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Science Fiction

Stranger Things photo
Stranger Things

First trailer for Netflix's Stranger Things


Like old school Spielberg made a TV show
Jun 09
// Matthew Razak
When J.J. Abrams delivered Super 8 to us I reveled in its unabashed homage of classic Spielberg adventure films. I kind of wondered why it hadn't kicked off a bit of a renaissance of the 1980s supernatural film, but alas...
Pacific Rim 2 photo
Pacific Rim 2

Pacific Rim 2 comes roaring back with John Boyega


Twist: he's playing a Kaiju
Jun 06
// Matthew Razak
Man, did I want a Pacific Rim 2 to happen. Not because I especially loved the first one, but because I thought it wasted a ton of potential that a second move could capitalize on. It didn't look like we ever would see a ...
Star Trek photo
Star Trek

Check out the first teaser for CBS's new Star Trek


It's new, new, new!
May 19
// Matthew Razak
News of a new Star Trek got me very excited, especially when I heard it would take place in the original universe not Abrams. I enjoy Abrams verse, actually, but I think a TV show is better suited for the old verse. This...
Tetris Trilogy photo
Tetris Trilogy

Tetris is getting a big budget, Chinese trilogy


Form rows in the theater for points
May 17
// Nick Valdez
This year we have four videogame adaptations hitting theaters and there's no sign of stopping anytime soon. The only problem with this is none of these films look particularly gripping with Warcraft, Assassin's Creed, an...

X-Files photo
X-Files

Fox Exec says everyone will be back for new X-Files season


But do we want to go back?
May 16
// Matthew Razak
I watched X-Files when I was growing up like Malcom McDowll watched propaganda. You couldn't tear my eyes away. I couldn't even finish the season 10 reboot. That's why it's with much trepidation that I'm reporting that&n...

Tribeca Review: Equals

Apr 19 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220427:42901:0[/embed] EqualsDirector: Drake DoremusRating: PG-13Release Date: July 15, 2016 In order to maintain a tranquilized world, the characters of Equals avoid intimate contact with one another, living alone in apartments that are modular and compartmentalized to maximize space. Everything has a kind of mechanical efficiency, including the way people walk purposefully like automatons. We're told of a wild outside world early in the film as Silas (Nicholas Hoult) works on images for a book of speculative non-fiction. He begins to show symptoms of emotions, which the world of the film refers to as "switched on syndrome" or SOS. High-level SOS is considered terminal. Part of Silas' SOS is rooted in his growing attraction to co-worker Nia (Kristen Stewart). Stewart's withdrawn and wounded gaze suggests she may be going through the same surge of emotions. They give in to this growing desire, because if two centuries of dystopian literature has taught us anything, love, sex, and the basic biological imperatives of lust offer some private liberation--an act of rebellion, even-- from the prisons that characters have imposed upon them. The world of Equals is a world of individuals kept apart but level through drugs and the trappings of an egalitarian society, which gives Silas and Nia's trysts in a company bathroom an added charge. Being human: it's messy, it's clumsy, but it feels great sometimes. Silas and Nia are essentially a pair of gaga-eyed teens, and they exchange the kind of first-love niceties you'd have with a high school boyfriend or girlfriend. Their words have an embarrassing earnestness to them, but it's because the words hang between them, connect them, and bring them closer together. Their fear of getting caught leads them to a sympathetic band of SOS patients who can offer sympathy and maybe even a way out. This all sounds a little too familiar, sure, and the clean aesthetic and cool-to-warm color scheme are predictable, albeit so competently often effectively executed. It's the nature of the subject matter and the long history of tropes associated with dystopias; the same goes for science fiction about deadening or mastering human emotions. Director Drake Doremus and screenwriter Nathan Parker don't bring much novelty to their future world, and yet I found something potent in the way Equals explored the stigmatization of depression, much of which is self-imposed. When Silas' co-workers discover he has SOS, they treat him as if he's got an infectious disease. They isolate him so they won't catch what he has, and he internalizes this aversion, which seems to increase his degree of SOS; isolation begetting isolation. People who conceal their undiagnosed SOS are called "hiders," a not too subtle reference. Equals is something of a cutter narrative or teenage depression narrative with just a touch, however chintzy, of Romeo and Juliet. While the world Silas and Nia inhabit is superficially utopian but a dystopia within, characters with SOS are inwardly depressed or dysphoric but forced to hide beneath an even-keeled veneer. They're the perfect kinds of citizens for this medicated hellscape. It's those little things that made Equals enjoyable. Its metaphor held solid while I acknowledge the elements surrounding it seemed shaky. If not shaky, then maybe too similar to things I've seen before. But again we have that outer/inner distinction that I've continually mentioned in this review. On the outside Equals is your standard-issue dystopian yarn with just a little bit of love for the misfit teenage set, but within there's something different and more messily human than the surface suggests.
Review: Equals photo
Star-crossed depression and dystopia
Any society that appears outwardly utopian is really just a nicely packaged dystopia. The orgiastic bacchanal of Logan's Run was really just an ugly form of institutionalized ignorance and population control. Gattaca was a st...

