Some Hard Truths About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

GIVE HIM A HAND: John Boyega's Finn TK.

GIVE HIM A HAND: John Boyega is downright electric as stormtrooper-turned-Resistance-fighter Finn.

I make a lot of stupid predictions, yo. I thought both the Eagles and Sixers would be in playoff position this season, but hell no. I predicted that Jeb Bush would be the Republican nominee; instead, he’s disappearing from time and space like Marty McFly. Man, I thought they were going to kill War Machine in the second Avengers flick and I was crazy wrong.

But I got something right. I predicted that John Boyega would make Star Wars: The Force Awakens; I told my friends that the magnetism and physicality that he showed in Attack the Block (British indie smash; Boyega as latchkey kid leader of British chavs in a surprise war on aliens; see immediately) would dovetail perfectly with the anticipated — and delivered — speed of the new space opera. And it did. My God, Boyega — starring as stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn — is downright electric, working perfectly with Daisy Ridley and Oscar Isaac, our two other main characters, who portray a force-sensitive metal scavenger and an ace Resistance pilot, respectively.

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Rocky, Star Wars Let Us Grow Old With Favorite Characters

creed star wars

I went and saw Creed last weekend. Reader, I cried.

I cried when Rocky Balboa got sick.

I cried when Creed put on his papa’s boxing trunks.

And the waterworks absolutely flowed when — after being held in abeyance all movie — the horns of the original Rocky theme finally sounded at a critical moment in Creed’s climactic big fight.

It was all very macho.

This weekend, my wife and I took my 7-year-old son to see the new Star Wars movie. I got a little misty at getting to repeat a ritual that my parents and family shared when I was a child; and yes, there were key points in the movie — I’ll not spoil them at this early date — when my eyes were so wet I could barely see the screen.

I mention this not just because I am exceedingly vulnerable to cinematic manipulation and nostalgia — though that is surely true — but because the two movies together made me realize this: Forty years after the modern blockbuster franchise movie era was born, with Jaws and Rocky and Star Wars and a blaze of both special effects and Roman numerals, corrupt old youth-obsessed Hollywood has been forced to give us something it usually tries to avoid:

Meditations on aging, loss, and death. Read more »

Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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When I was 4 years old, I waited in what seemed like an endless line with my mom one May afternoon. When we finally reached the destination — a now-shuttered movie theater in Lansing, Illinois called River Oaks — I went to my seat completely unaware that my whole life was about to change. When the lights went down, the familiar opening title crawl of Return of the Jedi scrolled before my young eyes. John Williams’s score blared. That sense of discovery and ignorance of what I was about to see was a luxury in 1983 movie houses — whether you were young or old. In 2015, when every pop culture second is analyzed and regurgitated online, nearly every cinematic experience is spoiled before you have a chance to buy a ticket.

J.J. Abrams and crew thoughtfully managed to rekindle that magic in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They kept us mostly in the dark up until last night’s premiere, releasing just enough footage to assure us the Star Wars franchise was back in good hands after a trio of uneven prequels. I saw it on opening night and let me tell you: the film delivers. It’s what you hoped it would be. It’s got the tightest script and character development of any Star Wars film. The Force Awakens is an overwhelming success.

Let me explain, but take heed: While I’ve tried my best to keep specific details mum, there are plot spoilers ahead.

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GIVEAWAY: See Carol Early and For Free Next Week at Ritz at the Bourse [CONTEST CLOSED]

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in a scene from "Carol."

Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in a scene from “Carol.”

Folks were buzzing about Carol when it screened a few months ago at the Philadelphia Film Festival, but those of us who missed it have been champing at the bit for it to finally open in Philly theaters. Our wait comes to an end next Friday, when it opens at Ritz East.

Don’t want to wait that long? You’re in luck! We’ve been given 25 pairs of tickets for an early screening that’s taking place on Monday, December 21st at Ritz at the Bourse at 7:30 pm. To snag a pair, be one of the first 25 people to email me at jmiddleton@phillymag.com between now and Sunday, December 20th, with the subject line “Give me those Carol tickets!” I’ll respond with details on how to pick up your prize.

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Stormtroopers “Arrested” on South Street

Philly police are just like us: They can’t wait for the new Star Wars movie and they’ll go to any lengths to stop fools from spoiling the plot for those of us who haven’t seen it.

On Tuesday, Lieutenant Stephen Clark tweeted a photo of two stormtroopers lined up against his police cruiser on South Street. The Philly Police Department retweeted it, saying “No, posting #StarWarsForceAwakens spoilers is not a crime. Yes, it should be. We enforce the laws — we don’t make them.”

See all the shenanigans below:

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Photo: This Is What Star Wars Hysteria Looked Like in Philly in 1983

Movie fans line up on Philadelphia's Chestnut Street for the premiere of the Movie "Return of the Jedi" Wednesday May 23, 1983. Fans began lining up Tuesday night to see the Star Wars trilogy. (AP Photo/ George Widman)

Movie fans line up on Philadelphia’s Chestnut Street for the premiere of the Movie “Return of the Jedi” Wednesday May 23, 1983. Fans began lining up Tuesday night to see the Star Wars trilogy. (AP Photo/ George Widman)

Check this out. A shot from May 23, 1983 shows what looks like hundreds of Philadelphians lined up on Chestnut Street to see the opening of George Lucas’s Return of the Jedi, the third and final installment of his Star Wars saga in the late-70s/early-80s. What you see there is the recently demolished Boyd Theatre in its heyday, offering 70mm, 6-track-stereo-sound showings of the film that had people excited because it was the first to use THX technology.

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New Trailer Offers Sneak Peek at Star Trek Beyond

This morning, Paramount Pictures released a teaser trailer for Star Trek Beyond. The film, directed by Justin Lin, will hit theaters on  July 22nd. It stars Idris Elba, Chris Pine, Simon Pegg, Zach Quinto, Zoe Saldana and more.

Keep up to date with our local arts and events coverage. Here’s how:

WATCH: Stallone Tweets Video of Michael B. Jordan Getting Knocked Out During Creed Shoot

Yesterday on Twitter, Sylvester Stallone shared a video from the set of Creed where his cast mate Michael B. Jordan actually gets knocked out while shooting a boxing scene for the film.

“Michael B Jordon, young creed and getting KO’d for real! But he got up and did it again! That’s called guts!!,” Stallone tweeted along with the video. Check it out:

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REVIEW: Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq

Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq”

Born out of sorrow, strife and a sense of being fed up with inaction, Spike Lee’s latest film, Chi-Raq, is an inventive look at gun violence in the South Side of Chicago. Satirical, serious and doused with hints of historic and modern rebellion, it is one of 2015’s purest cinematic marvels.

The film opens with Nick Cannon’s “Pray 4 My City” playing while the song’s lyrics fill the screen. Setting the scene with blunt and masterful rhymes, the words reveal, among other things, stats about casualties in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and how they eerily echo the amount of deaths in Chicago as a result of shooting. Then Samuel L. Jackson’s well-dressed narrator Dolmedes shows up, explaining what we are about to see: a film mixing reality with heightened theater modeled after Aristophanes’ Greek comedy Lysistrata.

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