The Hateful Eight: Worst Movies of 2015

In all honesty, “The Hateful Eight” has nothing to do with this post.

Director Quentin Tarantino’s latest is bound to be interesting, if not brilliant.

My apologies to Tarantino, but the title just fit. I couldn’t resist. While it’s great to revisit the best films of a given year, it’s even more fun to rehash the very worst Hollywood had to offer.

So without further ado, here are the eight most reprehensible movies I sat through in 2015. (In no particular order of atrociousness.)

Don’t bother streaming or buying them. If you let curiosity get the better of you, you’ll only regret it.

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1. Blackhat: Chris Hemsworth is woefully miscast as a basement-dwelling rogue hacker who also happens to possess Jason Bourne-like survival skills. Director Michael Mann lets the audience down in almost every way possible, from the ridiculous storyline and uneven pacing, to an unconvincing romance and lackluster style.

2. Jupiter Ascending: “Matrix” directors Andy and Lana Wachowski seem to get more and more out there with each film they make. This one is so cartoonishly bizarre, it’s hard to believe someone actually gave it the greenlight: Channing Tatum stars as a half-man, half-dog guardian being and Mila Kunis’ “chosen one” falls for him, while Eddie Redmayne hams it up as the baddie and hopes no one remembers this after seeing “The Theory of Everything.”

3. The Gunman: In a year that brought us Rey and Furiosa, not to mention dozens of other strong cinematic heroines, the oblivious sexism of this testosterone-fueled Sean Penn vanity project is too blatant to be believed. To make matters worse, the thriller is basically “The Bourne Identity” crossed with the extreme violence, silliness and international slumming-it of “Taken.”

4. Black Sea: A movie about a ragtag submarine crew on a secret mission to find treasure at the bottom of the Black Sea sounds awesome, right? Especially if the sub is manned by a crew of sturdy character actors, like Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn. Thanks to a script that piles on one ridiculous, relentlessly dark plot twist after another, this deep sea suspenser proves us terribly wrong, with a little help from Jude Law’s sketchy Scottish accent.

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5. Chappie: The stinky badness of Neill Blomkamp’s latest dystopian drama is harder to bear when you consider how much promise this project held. This is the visionary writer-director of “District 9” we’re talking about. The film features a robot protagonist whose creation is a marvel of visual effects and an endearing mo-cap performance by Blomkamp’s favorite partner in crime, Sharlto Copley. It stars first lady of sci-fi Sigourney Weaver for Ridley’s sake. And yet, “Chappie” is full of insulting stereotypes and just doesn’t go anywhere. It’s a monumental disappointment.

6. Terminator Genisys: James Cameron’s now classic saga of evil cyber villain Skynet and the scrappy human resistance group that fights back was amazing the first couple of times, but does anyone gives a T-1000’s patootie anymore? Apparently, not even the makers of “Terminator Genisys” cared enough to even try to make us care. Aging Arnold Schwarzenegger and his hair plugs are the only ones who bother to inject some life into this slog of a sci-fi reboot.

7. Fantastic Four: Despite an excellent young cast and an attempt to bring some gravitas to the classic comic book foursome’s movie mythology, studio meddling, a tumultuous production, and a troubled young director added up to an epic failure for the lucrative Marvel brand. (In fairness, the film was made by Twentieth Century Fox, not Marvel Studios.) This is going to be a tough mess for the quartet of superheroes to get themselves out of.

8. Southpaw: I’m not the hugest fan of “Training Day” director Antoine Fuqua anyway. Subtlety is not his strong suit, but this maudlin mashup of sentimentality and thug-life machismo is his most laughable film yet. You can tell star Jake Gyllenhaal is gunning for an Oscar nomination, but despite his impressively beefed-up physique, he’s more than a little unconvincing as a boxer with a rough background and anger management issues who rises to fame, then falls from it, then rises again after a tragedy as contrived as the movie’s script.

