Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science Fiction Themes and Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka
Director: J.J. Abrams

A scavenger (Daisy Ridley) and a renegade stormtrooper (John Boyega) enlist the help of legendary smugglers/freedom fighters Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to transport a droid carrying information regarding the whereabouts of long lost Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the Resistance before it falls into the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order.

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Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens was one of the most anticipated films of all time. After Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, they started on making a new trilogy, and people were looking forward to seeing new movies. While there’s certainly a lot of divisiveness about the sequel trilogy now, I think most people generally liked The Force Awakens, and I’m still one of those people. As a ‘soft reboot’, this is the best this movie could’ve possibly been, and it succeeded very well as that.

To get this out of the way, yes, The Force Awakens is very derivative of A New Hope, and most of its plot points are very similar, but it does enough to differentiate itself from that first movie. Not to mention it was a good way of introducing the current state to new audiences. I will admit that some parts copy just a little too much, like I could’ve done with something else other than a killer star base that’s just bigger than the Death Stars. From beginning to end, J.J. Abrams gives the movie a fast pace, but it also work for the story, it doesn’t go so fast that it skips past important details or anything. Plotwise, I think the only thing I had a problem with was the option to blow up an entire planetary system of the New Republic. Doing this pretty much ensured that there was basically no system or anything, and it was a wasted opportunity for world building. That’s my only big problem with the plot or anything I think. I guess not all the answers to things were given in this movie, but that basically passed it on to other instalments to provide them there.

The newer cast are quite good. Daisy Ridley acts really well as Rey, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding her character and you don’t learn a lot about her, and so it required someone like Ridley to play the role in a way to make her work on screen. I really do feel like John Boyega’s Finn didn’t get to do as much as he could’ve (especially with the setup with him as a stormtrooper, which we hadn’t gotten with other main Star Wars characters beforehand), but Boyega does what he can and is pretty good. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime, generally because his character was meant to die early on, but was kept alive since they liked Isaac. That was a great decision, because Oscar plays him really well, even in his short screentime you really like him easily, and that’s all because of his performance. The standout actor and character across the sequel trilogy is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. I’m not the type of person to put characters up against each other, but at the very least, he in this movie is a lot better than Darth Vader in A New Hope, since the two get compared a lot. Kylo is more than just a copy of Vader. He’s conflicted, he’s all over the place, and at least in this movie is trying so much to be like his grandfather. Even just looking at him in this movie, Kylo is one of the best characters in the Star War series. The other main antagonists were General Hux, Captain Phasma, and Supreme Leader SNoke. Domhnall Gleeson plays the role of Hux pretty well, and in this movie it does take him seriously (until he was used as the butt of many jokes). Gleeson doesn’t get many moments to shine in the trilogy, but he does have a big speech before Starkiller base fires a weapon, and he owned that scene pretty well. Gwendoline Christie as Phasma is pretty much the Boba Fett of the sequel trilogy, she looks cool but doesn’t really do anything. I know that her not doing much doesn’t really matter, but I would’ve liked her to have had a little more screentime and things to do. As for Snoke, you only get to see him for a couple scenes, but Andy Serkis added quite a lot to him through his motion captured performance. I really wished that Lupita Nyong’o got to do more as Maz Kanata, she play it fine enough I guess, but she mostly just gives out information. I have no idea why Max von Sydow was in this movie, he was pretty much just a cameo. The main cast from the previous movies returns, with the most notable being that of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who both play their roles of Han and Leia very well once again.

J.J. Abrams directed this very well, effectively fast paced. Everything from the production design, practical effects, digital effects, everything on a technical level is great, fantastic on a visual level. The action is also quite entertaining and put together nicely, from the ship battles, gunfights, and to the final battle between Kylo and Rey, which I still think is one of the best lightsabers duels in the series. The exception of these action scenes is of course is the Rathtars scene. At this point I accepted that it exists, but compared to the rest of the movie I didn’t really love it. John Williams scores this movie quite well, but I do think that the sequel trilogy’s scores aren’t nearly as great or memorable as the other two trilogies. The most memorable themes were that of Kylo Ren, Rey, and the Resistance, nonetheless the score on a whole worked well for the movie.

