  And there are lots.

::Takes a deep breath::

So... I was not expecting to like this movie so much.  (I was also not expecting to fall in love with any of the characters, but we'll get to that.)  From the trailers, I knew it was going to be about a woman who led the mission to acquire the Death Star plans that let the Rebel Alliance blow the Death Star at the end of A New Hope.  And that she was played by Felicity Jones, who I already like a lot as Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey (2007).  And I'd heard that Darth Vader would be in it.  That's really all I knew.  The only thing that said to me, "You might love this movie!" was the fact that it took place in the Star Wars universe.

I didn't know Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) was going to be the daughter of the guy (Mads Mikkelson, looking more handsome than I'd have imagined possible) who designed the Death Star.  I didn't know she'd team up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Rebel intelligence officer, to get the plans.  I didn't know he'd have a snarky droid named K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) who would make me both laugh and cry.  I definitely didn't know about all the crying.

Actually, I didn't cry much the first time.  I teared up a little bit in a few spots (especially over K-2SO's demise, and Cassian and Jyn's final moments on the beach, as I realized they Were Not Going to Survive), but mostly I just sat there in shock, overwhelmed by so many strong, conflicting emotions.  I was kind of numb for the rest of the day, and into the next.  Like I said earlier, I had a movie-hangover.  I went to see it the first time with Cowboy's brother, Noumenon, and he asked me what I thought once the credits were done scrolling.  I said, "Well, I fell in love with Cassian Andor, and then he died."  And then I may or may not have given the seat ahead of me a savage kick or two.  (I promise no one was sitting in it anymore.)

And that pretty well summed up my feelings about it after the first viewing:  I fell in love, and he died, and I can't think past that.  Which meant I definitely had to go see it again.


When I did go for a second viewing, I took along two pocket packs of tissues because I knew it was going to be a rough ride.  I knew Cassian was going to get mortally wounded.  I knew he and Jyn and all their compatriots were going to die on that accursed beach.  There would be many tears at those spots, but I didn't know I would cry over Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) too, not to mention Galen Erso.  Well, no, I guess I knew I was going to cry over Galen dying, because of how it hurt Jyn.  And I definitely had become a Jyn fan by the end of the first viewing.


Wow, this chick, huh?  Loses her parents at such a young age, becomes self-sufficient, only learns to trust others again at the very end of her lamentably short life.

And pardon me while I rant about Lyra Erso (Valene Kane) a minute.  Bad, bad mothering there, Lyra.  Your job?  Protect your child.  Your husband's job?  Protect both of you.  Galen goes straight out to face off with Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), even drawing him away from the house, giving you and your daughter time to get away.  Sacrificing his freedom to keep you both safe.  Most perfect job of protecting.  But what do you do, Lyra?  Abandon your daughter.  You don't even bother making sure she gets all the way to the special, secret hiding space.  And it's not because you're being followed and want to draw pursuers away from her, or because you're injured and will slow her down, or any other acceptable reason for this.  Nope, you send her on her merry, helpless way and hustle back to Galen because you're basically the biggest dope I've seen on screen in a long time.  Your words say you love her, but your actions say, "Sorry, kid, I can't stand not being there to see what happens, and I don't trust my husband to take care of both himself and us."  Badly done, Lyra.  I shed no tears and feel no remorse for your demise, except for how it hurts Galen and Jyn.  That's basically the worst mothering I've seen since Mrs. Bennet.

But let's get back to Jyn.  Who, despite seeing her loser mom killed and her heroic dad captured, manages to run and hide so effectively that she keeps running and hiding on into adulthood, both literally and figuratively.  When we meet up with her again, she's a nameless prisoner working on what amounts to a chain gang for the Empire.  What crime did she commit?  I don't know. (NOTE:  I guess they do list off her crimes during the movie, but I didn't catch it.  Next viewing!)  Not something big enough to warrant a death sentence, and not something Rebellion-related.  Although she was raised by anti-Empire militant Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), she has turned her back on all things Rebellion.  She's decided she's too busy running and hiding to have time for political views.  Until, of course, Cassian and K-2SO drag her back into the Rebellion because they need her to introduce them to Saw Gerrera (and let's pause a minute to appreciate how his last name sounds a bit like both "guerrilla" and "Guevara," because I love that).

