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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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42 (film)

42 is a 2013 biopic about Jackie Robinson. It was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. The film focuses primarily on Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The film starts with Branch Rickey, the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, making the bold decision to bring a black player to the major leagues. He only has to find the right one, someone with talent, skill, and the ability to take abuse without fighting back. He finds what he’s looking for in a young player named Jackie Robinson.

Jackie must endure racism and prejudice from his own teammates, other teams, managers, fans, and the media on his path to breaking the color barrier. He experiences things what would make anybody break but he handles it all with grace and class, keeping his mouth shut and letting his bat do the talking. And all the way he inspires people. He changes people. He changes the world. And he does it playing baseball.

Chadwick Boseman does a serviceable job playing the legendary Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t take anything away. I couldn’t name an actor that could do it better off the top of my head, but nothing about his portrayal really grips you. Harrison Ford is a scene-stealer as always. He growls and chews his way through his lines. Alan Tudyk’s brief appearance as Ben Chapman, the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, also deserves recognition.


           42 is not a perfect film. It’s not a hundred percent accurate and they take some liberties in telling the story. That’s to be expected. It’s a Hollywood biopic, not a documentary. Jackie disappears during a few parts of the movie and it becomes The Branch Rickey Story far too often. Yeah, Branch Rickey played a huge part in racial integration but I wanted to see a movie about Jackie Robinson, not another flick about a rich white guy. There’s also an unnecessary scene involving homoerotic showering that left me scratching my head. Jackie’s teammate seems way too interested in seeing Jackie naked. Like way too interested. I also wish that they showed more things from Jackie’s career like other black players entering the game and when he was finally tenured enough to be able to fight back.

It’s still a good movie. I would recommend it. The good outweighs the bad and it’s important to recognize and honor Jackie Robinson. The movie depicts him in a positive light and you’ll respect him more after you watch it. But this film only gives you a glimpse of his life and he did a lot of great things that aren’t included in the two-hour running time. I want more. I demand a sequel.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back is the best chapter in the Star Wars saga and one of the best sequels of all time. George Lucas hands the directing responsibilities to Irvin Kershner, and the resulting performances from the actors are more dynamic and layered. This sequel takes everything good about the original and expands upon it. It’s faster, darker, and more interesting. Plus it has a better, more intense lightsaber duel.

            The main characters all return, and we meet a few new characters: Yoda and Lando. Billy Dee Williams plays the shifty Lando Calrissian, a former friend of Han’s. Lando is cool, but it’s all about Yoda. Muppet guru Frank Oz provides the voice and brings Yoda to life. The real Yoda is a puppet, not a computer animated abomination with a little lightsaber.

The Empire Strikes Back is a little different from most blockbusters. The big action scene happens in the beginning with the invasion of Hoth. The film ends with an emotional climax. Han Solo is trapped in carbonite and sent to Jabba the Hutt and you find out that Darth Vader is Luke’s dad. I really hope you knew that already.

            Star Wars was a revolutionary film that changed cinema in a lot of ways. The Empire Strike Back is step forward for the franchise. It’s more adult and it has deeper themes. It still has one of the best cliffhanger endings ever. You want to watch Return of the Jedi as soon as the credits start to roll.

The only thing that weirds me out about this movie is when Leia made out with Luke. Galactic incest is still incest.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Wars

Star Wars is one of the best movies of all time. It might have been officially renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but it will always be Star Wars. George Lucas was a genius once, and this was his directorial highlight. Some people will say Empire Strikes Back is better, and I will tell them that Irvin Kershner directed Episode V, and that maybe they should shut the fuck up and let the real nerds talk about Star Wars.

There are three types of people in the world. People who have seen Star Wars and love it, people who have seen Star Wars and hate it, and people who have never seen Star Wars. The people who either love or hate Star Wars can agree on one thing: you are a freak if you haven’t seen Star Wars. I don’t even know how it’s possible to have not seen Star Wars at this point. It practically is pop culture.

Even if you haven’t seen Star Wars you know that Luke Skywalker has some sort of beef with Darth Vader. You know that Han Solo has a man-dog friend named Chewbacca. And you know that Princess Leia has cinnamon buns for hair. You also know the basic plot: a boy must grow up and face his destiny and embarks on the classic hero’s quest. There’s the everyman, the rogue shifty ally, the damsel in distress, the old wizard/mentor, and the villain with a powerful weapon. There are swords, knights, honor/chivalry, and space ships, robots, and aliens. And don’t forget about the fucking lightsabers, bro.

