action, adventure, fantasy, movie, movie review, sci-fi

November 8th, 2018 Movie – Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

star wars episode vii - the last jedi

It’s funny, but I just realized that it is almost exactly 1 year since I started reviewing the Star Wars movies, and I now find myself watching the most recent one. Now there was a lot of buzz about this movie but the biggest surprise was what happened after it came out. People went absolutely ape-shit on the internet over this movie, for all sorts of reasons. I can kind of understand the one bit about Princess Leia but the trolls that attacked Kelly Marie Tran really took things too far. Anyways, all of the negative media buzz concerning this movie weighed in on my mind when I finally went and saw Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi, but I refused to let it ruin my day and set back to enjoy the movie.

The plot: After the destruction of the First Order’s Starkiller base, General Leia Organa orders the Resistance base on D’Qar to evacuate but a fleet of First Order Star Destroyers arrives before they can flee. General Hux, the former leader of Starkiller base, prepares to open fire on the base when Poe Dameron approaches his flag ship and opens a communication with it. As Hux speaks with Poe, Poe acts like he can’t hear him in an effort to stall for time, then he makes an attack on the First Order’s dreadnought, taking out it’s surface cannons. The ruse works as the Resistance is able to escape the base before it is destroyed and Leia orders Poe back to the fleet but Poe disobeys her orders, saying that they need to destroy the dreadnought while they have the chance. With the last of the dreadnought’s surface cannons destroyed, Resistance bombers head towards it, with Poe and other fighter craft covering them. As the bombers get close to the dreadnought, most of them are destroyed when a tie fighter crashes into one of them, causing it to explode and take most of the others with it. The last surviving bomber makes it over to the dreadnought and though badly damaged, manages to drop it’s bombs and destroy it, which brings a cheer to the Resistance members but Leia is saddened by the massive loss of life that the victory cost them. As the fleet escapes into hyperspace, Finn awakens from the injuries he sustained fighting Kylo Ren and wanders out of the med bay, only to be spotted by Poe and as Poe goes to help him get dressed, Finn asks where Rey is. On the planet Ahch-To, Rey hands Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber and he stares at it before tossing it over a cliff. Rey is shocked by his actions and after retrieving it, goes to try and speak to Skywalker but he refuses to open the door to his cabin. Rey gets Chewbacca, who knocks down the door and roars at Luke and when Rey says that Luke is coming back to the Falcon with them, Luke asks where Han is. Elsewhere, Supreme Leader Snoke hears Hux’s plan for how they will destroy the Resistance and is pleased to hear what it is. As Hux leaves to carry out his plan, Kylo Ren approaches Snoke and Snoke admonishes him for his defeat against Rey, causing Kylo to get upset after he leaves the throne room. Back on Ahch-To, Rey explains why she is there to Luke but he refuses to help her and goes about his day. Rey refuses to give up and follows him around but after a bit, she senses something with the Force and is drawn to an old tree, where she finds some ancient books inside. Luke confronts her and reveals that the books are the original Jedi texts and then questions Rey again about why she is there and when she tells him about what is happening with her, Luke tells her that she needs a teacher but he refuses to teach another generation of Jedi as he had come to the planet to die. The Resistance fleet comes out of hyperspace and as Leia chastises Poe, then discusses what their next plan should be, the First Order fleet appears behind them and starts opening fire. Finn says they should do another jump but Leia realizes that they tracked them through hyperspace, which should have been impossible, and if they did another jump they will be stuck with no fuel and at the First Order’s mercy. Poe goes to lead an attack squad against the Star Destroyers but Kylo and his squadron attack the Resistance flagship, destroying their fighter bay and all of the fighters in it. Kylo then goes to attack the bridge but when he senses Leia’s presence on board, he hesitates but his wingmen don’t and blow up the bridge, sending Leia hurtling into space. Kylo is called back as the Resistance ships have moved out of range for the Star Destroyers to cover him, but they continue chasing the fleet, picking away at their shields. Meanwhile, Leia uses the force to head back to the flagship but the effort leaves her exhausted and she is taken to the medbay, while Finn picks up the signal/tracking device Leia had to contact Rey. Back on Ahch-To, Luke sneaks onto the Falcon and is surprised to see R2-D2 on board. When Luke tells R2 that he won’t be going back, R2 plays the old message of Leia begging Obi-Wan Kenobi to help her, and Luke reluctantly agrees to train Rey. Back on the Resistance flagship, with Leia incapacitated and the rest of the leadership dead, command of the fleet has fallen to Vice Admiral Holdo and when Poe approaches her to find out what the plan is, she refuses to tell him. Meanwhile, Finn attempts to escape with the biotracker in an escape pod but he is stunned by a technician named Rose. As Finn recovers, Rose is taking him to the brig when they start arguing about the First Order being able to track them through hyperspace, which causes them to come up with an idea. Finn and Rose tell Poe their idea about sneaking on the lead Star Destroyer and taking out the tracking system long enough for them to get away. Poe contacts Maz Kanata to see if she can help them crack the First Order’s security codes but she is tied up in a labor dispute but recommends a first class hacker that can be found on Canto Bight. Meanwhile, Rey wakes up to begin her training only to see a vision of Kylo, who is also able to see her. Rey tries to attack Kylo and Kylo speaks to her but when Luke appears, the connection is severed. Luke takes Rey up to a cliff and teaches her the first lesson about the Force but as she opens herself up to it, a darkness within the island calls out to her, causing her to react via the force. As Rey stops her efforts, she comments that Luke has closed himself off from the force and Luke tells her that he has seen this much power once before and he wasn’t scared then but he is now. Meanwhile, Finn, Rose, and BB-8 head to Canto Bight to locate the master hacker but as they search for him, they end up being captured for illegally parking their shuttle on a private beach. Back on Ahch-To, Rey has another vision of Kylo, who wonders why the Force is connecting them and when she tells him she found Luke, he taunts her by asking her if he told her what happened the night the temple was burned. Luke continues the lessons and tells Rey how in the end, the Jedi were failures due to their own pride in their abilities with the Force. Rey disputes the notion but Luke tells her about how the Jedi allowed Darth Sidious to rise to power and create the Empire, and how his own pride allowed his nephew Ben to become Kylo Ren and slaughter his students. Back on Canto Bight, Finn and Rose try to figure out a way out of the cell when DJ, a hacker who is in the cell with them offers to help them. They refuse his offer but when DJ picks the lock and leaves, they leave as well, escaping into the sewers, while DJ encounters BB-8, who is knocking out the guards with coins he acquired. Finn and Rose find themselves in a stable and as the kids working in the stable move to sound the alarm, Finn and Rose tell them they are with the resistance and the kids help them escape by opening the stables and letting the racing fathiers out. Finn and Rose ride on the back of one through the city and out to the beach but the police blow up their shuttle before they can get on board so they continue riding up the cliffs. They manage to elide the police and set their mount free when BB-8 appears in a shuttle, driven by DJ, and they quickly get on board and speed off. Back on Ahch-To, Luke finally opens himself up to the Force and uses it to reach out to Leia, who calls out his name. Meanwhile, Rey continues to have conversations with Kylo and he tells her that Luke had attempted to kill him because he feared Kylo’s strength in the Force. Shaken by what Kylo told her, Rey heads to the hole that is strong in the Dark Side of the Force and ends up falling in. Inside, she finds a strange, cracked mirror, which shows myriad reflections of herself and when she tries to see her parents, she only sees herself again. Rey talks with Kylo about her experience and as they continue talking, they tell each other they are not alone and touch each other through the Force. Luke enters Rey’s cabin and seeing what is happening, yells out for them to stop, destroying