And I think that's some cool story-telling right there, because it's not what I expect.  They don't come get her because she's Galen Erso's daughter and they want her to help them rescue him from the Empire's clutches.  They don't want her to help them destroy the Death Star.  They don't want any BIG thing from Jyn.  They just need her to introduce them to Saw in a friendly way that will help them contact the pilot he's holding.  Just a small thing, just a favor in return for busting her out of prison, and she can go her merry, aimless way again.

It's a great move on the part of the Rebellion, too.  I like to think it's Cassian's idea.  "Let's bring her in slowly, keep it mysterious, keep her interested.  Watch her to see if she'd be helpful farther on, if she's sympathetic.  Let her decide to get more involved, because it will make her more committed."  Cassian is a captain in the intelligence branch of the Rebellion, and it feels like exactly what he'd come up with.  He's perfect for that kind of work, being close-mouthed, sneaky, quiet, watchful, a good judge of character.


Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeees, like I said, it's love.  I am nutty about nearly everything involving Cassian, from the fact that his clothes look veryveryvery much like Han Solo's, to the way he "carries his prison with him,' to how he's simultaneously ruthless and remorseful, to the fact that he's played by the scrumptious Diego Luna.  He's incredibly loyal, but also willing to sacrifice personal interests for the greater good.  I'm entranced.


Okay, but besides Cassian Andor, I love many other things from this movie, like the way they made it intersect over and over with A New Hope.  The two wanted-in-twelve-starsystems dudes bump into them, blue milk, that moment when Bail Organa calls out Captain Antilles' name, and so on and so forth.  Those make me bounce with glee.  That moment at the end with Princess Leia -- beautiful (though, because I saw it after we lost Carrie Fisher, it made me cry both times).  Darth Vader igniting his red lightsaber and stalking toward the hapless Rebel troops was majestic and fearsome and horrible all at once.

Of course, I love stories where a disparate group of strangers has to band together to take on some great enemy.  From The Magnificent Seven to Firefly to The Avengers, that has always been a favorite storytelling device for me.  So I was probably bound to dig Rogue One just from that angle alone.  But add in a strong female lead character and a male character with a sad/tragic/mysterious backstory, and yup... I can't help falling in love with it.

33 comments:

  1. YOU HATE LYRA ERSO????????????????????????????????????????????

    WE ARE NOT FRIENDS.

    *takes deep breath*

    Okay, okay, okay, okay, I don't really mean that. But I am Most Seriously Put Out by your calling her a "loser." I don't agree with your assessment of her character, at all.

    She made a stupid decision under extreme stress. Okay, fine. She's human. Humans do stupid things. But it wasn't a SELFISH decision. She believed she was capable of killing Krennic and saving her husband and daughter from his evil machinations. Clearly, she wasn't actually capable of such; and she paid for her miscalculation with her life. But that doesn't make her a bad person, at least not in my opinion. It makes her--like I said--a person who made one stupid decision under conditions of extreme stress. I might very well have done the same thing, to be honest.

    I think what I'm trying to say is: I know YOU wouldn't make the same stupid decision in that case, because your personality is such that you'd be able to calmly consider, "okay, I have one job here and it's to protect my kid." But, Hamlette, NOT EVERYBODY CAN DO THAT. Not everybody has a brain that works that way. I sure as heck don't. Like I said--you put me in a situation like that one and there is NO TELLING how I will respond. I'll either completely freeze and be of no help to anyone; or else I'll lose my grip and do something breathtakingly reckless which miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight work out okay through sheer luck, but probably won't.

    Like Lyra Erso.

    (This is why I should not be in a Star Wars movie btw. Except maybe as that one person who gets killed at the beginning.)

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    1. Did I say I hate Lyra? No. I don't hate her. I have zero respect for her, but I don't hate her.

      Sure, humans do stupid things. I didn't say her behavior was unrealistic. Her character is this person who would do that. But that doesn't mean it is not an absolute parenting fail.

      This has nothing to do with personalities, with logic, with emotions. This has to do with the fact that, as a parent, her child's safety and well-being is her responsibility. That's part of the deal when you're a parent -- you are obligated to keep your child safe. And Lyra bailed on that. That makes her a bad mother.

      Freezing because she's panicking? I wouldn't fault her for that. Not everyone has great presence of mind in a crisis -- I know that full well. I have witnessed that. But Lyra didn't panic. Didn't freeze. She and Galen clearly had a well-rehearsed plan in place, where she and Jyn go hide in safety while Galen goes out to face Krennic. And she and Jyn were on their way to safety, but she consciously chose to leave her small, helpless, defenseless child alone and go commit suicide by Death Trooper.

