Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

For our first post of the New Year, we take a look at the highly anticipated new Star Wars film. Directed by J.J. Abrams and starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Harrison Ford, the film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence

From IMDB: 30 years after the defeat of Darth Vader and the Empire, Rey (Ridley), a scavenger from the planet Jakku, finds a BB-8 droid that knows the whereabouts of the long lost Luke Skywalker. Rey, as well as a rogue stormtrooper and two smugglers, are thrown into the middle of a battle between the resistance and the daunting legions of the First Order.

9 out of 10

Star Wars Episode VII had the highest grossing domestic opening of all time, and has already broken 1.5 billion. It beat Jurassic World’s record of 13 days to reach a billion, which had the benefit of opening in China, the world’s largest country in terms of population. Star Wars doesn’t open there till January 9th. This movie is big. Really big.

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It is easily the most hyped movie I’ve been around for, shattering the excitement for Jurassic World, The Dark Knight Rises, and Avengers: Age of Ultron— some notoriously hyped movies of the past few years. Star Wars was going to be a major hit whether it was good or bad, which makes it so much sweeter when you realize that it is actually a great movie.

Admittedly, it has strikingly similar qualities to the original trilogy. From the trench run, to Adam Driver’s character (hint: he wears a mask), this film was either an excellent ode to the original or a carbon copy. I remember turning to Jenya in the theater and saying, “I think I’ve seen this before” at least 4 times. Regardless, it is still action-packed; there is hardly a single boring moment in the film. It is a fun, action packed two hours, if nothing else.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer

 

I loved the three new characters that look to be our new trio of heroes going forward. Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron portrayed respectively by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac had great chemistry with each other (especially the first two) and are interesting characters that I am very excited to follow around in the next two films, wherever they may go. Boyega and Ridley, relative newcomers to the movie scene, were particularly excellent, doing an incredible job leading the film. Not to mention, the incorporation of older characters, namely Han and Leia, was done flawlessly. There were enough of them to make us nostalgic, but not enough to detract from the focus of the movie: Finn, Rey, and to a lesser intensity, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver), the primary antagonist.

JJ Abrams does an excellent job balancing CGI with practical effects. There’s nothing outrageous like CGI Yoda or CGI Order 66ing. The graphic effects are perfect in the sense that they look great, but more importantly they feel real. The lightsaber duels are not too special, but they’re engaging and fun. Abrams knows exactly what he is doing, and it’s really quite a shame that he’s not going to be directing Episode VIII or IX. Hopefully it won’t fall apart… fingers crossed… very tightly.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Official Teaser #2

Best of all, the movie is able to have a complete and cohesive story arc but is still able to set up two more films. There are plenty of questions that we want answered, plenty of storylines ready to be carried out, and plenty of original trilogy references to be made. Is Rey a Skywalker? What happened to Luke? How will the Kylo Ren storyline end? Just a few (spoiler-free) questions I am looking forward to having answered.

If you are uncultured and haven’t seen the original Star Wars, you can still enjoy The Force Awakens, though every Easter Egg and nod to the original is all the better if you have. This is my favorite movie of the year, as it provides a fun, exhilarating ride from beginning to end. Disney can have all my money if they keep throwing out gems like this. If you have yet to see this film, then stop reading this review and go see it. It could even be nominated for Best Picture, ya never know.
~Vig

9 out of 10

As I’m writing this, Force Awakens continues its surge past the billion checkpoint. I love it when my commentary doesn’t really matter! Alright let’s get going…

Did you like the original Star Wars trilogy? Great, you’ll love Force Awakens. End of story. Thankfully, there’s no prequel-esque treachery, no disgustingly excessive CGI and actually human sounding dialogue.

It’s Star Wars movie to its marrow. It has everything a diehard fanboy could crave: colorful characters and planets (Brought to life by a welcome return to practical effects), enthralling actions (Including some of the better dogfights and duels of the whole saga), and a giant, hulking space station that blows crap to smithereens (Carefully study your Star Wars history and take a wild guess as to whether it explodes by the end or not).

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That’s right. It’s more of the same on a bigger scale and, quite frankly, that’s what everyone wanted. Director J.J. Abrams played it safe with this delicate franchise this round and prevailed with especial gusto. The callbacks are precisely placed and as giggle-inducing as expected and, of course, our veterans of the original trilogy who guest in this one make a triumphant return to the universe (Each of them get their own cute little entrances to boot).