Star Wars Episode 5: The Force Awakens was a great way of bringing back Star Wars to today’s audiences. It’s very well directed, the cast are good, and quite well paced. It set up things for future instalments to potentially pursue, and was a good way to get people on board with Star Wars again. It was at the very least a good starting point for this new trilogy.

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Naomi Ackie as Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Director: J.J. Abrams

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.

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I’m aware that it took a while for this review to come out, I’ve just been a little busy and I felt like I needed to watch this movie twice to be able to collect my thoughts on it before I could write it. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. Not only was it a Star Wars movie and the finale of this sequel trilogy, it would also essentially conclude the whole Skywalker saga. I really didn’t know what to expect, it was quite a big task that they ahead of them. I’m also not going to lie, some of the initial reactions had me a little worried. Despite some problems I had with it (which I have with every Star Wars movie aside from one), I actually thoroughly liked The Rise of Skywalker as it was.

There’s only so much that I can talk about, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free as possible. The first act was a little rough. It jumped from place to place, it was jarring, and it just overloaded you with information. Thankfully it does pick up over time. Not that the issues aren’t still there, but it definitely helped watching it again when you know what’s happened in the plot. By the time it reaches the second half, the movie really picks up. The Rise of Skywalker is more plot focussed than character focussed, and the pacing is fast, constantly moving the plot forward in just about every scene. It’s not necessarily a good thing though, as the movie doesn’t really allow for some moments to breathe. In that, this movie really needed to be longer. You’d think that since Disney had Avengers Endgame earlier this year wrapping up a huge storyline in 3 hours, that for a giant conclusion of 3 whole trilogies would be given much more than 2 hours and 20 minutes. Even if those scenes wouldn’t add a lot in terms of plot, it allows time to reflect on what’s happened and not make everything feel so tightly packed. On another note however, it seems that a lot of scenes or aspects have been cut from the movie. For example some details are shown in the visual dictionary of the movie that don’t make it into the final on screen product, and I don’t necessarily mean cut subplots (although that’s also possible), but things that could literally add maybe 5 minutes at most to the runtime, yet add a lot to the movie. For all the reveals that this movie is constantly throwing out, there’s still critical things that aren’t explained, one is a critical part involving Palpatine that I honestly can’t believe didn’t make it into the released movie (if they ever came up with an answer at all). Reveals and answers aside, some of how they are handled them are also a problem at times. It literally felt like some of the characters were just telling the audience what the answers are as quickly as possible, almost like it was in a rush and it wanted to get it out quickly, it felt a little lazy at times honestly.

