STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS review (redux) – Star Wars Special

STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI (2017) is just around the corner. But why wait to review Star Wars movies? Until its inevitable release, I’m going to review all the core films in celebration! There may not be a lot of them, but there’s a lot to say about them. Everybody’s got their own opinion of the order in which the movies should be viewed, by release (IV through VI, then I through III) or in chronological order (I through VI), but others, like myself, think there’s a better way to view them. I’m going to review the core films in the following order, subsequently how I’ll be reviewing them:

  1. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016)
  2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE (1977)
  3. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
  4. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
  5. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
  6. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
  7. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
  8. EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

This is going to be so much fun, yo! This is my “LAST JEDI Celebration Until Release” special!

It just won’t die! Although, that’s more of celebratory exclamation for me. I love Star Wars way too much to want to see it die.

The original trilogy concluded back in 1983 with RETURN OF THE JEDI and the prequel trilogy ended in 2005 with REVENGE OF THE SITH. Who knew back then that in a decade, the franchise would continue with a full blown sequel to the original franchise with all the returning characters that we knew and loved?

For those who are playing catch-up with the movies, there is a little background to the reaction of this next set of trilogies. For one thing, though JEDI was the end of the original films, the stories continued on in other forms. Comics, video games, but probably more famously, the novels. Leia got trained to be Jedi, she and Han had, I think, three children, including twins, one of them went to the dark side, Luke married a woman that I think was originally out to assassinate him and they had a kid, all of whom became Jedi under his tutelage. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if there were at least a hundred books that were sequels to the films. I think most of them aren’t considered continuity. Regardless, it was widely hoped that the new set of films would tie in to those novels.

Personally, I’d never read those novels. Any of them. Having said that, I’ve read about them and I saw the potential for some seriously dark and dramatic storytelling. But I wanted something different. I wanted to see something that took place within the realm of the novels, but in pockets of time that took place before or after certain sets. I don’t know, something about direct adaptations scare me.

Turns out, to the great disappointment to many fans, the next set of films were going to completely ignore those books. When Disney acquired the Star Wars license, it was officially announced that the extended universe that fans fell deeply and passionately in love with were ALL noncanonical to the movies as we’ve seen them.

Sort of. There’s some parallels, but I’ll tackle those details later.

In any case, we were getting completely new characters, but we weren’t going to be deprived of some of the original actors, like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. While I sure had my disappointments initially, I was relived to see that the names for the new younger actors were names that I’d never heard of. Why is that such a big deal to me? I love unknown actors. Before Hamill was Luke Skywalker, or the Joker for that matter, he was an unknown. But fast forward to the present, they’re practically household names. I was suddenly excited to see what these fresh fish actors would bring to the table because God knows how sick I would have been if I saw Zac Efron attached to these movies.

And even more happy news, the original actors weren’t going to be glorified cameos. They were going to have actual roles and be actual characters that contribute something to the story. So said the initial buzz, anyway. But we were betting that the makers of this new Star Wars trilogy wouldn’t lie to us. You need to create some good will, lest you risk a disastrous future.

It took some time, like most people I imagine, to get properly excited for this movie. But in time, we were open to the new possibilities and the new direction.

It’s also probably a good time to mention that it was around this time that the powers that be announced that there would be one Star Wars movie a year. That was an ambitious undertaking if you ask me. It was clear that didn’t mean they’d release a direct sequel to their new trilogy a year, but it still wasn’t entirely clear on what it entailed. Fast forward to 2017, we now know. ROGUE ONE became a story about how the Rebels got the Death Star plans in A NEW HOPE (1977), we’re getting an upcoming Han Solo origin story called SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY (2018), and a very real possibility of a Yoda origin story in 2020. Yeah, a Yoda origin story. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Not to mention, it was recently dropped that Rian Johnson, director of THE LAST JEDI (2017) is in the process of making his own Star Wars trilogy that has nothing to do with the core films. Further information is nonexistent as I’m sure it’s all in the “brainstorming on college-ruled paper” at the moment, but we’ll see in coming years.

To hold us over though, we have the core films that are probably all we need anyway.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Daisy Ridley (MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017], video game STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II [2017], and upcoming films OPHELIA [2018] and- oh God, Daisy, no… – PETER RABBIT [2018]), John Boyega (DETROIT [2017], THE CIRCLE [2017], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and the upcoming PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Harrison Ford (BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017], FIREWALL [2006], AIR FORCE ONE [1997], THE MOSQUITO COAST [1986], HEROES [1977], A TIME FOR KILLING [1967], and the upcoming untitled Indiana Jones movie [2020]), Adam Driver (THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES [2017], THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU [2014], J. EDGAR [2011], and upcoming films THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUIXOTE [2018] and TOUGH AS THEY COME [2018]), and Peter Mayhew (DRAGON BALL GT: A HERO’S LEGACY [1997] and 1 episode of TV show THE MUPPET SHOW [1976 – 1981]). In support, we have Oscar Isaac (SUBURBICON [2017], ROBIN HOOD [2010], ALL ABOUT BENJAMINS [2002], and upcoming films ANNIHILATION [2018] and LIFE ITSELF [2018]), Carrie Fisher (COUGAR CLUB [2007], AUSTIN POWERS [1997], AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON [1987], video game STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT II [2017], and the upcoming WONDERWELL [2018]), Andy Serkis (WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017], CAREER GIRLS [1997], video game HEAVENLY SWORD [2007], and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER [2018] and THE JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), Domhnall Gleeson (GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017], UNBROKEN [2014], HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 [2010], and upcoming films A FUTILE & STUPID GESTURE [2018] and PETER RABBIT), and Lupita Nyong’o (QUEEN OF KATWE [2016], THE JUNGLE BOOK [2016], NON-STOP [2014], and upcoming films BLACK PANTHER and LITTLE MONSTERS [2018]).

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing, we have J.J. Abrams, known for SUPER 8 (2011), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (2006), and directing STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (2013). Co-writing the screenplay alongside Abrams are Lawrence Kasdan (DREAMCATCHER [2003], WYATT EARP [1994], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [1981], and the upcoming SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY [2018]) and Michael Arndt (A WALK IN THE WOODS [2015], TOY STORY 3 [2010], and LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE [2006]). Composing the score, we have living legend John Williams, known for THE BFG (2016), MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (2005), SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), EMPIRE OF THE SUN (1987), CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (1977), and upcoming films THE POST (2018) and Star Wars Episode IX (2019). Finally, the cinematographer is Dan Mindel, known for ZOOLANDER 2 (2016), JOHN CARTER (2012), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III, and upcoming films PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING and the untitled Cloverfield Movie (2018).