HEADER Southpaw

 

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Women and Sci-Fi Rock: The Top 5 Films of 2015

It was the year that Hollywood finally got a clue when it comes to women.

It was the year that science-fiction reigned.

Audiences couldn’t get enough of the genre, from the comfortingly familiar to the wildly original.

It was a year of big emotions, huge hopes, daunting fears.

As we look back at the films of 2015, here are five that grabbed us by the throat — or by the heart — and demanded our attention.

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1. Ex Machina

Sorry, fans of “The Force Awakens.” The best science-fiction movie of 2015 wasn’t “Star Wars: Episode VII.” It was “Ex Machina,” a smaller, sleeker, smarter, more sophisticated science-fiction drama with a wicked feminist twist. Paced like a masterful horror movie, with an almost unbearable flair for suspense, this subtle but intense cat-and-mouse game between a tech genius (Oscar Isaac), his computer programmer prodigy (Domhnall Gleeson), and the most advanced, deceptively feminine A.I. (Alicia Vikander) ever created is fascinating, funny, gorgeous to look at and creepy as hell. Forget about the Terminator. You’ll never feel the same way about artificial intelligence again.

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2. Mad Max: Fury Road

At 70 years old, director George Miller thoroughly overhauled the action movie with this insanely inventive sequel/reboot to his 1979 post-apocalyptic classic. Part environmental fable, part feminist fever dream and 150% high-octane action extravaganza, this irresistible rush of a flick pairs Tom Hardy’s taciturn Max with one of the most bad-ass heroines of all time — Furiosa, a bald, one-armed truck driver played by Charlize Theron in a blend of toughness and true emotion. With its tribal-punk-rock-scrapyard-demolition-derby aesthetic, “Fury Road” is a movie of primitive, streamlined power. It’s ferociously bleak and violent but also — dare I say it? — quite lovely.

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3. Inside Out

I don’t know why the folks at Disney-Pixar take pleasure in leaving us more and more emotionally wrecked with each consecutive brilliantly animated offering. I wasn’t at all prepared for the fact that “Inside Out” is the studio’s most heart-rending film yet, especially if you happen to be a parent or a grown-up grappling with the pesky issue of loss of innocence. The entire movie takes place inside the head of a pre-adolescent girl named Riley. A riot of color and imagination, it’s downright experimental as it rides the mercurial waves of her emotions, all of them personified. The entire voice cast is amazing, but chief among them is the luminescent Joy (voiced by the sublime Amy Poehler), battling to save Riley from the inevitable diminishing of delight that accompanies the coming of age. I swear this movie touched my soul. Somebody pass me a Kleenex.

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4. Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens

It was the most anticipated movie of the year, wrapped in hype and shrouded in giddy hope, mingled with paralyzing fears. It could have easily crashed and burned like a downed TIE fighter. Instead, J.J. Abrams’ resurrection of George Lucas’ tarnished legacy was the most fun, the most satisfying, the most uplifting experience most of us had all year. Centered around a refreshingly capable, utterly enchanting heroine — Daisy Ridley’s Rey — “The Force Awakens” seamlessly reintroduced us to beloved, familiar faces and introduced us to new characters, including John Boyega’s Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter, Finn, and Oscar Isaac’s dashing pilot, Poe Dameron. Made with all the love, care and respect only true fans could muster, every second of the film is a thrilling, technically impressive, wonderfully tactile homage to the trilogy that continues to captivate so many of us.

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5. Bridge of Spies

Strangely underrated for a film by the great Steven Spielberg, “Bridge of Spies” is the kind of classic, classy, elegant cinema the director of “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List” is celebrated for. You won’t find any flash or gimmicks in this Cold War saga centered on true events surrounding the capture of a Soviet spy. What you will find is graceful, gripping storytelling; a superb script, by Matt Charman and, of all people, Joel and Ethan Coen; and some of the best acting of the year. Tom Hanks is at his finest, all Atticus Finchy in his moral decency. The film’s most startling performance, however, belongs to British actor Mark Rylance in a beautifully understated turn as the enigmatic secret agent at the heart of all the drama. If you didn’t see this one, you’ll want to remedy that now. This is one of those rare movies that makes you think about what it means to be an American, no small feat considering the current state of our murky national identity.