the cabin in the process. Luke angrily yells at Rey to leave the island and Rey asks if what Kylo told her is true. The two end up fighting and Rey ends up besting Luke when she uses the Force to grab Anakin’s old lightsaber and uses it on him, causing him to stumble and fall to the ground. Luke tells her that he had sensed a darkness in Kylo and when he looked into his mind, realized that Snoke had already turned him. Luke reacted on instinct and activated his lightsaber but couldn’t bring himself to kill Kylo but Kylo realized Luke’s initial intention and struck down Luke and destroyed his school. Rey tells Luke that she had sensed Kylo’s turmoil and feels that she could bring him back to the light and despite Luke telling her not to leave, she takes off with Chewie and R2-D2. After they leave, Luke goes to destroy the ancient Jedi texts and the tree/temple when he sees the Force Spirit of Yoda watching him. When Luke can’t bring himself to do it, Yoda summons a lightning bolt to destroy the tree and texts and when Luke argues about it, Yoda tells him that they offered nothing that Rey didn’t already know. Yoda then tells Luke that he needed to pass on what he had learned, and that included his failures as they were more important to learn from. Meanwhile, Finn and Rose are making their way to the First Order fleet and when DJ tells them he expects to be paid for his services, they tell him the Resistance will pay him when they are done and Rose gives him her necklace as a down payment. Elsewhere, the Resistance fleet has lost both of it’s escort craft and when Poe goes to see Holdo to demand to know what their plan is, he discovers that she is fueling the escape craft and plans on having everyone abandon ship. Poe is angry that she is willing to risk everyone’s lives in unarmed ships and tells her about his plan with Finn and Rose and when Holdo refuses to change her plan, Poe leads a mutiny and takes command of the ship. As Finn, Rose, DJ, and BB-8 sneak onto Snoke’s ship, Rey tells Chewie to jetison her in the escape pod and wait for her signal to return, then leaves the ship and heads to Snoke’s ship as well. She is met by Kylo, who places her in manacles and takes her up to see Snoke. Finn, Rose, DJ, and BB-8 make it to the tracking system but are captured by Captain Phasma and as Poe, who was in contact with them, despairs over their capture, he is shocked to see Leia break through the door to the bridge and stun him. Lei has Poe loaded onto one of the escape shuttles and as she discusses the plan with Holdo, Holdo says she has to stay aboard and pilot the flagship to make sure the shuttles are able to escape and though Leia is saddened by the sacrifice, she knows Holdo is right. When Poe recovers, Leia points out the nearby planet Crait and explains that there is a former Rebellion base on the planet that is heavily fortified and should allow them to contact their allies in the Outer Rim while the First Order passes them by. On Snoke’s ship, Snoke reveals that he had facilitated the connection between Rey and Kylo, as he knew Rey would fall into his trap so he could either kill her or turn her. Meanwhile, DJ is revealed to have cut a deal with the First Order and told them of the Resistance’s plan and they begin firing on the escape shuttles. Meanwhile, Snoke continues to taunt Rey and reveals the Resistance shuttles being destroyed. Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey but as Kylo moves to do so, he secretly maneuvers Anakin’s lightsaber so that it is facing Snoke, then activates it, cutting Snoke in half. Rey and Kylo then proceed to fight off Snoke’s guards and after killing them, Rey tells Kylo to call off the attack on the shuttles but he refuses, saying that they should get rid of the old and she should rule at his side. Rey refuses and they end up fighting over Anakin’s lightsaber, eventually causing it to be split in two, knocking them both out. Meanwhile, Holdo maneuvers the flagship towards the First Order fleet and jumps to light speed, sacrificing herself by crashing into Snoke’s ship and destroying or damaging several of the smaller Star Destroyers while buying time for the remaining shuttles to make it to the surface. Finn and Rose, who were about to be executed, attempt to escape in shuttle but are forced to deal with Phasma and her stormtroopers but manage to escape with BB-8’s help, who had taken over an AT-ST. Meanwhile, Hux heads to the throne room and sees Snoke dead and Kylo lying unconscious on the floor. Hux moves to kill Kylo when Kylo regains consciousness, saying that Rey killed Snoke and demanding to know where she is. When Hux tells Kylo that she escaped in Snoke’s escape pod, Kylo orders their troops to the planet’s surface to finish off the Resistance and when Hux questions Kylo’s authority, Kylo force chokes him into accepting Kylo as the new Supreme Commander. On Crait, the Resistance prepare to hold off the First Order, Finn sees that the First Order has a battering order cannon with them and warns that it will crack open the shield door in seconds. The Resistance starts to lose hope, especially when they learn the shield door is the only way in or out, but Finn says they have to have hope that their allies will come and they should hold out until then. The Resistance forces head out to the surface, while Poe, Finn, and Rose lead a squad of pilots in ancient Rebellion speeders to take out the battering ram cannon. AS Kylo orders the support Tie-Fighters to take out the speeders and ground troopers, the Tie-Fighters come under fire by the Millennium Falcon, with Rey and Chewie on board, and the fighters all go after it. Poe leads the speeders towards the cannon but as they start getting picked off, he tells everyone to break off the attack. Finn refuses to listen and continues towards the cannon, intending to sacrifice himself to destroy it, but Rose crashes her ship into his, knocking them both out of the way as the cannon fires and blasts a hole in the door. Finn rushes over to Rose’s ship to see if she is still alive and asks why she did that and she tells him that the way they will beat them is not by destroying what they hate, but saving what they love. Inside the base, the Resistance learns that their distress signal has been received in numerous systems but nobody is coming to help them and Leia says that they must have finally run out of hope. Suddenly, Luke appears in the base and speaks with Leia, apologizing for what happened to Ben (Kylo) and saying that he is there to face him. Luke heads outside to confront Kylo and when he sees him, Kylo orders his troops to open fire on him but Luke is seemingly unfazed by their attack so Kylo orders his shuttle to land so he can confront him. Poe and the remaining Resistance troops watch Luke and Finn wants to help him but Poe realizes that Luke is stalling so that they can escape. As Poe tells everyone to try and find another way out, he notices that the crystal foxes that were in the base have vanished. Bringing that to everyone’s attention, they all see one last fox staring at them before making it’s way down a tunnel and they all follow after it. They eventually catch up to it at the site of a recent landslide and Poe starts to give up hope when Rey, who had been searching for them, uses the Force to lift the boulders away, allowing the Resistance to escape. Meanwhile, Luke and Kylo are fighting when Luke suddenly stops, as he knows his stalling has worked, and when Kylo moves to kill him, his blade goes right through Luke, revealing that Luke was simply a Force projection all along. As Luke disappears, Kylo realizes he has been tricked and sends his forces into the base but they find it empty. On Ahch-To, Luke ends up dying from his exertion battling Kylo, with both Leia and Rey feeling him pass. Kylo senses Rey and the two stare at each other through the Force before Rey closes the door to the Falcon and they leave. As the surviving members congratulate each other on surviving, Leia and Rey speak about feeling Luke’s passing, With Leia saying that the Rebellion is reborn. On Canto Bight, The children that helped Finn and Rose escape are reenacting Luke Skywalker’s stand against Kylo and the First Order when the stable manager yells at them. As they rush off to get back to work, one of them uses the Force to summon a broom to his hand and starts sweeping before staring up into the stars.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi honors the saga’s rich legacy while adding some surprising twists — and delivering all the emotion-rich action fans could hope for.” When filming, Laura Dern said “pew” every time she shot her blaster. Although not audible, one such instance even made it into the finished film. It can be noticed in the close-up shot when Holdo is stunning her opponents. With the passing of Kenny Baker, Anthony Daniels is the only actor to appear in all 8 of the main Star Wars films. Though it didn’t earn as much as it’s predecessor, the movie was a box office smash, earning $1.333 billion off of a $317 million budget.

