Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 169: Victoria (2015) and Sisters (2015) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Episode 169

Merry Christmas this week from Movie Podcast Weekly! This is Episode 169, when we finally get to review the three years-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). We are joined by special guest Steve Hernandez. We are also happy to bring you Feature Reviews of Sisters and Victoria. Join us!

NOTE: Next week on Tuesday, December 29, 2015, we’ll release MPW’s Top 10 Movies of 2015. Be sure to participate and enter our content by:

1.) E-mailing your Top 10 Movies of 2015 list to

2.) Include your idea for what prize you would like to win if you’re randomly selected.

If you’re new to our show… Movie Podcast Weekly typically features four hosts — Jason, Andy, Karl and Geek Cast Ry — along with frequent guests. We give you our verdicts on at least one new movie release from the current year that’s currently playing in theaters, as well as several mini reviews of whatever we’ve been watching lately. And we usually provide specialized genre recommendations. New episodes release every single Wednesday.


I. Introduction
— Send your Top 10 Movies of 2015, and enter our contest.

II. New in Theaters This Past Weekend:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip
Son of Saul [ Limited ]
The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun [ Limited ]
Noma My Perfect Story [ Limited ]
Extraction [ Limited ]
He Never Died
Mojin: The Lost Legend


[ 0:05:12 ] III. Feature Review: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
Jason = 7 ( Theater / Buy it! )
Karl = 8 ( Don’t miss in theaters / Definite buy )
Ryan = 10 ( Theater / Buy it! )
Steve Hernandez = 9.5 ( Theater / Buy it! )

[ 1:36:57 ] IV. Feature Review: SISTERS (2015)
Karl = 7 ( Rental )

[ 1:41:20 ] V. Feature Review: VICTORIA (2015)
Jason = 8.5 ( Must-See / Strong Rental )

VI. Wrap-Up / Plugs / Ending
— Miscellany
— Thank you to Mario, Josh, Shannon, Shane, Randy and Michel.

Episode 170 where we’ll MPW’s Top 10 Movies of 2015 and our review of “The Hateful 8,” as well as a review of “The Big Short” with special guest Rob Booker. Join us!


Karl recommends: Ex-Wife: The Heart Behind Star Wars

Tarantino Upset With Disney – Listen to Episode 100 (S2E48)

Contact MPW:
E-mail us:
Leave us a voicemail: (801) 382-8789.
Follow MPW on Twitter: @MovieCastWeekly
Leave a comment in the show notes for this episode.

Ry’s BIO
Ry’s flagship show: Geek Cast Live Podcast
DONATE here to facilitate the creation of more Geek content!
Blog: Geek Cast Live
Web site: Geek
Twitter: @GeekCastRy

Jason recommends supporting: Operation Underground Railroad

Listen to MPW:
Add MPW to your Stitcher playlist:
MPW on iTunes
MPW’s RSS feed
Right-click to download the MPW 100 Rap

Josh’s links:
Hear Josh named as one of the Top 5 Up-and-Coming Directors on The Film Vault Podcast!
Twitter: @IcarusArts
Josh covers streaming movies on: Movie Stream Cast
Hear Josh on The SciFi Podcast
Hear Josh on Horror Movie Podcast

If you’re a Horror fan, listen to Jason and Josh on HORROR MOVIE PODCAST

We’d like to thank The Dave Eaton Element and Dave himself for the use of his music for our theme song. Buy Dave’s Eaton’s music:

If you like Movie Podcast Weekly, please subscribe and leave us a review in iTunes. If you want to support the show, we have PayPal buttons in our right-hand sidebar where you can make a one-time donation or you can become a recurring donor for just $2 per month. (Every little bit helps!)

Thanks for listening, and join us again next Wednesday for Movie Podcast Weekly.

90 thoughts on “Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 169: Victoria (2015) and Sisters (2015) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

      • Or just ignore them, which I feel is what J stubbornly tends to do…


        Case in point: the bridge scene with Han and Kylo. The boys described the essence of that scene very well and all of that was in the context of the film. Yet, J was still like “yeah, I don’t think I buy that.”

        • ******SPOILERS FOR THE FORCE AWAKENS******

          Haha I hated that Jay couldn’t just get it. BUT I will say that although Ryan described the essence excellently, I don’t think Han planned to just die to help rid his son of his pain. He wanted to help his son no matter the cost, but I think he went in with the best of hopes. He knew the risks, but he didn’t just go to die. But yeah, I don’t see why Jay had a problem with that scene. It was one of the best scenes in the movie and definitely one of the most poignant.

          • No, totally. Han walked out on that bridge to try and bring his son back, but there was a point in the conversation when he realized it wasn’t going to happen. At that point, he did the only thing he could to help his son, which was to (literally) help him point his lightsaber at his chest. That’s exactly how Steve and Ryan (and Karl, I think) explained it on the show, too.

            J be like, “nah.”

          • Is plan wasn’t to go die that’s for sure ….he walked onto the bridge with the confidence of Han Solo for cheesecake sake! But there is a point where he realizes he cannot bring his son back. At the point he just became a dad willing to do what he could to help Jos son stop hurting.

        • Thanks for your comments…

          [ Star Wars 7 Spoilers Ahead ]

          Let me get this straight: It sounds like you guys are asserting that just because someone has a theory (that you happen to agree with), then that must make it so… Right?

          Ryan and friends explained his perspective pretty well regarding his theory about Han Solo’s willing sacrifice to bring his son peace, but that doesn’t make it true. You have no definitive “proof.”

          To be clear, I’m not arguing here that it’s not a good or plausible theory… What I’m arguing is that the scene is not definitive, and it is ambiguous, at best. There is room to read it another way; therefore, we cannot flatly proclaim its truth and persecute all naysayers.