The Force Awakens: A Conversation (SPOILER ALERT!)

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” you have no business reading this. Find something else to do.

Not so long ago, in a galaxy not so far away … two lifelong Star Wars fans — Lavender, of lavendervroman.com, and Shawna, of earthtoshawna.com — decided to search their feelings and work out their issues after seeing “The Force Awakens,” director J.J. Abrams’ much anticipated first installment of Disney’s new Star Wars trilogy.

Here is the conversation that ensued …

SPOILER ALERT: Last warning! What follows is a free and open discussion of the many plot points, surprises, twists and other developments contained in “The Force Awakens.” If you haven’t seen the film, this review will ruin it for you. That is all. 

Lavender: What did you love about “The Force Awakens”?

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Shawna of earthtoshawna.com.

Shawna: I loved seeing all the familiar faces — Han, Leia, Luke, even Chewie, C-3PO, and R2. I loved all the funny references to the original trilogy, like the stormtrooper who repeated Rey’s Jedi mind trick commands. I thought the new characters were awesome. Rey’s character was reminiscent of Luke’s; Ren was evil and tragic at the same time. BB-8 was more charming than I thought he would be. I know you loved him even before you saw the movie, but I didn’t fall in love with him until I saw him on the big screen.

And Finn, actually, was my favorite new character. He’s kind of the new Han character. Maybe that’s why I like him. Plus John Boyega is just a great actor. I had never seen him in anything before, but I hope to see more of him.

Lavender: I’m glad you have joined the BB-8 fan club! And I’m relieved this new little droid didn’t turn out to be the Jar Jar Binks of “The Force Awakens.” He’s quite a scene-stealer, in the best way possible.

It was great to see those familiar faces after so many years. I was skeptical about that, but J.J. Abrams reintroduces them very carefully and cleverly. One of the people who made the movie for me, actually, was Harrison Ford, returning as Han Solo with hairy Wookie sidekick Chewbacca in tow. I didn’t expect Ford to play such a large part in the film and after some of his recent, rather lackluster movie performances, I didn’t think he had it in him. But apparently Han is the role he was born to play. He stepped right back into those smuggler duds as if only a few days had passed since he last set foot in the Millennium Falcon. His presence really anchors the movie.

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Lavender Vroman

I think my favorite new character is definitely Rey. She is a heroine for the ages, something revolutionary for a female action hero. Abrams has said that he created Rey in hopes that little girls would be able to look up to her and he has more than accomplished his goal. I love how we first meet Rey as a scrappy, lonely scavenger on the hopelessly sandy planet Jakku. Daisy Ridley is so charismatic and makes her immediately likable. Her portrayal of Rey is so independent, and smart, and goodhearted. I like that Finn is always trying to save her — such a gentleman — but he never really has to because she’s already on the task of saving herself. I like that she has technical aptitude and an extremely powerful affinity for the Force. She and Han Solo are the heart and soul of “The Force Awakens.”

Shawna: Yes! What you said about Rey — she is a great role model. She doesn’t need a man to rescue or save her. It bugs me that we are in the dark about who she is or where she comes from, but I guess they had to save that for future films.

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Lavender: We both found a lot to love about this movie, but I think we both had some issues as well. What didn’t work for you?

Shawna: I loved seeing Han and Chewie again too, but I didn’t like that Han went back to being a smuggler, or that he waited so long to reach out to his son. That scene was a disappointment for me, not because Han dies (I expected he would be killed off, because Ford has said he doesn’t want to be Han anymore) but the way he died. Getting killed by your own snotty kid is a crappy way to go. And it was too predictable. How did he not know that Ren/Ben was about to kill him? I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience knew.

Are you as bummed as I am that Mark Hamill had no lines?

