Four Letter Nerd

Tag - Harrison Ford

4LN Movie Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (NON-SPOILER)

Listen, I could sit here and try to dribble out some well-thought-out assessment of The Force Awakens, with pretty and sophisticated words that make me look smarter than I actually am. But I can’t do that. I can’t do that because I literally just finished watching it and my brain is a mess and all I want to do is race back to the theater and watch it again. IT’S SO GOOD.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I’ll not be revealing any major plot details. However, suffice to say, most of the rumors you’ve heard are completely false, and a few of them are true. While there are a few twists and turns that will surprise you, most of the “big reveal” stuff isn’t really handled like it’s that big of a reveal anyway. They’ve done a fantastic job of crafting a film that doesn’t rely on the twists or reveals. The story is solid and the plot moves along at a perfect pace. It’s got great action, beautiful cinematography, and it’s really funny. Like, REALLY funny. That was something I wasn’t quite expecting. I knew there would be some laughs, but I had no idea I’d be laughing as much as I was.

One of the reasons the movie is so funny, is the new, adorable little droid that’s taken the globe by storm, BB-8. Much like R2-D2 before him, BB has a personality all his own, and its… spunky. Is “spunky” the right word? Hang on… … … … I just looked it up on Dictionary.com and yes, it is the right word. I kind of hoped BB-8 would be the new Groot or Baymax, and, as is the case with both of those other characters, BB is more than just cute, comic relief. Yes, The little guy practically steals the show, but he’s also actually crucial to the plot, and serves a very import purpose. The Star Wars movies have always been good about making sure that non-sentient (or less-sentient) characters get to play a bigger roles, and this time around is no exception.

The cast of the film is phenomenal. I mean, you already know that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are gonna deliver as Leia and Han, but the new cast is absolutely flawless as well, and completely hold their own next to the veterans. Specifically, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who play Rey and Finn, respectively. Boyega, you’ll remember, was at the very center of the unnecessarily heated “A Black Stormtrooper?!?!?!?!” controversy. Thankfully, he’s so much more than that and it’s great to finally see a little background on the Stormtroopers.

Ridley’s portrayal of Rey made me very happy. I thought to myself, “Now this a character I would actually WANT my daughter to look up too.” She’s tough, independent, smart, and resourceful. She’s full of curiosity and she doesn’t take anybody’s shit. I just loved her so much. She’s almost a better role model than even Princess Leia was, and that’s saying something.

The main name on everyone’s lips though… is the new villain Kylo Ren. I’ve personally been obsessed with the character ever since pictures of him began to pop up online, and even my 8 year old son has been fascinated by him. Kylo is played by Adam Driver and I will give you one spoiler about him… HE’S NOT LUKE F*@#ING SKYWALKER. (Seriously, whoever started that rumor is a complete moron.) One thing I really appreciated is that the character shows a lot more complexity and depth than Darth Vader did in any of the original trilogy films. Frankly, he’s better than any of the villainous characters from the second trilogy as well. I can safely say I was not disappointed in how the character turned out.

Just to clarify, there is no mid-credits or post-credits scene. Trust me. I stayed until the very end just so I could tell you that in total confidence.

Also, for those of you wondering if it’s safe to take your kids to see, I took my 8 year old son and he loved it. It obviously has some violence, but I didn’t notice any thing serious that concerned me. I will say… not to spoil… but there was a moment in the movie that made him very upset and he got damn-near inconsolable. So, you know, be prepared for that potentially with your own kids if you take them.

.

Look, I don’t have to tell you to go see The Force Awakens. You’re going to go see it. You’re going to go see it right this minute, if you haven’t already, and you’re going to see it many, many times. It absolutely, 100%, without a doubt, lives up to the hype, and then some. It’s perfect in every way and it will not let you down. See it you must! Now you should go!

Star Wars Episode VII Cast Announced

Although many thought that the cast would be announced on “Star Wars Day” (May the Fourth be with you), Starwars.com released the names of the main cast for the upcoming film.