BioShock Twilight Zone photo
A dimension of sound, sight, and of mind
BioShock director Ken Levine is teaming with Interlude to explore the intersection of gaming and film: his next stop is The Twilight Zone. According to Wired, Levine and Interlude are finalizing their deal to use the tropes a...

Review: Hardcore Henry

Apr 10 // Nick Valdez
[embed]220494:42906:0[/embed] Hardcore HenryDirector: Ilya NaishullerRating: RRelease Date: April 8th, 2016 Cheesy as it is, Hardcore Henry is about you. When "Henry" (the audience) wakes up in a mysterious facility with no memory of how he got there, his wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) explains that he's suffered major disfigurement from an accident and this facility has put him back together using machinery (basically a more violent version of the Six Million Dollar Man). Then some shadow organization chases Henry down for 90 minutes. And all while during this, a mysterious man named Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) and his many faces seems to be the only one who knows what's going on.  While I'd hate to classify the film in such basic terms, comparisons to a videogame narrative are unfortunately apt. Hardcore Henry gleefully revels in juvenile wish fulfillment. You'll sit back and watch Henry mow down waves of spawning enemies (with little to nothing to distinguish between any of them), you'll see him utilize a variety of weapons he apparently loots from dead bodies, and you'll watch as he peers around corridors and fights in hallways. Every trope from first person shooter videogames is represented and, for a while, it's fun to see unfold. Characters make quips, the first person perspective leads to some enlightening action angles, and there's definitely a joy and humor to how grotesque its violence gets as it goes on. But after about fifteen minutes of these action scenes, the premise wears thin and the film turns into a collection of hollow gore shots trying to outdo one another in order to garner some kind of reaction. And that's only including the ones you can manage to follow.  Hardcore Henry is so focused on how cool things might look it forgets to tell any kind of story. The film essentially puts all of its eggs in one basket as it hopes the flow of the action will keep you invested. Unlike most action films, Henry's voiceless and faceless protagonist can't add anything to the overarching story. He's got no personality, no defining traits other than a relentless need to kill (for some reason that's never quite elaborated on), and it's not like Henry is an all inclusive point of view either as there as some unfortunate homophobic jokes thrown in the mix and it's heavily male friendly as it vies for that sweet 13 year old Mountain Dew demographic. So you can't even fully immerse yourself as a viewer as multiple moments in the narrative remind you Henry isn't you. At least when videogame narratives do things like this, it eventually hands back control to the individual and gives you other options for immersion. There's just nothing here to latch onto.  The film's one saving grace is by and far Sharlto Copley. He's an absolute joy every time he's on screen. It's just a shame he has to singlehandedly carry the film's weight. He's stuck providing so much exposition, jokes, and personality it's kind of running him thin. It's also not helped by the unintelligible scene settings. Henry ends up in several locations with no way other than Copley's Jimmy to help discern where the action is taking place. The film could take place anywhere between an entire city length and the walking distance between my kitchen and bathroom. The film's main device seems to be holding it back in that visual respect. In reference to an old Simpsons gag, every time Jimmy wasn't on screen I felt myself wondering when he was going to show up again. But I wonder if that's because I wanted more of Copley or I was just starved for something to get me through the rest of the film like a lone floating log in the middle of Hardcore Henry's bleak and monotonous ocean of gore.  Hardcore Henry touts itself as a cinematic experience. The first action film of its kind, it's certainly going to get a lot of attention and praise based on existence alone. But it's lacking the level of immersion or direction its premise promises. If I really had to compare it to videogames, watching Hardcore Henry is like going over to a buddy's house and watching him play a game for an hour. It looks neat, and there are bound to be some things that grab your attention, but before long you'll be so bored you'd rather be at home. 
Hardcore Review photo
Normcore
From its inception as music videos for director Ilya Naishuller's band Biting Elbows, Hardcore Henry boasted an unique central idea: crafting a well told action film entirely through the first person perspective on Go Pro cam...