It almost made me think J.J. Abrams wanted the seasoned actor (Ford) to have a bigger part in the movie — that he didn’t have as much faith in “I’m-Luke-Skywalker-I’m-here-to-rescue-you.” I felt a bit indignant on Hamill’s behalf. Plus he had to get in shape and grow a beard, and he was only on screen for about a minute. I assume he will have a bigger role in the sequel. I hope we will see more of Carrie Fisher as well.

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Lavender: For me, that moment at the end where we finally see Luke is when the movie finally comes together. I think I’m more excited about where that moment will lead than about anything that happened in the plot of “The Force Awakens.” Which brings me to my biggest issue with the film.

Abrams does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of the original trilogy, especially “A New Hope.” From the exotic planets populated by weird alien species, to the old-fashioned wipes and cuts that George Lucas used to evoke the adventurous serials of old, everything is dead-on and totally authentic, in stark contrast to those cold, soulless prequels.

This is good, but at times “The Force Awakens” is so much an homage to “A New Hope” that it almost feels like parody. I especially felt like this whenever Domhnall Gleeson’s over-the-top Hitler-esque General Hux came strutting onto the screen.

The plot of “The Force Awakens” almost plays like a reboot of “A New Hope,” complete with a climactic X-Wing/TIE fighter dogfight and an attempt to blow up yet another Death Star. I’m thinking from this point, all Death Stars should be banned from future installments. I mean how many of those things can there be?

I get what Abrams is doing here — he’s courting the fans who remember the prequels with a wince of pain, while introducing new generations to Lucas’ universe. He accomplishes this as well as can be expected, but I found myself wishing for a little more from the plot.

I wanted more character development, more time to see relationships simmering — especially between Rey and Finn, and Finn and Poe — and I wanted a little more urgency, danger, darkness. There wasn’t really ever a moment where I felt like everything was lost or that our heroes wouldn’t be able to save the day.

It’s funny you should mention the Han Solo death scene because, while of course as a fan I didn’t want to see that happen, I was kind of relieved. That was the moment I knew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was a dastardly villain of epic proportions. Before that, I didn’t find him all that intimidating.

I get your gripes about what Abrams did with Han in this movie, but I think it was necessary from a narrative standpoint and in keeping with his character, as hard as some of it was to stomach for those of us who always wanted to see Han and Leia live happily ever after.

Shawna: Yes, it did start to feel like parody, and I agree the worst offender was the jumbo Death Star. That was a “you’ve got to be kidding me” moment for me too. And Hux was too much, blech. I also agree with you about the weaknesses with the plot — it got to be too close to the plot of the first film. I actually didn’t mind that “OK, this person is the new Han, over here is the new Yoda … ,’ but really, must we also have the same plot?

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Lavender: You mentioned you’d like to see more of Luke and Leia in “Episode VIII.” What else would you like Abrams to do with the sequel?

Shawna: I absolutely would like to see more character development as well. I think they did a great job with casting (there were hits and misses in the prequels). I also think the CGI was more successful in this one than in the prequels. Maz felt more real to me than some of the CGI characters in, say, “The Phantom Menace.” Actually, she was more convincing than some of the non-CGI characters, now that I think about it.

I would like to see some questions answered. I thought it was kind of a cop-out when Maz said something like, “That’s a story for another time.” I felt like I was hearing the writers saying, “We’ll figure that out in time for the next movie.”

I want to know who Rey really is. On the one hand, it would make sense if she’s Luke’s kid because of the similarities between them, but also because why would they send some stranger to find Luke? After all they went through to get the map, especially. Why wouldn’t Leia go to him? If Rey is his daughter, why was she dumped as a child on a desert planet, alone? At least Luke was placed in the care of his aunt and uncle. We already have one estranged child in this movie.

If Luke is Rey’s father, then I guess we are just supposed to think Han and Leia and Luke are just really epic failures at parenting. With this being so close to “A New Hope,” I feel that’s where they are going with this — toward a Part 2 declaration of “I’m your father. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.”