Here’s the deal. When you watch any of the new Star Wars movies, you have to ask yourself one question before you start; Was this movie worse than Episode I? With that being said, this wasn’t what I would consider a great follow up but it was a good movie, and definitely better than The Phantom Menace. The acting was good, with Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe), and Adam Driver (Kylo) doing good jobs reprising their roles. I also thought that Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were good reprising the roles of Luke and Leia respectively, while Kelly Marie Tran did a good job as Rose. The story was honestly a little disappointing because you had so many side things going on at once. Granted, the movie seemed to resemble Empire Strikes Back in some regards but while George Lucas did a good job keeping the different sub-plots flowing smoothly, the sub-plots in The Last Jedi seemed to keep jumping around at random in such a way that they felt disjointed with each other, until the last 30 minutes or so where they started to rejoin each other. Speaking of resembling Empire, the last battle on Crait really did feel like it was the Battle of Hoth, just with different equipment. Now, for the scene that brought about so much anger. Seeing as how she was the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, there was always a chance that Leia would be Force sensitive. In fact, she showed her abilities starting to emerge at the end of Return Of The Jedi. So to assume that in the years after the fall of the Empire, that she would not have undergone at least some basic training with Luke is pretty silly notion (in the old Star Wars books, Leia was actually trained by another Jedi, as she felt Luke was going to soft on her). Now, I will admit that the scene itself was quite a bit over the top, okay it was REALLY over the top, but it wasn’t as far fetched of a thing as the haters claimed it to be. The special effects were incredible and the colors and imagery in the scenes were amazing to see. I loved the battle in Snoke’s throne room, where Kylo and Ren fight the guards against the solid red backdrop of the walls and curtains, with the curtains catching fire and falling among them adding to the raw emotion in the scene. I also liked the sand that turned red on Crait, as it made for a nice way to liven up the otherwise barren battle scene. So it is a good movie and did do a good job in being the midpoint in a trilogy but it needed to nail down a couple of issues to be considered truly great.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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October 27th, 2018 Movie – Black Panther

black panther

Back in the 90’s, there was talk that Wesley Snipes wanted to do a movie based on Black Panther, but it never came about and he ended up starring in Blade. However, the idea never truly went away as in the 2000’s, with the success of the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Blade movies, Marvel announced Black Panther as one of the characters that would be involved in a movie deal with Paramount Pictures, which would end up becoming the MCU. Ever since he appeared in Civil War, there was a lot of talk about how the Black Panther’s solo movie would turn out and the trailers for it only made people want to talk about it even more. I know it got me wanting to go see it and shortly after it hit theaters, I went early one Sunday morning and watched Black Panther, and am excited to watch it again.

