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The Force Awakens

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Mike Cohen
The Force Awakens
on Dec 18, 2015 at 3:44:17 pm

Hello Creative Cow.

It was 1977, the original Star Wars was being advertised heavily. This trailer makes it hard to believe the movie was so good:

For some reason, my brother went, I did not.

The first I saw of Star Wars was...the Star Wars Holiday Special. And the appearances on The Muppet Show.

Then for my 6th birthday the toys started. My 1st grade friend Dave gave me R2 and 3PO, and soon the rest followed. Back in the day, you could collect UPC codes from the packages, send them into Kenner and get a free limited edition toy, such as the legendary missile-firing Boba Fett - this was before Empire and most people had not heard of Fett...yet. I did not get...Fett. I think I got some weapons.

At the time my dad was electronics buyer for a now defunct catalog showroom, and occasionally sample toys would be circulating in the office. I did score a limited edition set of mini-vehicles. Not featured in the movies, but still cool.

1980 rolled around and me and Dave (different Dave) went to see Empire, and I never looked back. Well, I did look back a little because in this pre-home video era they then re-released Star Wars shortly after, or perhaps during the run of Empire. Shortly thereafter Star Wars started showing on HBO pretty much around the clock. Birthdays and Hanukkah...more toys...endless space battles around the neighborhood.

One of my friends had the lightsabers and blasters, so we got to have full scale battles as well.

Return of the Jedi came next. In those days you lined up for hours just to buy tickets. We waited in a line around the block at a downtown Des Moines theater where we saw all the big movies of the day (Superman, Superman II, ET, Time Bandits) and could not get tickets. The conversations among the adults were "oh we waited for 3 hours and didn't get in." Finally we got in and it was again, amazing. Then that was it - Luke defeated the Empire and everyone lived happily ever after, singing Ewok songs and dancing.

As a kid, you know you like these movies, but you miss out on the nuances, some of the humor and the detail. I rediscovered these aspects in the mid-90's when a letterbox VHS set was released. This was pre-special editions, but on a good VHS player and surround sound system it was like being in the theater again, sort of.

But on repeat viewings, especially of Empire, I discovered the level of detail and realism and what a science fiction / fantasy movie should be. Nowadays it seems every movie in this genre has over the top CGI battles with thousands of things happening at the same time - that's just too much and takes away from the story. In classic SW movies the Rebels send 20 ships to fight a much bigger enemy force, because that is everything they've got - they'd rather die fighting than just give up.

Let's skip over the Prequels because they don't fit this story.

Now it is 2015 and I have just seen The Force Awakens. After a year of hype, ridiculous merchandising, internet rumors, 12 minutes worth of trailers and footage, I am pleased to report that "it's true, all of it," The Force Awakens does everything right as Star Wars movies go. The realism, detail, solid acting, story, character development and yes, the humor that was so blatantly missing from the Prequels.

The sets, ships, characters and locations all felt real. Even the obvious CGI-enahnced shots had that Neil Blomkamp-esque organic-ness to them. You know it's CGI for practical reasons, but it is not overtly over the top shiny.

To avoid giving anything away, however subtly, I'll hold of on further commentary until more people have seen this.

Chewie, we're home!

Good to be back on the Cow as well

Mike Cohen

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 18, 2015 at 5:30:22 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Dec 18, 2015 at 5:30:51 pm

Nice to hear, and thanks for keeping spoiler-free for the moment.

I'm gonna brave the lines tonight or tomorrow morning.

I remember seeing that original promo trailer on TV when it first came out. Notice how the typography on the title doesn't match the Star Wars logo yet... and BOY, what a difference it made, not having the musical score by John Williams in the promo.

Since JJ is involved in both, thought I'd mention the trailer for the new trek movie is out, and it's a hot mess.... co-writer on the show Simon Pegg is already distancing himself from it. Can it be worse than not-quite Khan was? I dunno, but JJ is not apologizing in comments for screwing up the last one, blaming the studio for the plot decisions made.

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Mike Cohen
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 18, 2015 at 6:01:57 pm

Let's look closer at Star Trek Nemesis, or whatever it is called:

They hired the director of a Fast and Furious movie - and it looks like one too.

Simon Pegg is a fun actor - and has written a ton of comedy but can he write a scifi blockbuster?

Maybe because he wrote Hot Fuzz, it seemed ok to make Star Trek: Hot Mess.

I'll see it, but it looks like a disaster.

People loved Jurassic World, but I thought that was a hot mess too. The director, Colin Trevorrow, supposedly rewrote what was probably a better script from Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver (who do decent work on Planet of the Apes movies (I know I have criticized these movies in the past which I attribute to the directors of those movies ) and now working on Avatar movies. The fact that filmmakers would get into this kind of dispute makes me not want to be a filmmaker

Good grief.

