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‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ — a true action movie

Forget about the Force, the newest installment is here for the fight

3:22 PMHow do you create a surprise ending to a story you already know? By not telling the audience when it will be over.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which hits theaters Friday will be a different experience for many fans of the franchise, who pride themselves on rigid ties to loose concepts of historical canon and feel entitled to a near out-of-body experience every time they utter the two words that George Lucas turned into an empire.

Rogue One is not that film. It’s a movie that’s cleaner, smarter and more mature than any of its predecessors and doesn’t waste time setting up long parables of myth to connect miniscule dots in the galaxy to one another. If you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie in your life, but have a rudimentary understanding of the Force, you will thoroughly enjoy the Gareth Edwards-directed film.

What you also get is the first glimpse into what Disney had in mind when the company announced that it plans to release a film from the franchise every year. The simple psychological difference between “the next Star Wars” and “this year’s Star Wars” will be enough to knock the luster off of the brand for many. But what you get with Rogue One is an action movie that probes the Z-axis of the Star Wars universe, without a care as to who it offends or lets down.

The acting, just like in The Force Awakens, is a drastic improvement on anything we’d seen from Episodes I through VI. In terms of storyline, it’s FAR easier to follow than any of the others. Viewers are not forced to tangentially learn new planet and system names that will eventually become important. They’re captioned on the screen, so not only can you identify them, you know how to spell them, too.

Clearer than any point made by its creators is its lack of concern for making this feel like some nod to the old. There are Easter eggs, yes. But they are far more deftly tucked in and highlighted, while not being the ham-handed efforts of old that were obviously there as catch phrases for people just looking for familiar faces. For a movie based on a single line of another film, it’s phenomenal.

Felicity Jones as Jyn Urso is almost the best cast character in the entire series to this point. Forest Whitaker manages to undertake the role of Saw Gerrera without making you feel ridiculous, and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe will be coming to a Halloween costume near you, very soon. We need not even point out how absurdly on point Genevieve O’Reilly is as Mon Mothma.

But for a fan of a certain age, this is the installment that will test your loyalty the most. The brand is no longer for you. If you have children, you’ve probably done your best to instill your Skywalker or Sith values in them as best as you could. Yet, the characters we’re presented with here push the boundaries of the good/evil binary. While we’ve grown accustomed to loving the pageantry and pomp of a certain part of this universe, the more genuine exploration of the grit and grime proves to be far more intriguing than one might think. Palace grandeur need not apply.

Pound for pound, this is probably the best action movie of the series. Standing alone, it works best as a film that needs no others. We’re bereft of lightsaber battles, but if you need that at this point, you’ve got plenty to draw on. Rogue One is the movie for the part of your life when you decided what you liked is what was cool, not what everyone else told you it was. This isn’t the flick for nerds clinging to textbooks or jocks memorizing playbooks. It’s a tad more refined, but not quite slick. To use an obvious metaphor, it’s the kid who went on gap year and traveled the globe before coming back to the night-before-Thanksgiving function with way better stories than your freshman year at state college.

Which is the point when you realize this story is just plain more interesting than most of the others, anyway. So, if you’re expecting that land where the Force ruled all and you got at least one gargantuan display of it per movie, you won’t get it. You’ll see a legit suspenseful thriller that right when you let your guard down hits the hyperdrive and puts you right back to your childhood.

Zaytoven is the star of Gucci Mane’s Tiny Desk concert

The NPR staple was taken over by the man on the keys

11:45 AM

You don’t really need much more explanation than Gucci Mane + NPR Tiny Desk to get excited. Over the years, as the public radio outfit has become a larger and more relevant music journalism outfit, its signature live shows have changed in nature. This, of course, all started with T-Pain, who wowed the world two years ago with his version.

But on Monday, the Guwop version that was taped a couple of months back was released, and people are loving it. To be clear, as a strict piece of art, this is not the greatest of Tiny Desks. Typically, we get an artist who shows off something you haven’t otherwise seen from a range standpoint, with flips and remixes to songs, to the point that it’s an entirely new experience musically from what you’re used to. That’s not the case here from Gucci, BUT he brought along Zaytoven, who is the best part of this effort by a mile.

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Mr. Mane’s comeback tour since being released from prison has been well-documented in this space and many this year. But the people around him, the Mike Wills of the world and so forth, haven’t necessarily gotten the same shine. Now, the world is about to know just how Zay gets down. His energy, his whole vibe and never mind his skills on the piano make this whole thing.