The plot: Millions of years ago, a vibranium meteorite crashed to Africa. Centuries later, after mankind developed on Earth, 5 tribes settled in the area, calling it Wakanda, but the tribes were constantly at war with each other. When a shaman warrior receives a vision of the panther goddess Bast, which led him to a heart-shaped herb infused with the meteorites powers, he eats the herb, granting him superhuman abilities, and became the first Black Panther. The man then united 4 of the tribes together but the 5th tribe, the Jabari, refuse and isolate themselves in the mountains. With peace settled, the Wakandans uses the vibranium to advance their civilization but as wars and chaos occur in the outside world, the countries leaders decide to keep themselves hidden in plain site by pretending to be a third world country while hiding their nation’s true power. In 1992 Oakland, California, a Wakandan native called N’Jobu is planning an arms heist with his partner James when he receives a visit from King T’Chaka. After greeting N’Jobu, T’Chaka embraces him, as N’Jobu is his baby brother, and asks how he is doing. He then tells N’Jobu that a man called Ulysses Klaue had somehow broken into Wakanda and stolen some vibranium from their storehouse. When N’Jobu denies T’Chaka’s accusations that he helped Klaue enter Wakanda, James reveals that he is another Wakanda spy named Zuri and reveals that he was helping him, and T’Chaka orders N’Jobu to be taken back to Wakanda to face the council for his crimes. In the present day, one week has passed since King T’Chaka was killed at the United Nations bombing. As his son T’Challa watches news reports talking about his becoming the new king, Okoye, the leader of the Dora Milaje (Wakanda’s elite special forces unit), pilots him towards a convoy, where one of Wakanda’s undercover operatives is being held captive. Okoye moves to go with T’Challa but he tells her he can handle things on his own and Okoye relents but tells him not to freeze when he sees “her”. Donning his helmet, T’Challa drops from their ship and throws some EMP beads at the convoy, shutting down the engines of the vehicles. T’Challa then begins attacking the guerillas but freezes when Nakia, his former lover, stops him from killing one of them, as he is just a boy that had also been kidnapped. The last guerilla uses the opportunity to grab another hostage but he is killed by Okoye, who admonishes T’Challa. T’Challa explains to Nakia why they are there and they leave, sending the other captives back to their villages while they head back to Wakanda. In London, Erik Stevens is looking at the artifacts in the African wing of the British Museum, discussing them with the curator, when he comments that one of them is from Wakanda and he plans to steal it. The woman starts to call security when she collapses due to a poison in her coffee and Klaue and his partner, disguised as paramedics, arrive and kill the security guards. Klaue breaks open the display case and grabs the artifact, confirming it is made of vibranium and tells Stevens that he already has a buyer for it and Stevens warns him that the Wakandans will come after him but Klaue isn’t concerned and they leave, with Stevens grabbing a mask from another display as they do. Back in Wakanda, Zuri leads the coronation ceremony and after T’Challa’s powers are stripped from him, the offer is made for any tribe to challenge him from the throne. The 4 tribes say they will not challenge for the throne but before Zuri can declare T’Challa king, the Jabari tribe, led by M’Baku, arrive at ceremony. M’Baku says that the Jabari have watched and can’t stand for how Wakanda is being run now and challenges T’Challa for the throne, which T’Challa accepts. The two men fight, with M’Baku getting the upper hand but T’Challa is able to overcome him but instead of killing him, he forces M’Baku to yield, saying his people need him. T’Challa has his powers restored and as he is healed of his wounds, his mind is taken to the ancestral plane, where he is visited by his father and T’Challa asks him for advise on being a king. The next day, T’Challa tries to convince Nakia to stay in Wakanda but she tells him she can’t as she wants to do more to help people in the other countries and tries to get him to have Wakanda do more as well. As he talks with his friend W’kabi about Nakia’s wishes, they are both contacted by Okoye and head to a council meeting. In the meeting, Okoye tells them about the theft of the Wakandan artifact and Klaue selling it in South Korea and T’Challa decides to head out to South Korea to capture or kill him. After heading to his sister Shuri’s lab so she can give him some new equipment, he heads to South Korea with Okoye and Nakia. The three head to an illegal casino that Nakia knows about during her undercover days, and as they scope out the place, T’Challa recognizes CIA agent Everett Ross and tells them that there may be some complications. T’Challa approaches Ross and asks him if he is there to buy the vibranium and when Ross doesn’t deny it, T’Challa tells him that he is leaving the building with Klaue. When Klaue arrives, he as several men with him and T’Challa realizes that Klaue expected them to show up. When Okoye’s cover is blown, Klaue has his men attack everyone and he manages to stun T’Challa with his hidden sonic blaster when T’Challa confronts him. Klaue and his men leave, with Okoye and Nakia chasing after them and T’Challa eventually follows, riding atop a car that is being remotely driven by Shuri. Klaue’s men split up and T’Challa, Okoye, and Nakia split up to chase after them, taking out all of Klaue’s subordinates but Klaue is able to destroy Okoye and Nakia’s car. T’Challa catches up to Klaue and disables his car, causing it to wreck and moves to kill Klaue but Okoye and Nakia, who had been given a lift by Ross, tells him to stop as there are too many people there filming the encounter. Klaue is taken to a CIA holding facility and Ross questions him about his arm cannon but Klaue tells him that it is nothing compared to the weapons that Wakanda has, explaining the history behind the country. As Ross questions T’Challa about the truth of Klaue’s claims, Stevens and his team show up and break Klaue out of the cell and escape, severely wounding Ross in the process. Realizing that Ross will die if they don’t help him, T’Challa decides to bring Ross to Wakanda so Shuri can hela him, much to the chagrin of Okoye. After taking Ross to Shuri’s lab, and T’Challa breaking the news to W’Kabi that they did not capture Klaue, T’Challa goes to see Zuri and question him about his uncle N’Jobu, as Stevens was wearing a ring just like T’Challa’s. Zuri is reluctant to speak but when T’Challa demands answers, he tells him the truth about N’Jobu, who had a son while in America, and that T’Chaka had been forced to kill N’Jobu when he attempted to kill Zuri for betraying him. Meanwhile, Stevens kills Klaue and his team, then transports Klaue’s body to Wakanda and shows it to W’Kabi, who asks who Stevens is. Ross regains consciousness and is shocked to see the lab that he is in, as well as the mountain of vibranium. As he talks with Shuri, Okoye contacts her to ask where T’Challa is and tells her about Stevens and Klaue and when Shuri sees the image of Stevens she is shocked when Okoye says he is Wakandan but Ross says that Stevens is an American Black Ops member. T’Challa is with Nakai, discussing what his father did to his uncle when Shuri contacts him and he heads to the palace. Ross tells T’Challa and Shuri about Stevens, who had gone by the code name Killmonger in his unit, and when Killmonger is brought to the Council, T’Challa says he knows who he is. Killmonger reveals that he is the son of N’Jobu and exercises his right to combat for the throne and T’Challa reluctantly accepts. T’Challa is stripped of his powers and fights Killmonger but Killmonger is able to beat T’Challa and moves to kill him but Zuri stops him, saying that he is the reason that N’Jobu is dead. Killmonger kills Zuri and as T’Challa reacts in grief, Killmonger chastises T’Challa’s capabilities to the Elders before throwing him over the waterfall. Nakia gets Shuri and her mother Ramonda to safety, as well as Ross, but when she tries to get Okoye to come with her, Okoye reluctantly tells her that the Dora Milaje serve the throne, no matter who is on it. Killmonger undergoes the ritual to gain the powers of the Black Panther, instead of the Ancestral Plane, Killmonger finds himself in his father’s old apartment, where N’Jobu tells him that they are both lost but Killmonger rejects that idea. Regaining consciousness, Killmonger orders the garden of the heart-shaped herb to be razed so nobody else can get the power of the Black Panther but Nakia manages to sneak down and steal one of the herbs before they are destroyed. Once he is on the throne, Killmonger tells the Council that they should send vibranium weapons to their “war dogs” so that they can arm revolutions and overthrow the various governments and set themselves up as rulers. Okoye says that is not the Wakandan way but W’Kabi says that the old ways are no longer practical and now they should embrace Killmonger’s idea. Meanwhile, Nakia, Ramonda, Shuri, and Ross travel to Jabariland, where Nakia intends to give M’Baku the last of the herbs so that he might overthrow Killmonger. M’Baku has them follow him to a hut, where they find T’Challa half buried in snow, and M’Baku explains that one of his fishermen found him on the river and brought him there, where he has been in a coma ever since. Ramonda gives the herb to T’Challa, who is transported to the Ancestral Plane again but instead of going with his father, he tells T’Chaka and his ancestors that their policies led them to this and he must go and right their wrongs. After T’Challa regains consciousness, Ross tells him about Killmonger’s training and he realizes that Killmonger is planning on doing exactly what his father wanted T’Chaka to do. Deciding that they need to stop Killmonger, T’Challa thanks M’Baku for saving his life, who says that he owed T’Challa for sparing his own but refuses to help T’Challa when he asks him to help stop Killmonger. Killmonger oversees the first shipment of weapons to his war dogs but the plane is brought down by T’Challa, who tells him that the challenge is not finished. Killmonger order W’Kabi to kill T’Challa and, despite Okoye telling him not to, W’Kabi orders the border tribe to attack. Okoye tells Killmonger he is not fit to be king and sends the Dora Milaje to help T’Challa while she attacks Killmonger with three other soldiers. Inside Shuri’s lab, Shuri tells Ross that they are going to remote hijack a ship for him to fly and shoot down the ships carrying vibranium weapons and while he does that, they attack Killmonger when he knocks Okoye and her warriors down the hill. Killmonger beats Nakia and is going to kill Shuri but T’Challa sees him and attacks him, knocking him down into the mine. T’Challa tells Shuri to activate the train on their level, as the sonic resonators will deactivate the suit that Killmonger is wearing, even though it will deactivate his own suit as well. On the surface, W’Kabi’s border tribe is winning and tells Okoye to surrender when M’Baku and the Jabari arrive and begin fighting them, and Okoye finally is able to get W’Kabi to surrender while Ross is able to destory the ships transporting the weapons. Back in the mine, T’Challa and Killmonger continue fighting and T’Challa is able to stab Killmonger, and after they talk briefly, T’Challa takes Killmonger to see the sunset over Wakanda and offers to heal him but Killmonger refuses, choosing to die rather than live in bondage. T’Challa returns to the throne, adding M’Baku to the Council of Elders so that all of the tribes of Wakanda are now represented. He then speaks with Nakia and asks her to stay, saying that he has a way of fulfilling her calling and they kiss. Later, T’Challa and Shuri travel to Oakland and T’Challa explains that he bought the building where N’Jobu died, as well as the two buildings next to them, and is making them the first Wakanda International Outreach Center, with Nakia and Shuri running it. Some time later, T’Challa, accompanied by Nakia, Okoye, and another guard, attends the United Nations and reveals Wakanda’s true power to the assembly. Meanwhile, in Wakanda, Shuri is shown to be helping Bucky Barnes, whom the children call “White Wolf”, recover from Hydra’s brainwashing.

Black Panther was highly praised by the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Black Panther elevates superhero cinema to thrilling new heights while telling one of the MCU’s most absorbing stories — and introducing some of its most fully realized characters.” The Wakandan language is an actual language called Xhosa, a South African language that is native to Nelson Mandela. John Kani, who played T’Chaka, is from the region and speaks the language and it was agreed during his filming of his role in Captain America: Civil War that it would be the language of Wakanda. The movie was a box office success, earning $1.347 billion off of a $210 million budget, garnering several award nominations and accolades, and a sequel has been announced.

This is a fantastic movie and probably one of the most complete movies that the MCU has released to date. The acting was incredible, with Chadwick Boseman doing a stellar job as T’Challa. Michael B. Jordan was equally good as Killmonger and was probably one of the most well written villains that the MCU has shown. Lupita Nyong’o (Nakia), Danai Gurira (Okoye), Letitia Wright (Shuri), Winston Duke (M’Baku), and Andy Serkis (Klaue) were also good in their roles, with Letitia somewhat stealing the show in several of her scenes. The story was great, picking up shortly after the events of Civil War and showcasing the doubts that T’Challa has in his new role as king and trying to determine what is best for Wakanda. I also thought that Kilmonger’s story arc, where he was angry at Wakanda for his father’s death but also felt like they could do more to help their race across the world if he was in charge and his desire to prove that at any cost is his driving purpose in life. The locations in the movie were incredible and the special effects were really good, except for a couple of scenes during the final fight between T’Challa and Killmonger that looked a little hokey. That part aside, this was an icredible movie and one that is well worth watching.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5

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November 23rd, 2017 Movie – War For The Planet Of The Apes

war for the planet of the apes

Happy Turkey Day everybody. I hope everyone is having fun spending time with family and going into food comas. Today’s movie is the latest installment in the rebooted Planet Of The Apes franchise. As soon as they announced the release date for this movie, I had it marked on my calendar to go see, as the first two installments were great. When the first trailer was released, that only whetted my appetite and made me even more impatient for the movie to come out. So let’s see how the adventures of Caesar and his tribe of intelligent apes plays out in the latest movie, War For The Planet Of The Apes.

