Friday, August 28, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: What I know so far.

This is a combination of analysis of the trailers, leaks, rumors, and speculation found on the internet.

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Since The Battle of Endor, what remains of the Empire and the Rebels have fought a war for 30 years.  The First Order controls at least a portion of the former Empire and is headed by Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis.  He is the one who says in the trailer,  "There has been an awakening.  Have you felt it?"   There may be other factions of the original empire besides The First Order.

The movie title refers to the Force becoming more powerful.   It has been said that Luke Skywalker has become too powerful and too dangerous with the force, and has gone into seclusion.  He might be protecting some Sith artifact or temple because he does not want the Sith to get to it.  We know that R2-D2 is with him.

An unknown queen, most likely Leia Organa, gives Poe Dameron a special mission.  The speculation is that it is to find her missing brother, Luke Skywalker.

Early in The Force Awakens, hot shot rebel pilot Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac, is a prisoner on an Empire ship.  He escapes, possibly in a Tie Fighter.  He shoots up a docking bay.  Storm trooper Finn, played by John Boyega, is seen on a ship fearful for his life or at least very stressed.  At one point Finn may participate in an attack on a forest world, possibly Endor, because we know that Warrick Davis is going to be in the movie, which lead to speculation that he would be reprising his role as the Ewok Wickett Warrick.

Finn deserts the Empire and crash lands a tie fighter on the desert planet of Jakku.  Perhaps it was Finn who shot up the docking bay on the Empire ship.  On Jakku there is a scavenger hunter, Rey, played by Daisy Ridly.  She salvages from space ships that have crashed on Jakku from The Battle of Jakku.  Finn and Rey team up, along with her droid BB-8 and get chased by the Empire.

Finn and Poe Dameron might be force sensitive. 

Somehow Luke's original lightsaber is found.  This is the one that he lost when his hand was cut off in The Empire Strikes Back.  Maybe Rey finds it because she is seen holding it, but Finn is seen using it.  Together they might go on a quest to return it to its owner.  It has been said that the movie ends with them finding Luke Skywalker and handing the lightsaber to him.

We have seen C3PO with a red replacement arm.

Finn and Rey board the Millennium Falcon and pilot it.  Han Solo and Chewbacca also end up on the ship with them, possibly because Finn and Rey stole the ship.   

The main bad guys are Snoke, Captain Phasma, and Kelo Ren.   

Kelo Ren is a member of the Knights of Ren, and sees himself as a hero figure.  It has been said that he finds the mask of Darth Vader, becomes obsessed with Vader, and constructs a mask for himself.  Kelo Ren is seen with a special light saber with a cross guard.  We know that Kelo Ren is not his original name.

There has been much rumor and speculation that one or two of the following are the offspring of Han and Leia:  Rey, Poe Dameron, and Kelo Ren.  We know that Han Solo confronts Kelo Ren and is possibly killed.  Afterwards Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian are seen piloting the Millennium Falcon.

The last names of Finn and Rey have been kept a secret, because it has been strongly implied that they are related to other Star Wars characters. 

Captain Phasma appears to be a chrome plated storm trooper, and is played by Gwendoline Christie.  She may be a bounty hunter.

Numerous characters, creatures and droids from the original trilogy appear in this movie, including Admiral Ackbar, and Nien Nunb.

Max Von Sydow has some unknown role in the movie.

Domhnall Gleeson plays General Hux who commands a "Star Killer Base."  Rumor has it that this is a weapon that can destroy an entire solar system.

It has been rumored that we would see an Inquisitor, and this seems likely because of the emphasis on Inquisitors in Star Wars Rebels.  Some have wondered if this would be Kelo Ren.

There has been speculation that Luke Skywalker has restarted the Jedi Order and we might see Jedi in training.  There also has been much speculation about the movie having "force ghosts" of previous Star Wars characters, including Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Charlie: "When I was a little girl, my mother would remind me each night before bed, to open up my heart to God, for He was kind, merciful, and just. Things changed when my father left a few years later, leaving her to raise me and my brothers in a place on the edge of the Mojave Desert. She never talked of a kind and merciful God again. Instead she spoke of a prophecy. Of a time when all the world would be covered in darkness and the fate of mankind would be decided. One night, I finally got the courage to ask my mother why God had changed, why He was so mad at His children. 'I don't know,' she said, tucking the covers around me, 'I guess He just got tired of all the bullshit.'"

Legion is not your typical horror movie.  God sends an army of angels to wipe out mankind.  One archangel, Michael, rebels and tries to save mankind.  The story goes that if one special child, a savior figure, can be saved, then so can humanity.  The showdown to save or destroy mankind takes place at a run down "gas and eat" on the edge of the Mojave desert.

Michael (The Archangel): "The last time God lost faith in Man, He sent a flood. This time, He sent what you see outside."
Percy Walker: "Are you saying this is the apocalypse?"
Michael (The Archangel): "I'm saying this is an extermination."

I love the performances by Paul Bettany as Michael, Kevin Durand as Gabriel, Dennis Quaid, Charles Dutton, Tyrese Gibson, and Lucas Black.  The movie is also full of great quotes:  

Percy Walker: "When I was a kid, my father would sit by my bed every night before I went to sleep.  And he's say to me, 'Percy, if you don't wake up tomorrow, if it turns out that today is your last day on earth.  Will you be proud of what you've done in this life?  Because if you ain't, you better start getting square.'"

Bob Hanson: "You know this is crazy, right? I mean... I don't even believe in God."
Michael (The Archangel): "Well, that's just fine, Bob. He doesn't believe in you either."

