Star Wars: Episode VII (2015)

Star Wars 7 PosterRelease Date: December 18, 2015

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Written by: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas (characters)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Synopsis:

A continuation of the saga created by George Lucas

Sandra Bullock in Gravity

A lot of people love the music in Gravity. Our review agreed that “Steven Price’s gorgeous and terrifying score only tie[s] up the film’s peerless technical package.” It even won the Oscar in that category. But there are also a lot of people who hate the music. And then there are people who like the score on its own but aren’t particularly fond of its use in the movie. The main reason given is that Gravity begins with titles regarding the lack of sound in space (not that non-diegetic things should ever be a weight on authenticity). For them, Warner Bros. is looking out. This February, the studio is releasing a two-disc Diamond Luxe Edition Blu-ray of Gravity, which is mostly being touted for its Dolby Atmos audio but which also offers the choice to watch the movie sans score. Called the “Silent Space Version,” this option is labeled a “surprising cinematic experiment.” As far as I can tell, it’s the first of its kind. For a modern sound film release, anyway (for silent cinema, you just mute the whole thing, especially if you’re watching some bad public domain copy). While there are plenty of DVDs and Blu-rays that allow you to watch a movie with just the score, I can’t find any others where you can isolate all except the music. I mean, why would there be? Are there any other movies where we’d want that? In response to the Blu-ray, The Guardian compiled a short list of movies they’d like to see without their soundtracks, […]

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LucasFilm

It’s here. It’s real. It’s no longer the subject of constant fan theorizing. Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s… a little unsatisfying, don’t you think? Maybe not- maybe you’re cheering over J. J. Abrams‘ perfect choice of title (and if that’s the case, then lucky you). And maybe the hype surrounding Episode VII was so high that we’d find fault with anything that wasn’t Star Wars: Awww Shit Yeah it’s Luke vs. the Mecha-Wookies. The Force Awakens isn’t the worst title in history (something that will forever be contested- I’ll always hold a spot in my heart for the buffoonishly unscary It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive), but it seems safe to say that the hype surrounding The Force Awakens is more my god, Episode VII has a subtitle and less my god, the Force is awake. We didn’t even know it was napping. There’s another layer to The Force Awakens, though- and whether you’re pro-title or anti-title, it’s hard to deny- it’s an uncanny ringer for all the other sequel subtitles coming out of Hollywood in the last year or two. Specifically, the subtitle world’s most recent trend- Movie: New Era of Something Cool. Seen below are the biggest culprits.

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Film scores

Film series are a great way to tell a story that cannot be contained to a single film. Successful films usually end up getting sequels, but series are stories intended to be digested over the course of several films. The cast will (usually) stay the same throughout a series, but there is another important element that should remain consistent to help link each film to the next – the music. While it is not a requirement to stick with a single composer throughout a series (and sometimes you have no choice but to change things up due to schedules and prior commitments), having a singular musical voice working on a film series helps keep a consistent feeling from film to film. Most film series have kept the same composer throughout the series, and the few that have changed composers from film to film had it fit the story or ultimately ended up returning to the original composer.

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Gwyneth-Paltrow-and-Luke-Wilson-in-The-Royal-Tenenbaums

Whether you’re home for the holidays or sitting shiva after the loss of a loved one, family get-togethers can be rough. Never mind if yours is a “dysfunctional” clan or not. Aren’t they all, anyway? It may be relative, but we all have our family dramas and difficult times when reunited with our most direct relatives. If not, you’re a lucky one, except when it comes to trying to relate to a lot of movies. The rest of us like to see stuff like This Is Where I Leave You for both the identification and the exaggeration, the former allowing us to laugh at ourselves, the latter hopefully leading to an understanding that everything could be worse. Movies about family get-togethers can also be a source of learning. We already relate to the basic experiences, but how much do we connect with the specifics of how the characters survive those events? A bunch of these movies feature complete parallels as far archetypes and plot and jokes, so it would seem they’d be universal. And a lot of the times everyone turns out just fine in the end. So, for your next get-together, perhaps this fall for Thanksgiving or next summer for a road trip or full-on reunion, consider the following steps, each one applicable in the movies and, of course, therefore in real life. 

