The Force is Fit for Fans

n a world where sequels and prequels run rampant, it was as no surprise that Disney would bring back the Star Wars franchise. What was uncertain was the quality of the films would be produced. The Disney brand almost certainly lends to a viable sequel but fans were left with a taste in their mouth after the mediocre prequels from years before. Add J.J. Abrams (someone with good idea but usually ruins them when he executes them) and the trepidation for The Force Awakens was mighty.
While I understand not spoiling the story, I really don’t like not knowing what the story is about and the movie handles that in the first two minutes. Basically Luke has disappeared after a tragedy involving training new Jedi. Han and Leia have drifted apart; Han has gone back so a life of smuggling but Leia is still looking for her brother. Meanwhile, a new crop of heroes join in the pursuit of Luke: Rey, an orphan abandoned on Jakku, Finn a Storm Trooper who defects, and Poe Leia’s best fighter pilot who is instrumental in battle against The First Order. I’ll keep these spoiler free (I’ll save those till the very end past the photos).
The movie pays homage to the original three films. But this becomes one of the few drawbacks. The first fifteen minutes are pretty much recap of things that have been done in the originals. This quickly gets boring but doesn’t last very long. The movie quickly begins to stand on it own while blending past characters with future characters seamlessly. But you can create checklist of things from the originals and play a drinking game with it. A cantina? Take a drink. A villain with a screwy voice? Chug! The only issue is that the end but I won’t discusses it until after the cut.
With a strong story, The Force Awakens looks great. CGI and technology have come along way but it still visually feels like Star Wars. The characters are developed as the movie progresses with out falling back on stereotypes. Abram does not screw this up. This was a fear I had after Star Trek but here he doesn’t stray away from the things original fans loved but made it accessible to a new generation. Luckily, he doesn’t have to back up his work in the sequels; this won’t be like Alias, where after the second season everything went down hill. I thank Disney for this, for there dedication of not ruining the legacy.
If you’ve seen it, then we have SO much to discuss. Skip down to below the pictures and we’ll kick some ideas around. If you haven’t seen the film, move along there is nothing to see here.

HERE BE SPOILERS
Let’s talk that ending. While it was imperative to see Luke, condemning her travel to him into a five minute time span stinks of the issues that plaque the prequels. Plus, Luke never says anything to Rey when she finds him. This is the moment where he should have announced who her parents were. But nothing was learned or benefited by this exchange. The film could have easily ended with her getting the Millennium Falcon and taking off and then cut to Luke watching and waiting for her arrival. While this is a small issue, it could mean that the pacing for the next film will be ruined.
Parentage is a big issue. With Luke being the last Jedi, we knew that Kylo Ren and Rey had to be related to someone. They came right out about Ren to move the story with Han along. But the writers fed you bits and pieces as they went and overly hinted at her being Luke’s daughter. But could this be a red herring? I certainly think so. I believe that she will be another child of Han and Leia’s. Since twins run in the family and the fear of the force going to the Dark Side, it’s not a stretch to think that they separated her from her brother to keep her safe. What proof do we have in the film? There are two notable moments: the first being when Ren take off his helmet and the two share a charged moment. It wasn’t sexually and was more than just the force clashing between them; it was loaded with recognition and importance. Plus, they looked a lot alike. Next, you have Han’s paternal feelings for her. This is odd in the loner and its possible that he doesn’t know that she is that second child. This also repeats themes from the first films which The Force Awakens has done since the opening minutes.
And finally, I should address Han himself. Many people had no idea that he was going to die and have intimated that I had been spoiler spelunking before I went on opening night. This is outright insulting. In fact, I knew because Ford has been talking about it for YEARS. Just by reading interviews with him, I have known his desire for Han’s death and that it would happen this film. ( While, I don’t make fun of people who didn’t figure it would happened, I was pissed that people would throw hate my way.) But I knew this info before I knew that Han would be such a pivotal role in this movie. Han has arguably been the character that was the moving force in the franchise (the only other character we could argue would be the Darth man himself), and he continues to be so in the Force Awakens. I don’t say this to belittle the other characters. But it will affect the upcoming films. We now know that all the characters would show up in the next film (Star Wars often overcomes death, so this won’t be an issue), but what will the films be like without him as a driving force?
I look forward to the next film and am very annoyed that it will be so long before we get the next installment. But that does give us plenty of time to develop our fan theories.

