The Force Awakens

7fhdje1It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas — but who cares?  I mean, come on!  We’re less than two weeks away from the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the geek world is in full Star Wars madness mode.

You could spend hours just surfing the internet for information about the new movie.  To save you at least part of the trouble, here’s a sampling of some of the diverse Star Wars stories out there:  an interesting BBC interview with Harrison Ford and director J.J. Abrams, a story collecting seven of the most far-out fan theories about the plot lines of the movie (Jar Jar Binks a Sith Lord?  Seriously??), and an article positing that a careful review of the Star Wars trading cards that are now being sold reveal crucial story elements.  And, of course, you can go to the official website if you want to watch the trailers a few dozen more times to get ready for the big day.

I’m not much for trying to figure things out before I go to see a much-anticipated movie, so I’m not going to actually read any spoiler reveals or try to guess what might happen to Han, Luke, Leia, and the new generation of Jedi warriors.  I’d rather take my Star Wars pure and unadulterated by anything other than approved previews.  So for now, I’ll count the days until the movie hits the theaters, check out safe stuff like the Spanish language poster printed above, and think:  that movie looks like it is going to be pretty cool.

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Reimagining Star Wars

When we last saw Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, they were on a forest moon, celebrating the death of the Emperor and the downfall of the Empire, surrounded by happy Ewoks and the ghosts of Yoda, Darth Vader, and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Next year, they’ll be back.  The new installment of Star Wars begins filming in a few weeks, and all of the original cast members, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, as well as the actors who played Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO, will be back.  They’ll be joined by some new folks as well as the actor who plays the distasteful boyfriend character on Girls, who apparently will be a villain.  Obviously, the story will take place years after the end of Return of the Jedi.

When George Lucas decided to make The Phantom Menace, he was taking a risk in reinvigorating a beloved and colossally popular movie franchise — but the risk involved in reintroducing the familiar characters from the original Star Wars movies in this latest feature is even greater.  What has happened to Han and Leia?  Did they get married and have kids, or did something happen to keep them apart?  Do any of the characters die?  Whatever happens, people will be second-guessing the story, and the fact that this new film won’t be directed by George Lucas is just going to increase the scrutiny.

I loved the original Star Wars films and fondly remember watching the first movie at the old University Flick theatre next to the Ohio State campus and then going back to see it again and again.  I’m looking forward to being reintroduced to some of the most iconic movie characters of all time, but I’m warning new director J.J. Abrams — handle with care.

To Boldly Go . . . To A Theater Near You

The next installment in the venerable Star Trek franchise is called Into Darkness and will be released this summer.  The official trailer has hit the theaters.  Richard and I saw it when we took in The Hobbit a few weeks ago, and it looks awesome.

I think the original Star Trek characters — Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, and Sulu — are in very good hands with J.J. Abrams at the helm, and the new cast is excellent.  In the first Abrams-directed episode, the film changed history and thereby veered away from the Star Trek back stories that would otherwise have limited the possible story lines in the new version.  I expect Abrams to spring all kind of surprises, and that sounds good to me.

The new film looks like it takes a long and pointed look at the arrogance and overconfidence of one James T. Kirk, and that’s a story that definitely needs telling.  I can’t wait!

Super 8

From the 90-degree temperatures that have made Columbus a sweltering place in the last week or so, I think it is safe to say that it is summer.  So, Kish and I decided we should dip our toes in the summer movie season, and tonight we went to Super 8.  It was a wise decision.

Super 8 is a great summer movie.  It draws deeply on the strong Hollywood tradition of youngster “coming of age” movies.  Think of E.T., and Stand By Me, and you will get a sense of the arc of the storyline.  The movie is set in 1979 — and in Ohio! — where a gang of nerdy young boys who are filming a Super 8 movie about zombies end up enmeshed in a much bigger story than they expected.  The hero, who is dealing with tragedy in his own life, grows up quickly as he is faced with great challenges, and along the way the dialogue between the kids crackles, there are a number of humorous moments, and terrific recreations of the 1970s clothing styles, hairstyles, and lifestyles bring back lots of memories.  Couple that with some very moving set pieces — a scene where the young male and female leads inadvertently watch some home movies left Kish in tears — as well as action, sci-fi, an alien, a military cover-up, and just the right amount of computer-generated special effects, and you’ve got all of the elements that anyone could want in a summer blockbuster.

Director J.J. Abrams seems to have his hand on the pulse on America in the same way that Steven Spielberg did during his heyday.  Abrams gets wonderful performances from his two leads — Joel Courtney as the growing-up-before-our-eyes Joe Lamb, and Elle Fanning in a stunning tour de force as Alice Dainard — but the rest of the young cast members are quite good, too.  (I particularly liked Ryan Lee as firecracker-obsessed Cary, a pitch-perfect ’70s kid.)  They also are tremendously believable as the wisecracking young gang that is struggling to grow up while also still reveling in simple childlike pursuits, like lighting firecrackers, building models, and trying to make Super 8 movies. The adult actors are all good, but the kids really steal the show.

If you go to this movie — and I highly recommend you do — be sure you stay for the screening of the finished Super 8 movies that runs during the credits.  It is a classic in its own right.