And I want more backstory. How exactly did they raise such a stinker as Kylo Ren? He’s a bit of an entitled brat. He is a lot like Anakin. I am interested to see what happens with him in the next movie.

And if we could actually see Gwendoline Christie’s (Captain Phasma) face next time, that would be nice. That is, if she survives the trash compactor.

I am interested to hear your thoughts on Poe. I heard he was originally supposed to die in the TIE fighter crash, but Abrams changed his mind. And who is Max Von Sydow supposed to be? Do you have any theories on that?

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Lavender: I wonder about Max Von Sydow as well. I’ve heard many theories, including that maybe he’s Boba Fett, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Abrams has left us with a lot of questions, which is what I’m sure he intended. It’s going to be a long wait for “Episode VIII.”

I would have liked to see more of Oscar Isaac as Poe. He seems like a scoundrel and we need more scoundrels in our lives. Just as we were beginning to like him, he went missing for half the film. And I agree that Phasma is the Darth Maul of “Force Awakens.” Such a cool villain and a woeful lack of screen time.

I agree with you completely about Abrams’ use of CG imagery. He was obviously very conscious of the pitfalls of the CG-saturated prequels. I loved the blend of motion capture, puppetry and other practical effects. It felt right. And when he did use computer fx, they looked fantastic. The scenes with the Millennium Falcon were breathtaking, as were the aerial dogfights. And I, too, thought Maz was a great character. A little bit Yoda, a little bit Edna Mode.

I think your instincts about where Abrams is going with the sequel are correct. It will be interesting to see what director Rian Johnson does with it. After “Looper,” I really trust his vision.

I hope there will be more risks taken with “Episode VIII.” I can’t fault Abrams for playing it safe with “The Force Awakens.” Playing it safe is much better than totally destroying the Star Wars legacy. So overall, I’m satisfied and looking forward to what’s next.

Shawna: Yes — so many great characters introduced, but so little time. I was more than satisfied with the film, despite all my griping. I had chills when the opening crawl came up and the John Williams score started playing, and I was still thrilled by the end of the movie.

“Episode VIII” can’t come soon enough! We will have to content ourselves with watching “The Force Awakens” a hundred times while we wait.

Photos: Courtesy of Shawna, earthtoshawna.com; Fawn Kemble; makingstarwars.net; http://www.carolina.cl; http://www.comicbooknews.com; wall.alphacoders.com. 

So Long, I’m Off to See the New Star Wars

I went to the theater today to pick up these babies:

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The scene at the local cineplex was rather subdued, presumably because it was 36 degrees out, a little chilly for prancing around in your Slave Leia outfit.

As I write this, many of you are in the midst of seeing “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” for the very first time.

I won’t be posting tomorrow because a good deal of my day will be consumed with doing the same. The blog will probably feature a review of the film at some point, hopefully in the next few days.

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I didn’t want to end “The Force Awakens” countdown without saying thank you to the amazing friends and fellow fans who took an interest in this month-long celebration of all things Star Wars.

I deeply appreciated and enjoyed your comments, your thoughts, your theories, your hopes, your participation and interest, even the odd complaint that there was just too much Star Wars going on. (Too much Star Wars?!? Ha!)

Thank you to the contributors who helped me fill those posts daily, for sharing your heart and memories, for going through your scrapbooks: William Schiller, Shaun Griffith, Fawn Kemble, Shawna of EarthtoShawna.com, Brenna Humann, Jacob Patterson, Eric Schoen, Nick Vroman and David Rivas.

The Force is strong with you.

As we end the countdown, I’ll leave you with a few parting gifts. May the Force be with you always.

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If you loved the Jimmy Fallon and The Roots video, or if you’re a fan of Oscar Isaac, you might like this.

If you’re sick of trying to dodge spoilers, here’s some you can actually look at because they were made up by Stephen Colbert.