By The Book: Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game has been surrounded by controversy. The book was rallied against for its support of violence and the movie was boycotted because Orson Scott Card is anti-homosexual. These controversies take away from a deep and provocative story that looks at politics, the military, and our future.Ender's_game_cover_ISBN_0312932081

The book is an in-depth look at the future after an alien war with the Buggers. Earth came together to create an army that will fight the future of the alien threat: training young children who use their intuition and lack of biases to fight these life forms. The book details Ender’s rise to military fame and his emotional breakdown from the stresses place on him. The book became keystone reading for several military groups, and the Ender franchise took off. The movie follows the same plot changing minor points.

Even though director/writer Gavin Hood only makes minimal changes, he manages to alter the tone and change the purpose behind certain plot points. Part of this comes from the fact that the movie isn’t able to get into Ender’s head like it did in the books and Hood often fails in portraying it in the storyline.  For example, Ender’s inner struggle with being a leader and the advanced pace of his training is downplayed and his explosion at the end of the movie seems out of place. In fact, the movie makes it seem like Bonzo’s death is the only reason he quit before he enters Command School.

To centralize the story, characters are given more screen time. Petra’s role in Ender’s life is increased and given more importance than in the book. And while it incorporated more of Bean, it change the characters time line as well as down played how smart, arrogant the character actually is. The movie demonizes the bad guys while making the good guys perfect saints. And none of the children are young enough. While this might be practical for filming, it really takes the enormity of the original story away.

tumblr_mk8d1vkdYW1rri3f0o1_1280This leads to the biggest issue with the movie. No one should have worked about anti-homosexual themes or any other political commentary. The movie is actually overly PC. Characters have changed to reflecting minority and women’s roles which in interesting because the books actually have more variety of ethnicities and gender than the movie did. There is no reference to the Bugger War; everyone just calls them Formics. This small change loses a lot of what Card was saying about humans and outsiders. Using slang for enemies is typical and part of the criticism included in the original novel. Though we see it start to change in Ender’s Shadow (chronologically parallel but written some time after the original), this is a reflection of how PC was adapting into the world and it has now completely enticed the movie.

The biggest change was the removal of politics from the film. Oh, you say, but there was so much politics with Graff and the military! That is nothing compared to the Ender Saga of books. Enders siblings are very important player in the world. Their actions and political dialogues change how regular people see the world and it sons reaches to the government. Their actions actually decide Ender’s fate. But you won’t see much of Peter or Valentine as Hood morphs the ending to come to a staggering halt instead of following into another tale.

Ender’s Game is a great science fiction movie.  The special effects are beautiful and the Battle Room lives up to expectations. Asa Buttersfield does well as the boy genius Ender, and Harrison Ford is great as Graff. But like most adaptations it can’t hit the depth and thought provocation of the novel.