The plot: 15 years after the rise of intelligent apes, and the subsequent devastation of mankind from the Simian Flu, Caesar and his tribe were trying to peacefully coexist with a nearby group of humans in San Francisco until Koba led a coup against Caesar and attacked the humans. Caesar had overthrown Koba and regained leadership of his tribe but the humans had contacted a military base up in the North and explained what had happened so Caesar was forced to go into hiding. Two years later, a military special forces unit called Alpha-Omega are in the woods in California and see an ape patrol and a fortified trench, which they believe is a sign that Caesar’s base is nearby. Along with the human soldiers, Alpha-Omega also has several captured apes that had followed Koba, which they call “donkeys” working for them. After getting into position, the soldiers take out two members of the ape patrol and blow up the trench, attacking the apes inside, but the surviving patrol member rides off on a horse and begins calling out for reinforcements, which arrive and begin launching a counter attack on the soldiers. As the soldiers are being killed, one of them, Preacher, radios to the Colonel to tell him what is happening just before he is captured. Preacher, along with 3 other soldiers and a gorilla named Red, are taken inside the structure, where Caesar approaches them and says that he did not start the war but killed the ape that did and only fights to defend other apes. When one of the soldiers points out they attacked Red, and Caesar says that Red was one of Koba’s followers and they were scared about what he might do to them so they chose to work for humans in order to spare their life. Red speaks and tells Caesar that he is not afraid of him but warns that Caesar should be afraid of the humans and Caesar orders an albino gorilla named Winter to take Red away. Caesar then ties the soldiers back to back onto a pair of horse and tells them to deliver a message to the Colonel, saying to leave the forest to the apes and there will be no more fighting. As the horses ride off, Maurice, Caesars orangutan friend and adviser, asks if he thinks they will deliver the message and Caesar says the soldiers themselves are the message, hoping that the Colonel will see that they don’t want to kill all of the humans. Later, Blue Eyes (Caesar’s son) and Rocket return to the camp and they head to the apes secret lair behind a waterfall. At a meeting, Rocket and Blue Eyes tells Caesar that they found a safe place for them to live out in the desert on the other side of the mountains. Winter wants to leave that night but Blue Eyes says that is impossible and Caesar agrees, saying Rocket and Blue Eyes made it because there were only two of them but they must find a safe way for all of the apes to make it out of the forest. That night, Caesar is laying in his nest staring at his wife Cornelia and his young son Cornelius when he notices men repelling down the waterfall. Telling Blue Eyes to stay and watch over his mother and brother, Caesar heads down to the lower levels, where he encounters a gorilla sentry named Luca and tells him to gather the rest of the patrols and Rocket. They take out one of the soldiers but as Caesar listens to the radio chatter, he hears the Colonel say that “King Kong is dead” and order his men to pull back. Rushing back to his nest, Caesar finds Cornelia and Blue Eyes had been killed and the Colonel is preparing to ascend the rope and leave the lair. Caesar rushes out to attack the Colonel, grabbing onto the rope and climbing after him but the Colonel cuts the rope, causing Caesar to fall into the water below while he climbs to the top and escapes. When Caesar returns to the camp, Luca tells him that they can’t find Winter and believes he might have betrayed them to the soldiers. After finding that Cornelius had survived the Colonel’s attack, Caesar has the tribe prepared to move to the safe haven they hope to find in the desert but tells Maurice that he is not going, planning on going after the Colonel in the hopes that he will focus his attention on him, leaving the apes free to go. After leaving Cornelius with Lake, Blue Eyes’ girlfriend, Caesar rides off but is soon joined by Luca, Maurice, and Rocket, who all refuse to let him go alone. They make their way to an abandoned town, where Luca’s scouts have spotted fires burning constantly and believe it to be the soldier’s base. When they reach the town, they start searching the place and find a single soldier carrying a stack of wood for the fire. The soldier goes to put the wood down and grab a gun but Caesar kills him, and the apes wonder why he is alone. Hearing a noise from another cabin, they search it and discover a young girl cowering in the bed and Caesar, Luca, and Rocket go to search the other cabins. Maurice stays behind and hands the girl a ragdoll, who tries to thank him but she can’t speak. As they go to leave, Maurice says the girl will die if she is left alone, since they had killed her guardian, and despite Caesar saying they can’t take her with them, Maurice ignores him and brings the girl. Continuing on, they soon find the soldiers camp and spot Winter serving as one of their donkeys. Sneaking into the camp that night, Caesar, Luca, and Rocket confront Winter when he is alone in a tent washing dishes and ask where the Colonel is. Winter says he went to the border to meet with some soldiers coming down from the North, saying the other donkeys said that they are coming to finish off the apes. When the silhouettes of some guards are seen outside the tent, Winter starts to cry out to alert the soldiers but Caesar and the others quickly restrain him to keep him from making a sound but during the course of the struggle, Caesar accidentally smothers Winter and kills him. Returning to their camp for the night, they try to figure out their next move but Caesar sees the image of Koba taunting him for killing Winter and Caesar worries his quest for vengeance might be turning him like Koba. The next morning, the soldiers leave to meet up with the Colonel and the apes follow them but as it starts snowing, they hear gunshots and quickly take cover only to notice they are not the ones being fired upon and wonder who the soldiers are shooting at. Advancing cautiously, they find three bodies lying in the snow and as Caesar pulls back to hood on one of the bodies, he discovers they are human. One of the men is still alive and when Caesar asks what happened, the man is only able to croak out noises, and Caesar and Maurice realize the men were mute like the little girl Maurice is caring for. Caesar puts the man out of his misery and then the four apes climb up a nearby tower to try and figure out where the soldiers went, leaving the little girl sitting on Maurice’s horse. Suddenly, a hooded figure makes his way over to the horses and starts examining the saddle bags of the closest one. When Luca spots the stranger and roars out, the stranger jumps on the horse and rides off, with Caesar and the others leaping down and giving pursuit. The eventually catch up to the stranger, who is revealed to be an intelligent chimpanzee named “Bad Ape”, and has learned to speak by listening to humans. Bad Ape tells them that he came from the Sierra Zoo and is the only one to survive when the humans attempted to kill all of them in the zoo. Bad Ape brings them some preserved food to eat and when Caesar sees it is from a Border Quarantine Facility, he asks Bad Ape about it. Bad Ape explains it was a “human zoo” where all the humans were sick but they are all dead now and when Caesar asks if he will take them there, Bad Ape refuses, saying it is snowing now and they should stay there and rest for the night. As they rest for the night, Bad Ape and Caesar talk for a while, with Bad Ape asking Caesar about the girl that is travelling with them, and as they discuss how they both lost children, Bad Ape agrees to take them to the facility. When they reach the facility, Caesar and Luca go closer to get a better look at the facility but they are attacked by a patrol and Rocket helps them kill the patrol but Luca is stabbed in the gut by a bayonet. Caesar and Rocket carry Luca back to their camp, where they all mourn his death, including the girl, and Maurice says they should leave and meet up with the rest of their tribe but Caesar blames himself for Luca’s death and tells the others to leave while he goes on alone. Heading to a nearby cliff to observe the camp, Caesar finds that there are hundreds of captured apes inside the facility and several apes tied up onto X-shaped crucifixes close to him. Hearing one of the apes groan in pain, Caesar releases him and recognizes him as an ape from his tribe and asks what happened. The