If you’re marathoning the original trilogy — plus or minus the prequels — before you head to the theater, here are some tips for turning that into an epic viewing party.

Fortify yourself before “The Force Awakens” or celebrate afterward with these yummy themed cocktails.

While you’re standing in line, plan your next vacation …

Or enjoy a good laugh.

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After the midnight screening, this should be your breakfast.

Put a little romance into your “Force Awakens” experience with this crazy couple.

If you’re wondering how the movie is going to shape up at the box office, here are some early numbers.

And this just proves that Star Wars fans in the UK are awesome.

Photos: http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk; http://www.gq.com; Disney Family. 

 

The ‘Force Awakens’ Wait is Almost Over! Let’s Do This Thing

About a week ago, I realized that all this waiting for “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” has become almost second nature.

For a long time, I felt like we would just wait and wait and wait for this new chapter in the Star Wars saga. It’s been a pleasure unto itself, all this waiting, the anticipation. And then, I realized.

We are actually going to see it. The day we have waited for is going to happen.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Stormtroopers attend the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

Stormtroopers march at the world premiere of ‘The Force Awakens’ at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres Dec. 14 in Hollywood. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)

For many of you, that day is tomorrow. You’ll be standing in line with your fellow fans to get your seats for evening or midnight shows. Soon you’ll know if all this waiting was worth it.

The rest of us will find out on Friday when “The Force Awakens” is officially released. (If you don’t see it in the first few days of release, well, that’s just a tragedy.)

“The Force Awakens” is about to become a reality, not just a hope. Our countdown is winding down.

I think even if I end up hating what J.J. Abrams has done with the franchise, I won’t regret this time we’ve spent obsessing together over Star Wars. There truly has been an awakening of the Force and it has been nerdy, silly, hysterical, joyful, more than a little insane, and magnificent.

My only regret is that I can’t travel back in time to grab my junior high self — the one who pretended to be an X-Wing pilot in the backseat on long car trips and pored over copies of Lucasfilm Magazine to see how it all worked — and bring her to 2015 so she can witness this moment. She’d never believe it otherwise.

But I know this would create a giant rift of some kind in the space-time continuum and maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe that junior high girl is still here, after all, loving all this crazy adoration of the thing she loved crazily so many years ago.

Early indications are that Abrams has  not failed to revitalize George Lucas’ beloved, slightly tarnished legacy. As I scrolled through Twitter last night, I saw a litany of early reviews. Judging by the headlines, all but one of them was positive. “The Force Awakens” currently has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I’m not going to read any of the reviews until I’ve seen “The Force Awakens” for myself, but I’m posting some links here, if you’re inclined to look at them.

Many of them claim to be spoiler-free, but proceed at your own risk:

New York Times review
L.A. Times
Variety
Hollywood Reporter
Chicago Tribune

Time will tell, as it did with the prequels, whether the critics are correct in their very early, mostly enthusiastic assessment of this new generation of Star Wars lore.

Now’s not the time to worry about that though. As you head to the theater to hang out with some of the most fascinating and fun fans you’ll ever meet, to finally see this thing we’ve all been waiting for, I hope it’s a night to remember.

This shared experience proves once again, as Yoda said:

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

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P.S.

This is the best thing on the Internet right now.

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My 2-year-old daughter and I have watched the Jimmy Fallon video I don’t know how many times today. And we spent the rest of the day humming the John Williams theme around the house.

What a score that is! It never fails to evoke a powerful emotional response. It just stirs you.

Let’s hum it all the way to the theater and back.

Photos: moviepilot.com, http://www.starwars.com, http://www.youtube.com.

It’s High Time You Got to Know Oscar Isaac (aka Poe)

My introduction to Oscar Isaac was the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story.”

Isaac played a hunky, sensitive Joseph to Keisha Castle-Hughes’ underage Mary in director Catherine Hardwicke’s take on the events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ.

I certainly noticed the actor, but there was nothing at the time to indicate what a versatile, intriguing performer he would become. Or perhaps he always was, but didn’t have the chance to show it until many years later.