This is my honest opinion of: STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

(SUMMARY)

Set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Thirty years after the destruction of the evil Empire, a new threat has emerged from its ashes called The First Order, and are at war with the New Republic and the Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher). Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and The First Order wants to find him, and they know where to find the map that leads to him, in the hands of famed Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who gives it to his faithful droid BB-8 before he gets captured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a dark side warrior of the First Order, under the command of Supreme Leader Snoak (Andy Serkis). Though it takes the First Order time to figure out who has the map, one lone stormtrooper FN-2187 helps Poe escape, who gives him the new name, Finn (John Boyega), getting shot down while escaping. Meanwhile, BB-8 has encountered a lone scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who decides to help him get back to the Resistance. As paths converge, both outlaws and veterans of the long-gone Rebel Alliance, conflict comes to a head as Luke’s location becomes clearer.

(REVIEW)

It’s kind of odd to say that this movie holds up, since it’s only been a measly two years since it came out, but it’s true. It still holds up as a fun and engaging film.

Yup, my biggest issue with the movie remains Kylo Ren. I still can’t let go of how childish he is when things go south for him. When the map to Luke escape Jakku, he slices up a bunch of computer consoles with his lightsaber. When Rey escapes his clutches, he destroys the chair. Despite his power, he remains the worst Star Wars villain. As I said in my transfer review… at least, I think I said this… Kylo’s introduction isn’t bad. In fact, it’s downright classic Star Wars villain. Come in with a pair of armed escorts and murders a dude right there and then. His intimidation could have satisfyingly ended there, but then we throw in Poe trying to snipe the dude, but then Kylo uses the Force to literally stop the laser projectile in place AS WELL AS Poe himself, and that laser stays in place for a good long while. This can be argued to be the coolest intro to a Star Wars villain.

However, my first red flag was when he starts interacting with General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). They seem more like competing children flinging immature insults at one another, rather than being two professional leaders in their respective fields cooperating under a banner of mutual respect. But fine, if this was the worst I’d have to put up with, then this movie would be straight up great. After all, you can’t blame the writers for wanting to do something different than the relationship between Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, even though that relationship was surprisingly more interesting to watch.

But those temper tantrums of his are what ultimately kill the intimidation factor. We go from making him arguably one of the most impressive villains of the franchise, to one of the most disappointing. Conceptually, he’s almost brilliant. And in more than a few ways that I haven’t given credit for, the execution of those ideas aren’t done horribly. Usually, when we see bad guys in Star Wars, they’re bad guys who don’t think twice about it, even occasionally relishing in the evil things they do. This is the first time we see a bad guy who is established as the bad guy, but has a consistent fear of turning back to being good. That’s really interesting. It takes effort for Kylo to stay in the dark side. In the past, it almost seems too easy to go in that direction, but now we’re shown a different side of it. And had this been the primary focus of the character instead of his “Hulk smash” attitude distracting the hell out of me, then Kylo would have been one of the highlights of the film instead of its greatest downside.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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And before you say it, let me say it for you! “Oh, but you’re forgetting how he survived Chewbacca’s bowcaster and still managed to fight both Finn and Rey efficiently, and that bowcaster has been seen to shred through stormtrooper armor!” I really hate when people bring this up. All of that, as far sensibility is concerned, was not very well written. There is absolutely no reason for Kylo to have taken that bowcaster shot. When Poe tried to snipe him, Kylo reacted like a cat seeing a cucumber. The moment that laser left the barrel of that rifle, Kylo stopped it in its tracks. But remember how that scene played out with Kylo getting shot by Chewy? He kills Han and Chewy lets out a roar! A roar that Kylo would most certainly have heard. And to make matters even more pathetic, Chewy was a lot further away than Poe was! Poe was both closer in proximity and more stealthy in his attempt to kill Kylo, but Chewy announced his presence with a roar and was further away. So what happened that Kylo couldn’t stop that bowcaster blast?!

 

Fine, say what you must about Kylo getting surprised. I’ll do you one better, let’s just say that Kylo was proverbially drinking in the dark side effect he was getting from killing his dad and he genuinely didn’t hear Chewy roar or see that bolt from his bowcaster. If those bolts have been seen to shred through armor, how in hell didn’t it fry Kylo’s innards?! I can believe that a powerful Force-user could survive a nonthreatening blast to one’s side if they use the Force to shield themselves, but that has to take some serious conscious effort. Not that I’m an expert on the Force because, you know, fiction, but I’ve watched all the movies, played enough of the games, read a couple of novels and comics, so I think I can take some solid educational guesses that aren’t too far off the mark. Point is, you can’t convince me that Kylo threw up a shield to protect himself because he was taken by surprise, remember? So for all intents and purposes, that bolt should have killed him. The only reason it didn’t is because of poor writing.

 

Smaller issues include the incredibly vast amount of conveniences. Our heroes happening upon the Millennium Falcon didn’t bother me, but Han and Chewy randomly finding it and the only explanation is “they scanned for it”? That was… lucky. Poe surviving the crash and somehow finding his way back to the Resistance from Jakku. R2 just happens to have the missing piece of the map to Luke. For that matter, how did the piece that BB-8 had start off in Lor San Tekka’s (Max von Sydow) hands? When Finn, Han, and Chewy rescue Rey from Starkiller Base, they not only happen to just see her through a window- in this entire base the size of a planet, of course they just happen across her randomly – but they quickly catch up with her through the many passages and corridors when they weren’t anywhere near each other. And of course when Chewy blows the core to Starkiller Base, and Rey and Finn are attempting to leave through the woods, Kylo somehow manages to not only catch up with them when he himself wasn’t near them and wounded for that matter, but was able to get ahead of the two. Again, wounded from Chewy’s bowcaster, mind you.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

But before I make this movie sound like it’s bad, let’s talk about everything it did right.