There have been talks about how The Rise of Skywalker ‘retcons’ parts of The Last Jedi. While I can’t comment on how J.J. Abrams felt about The Last Jedi, I wouldn’t say that it quite does that, although it no doubt would’ve been taken in a very different direction if Rian Johnson made the movie. There’s just a couple of aspects that Abrams seemed to have backpedalled on. One was the unnecessary part with Kylo Ren repairing his mask after he destroyed it early in the last movie. It’s not bad or anything but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense and really doesn’t add too much to the movie (even if it is a cool looking mask), especially how he keeps taking his mask off anyway. The other is something that I know a lot of people are very split on. The problem about talking about this part is that there’s so much I want to say about this one aspect but I can’t even hint at it too much or I’ll begin to spoil it. What I can say is that I’m mixed about this decision, it ultimately takes things in a less interesting direction for me personally. However, I guess it could’ve been way worse, and looking at that decision separate from the previous movie, I guess I like the idea, and I was able to accept it and follow along with where they took it. On the whole though, I liked most of the plot and the directions they took (key word being most), and there are some great callbacks to the other Star Wars movies. A lot of people throw around the word ‘fanservice’ but for a conclusion of a 9 movie long series, you should be expecting that. I liked most of the ‘fanservice’, and it’s not as obnoxious as say some of what they had in Rogue One or Solo. There are also some great moments and parts to the movie, which I won’t spoil of course. I’m not going to be a conspiracy nut about this movie (yet) but I get the feeling that part of my issues of this movie were things that were caused by problems behind the scenes. For those who don’t know, Colin Trevorrow was attached to direct and co-write but then was fired (or left the movie) over ‘creative differences’, and that’s when J.J. Abrams was brought in to direct and co-write alongside Chris Terrio. However, they kept the same date even though they were already in pre-production when Trevorrow stopped being involved. Now maybe the same choices would’ve been made, but I get the feeling that had they pushed the movie back even a little, parts of the movie would’ve been handled a little better.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Daisy Ridley is once again great as Rey, and she’s got quite a lot to do in this movie in particular, and I liked her arc. Even if you’re not satisfied with where they take her character, Ridley more than sells it with her performance. One thing that The Rise of Skywalker does better than the other two was it gave John Boyega and Oscar Isaac a little more to do (though unlike The Last Jedi they didn’t really get arcs of sort, again this is a plot driven movie). Unlike the past two movies, you actually get the trio of Rey, Finn and Poe together, and that was great to watch. Anthony Daniels’s C-3PO is generally a side character in all these 9 Star Wars movies and hasn’t really stood out in them, but for whatever reason he got to do slightly more in the plot of this movie, and even had some standout moments and lines. Adam Driver is once again fantastic as Kylo Ren, and I’m pretty confident in saying that this would be his best performance as the character. Both the performance and the character are great, and truly one of the highlights of this whole sequel trilogy. There was a concern about how they would handle Carrie Fisher’s role of Leia, after Fisher’s death a few years ago. They actually used footage from The Force Awakens to place her in the movie. Some of the ways they used her in some scenes felt a little awkward and you are constantly wondering what the original context of her scenes are, but you can tell that they definitely did the best that they could in a difficult situation, and they pulled it off well enough.

Some of the returning cast unfortunately don’t really get a lot to do in the movie. It was great seeing Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian, though I would’ve liked to have seen him in the movie a lot more. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata also return, but both of them don’t really get much to do. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico was a prominent supporting character in The Last Jedi, however her role is significantly reduced in this movie, and you feel it more with her than the characters I just mentioned before. It does feel very weird to just reduce her to a background character who really doesn’t get to do much of anything. She could easily be written into being a present supporting character in the movie in at least the first act, but for some reason they deliberately seemed to have given her the bare minimum to do. I’m just hoping it’s not because her character received a lot of ‘backlash’ (to put it mildly) in the last movie. The new cast do well enough. Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell play some supporting roles in the movie and are quite good, however I wish that they could’ve been more in the movie, and I felt like it was possible for them to be involved with the plot than what we got. Richard E. Grant is good as a general in The First Order, and one of the secondary antagonists of the movie. He’s nothing that we haven’t seen before in Star Wars, but Grant does well with what he’s given. I can’t talk too much about Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor for spoilers stake, but I can say that he played the role appropriately. With that said, I had some issues about the Emperor with regard to his involvement with the plot. Let’s just say that he suddenly has a larger part to play in the movie than you’d think based off the teases of him in the trailers, and I have mixed feelings about it. I guess I accepted it, but it could’ve been so much more interesting and inventive than what they ultimately went with. Not to mention it introduces him very quickly and a bunch of information is thrown at us about him that we just have to accept. It probably wouldn’t be so jarring if we knew that he was alive in any of the other two movies.

J.J. Abrams once again directed this very well, delivering on a visually stunning movie. There are so many sequences that are just stunning to watch, with the action being fast paced and rather entertaining. The locations and set pieces are also great, there are some very memorable sequences that stand out amongst the Star Wars movies as a whole. The score by John Williams for the Sequel Trilogy haven’t really lived up to the other Star Wars trilogies (outside of Rey’s Theme, Kylo Ren’s theme, and the Resistance theme) but it’s still pretty good, and that’s the case with this movie as well.

