STAR WARS-THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

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This is NOT a film review.

“Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish……..what you started.”

To begin, there will be NO mention of plot points or scenes, if you want spoilers, jog on. Remember, this is not a film review.

Wow. What an emotional experience.
As the deadline approached, I found myself getting more and more excited, the force was truly awakening and JJ had seemingly, possibly, maybe, hopefully pulled off a coup; to make a sequel that honoured the originals yet managed to remain in the present (as far as film-making goes). Could this be true?

Everybody is feeling The Force at the moment.

Sat in the foyer on Thursday 17th December, 2015 in Sydney, Australia, the tension was palpable. We took our seats and waited, sat through some god-awful adverts and trailers and then It began (yes, I capitalized the I in it). No Fox fanfare as Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney, simply the Lucasfilm logo and then the opening crawl accompanied by THE music. Shit, it’s been a long time since I felt this. As excited as I may have been in 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out, this far superseded that feeling. I remember leaving the cinema back then sort of making excuses for it in my mind but a second viewing cemented my feelings about it, it was shit. Not so, here.

Could JJ Abrams really pull it off, after the travesty that was Eps 1,2 and 3, they shall, for me, remain in the depths of unneccessary along with the tv movies: Caravan of Courage-The Ewok adventure (which I never saw) and The Star Wars Holiday Special (2.5 on IMDB), mere distractions that came nowhere near close to the greatness of Star Wars, Empire and Jedi.
In my mind, I have erased the inclusion of 1,2 and 3. They are appendices, written badly, at best.

I can say, with confidence that JJ with The Force Awakens has done what Lucas (maybe/hopefully) wishes he could have achieved with 1,2 and 3.

And then some.

By selling the company and passing it along George Lucas has allowed the Star Wars universe to grow and become more relevant to today’s audiences as opposed to some outdated idea of what passes for entertainment these days.

That’s what it needed, a fresh approach from a skilled director who loved the originals as much as we did.

I never expected to have tears in my eyes at various moments during the watching of TFA, but they happened, I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m proud to say it. JJ hooks the audience emotionally by playing on the narrative themes of A New Hope and twisting them in a way that doesn’t seem plagiaristic (is that a word? Just looked it up, it is…..yes). The simpler, the better; gone are the overblown CGI that manages, like most 3d films, to distance you from the film and back are the creatures built by hand, the human touch. There are CGI characters in the film but never do you feel they are not real and a grounded part of this world (stand up and bow-the creators of Maz Kanata, brilliantly played by Lupita Nyong’o). Gone are the overblown, confusing messy politics and gone is Jar Jar Binks (mesa says thank goodness). What is left is the real essential elements of the originals, mythology, a bad-ass bad guy, an Empire that is stronger than it ever was, new characters that belong in the universe and a narrative that follows the rules add a pinch of seasoning and we may have an award winner, ladies and gentlemen.

Pause.

I’m currently listening to John Williams’ incredible score and still reeling from the experience of what I have just seen, it hit me emotionally. It is brilliant.

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JJ has done the seemingly impossible and made a film that is both current and manages to directly link to the originals. All I know is I’m looking to see it again and soon, like in the next day or so. I never thought after all these years that the magic could be revived, let me tell you, it can.

I could just go on and on and on (I KNOW I already have), I just can’t help it. I’ve written a lot and said little but my enjoyment of the film is like MANY others’; an emotional one. Mark Kermode said recently how easy and how much of a joy it is to write about great films. He’s not wrong at least on an emotional level.

Shit, what can I say without spoiling anything?

The cast are all great, the set pieces are tight, exciting and tense, there are quotes, the appearances of old characters get the tingles going, new characters surprise and entertain, there are laughs, tears, heart in mouth moments and more than a touch of humanity.
Excitement, adventure, drama, emotion; this has it all.

Hats off Mr Abrams, you rock.

For me, the film of the year.

Go see it.

5/5

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AMY (2015)

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This is an incredible documentary film about an amazingly talented young woman whose life is cut tragically short by excess, abuse and celebrity.

Asif Kapadia does it again. This time round I have a deeper connection to the subject. Amy’s first album ‘Frank’ really made a huge impression on me, being a jazz fan and hearing whip smart, incredibly personal lyrics sung with the skill and talent of one blessed with a voice well beyond her years. With Kapadia’s other feature documentary, Senna, my interest in the subject was minimal but boy does he know how to get you emotionally involved. I loved Senna and equally I loved Amy. Let’s not forget Kapadia’s feature film debt The Warrior, which if you haven’t seen is definitely worth a look and is NOT a documentary.

The tragedy here unfolds before our eyes as we are (unfortunately?) privileged to witness early home videos showing the trajectory of this brightly burning candle and it is very sad. This film moved me a great deal and sat with me for a long time afterwards. The way the press hounded her and tried as hard as they could to get her to snap was criminal and it hits home how it is so easy to judge and have an opinion about a celebrity as though they are creatures in a zoo, somehow different than the rest of us and what Kapadia does brilliantly is allow the humanity to shine out of his subject.

The use of voice-overs without seeing the interviewees is brilliant, it allows the viewer to focus wholly on Amy, this is not about them, they were merely players in the show, the star was Amy and it is she who shines the brightest. Seeing her insecurities and getting a deeper understanding of this force of nature builds empathy in the viewer. On the one hand she is a scared little girl and on the other a mighty diva who isn’t shy of airing her opinions. This is the human condition, we are all contradictions who sometimes lash out with the same hand we caress our loved ones with.

Amy is a cautionary tale about fame and celebrity, and the importance of having true friends around you when the madness is in full swing. Sometimes the flame of life burns so brightly that it is extinguished sooner as it burns out, Amy joined the 27 Club along with Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

A tragedy, but at least the music is still out there.

A must watch.

4/5

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