Michael (The Archangel):  "When God chose your kind as the object of His love, I was the first in all of heaven to bow down before you. My love, my hope for mankind was no less than His. But I have watched you trample that gift. I have watched you kill each other over race and greed... waging war over dust and rubble and the words in old books. And yet, in the midst of all this darkness, I see some people who will not be bowed. I see some people who will not give up, even when they know all hope is lost. Some people, who realize being lost is so close to being found. I see you, Jeep. Fifteen years old, your mother leaves. Your father withdraws from the world and you spend the next five years of your young life helping him find his way home. You love a woman who bears the child of another and you love her with no thought of yourself, even though you know she may never love you the way you love her. You, Jeep... you are the reason I still have faith."

Gabriel (The Archangel): "This is not your test, Michael. How dare you presume to know His heart?"
Michael (The Archangel): [putting a hand to his chest] "Because He made this one. And it tells me He shouldn't lose faith now."

Gabriel (The Archangel):  "I would not have shown you such mercy."
Michael (The Archangel): "I know. That's why you failed Him."

When I compare Legion to another apocalyptic horror film, The Mist, I think that Legion is a hundred times better.  Both movies belong to a genre of movies called Siege Films, where a group of people are inside a house or a building trying to defend themselves from something evil outside.  This may have started with westerns, but one of the most famous examples is Night of the Living Dead.  Another famous example is Assault on Precinct 13.

Legion's showdown in an old gas station/restaurant also reminded me of an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer called "Spiral".

I think that the film has shades of Terminator, with the end of the world theme and the way the archangel Michael arrived on earth reminded me of how Kyle Reese arrived in 1984.

Rating * * * 1/2   Why it is only 19% or Rotten Tomatoes I can't understand.

The movie has spawned a new TV series which I like.

Silent Running

I loved this movie when I saw it in the 1970's.  Now the Silent Running Trailer looks a bit corny to me.   Kind of like watching the TV show Space 1999.  The trailer also gives away most of the story.

If you look at the original Star Wars Trailer, it seems pretty horrible.  I don't think that they knew how to make trailer's in the 1970's.

Silent Running has a 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  So does Space Station 76, which is a recent parody of 1970's science fiction movies.  This one looks so weird I am not sure I could sit through it.  I might give it a try though.

One hundred and eight days till Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Meanwhile I will have to be content with watching Star Wars Rebels in October.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Right Stuff

When The Right Stuff was released in 1983 it was not a commercial success despite high praise from critics.  There was maybe a sense by audiences that it was too overtly political or patriotic, which overtly it isn't.  However, the movie found some success in VHS and DVD sales.

This is essentially three stories:  The story of Chuck Yeager, the story of the Mercury "7" astronauts, and the story of the media and political circus over the early space program.  

The film doesn't pull any punches.  It likes to make fun of just about everything.  The movie spends much more time satirizing Lyndon Johnson or showing the indignities the astronauts had to go to go through than it does any form for space exploration.  This is not a film that is particularly interested in science;  it is much more interested in the human drama of its characters.  This combination of humor with patriotic heroism ends up being the perfect mixture.  In fact, the three hour film feels like a perfect movie and 32 years later it is just as watchable. 

This movie loves trivial details which gives the film an authentic feel .  It could have been 30 minutes shorter, but then it would have lost some of the atmosphere it gained from focussing on minutia. 

The musical score is wonderful.

I regret waiting at least 20 years to watch it again.  This is the kind of movie that would be fun to watch again roughly every 10 years.

Had I made the movie I would have put more emphasis on science, but that might have been boring to most people.  Maybe future generations will wonder why there isn't more science in the film?

Rating:  * * * *

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Once the Necroambulist virus infects someone, their body slowly deteriorates.  After maybe a dozen weeks they lose any sense of self and want to bite other people.  Thus the virus spreads and by spreading has nearly destroyed civilization.  The government tries to contain the spread by forcing infected people into quarantine.  Quarantine is essentially a death camp for infected people who are going to die anyway.  There is no cure and no hope.

This is the impossible choice faced by Wade Vogel when his daughter Maggie becomes infected.  He is told that after 8 weeks he will have to turn his daughter over to quarantine.  He promised his deceased wife that he would protect Maggie, so he doesn't want to let the government take her.  He also knows that he is running out of time.  He tries to enjoy what little time he has remaining with his daughter, but hanging over his head is the rapidly approaching moment when he will not be able to do that anymore.  He will have to make a choice, but he doesn't know what choice to make.

Thus the film creates a subdued suspense that makes the movie a gem.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is wonderful here, and Abigail Breslin has been fantastic in everything she has ever played in.  The film is also full of good performances by the supporting actors.  Every character is desperately trying to cope in nearly impossible circumstances.

The situation faced by the characters is not much different than having to deal with alzheimer's or terminal cancer.

It is easy to believe in a worldwide epidemic when you  consider that the Spanish Flu killed 50 million people.

Some people might find the movie too slow, but I thought it was perfect.  The 54% rating on Rotten Tomatoes tells me that the film is underappreciated. 

Rating:  * * * .5

Friday, August 14, 2015


Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent, both of which I enjoyed.  I think that both films are better than what you might expect considering that they both have weak reviews.  The second film starts slow and is a little predictable, but I feel that the last act redeems it. 

Both movies take place in a post apocalyptic future where what is left of humanity lives in a walled off Chicago.  Their society operates on a kind of caste system, where each person must choose at a young age which caste to live in. The five castes are Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intellectual).  Beatrice Prior, or "Tris", is born into Abnegation, but chooses to live in Dauntless.  In Dauntless she is severely tested but slowly rises to the challenge.

Tris carries a secret, which is that she is "divergent", which means that she can fit into more than one caste.  The government doesn't like this and apparently considers divergents to be uncontrollable and dangerous. Ultimately, Tris must fight against corrupt forces in the government.


Divergent:  * * *.5
Insurgent:   * * *