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Swimming With Sharks torture

Being a mentor is tough. You’re putting time into showing a kid the ropes, and what do you get out of it? According to the movies, maybe death. Or at least some non-lethal backstabbing will come about if you’re not lucky. It’s a wonder any of us bother to recruit interns, employees, apprentices, proteges and sidekicks when we know from watching a lot of movies that it’s not a good idea. We’re much better off just doing whatever work they’d have helped with alone and living a longer and more fruitful life. Never mind if we deserve the comeuppance. None of us believe we’re the bad guys, especially when we thought we were actually out for our disciple’s best interest. In the new movie The November Man, it’s Pierce Brosnan who winds up targeted by his former pupil, played by Luke Bracey. The two are spies, Brosnan now retired — until he’s pulled back in for “one more mission,” of course. And in this mission he’s up against a younger fellow to whom he taught everything he knows. Actually, he probably kept at least one thing close to his chest. That’s something else we learn from the movies, that it’s good to hold back from teaching your protege everything, because you’ll need a secret weapon in case he or she comes back to bite the hand that fed. Additionally, the movies teach us seemingly everything we need to know to avoid being betrayed. But if they’re smart, they’re also keeping one thing […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy Abduction

One of the burning questions left at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy concerns Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) father. Who is he? What is he? With a sequel already in the works, due in 2017, the apparent certainty is that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will either answer the question or at least address it more in full. But does it have to? Must it? Can it not, please? I’d like to address Marvel’s Kevin Feige and Guardians of the Galaxy co-writer/director James Gunn here and simply plead that whoever and whatever Star-Lord’s father is to keep him out of the next movie and any installment of the greater MCU franchise. Here’s what we know: Peter Quill was raised by his mother and possibly grandfather, never knowing who his real dad is or was. Around the age of 10, his mother died and he was immediately abducted via spaceship captained by a blue-skinned alien who would become a sort of father figure. About 25 years later, he still hasn’t met his pops, but it’s definite that the guy came from outer space. Quill’s mom said his dad was an angel made out of light. Later we hear that Quill is half-human and half some unknown cosmic entity. It’s a hybridization quality that heroes have had since heroes were first conceived. He’s basically a demigod, not unlike Hercules.* Maybe Quill’s father is some character we haven’t yet met. A notable hero or villain. Or maybe he’s actually just the kid of Yondu (Michael […]

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Spaceballs Barf and Lone Star

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie where we could go on and on with relevant recommended titles. Its main hero, Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), is a guy who spent his first 10 years on Earth enjoying a lot of movies and music. He’s a good representation of many people his age who are still Earthbound, because he’s focally nostalgic for ’80s pop culture and is always ready to make a reference to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or some other property that existed prior to his abduction in 1988 by the space pirates known as the Ravages. In addition to the direct allusions spoken or spotted on screen (it’s cool that Star-Lord is familiar with a classic like The Maltese Falcon and apparently had an ALF sticker in his backpack when taken), the movie is highly influenced by past movies, with some big antecedents such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark being too popular to bother including. And of course Guardians of the Galaxy is also reminiscent of the many followers of those two George Lucas productions. As John Gholson notes in his spot-on comic-strip review, the new Marvel movie “has more in common with Star Wars wannabes,” as he features posters for four examples: Ice Pirates, Battle Beyond the Stars, Serenity and The Last Starfighter. On top of all the movies we could urge the fans go back and watch, this release had me wanting to also do a whole list of TV series to watch after you’ve seen it. […]

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Star Wars

This may come as a surprise to you (if, say, you haven’t gone online, spoken to an acquaintance or left the comfy confines of the rock you live under for several days), but another intrepid soul has claimed to have the keys to J.J. Abrams‘s mystery box. The secrets held inside? Significant story chunks from Star Wars: Episode VII. Earlier today, we referred to this leak as “ridiculous-sounding plot details,” and that’s just about as accurate as accurate could be. But for the sake of blindly trudging into the unknown, let’s take a look at these ridiculous details anyway. Also, if any of this turns out to be legit, it will count as a SPOILER, but it’ll really only spoil the first five minutes or so. Maybe 10.

