We lift them up to you…our lord…Lucas…Disney…Snoke (wait, seriously, Supreme Leader….Snoke?)
I originally planned to write about how for so many Star Wars has become a religion, but, if this new Disney backed sequel, The Force Awakens, accomplishes anything, it’s that it successfully (and thankfully) wipes away the cartoonish reverent silliness of the prequel trilogy and returns the series to the rollicking space opera action of the originals.
Thirty years after The Return of the Jedi, Resistance leader Leia (Carrie Fisher, looking more and more like her mother with each passing year) has dispatched her star fighter pilot Poe (a game Oscar Isaac) to the Tatooine-esque Planet Jakku (not to be confused with Planet Jacko, where the King of Pop’s hologram rules supreme) to retrieve a map that will allegedly lead them to Luke Skywalker, who after the rise of the Dark Side supported First Order went into hidden exile. There Poe and his charismatic soccer-ball droid BB-8 (an instant new fan favorite) receive unlikely aid from a Storm Trooper with a sudden change of heart he calls Finn (John Boyega, in what should be a star-making turn) and a scrappy scavenger who just might have a bit of The Force in her named Rey (played with moxie by Daisy Ridley, who comes across as a more likable version of Keira Knightley). Continue reading →
Was it really that smart of Noah Baumbach to open his latest “comedy” by making us read a scene of dialogue from a play? Even if it is an Isben play…and even if it is pertinent to the film’s major theme…which is essentially beware of the young? Hidden beyond this stroke of semi-alienating pretension is an almost accessible, quasi-mainstream comedy, Baumbach’s most enjoyable (though far from best) yet.
Well, at least it immediately lets you know you’re in Baumbach territory. Our main characters are a documentarian/professor (Ben Stiller) and his producer wife (Naomi Watts). Only in movies, especially movies made by people like Woody Allen or Noah Baumbach (just like in any Franzen-esque pseudo-literary novel where everyone is a writer) is everyone involved in movies or the arts. This once seemingly hip middle-aged couple have lost their mojo, and they try to get it back by befriending a couple who came to one of his classes, an aspiring documentarian (Adam Driver) and his pretty, young artisanal ice-cream making wife (Amanda Seyfried). I balked at what the film was trying to make me believe…that Adam Driver (one of the most unlikable actors gracing the horizon of stardom) was supposed to be this generous, non-ironic, admirable seeker of truth and drinker of life. Ah, but alas…(spoiler alert!) things are not all what the seem…or in Driver’s case, turn out to be exactly what I suspected…this hipster douche acting like a hipster sage was in actuality…a hipster douche!
As is always the case, Baumbach peppers the film with sharp observational (sometimes judgmental) comedy and sound-bites amidst his odes-to-Woody conversational set pieces. Continue reading →