REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt (screenplay), George Lucas (characters)
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford and Adam Driver

The seventh episode of Star Wars is a clear-eyed, contagious nostalgia trip that also manages the difficult task of setting the stage for a promising batch of new characters. For better and worse, director J.J. Abrams lays the groundwork for that new era of a galaxy far, far away by relishing in the familiarity of George Lucas’ original film.

The Force Awakens is a seemingly impossible balancing act that Abrams mostly pulls off; even as the movie retraces Lucas’ footsteps, it doesn’t feel like an insincere cash grab (ahem, Jurassic World).  The old characters– among them Han Solo, Chewbacca and General (the woman formerly known as Princess) Leia– don’t feel like they’re being crossed off a cameo checklist.  Though they’re introduced with applause-ready entrances, they’re still mixed organically into the story, which is set roughly 30 years after the events of the 1983 installment The Return of the Jedi. (This movie all but ignores Lucas’ prequel trilogy).

(Minor spoiler ahead)

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REVIEW: Super 8

Super 8
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Written by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler and Riley Griffiths

Science fiction might be a genre that appears to always be looking ahead, embracing the latest 3D technology, CGI backgrounds or scientific discoveries; but at its core it has always looked at its influences and initial pioneers to give direction to stories that span light years, universes or complex human-political analogies away.

With the names J.J. Abrams and Steven Steven Spielberg attached to a summer monster movie, it appeared we’d be expecting the same expectations-breaking story: big blockbuster, big effects, big noises and big disappointment. Collaborations like Spielberg and Bay’s Transformers series didn’t give us much hope, but Abram’s recent works like Star Trek certainly did. A young gun with a visual track record and a producer with the know-how is a great comparison to Peter Jackson apprenticing Neil Bloomkamp with his District 9, which isn’t the only comparison Super 8 draws with the movie.

To put it briefly: instead of attempting to rewrite the genre as Abrams has done with TV, they flip the pages back, finding the core and simplicity in great story telling with a soft $50 million budget. Continue reading

If they were in television… JJ Abrams

Notable films: Mission Impossible III and Star Trek.

Famous for: Breathing new life in old franchises, science fiction, character focused drama in big-budget actions, well-orchestrated visuals, brightly-lit sets even for dark materials, the hit TV show Lost and other serialized television work.

Hypothetical title: Aftermath Continue reading

Eleven movies to watch for in ’11

Sure, there will be plenty of crap released this year just like any other.  We all have another delightful Transformers installment to look forward to in the summer, and the coming winter months are when Hollywood dumps its crap that wouldn’t make money during prime Christmas season.  So, while the award contenders from last year and the buzz-kills duke it out in January and February, here are our picks for what to watch for the rest of the year.

The Tree of Life (May 27)– Terrence Malick has made some of the most visually stunning movies ever to grace the screen.  Film-wise, he hasn’t made as many as other auteurs his age, but his mark is no less indelible.  With The Tree of Life, he will most likely twist audience expectation for what a “summer blockbuster” with A-list stars is.  Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are headlining in this tale about a young boy in the 50s who “witnesses the loss of innocence.”  The hypnotic trailer is almost as vague as that description, but infinitely more beautiful.  It draws you in without ruining it.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (December 21)- Fresh off his hot streak with The Social Network, David Fincher attempts to Americanize the already explosively popular book series and its Swedish film adaptations.  It will be hard for him to do worse than the original Dragon Tattoo movie, which captured the atmosphere but gutted the story of Stieg Larssonn’s original.  The story, about a hacker and a disgraced journalist teaming up to hunt down a serial killer, is the perfect fit for Fincher.  Here’s hoping Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara are also up for the dark twists and brooding revelations.

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