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Star-Wars-7-X-Wing

Yet again, J.J. Abrams is wagging the dog by sharing something official in the wake of a great rumor being spread. Although I doubt that this reveal of an X-Wing fighter built for Star Wars: Episode VII is truly in response to ridiculous-sounding plot details leaked over the weekend, it’s otherwise a nice diversion. The video below isn’t just a first look at a vehicle for advance marketing sake; it’s the latest and final piece of promotion for the Force for Change charity drive for UNICEF run via Omaze. Recall in the past we shared the video introducing a new non-CG character. Now Abrams is back to show us something a lot more familiar just days before the effort ends. Force for Change is kind of like a Kickstarter campaign but since Disney doesn’t need money to make a Star Wars movie, your pledges go to a better cause than a film production. Yet there are still similar incentives (and raffle prizes) here, such as exclusive apparel, a Chewbacca bust and private advance screenings of Episode VII, plus the best of all: a chance to win a trip to the set and actually get to appear in the movie. Watch Abrams tell you about Force for Change while you gaze upon the beautiful but beat-up X-Wing below.

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Pip Andersen and Crystal Clarke for Star Wars 7

Misdirection. It’s the classic technique of going “HEY LOOK OVER THERE” while secretly preparing an elaborate magic trick and/or hiding the garbage bags containing your neighbor’s corpse. But misdirection isn’t just used by magician serial killers anymore. Now, even the folks at LucasFilm have employed this tried-and-true method in the latest casting development for Star Wars: Episode VII. Yesterday, the company put out a press release announcing to the world that the long process of holding open casting calls and scouring through millions of young actors mesmerized by the words “Star” and Wars” has paid off. Officially joining the cast are two unknowns: Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen. Clarke, an American acting student, will make her feature debut in next year’s The Moon and the Sun, the I-desperately-hope-it’s-true story of King Louis XIV, and how his “quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force.” Fingers crossed on that one. Andersen, on the other hand, was a competitor on MTV’s Ultimate Parkour Challenge. Less impressive, but for all we know Ultimate Parkour Challenge had an episode where the contestants had to reenact scenes from the original Star Wars films while also flipping between a series of really tall dumpsters. So Disney stood up and shouted, “Look! Look at these ridiculously good-looking young people! Watch as they do parkour!” (And yes, the press release did link to a Sony ad where Andersen wears a Spider-Man outfit under his clothes and does backflips in and out of various buildings.) And […]

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Rian Johnson

When news broke that Rian Johnson would helm Star Wars: Episode VIII and write a treatment for Episode IX – adding to the numerous Star Wars properties scheduled for screens shortly behind J.J. Abrams’s mystery box – it was almost universally regarded as a solid, promising move to those cautiously optimistic about the rebooting of a galaxy far away. And no doubt, Johnson’s hiring is a very good move for Star Wars, lending the franchise not only the director’s subcultural clout, but also his precise sense of style, passionate knowledge of genre and careful approach to cinematic world-building. His skill should benefit greatly a franchise whose previous incarnation suffered from scant evidence of inspiration or vision. But before seeing a final product, we can only take this news as a gesture of goodwill, or even a reason to be happy for a talented director worthy of admiration and success. Unfortunately, a facet largely missing from conversations about this news is whether a Rian Johnson-led Star Wars will be good for Rian Johnson, especially in a Hollywood that loves courting indie directors but shows questionable regard for their autonomy upon arrival. Marc Webb. Gareth Edwards. Doug Liman. Bryan Singer. At various points during the ‘90s and ‘00s, this list of names would denote the creators behind film festival highlights and limited release word-of-mouth gems. But in 2014, these are the names of the men in the director’s chair for some of the summer’s biggest tentpole titles, the kinds of movies that make or break a fiscal year […]