I absolutely love the new characters. Rey is my favorite, and Ridley delivers a fun and energetic performance. I do find myself extremely curious about who her parents are and why she was abandoned on Jakku. From the moment she’s introduced scavenging the ship up till meeting BB-8, everything is beautiful. From that lack of dialog and Ridley’s pitch perfect acting that speaks volumes. That look she gives Unkar Plutt (Simon Pegg) when he gives her a measly half portion of food, man… The death defying crap that she has to go through to get these parts, spending who knows how long trying to clean or repair them, only to get enough food for a night? Likely getting horribly ripped off. And the directing and cinematography are all perfect. When Rey looks at that old woman, I honestly couldn’t tell if she was horrified that she’d end up like her, or if she admired her for being sticking it out as long as she has and still going. And when she does eat, marking how many days she’s been on Jakku in the AT-AT walker, sitting outside the walker watching a ship leave the planet, then putting on the rebel pilots helmet, she clearly has dreams of leaving the planet. Just not in the fashion that she does. By the way, for those of you that don’t know, that inflatable bread stuff that Rey eats wasn’t CGI. That was a practical effect and you can totally make your own. I’ll put the ingredients and all after my rating so this doesn’t turn into a cooking channel. For the record, pretty yummy if made right. Anyway, but as wide-eyed as she is, dreaming about something more than this provincial life (ehh, I like Rey more than Belle), she does have those glimpses into her need for survival. When Unkar Plutt sees BB-8 and offers sixty portions of food, clearly a ludicrous amount, the likes of which I doubt Rey has never seen, you see her heavily considering the agreement and it’s easy to see why. All of her scavenging, the effort she puts in and what little is shown for it, all that food would set her up for a really long time. It’s little moments like this that make for a nice hint of darkness. Rey is essentially this generation’s Luke Skywalker, but the writers were smart enough to add realistic drama to her actions and expressions that don’t make her annoying. It’s going to be a blast watching her story unfold in future installments.

Now for Finn. I really like this take on a defective bad guy. We don’t see that very often, outside of Bodhi from ROGUE ONE, who isn’t as interesting a character. It sort of just hit me, he’s that cowardly, hysterical character that you see in horror films, but where so often those characters are incredibly annoying, this is about the only time I’ve ever seen it done right. Think about it, he’s constantly screaming about how he needs to get as far away from the First Order as possible. Even though he’s given a chance to help the Resistance, which in of itself if “away from the First Order”, and even if he didn’t want to stick around to help, à la Iden Versio from BATTLEFRONT II, he could probably have earned himself a transport to wherever he wanted to go… which I guess is a small complaint about his motivations, but his style of hysteria is understandable. His mission on Jakku was his first mission and he wasn’t ready to murder innocent people. What exactly separates him from the rest of the rabble isn’t clear, just bad luck on the First Order’s part. This sends him into a frenzy and wants out, taking his one slim chance to get away. I like his interactions with Rey and Poe, and I really look forward to seeing where they’re going to take Finn’s character in the future as well.

***SPOILERS***

 

 

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Now let’s talk about Han Solo. It’s no secret that Harrison Ford has never liked Han. He wanted his character to be killed off after EMPIRE, but I think contracts kept him committed to JEDI. So for someone who’s disliked the character for as long as he has, Ford still gives a great performance. Professionalism at its finest. Han is still funny, grizzled, sarcastic, and a grade-A bad-ass. I still chuckle at the moment he blindly shoots a stormtrooper in the face during the battle outside of Maz’s castle. Although I do question where his fascination with Chewy’s bowcaster comes from. In thirty years, he’s never held it and test fired it once? Eh, whatever, it’s a fun relationship. And that he’s the wise mentor of the story makes it all the more satisfying. The only reason I don’t feel that strongly about his death is only because I didn’t agree with Kylo’s character here. If he was a more deplorable, or more sympathetic character, then I would have felt more for it than I ended up feeling. In any case, I’m sure that Ford is happy to put Star Wars behind him. Now he’s just gotta deal with the endless “is there any chance of you returning” questions. Not that he wasn’t getting an endless barrage pre-2015.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

The rest of the supporting cast is great too. I really want to see more of Maz (Lupita Nyong’o), Poe, General Hux, and General Leia. I don’t know, does anyone else think that “General Leia” has a more bad-ass ring to it? I just don’t want to see the title go to waste in future installments. Oh and it’d be awesome if Snoak really was that huge. Imagine the possibilities! Chances are, he’s not, but it’d be cool.

I know there’s a lot of people who had some problems with the story, that there’s a little too much repeat from the previous films. A wide-eyed youth from a humble desert planet happening upon a droid belonging to a good guy faction at war with a bad guy faction that has a planet destroying death ball, and all that good stuff. Honestly, I couldn’t really argue that. If this bothers you, it might be for good reason. However, I think I see what the goal here is. Because the prequel trilogy wasn’t the most popular of the Star Wars films, this film wanted to recreate the world that the fans were more familiar with to try and make up for what many consider to be the sins of the past. It’s supposed to show that it understands what makes Star Wars great and memorable. In a lot of ways, the story repeats almost everything from the original trilogy, A NEW HOPE, EMPIRE, and JEDI. By getting those out of the way, it paves the way for something new and an opportunity to present something different, fresh, and with luck, even better. Is it a bit distracting? Yeah, if you had the mind dead-set to see something different. As for me, I just wanted to see something good and fun. I got what I wanted, so I was satisfied.

And that’s how I describe this film: satisfying. While it may not be my favorite of the franchise, it’s a significant boost in quality than the prequels gave. There’s certainly room for improvement, but that’s why we’re getting sequels. This film is a ton of fun, with some ripe and talented new faces that hold their own with the veterans, and it’s very exciting to see the direction the movies will go. There’s mystery, there’s laughs, drama, it’s pretty all encompassing, just like a Star Wars movie should be. This is an awakening that I can definitely feel for.

My honest rating for STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS: a strong 4/5

PS: Rey’s inflatable bread stuff below the poster.

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

REY’S INFLATABLE BREAD STUFF

http://www.starwars.com/news/reys-portion-bread

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons cake flour
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon matcha powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Place the oil in a mug and swirl around to grease the inside.
2. Add the cake flour, sugar, matcha powder, baking powder and salt into the mug, stirring together.
3. Pour in the milk and vanilla, then cook in the microwave on high for 45 seconds.
4. Let cool slightly and serve.