The original cast will return to play the characters we fell in love with – Han, Luke, Leia, Chewie, C-3PO, and R2-D2 – and they will be joined by John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow (at this time it is unclear whether we will be seeing the return of Jar Jar Binks, Watto, and the kid who said “wizard” in Episode I). Of all the new names, I think Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings) is the biggest surprise, it will be interesting to see if he can get out from behind the motion-capture suit this time.

J. J. Abrams also commented on the casting news saying, “We are so excited to finally share the cast of Star Wars: Episode VII. It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again. We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud.”

I am not super familiar with all of the choices, but I am certainly excited about the news and am looking forward to more news from the Star Wars universe. What do you guys think?

Could Indiana Jones be getting the James Bond Treatment?

Latino Review is speculating the Indiana Jones just might be getting a soft reboot a la James Bond.  When Spielberg and Lucas originally created the character they were doing so as sort of an Americanized James Bond film so it’s not really a stretch to picture Disney going in this direction, especially considering Harrison Ford is aging at a normal rate.

According to the Review, there is a start date for Indiana Jones 5 and if the film has not started the process, Disney is ready to recast Jones with a younger actor.  James Bond has been doing this for decades – Daniel Craig is the sixth actor to play the MI6 super-spy.

But who could possibly fill the shoes of Dr. Jones?  The Review says that Bradley Cooper is at the top of the list (and to be fair, Latino Review did say that Cooper was in talks to play Rocket Raccoon and they got that right).

Bradley-Cooper-Photo

“Ladies?”

As a huge Indiana Jones fan (I even liked The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) a part of me feels that there is only one Indiana Jones and that is Harrison “I also played Han Solo” Ford.  However, I also really like the whole 1930’s/40’s adventure feel and I would love to see another actors take on the Nazi-fighting archeologist.  I think Bradley Cooper would be a tremendous choice for the role.  He’s got the ruggedness and the charm needed to play Indy, while still being able to bring the seriousness Ford brought to the role (Cooper was great in Silver Linings Playbook).

I know nothing is set in stone and this could completely off-base, but if they were to reboot Indiana Jones and they were able to get Cooper for a new trilogy (because that’s how movies are done now) I would be stoked.

What do you guys think of the rumors?  Do you think Cooper would make a good Indiana Jones or should they try to get another actor?

 

Ender’s Game Review

Unlike most reviews you find on the interwebs, I am going to start off by saying that you should go see this movie. It’s absolutely fantastic. I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, but there isn’t really a discernible reason why I wouldn’t other than I just don’t like absolutes. So I give it a 9.8 out of 10

Now lets see how we got here.

This is not an unbiased review (sorry I am not a Vulcan — the world is a giant ball of biasness – get used to it). Ender’s Game is one of my favorite novels ever written. It’s the only book I have been able to read multiple times. I almost named my son Ender…. What I am trying to say is that I am a fanboy of this particular story, but I will try to separate my fandom from this as much as humanly possible. I will also say that I am by no means a film scholar, so if you are expecting me to talk about the intricacies of the cinematography I am probably going to disappoint you.

Ender’s Game is based on the novel of the same name written by Orson Scott Card (who you may know as a giant homophobe, but don’t let his bigotry turn you away from this amazing story). It is set in the future after the Earth has been attacked by an alien ant-like race known as the Formics. Humanity was nearly destroyed in this invasion, and probably would have been if not for the heroics of Col. Mazer Rackham, who was able to destroy the mother ship of the invading fleet and drive the Formics back to their home world. Fifty years after this event humanity is searching for the next great military commander to lead their fleet, and put an end to the buggers once and for all.

This leads us to Andrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender, who you will notice is the title character. Ender is recruited by an aging Han Solo, named Colonel Graff, to attend Battle School in order to determine if he is the second coming of Mazer. Ender is put through several physical and mental trials along the way, as they try to condition him to believe he can only rely on himself.

enders-game-3

Where did you put my vest and white shirt!