I can’t determine whether or not you’ll like this movie. I can tell that some people who hated The Last Jedi will like The Rise of Skywalker more, and some who love The Last Jedi will dislike The Rise of Skywalker, or at least be bothered by many parts of it. As for myself though, I liked it. I’d say that it’s my least favourite of the sequel trilogy and it has some things that hold it back from being better (I really hope there will be an extended cut released in the future). However, I think there’s a lot of great in here too. The cast are good, it’s directed quite well and visually stunning to watch, and I liked a lot of the ideas that were present, and most of how they ended things. If you are somewhat invested in this storyline, just watch it for yourself whenever you get the chance.

Mission Impossible 3 (2006) Review

Time: 126 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Billy Crudup as John Musgrave
Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade
Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Declan Gormley
Keri Russell as Lindsey Farris
Maggie Q as Zhen Lei
Simon Pegg as Benjamin “Benji” Dunn
Eddie Marsan as Brownway
Laurence Fishburne as Theodore Brassel
Director: J.J. Abrams

Retired from active duty, and training recruits for the Impossible Mission Force, agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) faces the toughest foe of his career: Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international broker of arms and information, who is as cunning as he is ruthless. Davian emerges to threaten Hunt and all that he holds dear — including the woman Hunt loves.

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JJ Abrams brought back the Mission Impossible series after the… rather questionable Mission Impossible 2. Mission Impossible 3 is a really good movie, and benefits from the direction by JJ Abrams. It’s a stand out in the Mission Impossible series. There are parts that don’t work as well but none of it is enough to significantly bring down the quality or enjoyment over the movie.

This movie never lets up, its like a never ending chase. It’s very difficult to be bored as the movie barely gives you a moment to breathe, and the moments that serve as breaks are the right length and don’t take away from the tension and thrills. It is apparent pretty early on that Mission Impossible 3 has an emphasis on action over espionage, but unlike Mission Impossible 2 it is actually executed well. One thing that stands out about this movie is that there are some personal stakes, which is mostly due to Ethan Hunt’s connection to his wife and how she becomes involved with the plot. That is immediately established by a very tense and effective opening scene. It also feels a lot darker compared to all the other Mission Impossible movies. The movie is about 2 hours long and it feels like the right length, the pacing is solid and allows you to stay engaged throughout the entire runtime.

Tom Cruise is as usual good in his role here. This is his best performance as Ethan Hunt to date, along with performing the action scenes and stunts excellently, he gets to show an emotional range and gets a lot of moments to shine. From this point, Ethan Hunt improved dramatically as a character in the series. Michelle Monaghan plays Ethan’s wife, and the two share some solid enough chemistry. We have Ving Rhames returning from the prior films as Luther Stickell, and is one of the stand out characters. We also get Simon Pegg’s introduction into the series as Benji, who would go on to feature more prominently in the next Mission Impossible movies. Other additions like Billy Crudup, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keri Russell, Maggie Q and Laurence Fishburne were also good, they played their parts well. Phillip Seymour Hoffman here plays one of the stand out villains in the Mission Impossible series. He is truly menacing and threatening in his scenes, making himself one of the highlights of the film. If there’s an issue with him, it’s that his character Owen Davian doesn’t really have any backstory, he really is just an evil arms dealer. The simplicity of his character and how matter of fact he is was part of why he’s so effective but it would’ve been nice to have learned some of the character. Also we really don’t get enough screentime with him, they way they conclude his character was also underwhelming. It’s Hoffman’s performance that makes this character really work.