Star Wars photo
What will you become?
Gareth Edwards is directing a Star Wars movie. The man who has helped to redefine how you direct large objects hurtling at each other has his hands on the Death Star and all of a galaxy far, far away. I mean, that's a fa...

RIP Erik Bauersfeld (1922-2016)

Apr 05 // Hubert Vigilla
RIP Erik Bauersfeld photo
The voice of Admiral Ackbar has passed
While you may not know Erik Bauersfeld by name, he's the man behind one of the most memorable moments in Return of the Jedi. As the Rebel Alliance fleet closes in on the second Death Star, Lando realizes the shields are still...

ND/NF Review: Evolution

Mar 21 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220389:42858:0[/embed] EvolutionDirector: Lucile HadzihalilovicRelease Date: TBDRating: TBDCountry: France The world of Evolution is mysterious from the get go, which is due largely to the coastal locale where the film is set. We don't know what year it is, or quite where this place is either. It's all so otherworldly, the sort of setting for tales, allegories, and de Chirico paintings. There are white stucco buildings built near the water, and the sand is black leading to the turbulent shore. It's beautiful in how stark it is. In the distance, there's a medical facility that looks like it was abandoned years ago, but boys and their mothers walk back and forth for periodic examinations. There are only grown women and young boys on this island. There are no men, there are no girls, and the mothers have a sinister uniformity about them. At night, the mothers leave their homes carrying hand lanterns and congregate near the water. The boys are just boys but are in the dark about their caretakers. The boys are raised on a diet of mashed kelp and something like worms, one of those foods that while heated in a saucepan still looks cold when it's served. Evolution centers primarily on Nicolas (Max Brebant) and his mother (Julie-Marie Parmentier), and what Nicolas discovers about this town and where babies come from. We follow him into the night, down long corridors, to water in the dark, and in the process participate in the act of discovery, unwrapping the allegory along with Nicolas, sharing in his repulsion and curiosity. Roughly midway through Evolution, this dive into the unknown slows, maybe too much for what's revealed about the mothers and their boys. Yet even what's revealed is just enough to suggest larger possibilities and delve deeper into the thematic territory of the movie--sex, childbirth, asexuality, violation, flesh, reproduction, biological processes. I sensed in the film's lull that Hadzihalilovic was signalling a move away from an explicit exploration of the plot and the machinery of the world to a series of ruminative brushstrokes, each one a deliberate move to the film's finale, which is more conceptual than visceral. In the immediate aftermath of Evolution, I felt a little let down, expecting more of a resolution to what's introduced early on. Yet the movie has this strange, lingering quality thanks to its pervasive otherworldliness. I mentioned Lovecraft and Cronenbeg earlier, but Hadzihalilovic makes this movie her own, invested with unique hobbyhorses and a fascinating sensibility. It's rare to see a movie that sticks around in your mind after an initial sense of disappointment. The fact I'm still thinking about Evolution, and deeper now than in the hours after the first viewing, have made me reevaluate Hadzihalilovic's languid pace, which unfolds with the same speed as a dream verging on a nightmare but never quite arriving there. Cinematographer Manuel Dacosse does a magnificent job in rendering these images and giving them such a haunting quality that I can't get several of them out of my head. Evolution's grown on me, like a skin graft or like coral, or maybe it's grown in me, like the stuff of recurring bad dreams.
Review: Evolution photo
Lingering, haunting, and yet
There's so much going for Lucile Hadzihalilovic's Evolution, a film expertly lensed from the deliberate first shot: looking up to the sky from underwater. From beneath, the ripples and waves on the ocean surface produce undul...