ape tells him they were ambushed and taken their to build something but dies before he can say anything further and Caesar ends up being knocked out by an approaching patrol. When Caesar comes too, he finds the Colonel taunting him and asking him how he found this place. Caesar is taken out into the courtyard and sees Cornelius calling out to him from a pen with some other young apes. Caesar is thrown into another cage, where the ape there shun him, and when he sees Lake, she says to forgive them as they have been through much. The next day, Caesar and the apes are taken from the cages and are forced to work on building a wall, and Caesar questions why the Colonel needs one. When a weakened orangutan causes an accident, the Colonel has Red start whipping him in punishment but Caesar yells at him to leave him alone. The other apes, seeing Caesar standing up for them, start to cheer for Caesar so the Colonel has Red whip Caesar instead. The Colonel then tells Caesar to order the other apes to get back to work and when Caesar refuses, demanding that the Colonel give the apes food and water, the Colonel puts the gun to Caesar’s head and starts counting down. Before he reaches “1”, Lake picks up a boulder and tells the other apes to get back to work and as they continue working, the Colonel has Red tie Caesar onto a crucifix. On a cliff overlooking the camp, Maurice, Rocket, Bad Ape, and the girl see what is happening and wonder how they can rescue Caesar and the others. That night, Caesar is brought before the Colonel, who threatens to start slaughtering the apes if he disrupts the work again. Caesar tells the Colonel again that the apes need food and water, but the Colonel says they will get it after they finish building the wall. Caesar tells the Colonel he knows the soldiers are not coming to join him, but to stop him, and the Colonel is impressed by Caesar’s intelligence and then tells him that the simian flu, which all of the surviving humans still carry in them, has begun to mutate and begin devolving humans into a more primitive state. The first to suffer from it was the Colonel’s own son, and as the others in his unit begin to fall victim, the Colonel realized that he had to stop the virus from spreading or else all of humanity would essentially be wiped from existence. The Colonel then began to execute anyone infected, including his son, but one of the infected had managed to escape and make his way North to the survivors up there, which is why they find themselves in the situation they are in now. Caesar is tied back onto the crucifix but witnesses the donkeys bringing food and water for all of the apes, however Red throws a bucket of water onto Caesar’s head, leaving him to freeze to death. Maurice and the others see what is happening and want to help but Bad Ape doesn’t want to go into the facility. As they are forced to hide from a patrol, Bad Ape falls discovers a tunnel and they begin exploring it. Maurice and Rocket figure it was used by the sick humans to escape the facility and realize it leads directly under the facility. Meanwhile, the girl heads down another tunnel and climbs up the ladder, where she Caesar tied to the crucifix and starts moving towards him while Bad Ape convinces her to come back. As night falls, Caesar again hallucinates that Koba is taunting him for getting the apes killed as The Colonel has Red cut Caesar down and put him in a cage, saying if he survives the night he will be put back to work. Nova sneaks into the camp and gives Caesar her ragdoll, then brings a bucket of water for him to drink out of. When the other apes call out to her, she heads over there and the apes give her food to give to Caesar. As Caesar stares at the food, he sees Lake and the other apes make the sign that they are stronger together, which the girl mimics. Seeing some guards approaching, Caesar tells the girl to hide but as they get closer, he fears she will be found. Outside, Maurice, Rocket, and Bad Ape sees this and realize they will kill the girl if they find her so Rocket heads to the facility and allows himself to be captured, then starts a fight with Red, providing a distraction that allows her to escape. After the Colonel breaks up the fight and has Rocket placed in a cage, Rocket signs to Caesar that they have a plan to escape. The next day, the Colonel, Red, and Preacher approach Caesar’s cage and are surprised to see him still alive. The Colonel has Caesar taken to the quarry but before he can leave, the Colonel sees the ragdoll and asks how it got there but Caesar doesn’t answer. The apes count out the steps to the different holding pens and tell Caesar and he signs the information to Maurice, who is watching them from the cliff. Maurice hands the binoculars to the girl and then heads down into the tunnel with Bad Ape. As night falls, Red takes Caesar back to his cage and tells Caesar that the Colonel plans on killing all of the apes once the wall is finished and Caesar tells him he will be killed as well. The girl goes into the tunnel and tells Maurice that the apes are back in the cages and Maurice tells her that she is very brave. When the girl asks if she is an ape, Maurice looks at her and pulls at an emblem that Bad Ape had given her, telling her that she is Nova, bringing a smile to her face. Bad Ape digs through to the cage where the adult apes are being kept but Nova notices water coming from further down the tunnel and as Maurice examines it, he is forced to close the sewer hatch. Signing what is going on to Rocket and the others, Rocket tells Caesar that they can’t keep digging or else the tunnel will flood. Caesar says that they have to leave tonight or else they will be caught in the crossfire between the two armies and killed so they will have to rescue the children above ground. Rocket flings poop at a sentry, prompting him to enter the cage to kill him but Maurice tunnels up from the ground to grab the guard and drag him into the tunnel, then throws Rocket the keys and hands him his gun. Rocket frees Caesar and they both head into the children’s cage, where Caesar is reunited with Cornelius, and they then have the children climb along a wire above the cages and drop down into the adults cage. The apes then send the children through the tunnel, where Maurice, Nova, and Bad Ape lead them to safety, and then the adults follow. Caesar and Rocket are the last two to leave but Caesar tells Rocket to leave without him, saying that Maurice was right and he has become like Koba as he can’t let go of his hate for the Colonel. As Caesar makes his way to the Colonel’s barrack, the Northern army launches their attack on the facility. As the Colonel’s troops begin fighting back, Caesar enters the barrack only to find that the Colonel has fallen victim to the mutated virus and can no longer speak. Seeing Caesar holding his pistol, the Colonel grabs the barrel and places it against his head, begging Caesar to kill him but Caesar refuses and sets the gun down so the Colonel grabs it and kills himself. Back outside, the soldiers are still attacking the other army when some of them notice the apes trying to escape and begin firing on them. Seeing this, Red starts to feel bad about the slaughter of his own people and sees Caesar going to blow up the fuel tanks nearby but he is shot by Preacher. Red grabs a grenade launcher and uses it to kill Preacher but he is killed by a nearby soldier, who then begins firing on Caesar. Caesar manages to grab the grenades he had been carrying and blow up the fuel tanks, then barely manage to make it down into the tunnel. As the enemy soldiers swarm into the facility and finish off the rest of the soldiers, they begin cheering in victory but stop when they see Caesar standing up by some rocks. One of the soldiers goes to shoot Caesar, who stares at them then stares back up the mountain, and the soldiers turn as well to see that the explosions had caused an avalanche. As the avalanche makes it’s way down the mountain, the soldiers are swept away and killed while Caesar and the other apes (and Nova) manage to climb to safety in the trees. The apes then begin making their way through the desert to find a new home and eventually come across an oasis  with a lake hidden inside a canyon. As the apes all head down to the lake but Caesar and Maurice stay behind. Caesar, having grown weak from his injuries, knows he is dying and tells Maurice not to worry, as the apes will be strong without him. Maurice tells Caesar that Cornelius will know who his father was and what he did for the apes. Caesar smiles and looks down at the apes, seeing Nova and Cornelius playing together, and then finally dies from his injuries as Maurice strokes his leg and weeps, alerting the other apes to Caesar’s passing.