      No amount of luck is going to get one woman with one blaster through that. If she had hidden up high somewhere and picked off Krennic and a bunch of troopers in a surprise attack, that could have worked. With enough luck, like Galen realizing what she's doing and grabbing a blaster from a downed trooper and helping, that could have worked. But walking up to Krennic and his personal bodyguard (that are named Death Troopers, so obviously, they're not inept and cuddly dudes) with a blaster? No way that would ever work. Best case scenario? She and Galen are both taken, and their daughter is still left defenseless and alone. Even if she shot and killed Krennic on the spot, his Death Troopers would kill both her and Galen, and Jyn is still abandoned.

      But if she had stayed with Jyn, then her daughter would still have a parent. Would be much safer than wandering around on her own. Safer physically, mentally, emotionally.

      It's bad parenting. I can't call it anything else.

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    2. I know it looks terrible to you . . . but I still relate to it. I relate to it so much, it hurts.

      You see, this is exactly how *I* react in moments of physical stress/uncertainty/danger . . . I literally lose my ability to think rationally. And nobody can TELL that from the outside--because I'm outwardly calm--but that's what's actually happening. My logical brain shuts down completely; and, as a result, I'm very likely to completely abandon whatever preconceived plan I may have had and simply fixate on the most direct--and most reckless--way out.

      Such as, "I'm going to take this blaster and go kill Krennic because I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS." Because, in the moment, I believe I can. I actually believe it will work . . . until it doesn't.

      And then I wind up dead.

      The only reason this scenario hasn't actually played out in real life is because I live in a safe, boring, Middle American suburb where I face very few situations of physical danger. If I'd happened to have been born a long time ago in a galaxy far far away . . . my chances of surviving to middle age (or even adulthood) would be exceedingly slim.

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    3. So, if you, your husband, and your very small child were all inside a burning building, and your husband said, "Take our child and get out of here -- I'll go get my phone so I can call 911," you would take your kid halfway out of the house, put her down, say, "I think you can make it out from here. Good luck! I need to go see if Daddy remembers how to dial 911," and turn your back on your child to go see if your husband was okay? Because that is what Lyra does.

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    4. *nods* Possibly. Or something else equally stupid. I can't be trusted in these situations--I've proved that to myself, time and time and time again.

      I'm SLOWLY working on improving my "panic reactions," but it's a long, painful process. And the only reason I'm able to do THAT is because I'm self-aware enough to recognize that I actually have this problem in the first place . . . if I wasn't, things would be even worse.

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    5. Well, you know what? You have realized this about yourself, you are actively working to deal with this problem -- this puts you light-years ahead of Lyra Erso in my book.

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    6. True . . .

      I don't think I would've realized it if I hadn't started researching MBTI, to be honest. That was when I figured out that inferior Se was actually a Thing--and that I had it :-P Before, I sort of knew vaguely that I had a really bad track record in dealing with dangerous/uncertain situations; but I didn't know WHY and so I just ignored it.

      Now that I know what, exactly, is causing it--basically, my Se function is so immature that it tells me to do the exact opposite of what I logically *should* do, whenever I'm scared--I can deal with it a lot better.

      To wit, whenever I have to think on my feet to deal with a difficult/dangerous reality, and my brain is screaming at me, "Try THIS--it'll totally work!!!" I now try to ignore it and, instead, step back to analyze the situation logically. Doesn't always work; but at least I'm making progress :-)

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  2. That being said . . .

    I really loved everything you wrote about Cassian :-) I don't exactly think I fell in love with him; but I would've LOVED to have been friends with him. More than anything else, I felt bucketloads and bucketloads of empathy for him--to me, he was somebody who really WANTED to spend his life being kind and helpful and sweet to everybody he met; and instead, he'd been drawn into this position, this lifestyle, where he instead had to spend a lot of time HURTING others . . . and it was really weighing on his soul. And yet he couldn't just up and leave the Rebellion, because deep inside he still believed in the ultimate justice of their cause . . . So, yeah. To me, he was kind of "forlorn puppy dog" material and I wanted to give him many hugs and tell him that there was still lots and lots of good inside him <3

    Those eyes o' his, though. THEY CAUSE ME ACTUAL PAIN. Especially in that first scene, where he has to shoot the other guy in the back and then he looks so SAD afterwards . . .

