Recently seen movie: Star Wars The Force Awakens

I grew up watching the first trilogy of Star Wars. I remember that my favorite of the three was the second: “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) largely because I thought those 4-legged giant robots were the coolest thing I ever saw. In my 20s I welcomed the new trilogy even if the only thing I liked about “The Phantom Menace” (1999) was Queen Amidala’s make-up and costumes. Bad storytelling and bad acting severely compromised the quality of Episodes 1-3, IMHO. I don’t really consider myself as a rabid fan but I got very excited when news of another trilogy broke out.

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And then this morning I found myself in a queue for a 3D screening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in my neighborhood SM Mall–the first screening of the day. I did my errands at the bank and the supermarket, left my shopping bag at the package counter, and made it to the cinema early enough to watch a slew of trailers of coming Disney movies.

*warning: the next paragraphs contain spoilers!

Well, 136 minutes later, I left the cinema delighted at what I had just seen. The movie had managed to bridge the 30+ years gap between this movie and “Return of the Jedi” (1983). Most of the things that happened in this movie are either direct results or consequences of what happened off-camera (that is, the period between Episodes 6 and 7). Like that “prodigal son” story arc of one of the characters. I’m glad it didn’t use flashbacks to tell the story, which would have affected the pace of the whole movie.

The return of Han Solo, General (formerly Princess) Leia, and Luke Skywalker was handled excellently. I felt a collective sigh inside the theater as each of them appeared in their respective scenes. I think there were many hardcore fans in the audience.

I liked that the sets for this movie looked lived in, the equipment used and showing wear like the rusty R2D2. There seemed to be less computer-generated shots in this movie compared to Episodes 1-3. I liked this seemingly nostalgic return to embracing practical effects. This connects me better to Episodes 4-6 and pulls me in to care about the proceedings, something that Episodes 1-3 failed to do to me. Visually, Episodes 1-3 were great in terms of CG artistry but everything looked too slick and shiny and artificial.

The new cast delivered consistently good and engaging performances. I particularly liked Oscar Isaac, who played hotshot pilot Poe Dameron, because he has this easy confidence about him. Daisy Ridley (Rey) seems able to easily defeat her opponents if she finds herself in “The Hunger Games”. It took me a while to like John Boyega (Finn) because I found him overacting in his first few scenes. I loved Lupita Nyong’o’s character (Maz Kanata) because she seemed like a cross between Yoda and Edna Mode. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), this movie’s villain, is not as compelling as villains go. At least this was the first impression that I got. Disappointing especially in the face of the other great things about the movie. However, as the movie went on, I realized that he is more dangerous because he has a lot of self-loathing and self-doubt. He is like a taut piece of wire that can cut anything in its path if pulled in a precise manner. And lash out he did. Spectacularly.

J. J. Abrams’ work on this film is quite a feat: he (with co-writer Lawrence Kasdan) produced a well-balanced script, assembled a great and charming cast, and kept the whole proceeding at an energetic pace that never felt tiring. Plus points also for snagging John Williams to score this new entry to the Star Wars canon. The force has indeed awakened, along with the film franchise.

As you can see, I was just kidding when I said this review will contain spoilers.

Well, perhaps, there is one spoiler to share. There aren’t ANY mid or post-credits scene. So there.

 

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Friday Photo 121

This is Merry, the Christmas tree in a small hotel where I attended a workshop early this week. It’s a fairly common-looking tree sporting common-looking trimmings–hence the common name. She makes up for her unremarkable trimmings with a profusion of LED fairy lights that light up the lobby at night.

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Friday Photo 120

This is Robinsons Place Manila’s giant of a Christmas tree. I call this one Agatona (after that komiks character) because what she lacks in beauty she makes up for in height and girth.

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What I did during World AIDS Day

It’s been a while since I joined in any activity for World AIDS Day. But today I represented HASH, the NGO I co-founded with a friend last year in an event held at Atrium Hotel in Pasay City.

The organizer of the event was Pinoy Plus Association–the first PLHIV organization in the Philippines. The morning’s activities were about raising awareness on HIV & AIDS among young people. I caught the tail-end of a presentation on mental well-being and the open forum that followed. There’s a wealth of knowledge we can learn from young people, and vice versa. I’ve long realized this nugget of wisdom. Changing the way we think and talk about sexual health will depend on them.

Today was also the day the winner of a poster-making contest was announced. I inspected the entries and came up with a favorite, which turned out to be the winning entry, according to the judges.

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And finally, the main reason for my being in the event, I represented my NGO in signing a Memorandum of Understanding between UNAIDS Philippines, Pinoy Plus Association, and HASH to operationalize a Response Center for Filipinos Living with HIV. This response center aims to address in real time issues specific to PLHIV like treatment, care, and support. It can be accessed through phones (mobile and landline), a smartphone app (IOS and android), and on-line (website and social media).

Today was quite busy and tiring (mostly because of the heavy traffic) but productive in terms of looking at ways to address the Philippine HIV & AIDS epidemic.

Friday Photo 119

This gold-trimmed giant of a tree was sighted at SM Aura Premier early this week. I’d call this a Fractal Christmas tree because it has no symmetry and seems to just go on and on.

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