Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A Spoiler-Free Review

Been quite a while since I last posted a blog about anything. Sorry readers, but with the release of my latest Starhawk Chronicles novel, and all the marketing and promoting that goes with it, plus those annoying familial obligations, I haven't had much time for anything else. But I felt my newest topic was something worth writing about. So without further adieu, here is my SPOILER-FREE REVIEW OF...

In a nutshell I loved it. As much as I liked the prequels (Yes, I liked them) they just never had the same feel as the original trilogy did for me. Perhaps it was simply because I was seeing those as an adult rather than a wide-eyed youth between the ages of 7-12. Perhaps it was Lucas' reliance on CG everything, rather than practical effects and sets. Perhaps they really did just suck. I don't know. All I can tell is that right from the beginning, this one FELT right.

The cast is fantastic, especially SW newcomers John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Daisy Ridley (In her first film role.) Unlike Natalie Portman and Hayden Christenson, thse kids can ACT! There was nothing wooden or awkward in their performances, and there was a natural chemistry between them and returning members of the cast. Boyega and Ridley especially seem destined for superstardom. Adam Driver is compelling as villain Kylo Ren, and makes him both a character you want to feel sympathy for, while simultaneously wanting to rip his lungs out. And Domhnall Gleeson takes on a chilling Hitler-esque turn as First Order leader General Hux.

By far, my favorite character was Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata, the only major CGI-rendered character in the film, a diminutive, whimsical pirate/ cantina owner who helps set Daisy Ridley's Rey on her path. With her tiny, Yoda-like stature and over-large eyewear, she is less Jar Jar Binks and more like Edna Mode from Pixars The Incredibles.

Cinematography is gorgeous in this film, in part again due to the actual physical sets and locations, and contrary to what all the J.J. Abrams haters were expecting, not one lens flare in the entire film.
Not once did I find myself cringing at dialogue, unlike the prequels, especially the supposed "romantic" scenes, where it sounded more like cheesy Harlequin romance and not like Star Wars. The banter between the characters was fun and funny. Let's admit it, any time Han Solo is involved, you know there are going to be some good lines. You believe that these characters truly believe what they are saying.

Visual effects are, without having to go into detail, top-notch as expected. The only qualm I had was the busy-ness of the aerial battles, but this could be due to my being seated in the second row, off-center from the screen. Next time I see it, I'll sit further back.

Fun, fast-paced, with lots of neat surprises, The Force Awakens is easily one of the best in the saga, up there with The Empire Strikes Back. People have been complaining that Disney would ruin the franchise, but it is clear that the future of the Force is in very capable hands.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

He lived long. . . WE prospered : Remembering Leonard Nimoy

 It's difficult to put into words the impact that the death of Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy had on the science fiction community. The outpouring of love for the iconic actor from both friends and fans on social media has been overwhelming proving Captain Kirk's assessment that "How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life."
Nimoy on stage, New York, Jan. 1987
For myself, Leonard Nimoy was a staple of my childhood. Along with Star Wars, Star Trek held my fascination as a young boy enthralled with all things science fiction. With each successive film, my enchantment grew to near-obsessiveness, culminating with my first time attending a Star Trek Convention in January of 1987, just after the phenomenal success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Dubbed the "Spock family reunion", Nimoy appeared at New York's Penta hotel along with "parents" Mark Lenard and Jane Wyatt. The main auditorium where Nimoy appeared was packed full, standing room only. When he took the stage, it was an immediate standing ovation, and the outpouring of love that emanated from the crowd was overwhelming, an almost physical sensation. It was powerful for me, a boy just turned 16. I can only imagine what it must have felt like for him on-stage. Anyone with a camera rushed to the stage to get a picture. The closest I could get was 50 feet. Nimoy spoke for about 45 minutes, and the crowd hung on every word. One would have thought that the Messiah himself had taken the stage.
Directing Star Trek III, 1983

Over the years, Nimoy distinguished himself not only with his acting, but also as a director, producer, poet, photographer, and writer, penning not one, but two autobiographies I am Not Spock, written at the time the Trek series was still on the air, and I Am Spock, a memoir written in the late 90's, reflecting on his varied life and career. He also used his distinctive voice for voice-over work on shows such as In Search Of. . ., the animated Transformers movie, and Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

His death this past week, due to his long-time fight with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) has touched many, celebrity and fan alike. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites came alive with postings all celebrating the man and his work. Zachary Quinto, who played opposite Nimoy in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek said, on Instagram, "My heart is broken. I love you profoundly my dear friend. And I will miss you everyday. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." The entire remaining cast of the original series also had nothing but kind words for their friend and co-star. "I loved him like a brother," William Shatner told ET. "We will all miss his humor, his talent, and his capacity to love."

Perhaps most poignant were Nimoy's final words to friends and fans, posted on his Twitter account just five days before his death. "A life is like a garden." Mr. Nimoy said. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"

We will never see his like again.