On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 5, 2016

It's difficult to delineate the difference in nostalgia-fueled adoration and a subjective acknowledgement of quality when it comes to judging a film such as The Force Awakens. There was never going to be any true way that a film such as this could separate itself from all that has come before it (and it doesn't want to), but the same is true for those of a certain age who will be seeing the film or are excited for the film in the first place. For most, unless you're under the age of ten or so and even then the majority are at least familiar with and likely enjoy Star Wars to some degree, the idea of Episode VII is something of a redemption story-a new hope if you will, that what was once so magical about Star Wars will return and enable you to forget the overly glossy sheen of the prequel trilogy that revealed George Lucas' green screen obsession and his true lack of skill in directing actors. Episode VII would mark the hope that we might, once again, venture to a galaxy far, far away and find both what we loved about the original films while being introduced to new and exciting characters and going on new and exciting adventures with the accompaniment of John Williams fantastic score (seriously, "Rey's Theme" is great). It is here that director J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) is able to demonstrate his finely tuned skill for walking that line to great effect. In all of his feature directing work Abrams has been able to elicit the spirit of a past property or genre and most of the time bring a new energy to it even if the freshness of the story isn't always as ripe as it could be. The same can be said of The Force Awakens as it hues very close to the narrative beats of A New Hope, but has enough of a unique take on them and deviates enough from the narrative with the new character arcs, new revelations, and flat-out solid performances from the incredible cast that this is most clearly the best Star Wars film we've had since The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. Full review here. A

Knowing nothing about it, the plot, or its characters Mojave begins and quickly takes on a sense of aimlessness. Like its Hollywood wasteland setting, the hopes and dreams of whatever writer/director William Monahan (Oscar winning writer of The Departed) aspired for this to be seem to get lost in the shuffle of the day to day, and the existing lives that thrive purely on indulgence and artificial and material accomplishments that never get around to tapping into their true desires. Mojave, while constantly striving to be more, ends up doing little more than wasting away and ultimately wasting our time. More than feeling like wasted time though, Mojave feels like a missed opportunity due simply to the talent involved. Not only do we have the on-fire Oscar Isaac and the legitimately talented Garrett Hedlund for Isaac to both verbally and physically spar with, but we also have the likes of Walton Goggins and Mark Wahlberg in supporting roles. I won't even harp on the fact Monahan has charismatic folks like Dania Ramirez, Matt Jones, and Fran Kranz in minor supporting roles that he only utilizes for single scenes, but even the likes of Goggins is criminally underused in that a talent of his stature wasn't necessary for his six lines of dialogue. Sure, Mojave has some interesting things going for it as Monahan is a capable writer and pens some interesting back and forth about the measure of success and how it affects the narrative of one's life, but in the end none of it means anything. For all the flowery language and high-brow quotes our two leads pull out of their asses there is no substance in their actions, which I guess is the kind of demons they are attempting to chase away in the first place. How can their lives symbolize their deepest desires and greatest ambitions rather than simply being an on-going conversation about those dreams and desires? Bleak, no doubt, but that seems the writer/directors desired tone which in turn causes his movie to drag. Full review here. D

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