Review: The Divergent Series: Allegiant - Part 1

Mar 18 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220415:42865:0[/embed] The Divergent Series: Allegiant - Part 1Director: Robert SchwentkeRated: PG-13Release Date: March 18, 2016 In the interest of being open I did not see the second film in the series, Insurgence. Evidently nothing really important happened in it since I could easily pick up from where I'd left off after seeing the first one. The bad guys were defeated leaving divergents Tris (Shailene Woodley) and boyfriend Four (Theo James) victorious. Her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) is captured and comic relief Peter (Miles Teller) is running around being snarky. Tris wants to escape the walled off Chicago for the outside world as it has been revealed that their entire lives were an experiment to make divergents. However, the city gets locked down as the internal struggles start a civil war. That leads Tris and the rest of the cast to escape the city and find the lab that watches over the experiment and its director David (Jeff Daniels). From here a post-apocalyptic plot of epic stupidity unfolds, every turn making less sense than the next. Those that have read the book series say that it begins to get truly bad in the third book where it appears that the author really didn't know where she was going with the story. That seems blatantly clear from the film too as much of the plot's key point rely on twists and turns that make no sense or feel forced. Bad guys doing illogical things is a key staple of what bad guys do in movies, but in this case the bad guys aren't just illogical, but incompetent. Time and time again decisions are made that only serve as plot devices so the good guys can win, but make no sense in the world around them. It's bad plotting, bad world creation and bad movie making.  Speaking of bad film making, the cheapness continues to prevail in this series. Whether it's the special effects or what seem to be some of the worst extras ever caught on screen the movie feels budget in every aspect. Green screens often look like they simply hung a sheet up in the background and projected the image behind the actor. There's shots that look like the digital effects people just gave up halfway through. An early explosion looks like something you'd see in a SyFy made-for-TV movie, not a movie trying to be a blockbuster franchise. The end result is a film that feels cheap. Director Robert Schwenke doesn't do anything to ease this feeling. His direction is blunt, crude and cliche all while lacking any ability to tie a scene together. It would be harmless at the very least, but there are times where it is so poor that it actually made the audience laugh. He's working with a dramaless plot, but that still doesn't excuse his inability to raise the heart rate during action sequences. He has a cast made up of some of Hollywood's most talented youngsters and he can't do anything with them. Not that any of them seem to be trying. The overall tone of every performance seems to be regret. When this series started all these actors were still trying to make a mark, but now the majority of them are far too good to be showing up in a budget sci-fi movie like this. Teller feels especially lackadaisical throughout the film while Elgory appears to be searching for the nearest exit for most of the movie. The only person who didn't seem to get the memo about not caring is Daniels, but unfortunately the screenplay gives him next to nothing to work with. Allegiant is exactly what you get when you try to copy and paste a formula that succeeded elsewhere. It's cheap and lackluster, and it's hard to imagine what another entire film is even going to be about or why anyone would want to see it after sitting through this one.  
Divergent photo
Still not Hunger Games
When the first film in the Divergent series came out it was pretty obvious what was going on. Lionsgate wanted a Hunger Games so they found a young adult series with a post-apocalyptic setting and cast an up-and-com...

Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane

Mar 11 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]220396:42854:0[/embed] 10 Cloverfield LaneDirector: Dan TrachtenbergRelease Date: March 11, 2016Rating: PG-13 Rather than a Cloverfield sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a taut thriller spun out of a Twilight Zone conceit. In fact, it's a bit unfortnate that it carries the name Cloverfield and was billed as a spiritual sequel or blood relative to the 2008 film. I can foresee a lot of moviegoers being upset given the expectations they had going in, but really, 10 Cloverfield Lane deserves to be taken on its own terms. Sure, the movie will make more money thanks to the Cloverfield name, though it's a bit of a disservice to its content, which stands on its own as a strong feature film debut by director Dan Trachtenberg, and a great vehicle for its three stars: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher, Jr. There's something a little Hitchcockian about the opening of 10 Cloverfield Lane, though that's thanks in large part to Bear McCreary's score, which has plenty of echoes of Bernard Hermann. Michelle (Winstead) is a woman driving away from her past who's involved in a horrible car accident. When she comes to, she's chained up in an underground survival bunker that belongs to a man named Howard (Goodman). They're joined by an injured guy named Emmet (Gallagher), who claims to have run to the bunker for safety just as something unspeakable was happening above ground. The tension of 10 Cloverfield Lane stems from Michelle's uncertainty about this whole situation; the movie's set-up is a mystery box from which she's trying to escape. We're similarly left trying to figure out who Emmet and Howard really are and what their motives might be. Trachtenberg stages the unfolding drama through claustrophobic angles, carefully doling out sinister hints, red herrings, and brief moments of levity. It keeps the audience guessing what's to come and reassessing what's come before. There's the question of what's happened to the world (if anything), and whether or not the potential danger above ground is better than staying below. Howard's got a military background (or does he?) and claims the air's contaminated (or is it?), and that they may have to stay in his bunker for a year or two before it's safe to go out again. As an actor, Goodman's always been able to switch between kind and sinister with ease. His roles in Barton Fink and The Big Lebowski come to mind. Howard's made of mood swings, vacillating between good-hearted and unhinged. As he shows Michelle around the bunker, he calmly notes that the dinner table is a family heirloom, which means they have to use coasters and placemats at all times. Later, a calculated little touch of the fingers between Michelle and Emmet throws Howard into a rage, causing him to slam his fist on the table. Unreal domesticity has its own special kind of dread. Kathy Bates in Misery might be the best unit of comparison for Howard, with a good dose of Michael Shannon in Take Shelter for added flavor, but Goodman makes the role his own. Casting him makes perfect sense--who else could simultaneously play loving father and creepy uncle? Howard is so imposing, and Goodman could run away with the film (he only sort of does), so it's a good thing he has a strong counterpoint in Michelle. Winstead proves herself a more than capable as the film's hero. Her immediate instinct is escape, and as soon as she's in the bunker, she demonstrates her knack for craftiness and improvisation. She's a fighter, and maybe a lesser movie would paint her as a victim or a mere captor for most of the film's runtime. Instead we get someone strong from the start, and who is much more resourceful than she gives herself credit for. She's got layers still untapped, and there are plenty of twists as Michelle figures out what's going on in this mystery box. For Michelle, like so much about 10 Cloverfield Lane, there's a lot under the surface that's thrilling to discover.
10 Cloverfield Lane photo
Not a sequel, but that's a good thing
J.J. Abrams loves his mystery boxes, and the marketing campaign around 10 Cloverfield Lane is so darn mystery box-y: a movie seemingly made in secret, a release scheduled just two months after the first trailer, a t...

10 more Star Wars movies photo
10 more Star Wars movies

Disney is planning 10 more Star Wars movies, leading to state of perpetual war


Perpetual Star Wars
Mar 07
// Hubert Vigilla
Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 for $4 billion, and they're going to make that golden goose keep giving until it's spent (at which point they'll make Star Wars foie gras). An inside source with the company said that th...
Dark Tower photo
Maybe Roland will finally make it
I was pretty confident that this round of "we're making a Dark Tower" movie was going to end in the same way all the others did: cancellation. However, they got a director and then there were casting rumors and now we have ac...

Guardians Vol. 2 photo
Pom Klementieff will play Mantis
While I personally am tiring a bit on the Marvel universe (note: this will last until the next awesome movie lands) I don't think I could be any more excited for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Shooting has just begun and tha...

Star Wars VIII photo
Star Wars VIII

Watch a few seconds of Star Wars Episode VIII in this official production announcement video


Laura Dern & Benicio Del Toro join cast
Feb 15
// Hubert Vigilla
Though the release date of Rian Johnson's Star Wars Episode VIII has been pushed back several months, Disney has announced that production is now under way. They did so with a brief video, which seems to pick up where Star Wars: The Force Awakens left off. Give the announcement video a look below.
10 Cloverfield Lane TV photo
10 Cloverfield Lane TV

10 Cloverfield Lane teases a certain monster in this mysterious Super Bowl TV spot


Roooaaar
Feb 08
// Hubert Vigilla
The first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane came from out of nowhere. (Sort of like an RKO.) Directed by Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams, the film had a similarly mysterious Super Bowl TV spot that teased the poten...
Ewan McGregor Star Wars photo
Ewan McGregor Star Wars

Ewan McGregor discusses his Star Wars: The Force Awakens cameo


Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks
Feb 01
// Hubert Vigilla
Several months ago we reported that Ewan McGregor might have a cameo in the new Star Wars films. Turns out the rumors were true. While promoting Jane Got a Gun (a western starring Natalie Portman) on Jimmy Kimmel Live, McGreg...
Avatar 2 delayed photo
Avatar 2 delayed