War For The Planet Of The Apes met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “War for the Planet of the Apes combines breathtaking special effects and a powerful, poignant narrative to conclude this rebooted trilogy on a powerful — and truly blockbuster — note.” There were numerous allusions to the original series of movies in this movie, from the Colonel’s unit being called Alpha-Omega )the same name as the bombs that the cult worships), to Maurice naming the girl Nova (the same name as the slave that fell in love with Taylor), and Caesar naming his son Cornelius (just as Caesar named his son Cornelius in Battle For The Planet Of The Apes). While the movie was the most highly rated movie according to critics, it did not perform as well as the previous installment but was still a box office success, earning $490.6 million off of a $150 million budget.

Man, this may not be the last installment in the series (as a 4th movie is being considered), but this was definitely one of the most powerfully, emotional movies in the series. This was an incredible movie and if this is how the reboot ends, then it went out on an incredible high note. The acting was incredible, with Andy Serkis delivering an absolutely amazing performance as Caesar. Woody Harrelson was equally good as the Colonel and the interaction between the Colonel and Caesar was really good. Karin Konoval (Maurice), Terry Notary (Rocket), Ty Olsson (Red), were also great in their roles, while Steve Zahn was pretty funny as Bad Ape. The story really was emotionally riveting, with Caesar constantly being haunted by Koba’s actions and worrying about his becoming just like him. The interaction with Maurice and Nova was also incredibly endearing, while Red’s conflict with Caesar and his eventual change of heart was also pretty pivotal and also helped to play a role in Caesar’s hallucinations regarding Koba. The final scene with Caesar and Maurice speaking, and Maurice actually vocalizing instead of signing, was incredibly emotional and appears to set up for the original Planet Of The Apes movie was incredible; especially the ending, where it seemed like Maurice was being primed for becoming the “Lawgiver”, the orangutan that passed down the history of how the apes rose to power and who has statues dedicated to him in the original movie. The special effects and motion capture effects were astounding and made the apes look incredibly realistic. I am serious, this is a fantastic movie and definitely worth watching.

Rating: 5 out of 5

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November 16th, 2017 Movie – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Star Wars Trailer

 

In 2012, the deal of the century was made when it comes to Hollywood, as George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney for just over $4 billion. This means that Disney, who already had a newfound  cash cow going with the MCU, now had control of arguably one of the biggest movie/pop culture franchises of all time. It wasn’t long after the purchase that the news came out that a new trilogy was being worked on, with the first entry getting a release date of 2015. Now I have been a Star Wars fan for a long, long time, but I will admit that I was a little nervous about Disney getting a hold of Star Wars, with my biggest fear being that they will make it too kid friendly and lose some of the dark tones that made the original movies so great. Despite my worries, I had no problem going to see it and obviously enjoyed it, as I bought it when it came out on video, so let’s get set for the new adventure in a galaxy far, far away with today’s movie, Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.

