Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a thrilling movie that will entertain even the most cynical Star Wars fans. The film lays a solid foundation that will hopefully act as a springboard for future entries. Its strengths are its compelling characters and fantastic action sequences. At times it feels overly reliant on past star wars films, yet this does not detract too much from the movie.

The film begins 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Galactic Empire has been replaced by the First Order, which seeks to eliminate the Resistance. First Order commander Kylo Ren attacks a village on the planet Jakku where a droid, BB-8, holds a map containing Luke Skywalker’s location. BB-8 escapes the attack and meets up with Rey, a junkyard scavenger on Jakku. Meanwhile, the captured resistance pilot Poe Dameron escapes with the help of Fin, a stormtrooper who becomes unable to kill for the First Order. Rey and BB-8 eventually meet up with Fin on Jakku and the three flee Jakku in the Millenium Falcon. They encounter Han Solo and become players in the conflict between the Restistance and the First Order.

Rey and Kylo Ren are the most interesting new characters. Rey is arguably the hero of the film. Her journey takes her from being a scavenger on Jakku to being Luke Skywalker’s Padawan. It’s insane how quickly she jumps from obscurity to being the most important person in the galaxy. She is able to pilot the Millenium Falcon better than Han Solo and seems predestined for greatness as a Jedi.

Adam Driver plays Kylo Ren. He is the antagonist of the film and a complex villain. At first he appears wholly consumed by the dark side. However we learn that he is the grandson of Darth Vader and seduced into the First Order by Supreme Leader Snoke. Kylo Ren struggles to fully embrace the dark side and this torments him. Adam Driver excels in this role. We assume that a monster hides beneath his mask. It’s shocking when he reveals his handsome face. Kylo Ren is equal parts terrifying and attractive. I give credit to whoever casted both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley because their characters are what makes The Force Awakens entertaining.

The film sometimes feels like a direct rip-off of the original Star Wars films. At times The Force Awakens feels like a direct remake of A New Hope. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does feel unoriginal. The purpose of The Force Awakens is to establish a foundation for future films. It does not introduce any themes or ideas that leave you feeling changed. It keeps itself in the safety of what made A New Hope such a great film. If you can borrow your storyline from a predecessor, you can avoid the pitfalls that come with creating a brand new plot. Ultimately this is my greatest gripe with The Force Awakens. It makes no effort to change the Star Wars legacy in new ways. It is comfortable existing in safe and familiar territory.

This does not detract that much from the film. The Force Awakens is still a truly entertaining movie. It is a spectacle to behold and it will leave you wanting more. Whether or not you are a Star Wars fan, it’s likely that you will enjoy The Force Awakens.

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On Krampus

I like that make me feel scared. I understand that many people do not enjoy this feeling. The first time I watched a horror movie, I did not get the appeal. Why would I want to feel like something bad is about to happen? Over time you become used to this feeling and even start to enjoy it. “Horror” movies create feelings that other movies never evoke. For this reason, I believe that horror movies are special.

Krampus, is a film directed by Michael Dougherty and stars Adam Scott, Toni Collette, and David Koechner as family members trapped in a house on Christmas. What begins as a power outage morphs into a full-on siege by assorted satanic creatures lead by the titular Krampus. Krampus and his henchmen kill members of the family for being bad on Christmas.

Parts of this movie are a lot of fun. I found myself not caring that much about any of the characters. Except for the youngest child Max, Krampus kills at random. Many characters exist simply to be killed in a satisfying way. I’m not the biggest fan of the holidays, so I found some entertainment watching occult-inspired holiday monsters devouring right-wing macho hummer-drivers and obese bullies. The movie succeeds on this level. There is a pure joy in watching bad people being killed in interesting ways.

I find myself wishing that Krampus had taken more risks. Its violence operates in the PG-13 realm. More brutality would have given this movie an edge. People shoot guns constantly, but there is barely any blood or horrific bodily consequences. This lack of realistic violence soured soured the movie in my opinion.

Krampus is worth a watch for anyone who claims to be a horror fan. Don’t expect much gore but do expect some satisfaction at the expense of christmas spirit. This movie is worth the price of a matinee ticket and I would also reccommend seeing it on a large screen. Continue reading On Krampus

Is Creed another Boring Reboot?

A few weeks ago I watched Creed, the seventh iteration in the Rocky franchise. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Having only seen the original Rocky, I have no investment in the franchise. I am so accustomed to reboots being less effective than originals. We live in an age where it seems like every movie is a reboot, because the only way to make money is to make something that people will recognize. No one is willing to risk their chance of being entertained on an unknown.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with reboots. I am actually happy when things from my past are remade. It provides the chance to re-experience something that I love in a new way. It also gives me a window to see what people liked before I was born. Five years ago, I had no familiarity with the Rocky movies. I had some experience with them from their famous iconography, mainly from parodies. People, punching meat, running up the stairs in Philadelphia, etc. But I had no who Sylvester Stallone was or why the original film spawned so many sequels.

Thanks to current podcasts and movie reviews, I have gained an appreciation for the Rocky films. The original Rocky is a phenomenal experience. It’s an uplifting underdog story that makes you feel good. Rocky doesn’t even win his final boxing match but his participation alone feels like a victory. Just competing in the ring with Apollo Creed is enough. I feel this idea is the true core of Rocky. The idea of not being influenced by anyone else’s ideas. Rocky doesn’t cry and bemoan his loss. He knows that his journey to the final match was worth it. He doesn’t need to win because victory alone doesn’t mean anything to him.

I feel this message is carried into Creed. Adonis does not win his fight either but his effort is still inspiring. Without effort, victory is nothing. Creed succeeds because it maintains this message. I recommend the movie to everyone.