    Like I said earlier, protect the cinnamon roll :-)

    Jyn is fantastic and I adored her. She's been through terrible, terrible things in her life and yet she still has SO. MUCH. SASS. left inside her. She gets what she wants and she won't back down for anybody. That final scene with her and Krennic (and Cassian) was my absolute favorite out of the whole movie.

    I basically died at the part where Jyn is like, "I'm not used to people sticking around when things go wrong," and Cassian looks down into her eyes and goes, "Welcome home." I WAS SHIPPING THEM SO HARD AT THAT POINT. Even more at the end, with their hug on the beach and everything. But . . . it was not to be.

    *sobs*

    Such a good movie. It's currently at #7 on my Top Ten List and it may very well move up higher. I absolutely loved it.

    Can we talk for a minute about how much guts it must've taken for the SW creative team to decide to kill ALL the main characters???? That has literally never happened in a Star Wars film before. And audiences could very well say, "no, no, no, it's just not Star Wars anymore if everybody dies!!" But they went ahead and gambled, and it paid off. Like, REALLY paid off. That ending made the whole film exponentially better than it would've been otherwise; because it made the whole story sooooooooooooooooooooooooo much deeper.

    I will never watch "A New Hope" again without shedding a silent tear for the crew of Rogue One.

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    1. I rather think Jyn has so much sass because of how she's been kicked around all her life. It's a defense mechanism on her part. Her angry, defensive stance toward absolutely everyone in the world grieves me. Which is part of what I love about Cassian, that he is able to help her learn that not everyone will abandon her. That she is worth coming back for, she's not a worthless piece of baggage to be cast aside when she's not convenient anymore.

      And yeah, the writers took a big gamble with this movie. Disney was going around telling everyone who would listen that they did not expect this movie to be a big hit because it is so different from the rest of the movies. But good storytelling was worth it to them, and I applaud them for that.

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    2. Yes, I think that's true . . . he helps her learn how to trust others again; and, in turn, she helps HIM learn how to recover some of his "fighting spirit" and his old hope in the Rebellion. They both bring out the best in each other, which is why they're such a great pair :-)

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    3. Oh, absolutely! Cassian was running on habit and anger, he had long ago lost his hope. Jyn gave him hope again. It's beautiful.

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    4. It is that. It's a wonderful film.

      "What have they brought us, Princess?" "Hope."

      *cries*

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    5. Cowboy just got back from seeing it for the first time, and he totally dug it too :-D

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    6. Awesome!! My siblings and my dad all really loved it, too :-) And my best friend and I had a long, long, LONG email conversation about how amazing it all was . . .

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    7. "I will never watch "A New Hope" again without shedding a silent tear for the crew of Rogue One." True, Jessica. I'll probably die a little inside every time I watch A New Hope now. :(

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  3. I too went into this movie with low expectations. Not because I disliked any of it or because I don't enjoy SW movies (I do!) but it just wasn't "grabbing me" in a way that told me "OH YES THIS WILL BE AN AMAZING MOVIE".

    But then I watched it and it quickly made me very happy by being an amazing movie with amazing characters and THAT ENDING THOUGH.

    I actually didn't cry much either. I definitely had a little of the numb shock going on. I'm hoping to see it again this week, so maybe I'll cry then? I'll definitely be bringing tissues just in case... (I brought tissues the first time, too. I've learned that no matter what I'm watching, if I'm in a theater, bring tissues. It's better than coming unprepared. I speak from experience. :P)

    I love that Rogue One finally explores different kinds of characters and stories in the SW universe. And the plot is AMAZING.

    The ending with the rebel troopers and Darth Vader and Princess Leia left my brother and I amazed. The way they overlapped both RO and ANH is stunning!

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    1. Natalie, sometimes having low or few expectations is just the best way to go into a movie, don't you think? Then either your expectations will be fulfilled, or you'll be pleasantly surprised!

      And yes, I always take tissues to the theater. If I forget them, I grab a couple of napkins. The last time I didn't was when I saw Cinderella (2015), and I cried and sniffled through the whole thing. Ooops.

      And yes! I love how it deepens and enriches the SW world as a whole, instead of just being another story set there. It's just wonderful <3

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    2. Agreed! Sometimes I purposely try to lower my expectations, just so I'm not disappointed. :P

      Heehee! Glad I'm not the only one. I went to see Inside Out without any tissue....THAT was a mistake.

      It is. <3

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    3. Ahhhhhh, I bet that was terrible. Nothing worse than having to keep snuffling through a movie because you didn't know you'd need tissues.

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  4. "Well, I fell in love with Cassian Andor, and then he died."