This is the first live action film that JJ Abrams has directed, and it’s very solid for a film debut. There is a more of a handheld direction apparent here which works most of the time in MI3. Dan Mindel’s cinematography is actually rather beautiful here, the colour tones are quite different for a Mission Impossible movie and somehow something about it works. If there’s an issue with the direction, is that there are too many close ups used. Part of the reason why it’s so prominent in this movie is because Abrams likely used a lot of them in tv shows like Lost, which would typically use a lot of close ups. As seen in the Star Trek movies and The Force Awakens, he’s sort of moved away from that and improved his style so now everything is more balanced. The movie is heavily focussed on action and the action scenes themselves are really good and entertaining. A stand out is a bridge sequence about halfway into the movie.

Mission Impossible 3 is a very solid dark, gritty and intensely personal action thriller. The highlights were the personal stakes, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the darker story and JJ Abrams’s direction. From start to finish you are on board with what’s going on and it never lets up, it’s one thrilling ride. There aren’t really a huge amount of flaws to bring the movie down, and is actually rather underrated as a movie.

Star Trek (2009)

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Star Trek

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chris Pine as Kirk
Zachary Quinto as Spock
Zoe Saldana as Uhura
Karl Urban as Bones
John Cho as Sulu
Anton Yelchin as Chekov
Bruce Greenwood as Pike
Eric Bana as Nero
Director: J.J. Abrams

On the day of James Kirk’s birth, his father dies on his ship in a last stand against a mysterious alien time-travelling vessel. Twenty-five years later, Kirk (Chris Pine) has grown into a young troublemaker. Challenged by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to realize his potential in Starfleet, he comes to annoy instructors like young Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto). Suddenly, there is an emergency at Vulcan and the newly commissioned USS Enterprise is crewed with promising cadets like Nyota Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Hikaru Sulu (John Cho), Pavel Chekov (Anton Yelchin) and even Kirk himself, thanks to Leonard McCoy’s (Karl Urban) medical trickery. Together, this crew will have an adventure in the final frontier where the old legend is altered forever as a new version of it begins.

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Making reboots and remakes are often quite risky, they may be great or they may fail in incredible degrees; to sum up whether it succeeded or not, I’ll say that whenever I think of good reboots I think of Batman Begins and Star Trek. With an engrossing world, great performances and entertaining action scenes, it is one of my favourite Sci-Fi action movies.

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Star Trek is always entertaining from the opening credits to end credits. I’ll be honest, before watching this movie I never watched any form of Star Trek media, this was my first Star Trek movie; a good thing about this movie is that you don’t have to be a fan of Star Trek to enjoy it; you can quickly pick up what the world is like and doesn’t rely on prior knowledge to understand what’s going on. The dialogue between the characters is written incredibly well and is well suited to the characters that the actors played.

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The actors do a really good and respectable job portraying these famous and beloved characters. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are particularly great in their roles. After seeing Chris Pine play Kirk, I can’t imagine anyone else playing that role; he was like a good new generation version of William Shatner. Zachary Quinto was as great as Spock in all of his scenes and I could really buy him as being a half human and half Vulcan. I also particularly like the contrast between the Kirk and Spock and these two actors did great jobs at showing their differing personalites. Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Simon Pegg and Bruce Greenwood were also really good in their roles. Eric Bana played the villain and I thought did a pretty good job, he wasn’t anything special but I thought that he managed it quite well. There is also an appearance from a (Original) Star Trek cast member that I won’t spoil, should you be one of the few who hasn’t watched this movie yet. The actors are all very aware of the characters that they are playing and they delivered the well written dialogue well.

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I loved the special effects in this movie; everything is on such a large scale. One thing that is often talked about with this movie is the lens flares; Abrams often uses it in his movies but I felt like it worked for Star Trek. The action scenes are filmed spectacularly, particularly when it involved the Enterprise. The soundtrack by Michael Giacchino also added a lot to the movie.

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Star Trek is a great movie for fans of Star Trek and people new to that universe. J.J. Abrams did a great job with this movie as well as its sequel (Star Trek Into Darkness) and hopefully more sequels. These two movies give me great hope for Star Wars Episode 7 to be a great movie. Check out Star Trek when you can if you haven’t seen it already, it is a fun and exciting experience.