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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250 Best Movies of All Time

Ryan Godfrey works as a product manager for a local software company, surrounded by the kind of numbers and data that most of us will never be able to comprehend. Since the late-90s, however, he’s been working on a little side project that — while just as baffling in the backend — is about to make our lives a little easier, at least where it concerns our Netflix queues.

Think of him as a one-man RottenTomatoes.com. He’s come up with a list of the 250 all-time best films by crunching data from film sites where critics and regular viewers alike have been plugging in ratings for years. The list he consulted most was IMDb’s Top 250. “I’ve never thought of [that] as a canonical list of great films, but I liked the idea that a bunch of movie lovers from all over the world were aggregating a list of what they thought was really good.”

But many of the films on that list “are just solid or okay,” he says, “and there’s always been a tendency for new stuff to crowd out classics that I felt were more deserving.”

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The beginning of Godfrey’s list of 250 best films.

So, using IMDb’s database of downloadable text files he was able to rework the same vote base “to get at something approaching a real populist, crowd-sourced canon that better honored the whole 120-year span of cinema.” He measured films based on the number of votes from other films of their era to essentially improve upon IMDb’s list. And it makes so much more sense.

His Top 250 has 132 in common with IMDb’s. The staples, like Citizen Kane, Vertigo and 12 Angry Men are all still there, but there are only three from this century that managed to make the cut: The Dark Knight and the first and third Lord of the Rings.

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INTERVIEW: Legendary Hollywood Voice-Dubber Marni Nixon

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You may not know the name Marni Nixon, the charming 85-year-old soprano, but you have likely heard her voice in one of the many iconic musicals of the 20th century. Nixon’s voice was dubbed over some of the silver screen’s biggest stars including Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes for the out-of-reach high notes.

The Manhattan-based singer shares her stories tonight during an evening of conversation moderated by former Paramount executive John Hersker — which will also include film clips and musical recordings — at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. (We hope she shows a clip from The Sound of Music where you can see her in one of her rare acting roles as Sister Sophia.)

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The Three Main Problems With Creed

Have you ever had the eerie realization that you were being directly marketed to? Have you ever watched a commercial for light beer featuring 15 urban youths in knockoff flannels and Knockaround sunglasses dancing to the sounds of Los Campesinos and realize that an executive has looked into the zeitgeist and found your heart? When you heard about the Netflix and Chill button were you momentarily elated and then terrified at how your elation is because it’s being felt by millions of other 20/30 somethings?

Creed feels like that, after you let it sit in your brain for a couple of minutes. It’s not Rocky for millennials; it’s a millennial boxing movie, featuring Rocky Balboa. Let me explain:

Weight Class

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For starters, Adonis himself is a light-heavyweight. Why? Well, aside from the fact that no one really knew how to make Michael B. Jordan beef up to the size of mahogany god Carl Weathers without destroying his endocrine system, heavyweights aren’t popular anymore. Today, heavyweight fights are one-sided, kind of boring, without a savior and, on top of it all, dominated by dudes who aren’t even from the Americas. We haven’t had a great, tyrannical heavyweight champ since Tyson; we haven’t had a likable, non-Ukrainian heavyweight since Lennox Lewis. The past years have been dominated by Wladimir Klitschko; the future is to be dominated by Chinese-Ivan-Drago Taishan Dong.

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