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Scott Roberts
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:17:53 pm
Last Edited By Scott Roberts on Dec 18, 2015 at 11:29:10 pm

Nice commentary, Mike! It's good to read stuff like that from you around here again!

I've now seen Force Awakens twice. I went once last night on a regular screen, and then I went again this morning in IMAX 3D. Made me feel bad for the people who were showing up to the box office this morning at 9 AM trying to get tickets for any showtime today, and they were all sold out. Then again, you should have bought multiple tickets weeks in advance like the rest of us psychos.

But I know, like those poor souls, not everyone has gotten around to seeing Force Awakens yet; either do to not getting a ticket in time, having commitments to their jobs (ha!) or families (HA!), or because you really don't want to sit next to a bunch of mouth breathers in a sold out show, so you're waiting until next week. Whatever the case, I will respect that, and provide a spoiler free review here for now...

Holy cow! That really did live up to expectations! Right from the start when _____ shows up and ____ ___ the ____, but then gets _____ while ____ has a little ____ in his ____, I knew this was going to be the start of a pretty great movie. Introducing ____ as a ____ ____ was a good decision as well. I maybe kinda thought that the _____ _____ was a little bit of a lazy rehash of _____ from ____, and _____ wasn't as riveting a _____ as _____ ____ _____ ____, but those are minor quibbles as opposed to something that you should drag the whole film down over.

In fact, I'd rather focus on the positive, and talk about how ____ did the _____ _____ in such a cool way. And boy howdy, when they _____ on the planet _____ I was getting really excited. And that's when the ____ show up! And the third act... That was a doozy! When _____ _____ ____ and ____ _____ ___ it's ____ ____ from a ____ and ______ _____ _____ ____ in the _____ ____ and he ____ ____ ____! I nearly _____ when she _____ and ____ out of _____ ____, with the _____ and flies into ____ and _____ then it's like _____ _____ ____ ____ _____ ____ _____ ___ __ ______ ____ _____ _______ ______ _____ ______ __ ____ _______ ____ ____ _____ ____ ____ in danger ____ ___ ___ ______ ___ ____ ____ ____ __ __ _ ____ ____ ____ __ ______ ___ ___ in the snow!

You know, this isn't really working out all that well... Maybe I'll just list off my very generic, very spoiler free thoughts about the movie, which don't include how ____ ____ ____ is ___ __ the _____ ___ ___ !

-I thought it was better than any of the prequels, by a lot, which I think would be hard to argue against. In fact, if you want to attempt to tell me how any of the three prequels were more thrilling, entertaining, more well shot, or had better characters; I'd love to hear that, because you're probably a jerk.

-Where do I think it ranks against the original three? Hmmm... It's actually hard to judge, because they have such different styles and pacing. Plus, this definitely felt like a modern movie (because it is, duh), as opposed to JJ Abrams trying to just recreate the exact same cinematic look as 1983. Which is probably a good thing. But I don't know, if it were possible to take away the pure unadulterated classic-ness of Episode 4, not treat all the little moments as things that have been cemented into the very fabric of our culture, and compare them both as just films... Maybe this one is better than A New Hope...? Just as a movie's movie? I don't know. It's not as good as Empire or Jedi, though.

-The new characters are awwwwwwesome. They really are. I'm legitimately excited to follow two more movies with them as the central figures. Finn, in particular, was the best. He acts unlike any character we've ever seen in these movies before. He might already be one of my favorite characters in *any* Star Wars movie. Watching all his little mannerisms a second time through really made me like him even more, too. But Rey, Poe, BB-8, and Kylo Ren are all very interesting new characters as well. Maybe only the two other new bad guy characters didn't feel that great to me, but they also were given very little screen time and weren't developed much yet.

-And the old characters felt very welcomed, and given an acceptable amount of fan service. I mean, they *are* central Star Wars characters, and they *did* move the story along.

-I like all of the hype that JJ used a bunch of puppets instead of CG characters, but then there were a bunch of CG characters as well, and all I could stare at was how CG they were. Why not just make them all puppe- Oh right, you casted Andy Serkis.

-The action was great, especially in the flight sequences. Like the low altitude stuff.

-The lightsaber battles were really good, too. They were well-paced, and had emotional moments and impactful strikes. They weren't just two ninjas flying all over the screen and doing backflips.

-The IMAX 3D was actually good. And the 3D effect didn't completely lose its power halfway through the movie. The scenes towards the end still had good 3D effects, surprisingly.

-The music made my heart flutter a few times. Those classic tracks really know how to do it for me. But a bunch of the new ones were really good as well. Gonna download the soundtrack for my car.

-It was kind of fun to hear people clapping and cheering when key moments happened in the first act. And then it was kind of funny when like one or two people would try to start a clapping moment in the second half of the movie and got shut down.

-I liked it even *more* the second time I saw it. Probably because I was able to appreciate what was happening more, and wasn't just a pent-up ball of excitement. Not that having that first excitement was a bad thing in any way, that was a great feeling to have as well. But when I watched it the second time, I heard at least four lines that I didn't hear the first time for whatever reason. Also, almost 100% of the jokes were still funny the second time.

