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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILERS!!)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise. It’s the first film of the newest trilogy, and the first truly great Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back (Return of the Jedi was a glorified toy commercial and a bit of a letdown. It’s still better than the prequel trilogy though). J.J. Abrams takes over the director’s chair and breaths fresh life into the series. There are new characters, new planets, new aliens, but with enough nostalgia to bring a smile to the most cynical of Star Wars fans. If you don’t like this film, you don’t like Star Wars and I feel bad for you. You have no sense of fun or adventure and you bring everyone down around you.

I didn’t have the chance to see The Force Awakens on opening night. I finally got to see it yesterday. It was worth the wait. I almost teared up as the introductory text crawl appeared onscreen. It’s been a long time since we visited Luke Skywalker and friends. To find out he was missing was surprising. Instantly you wonder what lies ahead. The first action sequence was overwhelming and you knew that you got your money’s worth right away.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot. I don’t think the plot is all that important. Star Wars was always more about the characters. If you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care about what happens to them. John Boyega plays Finn, a stormtrooper that quickly finds his conscious and joins the resistance. You can see his reluctance to kill before you ever see his face. Daisy Ridley play Rey, a fierce and tough scavenger who is thrust into an adventure she never planned for but is completely capable of handling. The most important new character is arguably BB-8, the droid that dominated the Christmas toy market. He is a robot that beeps and boops like R2-D2 and seems like a mechanical puppy a lot of the time. If you don’t buy him, you won’t like the film. He’s like Wall-E. He’s a mechanical object that has more emotions than a fourteen-year-old girl.

The new characters aren’t all good guys either. You have to have some bad guys for them to fight against. The Force Awakens has bad guys in spades. There’s Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, a masked villain who inevitably reminds you of Darth Vader, yet is still relatable. It helps that he takes his mask off and you find out his backstory in this film as opposed to waiting a few years for the sequel to discover who he is. He reminds me of Tom Hiddleston as Loki in the Marvel cinematic universe. Andy Serkis portrays Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious master of the dark side who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. We have a lot more to learn about him. Domhnall Gleeson plays General Hux, the Grand Moff Tarkin of the new trilogy. He’s a bad guy, but he’s a bureaucrat as opposed to an evil Jedi.

I haven’t even started talking about the returning characters. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew returning as Han Solo and Chewbacca was worth the price of admission alone. They had a much bigger part than I thought they would. I was expecting a glorified cameo. It was anything but. They drove the plot forward. Carrie Fisher returned as Leia Organa. She’s a general as opposed to a princess now. Anthony Daniels returns as C-3PO, although he’s almost unrecognizable with his new red arm. You also see a lot of former background characters reappear. I won’t lie, it was awesome seeing Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb again. I didn’t know that I missed them. I did.

The best thing about The Force Awakens is that it feels like a new Star Wars film. You get to catch up with old characters but the focus is on the new characters and nothing feels forced about it (enjoy that pun). There’s a passing of the torch. It’s not about Luke, Leia, and Han anymore. That’s a good thing. You don’t want to live in the past. Well, maybe you do but you shouldn’t.

You need to see this movie and it’s best to see it with other Star Wars nerds. It’s much more enjoyable to share a look and a comment with a friend when you both catch an obscure reference. It’s not a perfect movie, but no movies are. It’s still exciting and it hooks you in and leaves you breathless until the end. There are only a few characters and scenes that seem out of place but it all seems like is building up to something in the sequels. I will testify that we sat in the theater when the film ended and talked about everything we witnessed as the credits rolled. It’s not often that you want to immediately go back and watch what you just saw. That’s a testament to how satisfying The Force Awakens was. I could write a lot more about this movie. I’m going to drink a beer instead.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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King Kong (2005 film)

What’s the next project you tackle after you make one of the most successful film trilogies of all time, making billions of dollars and winning multiple Oscars in the process? If you’re Peter Jackson, you do a remake of a movie about a monkey that already had another remake. He could have done anything he wanted after the Lord of the Rings and he chose to spend $207 million making a movie that everybody’s already seen. And it made $550.5 million. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.

Naomi Watts and Adrien Brody are the main characters, an unsuccessful actress and a published playwright respectively, who are duped into working for a shady filmmaker played by a miscast Jack Black. They head out to Skull Island to film a movie with a ragtag cast and crew. Skull Island is a place that time forgot about, inhabited by dinosaurs, gigantic insects, and, of course, King Kong.

Kong takes a fancy to Naomi Watts and kidnaps her. Adrien Brody has to save her because he’s the hero and it’s in the script. There are lots of cool sequences on the island, and eventually Kong is chloroformed and captured and Jack Black takes him back to New York City where he opens a show with an enslaved Kong as the star.

Kong escapes and tries to find the sexy blonde woman that stole his heart and destroys a city in the process before he climbs the Empire State Building and gets shot by fighter planes. Then Jack Black says, “It wasn’t the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast.” But you know that’s not true. You fucking see the fucking planes kill fucking Kong. Maybe he was speaking metaphorically, but you clearly see the planes murder the monkey.

King Kong drags on a bit in the beginning. It’s more than an hour before you see Kong for the first time. It’s called King Kong. Bring on the main attraction already. Once he shows up the movie takes off. There are a couple of cool creature sequences, highlighted by the fight between Kong and three wannabe T-rexes.  There’s also an ambitious scene with stampeding dinosaurs and shoddy CG work. It could have been cool, but it looks stupid.

Jack Black is miscast. Adrien Brody has a big fucking nose. Naomi Watts is sexy. Colin Hanks has a part in this movie because he has a famous dad. There is a stupid subplot between the Captain and a young cabin boy. Andy Serkis plays King Kong and has a role as the ship’s cook. He plays CG creatures better than he plays people. The less you see his face, the better.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is both an homage to old Hollywood films and a current reminder that people will pay money to see unoriginal movies again and again and again. It has its moments, but it’s a bloated and unnecessary production. The world did not need another King Kong movie. But we got one.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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