          So, boys, set aside the absurd Willis Wheeler logic, and e-mail your damn Top 10 lists and prize requests to us at! We’ve all got far weightier matters to consider… namely, the Top 10 Movies of 2015!


          • I don’t know, J. I feel like when Han realizes he can’t bring his son back, he puts his hand on Kylo’s face as if to say “it’s ok”… it’s hard to interpret that any other way.

          • J – On a positive note, I thought your VICTORIA review was good. Not spoilery at all, which is important for that film. I still think you need that opening 55 minutes to really get the full effect of the movie and how life can change so dramatically at the blink of an eye, but a solid review nonetheless.

          • It’s not that you have to agree with the rest of us (which you do), or that we’re right (which we are), it’s that sometimes things are so crystal clear that interpreting them any other way would be a mistake. Now, about interpretations, yes I agree that one could pretty much interpret anything in any way they choose fit. BUT, in this instance, the scene is so clear about what it wants to be that I just don’t see how you missed the point. But alas, it’s clear you have other things in mind other than discussing a movie that’s already a classic in many people’s minds and that’s making history as we speak.

    • I agree with everyone’s saying that there was a lot that was ‘mirrored’ from prior movies. Is that enough to slog the movie? For me, no. But I’m feelin’ this:
      Jay’s impression of the movie were heavily influenced by his environmental experience. Had there been no hooligans….had his cool little dude of a son been in jaw-dropped awe and high-fiving him every 10 minutes…..had he been able to sneak in a gallon of Peanut Buster Parfait…..Jay would’ve given this a higher rating. All in all, I think it’s a respectable review. :-)

      • That’s possible, because that seems to be why he liked Insidious 2 so much.

        That movie was a screaming drag queen of a ghost film. Shrill.

    • In defense of Jay, I can actually get the “we’ve seen this before” complaint. It was pretty blatant.

      I’m glad I didn’t hear anyone complaining about Kylo Ren’s character. I’ve read a lot of complaints about him online. I thought it was pretty awesome how slowly the movie reveals that he is more of a bully and less of a boss. After watching him tantrum, struggle with his feelings, etc., I didn’t really doubt that Rey could go all Force sensitive and kick his arse.

      Besides, if Kylo Ren was trained to use a blade by Luke, I can’t imagine he learned much. I don’t remember Yoda teaching him fencing on Dagobah, and Luke didn’t really dazzle me in Return of the Jedi with his swordsmanship.

      One final thought, did you all notice that Kylo Ren’s lightsaber wasn’t really of the same quality as Luke’s blue lightsaber? Is that why Kylo wants Luke and his saber so bad? Maybe he just wants access to some proper components to make a nicer blade.

        • Yes, Jay loved “Jurassic World.” I’ll have to go back and listen to that podcast episode to see if he addressed the fact that it borrowed a ton from “Jurassic Park.” Both Episode VIII and JW felt like reboots/remakes as well as sequels.

          I liked them both. Each one was entertaining enough for me to forgive a few eye rolling moments or instances of “hey, I’ve seen this before!?”

    • Thank you, Gomez98, for being a good example to these jokers around here… How does MPW have hundreds of listeners, and I only have, like, 12 to 15 Top 10 lists in my inbox so far? : ) Don’t let me down, everybody! Send ’em!

      • J – I’m just trying to watch as many possible Top 10-er films as possible before sending my list. We have two Xmas days here in my country, so I’ll be with friends/family on the 26th – but hoping to watch one last film before sending off my list. Can you please tell me the latest possible cut-off time (EST)?


        • Cuttin it close, Mark….I would just make your top 10 as of now, then fill in the blanks with any or all of the following:

          Groundhog Day
          The Flight of the Navigator
          The Never Ending Story

          Anyone that faults you for including any one of those, I will fight!! :-)

          • There are many movies that are coming out on Christmas Day but I can’t see them all so I just made my list from what I saw this year! Everyone’s list is going to be different that is what makes it fun.

            Mario (loon) Leon

          • Well, I’m at least 6 hours ahead of J’s time zone and I believe the deadline was Sunday the 27th (or am I crazy?), so I should be able to get a Sunday matinee in here and squeak one into my Top 10 at the last moment :)

  1. I took lots of notes during this show, and will be posting some thoughts shortly. I just wanted to premise that by saying…


    If you have not seen the film yet, do yourself a favor and stop reading… don’t listen to the podcast yet… and go see the film.

  2. Hello Guys,

    Great podcast and loved the review for Star Wars the Force Awakens. I am a lover of Star Wars films but a lover of all Sci Fi Films. I have already seen the movie twice and I have to agree with J that it is a good movie but not a great movie I give it a 7.5 rating. It does not surpass the a New Hope or Empire Strikes Back. I also felt there were to many similarities to a New Hope I kept saying to myself during the movie hey doesn’t this seem very similar to Luke’s story line.

    As for the ending I agree with Ry, im glad no words were spoken so much was said in just that scene without saying a word. However I saw it as Rey saying ” Here take this I don’t want this power” and Luke responding ” Oh honey you have no idea what is in store for you!” A picture says a 1000 words.

    Also J I don’t think you will be able to see Hateful 8 as it will only be in limited release until January and not wide release so you may have to drive far to see it. Are you seeing a special screening of it?

    Well I have entered my list for the top 10 and worst 5 for 2015 and look forward to hear yours can’t wait to debate as I know that is why we come here to discuss. And no worries J Mad Max Fury Road did not make my list LOL :) Also any movies I see now will count for 2016 no matter when they were released!