After two attempts of making this stuff, I recommend three tablespoons of flour, not four. And even though the directions don’t say it, I stirred the milk and vanilla as well before microwaving. The texture came out better. I’m sure there’s still some refinement  (maybe a little less matcha powder to get the right coloring from the movie) to be had, but it’s a good starting point that worked for me.

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DETROIT review

Man, I really should have paid attention in history class. I assume it’s a racially charged film. No duh, 1967 white cops in a black neighborhood, that goes without saying. But I suppose what sets this film apart is the star-studded and fairly interesting cast. I’m mostly referring to Will Poulter, who seems like he’s playing a cop who is in charge, even though he looks like he’s in high school. No offense to the man of course, he’s twenty-four years old, but just the way his face is structured, I almost don’t buy him as someone giving orders. But it’s not like I’ve seen the film and for all I know, his performance overshadows his baby face. To be fair, he is a great actor, so I’m sure that’ll be the case.

Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we have John Boyega (THE CIRCLE [2017], STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], ATTACK THE BLOCK [2011], and upcoming films STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Will Poulter (THE REVENANT [2015], THE MAZE RUNNER [2014], and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER [2010]), and Anthony Mackie (TRIPLE 9 [2016], CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER [2014], PAIN & GAIN [2013], and Marvel’s upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR [2018]). In support, we have Algee Smith (EARTH TO ECHO [2014]), Jacob Latimore (SLEIGHT [2017], COLLATERAL BEAUTY [2016], and THE MAZE RUNNER [2014]), Jack Reynor (FREE FIRE [2017], SING STREET [2016], TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION [2014], and the upcoming JUNGLE BOOK [2018]), John Krasinski (THE HOLLARS [2016], 13 HOURS [2016], TV show THE OFFICE, and upcoming TV show JACK RYAN), and Kaitlyn Dever (video game UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END [2016], and TV shows LAST MAN STANDING and JUSTIFIED).

Now for the crew. Directing is Kathryn Bigelow, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and POINT BREAK (1991). Penning the screenplay is Mark Boal, known for ZERO DARK THIRTY, THE HURT LOCKER, and IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH (2007). Composing the score is the always amazing James Newton Howard, known for FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (2016), THE HUNGER GAMES (2012), M. Night Shyamalan’s LADY IN THE WATER (2006), and the upcoming FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, known for JASON BOURNE (2016), THE HURT LOCKER (2008), and UNITED 93 (2006).

Overall, yeah, this looks like it’s going to be good. Some great talent in front of and behind the camera, so I’m thinking we can expect a quality film here. Let me at it.

This is my honest opinion of: DETROIT

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1967 Detroit, Michigan. Racial tension between the black community and law-enforcement is at an all-time high and the city has become a war-zone, with officers gunning down black people in the streets for little to no cause and covering their tracks with lies and false evidence. Within the local Algiers Motel, a black teenager, fed up with the police and the mistreatment of black, fires a few blank rounds at the police to scare them, but the result is the police thinking it’s a sniper attack and the motel is raided and so ensues a night of humiliation, beatings, and murder.

(REVIEW)

I feel a little conflicted. It’s good, but I’m not sure just how good I feel about it. Definitely, the one thing I will say is don’t see it if you’re expecting a story with a happy ending. It’s not sad, or anything, but my buddy whom I saw it with said it best, “It’s depressing.”

I can’t say how long this review will be, but let’s see how I do.

First and foremost, the acting is spectacular. On the villainous side, Poulter threw me to the ground, shoved a pole in my back, and wiped the floor with me because he was so despicable, so fucking monstrous that he quite possibly stole the show. Not that I have a mind to catch on to “themes” of movies all the time, but one of them was just how low and depraved these men could get in this time period and what they managed to get away with. They will even take an act like praying, a symbolic gesture of peace, clarity, and hope, and use it to traumatize and horrify, forcing them to recite a prayer at the threat of death. And their behavior and attitude isn’t just reserved for the people of color. No, they’ll mistreat the white women too. It’s incredibly hard to watch. But the act of threatening alone isn’t enough if the victims aren’t scared out of their minds and boy howdy did I believe they were. Man, I hope shooting on that set that things were chill between everyone because even though it’s acting, I can see things getting out of hand and someone decking each other simply out of reaction, but I highly doubt that ever happened. Stories like Shia Lebeouf knocking out Tom Hardy are pretty isolated incidents. Either way, everyone did amazing and you could cut the fear in their eyes with a chainsaw and not make a scratch. If you wanted a real horror film to watch that features no monsters, this is well worth that experience.

I suppose another aspect that I can appreciate is the restraint that this movie had to not have Julie (Hannah Murray) or Karen (Dever) raped by the cops. While I’m sure that didn’t happen in the incident anyway, I can definitely see some studio big-wig trying to throw that “creative liberty” in there all in the name of “added dramatic effect.” You can’t convince me it hasn’t happened before. It sure looked like it was going to go that route what with the constant close-ups of the two women’s backsides and the animalistic men ogling over them. Hell, I was ready to rip my hair out after Julie’s clothes were ripped off. I was calling it, that’s where it was going to happen. But nope, the humiliation and the implication in the men’s eyes was more than enough, and honestly, a lot more effective.

Other than there being a great deal intensity and visceral stress and fear that you feel alongside the victims, there’s not a whole lot of praise to be spoken. It’s just holding a magnifying glass on an incident which perfectly captured the tension between two sides of a conflict and what the law was clearly there to protect at the time, and it wasn’t always its citizens.

Although, having done no real research, and certainly not having the resources that the crew had while putting this movie together, one element did bother the crap out of me. Carl (Jason Mitchell) used a pistol with blanks when he wanted to scare the cops. When the cops raid the place looking for the gun, they keep shouting for it, but… why don’t they explain that it’s not real, or didn’t have real bullets? They spent hours getting questioned and it’s like they honest to God didn’t know anything about a real gun. Is a real gun so indistinguishable from a fake one, or a real one with no real ammo? I don’t know, I grew up with paintball, airsoft, and cap guns, as well as watching a whole ton of action movies. I think I could tell the difference. These people, scared or not, really didn’t say anything?! Maybe this is a weird detail overlooked by the movie, but… yeah, that seemed off to me.