James Cameron's Avatar 2 delayed yet again


And no one really cares
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Looks like that Avatar sequel James Cameron has been working on for years is getting pushed back yet again. This is not a repeat from the last few years. Avatar 2 was unofficially slated for a Christmas 2017 release after a p...
Star Wars 8 pushed back photo
Star Wars 8 pushed back

Star Wars Episode VIII release date pushed back to December 2017, Rian Johnson doing rewrites


Star Wars may be a Christmas tradition
Jan 25
// Hubert Vigilla
Star Wars Episode VIII was originally going to be released on May 26, 2017, but now the film has been pushed back seven months. The new release date for Star Wars 8 is December 15, 2017. Rian Johnson is still set to begin pro...
Screenings photo
Screenings

See The 5th Wave early and free


Washington DC and Norfolk
Jan 19
// Matthew Razak
Ready for some low-grade January destruction movie stylings? Early every year we get a slew of these types of movies and sometimes they can be really fun. The 5th Wave could be fun. It definitely has some interesting sla...
Cloverfield Lane photo
Well, this came out of nowhere
While we were all focused on Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year, Bad Robot was quietly putting together the next film in the Cloverfield series. Somewhat related to 2008's Cloverfield, this project (which was most likely ...

Ridley Scott/The Prisoner photo
Ridley Scott/The Prisoner

Ridley Scott wants to adapt The Prisoner for the big screen


Plus Hubert's preferred episode order
Jan 11
// Hubert Vigilla
Originally aired in 1967 and 1968, The Prisoner is one of the best TV shows of all time. Many directors have tried to bring it to the big screen, including Simon West and Christopher Nolan, and the show had a poorly received ...
Force Awakens/New Hope photo
Force Awakens/New Hope

J.J. Abrams talks Star Wars: The Force Awakens and similarities to A New Hope


In short: I meant to do that!
Jan 11
// Hubert Vigilla
Whether you liked The Force Awakens or not, there's one thing everyone can agree on: Episode VII is very similar to A New Hope and The Original Trilogy. As director J.J. Abrams recently explained, that was by design. "It was ...
Transformers photo
Transformers

Michael Bay confirms he is back for Transformers 5


Rumors of 50 dump trucks full of money
Jan 05
// Matthew Razak
Michael Bay has made progressively worse Transfomers  movies since the original film was released and they have made progressively more money. Despite the fact that he's constantly talking about leaving the franchise he ...