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Rian Johnson

One of the things that made the original Star Wars trilogy so special was its hand-off of the second two installments to other filmmakers. Each of those first three movies was helmed by a different director, and that was a hope I had for the new trilogy, especially after George Lucas’s hogging of all the prequels. Well, according to news out of Deadline this afternoon, we’re going to at least have two people at the helm this time around. Rian Johnson is reportedly taking over the central run of the Star Wars franchise from Star Wars Episode VII helmer J.J. Abrams. He’ll write and direct Episode VIII, presumably due in late 2017, and he’s also going to deliver a treatment for Episode IX.* Apparently he’s to get started immediately, and obviously this will take up his attention for almost the rest of this decade. That means he’ll have to put aside a couple projects I’d heard were percolating in him since his acclaimed Looper hit theaters two years back. The news also means he won’t be doing the Star Wars project I’d originally wished for him: the young Han Solo adventure that would star Johnson’s buddy and regular collaborator Joseph Gordon-Levitt (perfect casting). Maybe there’s still a role for the guy somewhere, or maybe there can be some time travel thrown at the Star Wars galaxy where Harrison Ford meets his younger self. Wait, no, that’s more an Abrams thing to do, isn’t it?

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Princess Leia Armed in Star Wars

Yesterday was the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed by Congress. That means we’ve got five years until its centennial and all the special commemorations that are obligatory for that sort of thing. Maybe those will be saved for the following year, when it was ratified just in time to allow women to vote in the 1920 presidential election. Either way, here’s a proposal and a challenge for Hollywood for one of those summers: every blockbuster must be directed by a female. With the loss of Jupiter Ascending from this season’s slate, there are no major tentpoles helmed by women at all this summer, and the studios have six years to turn that completely around for at least one time. After that, fine, go back to ignoring that another gender is capable of directing big movies. Hollywood would probably do just that anyway, even if the summer of 2020 wound up smashing records for attendance and grosses. One big hope is that the proposal will force Lucasfilm to put a woman on one of their Star Wars movies, whether the third standalone feature or Episode IX. The latter is supposed to be due by the end of 2019, while presumably another spin-off will arrive the following year. So far those non-trilogy one-offs, which have Gareth Edwards and now Josh Trank attached, are set for 2016 and 2018, respectively. Following the commotion about Episode VII seeming not to have enough female characters, I’m surprised we haven’t seen any complaints […]

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Princess Leia in Star Wars - Troopers

It’s hard not to think about Star Wars with all the news and potential spoilers about Episode VII dropping lately. Still, for the purist, the original will remain the greatest of the series, even if there is no high-quality version of the theatrical releases available. With so much Star Wars lately, it only seems appropriate to go back to the beginning and revisit Star Wars before it was ever known as A New Hope. For the DVD release in 2007, a commentary track was added to the film, which has been preserved through the subsequent Blu-ray releases. Recorded separately and cobbled together for relevant points of the film, the commentary includes George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Ben Burtt, and Dennis Muren. While this particular commentary does not offer a modern perspective of the legacy of the prequels or the upcoming films and spin-offs, it does give a look back at the making of a classic.

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Josh Trank filming Chronicle

The obvious initial reaction to hearing that Josh Trank will direct a standalone Star Wars movie: could it be shot as a found footage film? That’s because we so far only really know him for the found footage superhero film Chronicle. But the guy is now working on the Fantastic Four reboot for Fox, and there’s no way that’ll be in the same style. Neither will his Star Wars spin-off or one-shot or whatever you want to call these side installments. The only way a found footage Star Wars movie would make any sense is if it was released as a feature-length hologram. That said, Trank has actually already made a found footage Star Wars fan film (watch it down below), so maybe Disney and Lucasfilm want him to expand on that. Trank joins Gareth Edwards as the second filmmaker to be assigned one of these movies, and unlike Edwards he’s not been able to prove himself worthy with a major blockbuster-size budget yet. We still have a little over a year before The Fantastic Four comes out, though, and Trank’s entry isn’t due until 2018. Another thing that’s interesting about this announcement is that it looks like Disney is stealing Trank away from helming the Fantastic Four sequel. Claims that Disney and its Marvel subsidiary are plotting against Fox and its reboot of the Marvel comic franchise have been rebuked, but I bet this news will be taken the wrong way as part of that rumored battling between the studios. […]