But that’s certainly not to devalue the brand new stuff: without spoiling, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega neatly carve out their places in the franchise as the headstrong Rey and the reformed stormtrooper, Finn, respectively. They’re incredibly likable and boast a chemistry that matches, dare I say, the original cast of A New Hope. All the while, Adam Driver proves naysayers wrong as the capricious yet calculating Kylo Ren (Emo? A little but just the digestible amount, I promise). As far as the new worlds go, Abrams’s team does a fine job of painting a post-war galaxy with some great set pieces that only boost the creative action sequences.

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It’s admittedly hard for me to criticize this one as a fanboy (Okay, you got me, I went on opening night. May’ve saved a seat for two hours and all…) but I guess the most I can say is that I did know what was going to happen about five minutes before at a time (For example: a group of rebels trying to free a prisoner? What could possibly happen?). However, that’s simply a consequence of the film adhering to the standard Star Wars formula, which is both this movie’s blessing and curse. I will say too that the rewatch value on this flick is a little low after all the reveals have been, y’know, reveal but I’d advise any viewer to just take it as it is: a beautiful piece of fanservice, by a Star Wars nerd for Star Wars nerds.

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At long last, one of our favorite fictional universes has been done its justice with a film that injects new all new, thumping life into the world. If you aren’t one of the millions who’s done so already, strap in and see it. When it’s over, I assure you all previous Star Wars-related injustices will feel like they took place long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
~Zach

 
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Thoughts on… 2015!

Hey readers!

2014 was a great year for movies, both in action blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy and indie dramas like Nightcrawler, and in less than two months the Oscars will crown Hollywood’s best. Some of Screenwars favorite movies of the year include Whiplash, Nightcrawler, Captain America 2, Gone Girl, and Birdman. But as we ring in the new year, it’s time to look ahead and check Vig and Will’s seven most anticipated films of 2015. (because five wasn’t enough for Will)

Number 7

St. James Place
First, I’d like to briefly acknowledge the films that didn’t make it. Joy, Spectre, Mockingjay Part 2. All are movies I will definitely see, but just didn’t make the list. St. James Place, on the other hand, did make the list. With Tom Hanks leading, Stephen Spielberg directing, The Coen Brothers writing, and an incredibly interesting premise about a Cold War spy, what isn’t there to like about the film? It should definitely be in the running for the top awards in 2015.
Joy
Joy stars Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, a struggling housewife turned entrepreneur, in this upcoming film from golden director David O. Russell. In recent years Russell has helmed such films as The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, all character driven dramas with fantastic casts. And with Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro joining Lawrence here, Joy should prove to be one of 2015’s rousing successes.

Number 6

Ant-Man
Honestly, anticipation for Ant-Man may be a bit of a strong word. Nervous may be the better word. If Marvel is going to slip up anytime soon, it will probably be with Ant-Man. With creative differences endangering the film early on, it looked as though the film would be a disaster. Nevertheless, it recovered, and Paul Rudd, Michael Douglass, and Evangeline Lilly headline the hopefully successful final sequence of Marvel’s phase two.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II
Though Mockingjay Part 1 was a critical disappointment due largely to its dearth of action and tension, the second part of the Hunger Games’ final installment will hopefully be the action-packed finale we are all hoping for. Harry Potter arguably reached its greatest heights with the concluding Deathly Hallows Part 2 and given the unbelievable cast assembled for this new Hunger Games film, here’s to hoping we will see the same thing mirrored in Mockingjay. At the very least, teens will come out in droves for this one.

Number 5

Jurassic World
We have been witness to three Jurassic Park films, with only one of them being remotely good. Luckily for the series, the first one is a classic and its legacy is, for the most part, still in tact, still making 2015’s Jurassic World so heavily anticipated. Chris Pratt stars, hot off his breakout year with starring roles in The Lego Movie and Guardians of the Galaxy, and will be sure to give this film the star power and comedic touch it needs. He will be supported by Bryce Dallas Howard and Jake Johnson in a movie that looks to bring relevance back to the Jurassic universe after two straight duds in the series. 
Inside Out
There were some fantastic animated films this year – most notably The Lego Movie, Big Hero 6, and How to Train Your Dragon 2—but we were robbed of the yearly Pixar feature. In Inside Out, we get a look at the inner working of the mind of a teenage girl and the emotions that battle for control of her head. Featuring the vocal talents of Amy Poehler, Bill Hader, Mindy Kaling, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black, all comedy stars, Inside Out will surely be a massive hit for all ages and a film that will contend for Academy Awards next year. We should expect nothing less from the creator of Monsters Inc. and Up.