Overall, the screenplay stuck very close to the source material, which was a plus for me. The obvious changes that I noticed seemed to be borne out of necessity more than artistic license. The book, for instance, follows Ender from age 6 through age 14. This isn’t feasible in film. It would be jarring to use multiple actors, (and please, for the love of God, don’t do the CGI baby toddler thing from Twilight… that thing was terrifying).

Obviously, with any film based off of a novel, the filmmakers have to trim out unnecessary plot points so the movie doesn’t end up with a runtime similar to Roots. I believe they did a great job trimming the story without sacrificing key plot points. The pacing felt a bit rushed at times, but if you haven’t read the book you will probably not even notice.

Even if you have read the story, and you hated it, you should still go see this movie for the beautiful set pieces, and amazing special effects. I don’t remember ever thinking, “you know that CGI looks pretty realistic,” because there was never a moment when the CGI even crossed my mind (this excludes the video game he plays which is obviously supposed to be computer generated). The zero-gravity Battle School war games, and the Command School battle sequences were particularly impressive.

The actors all nail their parts too. Asa Butterfield does a wonderful job showing the emotional struggles Ender goes through as he is trained to become mankind’s savior. They tapped Harrison Ford to play the gruff space colonel, and he nails it. Gruff? Check. Believable as a tired old soldier? Welcome back to space, Mr. Solo. Ben Kingsley does what he does best, playing odd characters that are intense as hell. All of the kids nailed their roles as Ender’s army.

The only thing that was a little jarring to me was the guy playing Bonzo… he was like four feet tall. Bonzo is one of the main antagonist’s in the story. He is older, meaner, and on a major power trip. He hates Ender because Ender is smarter and naturally talented, but in this movie, when he gets in Ender’s face, Ender TOWERS over him. I guess they were trying to give him more of a Napoleon Complex (funny story about the “Napoleon Complex,” aka the little man syndrome, Napoleon was actually average height, not as tiny as the complex named after him would suggest). Bonzo being tiny is really my only complaint. He was fine actor, but come on, do some Lord of the Rings magic on him and make him a little taller.

The guy in the glasses is supposed to be imposing...

The guy in the glasses is supposed to be intimidating…

Overall, I think this movie fired on all cylinders. The screenplay stayed true to the novel it was based on, which seems to be a rare trait currently. The set pieces were jaw dropping at times. The actors nailed their individual roles. If you haven’t read the book, and you are thinking, “This movie is really just for those nerds who enjoyed the novel,” I would tell you that despite being based on a novel, this film stands on its own two metaphorical feet. To be honest with you, this film might just be the best sci-fi movie I have ever seen. Unlike most sci-fi movies I have seen, Ender’s Game does not have any apparent weaknesses.

Pros:

Amazing story about the morality of war with an anti-bullying message.
Top notch acting.
Astounding costume and set design (the world feels lived in).

Cons:

Bonzo is a small guy and it’s a little jarring.
The author of the original novel is a bit of a bigot (but that’s not the movies fault).

Go see it, and then let me know what you thought about it.

In Defense of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

So far in the “In Defense Of” series we have looked at why Lando Calrissian was the most morally astute character in the Star Wars saga, and the necessity of the over-the-top Batman voice in the Dark Knight trilogy. Today we look at a more controversial topic. One that I am sure will draw some ire from friends and enemies alike – a defense of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull takes place nearly two decades after the events of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade during the rising tensions of the Cold War. Indy gets entangled with Russian KGB, that kid from Holes, and SPOILER ALERT – Aliens (two of these things makes sense, the other was in Transformers).

To be fair, my argument is not that this movie is a great movie that stands toe-to-toe with the originals, but that it is a fun adventure movie that pays homage to the originals while attempting to introduce Dr. Jones to a newer audience. For some reason or another, this movie drew an inordinate amount of fury from several groups of people. This would be the third time Indiana would face off against a large group of hateful fanatics (not counting the books, video games, and the Young Indiana Jones series).

