Thursday, December 31, 2015

In December

via (illustration from one of the Brambly Hedge books ♥)
books:
Captain America: the Death of Captain America Ultimate Collection, by Ed Brubaker - Really loved this book. 
Billy Budd, by Herman Melville (for school) - It was okay, I think it would have been interesting if I'd paid more attention. 

movies:
Anne of Green Gables (1934) - It really captured so much of what I loved about the books. 
Uta no Prince Sama 
*The Man from UNCLE - It's just fun and I love it. 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and 2, 3, 5, 6)
*Tangled - I liked it better this time than any of the times before. Now I love it. 
*Cinderella (2015) - I liked this one better too, watching it again it felt more filled out. 
The Princess and the Frog - I love Tiana. 
*The Russians are Coming - It's one surreal joke after another.
The Mentalist (part of season one) - So far I like it a lot. 

*seen before

I'm watching Hopscotch right now with the fam waiting for midnight to strike. Did you enjoy any books or movies especially in December?  I hope you all had a happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Review

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(this review is spoiler-free)

It's been more than a week now since I saw The Force Awakens on the 17th and I still don't have a yes or no answer to the question "did you like it?" I've known Star Wars all my life, as a kid my favorite movie was Return of the Jedi (because of that scene when Luke comes into Jaba's lair and rescues everyone), and more recently A New Hope. I don't remember a time when I didn't know Luke, Han and Leia; the original three Star Wars movies were practically the first movies I saw.

The Force Awakens is set three decades after the Rebel Alliance's defeat of the Galactic Empire. A new menace to the galaxy has arisen in the form of the First Order. Fighting the First Order are the Resistance and the heroes of the story.

I really enjoyed The Force Awakens. It's a beautiful movie. It's fun. I loved the new characters: Rey and Finn, Poe Dameron and BB8 and Maz. I loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, they were fantastic. There were generations of fans sitting in the theater and the moment the Star Wars logo came on with John Williams' music was an incredible feeling. When Harrison Ford as Han Solo made his first appearance we all cheered.

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I guess "did I like The Force Awakens?" is a hard question because what it's really asking is, was it Star Wars to me. J. J. Abrams generally makes solid movies, and I like those of his I've seen, though I'm not a fan of them. The Force Awakens is another solid movie. The only comment I have there is there's no single main character and plot's messy: the objective changed repeatedly, finally ending with the achievement of the first, which made the ending feel somewhat incomplete.

To me Star Wars is a world of strange creatures and planets with their own moons, geographies, languages, native animals. It's exotic crowded rooms, like where Luke first met Han Solo, or Jaba the Hut's palace. It's the Jedi with their light sabers, each handcrafted and unique, their simple brown costumes, deep wisdom, respect for life and peace, and knowledge of the Force gained through years of training. It's the fight between the democratic Rebel Alliance and dictatorial Galactic Empire, between freedom and the rule of power. It's John Williams music: the Force Theme and Imperial March. It's the Skywalkers, first Anakin's story in the prequels and then his son Luke's story in the originals. It's grand, distinct characters like Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Han Solo, Yoda and the rest. You get the idea.

Looking forward to The Force Awakens I had an I love Star Wars this may be great but it's okay if it's not as good I'll enjoy it anyway yay Star Wars lemme go watch A New Hope again attitude. So I enjoyed it. My hesitation in saying yes to liking the movie is for two main reasons: I didn't like that one of the characters was able to use the Force with no training, it felt like throwing away the sense of acquired wisdom that was part of using it. The other thing is there's no given reason for antagonist to be evil, which wouldn't have been a problem if we didn't know their back story, but as we are given it, the omission took away from their presentation and made their actions, especially one history-making one, feel unjustified.

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The signature scene transitions are used, which, with the familiar music, did the most to make it feel like Star Wars. The humor is good. A side observation is the jokes sound modern and don't match the timeless feel of the older Star Wars movies. They made the story no longer feel like one that took place "long, long ago". But maybe the older Star Wars movies feel timeless to me because I've always known them. Kylo Ren's costume was awesome. Carrie Fisher's voice has deepened and it was hard to recognize and somewhat distracting. Though there is one scene with that crowded room feel, it would have felt more like Star Wars to have seen more alien creatures. Thinking back over the movie it seems packed with battles. But I've an idea those feelings would lessen with another viewing.

Star Wars Episode Seven is the familiar battle between freedom and tyranny, only this time it's not the Empire vs. the Rebels but the First Order vs. the Resistance. The Force Awakens references a lot of what is best loved about Star Wars, but the character of Maz was one of the things original to TFA that felt definitely like Star Wars. I don't remember my favorite quote of hers exactly but it was in the context of talking about the war between the First Order and Resistance. She was asked "what war?" and responded with something like, "the only one there's ever been, the war between good and dark".

I love Star Wars. The Force Awakens is a solid movie. I loved the characters. It's funny. Some of the views and scenes were gorgeous, particularly the last one and one in the gif above in snowy woods at night. I'll always love the original Star Wars movies best, and really, anything more than them is a bonus.

"The Light - it's always been there. It'll guide you." (Maz)

Content: there is some mild profanity (as in the other Star Wars movies) and several intense scenes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sci-fi action violence.


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What are your thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Spoiler-ly stuff (highlight to read): Did it seem out of character to anyone else that Luke ran away after Ben killed the other students? Also, why was Ben/Kylo Ren "praying" to Darth Vader - he turned to the good side in the end?