Star Wars: The Force Awakens
135 minutes, Rated PG-13
Critical rating: 4 stars out of 5
The scoop: Decades after “Return of the Jedi” everyone in the “Star Wars” universe is searching for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This includes his sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), his friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and a sinister new political movement known as the First Order. A handful of new characters are also drawn into the action, and they clearly represent the future of the franchise. To say more would undoubtedly spoil things for fans, so my lips are sealed.
Although no movie could live up to the hype surrounding “The Force Awakens,” it is a solid work that recalls the original, 1977 picture at every turn. In fact, one can argue that director J.J. Abrams has gone too far with his visual and plotting homages. But there’s really no need to complain. The “Star Wars” movies are space operas, and melodrama and a dash of predictability have always been part of the formula. Bottom line: “The Force Awakens” is a good film with a good cast, and it’s a must see for anyone who loved the earlier movies.
Warning: Those who plan to see the film after opening day will do well to avoid social media and websites that reveal spoilers. There are some major plot points that you’re better off discovering on your own.
Directed by: JJ Abrams (Star Trek, Mission Impossible III, Super 8)
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill
After his brother is killed in combat, Justin Wincott (Josh Wiggins) agrees to take ownership of his dog.
Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers
Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four
Directed by: Boaz Yakin (“Safe”)
Starring: Josh Wiggins, Thomas Haden Church, Lauren Graham, Luke Kleintank, Mia Xitalia, Dejon LaQuake and Robbie Amell
Rated: PG for action violence, peril, brief language and some thematic elements
The story: When a U.S. Marine dog handler is killed in combat, his dog – a Belgian Malinois – won’t work with anyone else. The dead Marine’s brother (Josh Wiggins) agrees to work with the animal rather than watch the military put it down.
The scoop: The plot is far-fetched and director Boaz Yakin relies heavily on melodrama and sentimentality. This will bother some viewers, but dog lovers should enjoy the film’s moving tribute to the loyalty of canines and the wonderful bond they develop with owners.
June 12, I talked about “Jurassic World” during a short segment on Action News Now in Northern California. Click on the link to watch: http://www.actionnewsnow.com/videoplayer/?video_id=8051&categories
Critical rating: 3½ stars out of four
Directed by: Colin Trevorrow (“Safety Not Guaranteed”)
Produced by: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril
The story: Years after the events depicted in the original “Jurassic Park” films, businessmen have figured out a way to make a dinosaur-themed amusement park a reality. Sadly, interest in the facility is dwindling, so scientists up the ante by creating a genetically altered predator that’s as big as a T-Rex but smarter and considerably more dangerous. The creature is meant to create excitement and attract more visitors. Instead, it escapes.
The scoop: “Jurassic World” has all the requirements of a first-rate, summer blockbuster. It is action-packed, entertaining and filled with jaw-dropping special effects. Like most films in its genre, there is some silliness, but that’s no big deal thanks to an excellent cast and solid direction by director Colin Trevorrow.
Critical rating: 2½ stars out of four
Directed by: Brad Bird (“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol,” “The Incredibles,” “The Iron Giant”)
Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie, Raffey Cassidy, Tim McGraw and Thomas Robinson
Rated: PG for sequences of sci-fi action violence and peril, thematic elements and language
The story: A scientifically curious young woman (Britt Robertson) learns of an alternate reality where humans have created inventions beyond our wildest dreams. She also learns that her reality is doomed unless she and an aging inventor (George Clooney) find a way to rid the world of its ever-increasing, human-created problems.
The scoop: Director and co-writer Brad Bird has done a masterful job creating an awe-inspiring look at an alternate reality that could represent humanity’s future. He has also crafted a story with an important and beautiful message: Human beings can build a wonderful future together, but only if they stop the self-destructive behavior that is destroying our lives and planet. Clooney and Robertson are likable in the lead roles, but the intricacies of the complex plot are difficult to decipher. This is largely due to uneven storytelling that leaves a host of important questions unanswered. In other words, “Tomorrowland” is beautiful and engaging, but it feels sloppy, particularly when judged in relation to Bird’s previous work.
From left, Patrick Gallagher, Robin Williams, Ben Stiller and Rami Malek star in “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.”Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox
The latest entry in the “Night at the Museum” franchise is the only major theatrical release making its way to home video this week.
Jennifer Lawrence again plays Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.”
Photo courtesy of Lionsgate
This week’s home video releases are anchored by last year’s top-grossing feature film.