Overall, this movie isn’t for the feint of heart and it certainly shouldn’t be seen if you’re looking for a crowd pleaser. But it’s the 1960’s in one of the most crime-ridden cities in America, even to this day. This movie’s setting alone was an indication that a happy ending was never going to be in the cards. But it’s worth watching. It’s a powerful piece that will stay with you. I think a detail or two can be questioned, but it’s a good film. It’s no “must see” of the year, but if you have even a passing interest, I do recommend it.

My honest rating for DETROIT: 4/5

detroitposter

THE CIRCLE review

Um… *raises my hand* Movie! Movie, pick me! I don’t know what you’re about! It looks like a movie about being in the center of everything that’s going on in the world and doing what they can to help those in need. My personal observation is that it’s going to prove too good to be true and comes at a high moral price that our hero doesn’t want to pay and gets into a heap of trouble. But yeah, no idea. Just spit-ballin’.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring is the ever-popular Emma Watson (BEAUTY AND THE BEAST [2017], THE BLING RING [2013], and THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER [2012]). Love her or hate her as an actress, it’s pretty hard not to have respect for this woman who has fought so hard for gender equality for most of her young adult life, making some valid points along the way. But shes certainly never lost sight of how she got her platform in the first place, by being in some pretty solid work in film. She’s a fine actress and though her days of being Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films may be long behind her, but she’s still a hero for many out there. Next up, we have the multi-generational legend himself, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks (INFERNO [2016], SAVING MR. BANKS [2013], CLOUD ATLAS [2012], and the upcoming TOY STORY 4 [2019]). I’ve ranted about this man before, I can’t keep doing it without sounding like a broken record. You know him, you love him, Tom mother f**kin’ Hanks, ladies and gentlemen. In support, we have Ellar Coltrane (BOYHOOD [2014]), the rising star that is John Boyega (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS [2015], IMPERIAL DREAMS [2014], TV show 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY, and upcoming films and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017] and PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]), Nate Corddry (EQUITY [2016], ST. VINCENT [2014], and THE HEAT [2013]), Karen Gillan (THE BIG SHORT [2015], GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY [2014], OCULUS [2013], and upcoming films GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 [2017] and JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE [2017]), and the dearly departed legend, Bill Paxton (EDGE OF TOMORROW [2014], TITANIC [1997], and ALIENS [1986]), making this his final completed film. Anyone else get just a little depressed?

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is James Ponsoldt, known for THE END OF THE TOUR (2015). Co-writing and author of the original novel this movie is based on is Dave Eggers, known for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (2009) and writing the novel A Hologram for the King. Composing the score is *double take* Danny Elfman (FIFTY SHADES DARKER [2016], BIG EYES [2014], and FRANKENWEENIE [2012])?! What are you doing out of your Tim Burton corner?! Get back to where you belong before I get the tranq gun! Finally Matthew Libatique (MONEY MONSTER [2016], IRON MAN [2008], and THE FOUNTAIN [2006]).

Overall, I haven’t the slightest idea what to expect. I can’t even speculate. So… adventure, ho!

This is my honest opinion of: THE CIRCLE

(SUMMARY)

Mae (Emma Watson) has just been hired into a very prestigious company, focusing on the collection of global information, known as The Circle, ran by its mastermind, Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks). She is quickly taken in by their agenda of creating a safe and secure world of accountability and truth. Mae is quickly sucked in to it despite the skepticism of her friends and family. But as Mae climbs the ranks within The Circle, she starts to forget basic human rights, despite good intentions and could lead to drastic and life-threatening consequences.

(REVIEW)

Oh shit is this movie bad. Like, really bad. Almost insultingly bad.

So the whole basis around this movie, THE BEST I CAN FIGURE, is that it revolves around a company that’s sort of like Apple, on the cutting edge of ground-breaking technology and such, except their expertise is the accumulation of knowledge to be shared around with any and everyone hooked into the company’s servers. Thing is, almost right out of the gate, there is zero sensibility and one hundred kinds of hypocrisy. The Circle’s ground-breaking tech is camouflaged cameras that can be placed literally anywhere and take pictures, perform facial recognition, without the need, or perceived need, for warrants or permission. Now, you’d think this is the major conflict of the film. This young woman is about to work for this huge-ass company, popular in every way possible way – and not possible way, as the story continues – that you can think of. And I can see what this movie is essentially trying to be: an argument for the government that maybe they have the right idea in having such unlimited access to anyone and everyone’s personal information, their whereabouts, everything, and having the good sense to know what to do with that information, and actually do some good with it, while also showing what the reaction from the general public would be if such invasion of privacy could happen and the reaction when it’s mishandled, even abused. However, the consistent sin of the film is that this isn’t the conflict. This isn’t what the movie ultimately is about. It’s about how if one abuse of invasion of privacy is bad, resort to another abuse of it, and that will suddenly make it okay. It’s complete and utter bullshit to a magnitude that I’m not sure I can fully comprehend.

The movie barely acknowledges that the actions of these characters is in any way a violation of privacy laws, or even that it’s creepy as all hell. But it’s fully capable of acknowledging that its characters can do whatever the hell they want without any repercussions whatsoever. Let me give you an example. The first scene where we’re introduced to Hanks’ Eamon Bailey is during this company seminar and Bailey is rolling out his new camo-cam. I know I’m probably repeating a lot, but this really needs to get analyzed in order for people to understand what kind of shit-storm that’s being offered to them. This company prides itself on how information is free and open to the those that are watching. So literally, everyone who has a “Circle Account” can simply log in and watch this seminar take place. Bailey explicitly says that he didn’t put up his cameras on the beach with permission of any kind. Okay… with a company as famous world-wide as it is… HELLO, POLICE! WAKE THE HELL UP! Law enforcement of any kind, where the hell are they in coming down on The Circle. Yes, there’s a Senator that’s trying to dismantle the company to no avail, but a senator isn’t the police, the FBI, the CIA, none of them. How is it that a company like this can exist without a shit-load of government agencies raining a hurricane of investigation on them? This shouldn’t be that hard to catch them red-handed, especially considering how blatantly open they are about their activities. Just log on to their servers, and figure it out from there! Now that I’m thinking about it, why bother with the camo-cam if you’re just going to have a server that’s going to show what those cameras are shooting to the mass public? Just set up a normal cam, if you’re that freakin’ confident in your own bullshit. There’s even a bit in the seminar where Bailey reveals he’s got, like, a hundred cameras set up in a single location.