Now, of course, Isaac is about to become a household name, as fighter pilot Poe in “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”

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In trailers and promotions, the actor hasn’t enjoyed as much play as John Boyega, aka Finn, or Daisy Ridley, who portrays Rey.

We know his character is an X-Wing pilot and a soldier in the Resistance. We’ve seen him shaking hands with Finn and being tortured by Kylo Renn. He may be master of adorable droid BB-8. But Poe remains largely shrouded in mystery.

That’s appropriate because J.J. Abrams could not have selected a more mysterious actor to portray this key figure in the new Star Wars trilogy.

Isaac didn’t really land on Hollywood’s radar until 2010 and 2011, when he played a pair of showy villains: a hot-tempered, lascivious Prince John to Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood and abusive brothel manager/asylum orderly Blue Jones in Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch.”

Neither movie was very good, but Isaac delivered memorably flamboyant performances in both of them. The films weren’t really an indication, however, of the cinematic nuance Isaac is capable of.

Despite appearing in many movies of note, including “Drive” and “The Bourne Legacy,” there are only three roles you need to see if you’re wondering why Abrams cast Isaac in “The Force Awakens.”

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Llewyn Davis, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” 2013

As the title character in Joel and Ethan Coen’s electrifyingly beautiful, achingly sad folk drama, Isaac leaves a lofty and lasting impression. This is one of the Coens’ love it or hate it films and it was roundly ignored by the Academy come Oscar time. I could deal with that, but not with the fact that they totally snubbed Isaac, my pick for best actor that year.

Capitalizing on his Juilliard education and experience as a guitarist and vocalist, Isaac takes a character who is basically a complete jerk and shows us his worth while delivering soulful, convincing renditions of folk songs, circa 1960s Greenwich Village.

Thanks to the actor, we may never grow to love Llewyn Davis, but we understand him — a tortured artist who cannot function in a world that has turned its back on true art.

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Abel Morales, “A Most Violent Year,” 2014

Isaac embraces his inner Al Pacino, but not in a way that feels crass or derivative in this anti-gangster film by up-and-coming director J.C. Chandor.

As an immigrant’s son, who sets out to use his considerable optimism and determination to build a business empire in 1980s New York, without falling victim to the corruption that surrounds him, the actor radiates confidence mingled with an increasing desperation.

Jessica Chastain plays his wife, the daughter of a jailed mob boss. She’s the Lady Macbeth to Isaac’s would-be empire builder. Together, they whip this drama into a frenzy of tragedy, as Abel wills himself to resist temptation, even as he is manipulated by virtually everyone he knows.

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Nathan Bateman, “Ex Machina,” 2015

The actor’s gift for evoking menace, mystery, and even a hint of comedy, is on full display in this sleek, suspenseful, breathtakingly twisty science-fiction thriller.

Isaac appears opposite “Force Awakens” co-star Domhnall Gleeson and Alicia Vikander, of “The Danish Girl,” as a sort of bizarre, tech-savvy Willy Wonka, presiding over a strange contest involving the development of an uncannily lifelike artificial intelligence.

Nathan Bateman is the genius creator of a Google-like search engine, who lures Caleb, one of his brightest programmers, not to a chocolate factory but a pristine, minimalist compound in the mountainous middle of nowhere. Part Steve Jobs, part frat boy, Nathan is, well, a total tool who drinks heavily, says “dude” a lot and displays confounding mood swings.

Isaac builds layer upon layer into what could have easily been a one-note role, injecting weird humor into his character’s darkness. And he participates in one of the funniest, most disturbing dance sequences in cinema history.

I’m pretty sure Poe’s got nothing on his moves.

Photos: http://www.latino-review.com; insidellewyndavisfilm.tumblr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.cineplex.com.