    Have a Happy Holidays and enjoy your movie experience

    Mario (LOON)

  3. Okay, Episode VIII:

    ******SPOILERS FOR THE FORCE AWAKENS (probably)******

    Karl, you mentioned that at no point were you rolling your eyes during TFA. I’ll admit that I did twice:

    (1) When the Resistance was in their war room, al la Return of the Jedi, making plans to attack the Starkiller Base (aka Death Star 3.0). When they compared the size of the Death Star to Starkiller Base, boy that did not work for me. It was like I was watching a convention of movie sequel writers as they discussed ways to make a sequel bigger and better but still the same ole’ stuff. Ugh.

    (2) When the X-Wings dove into the trench, al la A New Hope, to blow up Starkiller Base. I half expected Poe Dameron to turn off his targeting computer. “Let go, Poe!”

    I can forgive the other story beats that felt so similar to the original trilogy. There was a magic to how the beginning mirrored the beginning of A New Hope. It felt like there really was an awakening of the Force and there was enough mystery and destiny surrounding the story that it worked okay for me.

    But the attack on Starkiller Base felt uninspired, safe, lazy, and suffering from extreme sequelitis. Why couldn’t the Resistance just make an offensive on a star destroyer? Why couldn’t it be a few big ships of theirs versus a few big ships of the Empire, in an attempt to act as a distraction for Finn and Co. so they could rescue Rey?

    Starkiller Base is a great name for it. It killed a few stars in my overall rating.

    But hey, let me step off the grumpy wagon to just say that I had an immense amount of fun watching this movie. It was an enjoyable way to return to the galaxy far, far away.

    8.5/10 for me after a one-time watch. We’ll see if my opinions change after I watch it again.

    • Vance, your two cringe-worthy points are definitely there. The war-room scene, in particular… “sequel-ness” aside, they didn’t seem very organized at all. I was thinking they probably had no business taking this Starkiller Base down.

    • I’d forgotten about those – the more I’ve thought about it – the closest I come to eye rolling moments are the Han/Leia scenes. Her acting just made me keep thinking “did she just get out of rehab again?”

      • After seeing it two more times, I disagree. That first scene with Han and Leia is wonderful. “New hairdo.” “Same jacket.” And she did fine in the rest of it. She has aged and been through a lot, both actress and character. It shows, but adds resonance to her portrayal now.

  4. Before getting into discussion of THE FORCE AWAKENS, I just wanted to address many of the criticisms lobbed at the film during the show. This is a Snoke-hologram-sized post, so sorry in advance…

    – Regarding the story structure being largely derivative of the original trilogy and, in particular, A NEW HOPE…

    This is obviously a fair point. The fact of the matter though, is that is how life is. Think about the real world over time, throughout history, basically the same thing happens over and over again with just minor variations in characters, setting and other details. It’s not unusual that we’re facing a similar situation 30 years later of a tyrannical group trying to rule the galaxy being opposed by a band of resistors trying to restore peace and freedom.

    And, just because the story structure largely mirrors IV (and, to a lesser extent, V and VI) doesn’t mean it’s unimaginative. There was enough new stuff in this film that it made it feel fresh and new, while still being familiar. That is a difficult thing to accomplish, and I think THE FORCE AWAKENS did it beautifully.

    – Regarding the disappointment over the technology and the belief that it should have advanced much more in the 30 years since Ep. VI…

    I’ve got news for everyone: despite current popular belief, not all technology advances that quickly. Nowadays when we think of technology, we think of computers and cell phones. Those devices DO advance quickly. However, things like automobiles and airplanes DO NOT advance technologically nearly as quickly as some seem to think. Many of the airplanes in service now are based on plans that were created decades ago (and many of the actual units in service were built decades ago, too). With automobiles, model cycles are normally close to 10 years and each subsequent model isn’t really that much different from its predecessor.

    Now, take a look at the fighter jets and weapons that are currently in service. The vast majority of fighter jets and bomber jets in service with the US military were originally introduced in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. I just looked up the information to confirm this was true, but you can look for yourself if you don’t believe it. Also, take a look at weapons. While the actual technology involved with weaponry has advanced over time, the outward appearance of guns and bombs and missile launchers is essentially the same as it has been for the last several decades. So, something like the Starkiller Base is a realistic representation of the natural progression in weaponry from the Death Star; bigger, more destructive, more advanced underlying technology, but essentially similar in nature.

    – Regarding the similarities in tactics between the First Order and the Empire, and Kylo Ren and Darth Vader…

    I think it makes sense that the actions and tactics of the First Order and Kylo Ren largely mirror that of the Empire and Darth Vader. We learn in the preamble that the First Order rose from the ashes of the Empire, so we can assume that many of the high-ranking officials within the First Order came directly from the Empire. Human nature is that “we know what we know,” and the Empire was successful in ruling the galaxy for many years. So, it makes sense that the leaders of the First Order would use tactics they were familiar with and had largely worked for them in the past.

    The similarity between Kylo Ren and Darth Vader is borne from Kylo’s admiration of and desire to essentially become Darth Vader. He is obsessed with emulating his grandfather, all the way down to his cape and mask, which he does not need and obviously only wears to mimic Darth Vader’s appearance.

    – Regarding how the original trilogy worked better as standalone films…

    I completely agree with this point when referring to A NEW HOPE. That film is the best standalone Star Wars film, period. That said, I think the other six Star Wars films all work better as part of the saga than they do on their own, and that includes V and VI. The main purpose of THE FORCE AWAKENS was clearly to setup this trilogy of the saga – to establish the current struggle between light and dark, introduce new characters and layout the look and feel of this new Star Wars “world.”

    That said, while I agree with the point, I do not think it’s a fair criticism to lob at the film. The fact is that this movie is part of a larger saga. We know this going into the movie, so I’m not sure the audience can reasonably or fairly expect it to not leave loose ends to explore in subsequent films.

    – Regarding the long stare between Luke and Rey at the end…

    I interpreted that stare between the two characters exactly the same as Ryan, and he did a beautiful job of explaining it on the show (so no need to re-hash here). I believe the film sets up that interpretation pretty well. That said, I think there are many different ways you can interpret that ending stare, which is probably more interesting than if there was dialogue directing us to a single conclusion. That’s what the next two films are for.