Okay, full disclosure, since that seems to be the theme of this movie, I have a couple of adios mf’s in me right now, so if I end up prattling on about stuff… enjoy the nonsense, I guess, but can you really blame me? If you saw this movie, you’d need a long island-variant in your system too in order to understand it. Ugh, moving on.

Even the audience introduction into this company is awkward as all hell. When Mae gets the job, she goes in for her interview. Instead of the standard, “Why should we hire you?” “What do you do if a guest complains?” they ask the most random questions, which you can witness in one of the trailers for this movie. They ask, things like, “Sonic, or Mario?” “Will you go out with me?” “The needs of the many, or the needs of the individual?” They’re all tests of some kind, but you never get a sense of what the purposes of these questions are. The best I can determine is more about how they’re answered and the answer given determines the… desirability of the employee. Is that even a word? You know what, if a movie can get made about ignoring laws, I can ignore the dictionary. Either way, WHAT THE HELL?! Oh and get this, the movie is kind enough give you a tour of the grounds of The Circle company, composed of buildings! Lots of buildings! None of which you’ll ever see the inside of! Maybe I should explain. Mae is touring with her friend, Annie (Karen Gillan). But you’d swear she was hopped up on caffeine pills and a unicorn frappuccino with an injection of pure adrenaline because she’s talking so damn fast and pointing at every damn thing. “That’s the blah-blah building where we blah-blah, and that’s the west wing where we blah-blah-blah, and over there is the blah-blah where we blah.” You’re not following a single thing that Annie is saying and because so much information is being hurled at you, you couldn’t possibly store all that information away. Not that it matters because, like I said, you’ll never go into those buildings anyway, rendering that entire fifteen seconds completely pointless. Oh, except for that one funny line, “Your legs are so long!” uttered by Watson. I admit, that was funny. Is Gillan freakishly tall? Doesn’t matter, moving on.

How about how this movie thinks real people act? Oh boy, let me tell you! So The Circle doubles as a social media platform. Probably goes without saying since this company feels like all information should be open to any and everyone. But anyway, the movie thinks that everyone on social media is blood-thirsty and downright bipolar. How do I mean? When Mae uploads a picture of one of Mercer’s wooden deer antlers, the internet at large practically castrates the poor guy, calling him a deer killer and harassing him mercilessly. Um… did Mae not think to mention in some sort of caption, “Not real antlers. Made of wood”? Even had that been an oversight, by the time news of this reached her, this should have been an easy and fast fix. “Hey guys, back off. Mercer’s antlers are made of wood. They’re not real antlers!” And then the internet would have shut their mouths and apologized. But no, Mae never sets the record straight!

And this entire incident is being viewed life on The Circle’s cameras, so you’re wondering where the God damned police are in all this.

***SPOILERS***

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Wanna know where this ends up? Toward the last third of the movie, Mae introduces “SoulSearch.” A program that will enable the ability to find any given person in under twenty minutes, with the help of The Circle community. After putting away a criminal in its demo, they try again, but this time, they want to find Mercer, who wants to remain off the grid. Here’s where I have all the problems with how this movie portrays everyone. First off, I can buy the every-person helping to track down a wanted criminal, especially a child-killing mother. This makes sense. But why would anyone want to hunt down a random dude who still believes in privacy and being left alone? Why would a random person on the street go out of their way to expose someone like that. Mercer isn’t a criminal, but you have a couple of assholes who treat finding him like it’s a game, and continue to harass him and call him a deer killer. I’m pretty sure the common person would just ignore the request if it wasn’t a matter of life and death. But no, this movie has Mercer just trying to be left alone, takes his truck and drives away. You’d think that’d be the end of it, but no! They hop into their cars and chase after him! If that wasn’t enough, The Circle has drones following overhead. Yes, f**king drones… and one of them flies in front of Mercer, who naturally freaks out, which causes him to swerve off a bridge, and dies. And it’s only now that everyone who berated him now starts to feel empathy and sadness over his death. Bullshit. Especially when people are saying things, like, “It’s not your fault, Mae.” Uh, no, it is Mae’s fault. She had all the power to say “no,” and she didn’t commit to it. Peer pressure. That’s what the decision boiled down to. And The Circle doesn’t claim any responsibility for their part in Mercer’s death. I’m pretty sure someone said that no one could have seen this happen. Right, so f**k you guys who keep claiming that we need to live in a society of accountability and I don’t see a single f**king person being held accountable! Mae holds herself responsible for Mercer’s death because of her program; rightfully so! She is partly to blame. The assholes that chased Mercer? They were a part of his death! Where’s their accountability?! And The Circle! It was a Circle drone that caused Mercer to drive off the bridge! So never mind that it was a Circle program that violated Mercer’s privacy, common Circle users hunting him down in the name of The Circle, but The Circle is DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR MERCER’S DEATH!!! AND NO ONE IS HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!! This is a new low in hypocrisy!

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***END SPOILERS***

How about the characters? Are they any good?

HA!!! Nope!

One would think that Mae would represent the every-person. We do live in an age where we are pretty dependent on our tech; phones, Ipads, and such. And Mae is transported into a world where technology allows you see into… well, pretty much everything. Later on, she becomes so grateful for the tech provided by The Circle that she immerses herself in the tech by going, “transparent,” wearing a camera at all times that provides a live feed for every second of her day, and anyone and everyone can see what she’s doing, including brushing her teeth. She eventually goes on to incorporate new branches of the tech provided by The Circle and becomes a pretty prominent face of the company. Thing is, she sees nothing wrong with these blatant violations of privacy. Or maybe she does, through some facial expressions, as expressed in this one scene with Gina and… whoever that other guys was. In this scene, it’s been expressed by these two characters – by the way, creepy as f**k – that Mae hasn’t essentially signed in to the company chat room where she can express her personal concerns and what have you. This is a ten minute scene of total skin-crawling and unease. She goes to see the… I guess the company doctor. Kind of like a “school nurse” but for the company. Makes her ingest a micro-chip via a drink. Yes, a drink that syncs up to a wrist-watch that tracks where she is, and WHO THE HELL GREEN-LIT THIS TECH???? Point is, Mae is not a character that anyone can connect with. At least, not as effectively as anyone writing this screenplay thinks. She gets too engrossed into this company’s goals that at some point, connection with her character is completely severed. Where once her motivations can be kind of justified, later on contribute to a problem that this movie already doesn’t care to think is a problem.

