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: The Lego Movie

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The Lego Movie
Directed by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller
Written by: Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (screenplay & story), Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman (story)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman

The two things that The Lego Movie most immediately recalls are the South Park “Imaginationland” episodes and Team America: World Police, biting pop cultural critiques from Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The Lego Movie is, obviously, much more toned down and targeted at children (there is no MPAA trolling “sex” scene like the marionette one in Team America).  What exactly the movie seems to be satirizing becomes a bit watered down by the hypocrisy of its own design.

It starts off in a Lego world that George Orwell or Ray Bradbury may have built, where the inhabitants all follow the instruction manuals or risk being melted by President Business (Will Ferrell).  The Lego Movie is not (and cannot) be totally anti-business, though.  President Business eventually becomes Lord Business who eventually becomes (spoiler) a micromanaging dad in the human world telling his kid not to mess with immaculately constructed (and unimaginative) Lego buildings.  The movie is designed to show how much fun a dad and son can have with (spoiler) Legos!  The movie is more pro-child imagination, though I’m sure all Legos made after this movie will still come with instructions.

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Five Awesome Movie Dads

As a mandatory companion piece to our “Five Awesome Movie Moms” from Mother’s Day, here we’re weighing in on the movie dads that are either all the way great, or show moments of greatness that redeems their other faults.

Atticus Finch- A single father and a brilliant lawyer, Atticus has time not only to teach his daughter Scout to stick to her moral guns in a time of deep-rooted racism, but he also practices what he preaches.  Gregory Peck delivers a series of brilliantly written monologues both in and out of the courtroom, which won him an Oscar as well as an endearing place in movie history.

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Where have all the landmarks gone?

It’s interesting to think about which movies will be remembered as classics 20-30 years down the road.  Interesting, and also depressing.  Stop and think.  Is there one film made during the modern movie age that will resonate throughout pop culture like a Godfather or a Star Wars? There are no more Godfathers, mostly because the Mafioso in the modern studio system don’t believe in them anymore.

Movies mirror the culture they’re released into.  It’s no coincidence that the biggest movies now are sloppily constructed rehashes used to make a quick buck.  See also: the housing crisis.  The most endearing movies of the old age are often blockbusters, but they’re also something more: risks that paid off.  George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola had to fight like hell to get their movies made, and struggled to keep them once they were financed.  In modern times, once you’re inside the system, there is no fighting.  You make the movie they tell you to, or else you pay for it yourself.

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