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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

What an amazing treat Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens has been. It provided a nice afterglow at the end of 2015, and now you have the pleasure of watching it at home in 2016.

The Blu-ray version and the digital download are both stunners, providing the best in video quality and sound—sure to stretch the limits of your home-entertainment system. It was a blast in theaters, and it’s equally fun on the home front.

Newcomer Daisy Ridley gave the best dramatic performance not only in this film, but in all of the Star Wars films thus far. She should’ve been an Oscar contender. It was no small feat to become the star of history’s biggest movie franchise—and she rocked it. For great acting, look no further than her interrogation scene with the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

She more than holds her own with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, reprising their roles as Han Solo and Princess (now General) Leia. Other newbies include John Boyega as Finn, a disenchanted Stormtrooper, and Oscar Isaac as Poe, the best damn pilot in the galaxy. Domhnall Gleeson is the only newcomer who strikes an overbearing note as General Hux.

Ford is great as solo, but Ridley and Driver steal the show. It’s wonderful knowing that the next chapter in the Skywalker saga will arrive next year—and that we get another Star Wars movie this December with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Who cares about Marvel and DC? We are getting a whole bunch of Star Wars movies!

Special Features: There’s a nice four-part documentary on the making of the movie, along with numerous featurettes, including a look at the infamous table read. You also get some deleted scenes—which were clearly deleted for a reason. 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

The new Star Wars doesn’t suck! The new Star Wars doesn’t suck!

What a relief, right? Ever since Disney absorbed the Lucasfilm empire, some fans and cynics have speculated that the Mouse plus George could equate to shite. Then the Mouse handed the reins of the Star Wars universe to that bespectacled guy who reinvigorated the Star Trek universe.

Fret not, for director J.J. Abrams and crew have done exactly what they did with Star Trek: They created a fun movie that not only respects the blessed canon of a beloved franchise, but stands on its own as a piece of supreme entertainment. It is 2015’s most entertaining film, and a movie that stands up proudly in the realm of Star Wars movies.

In many ways, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the best movie in the franchise. I won’t say it’s my personal favorite. (I think The Empire Strikes Back still holds that post; a little more time will tell.) Its storytelling is solid; its special effects are first-rate; and the performances are easily the best the franchise has ever seen.

That’s due in part to Daisy Ridley, an incredible talent who is now an instant star as Rey, a scrappy scavenger on a Tattooine-like desert planet. She delivers the best all-around dramatic performance in the Star Wars universe. She does some of the year’s best “face acting”; you’ll have to see the movie to find out what I’m talking about. With this new star at its center, the revitalized Star Wars universe takes life around her with a bevy of new characters and, of course, returning oldies.

Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, who happens to be the guy who wrote Empire, combined on a screenplay that follows a lot of the familiar beats from past Star Wars films. They took over writing duties after Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) took a failed stab at the task. (Arndt still gets a credit.)

The universe is being tormented by the First Order, an offshoot of the former Empire. Rey, after rummaging around in a fallen Star Destroyer, discovers a lost droid (BB-8, who is adorable), and eventually finds herself on a space adventure with familiar and new faces.

That’s it. That’s all I’m saying about the plot.

Harrison Ford, cryptic and snarky about his Star Wars pedigree in the past, returns as Han Solo, and his newfound enthusiasm for the part is infectious. Ford slips back into that laid-back, charmingly sarcastic smuggler role with ease, while his old buddy Chewbacca has become some sort of comedian in the last 30 or so years: The old Wookiee scores some of the film’s biggest laughs. Seeing the pair together again is an invaluable movie gift to be treasured.

As the movie’s central villain, Adam Driver is multi-layered and appropriately disturbing as Kylo Ren, a masked, obvious riff on Darth Vader who is a bit of a fanboy of the long deceased Sith Lord. I’m a Star Wars fan, and I have a few nice toys in my possession—but Kylo Ren has the Holy Grail for Star Wars collectors in his chambers!

John Boyega brings a new, welcomed dimension to the Stormtroopers. (Hey, there are actual people under those helmets!) Oscar Isaac a brings funny charisma to Poe, the best pilot in the galaxy.

I think I got through this review with no major spoilers, so no Star Wars geeks will kill me. My life force will not be extinguished, and I will make it to next year’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Episode VIII, which is due in the summer of 2017.

Gone are the days when we waited decades for new Star Wars chapters. Oh, the spoils of Disney.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is playing at theaters across the valley in a variety of formats.

Published in Reviews