Tag Archives: J.J. Abrams

Movie Review: STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS

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And so it begins, a Disney Star Wars movie. Disney had its share of false starts when it started venturing away from such titles as “Superdad” and “The Apple Dumpling Gang” to its first PG-rated movie, a sci-fi action flick no less, the box office flop that was 1979’s “The Black Hole.” At the time, it was deemed too expensive for Disney to use some Star Wars magic and rent equipment from George Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic. Of course, all that was a long time ago. After the Disney buyout of Lucas to the tune of $4.05 billion, would Disney gain some real Star Wars cred? The goal seems to be met.

This Star Wars movie had to be better than the last three installments and it had to harken back to that something special from the original, without kowtowing to it. Were the Egyptian pyramids this intimidating to build? Yes, I think so. When I read Lev Grossman wax on about Star Wars in Time magazine, it felt like he was describing something too big to fail. When I saw the Star Wars special edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live, I saw in J.J. Abrams one relieved dude. The major players from the cast were there with Mr. Abrams. And they too looked relieved, after having carried a mighty weight upon their shoulders. They had all survived an enterprise involving enough money to bankroll a number of countries’ annual budgets.

Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This movie was designed to not disappoint anyone. And, if you believe the speculation from diehard fans, the opening line says it all, “This will begin to make things right.” The opening line is recited by Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) at the prospect of finding a gone missing Luke Skywalker. But, as core fans will tell you, it sure sounds like a coded message related to fans’ distaste for the Star Wars prequels. This is something that Abrams certainly took to heart.

Finn (John Boyega)  and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Finn (John Boyega)
and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There is no doubt that the shadow of the Star Wars legend looms larger than life here. An answer to R2-D2. Check. An answer to Han Solo. Check. An answer to Yoda. Check. And so on down the line to the Mos Eisley Cantina and Luke Skywalker’s X-34 Landspeeder. The sense of urgency to get it right is ferociously palpable. It is directed into every single scene by J.J. Abrams. Abrams wrote the final script with original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan. The two best new additions to the franchise: John Boyega as Finn, a runaway deserter; and Daisy Ridley as Rey, a reluctant new hero in touch with The Force.

In simpler times: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford

In simpler times: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford

Star Wars was never true science fiction. It was fantasy and, more to the point, a comment on fantasy. At its core, Star Wars was a quirky tribute by George Lucas, a nostalgic look back to Buck Rogers and action-packed pulp fiction. It was a nostalgia for childhood entertainment that was then reconfigured into something even more enchanting. By the time that the original trilogy was completed, George Lucas was done. So, it’s hard to really blame him for the direction he took with the prequels which was as far removed from the original source as possible. It was simply too early to get all nostalgic over something that was nostalgic to begin with. And, anyway, Harrison Ford would never have reprised his role at that point. More time would need to pass which brings us to what amounts to this fun revisit.

But how often can you successfully tap into nostalgia with a franchise like Star Wars? As the James Bond franchise has learned, it all needs to be measured out in proper doses. For now, it looks like a new trilogy has been mapped out that holds on to what made Star Wars worthwhile to begin with. In the end, at its best, Star Wars was an eccentric notion by an eccentric guy named George Lucas. It’s now a franchise designed to not disappoint anyone.

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Filed under Disney, George Lucas, J. J. Abrams, Movie Reviews, movies, Star Wars

J.J. Abrams Sees Bright Future for Female Writers

Dan Casey Star Wars

JJ Abrams Star Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens December 18th and fans are already speculating over what lies beyond for the biggest franchise in pop culture history. Nerdist’s Dan Casey (author of 100 Things Star Wars Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die) sits down one on one with Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams to discuss which female writers or directors Abrams would like to see tackle the franchise at some point in the future.

Abrams expressed great confidence in “a number of incredible (female) writers and directors.” He applauded the work of Kathleen Kennedy as a producer. And then Abrams zeroed in on Selma director Ava DuVernay. DuVernay is, no doubt, a major talent. And Abrams definitely wants DuVernay to direct a Star Wars movie. You can view the interview right here.

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Review: STAR TREK: NEW ADVENTURES VOL. 1

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IDW Publishing has got the comics industry in quite a buzz regarding its acquisition of Top Shelf Productions, a relatively smaller comics publisher. So, what makes IDW special? Well, they do seem to have a geeky love for comics. And that leads to stuff like this collection of Star Trek stories. This is an IDW speciality so let that tell you something about IDW.

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Filed under Comics, Graphic Novel Reviews, graphic novels, IDW Publishing, Star Trek, Top Shelf Productions

Interview: GEORGE CLAYTON JOHNSON and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MUSICAL

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George Clayton Johnson is a born storyteller. Listen to him and you’ll find a good yarn told by someone with a love for the spoken and written word. He is, after all, one of the big players of pop culture: Among his credits: writer of landmark episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE; writer of the first broadcasted episode of STAR TREK; co-writer of OCEAN’S ELEVEN; co-writer of LOGAN’S RUN. For this interview, George and I began to talk about William Shatner. I was thinking over how William Shatner can be misunderstood as only being brash when that’s definitely not the case. With “Star Trek Into Darkness” arriving in theaters on May 17, Mr. Shatner was an excellent point of departure.

