Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS (USA, 2015) ****½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot; Release Date: 14 December 2015 (USA), 16 December 2015 (UK); Filming Dates: 16 May 2014 – 3 November 2014; Running Time: 135m; Colour: FotoKem; Sound Mix: 12-Track Digital Sound (IMAX 12 track) | Dolby Atmos | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Dolby Digital; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version), DCP (2K DCP) (Normal 3D versions), DCP (4K DCP) (IMAX Laser versions); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, IMAX (source format) (Escape from Jakku scene), Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1; BBFC Cert: 12.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Harper, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy; Associate Producer: Michael Arndt; Director of Photography: Daniel Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Darren Gilford; Art Director: Neil Lamont; Set Decorator: Lee Sandales; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin; Sound: David Acord, Matthew Wood; Special Effects: Chris Corbould; Visual Effects: Nina Fallon, Meredith Meyer-Nichols, Lillias Ng, Louise Bertrand, Ben Lock, Sophie Dawes, Chrysta Marie Burton, Janet Lewin.
      Cast: Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Supreme Leader Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Max von Sydow (Lor San Tekka), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca Double), Pip Andersen (Lead Stormtrooper), Simon Pegg (Unkar Plutt), Kiran Shah (Teedo), Sasha Frost (Jakku Villager), Pip Torrens (Colonel Kaplan).
      Synopsis: 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of Heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
      Comment: The best of the STAR WARS films outside of the original trilogy, fans of which will no doubt readily accept this continuation and overlook some of its flaws – notably in originality in plot and character development. But as the start of a new trilogy, it also succeeds in capturing the uninhibited spirit of those first three films. The result is a lively, action-packed and thoroughly enjoyable addition to the series. It is great to see Ford back as Han Solo and his scenes will give older fans a warm and satisfying smile. The new characters portrayed by Ridley and Boyega are likeable and the script keeps the right tonal balance. Yes, it is a virtual replay of the original STAR WARS, but there is also a freshness here that was lacking in the second trilogy. Also shot in 3-D.

Film Review – STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)

Image result for Star Wars: The Rise of SkywalkerSTAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (USA, 2019) ***½
      Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Production Company: Lucasfilm / Bad Robot / Walt Disney Pictures; Release Date: 16 December 2019 (USA), 19 December 2019 (UK); Filming Dates: 1 August 2018 – 15 February 2019; Running Time: 142m; Colour: Colour; Sound Mix: DTS (DTS: X) | Dolby Atmos | Auro 11.1 | Dolby Digital | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP | 12-Track Digital Sound; Film Format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219); Film Process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Dolby Vision, Panavision (anamorphic) (source format); Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1; BBFC Cert: 12 – moderate violence, threat.
      Director: J. J. Abrams; Writer: Chris Terrio, J.J. Abrams (based on a story by Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow and Chris Terrio & J.J. Abrams and characters created by George Lucas); Executive Producer: Tommy Gormley, Callum Greene, Jason D. McGatlin; Producer: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michelle Rejwan; Associate Producer: Nour Dardari; Director of Photography: Dan Mindel; Music Composer: John Williams; Film Editor: Maryann Brandon, Stefan Grube; Casting Director: Nina Gold, April Webster, Alyssa Weisberg; Production Designer: Rick Carter, Kevin Jenkins; Art Director: Paul Inglis; Set Decorator: Rosemary Brandenburg; Costumes: Michael Kaplan; Make-up: Digital Makeup Group; Sound: David Acord; Special Effects: Dominic Tuohy; Visual Effects: Industrial Light & Magic and others.
      Cast: Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Naomi Ackie (Jannah), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Richard E. Grant (General Pryde), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Keri Russell (Zorii Bliss), Joonas Suotamo (Chewbacca), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Ian McDiarmid (Emperor Palpatine), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Greg Grunberg (Snap Wexley), Shirley Henderson (Babu Frik), Billie Lourd (Lieutenant Connix), Dominic Monaghan (Beaumont), Harrison Ford (Han Solo (uncredited)).
      Synopsis: The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron’s journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.
      Comment: A technical triumph of visual effects and energetic action set-pieces this is an engrossing experience for two-thirds of its run time. Unfortunately, it becomes bloated during its final act with a need to tick too many boxes as it plays out its crowd-pleasing finale. It’s a shame as there is so much that is right with this conclusion to a saga that has spanned 42 years. The story propels us from one strange or exotic location to another and from set-piece to set-piece as it guides us through the simple quest that will ultimately lead to final closure on the Sith/Jedi war. As a spectacle, it is hard to resist, yet it somehow fails to connect on an emotional level as character revelations seek to top each other and some of the plot contrivances are overly convenient and obvious. Also, during the many action scenes, you begin to wonder whether any Stormtrooper can shoot straight. That said, the CGI and design work is simply amazing and Williams provides yet another majestic score. The result is an entertaining and largely satisfying final chapter that at the same time leaves you thinking it could still have been better.
      Notes: Also shot in 3-D.