From what I can tell, there are two primary reasons fans rejected this film: Aliens and Absurdity. We will look at each of these “problems” individually.

The previous films in the series all dealt with the power of religious artifacts. In Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark we follow Indiana Jones trying to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazi’s are able to. In the Temple of Doom we see him trying to recover the Sankara Stones, powerful stones that burst into flames when placed together, much to Mola Ram’s dismay. The Last Crusade follows Indy as he tries to locate the Holy Grail. These artifacts are based on Judaism, Christianity, and possibly Hinduism.

Then seemingly out of nowhere, BOOM, aliens! With this decision Stephen Spielberg Kali Ma’d the collective heart of fanboys everywhere.

image

Spielberg: Bottom Left.

How could aliens possibly fit into the narrative after the focus has been primarily on religious artifacts? Well, if you have watched History Channel at all over the last few years, or are a fan of Internet meme’s, you will know exactly how they fit.

image

Ancient alien theory, also known as the paleocontact hypothesis (this is possibly the name of a Big Bang Theory episode as well), suggests that in prehistoric times aliens made contact with humanity. This contact not only affected our cultural evolution and technology, but also our religions. This theory suggests that most, if not all, deities were actually extraterrestrials whose advanced technology was mistaken by primitive man as evidence of their divinity.

Regardless of the plausibility of the theory, it certainly provides the necessary context for the use of aliens in the film.

Does it work? Yes. With the use of the ancient alien theory, they were able to stay true to the franchise and use a “religious” artifact, while not having to resort to another Judeo-Christian artifact, which would have undoubtedly led to just as much criticism.

Now let us look at the second criticism – the absurdity.

“You know why this movie sucks? Indiana Jones survived an atomic blast in a REFRIGERATOR! People used to die in those WITHOUT nuclear holocausts!”

I have heard this argument frequently over the years. Detractors point to this particular scene to show just how ridiculous the series has become, and they appear to have a point. Except they totally don’t.

The Indiana Jones films grind their teeth on ridiculousness, and that is what makes the series so enjoyable. If you are the person who felt that the atomic refrigerator was so unrealistic that it was a departure for the series, then how do you feel about the scene in Temple of Doom when Indiana Jones and company jump out of a plane in an inflatable raft? The Mythbusters covered this myth, and you know what? They totally would have died, and that’s without sliding down a treacherous mountain and going over a Niagara Fallsish type waterfall after the fact.

The absurdity doesn’t stop there though!

image

There is Indiana Jones hanging out with a knight that is over 700 years old, and no one bats an eye!

Out of those three scenarios guess which one is actually possible? Surviving the nuclear blast in a lead-lined refrigerator is totally doable. The guys over at Reel Physics break down how it is possible that Indiana Jones survived the blast in the refrigerator using some sort of witchcraft known as “mathematics,” and the only part of that scenario that is completely impossible is the refrigerator flying over the car.

Think about that for a second. The one scene that has literally generated a term for how ridiculous something is (“nuking the fridge” is now the same thing as “jumping the shark” from Happy Days), is physcially possible.

I think the problem with the film isn’t the film itself, but how freaking cynical we have become. We don’t want fun action/adventure films; we want hyper-realistic films. Think about our superhero films. Those are impossible stories, and we want them to be as realistic as they can be. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Dark Knight trilogy, but not all movies have to have that sense of realism, and not all movies have to be Oscar worthy.

The Indiana Jones movies are not supposed to be a realistic look at the exploits of an academic archeologist, they are supposed to be light-hearted adventure tales, and we used to get that. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is cut from the same cloth as the originals, we are just too cynical as a society to be okay with that anymore.

So what do you think? Have I drank too much of the Blood of Kali? Am I now in need of a torch to the side to snap out of it? Sound off, nerds!