STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

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Elizabeth (spoilers!)

I’ll preface this post with the same preface I give whenever I talk about Star Wars, especially the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens: I’m a casual Star Wars fan. By that I mean I’ve seen all the movies, loved the original three, thought the prequels were okay, and I don’t really know more about this franchise than any other that I’ve seen. I prefer to look at the Star Wars movies as just that: movies.

The more Star Wars movies they make, the more important I think it is that the movies stand alone. The first time I saw the original three, those were the only Star Wars movies that existed. With those, you went into it knowing it was a trilogy, so I thought the three should be viewed more as a whole, rather than three individual movies. But now there are three prequels that come before it. And now one sequel that comes after with apparently more to come. So it’s not a trilogy anymore, but an open-ended film series that is closer to the James Bond franchise than something like The Lord of the Rings. So at this point, if any Star Wars movie is unable to stand on its own, I tend to think it’s more of a failure than a success.

Based on that, I would say Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a failure. Every defense I’ve heard of the movie is centered around the idea that it’s a “set up” movie for future Star Wars movies. That would make sense if Star Wars: The Force Awakens was not the seventh goddamn Star Wars movie. But it is, so I thoroughly disagree with that bullshit argument.

But there were many things I didn’t like about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My immediate complaint was from the beginning, I thought it was insanely boring. I fought to stay awake for the entire first hour. It moved so fast that it didn’t let you get a feel for really anything or anyone in that first hour (and it doesn’t get that much better after that). After that, it was the tone I had a huge problem with. It was way too cheeky, way too self-referential. Even aside from the character of Finn (John Boyega), a reformed stormtrooper, the movie seemed to go to great lengths to humanize stormtroopers. It was funny, yes, when two stormtroopers turned away and walked in the other direction to avoid Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)’s hissy fit. But who cares about stormtroopers being funny? Was stormtrooper humor something that was really missing from previous Star Wars movies? That, plus a mind-numbingly high number of Han Solo smirks and things like a thinly-veiled reference to the modern phrase “nigga please,” made me cringe so hard I felt like this movie was an old person’s attempt to attract teenagers – which I’m guessing is exactly what it is.

Another big problem I had: Adam Driver as the son of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. Now, do I think all actors who play the son of other actors need to look like each other? No, of course not. But when you have goddamn Harrison fucking Ford say “I know you see him when you look at me,” the “him” at least better be good looking. Instead we got:

Actor Adam Driver attends the Season 2 premiere of the television series "Girls" in New York January 9, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT HEADSHOT) - RTR3C9GF

Who is somehow supposed to remind Leia of:

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Gonna have to call bullshit on that one.

Speaking of, with as little I had invested into the Star Wars universe I still managed to feel betrayed by Ben Solo/Kylo Ren murdering Han Solo. The first time I saw the original trilogy, I was in love with Han Solo and the biggest stressor in all three movies was not knowing if Han Solo was going to live or not. We all made it through that, only for Han to get murdered 2/3 of the way through Star Wars: The Force Awakens? NO THANK YOU.

I had all kinds of other issues with this movie. Like everyone literally saying “Remember the Death Star? Now we have this other thing to deal with, that’s the Death Star but bigger,” and Han Solo suggesting the plan that blew up the original Death Star with “It worked before.” Yes, we know it worked before because we’ve seen the goddamn movie and yet, we get to sit through it again. And R2D2 acting as the absolute definition of a deus ex machina. And Finn being the most happy go-lucky guy after going rogue from a Nazi-like party that stemmed from battlefield trauma. And Leia looking like she got a Brazil facelift.

This is the kind of movie where I don’t think individual opinions even matter at this point. If you want to see it, you should see it and you’re going to see it. If you don’t want to see it, you’re not missing anything.

Christopher

I did not grow up loving Star Wars. My dad watched Star Trek and ever since I was a child that has been my favorite of the two. In high school and college I definitely got into the habit of trying to shit talk Star Wars just because so many people love it. So knowing that, I did not go into Star Wars hoping to relive some vivid childhood memories. However, I was hoping for a good movie. And unfortunately I don’t think I got that.

The issue I have with this movie is how boring it ended up. They briefly touch on so much but we don’t learn about any of it. It is very similar to the older movie but that’s not even what I disliked the most about it. What I really didn’t like it how it ends with no real direction for the next film. At this point it seems like it could go so many directions. Because of this, I really don’t care when the next part of the trilogy comes out. I will watch it, but I did not leave the theater anxious to see any of the characters again

I really wish the film had been focused more on Rey. I wish the whole story line with Kylo Ren had more behind it before the whole catwalk scene. Overall I just felt like the movie was for everyone so it was kind of for no one? If that makes sense. I really hope the next two in the trilogy are good. Either way, I don’t think I have a big interest in seeing The Force Awakens again.

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WITNESS (1985)

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Christopher

I remember watching this when I was young. From what I remember my parents remembered really liking it so we rented it and must of watched it as a family. I really enjoy this movie and I find all the Amish aspects very interesting. However, I have always found this movie very slow and kind of boring.

I can’t really pinpoint why I feel this way in a bad way and not a good way but it just does not hold my interest all the way throughout. I definitely enjoyed it more than I did when I was a kid. I found it easier to be interested in the story but the way its shot is still what gets me. It reminds me of those old Paula Deen cooking shows. They were always shot so hazy and that drives me crazy. Witness is shot in a similar manner to me; it’s very hazy.

I still like this movie though and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone. It’s pretty interesting.

