A Big Thanks for 2015

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has visited DeaconsDen at anytime during 2015. The blog as seen a huge boost and there is still room to grow. I plan to continue to bring new content in the new year as well as the DeaconsDen podcast which I hope to have ready during January. Once again a big thanks and see ya next year!

  

Reactions – Star Wars: The Force Awakens Motion Picture Soundtrack

  

It wouldn’t be Star Wars without its iconic music. That music wouldn’t be iconic if not for the touch of John Williams who has graced the series for all seven of its installments. How does the score for The Force Awakens stand for me in regards to the other films. Here are a few initial reactions.

  1. The score is much more subtle than any score in the series. Episodes 1-6 all have bombastic moments from start to finish which is fine. I’m not addressing those as an issue, but this one probably wouldn’t be as immediately recognizable. 
  2. There’s no “one track.” No Duel of the Fates, Across the Stars or Battle of the Heroes. This score itself is in a way one track as it blends well with the whole film.
  3. Rey’s Theme is fantastic! I look forward to hearing it evolve over the next few films.
  4. No London Symphony Orchestra this time around.

If I ranked this score I would wager it falls in the middle for me. However it’s still a great piece of Star Wars music and it handles itself a little more discreetly than the scores of the previous films. Time will tell with its overall place in history for me with subsequent viewings of The Force Awakens.

  

Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  

After a decade long hiatus the Star Wars saga returned to theaters on December 18, 2015. The last film released in the series, 2005’s Revenge of the Sith was the capstone on the prequel trilogy which left a bad taste in the mouths of most moviegoers. I personally do not dislike those movies, but they certainly were not up to the level of the original trilogy. Now we get a new story with new faces and some old ones as well. I will stay away from a rundown of the plot to avoid spoilers but honestly the plot itself doesn’t matter, it’s our characters that do in this case.

1) Rey – Daisy Ridley 

 

We meet Rey as a scavenger on Jakku. She is totally self-sufficient and can handle herself. Daisy Ridley really inhabits the role with such a determination and it’s great to see her story begin.

2. Finn – John Boyega

  
For me, Finn was my favorite character of the movie. His reactions, his timing all felt genuine and what a person in his situation would do. So excited his role in the future.

3. Kylo Ren – Adam Driver 

  

The film’s antagonist is as fierce as he is mysterious and a genuine threat. I’ll say no more from this point on, but he was a highlight. I loved Adam Driver’s voice both in and out of the mask.

4. BB-8 

 
Yea I know. How does the droid make the highlight list? By way of the fact that the crew was able to get genuine emotion out of him without having a mouthpiece as C-3PO was for R2-D2.

I also have to mention Oscar Issac’s Poe Dameron who is the best pilot in the Resistence and he certainly shows it. I look forward to more from him in the future.

The Force Awakens is a Star Wars movie to the very core. It invokes the feels that audiences had with the original back in 1977. The thrills, the feeling of adventure. It also tips its hat a few times in reference to the past. However here it feels legit because they were events that happened unlike in the recent Bond film “Spectre” where it felt a bit heavy-handed.

One of the things fans were looking forward to was the return of practical effects. The prequel trilogy was basically not too much but green screen. Now don’t get me wrong, this is 2015, there is CGI in this film, but it’s not at the forefront like in the past. It’s really understated and doesn’t make the film feel bloated. The film runs at a length of 135 minutes and never overstays it’s welcome once. I wanted it to keep going.

Unlike the prequels which were neither decently written or acted, the cast here is great and the writing is on point. People simply talk the way they normally would and there’s not a bit of wooden dialogue to be found. The characters run this story and what’s great about our two leads in Finn and Rey is that there is not a single moment that doesn’t advance their respective stories and neither character’s growth is sacrificed at the expense of the other. They get equal billing throughout. 

The score is vintage John Williams. He captures once again the fantasy that we are wrapped up in. 

 

And how could I not mention Han Solo himself, Harrison Ford? I love Ford as a movie star, but never really considered him very much of an actor with range. And while he was returning to a familiar role, he brought experience and leadership to Han. He’s far from the man Luke and Obi-Wan met in the Mos Eisley Cantina in A New Hope. 

 
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a love letter to its fans. JJ Abrams knew the franchise had to get some goodwill back with the fans and this was a great start. It takes a lot from A New Hope but since for me that is not only my favorite Star Wars film, but my favorite film ever, I’m happy with this. How long until Episode VIII?

Final Rating (4.5/5) Captures everything about Star Wars that the original film gave audiences. Fantastic characters, light on the story. 

Comics Review: Harley’s Little Black Book #1

  

Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti have their hands full with this woman don’t they? With the main Harley Quinn series going strong and the miniseries with Power Girl wrapping up, they embark on a third book with Dr. Quinzel where in each issue she teams up with a different character of the DC Universe. For issue 1 she teams up with Wonder Woman. How well can this go? 