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12 Years a Slave

It’s been rumored since before the initial cast announcement, but the Star Wars: Episode VII production has made it official. They’ve announced via press release that Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has joined the cast. With an acting squad (which is what all casts should be called) that’s focused on prestige talent more than mere name recognition, this hire is one that potentially touches on both fronts. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the release says nothing about the role that she’ll play. The same goes for Gwendoline Christie. The Game of Thrones co-star who absolutely rocks as the lordly lady of Tarth has also signed on to fight long-ago battles in a galaxy far, far away. Hopefully they’ll give her a sword instead of a lightsaber. The lack of details is probably cold comfort for fans and for those skeptical of the male/female ratio of actors. If you’re foolishly keeping score, it’s 5/11, but raw math doesn’t matter here (even if it’s pretty damned close to 50/50). What matters is the size of the spotlight on these individual characters and the actors who portray them. Without story details, we now theoretically have a Star Wars movie where there’s room for a young black man (John Boyega), a young black woman, and another young woman (Daisy Ridley) to save the universe from Max von Sydow. Can we have at least a little celebration for the diversity at work here?

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Kurt Russell and James Spader in Stargate

We are getting thick into the era when Hollywood remakes a lot of ’90s movies. We already saw Total Recall and Dredd, and in the news lately are developments on the next versions of Point Break, Cliffhanger and now Roland Emmerich‘s Stargate, the latest to be officially announced. In a way, Godzilla counts, though it’s a redo of a movie from the ’50s more than the previous American take on the monster (also directed by Emmerich). And I’d maybe also include Atom Egoyan’s The Devil’s Knot, which is basically a dramatic redo of the documentary Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills. That’s not a Hollywood movie, though, and the original wasn’t either. One thing I realized recently is that I saw a lot fewer blockbusters in the ’90s versus the ’80s. I never saw the 1998 Godzilla. I never saw Cliffhanger. And I didn’t see Point Break in the theater or at a time close to when it came out. Mostly this can be attributed to the fact that I was getting older. For much of the decade I was busy with high school or broke in college (oh, the irony of being in film school and only being able to see one new movie in the theater my freshman year). Also, my dad moved away in 1990, and he’d been the parent who took us to the multiplex every weekend. But I don’t believe it’s necessarily these personal reasons that have me less concerned about remakes of ’90s movies than I’d been with […]

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Leo Dicaprio Darth Vader

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom bridge

How many of you knew Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was a prequel while you were seeing it back in 1984? I admit that it took me years to come to that realization, but I was a little kid 30 years ago, and my memory of Raiders of the Lost Ark and my understanding of the history of the world in the 1930s were minimal. There’s also the way that Temple of Doom isn’t really a prequel in the sense that I think of that word. It’s not an origin story, it doesn’t involve events that lead into those of Raiders or depict a story alluded to in that first Indiana Jones movie. Temple of Doom isn’t so much a prequel or sequel as simply an installment in an adventure series. Roger Ebert, in his review at the time, called it “not so much a sequel as an equal.” He meant equal in all ways, having given the movie four stars, but I specifically like the word usage for its implication that it’s a movie that sits not really before or after but to the side. Yes, it is technically set prior to the action in Raiders, though not by that much (being in in 1935, the year before the year of Raiders, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a full 12 months nor as few as that), yet chronology is not very important with these two movies. Some argue that there is backward character development with Temple of Doom, but […]

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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