    – Regarding the issue you had with the two lightsaber duels near the end being relatively “even”…

    I think there are three things to consider here. First, I would argue that Kylo’s duel with Finn was not all that even. I think we should assume that Finn, being a former stormtrooper who was battle-trained since being a baby, could handle himself fairly well in hand-to-hand combat. And he does about as well as someone with combat training, but not necessarily specialized training in lightsaber dueling, could have done. In the end, Kylo handles this fight fairly easily.

    Now, on to the duel between Kylo and Rey – the movie establishes very well, early and often, that Rey is fully able to handle herself in a fight. Further, the film establishes (with her staff) that she is adept at using stick-like weapons to defeat opponents who are physically bigger than her. Also, at this point in the film, she is aware that she is force sensitive, and has already figured out how to utilize the force in some capacity (by relaxing). Further, she had some sort of vision earlier in the film when she first touched Luke’s lightsaber… it’s unclear whether that was a vision or a flashback, but it hints at her already having some sort of connection to the jedi and/or training in the past. This last point is more conjecture, but you still have the context from the film of her being a skilled fighter with stick weapons.

    The third element at work in these duels is Kylo Ren. The film establishes over and over again that he is still young and has not completed his training. Plus, we are constantly reminded that he feels the pull of the light side, and is a vulnerable character. He is unsure of his own abilities and has already had an untrained person in Rey get the better of him when trying to use the force to extract information from her mind. Oh, and he got shot in the leg by Chewbacca just moments before these battles, so he’s physically hobbled to begin with.

    All three points considered, I think both lightsaber duels play out in a realistic manner.

    – Regarding it being a mistake that Luke was not in the film until the final minute…

    Personally, I think Luke WAS a central figure in the film. Sure, he does not appear until the very last minute, but his storyline is fully laid out in the movie. We know exactly what he did after Episode VI, and how that ultimately failed. We know how he felt responsible for all the evil and bad that had befallen the galaxy, which is why he disappeared. So now what we have in Luke for the next film is an extremely complex and interesting character. We know he’s ultimately “good,” but we don’t know what he will do from here on out. Even if we assume that he will train Rey to become a jedi, we don’t know the journey that will eventually get him back to that point.

    This film already had a big job to do – it needed to establish the story and world of this trilogy, introduce a lot of entirely new characters, fill in the last 30 years and lay out Luke’s journey over that time. I think adding Luke himself and all of his character’s complexities to the mix would have muddied the waters.

    – Regarding the disappointment surrounding Snoke, both his appearance and his character…

    I agree that Snoke’s appearance was a little sub-par. I’ll admit that, like Karl or Ry (I can’t remember who it was on the show), I didn’t realize at first that we were just seeing a hologram. Once I realized it was just a hologram, I relaxed. I’m going to reserve judgment on Snoke’s appearance until we actually see him in the flesh.

    As far as the Snoke character himself, J expressed disappointment that he was essentially just another Emperor. Well, yes, that’s sort of what he is. This goes back to the point I made earlier about history repeating itself. Look at the real world: when one tyrant is toppled another takes their place. So, I’m not exactly sure why this is a criticism of the film. It’s a reflection of how the world works.

    At this point, though, we don’t know anything about Snoke, so it’s probably unfair to judge him.

    – Regarding the “torture” scenes…

    Oh man, I absolutely loved that element of the film. It gave real texture to the force memory extraction technique – everything from the actors’ performances to the sound design made it feel so real. I think it also tells us a lot about the character of Kylo Ren, how he is a petulant bully and not necessarily sophisticated in his understanding or use of the force (like an unskilled surgeon).

    – Regarding the bridge scene and Han Solo’s death not being a good way for his character to go…

    This was addressed on the show and Juan and I already mentioned it above in the comments so I won’t re-hash here, but I completely disagree with J’s opinion that this was a poor death for Han Solo. His death was an undeniably heroic act. That nuance on Han’s face when the lightsaber pierces his chest might be part shock, but it’s likely more just physical pain. Both reactions are reasonable to expect from someone who just got impaled, whether they were expecting it or not.


    Two quick final notes:

    – I got a kick out of Karl’s comment late in the show how it sounded like J wanted the movie to be Disney-fied. It’s sort of like how he wants MPW to be a family show.

    – The 3D was excellent. I’ve made it clear on here that I am a fan of 3D in general, but this film did something that other 3D films tend not to – the parts of the screen that were not the focus actually seemed to be somewhat out of focus to me, mimicking how our eyes work in the natural world. That’s a big complaint of 3D films in general, and somehow THE FORCE AWAKENS seemed to address it well. Generally, the 3D succeeded in simply adding a subtle element of visual depth to the film, but there were also a few very awesome “3D moments.” Seeing the opening scroll in 3D – awesome. The frozen laser blast in the opening scene – awesome. About mid-way through the film there was a Stardestroyer literally sitting on my lap – awesome. And the end credits floating in front of the black, infinite space – awesome.

    • Great post Dino, you summarized well what I was planning on mentioning. Personally the only real complaint I have about the movie was Snoke, both in concept and execution. He looked like a Harry Potter villain to me. Having said that the second he was no longer in a scene I would forget about him so didn’t bother me that much.
      As for the light saber battle I loved it. You are absolutely right that Finn did not do particularly well in the battle and was pretty quickly dispatched by Kylo Ren. As for the complaints about Rey doing too well I think you did a good jb of explaining but let me just add something. As is repeatedly shown in the film, Kylo Ren has an uncontrollable temper that makes Darth Vader/Annakin Skywalker look like the Dalai Lama as far as patience goes. He is a person who desperately wants to be Vader (as Solo said “You dot need the mask” but in reality is nothing but a complete hack at this stage of the game. On the other side is Rey, who while completely inexperienced in the ways of the Force and light saber battling, has a great deal of self control. From this went a long way i n explaining how she could hold her own in a one on one battle.
      I do have one question though- why was he repeatedly hitting himself on the side during the fight? I just couldn’t figure out what he was doing and the people I saw it with couldn’t either.