Number 4

The Hateful Eight
This is tentatively put on here because after Tarantino’s outburst about the script leaking, who knows if this will actually come out this year. Regardless, this film looks to be great. Samuel Jackson and Quentin Tarantino always produce gold, from Pulp Fiction to Django Unchained. Channing Tatum, Bruce Dern, and Tim Roth join Jackson to give this film a superb cast, one that will give Tarantino plenty of talent to work with. The Hateful Eight, at least in concept, will continue Tarantino’s string of great films and perhaps be a contender for Best Picture. 
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Avengers is the third-highest grossing film of all time, and I fully expect Age of Ultron to gross even higher, given the seemingly ever-increasing desire for superhero tent poles. Marvel studios has had a string of massive financial and critical successes, including Captain American: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy and with Joss Whedon directing Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth, look for Age of Ultron to be a critical success and the highest grossing film of the year, the decade, and maybe of all time.

Number 3

The Revenant
Could Leo finally get that Oscar? It looks possibly with The Revenant. The film is about fur trapper Hugh Glass, who is robbed and abandoned by his companions after being mauled by a bear. Surviving and out for vengeance, the film follows Glass, played by Dicaprio, on his quest for vengeance against his companions who left him to die. Directed by Alejandro Inarritu, coming off a hit in Birdman and starring DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, and Domnhall Gleeson, this film certainly has the star power to be great. Supported by an extremely interesting premise, watch for The Revenant in best picture discussions next year.
Spectre 
Spectre will be the 24th Bond movie and will ostensibly begin the exploration of the criminal organization that dominated the first – and the consensus best – Bond movies that starred Sean Connery. My major complaint with Skyfall was that it felt too much like a typical action film rather than the suave Bond films that we’ve been accustomed to, but with the throwback to the original films that we saw at the end of Skyfall, Spectre has the potential to be one of the best Bonds yet. Oh, and joining Daniel Craig and Ralph Fiennes will be Blue is the Warmest Color lead Lea Seydoux and Quentin Tarantino-favorite 2-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz.

Number 2

Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Of course this is on here, it was just a matter of whether it was first or not. Admittedly, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fanatic in the world, but the original trilogy is arguably the best series of all time. I wholeheartedly trust JJ Abrams with this film, who has directed two great Star Trek films and definitely has a great grasp on the sci-fi genre (he also built a replica of Millennium Falcon, so yay practical effects!). By the looks of the first trailer, Episode VII will not follow the path of prequels and disappoint us all.
The Hateful Eight 
Quentin Tarantino will make his return to the big screen with 2015’s The Hateful Eight. Tarantino’s story will feature two bounty hunters, betrayal, deception, and, knowing Tarantino, a massive amount of violence. Featuring Tarantino regulars Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth, the legendary Bruce Dern, and global superstar Channing Tatum, who just found his first fantastic dramatic role in Foxcatcher, The Hateful Eight will undoubtedly be one of the finest movies of the year and an almost definite Best Picture contender.

Number 1

Avengers: Age of Ulton
Drumroll please! The new Avengers is a hands down number 1 on this list. You all know my affection for superhero films, and with the Marvel Cinematic Universe rolling at full force, Age of Ultron looks to be one of the best Marvel films yet. Following perhaps Marvel’s best year yet, one that featured Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers 2 heralds a star-studded cast that adds Aaron Taylor Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen to the mix. Joss Whedon is also back at the helm directing what looks to be Marvel’s biggest film yet. The first trailer was sick, and the leaked details about storylines (CIVIL WAR!!!) regarding Marvel’s phase three only make this movie all the better, making it my most anticipated film of 2015.
Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens
Words can’t describe just how excited I am for this movie. Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films of all time, featuring fantastic characters, a compelling story, and groundbreaking visual effects. Despite the trilogy of prequels that did all they could to ruin the Star Wars legacy, with JJ. Abrams at the helm and Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, and Andy Serkis joining the original cast of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford, I’m confident The Force Awakens will be more reminiscent of the original trilogy rather than the prequels. In a year full of sequels to blockbuster franchises, three of which are on this list, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is by far the most anticipated movie of 2015.

 

What movies are you most excited for in 2015? Let us know in the comment section below. Happy New Year!