 The book starts with one of Harley’s crazy schemes to meet Wonder Woman of who she was a fan of as a child. About a third of the book is the set up for the plan which I found boring. It just seemed so extraneous because I wanted the team-up to take place. I also didn’t really care about the antagonists for the story nor the London Legion of Superheroes and the part they played. There is a nice section with young Harley being teased and bullied at school and in her confidence to fight back using Wonder Woman as an example, it also reveals part of her sadistic side as well. It’s cool to see readers get a part of Harley’s history outside the main series. Once we get passed the opening however it’s madness as expected and it’s great fun. Working with superpowered women is nothing new to Harley and it still feels new when I read it. 

 The artwork here is fantastic but I’m quite biased because I am a fan of anything Amanda Conner. John Timms and Hi-Fi are along for the ride as well and give a bright and vibrant visual to enjoy. One day I wish this version of Harley could get her own DC Animated movie for her antics. There aren’t really any negatives I can say about the art as it is pleasing to the eye. 

 This new series does have promise. I’m always down for more Harley antics and lunacy. Hopefully when the next issue comes out perhaps a little fat can be trimmed.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Artwork is on point, but felt like a slog to get through the first third of the book. Points for the young Harley flashback too.

Comic Review: James Bond 007 Vargr – Issue 2

  

-Spoilers- Brief Plot Synopsis

Issue 2 of Vargr picks up with Bond arriving in Berlin and meeting up with Dharma Reach. Bond moments ensue with Reach attacking 007 and crashing the car. Bond meets up with his station contact who leads him to meet Mr. Slaven Kurjak. The amount of time with get with Kurjak makes me curious as to if he is being set up as our antagonist. In the meantime Reach reappears as well.

2 issues in and Vargr is doing really well at keeping the flow going. The story picks up immediately and moves at a great pace. This really has been a cool blending of Bond novels and Bond films. Ellis’ dialogue is still engaging and not too wordy. On of my favorite lines this issue is a comment by Bond on why the British are good spies. While Masters art has a fluid motion to certain scenes, in particular the car crash. I’m really intrigued with this plot because it’s not too often we see Bond dabble in the narcotics world.

Final Rating (5/5) Totally engaging 2nd issue that keeps the plot moving and no filler to speak of.

   

   

Film Review: Creed

  Creed is an example of emotional excellence in film. A case in a director letting the characters do all the heavy lifting to engage the audience. My wife at the time we saw Creed had never seen a Rocky movie and she was on the edge of her seat. I know it was announced as a spin-off, but Creed is a Rocky movie through and through.

Michael B. Jordan stars as Adonis, the son of an extramarital affair of boxer Apollo Creed. The film starts with us meeting a Adonis as a child in a juvenile facility. This scene is very effective as we see how rough it can be for youths in this situation. He is soon adopted by Apollo’s widow Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). Adonis has a job working at a securities firm that he steps away from to pursue his dream of becoming a boxer. His travels take him to Philadelphia where he seeks out his father’s friend and former rival Rocky Balboa. Once word get outs about Adonis’ parentage and he gets a shot to take on the Heavyweight champ similar to Rocky 40 years earlier, he aspires to make his own legacy and not be considered a mistake.  

 I really enjoyed Creed from start to finish. Director Ryan Coogler really knew how to let the things that were established in previous films, work their way into this and do the heavy lifting. The proof is in the performances. Michael B. Jordan I feel will be a future leading man in this industry. He effectively showcases a range of emotions that range across anger, fear, confusion, hurt, nervousness, concern and joy. Yet not once does it feel that he’s all over the place. The emotions are in line with what he’s going through in the story. Sylvester Stallone gives Rocky Balboa the perfect evolution of his character as he takes on Adonis as a protege similar to when Apollo helped Rocky when he was down. I also have to give props to Tessa Thompson who played Bianca. As a young woman who is dealing with an obstacle in her own life, she played well off Jordan and their romance feels real and believable.  

 Another thing that Coogler does very effective is make Philadelphia a character just as John G. Avildsen did in the original Rocky. As a native of Philly it makes my heart soar to see my home on the big screen. I looked wide eyed as location were mentioned and icons were seen as well as locales that folks outside the city wouldn’t know. And to top it off, the world was introduced to the Philly slang word “jawn.” I now know how people felt when they saw Rocky in 1976.

One final note. This movie is not a spin-off as described, but really is a part of the Rocky series. I feel this series was a 3 act story for Balboa. Rocky 1&2 were the journey to be champion. Rocky 3&4 is the struggles and responsibility of being champion. Rocky V & Rocky Balboa is life after champion. Creed is a sequel and natural reboot. Rocky’s story is closed. Adonis’ story is just beginning.  

Creed is one of my favorite films of this year. Fantastic performances as well as some great boxing action. This film drives itself off of emotion and it fires on all cylinders in that regard.

Final Score: Five out of Five