Gucci really is the East Atlanta Santa.

Daily Dose: 12/12/16

Will Smith’s killer convicted of manslaughter

11:30 AMOn Sunday night, Domonique and I got in the ESPN Radio booth to talk some football for NFL Nation. Here it is, if you missed it. Also, we’ll be filling in for Jalen & Jacoby on Monday, from 7-9 p.m. EST. You can tune in to that here.

The man who killed former NFL player Will Smith has been found guilty of manslaughter. The weeklong case has been an arduous one, with the entire situation being an obvious no-win. No matter how you feel about Cardell Hayes, the man convicted, what became clear from the court proceedings is just how completely unnecessary this altercation was, never mind a person’s death. There was also the added problem that a lot of people think Smith’s celebrity played a huge role in the case. ABC News has the details.

We’ve been treated to some more gems from Donald Trump’s coming administration. He told Fox News openly that he had no plans to be taking security briefings every day, because if nothing changes, he doesn’t need to take the time. He can be updated whenever he needs because he considers himself a smart person. Meaning, he basically plans to wing every decision on topics he didn’t already concern himself with before he was elected. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman breaks down what we’ve learned about how Trump will govern.

It’s prime time holiday party season. If you haven’t been to one yet, surely this week will feature quite a few, between your office or your friends or your church or wherever it is that you go to be social. I inadvertently ended up crashing another news organization’s event the other night, but it didn’t end with a problem, so that’s good. But as we all know, these things can get very hectic when someone decides to tie on one, and then ends up doing way too much. Broadly’s Sophie Saint Thomas chronicles some of the most insane office shindigs.

Adam “Pacman” Jones has always been a volatile character. First of all, that nickname alone is great, but over the years, his penchant for strip clubs kept him in the news and his violent behavior also got him tossed from the NFL at one point. He’s also one of the biggest trash-talkers in the league and on Sunday he didn’t hold anything back on that front, calling Terrelle Pryor Jr., “garbage” on multiple occasions. Seriously, check out this clip of Jones going the extra mile to paint this picture to the media.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I’m going to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story today. This has me very excited. But on a larger level, this is the first installment of Disney’s plan to release a movie from the franchise every year for some time. Will this model work? Or will fans, both longtime and new, suffer from too much recency effect. We’ll find out this week.

Snack Time: As a loyal fan of the Fast & Furious franchise, I’m always wondering how they’re going to flip the next installment. Well, the new trailer for The Fate of the Furious is out, and it’s completely insane.

Dessert: Willow Smith dropped a new three-song project last week, and it’s kind of perfect for a gloomy day.

Daily Dose: 12/9/16

John Glenn dies at 95

2:24 PMOn Thursday, I wore a bucket hat in front of a camera and tried to flip a water bottle to do a trick, with no success on camera. But, Domonique Foxworth is good at these sorts of things. Check out the latest edition of Locker Room Lawyer.

Sometimes, you find yourself in over your head. And what you try to do when that happens is act like you’re not, and scramble to make something happen to regain your footing. But, as it turns out, you drown faster when you struggle. So, right now, with Donald Trump saying that he’s going to be executive producer of The Celebrity Apprentice in his spare time. His spare time. A guy with literally zero political experience is suddenly planning his spare time out for when he gets in to office. OK, buddy. ABC News tries to explain how this will work.

One of the most savage things we do in this country is execute prisoners. Operative words: one of. Anyway, in quite a few states, they’ve shelved the practice not just due to the fact that many consider it inhumane as an overall act (does killing a killer make sense?) but because the specific practice of putting someone to death is actually rather difficult. And Thursday night in Alabama, one such procedure went wrong, leaving a man conscious for some time when he was supposed to be dying. VICE’s Keegan Hamilton has the story.

John Glenn died Thursday. He was a combat veteran, a pilot, an astronaut, and eventually a U.S. senator. He’s also the first American to ever orbit the earth, which is just a wild concept in so many ways. If you’ve ever been to Ohio, you know that Glenn is nothing short of a god there. I would also go so far as to argue that as far as guys with two first names go, he’s at the top of the medal stand. I could be wrong. Anyway, he was 95. FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten breaks down exactly how popular Glenn was.