      • I agree about Kylo….what was up with his hitting himself? Also, after the movie, I was a bit annoyed by his constant petulance, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense and I thought it was great, especially Driver’s performance of the character and his feelings. Comparing and contrasting him with his ‘mirror’, Vader, was aggravating, at first. I thought Vader’s poor handling of his emotions was shown better throughout IV, V & VI, compared to Kylo’s lashing out as a terrible brat multiple times. Then I realized, he’s not at the same level as Vader, in multiple ways. He’s not as trained in any variation of force as Vader was, he’s probably not as old as Vader was and he’s filled with the rage of a child from a broken family with a not-so-existent father.

        Just some thoughts on Kylo I’ve been having…

        Also, kudos to everyone in this comments section. This comments section is like the bench team of the great Bulls teams in the 90’s (or fill in your favorite unsung heroes sports analogy). :-) I never really take the time to dissect movies that much. If I had a good time, or it genuinely moved me in whatever way, I like it. But coming here, reading everyone’s stuff, forces me to think a bit more critically about what I am or am not entertained by. It’s also a nice place to come a post goofy crap that I think is funny. Anyway, this place is an excellent compliment to the podcast….well done, everyone, well done. :-)

        • Gomez – I like your Bulls bench analogy. This podcast network and community has also had a similar effect on me. Before this was a part of my life, I would just mindlessly watch movies and mostly take them at face value. I would discuss them with friends afterwards, but never really thought about them much more than that. These podcasts and this community, though, has made me a more active viewer of movies, which makes for a much more rewarding experience.

      • Kylo was hitting himself in the side where he was shot by Chewbacca just moments before. We see shots of blood dripping from the wound at one point after he hits himself that confirms this.

        That’s the “what” of what he was doing. As for the “why,” my interpretation is that he was trying to utilize his pain, suffering and anger to channel his dark side, presumably to make him stronger for the fight. If this is the case, then it also happens to be an excellent contrast in approach to using the force to his opponent, Rey, who was only successful in channeling the force when she was able to calm and relax her body and mind.

        • Ahhh…nice. I’ve yet to get my second viewing in, but that should be right around the corner. Makes total sense about KR channeling pain…

          At first, when seeing the epic-ness of your post, I thought, “Holy Spicoli, where’s the TL;DR of this Tolkienesque post?” I was expecting you to go into the decription of the leaves at second mid-morning breakfast. :-) But I’m glad I did read it….excellent analysis.

        • Dino- Thanks for the thoughts on why he was hitting himself. That makes some sense to me and I just was drawing a complete blank. I figured he was hitting his injury but that he was using it as motivation hadn’t occurred to me.
          I have a whole bunch of thoughts on this movie that I will hopefully post a little later today but may wait until I see it again sometime the next couple of days.
          gomez98- I hate the Bulls analogy, but only because I am a very bitter Knicks fan so **** the Bulls. :)

          • snap!! Shots fired!!! ***note to self…christian b, the john starks of the MPW comments section*** :-)
            JK CB…what a great rivalry that was…some truly epic games back then. At least you’re not a pistons fan :-)

    • Very well thought out, Dino. I agree with most of what you say but I do have my fair share of problems, slight problems that didn’t affect my rating at all, but problems that I wish weren’t present.

      Regarding Supreme Leader Snoke, he was by far the weakest part of the film and my biggest complaint. I understand that we only got a small glimpse of him as a character and though it’s hinted that he’s the big bad guy pulling the strings, we’ve yet to see what he’s really about. My complaint is not directed towards him as a character though, but towards his design and choice of portrayal as CGI. He stood out A LOT. He didn’t fit into the world and he looked the weakest, in terms of quality of CGI, out of all of the characters in the movie. I’m fully aware that what we’re seeing is a projection, so his appearance might disappoint less once we see him in full force.

      Regarding the lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, I thought it was a little far fetched. I like Rey, but as much as I wanted her to win, I felt like her win was not earned. Yes, I agree with all of your points, Dino, but Kylo Ren went through actual Jedi training… by Luke Skywalker! I mean, Rey kicked his ass really bad. That’s just unrealistic. Imagine what she’ll be able to do after her training. Not only that, but because she got the better of him, it makes it really hard to pinpoint how strong Kylo Ren really is. We know his training is not complete, but we also know he’s strong enough to be a Knight of Ren and lead a small army to locate and presumably kill Luke Skywalker. But the force is strong enough with Ray to take him down, so it’s ok. I have a hard time buying that.

      • I also think that Kylo Ren is by far the most interesting character in the Star Wars universe. He’s my favorite character and I can’t wait to see what happens with him. He’s so fascinating. His struggle with the light and the dark seems so organic and is depicted masterfully by Adam Driver.

        • I agree. I wonder if the balance between the light and the dark sides of the force will ultimately reside within Kylo. It’s an interesting thought, but hard to see how someone so immature and petulant could eventually get to that point of balance. In any case, his arc should be extremely interesting to follow through this trilogy (plus, he looks and sounds pretty badass).

          This points toward what has me most excited about THE FORCE AWAKENS. Where I think the movie absolutely succeeds is in the new characters it introduces. The main ones – Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8 – are likable (or effectively not likable, in Kylo’s case), compelling and downright awesome. I’m also loving that we have a Stormtrooper in Captain Phasma who is identifiable and, hopefully, will be developed further. I’m even excited to see how the familiar characters – Luke, Leia and Chewbacca – evolve in this new environment, especially following the death of Han Solo in Leia’s and Chewbacca’s case. And I’m very interested to find out more about Luke and where he is now, both emotionally and in relation to the force.

