REVIEW: The Last Jedi

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Every critic has their blind spots. For yours truly, it’s action science-fiction. Just in the last decade, the subgenre has given birth to heart-pumping masterpieces like District 9, Inception, and Gravity and they’re the films I most consistently look forward to. (Two of my most anticipated movies this year, point in fact, were Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets and Blade Runner 2049.)

As a result of loving the sub-genre so much, I can sometimes be dazzled into distraction in a way other genres aren’t able to. The only movies I generally lower my review ratings for tend to be action sci-fi, like Star Trek Into Darkness and Elysium, both of which dropped half a star between my initial reviews and second viewings.

All of which is to say I, like most in 2015, was a little too impressed by The Force Awakens. It’s a really good movie, don’t get me wrong. But I initially gave it 4½ stars and placed it on my Best Movies of 2015 list — a little undeservingly, I’ve come to see, as my rating for the seventh Star Wars entry has settled to an even 4 stars out of 5.

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REVIEW: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Don’t call it a prequel.

The first stand-alone movie outside the Skywalker saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, takes place directly before 1977’s Star Wars (A New Hope).

As anyone who’s seen that sci-fi classic will remember, the Death Star was blown up because Luke Skywalker and his band of rebel pilots had secret plans of the base that revealed its fatal flaw. Rogue One is the story of how those secret plans were stolen, by a band of brave strangers willing to fight back against tyranny.

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SPECIAL: The Best Movies of 2015

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Last year, in my Best Movies of 2014 article, I commented on how weak a year we’d had. If only I’d known what 2015 would be like!

For the first time since I launched The Apple Box in 2011, I don’t have 25 movies to strongly recommend. I’ve always said the only movies that deserve to be on a “Best of the Year” list are 4½- and 5-star films, and standing by that, that leaves me with 17. Just 17 movies last year, out of the nearly 150 that I saw, were good enough to write home about.

There were far more average or mediocre movies compared to great ones last year, but that doesn’t mean 2015 was a wash, by any means. These 17 movies, in fact, feel all the more special by being surrounded by weaker fare than usual. These films reminded us all that no matter how bad a year’s cinematic crop, there will always be brilliant movies. Continue reading

REVIEW: The Force Awakens

Chris Luckett

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

When it was announced to the world that the director of the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, would be J.J. Abrams, it made the most sense of anyone imaginable. The task of continuing arguably the most beloved film saga of all time — while also redeeming the collective disappointment of “the prequels” — was a fool’s errand, after all.

Of course, so was rebooting Star Trek in 2009, which Abrams handled with such deft aplomb that it resurrected the entire franchise. Abrams showed the perfect flair for paying respect to a series’ roots (which a new Star Wars movie is required, by nature, to do) while also being unafraid to take bold chances (which the three most recent Star Wars movies largely failed to do).

Perhaps most anticipated about The Force Awakens has not been what the exact plot would be or how new and old characters would intertwine but how well Abrams would do with the torch that Disney passed on, after George Lucas finally released his grip. The world can now release its collective breath. J.J. Abrams’ hugely successful rescue of the series represents the truest new hope for the saga since 1977 — and in more literal ways than you may expect. Continue reading