Star Wars was supposed to be a flop. The idea was so ambitious and the technology was so limited, it didn’t seem like it could possibly be a success. But the story and characters resonated with the audience. John Williams created music as iconic as the visuals on the screen. The world was changed. This was the first true sci-fi blockbuster. Movies are supposed to be an escape. Star Wars took you to a whole new universe and the movie stays with you long after you see it. Some people devote their lives to Star Wars. I can’t blame them because reality bites but Star Wars is awesome.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Harrison Ford dons the famous fedora for the third time in Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. This isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it’s the best sequel in the series for sure. Sean Connery joins the cast as Indy’s kidnapped father. Who better to play Indy’s dad than motherfucking James Bond?

This movie opens with River Phoenix portraying a 13-year-old Indiana Jones on a horseback ride in Utah. He comes across some thieves trying to steal a gold cross. He decides that the cross belongs in a museum so he steals it and tries to escape. It’s brief scene that seems like a precursor to the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and you find out how he got his trademark scar, whip, and fedora. It’s a great way to start the film, and it’s way more relevant than an extravagant musical number.

One day, Indiana Jones meets a guy named Walter Donovan (Julian Glover) who tells him that his dad has been kidnapped while looking for the Holy Grail. Indy doesn’t get along with his father, but he’s still his dad so he goes to rescue him, armed with his trusty whip and his father’s diary. Indy goes to Venice to pick up his dad’s trail and meets Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody), the love interest for the film.

Indy and Elsa have a little adventure exploring the catacombs and nearly getting killed by The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a secret society that protects the Holy Grail. The Brotherhood decides that Indy is a swell guy and tells him that the Nazis have his father held hostage in a castle.

Indy goes to the castle and finds his dad, and then he finds out that both Elsa and Walter Donovan are working for the Nazis. Indy and his dad escape and overcome a bunch of obstacles like motorcycles and blimps and tanks, all while attempting to beat the Nazis to tracking down the Grail.

They reach the canyon where the Grail is, but the Nazis are already there. Donovan shoots Sean Connery, forcing Indy to have to navigate through a few crazy booby traps using the information in his dad’s diary. Indy gets to the Grail and is able to use its healing powers to save his dad. But then Elsa takes the Grail past the great seal (that’s like crossing the streams, it’s bad), and the whole canyon/temple thing starts to collapse. Sometimes I wish Indy stayed in that temple… if he died they couldn’t have made Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

The father-son dynamic between Henry Jones, Sr. and Henry Jones, Jr. is what makes the film. Indy just wants his dad’s approval, but Henry makes him work for his affection. He loves his son, he just doesn’t know how to convey it. Indy uses his fists and violence to escape situations, and his dad tends to use his wits, best exemplified when he uses his umbrellas to scare the birds and bring down the Nazi plane.

It seems like they figured out who Indiana Jones is and what he represents. This movie is much more like the original than Temple of Doom. There are a lot of great moments in this movie. At one point Indy comes face to face with Adolf Hitler. Indiana Jones was hanging out with world leaders way before Forrest Gump made it cliché. This is a good movie and a great way to end the trilogy. Too bad it’s not a trilogy anymore.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones returns to the big screen in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This sequel is actually a prequel, Raiders of the Lost Ark takes place in 1936, and this is set in 1935. Indy is on the hunt for a mystical stone, not nearly as exciting as the Ark of the Covenant, but whatever advances the plot does the job. George Lucas wrote and produced the movie and Spielberg directed it. It’s not as good as Raiders, but it’s a satisfying sequel.

The movie starts with a musical number at Club Obi Wan in Shanghai. That’s quite a turnaround from the opening sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones shows up and is wrapping up an exciting adventure that involves a diamond and an antidote to some poison that Indy drinks. We are introduced to an obnoxious American showgirl named Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Indy’s exploited Asian sidekick Short Round (Jonathan Ke Quan). Jonathan Ke Quan is a Vietnamese actor who is playing a Chinese kid because Hollywood is racist and all Asians look alike. Indiana, Willie, and Short Round escape on a plane, but their plane is owned by the criminal they barely escaped from. They end up using a raft as a glorified parachute and find themselves in the main plotline.

After falling thousands and thousands of feet and sliding down a mountain in an inflatable raft, Indy and his pals find themselves in an Indian village. The villagers are in trouble and need Indy’s help. It seems that some assholes from Pankot Palace stole their sacred stone and kidnapped all the kids. The kids seem to be an afterthought, they really want their magic rock back.

Indiana agrees to help them because he’s Indiana Jones and the movie would suck if he didn’t do anything. So he heads to Pankot Palace with Willie and Short Round. They meet the young Maharajah, the king of Pankot Palace and they enjoy a lavish feast, complete with eyeball soup and chilled monkey brains for dessert.

Indy gets attacked by an assassin and decides that something is not quite right in the palace. He goes snooping around and finds a bunch of hidden passageways and tunnels that lead to the Temple of Doom.