          Two characters I wasn’t 100% sold on were Snoke and General Hux, but I didn’t hate either of them and am willing to reserve judgement until we see more in future films.

          My least favorite part of this film, though, was Maz Kanata. I thought there were a lot of problems with her character. First, I hated her character design. I thought she looked awful and actually found her uncomfortable to look at (sorry if that sounds shallow, but that’s how I felt). Second, the fact they used motion capture and rendered her in CGI really didn’t fit well in a film that appeared to be done mostly with practical effects. I’m not a CGI hater, but it just did not work well here for me. Third, what’s her deal? Is she force-sensitive? Is she a junk collector? How does she have Luke’s lightsaber and, really, how does she have so much stuff? Why does this cantina feel like a monk’s temple with a huge shrine of herself at the center? And what happens to her in the end? I don’t know… you can argue that she’s just a throw-away character, but she’s the one who gives Luke’s lightsaber to Rey, who essentially tells her that the force is strong in her and to find Luke. That’s not throw-away stuff. So, I don’t know, her character just looks awful to me and is very confusing.

          Apart from all the great character stuff, I love the look and feel of this film. I loved that there was solid humor throughout that never got cheesy or over-the-top. I loved the relationships between characters – the dialogue and performances were excellent and felt very natural. And I also really like these new groups at play – the First Order, the Resistence, the Knights of Ren – and the struggle this film sets up.

          THE FORCE AWAKENS captures the fun and exciting adventure that a Star Wars film should be, and looks beautiful while doing it. In many ways, I think it outdoes the original trilogy. At the very least, I think we can all agree that it’s setting up what promises to be an excellent trilogy within the Skywalker saga.

          I can’t wait until May 26, 2017.

          • You know, the more I think about Hux the more I actually like him. He is the Grand Moff Tarkin of the film. The difference though is that his co-leader (Ren) is not the intimidating presence that Vader is. I liked that he had little patience for Ren and was more than happy to pin the problems on Ren. I got the sense from his performance that he is very annoyed that Ren is his co-commander because Ren hasn’t earned it the way Hux has. Also I personally liked the speech scene. I think it helped establish the way the First Order is a fascist government with a pseudo-philosophy behind it of mindless Nationalism (just like in real life fascistic governments). Now that stormtroopers have been humanized a little bit I feel like this was a necessary thing to do to explain why they all just don’t do what Finn does.

            • I really liked the dynamic between Kylo and Hux, too. In many ways, they seemed like two brothers vying for Daddy Snoke’s attention. That dynamic is something the original trilogy lacked – the relationship between high-ranking officials of the Empire and Darth Vader was never really explored, so the Kylo/Hux relationship has the potential to be very interesting. I also really liked the speech scene for pretty much the same reason you mentioned.

              I guess my “problem” with Hux is that I wanted more Hux. I’m a Domhnall Gleeson fan, and we’ve seen that he’s capable of putting in some solid performances. That’s more what I meant when I said I’m not 100% sold on him, and less that I had an actual problem with him.

    • Dino, thank you. I agree with every one of your points here. I was thinking about writing up an email but you did it already!

      That bit about history repeating itself seems to be a major theme of the film and I won’t cut the legs out from under this flick until I see the follow through with the next two episodes. There might be some serious underestimation right out of the gate against the creatives working on this series. We live in the day and age of immediate trilogies where you can see studios creating three picture plans and not just depending on a first film to see if it will do well, and I anticipate what’s coming. This movie works and I really hope they’ll stick the landing!

      Especially with Colin Treverrow in line to direct Part IX…that’s the one that makes me antsy.

      • That’s a great point about not wanting to cut the legs from under this film until we see how the trilogy unfolds. This was never meant to be a stand-alone film, so we’re essentially seeing an unfinished work. Maybe some would argue that’s to its detriment, but I don’t see it that way.

        • I don’t see it that way, either. We’re gearing up to play in this universe for awhile and I couldn’t be more happy about that! So many moments in this film made me feel like I was there again, and that was what had me nearly in tears more than once.

          After listening to multiple podcast shows dissecting the film and going on the ride again last night, I can honestly say I don’t agree with any of the criticisms. I don’t. I think the one review that I read by Devin Feraci was fair without nitpicking and tearing things apart; I suspect that somehow armchair film criticism and a decreased sense of wonder due to age, and the positioning of the OT as a holy grail is more responsible for the ‘criticisms’ I’ve heard than anything else.

          I concentrated on setting my literal/analytical mind aside just to take things in…then I would pick it up again to see how the film would play out in big areas where it was criticized…and the complaints I’ve heard over and over again turned out to be wrong. The character moments and actions and interactions, when they’re carefully observed, actually work and were misinterpreted over and over again by various people I’ve heard discussing the film. And that’s sad! I hate that! It’s almost as if they were seeing what they saw through a filter in their minds that wasn’t even taking in reality. And that might seem like a harsh thing to say, as in “Really, you saw reality, Levi, and they didn’t?” But I’m serious and for what it’s worth, I put my neck on the line and tell you that there is so much misinterpretation going on that I’d considered giving up on taking in any more film ‘criticism’ and would just move forward from this point on my own, except that I find one published critic so far to be exceedingly fair and well-informed, and other fans can be just as forgiving or have their heads and hearts in the right place that I can talk to them about these movies without standing back and wondering, “Where did your heart go? You need to step back and ask yourself if you’re seeing any of this correctly because our minds can go so many wrong directions…”

          I can say this because I’ve been there myself, trying to figure things out and just pulling it all apart to no avail, finding my expectations swayed in different directions due to circumstances involving what someone’s said, how I’m feeling, I’ve had too much beer, and combination of things. How do we stay true and purely objective? I’m figuring out my own way of looking at things that I think will be satisfactory. I don’t think I will ever have any of it all figured out, but that’s okay because I believe, in the end, it’s all a matter of time before it’s all over anyways, and what was it worth?