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Dec 16 // Matthew Razak
[embed]220217:42739:0[/embed] Star Wars: The Force AwakensDirector: J.J. AbramsRated: PG-13Release Date: December 16, 2015 After the conclusion of Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has disappeared and no one knows where to find him (Sidenote: In the meta world of J.J. Abrams this plays right into Hamill's absence from all advertising). In his absence the dark side has begun to establish itself once again in the form of The First Order, which is basically the Empire reconstituted. They are led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a Sith lord in training and pupil of the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Meanwhile the Resistance, commanded by General Leia (Carrie Fisher), is fighting back with the support of the Republic behind it. More importantly, though, on a small desert planet a map to Luke Skywalker ends up inside a droid called BB-8, who is subsequently found by a scavenger named Rey (Daisey Ridely). She is joined by a fleeing storm trooper named Finn (John Boyega) and a few other familiar faces as they try to get the map to the Resistance.  An adorable droid with a secret message found on a desert planet. A group of rag-tag rebels fighting against a militaristic empire. A dark lord in a black helmet. A young hero drawn into the fight through chance. Sound familiar? It should. You can simply pop in A New Hope and you'll have most of the plot for this one.  Much like J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek: Into Darkness he has taken a beloved movie and remade it for the fans. Almost everything is a throwback to the original movies, and only the original movies. It's very obvious that Abrams does not want anyone even remotely thinking about Episodes I-III. As such this is a giant film of fan service from throw away lines to cameos to plot to visuals. If it's a memorable moment from Episodes IV-VI it's probably somewhere in this movie. Whether you consider that a good thing or not is up to you, for this fan it was awesome, despite some concern that we're just seeing a bit of misguided fan placation like Into Darkness. Last week Lucas let slip his opinion of the film and he said that the fans would love it. It's easy to see why that's his opinion. The movie doesn't really break new ground, which is probably its most disappointing aspect. It definitely has plenty of twists and surprises for fans, but this isn't really a universe expanding premise. It feels more like a reset. The Force Awakens is the palette cleanser that's wrapping up everything with its nods to the old guard and its introduction to the new. Hopefully, it's the new that's going to stick around. The best part of the film are our two new heroes and villain, Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren, respectively. While old faces showing up is fun and all, it's these three newcomers who breath life into the movie. It's these characters that change the movie from a bunch of fan service into something genuine and good -- something that feels like Star Wars. They are us on screen: awed by the legends they're walking with, cowed by the power they have, and establishing a new struggle between dark and light. If these are the characters we'll be joining on this new journey then we're in good hands. With Abrams sticking around we'll be in good directing hands as well. To start, someone talked with him about lens flares and despite all the opportunities that lightsabers offer for such an effect he is impressively restrained with their use. This applies to his entire style for the film, which feels closer to the gritty-ness of the original trilogy than the high gloss of the second set. You'll also be happy to hear that Lucas' stilted dialog and wooden characters are gone. The screenplay is charming and witty and without any Jar Jar Binks type antics. While the plot relies on what can only be described as a Death-Star-sized McGuffin in a space opera such as this that's exactly how it should be. Abrams also isn't going to pull any punches. He's got this franchise in his hands and it's very clear from this movie that he's going to do whatever he wants with it. Thankfully what he wants to do is make you love it again.  That is probably most evident in the fact that actual star wars occur in this Star Wars. The action is superb and creates that sense of wonder you felt watching the original trilogy's outerspace dog fights. It makes you think back to the awe you felt watching the final attack on the Death Star in A New Hope. Part of that might be the fact that much of the direction steals directly from that film, but if you're going to "pay homage" might as well go all out. It's also ironic that it's the old school special effects (actual droids, no CGI when not needed) that make the film look even better. This franchise got its legs thanks to its advanced real-world special effects, and it's finding them again by going back to them. All this said, The Force Awakens is definitely only the beginning of something, and it can feel like that. There is a lot of necessary exposition that takes place to catch folks up. Abrams does his best to make you miss it, but it starts to stand out by the end. The film is also carrying the duty of establishing a new universe after Disney wiped the entire expanded universe from canon. They're doing a lot in this one film and it can make the movie feel a little heavy handed. Then again subtlety was never the franchise's strong point. This is the beginning of something, however. It's a farewell to the old guard and a welcome to the new. As such it's hard to begrudge the film its plethora of callbacks, repeated plot line and heavy exposition. These things are necessary to pull off what is needed in order to make new Star Wars movies that can stand on their own and don't alienate the fans, who already got burned once. This is a movie that honors what came, but leads into what is to come. Hopefully, when Episode VIII rolls around it can truly be its own thing.
Star Wars photo
This is the Star Wars you're looking for
Sixteen years ago Star Wars returned, but it wasn't the return we were all hoping for. It was the return George Lucas wanted, which turned out to be not so good. Fans had constructed decades worth of universe and build up in ...

The Force Awakens photo
The Force Awakens

PSA - Star Wars: The Force Awakens reviews start hitting the internet December 16th


In case you want to stay spoiler-free
Dec 14
// Hubert Vigilla
Hey, guys. This is the week that Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes out. I know a lot of you have avoided trailers and are trying to go into the movie blind. Even though we've been reporting on Force Awakens stuff, I've simil...
Independence Day 2 photo
Weaponized nostalgia has arrived
It's here, guys. The trailer for Roland Emmerich's Independence Day: Resurgence is now on the interwebs, shown below with little comment for your viewing pleasure. Here's the official synopsis for the film: We always knew t...

George Lucas Episode VII photo
George Lucas Episode VII

George Lucas has seen The Force Awakens and offers his thoughts


He likes it from a certain point of view
Dec 08
// Hubert Vigilla
Steven Spielberg has supposedly seen The Force Awakens three times now, which means he'd probably do well in the #AlamoJedi contest. I'm sure J.J. Abrams has watched through it more, but many people wonder what George Lucas t...

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