Inside the Temple of Doom is a freaky cult of freaky fuckers that believe in child labor, human sacrifice, and ripping beating hearts out of people’s chests. Indy, Willie, and Short Round are all captured by the evil cult. Short Round gets to join all the child slaves, Willie gets to be a human sacrifice, and Indy gets to be converted into a brainwashed cult zombie.

Short Round manages to escape and snaps Indy out of his trance, and he frees Willie, and they celebrate by taking a roller coaster ride in a mine cart. After that fun ride, there’s some drama involving a rickety bridge with hungry crocodiles. Indy, Willie, and Short Round emerge triumphant and return to the village with their magic rock and all the kids. I’m glad the kids are ok, but I’m just so relieved that they got their stupid stone back. Priorities, you know?

This movie is a decent sequel, but it differs from the Indian Jones formula in a few ways. In Raiders of the Lost ark and in The Last Crusade, the story takes you all around the world, it’s a global trek. Temple of Doom constricts you and keeps you focused on one place, the titular Temple of Doom. The ending is very conclusive and is really happy. The other movies end but leave the story open, and they don’t end with a romantic kiss and a bunch of happy kids.

There are some truly memorable moments like the raft-parachute and the mine cart chase… both sequences were cut out of Raiders for timing reasons. The rope bridge sequence, the eyeball soup, beating hearts ripped from living victims, and Short Round… this movie had some great moments of its own.

This isn’t a great sequel. It lost some of the momentum from the first movie, but they get it back in the third. You can tell that they aren’t quite sure what Indiana Jones represents, but they get back on track for The Last Crusade (and ruin everything in Crystal Skulls). This movie has its moments and it’s still required viewing if you want to call yourself a movie buff.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Raiders of the Lost Ark

Indiana Jones is a cinematic icon. Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford were at the top of their game when the stars aligned and they came together to create Raiders of the Lost Ark. Harrison Ford created another character as classic and memorable as Han Solo, a nearly impossible feat. This film is nonstop action. Each action sequence is memorable and, more importantly, relevant to the plot. Indiana Jones is a hero who can’t quite catch a break, but refuses to fail.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Movie Poster

The opening sequence sums up Indiana Jones in a nutshell. He’s tromping through a jungle and explores a long lost temple. He discovers a rare object of indescribable historical significance and experiences booby traps and sudden betrayals and reveals his fear of snakes. Everything you need to know about the character and the trilogy is summed up spectacularly in the first few scenes. I say trilogy because there was no fourth movie that destroyed the franchise and made Shia LaDouche the heir apparent to donning the fedora and whip.

Indiana Jones is an archeology professor, one of the best in the world and he is recruited to by some military suits to keep the Nazis from finding the Ark of the Covenant. Indy’s old mentor Abner Ravenwood has a medallion that could reveal the location of the Ark, so Indy goes to find him before the Nazis do. Indiana Jones finds Abner’s daughter, Marion (Karen Allen), who says that Abner is dead and that she doesn’t know where the medallion is. It’s clear that Marion and Indy have a romantic past and that she’s bitter about something. Some Nazis come looking for the medallion and Indy saves her and the two of them team up and to Cairo with the medallion that she had the whole time.

They hang out in Egypt with a monkey and an old friend of Indy’s named Sallah (John Rhys-Davies). They learn a little about why the Nazis are so interested in finding the Ark and Indy finds out that his rival Belloq (Paul Freeman) is helping the Nazis find the Ark.

Indy has more information than the Nazis and is able to find the Ark. But nothing is ever easy for Indy and Belloq and the Nazis take away the Ark and trap Indy and Marion in an ancient tomb and leave them for dead. They manage to escape and there’s an exciting sequence with trucks and desert driving and Indy reclaims the Ark. Then the Nazis take it back but Indy is crafty and follows them and eventually gives himself up when he can’t destroy the Ark because it is too important. Belloq and the Nazis open the Ark and weird ghosty demons spew out and kill everyone who is watching, but Indy and Marion close their eyes and are spared because they didn’t see anything.

The movie ends with Indian Jones telling the military suits the significance of the Ark. They tell him that there are people working on it and then it cuts to the Ark in a crate being stashed into a huge warehouse with thousands of other identical crates.

Indiana Jones is a great character. He is bold and fearless but makes tons of mistakes and is flawed. He seems so brave and courageous but is scared of snakes. He seems so smart and educated but can’t spell for shit. He’s not perfect, that’s what makes him endearing. He is like James Bond but with a limp and a lisp, he’s almost as cool but can’t get away with everything. Things go wrong for him. He gets the artifact and loses it a second later. He gets in fights and fights dirty if he has to.