Jack Ryan Still Not On His A Game

Hollywood is obsessed with repeating itself. Chris Pine helped kick off a new reboot? Let’s put him in another one! Let’s take a franchise ruined by Ben Affleck and hope that Pine can do his magic again. This results in a very mediocre espionage movie.
Jack Ryan. That name should be familiar with to most. He is the star of a string of novels by Tom Clancy many which have been made into movie. Jack Ryan come to the big screen in Alec Baldwin’s shoes, but hit his peak with Harrison Ford. Then in 2002 Affleck stared in a reboot that removed itself from the chronological events in the first movies. This movie failed to bring Jack Ryan back.
jack-ryan-shadow-chris-pine-kevin-costner-bench-600-370Pine’s version in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit brings Ryan into our generation. He joined the military after 9-11 and was injured in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan which ended his military career. Ryan is brought into the CIA by Thomas Harper, played by Kevin Costner who is viscously trying to reboot his career. Ryan starts off in office work, tracing accounting and national security threats with in big money. When he stumbles across a grand scheme involving Russia, Ryan must go out to the field and see if he still has what it takes.
This whole movie is confusing. I am curious as why Russia was once again chosen as the villains in this piece when they are updating Ryan’s story. Russia figures prominently in earlier works especially during those during the Cold War. Are they just going from this or trying to make us see that Russia is still a valid threat while we are concerned with the Middle East and North Korea? Or is it simply, just an un-thought-out plot idea?
Then of course is the actual threat to the American government that only someone with a PhD in economics can understand and decode. When Harper says dumb it down, the script should have dumbed it down. Somehow, Russia is selling off American money and coordinating a terrorist attack so the American dollars sinks so low the Great Depression will look like drop in the bucket. Not that I understood any of that, but I nodded my head and went with it. There are various other things along the line, but let’s look at other aspects of the movie.jack-ryan-shadow-recruit
Ryan fiancée Cathy Muller is played by Keira Knightley with a horrible American accent. Once again, Knightly plays a rather bitchy female with no empowerment that seems to have become her staple character. Not all of the horribleness of this character is her fault though; she is written horribly and in a very ant-feminist way. She thinks Ryan is cheating on her throughout the movie though he is begging her to marry him so he could confide everything to her. Cathy is moody, week, and unrealistic.
Pine does attribute something positive to the movie. Ryan is given some very complex emotions. While these do not last long, Pine actually makes the audience feel how upset Ryan is with having to kill someone. His Ryan is not all swaggers. This is probably his best role to date.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit leaves a lot to be desired. Kenneth Branagh dos double duty playing the villain and directing the film. I think it may have gone better, if he had chosen one role. But I do have to admit Jack Ryan looks really good up on that IMAX screen.

Paranoia Ain’t the Way to Live Your Life From Day to Day

maxresdefaultRight off the bat, Paranoia alienates some people. Mainly older people, especially the older rich. But for people in my generation, it pulls you in from the very beginning.  Paranoia looks at the current generation and how we work, and one man’s effort to over throw the elder regime.

Liam “Baby” Hemsworth plays Adam Cassidy a young post college graduation with the naive attitude that the whole world is in front of him. When his world is suddenly pulled out from under him, he finds himself working for the older, lying, rich, and a group he despises. His ethics are strained even more as he is asked to steal corporate secrets from his boss’ rival. Caught between Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford, Adam woes the girl of his dreams strives to take care of his father, and to be more than his parents were. Going against this could mean his life or the life of his father.

The movie is a taunt psychological thriller. Viewers watch Adam change from a naive college graduate to one of the men he never wanted to become. But Adam never loses sight of his goals, outsmart the villains and save his father’s life. This combined with a love affair gives a second layer to corporate espionage thrillers. It’s not just about getting ahead; it’s about getting out with relationships intact.

What truly carries these relationships is the genuinely talented cast. Ford and Oldman are great as warring tech companies trying to manipulate the newbie into doing what they want. They have a dry evilness that scares you without pulling out guns or violence. They are great at the hint of violence. Amber Heard plays Adam’s love interest who works for Ford. Heard is an amazing actress and easily play both the emotional lover and shrewd business woman. Nip/Tuck’s Julian McMahon gives a side of toughness putting Adam on the run. But it is Baby Hemsworth who carries the movie. Watching him you forget how young he really is as his character emotionally ages before your eyes. He leaves no trace of accent pulling off the All American Boy. In fact, dare I say it; he is a much better actor than his brother.

Foparanoia-movie-poster-10r me personally, it was an allegory of my generation. I come from a generation that believes that with a degree we are ready to take on the world and make big money. But when we get to the real world, the shock knocks us down.  Everything we were told about what having an education would be is false; too many people have it these days. Besides, those newly in the work force shouldn’t expect such an easy work life; we have to do our time. Adam tries to circumnavigate this and fails. The difference between him and me? His consequences affected every aspect of his life to a deadly degree.

The biggest issue with Paranoia is its name. There were moments when they played with the idea that Adam was just seeing things. But this was short lived. People really were following and threatening him. It’s like Abduction; how can you come a movie something when the title doesn’t happen at all.

While not the best movie, Paranoia is thrilling and engaging. The cast truly personify their characters drawing viewers into a world that is very foreign to them.  But most of all, Liam stands out from his brother and on his own two feet.