Review (kinda): Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens

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NOTE: This is hardly what I wold consider a “proper” review. These are words that came pouring out in a semi-state of euphoria at about 2am following my screening. This is merely a place to get the conversation going before all of the podcasts are released in the days to come.

Also, if you want to know absolutely nothing, then do not read ahead. For the rest of you, this is a relatively SPOILER-FREE stream of un-consciousness.

2D version

It’s tough to put thoughts to paper right at the moment. The entire experience was kind of a mind trip. There were nostalgic tears of joy (and maybe partly of relief) on at least three occasions and I have no idea what the opening crawl said. Something about Luke Skywalker I think.

I’m sure every review out there will call this essentially a remake of “A New Hope” or (at best) a greatest hits of the original trilogy. And they wouldn’t totally be wrong. But I don’t care. Some may call it lazy, other may call it playing it safe, others may call it pandering. I say all the better for it. Grow balls when and where needed, keep everything else just how we like our Star Wars universe: fun, exciting and familiar. Keep it simple, keep it fun and keep it real. Abrams excelled at this on almost every front.

That isn’t to say there’s nothing new. The three (four?) new leads/heroes are fantastic. Poe and Finn are great new characters that have their own swagger, but with flaws they must conquer. Kylo Ren is a fascinating villain and Adam Driver brings it home. Though the clear front-runner here is absolutely Daisy Ridley as Rey, in a career making role and performance.

Han is back in a big way thanks to the return of Harrison Ford finding his inner movie star again (it’s only been 20 years, Ford. Where ya been?). Even Carrie Fisher, who is clearly the weakest link, works out alright for what she’s been given to do. The short of it is, all characters hit their mark and make us care and believe and grow with anticipation on where they journey will lead next. Hashtag Chewbacca!

Outside of the opening battle (which does feel a lot like your typical JJ Abrams joint), the set design, locales and side characters all feel remarkably old-school; in the best possible way. In other words, this is the Star Wars Universe I remember really growing attached to throughout my younger days and adolescence (and beyond!).

There are moments here and there that don’t work perfectly and there are minor quibbles; but that’s just what they are: minor. They don’t come anywhere close to casting any sort of dark shadow over the enjoyment I got from the rest of this film. This is pure, simple entertainment with strong characters, wonderful performances, charismatic and beautiful action sequences, perfect pacing (seriously, I have no idea when the best time to go pee is during this movie – I don’t think there really is one) gorgeous effects, sound design and that John Williams score coming home at just the right (yes, pandering but I love being pandered to) all with a nice setup for a much deeper and meaningful story to carry the fans into a whole new adventure with all new heroes, but with a familiar face. I liked the end of one review which simply said, “your move Rian Johnson.”

I am very very pleased.

 

Friday One Sheet: [Korean] Youth

My love for Korean movie posters is probably well known in these parts. Usually only one or two characters in a simple full bleed still image that is rich in colour and texture and simplicity. The poster for Paul Sorrentino’s is no exception to this. Michael Cain resting on a tree stump overlooking a verdant Austrian valley. It’s a direct still from a drop-dead gorgeous (if too much on the nose at times) film.

After the Hype #121 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

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There are no strings on THIS podcast as we take on the ever-so-sarcastic Ultron. Like, James Spader steals the film and that’s both a good and bad thing. Anyway, don’t spend too much time with this summary and check out the new episode. We’re joined by special guest Danielle.

 

Would you like to know more…?

Those Near and Far Wars…

Taking off his X-Wing pilot’s helmet, and putting on his Llewellyn Davis scarf, Oscar Isaac shows why he is one of the most cool actors working today by covering Bill Murray’s SNL sketch, but bringing an understated bohemian coffee shop vibe while covernig Murray’s overbearing Nick the Lounge Lizard act. Star Wars is everywhere this week, but this little bit of updated nostalgia is all class.

Cinecast Episode 421 – Canadian Pubes

Here comes The Fassbender and Marion Cotillard who bring us arguably William Shakespeare’s simplest play ever written in MacBeth. It’s definitely pretty and the performances are beyond masterful, but is it all enough to hold our attention and proclaim it to be a masterpiece? Or even a good film?

Next up we travel to the near future on a distant planet in which everyone speaks Russian… and is stuck in the dark ages. Andrew marvels and is simultaneously baffled by Aleksey German’s Hard to be a God. The coach stops in 1970s Canada for some Elliot Gould completionism and Keir Dullea in Paperback Hero as well as revisiting some old demons at Laika Films and Coraline. We kind of anticipate being lost in a haze of Star Wars and other Oscar-worthy films for the next couple of weeks, so sit back and enjoy this old fashioned, simple version of The Cinecast.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

 

 
 

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Trailer: Independence Day: Resurgence

As you may or may not be aware, I’m a pretty big fan of the goofy awesomeness that is Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day from 1996. Even then, I was told there would be a sequel including a land invasion. After fifteen years I had pretty much given up hope.

Until today. President Sela Ward and General William Fichtner and many returning members of the original cast as well as an impressive Asian cast have given me hope and excited my anticipation. It’s just too bad Robert Loggia won’t be around to help win the day. It’s also weird that it comes out almost two weeks before the fourth of July, but whatever. Jeff Goldblum/Bill Pullman represent.

Enjoy. See you for the fireworks.

 

Trailer: High Rise

Here is a trailer that promises so much, teases a little, and generally is snappier that the film itself. Ben Wheatley’s High Rise adapts J.G. Ballard’s disturbing science fiction novel into a disturbing film. And yet, here, the trailer, which doubles as a video brochure advertisement of the eponymous building itself, wants to soothe you in, while hinting at the nastiness to come. Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons (glimpsed here as the Architect) and Luke Evans star, but really, it is the building more than anything that is the centerpiece of the film, and the trailer-makers here know it all too well.

My TIFF 2015 review of the film is here.

Trailer: Star Trek Beyond (belief)

“Let’s never do this again.”

Star Trek keeps J.J. Abrams as a producer, and brings on the Furious franchise’s Justin Lin as director. Lots of people fall from and/or hang onto cliffs. The U.S.S. Enterprise is destroyed (again, *yawn*) and the Beastie Boys are still getting radio play with Sabatoge, in the 23rd century. Karl Urban still has ace comic timing, and is increasingly only damn reason to bother with a franchise that once inspired millions, and is now reduced to forgettable pop-corn munching distractions. A trailer tells one a lot about these things.

I will keep re-iterating, “Why do Star Trek reboots need to be action films?”

Yea, let’s never do this again. Humbug.