William Shatner in "The Intruder"

William Shatner in “The Intruder”

We quickly moved forward with a look back to Roger Corman’s 1962 “The Intruder,” a significant drama about the high tensions in the American South during the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. Corman was having difficulty in finding actors and approached Mr. Johnson, as well as his writing partner, William F. Nolan, about playing roles in the film. They were more than happy to join in. The film is based on the novel by Charles Beaumont, a science fiction writer, and a fellow contributor with Mr. Johnson to “The Twilight Zone.”

George then related a wonderful story about the origins of “Star Trek” and we ended with news of an exciting possibility. There is a tantalizing possibility of “The Twilight Zone” making its way to the stage. As George envisions it, the story would take place in a rest home, just like the famous “Kick The Can” episode. It would be about a seasoned writer who has had a lifetime of success and wants to knock one more ball out of the park. He has an idea for another story. This one will be about an individual focusing on a special moment, either in the past or the future. The trick is to avoid the present. In that way, you can live forever. In the course of the production, there will, in fact, be a series of stories and each will play off landmark “Twilight Zone” episodes that George wrote. And, to top it off, there needs to be a narrator, of course. Who better than Rod Serling? If all goes according to plan, this will be a musical.

Who would play the role of Rod Serling? Well, that brings us back to the subject we began our interview with: William Shatner is on the short list of possibilities. That is certainly an exciting prospect. Mr. Shatner came of age in that era, he knows the talent behind the original series, and he starred in one of the most memorable episodes, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” He would be an excellent choice.

There are a number of details to consider about taking such a project, conceivably, all the way to Broadway. Not least of concerns is getting just the right tone to what the Rod Serling narrator would say. He might be presented like a hologram. And he certainly will have a vital role to play, much like the narrator of “Our Town.” It was very gracious of George to share this project in the making with us. He has a number of projects in the works and this one is very dear to his heart. These are the early stages. We all hope it will come together.

Other subjects we cover in this interview are what led up to the original novel, “Logan’s Run,” and what may lie ahead, and a most intriguing thing that happened when George Clayton Johnson and J.J. Abrams discussed working together.

The full interview is below. Enjoy!

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Filed under Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Felicity, George Clayton Johnson, J. J. Abrams, Joss Whedon, Logan's Run, Roger Corman, Sci-Fi, science fiction, Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, William Shatner

HARRISON FORD, CARRIE FISHER, MARK HAMIL IN STAR WARS: EPISODE VII? OK WITH GEORGE LUCAS

Carrie-Fisher-Gotcha

If you get your news from Palm Beach Illustrated, then you got the jump on a lot of folks. You were among the first to read about Carrie Fisher chatting about her role in the next installment of the “Star Wars” saga. Read it here. Now, you’ve got every conceivable news outlet, from the old big time news establishment to the comic book news machines covering it as breaking geek news. Newsarama breathlessly reported it as a confirmation that Fisher was reprising her role. (The original Newsarama reporting did jump the gun and required updating later) Read that here. Okay, wait for it, insert sound of needle scratching record. Turns out that Fisher was only joking around. It was a joke, folks! Not major geek news triggering volcanic eruptions on the planet Zolan. The Inquisitr, true to its name, took a more skeptical view, and unearthed more down-to-earth news. Read it here.

Was Carrie Fisher pulling a prank? No, she was not. She was chatting with a tiny publication in Palm Beach, Florida. That’s all.

Is there any truth to the idea that we will see the original Star Wars trio in the upcoming J.J. Abrams epic? Well, there’s been endless speculation about it. Such as this Screen Rant feature here.

And then there’s the master himself, George Lucas. He was simply chatting too and the reporting on that was a well tempered approach by Deadline Hollywood. Read that here. The idea that Ford, Fisher, and Hamil will be in the next “Star Wars” takes on more and more credibility. However, Lucas even states that he may have said too much and that no deals have been reached.

And what about Billy Dee Williams? Read First Showing’s observations here.

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In conclusion, it does seem like a slam dunk to cast the original dream team trio. J.J. Abrams is a sucker for that and so are audiences. How big will their parts be? Well, hopefully not monumental. Did you really want to see Leonard Nimoy carry that last “Star Trek” flick? Nope. There will be a balance. As Mark Hamil observed, the characters will likely take on Obi-wan Kenobi mentor type roles. Will that be good enough for Harrison Ford? Oh, let’s just not go there.

Speaking of Obi-wan Kenobi, why isn’t anyone speculating over whether or not Alec Guinness will play Obi-wan Kenobi again? The character is dead but his spirit lives on. The actor is dead but we’ve got the most powerful corporation in entertainment history backing up this puppy. Anything is possible. Anything! We’re talking an endless stream of money. So, most likely, expect the mighty trio back. That part should be a lock. And expect J.J. Abrams to do the right thing.

And for the real scoop on what Disney got for its $4 billion purchase of Lucasfilm, and a better understanding of why the mighty trio story is not pure speculation, read today’s Bloomberg Businessweek feature here.

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