I remember that my dad got this movie at McDonald’s. Back in the day McDonald’s would occasionally sell movies and I remember getting a Happy Meal and coming home with the Raiders of the Lost Ark. We also got Dances with Wolves from McDonald’s too. I don’t know why that’s worth including in this review, but I had to share that with somebody.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a great movie. It’s the start of a great franchise and there’s no doubt that it’s the best movie in that franchise. Indiana Jones is one of those few characters that transcend film. You don’t need to have seen any of the movies to recognize Indiana Jones. The leather jacket, the whip, the fedora… Indiana Jones is almost as recognizable as Mickey Mouse. If you haven’t seen this movie you have failed at life.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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Actors in Multiple Movie Franchises

Some movies make a lot of money. And people like money, so they decide to make a sequel to make even more money. And if that sequel makes money they might make a third movie. And three movies in the same series makes a trilogy, and (for the purposes of this article) a trilogy is a film franchise. So if an actor appears in three or more movies in the same franchise and three or more movies in another franchise, then they will appear on this list. Unless I forgot about them. Sorry forgotten celebrity.

Harrison Ford starred in the original Star Wars trilogy and the Indiana Jones trilogy (and that shitty fourth movie that I try to forget about). He’s also rumored to come back in the new Star Wars movies.

Tim Allen starred in the Toy Story trilogy and the Santa Clause movies.

Michael J. Fox went Back to the Future three times and voiced Stuart Little three times.

Matt Damon was Jason Bourne three times and was in Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen.

Eddie Murphy was Donkey in four Shrek movies and Axel Foley three times as a Beverly Hills Cop. Mike Myers was Shrek in the Shrek flicks and Austin Powers and Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies.

Shrek And Donkey - Shrek The Final Chapter Desktop Wallpaper

Orlando Bloom was Legolas in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he’s reprising his role in The Hobbit movie. He was also in the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies too.

Sir Ian McKellen has saved the world as Gandalf in three Lord of the Rings movies and will do so again in The Hobbit trilogy. He’s also threatened the world three times as Magneto in the X-Men franchise.

Patrick Stewart played Captain Jean-Luc Picard four times on the big screen and played Charles Xavier in three X-Men movies with a cameo in the Wolverine movie.

Crazy anti-Semite Mel Gibson has been in four Lethal Weapon Movies and was Mad Max three times. You know he hates Jews right?

Warwick Davis was in six Leprechaun movies (about half were direct-to-video) and was also in all eight Harry Potter Movies playing duel roles as Professor Flitwick and Griphook.

Sylvester Stallone was Rambo four times and Rocky Balboa six times. I have a feeling he might be Expendable three times too.

Vin Diesel sucks a lot of balls, but he’s been in four Fast and/or Furious movies (one of them was just a cameo), and he will play Riddick again in 2013. I’m sure that there are at least four people who will pay to see that shit.

Ben Stiller has played Gaylord Focker in three movies and loaned his voice to three Madagascar movies.

Gary Oldman played Sirius Black in Harry Potter 3, 4, 5 and 7.5 and has been James Gordon three times in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

Bruce Campbell has played Ash in the Evil Dead movies and had cameos in all of Sam Raimi’s Spider-man movies. That might be a stretch, but it still counts.

Antonio Banderas has been Puss in Boots in three Shrek movies and one spinoff and was in four Spy Kids movies (his scene was cut in the fourth one. Yes, there are four Spy Kids movies). He was played El Mariachi in two out of the three El Mariachi movies, so he doesn’t get any points for that.

John Cho has hung out with Kumar three times as Harold, and he was in American Pie, American Pie 2, American Wedding, and American Reunion. Cameos count. Right, Bruce Campbell?

Samuel L. Jackson was Mace Windu in Star Wars Episode I-III. He also played Nick Fury in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers, which are all part of the same universe, so he gets included.

Jackie Chan has three franchises under his belt. Three Rush Hour movies, four Police Story movies, and he’s loaned his voice to two Kung Fu Panda movies with a third coming out in 2013.

Christopher Lee played Fu Manchu three times, he was Dracula in a bunch of movies. He was Count Dooku in Episodes II and III and the animated Clone Wars movie. He was in Lord of the Rings too.

Hugo Weaving has also been in three franchises. He threatened Neo three times as Agent Smith in the Matrix trilogy. He loaned his voice to Megatron in the Transfomers movies. And he was Elrond in the Lord of the Rings movie and will reprise his role again in one of the upcoming Hobbit movies.

So that’s my list. I think it’s pretty complete. If you see anyone that I’m missing leave a comment. And I’ll either correct you or add it to my list. I don’t know how to rate this so I will just settle for something like this:

Critically Rated at 12/17

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