          The Force Awakens reignited my love for Star Wars. It had lain dormant for years. The excitement leading to the prequels had me reading multiple novels and taking in media for awhile, but it died for years. This movie brought me back! I’m on fire for it…I look forward to going on this ride for years to come.

          • I love this reply….for me…not all correct…not all wrong…just a fan’s deep-hearted reaction to all of it. Nice. None of all the criticism or fan-boyism is right or wrong. What’s great is for a movie franchise to evoke so much thought and feeling and love and hate and all the other items that are being expounded. I love it. Right or wrong. I love it. To a certain extent, we’re all throwing slaves to the lions. None of this really means anything, but if we can connect on the level of how this effected or didn’t effect us, then for our perspective, it was an intriguing movie. Anyway….

  5. So many of J’s little nitpicks are things that I could have good responses to, and at some point I’ll probably address a few, but mostly I’d just suggest seeing it again.

    I mostly loved it the first time, but I did have some of the same issues (and a few different ones, too). But there was such a weird kind of pressure and anticipation associated with that first viewing… Will I even really like it much at all? Will it meet everyone’s hopes and expectations? Will the new characters be engaging enough to carry it forward? And so forth.

    The second time, it was just me (the first time I was with a date, my two girls, and several other friends), and there was something about knowing ahead of time that I at least liked it already that I think allowed me to let go more and just appreciate the experience and the ride of it. Most of those little issues fell away, and some I even appreciated from a different perspective. For example, Carrie Fisher did seem a bit haggard the first time, but the second time I saw her more for what she is, a what, 60+ year-old woman who has been through a LOT. That applies really well to Leia, and I think Fisher acted and sounded great when I had that perspective.

    A few specific things for now…

    About the ending… I like how it’s ambiguous. It is literally a “passing of the torch,” but in the opposite direction (young to old). Luke says a lot with his look, and I interpret him as saying no, that light saber is better in your hands. We also don’t know if the rumors of him turning to the dark side are true. Could be, or at least he could still be wrestling with that as he has before.

    I had expected Han to die, but I thought the scene with him and Kylo was great because for a moment I did actually believe that it could go the other way (where Kylo relents and joins the Resistance against Hux and Snoke). In that moment I completely forgot the trailer shot where Kylo fights Finn (which hadn’t happened yet and should have spoiled to me that he doesn’t relent to Han), and those two actors and the way it was written made me believe a different outcome was possible.

    And yes, this was Han’s movie, as far as the original cast. We get his great rogueish charm (in more of a grandfatherly role), a fun smuggling scene (which we’ve only heard him talk about before, but hadn’t seen), a touching reunion with Leia (hilariously interrupted by C-3PO, btw), and a powerful confrontation leading to his death scene.

    I love love love the line C-3PO says to R2, “My old friend, how I’ve missed you.” It is so sweet and meaningful, spoken between two droids (the only comparative moment I can think of is when we are riveted by the impending doom and touching embrace of a group of toys in Toy Story 3). That is a beautiful meta moment for us all to say yes, oh how we’ve missed this galaxy far, far away.

    And really, much of this film is meta… It’s not just a new Star Wars adventure, but a commentary on our world’s love for the saga itself. We are like the new characters because we think of Luke and the Jedi as part of our own myth and lore, and we have the weight of all that’s happened in this series (good and bad) in our collective subconscious, like the old crashed destroyers and AT-ATs on Jakku. We are the salvagers, picking what we can from what’s already there, but yearning for something vibrant and exciting and alive again.

    • This is such a beautiful interpretation of the movie, Eric. I loved your comment and I can’t wait to see TFA once more. I’ve only seen it once and though hesitant to post comments because in a way I’m still processing, I enjoyed the movie so much that I can’t help but post my thought as they are with only one view of the film.

      • That’s an interesting take. Whether or not you think it’ll play out that way doesn’t detract from the point that Kylo Ren is such an interesting character. The struggle he’s battling through – light vs. dark – is unlike any we’ve seen before in the Star Wars films (it’s usually the other way around), and I’m excited to see where it goes over the next two films.

  6. Spot on analysis of TFA.

    I would sandwich this film right between both trilogies. I saw it at 6:00AM & 9:00AM on Friday, & at some point in the middle of the second viewing, a bit of frustration started to rise up in me. People need to pump the brakes on this being the best in the series. It’s IMDB score needs to be deflated a bit. This has a chance to overtake ROTJ in the third spot, but that will take repeated viewings.

    This would be 7/10.

    All of the young actors did great work here, especially Adam Driver.

    • Eric; Thanks for reminding and re-reminding that this was in SL.. I got off my butt and got up there to see it. Soon glad I did!

  7. I refuse to nit pick The Force Awakens…I loved it and I teared up at the end with happiness and relief that it was everything I could have hoped for and I won’t lessen my joy of it by making up flaws that only exist only in other peoples minds…This would be the most impactful and my favorite movie of the year if it wasn’t for one other movie that will remain nameless as not to upset anyone…

  8. Does anyone else see the opening shot of the star destroyer against the planet as a middle finger gesture? Maybe that’s just me. ;o)

    Going soon for the third time. More later…

  9. I disagree that Karl should watch Victoria at the 50 minute mark… A big part of what makes that film compelling is getting the full sense of time, and appreciating what happens to her over the course of the 2+ hours. It makes what happens later more impactful to have also experienced the fun comeraderie and flirtation that developed between her and that group of guys in the first hour, and the one guy in particular that she connects with more romantically. It helps to show more of the breadth of how life can go a lot of different directions in a short time.