‘For the Love of The Force’: A Fanboy’s Plea to J.J. Abrams

By WILLIAM SCHILLER

My first experience with a “New Hope” began well before it had that name. I couldn’t have told you this, as I wasn’t very verbal at the time. Instead it was told to me by my mother.

I was only three, and my mother dragged her family out to a 10-o-clock late show on a week night, to quench her love of good science fiction. The movie played and the titles rolled, and as the lights of the theater brightened, she found her husband and 8-year-old child sound asleep, but her 3-year-old son wired for sound.

That mother could have been concerned that perhaps she had given her child a lifelong trauma, but instead she had started the genesis of what could be called a fanboy. This was only confirmed when my older sister left shortly after for summer camp, and my mother gave me a choice of something fun to do while she was away –- anything that little boy asked for, she would make happen, and happen it did. For two weeks straight, my mother watched Star Wars in a matinée showing at the local movie theater, every day.

Soon there were action figures — I learned to overcome many childhood fears with bribes of Star Wars toys, and soon had duplicates of some. Years passed, and I have grown with the teachings of the Jedi. I always enjoyed certain bragging rights to geeks of my age: I have seen every movie within the series, all of them within the theater, and always had copies, legal or not, of the films at home.

Funny thing about being a truly rabid fan though, you can’t always relate to others the way you want to. None of my friends had somehow ever seen the only once-shown “Star Wars Holiday Special,” but I had; and since old George bought up and destroyed all existence of it soon after, I always felt like explaining it to others was like talking to someone who was sleepwalking -– they weren’t going to remember it tomorrow, and they sure weren’t getting it now.

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As I grew to become as old and jaded as a good Gen X-er can be, I found my inner boy child when the “Menace” was announced, and soon I had all of the posters and lame fast food merchandising that flooded the market before all of the other high-end toys would be produced. I sat with a Gameboy waiting for a midnight release showing to start, and loved every minute of it. Profoundly buoyed by the fanboy base around me, soon my brother-in-law started to compete with me on how many times we could see the film. My exuberance only began to wane nearing the 20th viewing within three weeks.

My wife and I, my brother-in-law and his friends made trips to larger and better theater experiences for the remainder of the prequels, and found ourselves at various crossroads. Love and hate for the films, and ticket lines with very young Jedis that made us all wonder if it was in fact whining that drew someone to the Dark Side, as Hayden Christensen seemed to prove.

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William Schiller, right, and brother-in-law Paul Humann.

In time, we all came to agree with the Star Wars outsider of our group and her insight that could only come from not drinking the Kool-Aid. Not that we didn’t love the taste of it, but we realized the subtle undertones we experienced as fans became like those of a sommelier trying to sell wine at an Oktoberfest beer tent. A hard sell indeed.

In admitting this, even now I have taken a huge step -– after all, my mother had to see “Empire” twice in one day, when that same little boy cried his eyes out, running from the theater after Luke lost his hand, but having to return with his mother’s encouragement to find resolution. Since that day, I have grown and come full circle as a fan.

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One of the amazing things about getting old is that it lessens the blows that life has to give. I have lived a life that flowed with and without The Force. At first, I saw myself in Luke, and now I understand an old Kenobi. I have children of my own, I have lost loved ones to fates that they could never have deserved, and once again I hear the calling of a new war. I will heed this call with somewhat less exuberance, dressed in the gear of my brethren nerds.

I know we all have the same thought: We will love seeing another chapter in a series that has been such a part of our lives. But for the love of The Force, please don’t mess this up, J.J. The fans have some scars that haven’t healed enough for salt to be lightly thrown around in this part of our world.

And please not one Gungan. Not one.

It’s been too long of a fan life to have one more Gungan.

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William Schiller is a father, husband, brother, and nit-picky nerd over nonessential knowledge that only gets someone somewhere when they are in a college writing class. He still has fond memories of Bea Arthur as a bartender with a heart of gold in the Mos Eisley Cantina. 

Photos and graphics courtesy of William Schiller.
X-Wing and TIE fighters photo: http://www.starwars.com.