Elizabeth (spoilers!)

Witness was great. It was a movie that I thought I had kinda seen, kinda not seen, mostly because it was a VHS that we owned but I wasn’t allowed to watch. After watching it now, I think it’s safe to say that I never really did see this movie before.

I really loved that Witness was quiet and a little slow moving but was still a good action-y movie. It follows Rachel (Kelly McGillis), a newly-widowed Amish woman and her young son, Samuel (Lukas Haas) who are really just trying to take a train to visit Rachel’s sister. Now, we somehow managed to watch two Lukas Haas movies back-to-back with Witness and Material Girls, which is sort of amazing since they’re on complete opposite ends of the good movie spectrum. And while Lukas Haas looks fine in Material Girls, he was so fucking cute in Witness.

He's just like this adorable little mini person in his cute Amish suit!
He’s just like this adorable little mini person in his cute Amish suit!

Anyway, while at this crowded train station, Samuel goes into the men’s bathroom. A man smiles at him as he walks in and Samuel locks himself in a stall. He hears some scuffling so he looks through the crack of the bathroom door . . . to see fucking Danny Glover slitting the throat of the man who smiled at Samuel. Shiiiiiiiiiit! That was the first sign to me that I hadn’t really seen this movie. I knew the kid witnessed a murder. But like, this murder was fairly gruesome. They practically cut the guy’s head off! And then to make everything super scary, Danny Glover (playing someone named McFee) suspects someone else is in the bathroom, so he goes through all the stalls until Samuel ducks under another stall at the last minute. It’s really an incredibly stressful scene and Samuel looking really cute and innocent and scared just adds to it.

So Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) and his partner, Carter, get assigned to the case and we find out that the murdered man was actually a cop. John brings Samuel into the police station the next day to look over mugshots and lineups, but Samuel doesn’t see the killer. While John is on the phone, Samuel starts walking around the office and stops at a trophy case where there’s a picture of McFee getting an award. This scene is great because when Samuel sees McFee’s picture, it’s like he’s seen a ghost. He looks at John across the room and John can immediately tell that something’s up. The scene is in slow motion as both Samuel and John silently realize that that is the killer and he’s a cop. John goes to Chief Schaeffer, his boss, to tell him about McFee and Schaeffer tells him to keep everything quiet until they figure it out. Almost immediately after, McFee shoots John in a parking garage, which makes John realize that Schaeffer is in on it, too. He calls Carter to get him to get the file on the murder and drives Rachel and Samuel back to their community but passes out from his gunshot wound.

Rachel is scared to bring John to a hospital because that could easily lead McFee and Schaeffer back to her and Samuel, so the elders agree to let John stay while Rachel helps nurse him back to health. They both start to fall for each other a little bit while she takes care of him, which makes a ton of sense considering both of their characters are beautiful, nice, and single. Rachel’s neighbor, Daniel (Alexander Godunov) is also beautiful, nice, and single, and likes Rachel, which sort of puts a spotlight on Rachel and John’s possible relationship. The Amish seem split on John; everyone knows (or seems to know) why he’s there and that it’s essentially for their own protection (and especially Samuel’s), but they’re also hesitant about him being there and what may be going on with he and Rachel. At one point, John accidentally catches Rachel bathing, though neither of them really leave once they both realize he’s watching. Rachel actually turns to him, topless, obviously ready for something, but instead he leaves and later tells her that if they had slept together (which was definitely about to happen) it would mean he would have to stay or she would have to go.

John and some of the men go into town so John can use a phone, when John is told that Carter was murdered. A bunch of asshole-y tourists start messing with the Amish, taking their picture and yelling at them for not being in the military. The Amish don’t do anything because they appear to have pretty strict rules about things like fighting in public, but luckily John is just dressed as an Amish man, so he has no problem kicking their asses. But doing that causes the news of an Amish man starting a fight to spread back to the Philadelphia police, who now know where John, Rachel, and Samuel are. Once John and Rachel both realize that John has to leave because of the publicity the fight brought him, neither of them have any trouble making out like crazy in a cornfield and, we can assume, having crazy awesome sex. The next day Schaeffer, McFee, and Fergie (who was the other guy that killed the cop along with McFee) show up at Rachel’s farm. John kills Fergie by suffocating him in a corn silo (which is both badass and super scary) and then uses Fergie’s shotgun to kill McFee. Before Schaeffer can kill John or anyone else, though, Samuel sounds an alarm bell that causes all the Amish in the community to come over. This essentially saves John as Schaeffer can’t kill John in front of a ton of witnesses, so he gets arrested instead.

I can’t help but wonder how this whole thing must have affected Samuel’s view of law enforcement. Because the world of law enforcement in Witness is a super scary one where anyone might be a killer and no one is safe. Obviously John is a good cop example, but he’s pretty much it. I just imagine that that would seem so terrifying to a young kid. But anyway, I was expecting Witness to be really fast and full of action but I’m glad it wasn’t like that. The movie had a sort of Terrence Malick feel to me, in a good way. And that makes sense, in it’s own way, that a movie that deals so much with the Amish would be more subtle and quiet. I also really loved how delicate John’s relationships with Rachel and Samuel were. He obviously respected them both and wanted to help them while also not doing anything that they would be against. It was just sort of sweet, like he genuinely cared about what happened to them (and not just because Rachel is hot). I really enjoyed this movie and everyone looked great . . . bummer that Danny Glover had to play a crazy killer, though. But at least no one was KGB!