The plot: 30 years after the death of the Emperor and the destruction of the second Death Star, a new regime known as the First Order has risen up and seeks to overthrow the New Republic. A resistance, led by General Leia Organa, tries to stop the First Order while also seeking out Luke Skywalker, who has disappeared years ago. On the planet Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets with a village elder, Lor San Tekka and receives a map to where Luke is hiding. Suddenly, his astromech droid, BB-8, alerts him to the arrival of 4 First Order troop carriers, and he quickly makes a run for it but his X-wing is damaged. Poe gives the map to BB-8 and tells him to run, then tries to help the villagers by shooting several stormtroopers. The stormtroopers quickly round up the villagers, killing those that fight back, and wait as a shuttle lands and Kylo Ren, the newest Sith Lord, departs and proceeds to question Lor before killing him with his lightsaber. Poe attempts to shoot Ren, who stops the laser blast with the Force and freezes Poe, allowing some stormtroopers to take him prisoner. Ren orders Poe taken aboard his ship, then orders Captain Phasma to kill the remaining villagers but one of the stormtroopers, who had been affected by the death of another trooper, does not fire his weapon. As they return to their Star Destroyer, Poe is taken away while the stormtrooper, FN-2187, is told to report to Phasma’s division to explain his lack of action in the village. Back on the planet’s surface, a scavenger named Rey is grabbing materials to sell from a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer and heads to the nearby town to sell the materials. After returning home and eating some food, Rey investigates a commotion and finds another scavenger attempting to capture BB-8 and she quickly rescues the droid and reluctantly allows him to come home with her when he keeps attempting to follow. The next day, Rey takes BB-8 with her to sell her salvage and when the merchant offers to buy BB-8, she considers it but refuses his offer and leaves with BB-8, not knowing that the merchant contacts someone to steal the droid from her. Back on the Star Destroyer, Ren begins interrogating Poe and, using the Force, learns that the map is with BB-* and orders his men to find it. Some time later, FN-2187 takes Poe from the interrogation room and, pretending to be transferring the prisoner, sneaks him into an empty compartment and says he will help Poe escape if he takes him with him. Poe and Finn, what Poe decides to call the stormtrooper, sneak into a Tie-fighter and, after blasting the hangar while still tethered, manage to escape from the Star Destroyer and Poe heads back to Jakku to collect BB-8 but they are struck by a missile and end up crashing to the surface. When Finn regains consciousness, he goes looking for Poe but only finds his jacket before the wreckage disappears beneath the sand and explodes. Shedding his stormtrooper armor and donning Poe’s jacket, Finn makes his way to town and witnesses 2 men attempt to grab BB-8 from Rey but as he goes to try and help her, she manages to knock them both out. As Rey releases BB-8 from the bag they put him in, BB-8 sees Finn wearing Poe and cries out, causing Rey to notice him and chase him down. Knocking Finn to the ground, Rey questions him about the jacket and he explains that he helped Poe escape from the First Order but that Poe died when they crashed. Suddenly, they see a pair of stormtroopers being pointed in their direction and Finn grabs Rey and starts running, with the stormtroopers firing at them as they chase after them. The stormtroopers call in for some air support and a pair of Tie-fighters arrive and begin blasting the city. Rey, Finn, and BB-8 try to escape in a ship but when it blows up, they board an old Corellian YT-1300 freighter, with Finn manning the lower gun turret while Rey attempts to fly them out of there. After making their way through the wreckage of a Star Destroyer, and Finn shooting the two Tie-figters, Rey takes them into space but says she has to go back, as she is waiting for her family to come back and get her. Finn convinces her to help him get to the Resistance base, then secretly asks BB-8 to tell them where the base is. Before they can leave, their ship is captured by a larger freighter and they quickly hide only to be discovered by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who had seen the freighter and recognized it as their stolen Millennium Falcon. Han wants to get rid of them but when Finn says that BB-8 has a map leading to Luke Skywalker and they need to get to the Resistance, Han pauses and turns to face them. Suddenly, they hear a noise and when Han checks his ship’s sensors, they see a ship docking with them so he tells Rey and Finn to hide. Han is confronted by two gangs that he swindled money from and Rey tries to help by sealing the gangs behind the blast doors but accidentally releases two of the Rathtars that Han and Chewie were transporting. As the Rathtars begin attacking everyone, Han, Chewie, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 manage to get on board the Falcon, though Chewie is injured in the process, and escape but one of the gangs contacts the First Order to let them know that Han has the droid. Kylo Ren and General Hux go to see the First Order’s Supreme Commander Snoke and inform him of the latest developments and suggests they use their newest weapon to destroy the Republic, weakening the aid for the Resistance. After Hux leaves, Snoke speaks with Ren, asking if he will have a problem in his mission since Han Solo is his father but Ren says he means nothing to him. On the Falcon, Han asks to see the map that BB-8 has and after seeing it, says the map is incomplete. Rey asks what happened to Luke and Han says that Luke had been training a new generation of Jedi but one of his apprentices turned on him and destroyed everything. Luke felt responsible for what happened and simply left everything and rumors had him seeking out the first Jedi temple. Han agrees to help them get to the Resistance and heads for the planet Takodana and meets with Maz Kanata to get her help, but as they walk with her, a droid contacts the Resistance to inform them of BB-8’s location while a second patron contacts the First Order with the same information. As Maz is speaking with the group, she stares at Finn and says she sees the eyes of someone who is running, then points at two smugglers who are heading to the Outer Rim and Finn leaves to go talk to them. Rey follows and asks what he is doing and Finn asks her to come with him but when she refuses, he tells her to take care and leaves. Rey feels something compelling her to head down to the lower levels of the bar, where she finds a chest containing a lightsaber. When she touches it, she suddenly sees visions of Luke’s past, as well as her own, before seeing a future vision of her fighting Ren and she quickly drops the lightsaber and backs out of the room. Maz approaches her and explains that the lightsaber had belonged to Luke and now calls out for her but Rey doesn’t want anything to do with it and quickly runs from the building. Meanwhile, General Hux is giving a speech his troops as they prepare to fire the Starkiller, a planet that has been converted into a weapon more powerful than the Death Star, and they all watch as the beam fires, destroying the Republic capital and several smaller planets, as well as portions of the Republic’s fleet. On Takodana, Finn, Rey, Han, and Chewie, as well as several other patrons see the beam and the planets destructions. Finn goes back to Hand and Chewie and asks where Rey is and Maz hands Finn the lightsaber and tells him to give it to Rey, just as the First Order arrives and begins attacking. In the forest, Rey and BB-8 are running from some stormtroopers and Rey tells BB-8 to keep moving while she holds them off but she ends up being captured by Ren. Meanwhile, Finn, Han, and Chewie are captured by the First Order but are rescued when Resistance X-wings arrive and begin fighting the First Order. Ren orders his troops to fall back and Han and Finn see Ren carrying Rey on board his shuttle and leaving. When a Resistance transport arrives, Han is reunited with Leia and he tells her he saw their son. As they are taken back to the Resistance base, Finn finds out that Poe is still alive and the two friends embrace before Finn asks Poe for his help. Poe takes Finn to see Leia, and Finn says he knows about the Starkiller base and offers to tell them what he knows in exchange for her help in rescuing Rey. BB-8 gives them the map, which C-3P0 says matches no system in their charts, then BB-8 approaches the powered down form of R2-D2 and tries to get him to function but 3P0 approaches and says R2 hasn’t moved since Luke left. Back on Starkiller Base, Ren attempts to interrogate Rey with the Force to learn Luke’s location but Rey’s is able to resist and senses that Ren is scared he will never be as powerful as Darth Vader. Ren approaches Snoke and tells him of the situation and when Snoke asks about the droid, Hux appears and says that Ren said the droid wasn’t necessary since he had Rey and that it is probably in the hands of the Resistance. Not wanting the Resistance to locate Luke, Snoke orders Hux to use the Starkiller on the Resistance and Hux orders the weapon to charge, drawing it’s energy from a nearby sun to power it. Meanwhile, Rey is able to use the Force to influence her guard into freeing her and she leaves before Ren returns to take her to Snoke. Back at the Resistance Base, they learn that the Starkiller Base is charging to fire again and that they are it’s target. Finn tells them how they can destroy the base but he will need to be on the surface to do it and Han says he can get him there. As the Resistance prepare for the mission, Leia approaches Han and as they talk, she asks that he try and bring their son back alive. Han, Chewie, and Finn had off in the Falcon and reach the planet, breaking through their shield by coming in at light speed. Once they get inside the base, they capture Captain Phasma and have her lower the shields so the Resistance fighters can make their attack run. Finn wants to try and locate Rey but Han points behind them to show that Rey had escaped. They meet up with her, and Rey hugs Finn when she learns that the rescue was his plan, and they head outside but when they see that the Resistance fighters are not making any progress in destroying the weapon, Han says they can’t leave and they head to the firing oscillator, where Han and Chewie begin planting explosives inside. When Ren shows up inside the facility, Han goes to confront him, calling him by his real name, Ben. Ren seems to feel remorse and moves to hand over his lightsaber but as the star’s energy is finally drained, Ren stabs Han in the chest with his lightsaber. Han lovingly touches Ren’s face before falling down the shaft and Chewie roars in anger and loss before shooting Ren in the side, then detonating the explosives. Seeing the opening caused by the explosives, Poe has the remaining members of his team cover him as he flies inside, destroying the power cells from the inside and causing the weapon to explode. As Finn and Rey make their way back to the Falcon, they are confronted by Ren, who uses the Force to shove Rey into a tree, stunning her. Finn uses Luke’s lightsaber to attack Ren but Ren is able to overpower him and slashes Finn in the back. Ren then attempts to summons Luke’s lightsaber to his hand but it instead flies into Rey’s hand, who begins fighting with Ren. Ren starts to overpower her and says he can show her the ways of the Force but when she hears that, Rey calms down and is able to channel the Force to help her, eventually defeating Ren and slashing him across the face, leaving a scar. Before she can finish him off, the planet starts breaking apart due to the stored energy from the star and a chasm separates the two of them. Rey goes to Finn’s body just as Chewie shows up with the Falcon and they load him on board and leave the planet before it explodes, while Snoke orders Hux to bring Ren to him to complete his training. At the Resistance base, Finn is placed in a medical tank while Leia and Rey hug over the loss of Han. R2 reactivates and displays a map, with BB-8’s portion of the map showing the way to reach Luke. Rey leaves with Chewie and R2 and heads to the planet located on the map, where she finds Luke and hands him back his lightsaber.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens met with high praise from the critics, holding a 93% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.” In a tragic story of life imitating art, Mark Hamill and John Boyega lobbied director J.J. Abrams and Disney to allow Daniel Fleetwood, a Star Wars fan diagnosed with terminal cancer, to see the film early as he was not expected to live to see the movie released in theaters; which was similar to the plot of the movie Fanboys, where some friends attempted to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace before it hit theaters so their sick friend could see it. The Force Awakens was a box office juggernaut, earning $2.068 Billion off of a $306 million budget, making it the highest grossing installment in the franchise (unadjusted for inflation), the highest grossing film in North America, and the third highest grossing film of all time.

 I have to admit, Disney did a good job with this one. The acting was pretty good, with the new stars of Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), and Oscar Isaac (Poe) doing great jobs in their roles and taking up the reigns for a new generation. I like the glimpses we were given of Snoke and look forward to his development as the main bad guy but I was a little undecided about Adam Driver (Ren) but I think the emo, temper tantrum throwing portrayal was actually doing a halfway decent job in showing the struggle he was going between staying on the path to the Dark Side with Snoke or going back to the Light Side as he was taught by Luke and his family. Harrison Ford (Han), Peter Mayhew (Chewie), and Carrie Fisher (Leia) did good jobs reprising their roles but I wished they at least stated whether or not Han and Leia had gotten married. The story was good, but I have to admit that the similarities between this movie and A New Hope were too many to make it seem like this wasn’t more than a remake, which did hurt it some. The special effects were definitely top notch and were everything you would expect from a Star Wars movie. I also liked how rough and unpolished the lightsaber fights were, as even though Ren had some training, he is still struggling with his conflicting emotions (indicated by his tantrums and wildly slashing at objects), while Rey and Finn had no training so they would just wildly swing at Ren when they fought him. A really good movie but there is room for improvement with their storytelling in the future.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5
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