    That being said, I think they could have shaved 10-15 minutes from that opening act and still had the same essential impact, but as it is, I would recommend just watching it from the start.

  10. So I just cracked wise about filling in the blanks of a Top 10 with movies from your all time list. If they’ve not done already, anyone want to let loose their all-time list? My is started in the comment above (no particular order, and no regard to actual good-ness to the movie, a lot of sentiment and nostalgia…).

    Other picks for my all-time….

    Batman (’89)
    Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying…
    The Shining
    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    Anyway, just some thoughts….also, Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope everyone can eat well, enjoy loved ones (despite how annoying they can be at times), imbibe a bit too much and be safe. :-)

  11. Saw it for the third time yesterday and it reinforced what I said earlier and what Unknown Murderer described above… that so much of the film works wonderfully if we let it, and can let go of the “armchair criticism.” But this is Star Wars and carries so much anticipation with it, and a long history of criticism and appreciation. The first time I saw it I had those *film fan/critic* glasses on, and felt I needed to consider everything as objectively as I could. And I still loved it, but kept having things on my mind about the way Maz and Snoke look, and how derivative the plot was, and how it was a little too jokey at times, and Finn’s character is uneven, etc.

    The second time (and now with the third viewing), virtually all of that fell away, as I was just there for the entertainment and joy of it. Not only did it fall away, but I saw things in a different light that made many of them work nicely. I now like the character of Maz, and as I said above, I think Carrie Fisher does a wonderful job, and her scenes with Harrison Ford are very meaningful and touching (I find some of the criticism of her to be mean and unjustified), and the plot is meant to be an echo of what happened before, in a meta “the more that things change” kind of way, and we are in the position of Rey as scavengers of the history of what’s happened in this series and viewing Luke and the Jedi as myth and lore.

    Reflecting on my love for some of the other films this year, like Fury Road and Room, there are things about both of those films that I didn’t particularly like. One of the significant plot elements in Room I found very unbelievable. And yet, when I left seeing those films the first time and went online to comment about them, it was all about the joy and the wonder and praise of how great they are, without a list of little nitpicks and faults. Force Awakens carries SO much baggage with it, and I think we need to allow ourselves to put down some of that baggage to be able to appreciate it for what it is. And that’s not to say that everyone will necessarily appreciate it more on further viewings, or not still see faults. But I think a purer version of what it really is will more likely come through when watching it without the pressure of feeling a need to critique it. In my case, that made me appreciate it much more. Went from an 8.5 to 9.5 between first and second viewing.

    • Eric,

      I am looking forward to my second viewing after Christmas. I am guessing my rating goes up as well. I look forward to removing my film “fan/critic glasses” and just having some fun at the theater.

  12. Just imagine the endless fun that could be had if that blaster bolt Kylo froze was permantley there…Triple dog dare your buddies to stick their tongue on it…roasting marshmallows on an open blaster bolt…free bug zapper…a mean game of extreme limbo…drunken bonfire around the blaster bolt…

  13. Has anyone seen The Hateful Eight? I’m dying to talk about it, but I want to save the conversation for after the review. BUT I will say that it’s a masterpiece. Go see it now! I’m well aware that it won’t be for everyone, but for me it’s a 15/10.

        • No, the nearest 70mm showing to me is in Portland, which is 4 hours away. I was actually considering making the drive, but my friend couldn’t arrange to come with me. I go to Portland quite a lot for the work that I do, so the drive itself wasn’t a big deal, but it just seemed too crazy of a thing to do by myself only to see a movie. I mean, I’m an avid film fan, but not quite THAT much of a film fan.

          And then I found out that the great new theater in my home town (recliner seats, beautiful screen and sound) is showing it this Wednesday, so we’re going then. I’ll have to catch that extra 6 minutes another time.

          Anyway, I’m glad you loved it, Juan. I was already pretty excited about it from the trailer, and for being Tarantino (though my appreciation of his films has varied over the years), and then I hear comments that it’s a bit like The Thing meets Agatha Christie in the Old West, and now I’m really stoked.

          • I’m a HUGE Quentin Tarantino fan. He is the reason why I love movies as much as I do. Pulp Fiction opened my eyes like no other movie had done before or after for that matter, so every time there is new material from him, I’m there.

            I didn’t want to say too much about the movie, partly because Josh made me promise not to divulge anything that could spoil the movie for him and since he roams these boards very often I wanted to be as vague as possible. But since you brought it up, yes, it is kind of what you described. I’m not overly familiar with Agatha Christie, but I know who she is and the kind of work she did, so I don’t know to what degree she influenced Tarantino. There’s a lot more to the movie than the mystery part though. It has A LOT to say. It’s timely and relevant. And I think it might just be my favorite movie of his.

            Anyway, I don’t want to hype it up too much. I can’t wait to find out what you thought.

          • I also loved The Hateful Eight…Being a Tarantino fan boy…he can do no wrong in my eyes…As of right now it’s probably my 3rd favorite of his but need to see again to soak everything in…The opening scene gave me the shivers…

            • “The opening scene gave me the shivers…”

              Shannon! Yes! Isn’t it amazing? I think it might be favorite opening ever. So good!

              Which two movies would you put above it as of right now? I’m curious. Knowing you and if I had to guess, I’d say Reservoir Dogs and Kill Bill Vol. 1.

          • Well, I don’t know that it’s really influenced by Agatha Christie, per se, but in terms of the setting and plot, it has the “a group of people stuck in a room and one of them is the murderer” kind of thing going on, which was a trademark of many of her stories.

            Anyway, I’ll see it tomorrow and surely comment later.

          • Well like you Juan…Pulp Fiction was a game changer for me so I think it will always be my favorite and second is yes Kill Bill…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *