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The Force Awakens is full of pomp and circumstance and it is not a particularly good movie but it is a good Star Wars movie. The Force is out of balance in this one. The CGI gets a B-, the diversity angle gets and A, the feminist angle gets an A+ and those angles weren’t thrown in the audience’s face. Everything else was rather sketchy the plot, the pacing, the dialogue, even the damn secrets.

Where to begin…Kylo Ren. This badass can freeze a laser blast with his back turned. He can sense his father’s presence when he lands on a planet, but he walks blindly down a scaffold searching for his father who is hiding 20 feet away from him. Ren spends half the film literally throwing tantrums while wearing a vocorder mask that he doesn’t need. Darth Vader had a mask on because he had asthma; Ren wears it try to be something he’s not. Even Han Solo says “Take off that mask, you don’t need it.”

The fact that Kylo Ren abilities allows him to kill Luke Skywalker’s Jedi pupils, but he battles the kindhearted storm trooper in a 5 minute lightsaber battle, should be enough to make any righteous Star Wars fan vomit in their mouth…just a little bit. Then Ren is bested by Rey, who may be strong with the Force but has never used the force, never been trained and who moments earlier said that the force was all a myth.

I know those are but minor quibbles…right, we finally got a good Star Wars film…just be happy. You could just be happy with your mediocre job, your mediocre car and your mediocre love life or you could want more, you could want better or you could just settle. That’s not all of the flaws you could take every major character and write a paragraph or two of WTF’s on them…really.

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The Star Killer base took forever to fire, and I mean forever. It was probably the longest 15 minutes in science fiction film history. A legend dies and their love ones just move on, you don’t even feel the loss.The dedicated Captain Phasma the platinum boss storm trooper just lowers the planet’s shields because, ex-storm trooper, Finn points a blaster at her while he asks her to.

After Han and Leia find each other Leia shows more warmth to Rey and Chewie than to her husband. Every scene Han with Leia seemed forced even that one tepid hug. Their chemistry is colder than the Hoth planet.

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Midnight: Rise of the Black Vampires is Part Novel, Part Graphic Novel, All Vampire

If the Republic was reorganized after Episode VI, then The First Order would be a ‘terrorist’ organization, and referred to as resistance. In The Force Awakens there are two separate resistance groups, one affiliated with the dark side of the force which can build starships, huge planet destroying machines and amasses great armies, the other affiliated with the light side of the force, which in 30 years haven’t changed the X-Wing fighter much, nor have they developed a missile, bomb or any other large scale weapon, also they seem to like to hide in jungles and dirty caves… So why are make a film about them again?

The Force Awakens foes produce an even greater respect for the first Star Wars films. All of the characters in The Force Awakens just seem conflicted; you don’t feel the evil just oozing out of Ren, just like you don’t feel the love coming from Leia. I don’t know why they needed Andy Serkis to play the Supreme Leader Snoke, he really doesn’t do much. I do know why…name recognition.

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Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia and Mark Hamill as Skywalker all perform admirably when they aren’t on screen together…especially Ford. Daisy Ridley’s performance as Rey is strong and vulnerable. The Force Awaken is a remix and homage, perhaps too much, of the original films.

The Force Awakens is one big trailer for the new few films in the Disney franchise anyway. The film is nonsensical, predictable, it’s fun and it moves along quickly, but it’s not enjoyable the way the original “Star Wars” was. The dialogue, comaradery and witticisms are nowhere on par with The Empire Strikes Back. If the producers didn’t want The Force Awakens to be compared with those legendary films, they wouldn’t have borrowed everything this film is from them. After you see The Force Awakens go back and watch Episodes IV and V if nothing else.

The first half of the film is pretty much littered with bullshit and nostalgia. The second half is really the meat of the film. The film gets a solid C because it’s fun and all of the characters have their moments, especially Finn, played by John Boyega and Rey. There is a bit of hope that those two get together but political correctness already has Finn in a coma and Rey rolling around the galaxy with Chewbacca.

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No matter how dire the situation is Rey never really needs any help, think Richard B. Riddick in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. Rey who has never flown can pilot a starship like an expert, Finn can shoot blasters and laser turrets like a pro. Rey can mind probe, mind trick and lightsaber duel better than Yoda…talk about being overpowered.

It will take a few more films for people to realize Luke Skywalker was really just some asshole living on an island planet, playing with people’s minds so he can use them as conduits for the force.

Through the prequels we have come to know the Jedi and the Sith as arrogant, ill-prepared bumblers, cowards and dark cloak wearing idiots… The best thing about The Force Awakens is that none of that exist here. There are moments in the second half of the film that manage to capture the magic of the original film, but even those moments are fleeting.

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Half way through the film Han Solo implores his new companions “Don’t stare!”, when all the director wants the audience to do is stare. This is how easy a mark the movie going public has become. Director J.J. Abrams wants to piss people off, he’s like Quentin Tarantino in a way. They both do things in a movies just because they can, not because those things are necessary. Abrams gives us views of  hollowed out AT AT’s, imperial cruisers wrecked in the desert and a mangled, burned and ripped up Vader mask as message to Star Wars fans; that message… you are boldly going where you haven’t gone before.

After seeing this film, you should realize that those singular Star Wars moments were never meant to be captured again.

 

Star Trek

It has been 40 plus years since the original Star Trek aired and some would say that the series has grown old maybe even stale. But the series has sparked so much imagination over the years that someone inevitably comes along and tries to perform CPR on it. Star Trek’s days of being socially conscientious are over, as well as its days of innovation. That being said I decided to go to see a movie it took me two weeks to get up the nerve after being utterly disappointed by Wolverine. So I decided to pull the usually empty lever of the Studio Film slot machine once again. The obvious choice would be for me to see Angels & Demons, but the buzz on Star Trek compelled me spend two hours with them.

I have to say that this so-called prequel is in a word “Brilliant”. Many reviewers throw around terms like “Superb”, “Excellent”, “Visually Stunning” much too loosely. However, for J.J. Abrams’ vision of Star Trek those terms actually do apply. Most people will think that this film is a testosterone filled  heartless movies, but they couldn’t be more wrong. This film has something in it for everyone, and I mean everyone. Yes, there will be those who have issues with completely minor errors like, time travel, or the inherent danger of indiscriminate singularity creation, but I digress.

This film begins with James T. Kirk’s birth in deep space with his father sacrificing his own life so that his son and others could live. Kirk is later seen as a rebellious Iowan youth (think Rebel Without A Cause). Then we are treated to see how a young Half-Vulcan, Half-Human Spock’s is developing on the planet Vulcan. The young Spock is having trouble wrestling with those pesky emotions (Vulcan’s suppress them) while the other Vulcans believe that having a human mother is some type of handicap. Director J.J. Abrams plays Kirk’s father and Spock’s mother off of one another the entire movie and rightly so. Spock (Zachary Quinto) rebels at the high council when a crack is made about his mother and he decided to join the less prestigious Starfleet. Next we see an older Kirk (Chris Pine) as he continues to pursue women and a life built on destruction, but during a bar room brawl he catches the eye of Capt. Pike, who was an admirer of his father, who convinces him to join Starfleet. And from there we are introduced in order to the central characters of Star Trek: Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban), Hikaru Sulu (John Choo), Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg), Yuri Chekov (Anton Yelchin). Choosing lesser-known actors allows the director to focus less on glamor shots and more on the acting. It takes a lot of guts to pull off that kind of trade-off clearly this movie was made with purpose. The casting on this film is topnotch except for Spock’s Mother (Winona Ryder), but she only has five lines. But casting Eric Bana as (Nero the Romulan Commander) was genius.

The script by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci from plot to sub plot is impeccable. All of the cliches and themes are there, but they are beside the point because this script does more than offer a great tale… it offers insight and back story to the characters themselves. They took a risk switching out the well-known and traditional enemy the Klingons for the lesser known Romulans, but it was a magnificent choice that opened up many more possibilities for the future of the franchise. There are some surprises, an unusual love interest (and I don’t mean between Kirk and Spock), and a slightly more emotional Spock.

Quite simply J.J. Abrams has accomplished what George Lucas could not by trying to reignite the Star Wars series. Frankly this movie puts the last ten-years of retread, rehashed, comic-book, sci-fi movies to shame. How: Story Development, Character Development, New Worlds, Surprise Guest Stars, Amazing Effects, and a Love Story. This movie has it all, yet it moves along so well you’ll think that it was 3- hours long instead of a run time of 127 minutes. Interestingly enough if you are a Trek fan that watched the movie and really paid attention you will realize that this is not the Star Trek you grew up with. What the writers have slyly done is created an Alternative Universe Star Trek, which couldn’t be done if the canon was discarded or the script was sub par. If you didn’t notice that then you really need to see it again and this one of those rare movies that is worth seeing again. Superstar actors be damned this is the kind of movie Hollywood should be making! J.J. Abrams should get very serious consideration for an Oscar and credit the writers. Whatever the case, the history of Star Trek has been forever changed.

10/9.5