People love blaming black people for their own deaths. It’s a concept that’s rooted to the basic framework of white supremacy, which is to say, you should reasonably expect to die if you find yourself upsetting a person of authority or otherwise in your black skin. This is where the whole “no angel” concept comes from and why people think that “just obeying the law” is the best way not to get killed by a police officer. But, in the case of Will Smith, the former NFL player who was killed in New Orleans, there are a lot of opinions. ESPN’s Mike Triplett reports on the latest.

Free Food

Coffee Break: We all love chicken. It’s delicious. But not all chicken is the same. Some people go for fried (everyone does), some people bake it, other people roast it, there are many things to do. But sometimes you need a recommendation as to which chicken is the best. Luckily, The Chicken Connoisseur is here to save the day.

Snack Time: Look, in a time of national anxiety, the holiday season can be very stressful. You need some music to ease your pain. And fam, when I tell you that Big Freedia has saved us all in 2016, believe me, fam, it’s true.

Dessert: In case you forgot, Dom and I will be rocking on ESPN Radio from 7-10 p.m. on Sunday night. Tune in!

Locker Room Lawyer

Locker Room Lawyer, Episode 11: LeBron James takes on the #WaterBottleChallenge

The Posse is most definitely on Broadway

12:06 PMWhat do you do during a blowout in an NBA game? Me, I like to watch the people who mop up after players hit the floor. They’ve got such an intense job and get no credit. Anyway, what LeBron James and friends like to do is play the water bottle challenge. On the court. During play. We’ve all got Phil Jackson to thank for this, who with his rather poorly phrased and intended comment about James’ posse last month, clearly upset The King.

The question is: If you’re an NBA ballplayer, should you be playing silly games on the sideline when the one in front of you has lost your interest? We took this one to court, and a new judge had an interesting verdict. And this is a gratuitous reason for me to mention the two greatest songs ever involving the word posse. Here’s the first. Here’s the best.

Daily Dose: 12/8/16

Learning about Dylann Roof’s rage

3:28 PMOn Wednesday, a few of us in the office learned that oxtails aren’t actually made of oxen. So, with that news in mind, check this out. Happy Thursday.

The details from the case of Dylann Roof have been horrifying. On a macro level, obviously, a person walking into a church and murdering anyone is terrible, now in the trial, the descriptions of how Roof went about this rampage have been revealed. It’s not like he just walked in and started spraying bullets. His method was far more calculated and cruel. Again, this is all relative, considering what we’re actually talking about, but again, this dude was 21 years old at the time of this massacre. ABC News has the details.

Donald Trump is obsessed with Twitter. It’s seriously the most interesting thing to watch. As someone who enjoys the medium, to see how a guy elected as president of the United States acts on a social media site is actually quite revealing and, unfortunately, he’s got enough reach that it’s actually harming other people’s lives when he talks about them. That’s what happened in the case of Carrier, where The Donald punched down to a union boss. VICE’s Desus and Mero discuss why this man can’t stay off the TL.

If you didn’t know, Waffle House is open 24/7. That’s their big claim to fame, outside of the fact that they’re food is pretty solid if/when you’re drunk or just really in need of something relatively greasy. But, seriously, if there’s a situation happening on earth that serious enough to close a Waffle House, you need to make sure you’re paying attention. One such case is a natural disaster. FiveThirtyEight’s Maryn McKenna details exactly how the company holds up and gets things done when it looks like they might have to shut the doors.

Aroldis Chapman is a very popular player. Aroldis Chapman also is a man who fired a gun multiple times in his own garage during a domestic dispute, and then claimed he didn’t do anything to hurt anyone. Aroldis Chapman was suspended by Major League Baseball for his role in said incident. Aroldis Chapman can also throw a ball over 100 mph on a pretty consistent basis. Aroldis Chapman was also a critical part of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year. Now, Aroldis Chapman is going to be an extremely rich man, courtesy of the Yankees.

Free Food

Coffee Break: So, back when I was in high school, Baywatch was a thing. Bouncy lifeguards, doing quasi-police work on a beach, with a bunch of goofball laughs mixed in. I didn’t even really remember what it was about, but the brand was strong. Now, this movie remake with Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron is on deck, and it looks amazing.

Snack Time: If you’ve ever wanted to see what it was like for a bunch of dudes to break into a water park and ride their BMX bikes everywhere, you’re in luck. They paid a decent price for it, though.

Dessert: J. Cole, Ab-Soul and The-Dream all having music dropping at midnight Thursday. Get that work, y’all.