Archive | February, 2016

Over/Underrated 2015 – Part Seven

2 Feb

On Pointe

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains mild spoilers about Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

To say that there was nothing in the entertainment universe more hyped up than Star Wars: The Force Awakens would be an accurate statement. The film was announced in late 2012, giving fans a full three years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about the continuation of the beloved franchise. The slow trickle of casting news, photos, and teaser trailers that essentially told audiences nothing about the overall plot of the movie only added fuel to the well-stoked fire.

Was I, too, one of those fans beyond excited to see the movie? Yes, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was no possible way the actual movie could live up to the years of excited anticipation and sky-high expectations set by fans. After all, the scene was all too familiar for Star Wars fans who waited, patiently, for 16 years between episodes VI and I only to be tortured rewarded with Jar Jar Binks.

I needn’t have worried.

The Force Awakens is the epitome of a perfect franchise sequel. The casting is great, the acting is on pointe, and the visual effects are stunning (of course). Even more important, is the story. It’s a story that looks familiar to fans – an evil regime is trying to overthrow the Republic, and, surprise!, there is a resistance – but it doesn’t feel tired. The rules of the game and the players have changed just enough to keep viewers intrigued.

And let’s talk about those players. Finn! Rey! BB8! And ok, yeah, Kylo Ren, too. Both the heroes and the villains of The Force Awakens are remarkably fresh (A Storm Trooper with feelings? Shut the fuck up!), but they fill in the empty spaces of the Star Wars family tree so naturally, it feels as though they’ve been icons forever.

Where The Force Awakens truly strikes gold, though, is with nostalgia. There is enough of the new to keep the franchise from becoming repetitive, but there are plenty of nods to the original trilogy to reward fans for their loyalty. From obvious payoffs like the return of the Millennium Falcon to more subtle gems like the voices of Yoda and Obi-Wan in Rey’s visions of The Force, there is much going on to satiate the desire for the magic of the franchise’s past. The Force Awakens somehow manages to play out as a beautiful tribute to the Star Wars universe, while at the same time paving the way for its own rightful place in iconic movie history.

The film ends on a painful punch of a cliffhanger that leaves fans desperate for December 15, 2017 to GET HERE FASTER. That gives them nearly two whole years to hypothesize and theorize and fantasize about what will come next for the franchise. This time when the moment comes for answers, though, I won’t be worried, because, finally, all is right in the Star Wars universe.  

star wars

Off the Mark

True Detective

SPOILER ALERT: This post contains plot spoilers about season two of True Detective.

It’s hard to say exactly what I hated most about season two of True Detective. But, for the sake of this blog, I’ll try.

Let’s start with the characters. There was Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who spent an awful lot of time fighting for custody of his son, despite the fact that he seemed perpetually embarrassed of and not really all that fond of the boy. Then there was Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn), who really did try everything he could to get on the straight and narrow before resorting back to his tooth-pulling mobster days, honest; it’s just that he loves money. Oh, and we can’t forget about Frank’s wife, Jordan (Kelly Reilly), who made this list only because she insisted on hangover-eyeliner even in her soberest moments. (Seriously, who styled that woman?) 

The worst culprit was Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh. Woodrugh is a California Highway Patrol officer plagued by his military past. He’s also a closeted gay man. As the season plays out, Woodrugh lies to, impregnates, and proposes to his girlfriend, meanwhile sleeping with a male ex-military comrade. It’s a storyline meant to make viewers feel for Woodrugh, to see him as a tortured soul trapped by everything society tells him he should be. Except for the year was 2015, and society wasn’t telling him to be anything but honest about his true self. Woodrugh took at least 10 giant leaps backwards for LGBTQ characters, and when he was killed off in episode seven, all I felt was a whole lot of nothing.

The only even slightly tolerable character was Rachel McAdams’ Ani Bezzerides, and I only say that with a hint of I-Love-McAdams bias. Bezzerides was a character with a legitimately tragic past trying to do her best in the world. Sure she made some questionable choices along the way (sleeping with Ray, anyone?), but what anti-hero doesn’t?

Characters aside, the overall plot of season two was a mess. I couldn’t keep track of who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. Even worse than a mess? It was a boring mess. I found myself not actually caring who was working for whom and because of what blackmail. One or two moments of excitement (Ray getting shot by the man in the raven mask, the drug-induced visit to the sex party), do not an entertaining season make.

I’d like to say that at least the writing was good, but the truth is that the dialogue was shit. Poor Vince Vaughn got the worst of it, with his character spouting lines as ridiculous as, “Never do anything out of hunger. Not even eating.” It’s clear the writer’s thought they were waxing philosophical, but the lines were so ridiculous that viewers spent more time laughing at the dialogue than actually considering what the lines may have meant.

It really is a shame that season two of True Detective crashed and burned so epically, when the first season was so fabulously crafted. It was a classic case of a bar set high and over-thinking how to reach it. That being said, there are two positives to take away from what was possibly the most disappointing season of television in 2015. 

  1. It’s over.
  2. While a third season of True Detective is still a possibility, there’s nothing officially on the calendar. This gives the show’s mastermind, Nic Pizzolatto, plenty of time to ruminate on where he went wrong in season two, and hopefully turn the the ship around. After all, it’d be hard to be much worse.

true detective