Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the Pick of the Week

From the moment George Lucas announced the sale of his Star Wars franchise to Disney and that there would then be more movies, the hype has been astronomical. Every day there were dispatches from TV, radio, podcasts, and more websites than one can imagine. We learned about each cast member as they got hired, about the crew, the caterers, about the shooting locations, the title, the posters, the trailers, the teaser posters for the trailer, and when J.J. Abrams sneezed on his way home. They hype was colossal. It was absolutely insane.

I totally loved it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I honestly didn’t pay much attention to the hype. I tried to avoid all the incessant talk, ignored the cast news, etc., but I allowed myself to get really excited over it. I loved that a new movie was coming, and that it might actually be good. Truth is the terrible prequels kind of ruined the franchise for me. I loved the original trilogy growing up. I even accepted Lucas’ endless tinkering with it and didn’t get all that worked up over who shot first (it was Han, of course, everybody knows that Greedo shooting first completely destroys Han’s character arc, dammit, but I try not to get angry over it).

But the prequels left such a bad taste in my mouth it took me years to work back interest in the original trilogy. Even then when I finally sat down with those first three films, I found them lacking. Now I hate it when people say that some new sequel ruined their childhoods. I still have very fond memories of watching the original trilogy and nothing the prequels could do ruined that. But it did taint my more recent viewings of those films. If we fans will allow ourselves to admit it, we must say that the original trilogy isn’t actually great cinema. They are wonderfully imaginative science fiction adventures, but they are filled with clunky dialogue and some odd directorial choices that make them less-than-brilliant films.

Which is where I sat at the announcement of The Force Awakens. Yet I allowed myself to get really excited over it. I felt like the prequels had sucked the life out of the franchise and so even if the new one was terrible, it really couldn’t do it much more harm. But on the chance that it was good my faith could be restored. Perhaps I’m an optimist over these things but I had hope.

The Force Awakens was kind of awesome. I adored it. Sure it was basically a rehash of A New Hope, and it really (really, really, really) didn’t need another Death Star-type base that could easily be destroyed by a tiny ship, but they redid it really well. Some may argue that they should have taken more risks, that they needed to be bold, but I say there is time for that later. What the franchise needed was a great injection of fun. They needed to show us what we loved about the films in the first place. And it did just that. Disney plans to keep making these films pretty much forever and I hope some of those will be experimental, will be bold, will take risks. But for now we have a new Star Wars movie that plays it safe, but thrilled me all the same.

This Blu-ray release is getting great reviews in the audio/visual department and its loaded with extras. There’s an hour-long documentary on the making of the film plus table reads, deleted scenes, and loads of featurettes on various other aspects of the film. I have no doubt they will continue to release various versions and repackagings as future films come out, but for now this one looks quite excellent.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli: I’ve very slowly been working my way through the various “classics” of the Italian Horror genre. There are a lot of them, and I have very limited time resources to watch them, but its a fun exercise nonetheless. I’ve not seen anything by Ercoli but the two titles in this set (Death Walks on High Heels, Death Walks at Midnight) come highly rated by the sort of people who rate these sorts of things and with those titles I’m all there. These are Arrow releases, which means they come loaded with new transfers and lots of extras. This is a limited release (only 3000 copies were printed) so get yours now.

Doctor Who: The Complete Ninth Series: They’ve already released this in two ridiculously split packages. No reason for that other than greed since the series was run in one long stretch. Glad to see they finally put it together, though depending on where you get it, it might be cheaper to buy the two separate parts.

Banshee: The Complete Third Season: Every time a new season comes out, I note in these pages that I really should watch this series. That remains true this time as well.

The Expanse: Complete Season One: I’d not heard of this series until now but it sounds interesting. It’s from Syfy and is based on a series of novels where humanity has colonized the solar system. It’s a blend of science fiction and detective noir focusing on some government officials and police detectives as they unravel a conspiracy that threatens humanity. Sounds fun.

Mat Brewster

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