How about some other noticeable talent? That kid from BOYHOOD is in this movie. Is he good in this? Surprisingly no. In fact, if you want to see the worst this movie offers, see any scene where Watson interacts with Coltrane. Is Coltrane just a bad actor, or was he given bad direction or dialog? The two actors have zero chemistry. It’s like every scene they have together was a rehearsal take, not actual effort in acting. And Coltrane himself is so deadpan in his line delivery. Mercer is supposed to be the neighborhood kid who used to be close friends with Mae, maybe the two have a crush on each other, but have drifted apart in recent times, but still maintain a good relationship. But every line that Coltrane delivers is literally just “smile and put no emotion into the delivery of it.” There’s a scene where Mercer’s privacy is violated after Mae shows off his wooden sculptures of antlers and he wants to confront Mae about it. However, even here Coltrane doesn’t emote correctly. His character is being ridiculed and consistently harassed online by tens of millions of people calling him names and wrongfully accusing him of killing animals, and you’d swear each line delivery was more like he got hit by water balloon from a neighborhood brat. He was really good in BOYHOOD. It was one of my favorite movies of 2014, if not my favorite. He was a decent enough child actor at the time and he was fine enough toward the end of the movie, so… what happened here?!

What about Finn from FORCE AWAKENS?! He’s in this movie. He’s gotta be awesome, right?! NOPE!!! He is literally in this movie to do nothing. I’m not even kidding, his character is here to contribute nothing to the movie. Boyega plays Ty, the original creator of The Circle, whom I guess was muscled out by Bailey when he had his own ideas how the company should be handled. This is pure speculation, by the way; their relationship is never explained. Anyway, he then went off the grid and became notorious for not being able to be found by anyone, almost to the point where no one even knows his face. He acknowledges that The Circle blatantly violates privacy laws and he never wanted that for his company. Yeah, for a character who’s barely in this movie, he’s the only truly likable character. First time he shows up, he shares Cupcake wine with Mae. Second time, he leads her down dark, creepy hallways to areas where there’s not a single person in sight. Again, is this movie a closet horror film? These bits had some seriously rapey vibes to it. Essentially, this builds up to her being shown an abandoned subway that Bailey plans to fill with servers that will house all the information his programs will capture. This scene is supposed to spark skepticism in Mae. It never does, so this scene with Ty is completely pointless. But at least it left you with a ton of discomfort!

***SPOILERS***

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Ty does come back in the end and helps expose Bailey and Senator Stenton (Patton Oswalt) via a powerpoint presentation. Trust me, we’ll get to this exposure scene in a second, but you’re still sitting here wondering… couldn’t Ty do this himself awhile ago? Why did he need Mae to help him with this shit?

But now it’s time to explain this random-ass ending and how completely insane it is. After Mae has returned to The Circle in light of Mercer’s death, she decides to, what I can only guess, take over The Circle by exposing shady emails and correspondences from both Bailey and Stenton. Umm… when the hell did this become a plot-point? Where do I begin with this? First off, even though The Circle is a creepy place, it’s not filmed that way. We know this company has the best of intentions. But we’re never privy to the notion that either Bailey or Stenton are corrupt in any way. They’ve been pioneering the whole “Down with privacy” thing, but it’s only in this scene, as sporadic and senseless as you can imagine, the movie gives us our bad guys in the final sixty seconds of the movie. We don’t even know how these two men are corrupt, or what they did to warrant being exposed as villains. Nothing about this is explained. Mae just pulls the carpet out from under everyone and everyone watching during this seminar is completely on board with this insanity. They made this joke earlier in the movie, during Mae and Ty’s first meeting, where they say something like, “Everyone’s almost cult-happy here. ‘Drink the kool-aide’!” By the end of this movie, I was entirely convinced that this wasn’t a joke, but rather the very reason why any of this is allowed at all!

Is Hanks any good? Not… particularly. I mean one of his final lines is delivered funny. “We are so fucked,” and then proceeds to take a sip of his coffee, and I hesitate to say that he’s bad, but he’s put out much better performances and much like Watson, you can tell that he’s trying to deliver a good performance, but the terrible writing hinders his efforts tremendously and all you can think about is, “Tom, please tell us which producer has your family held hostage! Your fanatically loyal fanbase will take up arms and help you free them from captivity!” It’s heartbreaking. It really it.

But if you wanted something truly soul-crushing… if you wanted the penultimate proverbial stake driven through your beating heart… if Coltrane is the one actor not trying hard enough, then Bill Paxton is trying too damn hard. I’m not even kidding, this may arguably be the worst thing about the movie, depending on where you stand with the mountain-loads of issues already piling up. Paxton plays Mae’s father, Vinnie, who has cerebral palsy. Before I get into his amazing performance… are you kidding me?! In Paxton’s final movie, before he died of a stroke thanks to a botched surgery, he plays a character with cerebral palsy! I know these things aren’t in any way connected, but does anyone else get just a little extra depressed, and even a little frightened, by this? There’s something to say here; I just wouldn’t know what. But anyway, he does give us a fantastic show. I really believe that he has this illness. When he’s trying to lift a spoon up to his mouth, I really believe that he’s struggling with it. Even his speech patterns, how he almost has to put effort into saying words and complete sentences, it’s heartbreaking. I’m choosing to call it the saving grace of the film, as a good performance shouldn’t be ignored.

The cold, sad truth is that I can see how a good, challenging movie could be made out of this idea if it was written smart. The idea of allowing yourself no privacy so that someone is constantly keeping an eye out for you, for your safety and well-being. For the protection of others around you and holding you accountable for your actions, maybe even preventing possible wrong-doing before it’s even conceived. I even give the movie credit that it does touch upon these ideas somewhat. There’s a bit where Mae is talking to another woman who says that she inserted tracking chips in children all in the name of making sure that they’re always kept an eye on in case some asshole tries to kidnap the child. Should it happen, then the whereabouts of the child are known and even possibly preventing something worse from happening. Even the ending has a nice point. “Our goals are noble, but how we’re trying to achieve them is not the way to do it. We need to change how things are done here.” But the problem is that these ideas are never explored, or made to look like Edward Snowden’s personal night-terror, disguised by happy-peppy sunlight and smiling faces. The only legitimate positives of the film is that the acting from Watson, Hanks, Gillan, and certainly Paxton elevate the movie a little. None of this saves the movie, but there is effort from some of the actors. I do not recommend this movie in theaters. I do not recommend this as a rental. If there’s anything worth seeing, look for every scene featuring Paxton when scenes come out on Youtube, or something. But don’t waste your time seeing the movie as a whole. It’s not worth it.