    "That's basically the worst mothering I've seen since Mrs. Bennet."

    Those are my thoughts exactly. I, too, liked it more than I thought I would. That was fun to read, Hamlette! :)

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    1. Elanor, thanks! Glad you enjoyed this. How fun that we had similar reactions :-)

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  5. Wow! Great article and fascinating discussion here in Comments.

    I never caught the Star Wars bug (other than pestering to have my hair plaited into rams-horns as a child) but I love a good debate.

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    1. Thanks, Rosie :-) This one is rather different from the other Star Wars movies, while still feeling like part of the series -- it's less epic and more personal.

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  6. You know how I feel about this movie. :-D I've read this post multiple times now, just because I need to stay inside that world. I'm always fascinated by how other people interpret things based on their own experiences, etc.

    I just can't wait to see it again. And again.

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    1. DKoren, I've read and reread your post for the same reason. It keeps me there!

      Crossing my fingers for Friday.

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  7. Oh, movie hangover. I totally know what you mean. I saw it about two weeks ago and spent the next few days organizing and determining my thoughts for a couple of blog posts and scheming to see it again.

    Then I saw it Monday and I've been thinking about it fairly often ever since. The more I think about it the more I like it. :)

    Part of that could be because, like you, I went in with fairly low expectations. I saw the trailer and it was really, really good, but I don't know...I wasn't *that* hyped up about it.

    Hmmm, well, I definitely see your point about Lyra. But I agree with Jessica that it could have just been a panic-y, poorly developed response that didn't necessarily reflect on her general character.

    Huh, I just thought of this, but what if her plan was to give Jyn more time to get to the hiding place by threatening Krennin and distracting him or the death troopers from searching for her? Maybe she wasn't actually thinking she could kill Krennin and all the death troopers? In the end the only person she physically hurt was herself.

    Then again, I suppose it doesn't matter too much as she didn't have a whole lot of significance to the story.

    I did like Jyn a little better the second time. She's still not my favorite as a female heroine(I find her rather unoriginal), but as a "person" I love her, if that makes sense.

    Oh, I really liked Cassian too. :) He does seem to think the "ends" always justify the "means", which I don't quite agree with... But you can see he's coming around-- especially in deciding not to shoot Galen-- and that makes me enjoy his characterization even more.

    Also, in a happier movie, I would have wanted to see more romance develop between him and Jyn, but I think their relationship advanced in that direction just enough to be satisfactory, but not so much as to distract from the plot, or their mission.

    "Darth Vader igniting his red lightsaber and stalking toward the hapless Rebel troops was majestic and fearsome and horrible all at once." So true. Darth Vader fascinates me. He's so cruel and yet so vulnerable and the scene between him and Luke at the end of RotJ packs so much emotion. I was so glad to see his appearance in Rogue One.

    Oh, and my favorite character besides Cassian and Jyn was Bodhi Rook. He's so funny and earnest. :)

    So yes, I guess you could say I liked Rogue One. ;)

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    1. You know, before I was a mom, I would probably not have reacted so strongly to Lyra either. But that whole thing about "motherly instinct" people talk/joke about? Those can be powerful.

      Lyra just doesn't look like she's panicking to me. She looks emotional, yes, but very deliberate.

      Bodhi Rook is great! My favorite after Cassian and Jyn is K-2SO, and then kind of Chirrut and Baze and Bodhi together.

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  8. Awwwwwww. Great review. :) :) Yep, just can't help falling in love...

    I mean, I knew Cassian was gonna be my favorite character just based on the trailers -- especially after realizing that he was the "adorable dude with the pigtails" from Elysium -- but when he has that argument with Jyn, justifying his lack of morality as a Rebel... that exceeded my expectations! K2 did too, though I really should have expected him to be so great, being played by Alan Tudyk! I actually teared up most at his death scene. Jyn was definitely good, but she never exceeded expectations. But it was harder for her to do, as the lead.

    Nice point about how what they ask of Jyn is very small. That kinda translates to the idea of the whole film too! Just little things that add up and wind up being SO important. :D

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    1. Thanks, Sarah!

      Nothing about the trailers really got me interested in the characters at all, or made me want to see it for any reason other than It's Star Wars. So I was super pleasantly surprised during the whole thing!

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  9. Excellent thoughts! I said this before, but knowing you love this movie makes me want to see it! Hoping to once its out on dvd. :)

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    1. Thanks, Kara! Just a couple weeks left to wait!

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