-Oh yeah, this is a legitimately hilarious movie.

-Leading into this I went on a Star Wars media blackout after the first "official" trailer. And now having seen the movie, looking back at the initial teaser trailer and the first official trailer; those things are freaking works of art. They gave almost nothing real away (ok, maybe just one emotional shot), while providing a perfect amount of hype leading into it. I wouldn't recommend that people go on a 100% media blackout, because the excitement for the last month or so that just the first official trailer provided was a worthwhile set of imagery to have in my brain for a few weeks. Plus, they used a lot of alternate takes in the trailer that didn't even show up in the final cut of the film. Was there even a second official trailer? I know there was an international trailer that I didn't watch.

-OK, just watched the international trailer... Happy I didn't watch that before the movie, seemed a little more spoilery on a few things. But a pretty good trailer to see after the fact.

All in all, I'm super satisfied with The Force Awakens, and it has me very excited to see where the trilogy goes next. I assume after 2019, we will all agree that this was a great lead-in to the rest of a (hopefully) great story about ____ ___ ____ ___ _____ ______ ______ and ____ ___.


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Mike Cohen
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 12:28:39 am

Well said Scott - especially the part about __________ telling ___________ that ________ is ____________ as well as when ________ does __________ with __________ in the ________.

Said another way, I liked it when Col Mustard killed Mrs. Peacock with the candlestick in the library.

Two annoyances in my showing. The 5 guys sitting immediately behind me took a group photo to mark the occasion. 8 times, with flash until they got a good one. This was during the commercials before the previews.

Then during the opening crawl, one guy was filming with his phone, and another guy was checking his Facebook. At least one flash went off also.


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Tim Wilson
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 12:52:28 am
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Dec 19, 2015 at 2:30:53 am

I was very disappointed by this, but I'll save the details for another thread. Here, I'll note the things I liked:

-- 3D. They got it right, which is incredibly rare. Yes, I'm a 3D fanboy, which is why I think it's such a big deal to get it right. I really do recommend it.

-- They explicitly reclaim The Force from Lucas. Good advice for everyone, in all walks of life, and definitely filmmakers working in the Star Wars universe: act like the prequels never happened.

-- "THAT's not how The Force works!"

-- "Who's supposed to talk first?"

-- Soft-edged wipes! Woo-hoo! These made me very happy.

-- Daisy Ridley

That's about it for me.

I'll happily take this opportunity to once again recommend the work of John Boyega (Finn) in Attack The Block, a terrific low-budget piece from the producers of Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim.

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Jeremy Garchow
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 3:15:28 am

I'm not a 3D fanboy, but I liked the 3D in this movie. There was a moment when _____ uses the _____ to get the _____, that I flinched because I thought the ________ was going to hit my head.

I flinched! At 3D!

But now, I have to see it in 2D so I can really appreciate the CG and lighting in full luma.

I really dig this movie. I'm glad Star Wars is back.

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 4:42:52 am

The story opened my eyes to the threat of radical jediism

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Mike Cohen
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 1:38:32 pm

Wow - as a satirical article it is cleverly written, though the author doesn't accurately describe some of the events. The problem with such a fake article is that there is a captive audience of right wingnuts who may see this and take it seriously.

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 2:20:57 pm

From a certain point of view...

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Force Awakens
on Dec 19, 2015 at 8:31:34 pm

OK, saw it, liked it, it works, it's not a huge disappointment. I got strong impression of a reimagining of A New Hope and Empire, with 25% new stuff added in. It's a good mix, making callbacks to the familiar, but adding variations, more depth and detail, while charting a new plot direction. Kind of like a jazz cover of an old standard song you already knew. The level of visual detail is far and away superior to what Lucas was doing. We will be step-framing and nerding out over still frames for quite a while. Plot is pretty basic, moves along very fast. If I would criticize anything it's that a few scenes could have been played a little longer.

You knew Simon Pegg had a cameo in this under alien makeup, but did you know James Bond Daniel Craig did one as a stormtrooper?

Some funny gags with stormtroopers here and there, the audience loved them.

Yes, the 3-d works well: I reached out to pinch the nose of the ship, too. I think everybody did.

Some effective use of and reference to themes of light vs. dark thruought, well-integrated.

This was shot on film and yet I got an overall impression of it being more video-y. But distractingly so. I wasn't bowled over by the last five shots, in how they were shot. But the rest of the film, very groovy, baby!.

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Stephen Smith
Re: The Force Awakens
on Jan 4, 2016 at 7:52:28 pm

I think the last three films (1,2&3) took the franchise down so much that Disney had the deck stacked against them. I'm happy that they didn't screw up The Force Awakens. Here is a video of George Lucas meeting with JJ Abrams about the movie before they started making it:

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page

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