My honest rating for THE CIRCLE: 2/5

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STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (transfer) spoiler-free review

These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.

Oh man, it’s finally here. Whether you were or weren’t waiting to see this movie, it was on your radar and chances are, you’re seeing it like everyone else. Oh yeah, you can bet your sweet bippy that I was excited for this movie. I may not have appreciated that they were sidelining the established extended universe that’s been around since before EPISODE I, but that gave it a new direction to work with that couldn’t be predicted by the fanboys (like myself). What more is there to say? Let’s get to it.

Starring: Daisy Ridley (SCRAWL [2015] and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017]), John Boyega (TV shows MAJOR LAZER, 24: LIVE ANOTHER DAY, TINKERSHRIMP & DUTCH, and upcoming films THE CIRCLE [2017] and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI), Harrison Ford (THE AGE OF ADALINE [2015], THE EXPENDABLES 3 [2014], ENDER’S GAME [2013], and upcoming films BLADE RUNNER 2049 [2017] and an as-of-yet title Indiana Jones movie [2020]), Adam Driver (PATERSON [2016], INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS [2013], J. EDGAR [2011], and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017]), Oscar Isaac (THE PROMISE [2017], X-MEN: APOCALYPSE [2016], A MOST VIOLENT YEAR [2014], and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI), Carrie Fisher (FANBOYS [2009], WHEN HARRY MET SALLY… [1989], TV show FAMILY GUY, and the upcoming STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI), and so many more.

Directed and co-written by: J.J. Abrams (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS [2013], SUPER 8 [2011], and STAR TREK [2009]). Co-writing is Lawrence Kasdan (DREAMCATCHER [2003], STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI [1983], RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK [1981], and the upcoming untitled Han Solo anthology film [2018]) and Michael Arndt (A WALK IN THE WOODS [2015], THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE [2013], and TOY STORY 3 [2010]). Composing the score is John Williams (THE BFG [2016], THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN [2011], HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN [2004], and upcoming films STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI and READY PLAYER ONE [2018]). Cinematography by: Dan Mindel (ZOOLANDER 2 [2016], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 [2014], MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III [2006], and upcoming films… wait, the hell?? CLOVERFIELD MOVIE [2017]?? More info, please! And PACIFIC RIM: UPRISING [2018]). For what little info I’ve found on this “Cloverfield Movie,” here’s a link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2548396/?ref_=nm_flmg_cin_2

(SUMMARY)

In an isolated village on the planet Jakku, ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has arrived to visit an ally of now General Leia (Carrie Fisher) who might have information leading to her missing brother and Jedi Master of the new Jedi Order, Luke Skywalker. But hot on Poe’s trail is the sinister remnants of the defeated Galactic Empire, the First Order, in hopes of finding Skywalker as well. This company of stormtroopers, led by the fallen Jedi Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) slaughter the village in order to get Poe and the Resistance ally. The ally is killed, and Poe is taken prisoner, but not before Poe gives his trusty astromech droid BB-8 the map leading to Skywalker and tells BB-8 to flee, to which the droid obeys. However, not all of the stormtroopers agreed with killing innocent people. The one with the biggest problem was Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who now wants to leave the First Order and accomplishes this by helping Poe to escape, and the two succeed. They crash back onto Jakku, but Finn doesn’t find Poe in the wreckage of their escape ship. Deciding to carry on his friend’s work, he sets out to find BB-8, who’s been pretty busy. BB-8 meets up with a young local scavenger woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who seems to be waiting for something, but doesn’t take long to become fond of BB-8 and roped into its cause. Eventually, the two and Finn meet up with the First Order right behind and escape via another ship. So begins a journey across space in order to return BB-8 to the Resistance and end the threat of the First Order.

(REVIEW)

Heads up to all my readers, this review might be a tad short. Why? Because all the **** that’s worth talking about it SPOILER-INFESTED. And as I despise people that spoil movies for those that care about that stuff kept under wraps, I will keep this review SPOILER-FREE.

I REPEAT: NO SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW. So let’s get started.

Yes, it’s a VERY GOOD!!! The hype is well earned. It’s very well done and already superior to the prequel trilogy (not that they set the bar very high). Boyega and Ridley are both great as their respective characters and share great chemistry. Most everyone’s given a fair amount of development and screen time to give us, the audience, time to identify and empathize with or hate on. The worlds that are created are gorgeous to look at (albeit, Jakku does feel a hell of a lot like Tatooine).

And there’s no lens flares (at least, I don’t remember seeing any).

I know, it’s not much to go on, but trust me, the protagonists of this entry in this beloved franchise are very welcomed in my heart.

However… this movie isn’t without it’s flaws. Without diving into it too much, there’s a lot of conveniences. I wouldn’t know if I should blame it on awkward editing, or bad story-telling, but that happens more than a few times and it left me with a couple twitches in my eyes.

Also, and this one kills it for me, Kylo Ren is the worst villain in the Star Wars movies (yes, worse than Christopher Lee’s EPISODE III Count Dooku), and only just more tolerable than Jar Jar. What a whiny ******* bitch. Again, I can’t get into it much, but despite an incredible introduction to the character early in the movie, Kylo Ren just got more and more annoying as he was developed and I seriously wanted to spank him more than anything and is just nowhere near as intimidating as Vader, Maul, or even Dooku. But whatever, Jar Jar’s the set-bar, and he doesn’t hit THAT obnoxious levels, but… man, was he trying. And this is nothing against Driver, I rather like him as an actor. But… I think this was a mishandled role. Oh, there’s a lot more to talk about, but yeah… not a fan of this character.

In any case, much as I dislike the villain, what this movie does right does an amazing job of hiding those flaws. It’s a joyous ride and I highly anticipate the next installment, whatever it may be. J.J. Abrams, you did right.

A strong 4/5

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