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Just an action-adventure rehash of Episodes IV and V
This movie has space ships, robots, exotic planets, and aliens, but it is not up to the standard of sci-fi space opera that George Lucas set for the first 6 movies. Abrams gives a contemporary action-adventure overhaul to Lucas' universe similar to the way he bastardized Roddenberry's creation in the Star Trek movies.
The Force is treated like a joke with which anyone can pick up and do crazy stuff with little to no training. Things Luke and Anakin needed two whole movies to get the hang of are done in seconds by Rey, the young female lead. Lucas gave some semblance of reverence to the mighty power and wonder of the Force. It gave the movies a spiritual aspect that is part of the essence of what makes Star Wars. The Force in this movie seems begrudgingly added in for cool special effects and to keep old Star Wars fans happy. It's like Abrams just took what he liked from the movies - flashy laser swords, fast ships, and shiny military armor - and thought that was all there was to Star Wars.
The master and apprentice theme is thrown away for this movie, as the unstoppable Rey picks everything up on her own without any help. Han the father figure in this, but Rey is so independent that she can even fly Han's ship better than he can. Rey is a prodigy of unprecedented levels. Even boy wonder Anakin had flaws and needed someone to guide him. Rey doesn't need help.
The First Order, like everything else in this movie, is just a spammed-up version of something in the original trilogy, in this case the Galactic Empire. The big hologram of the emperor is now a huge, lifelike hologram. The cool red light-saber of Darth Vader is now a red light-saber with inexplicable perpendicular side blades to look like a crucifix. The mighty Death Star is now a whole planet that can somehow destroy planets a couple solar systems away. The Nazi Germany imagery that was subtle in the original Empire is now blatantly obvious. Storm troopers now have cool looking silver generals. Last but not least the evil masked lord is a more powerful than the original - now he can use the force to FREEZE laser beams from blasters in suspended animation.
Really, this whole movie is so derivative and unimaginative that I was missing the prequels. Sure, they were not the most well written masterpieces in cinema, but they expanded the universe every installment - and this is a big universe we are talking about here. This movie plays it safe - too safe. I gave it a mediocre rating because in is very mediocre and conservative. Fearing a second backlash akin to the one the prequels received, Disney probably had this movie stick to the original formula and feature as many derivative vehicles and armor suits as possible for maximum merchandising. At some points it seems almost like a parody of Star Wars, and not a good one. If you want a good derivative parody, I recommend Spaceballs. It's much better than this nostalgia fest.
Saved by the Bell (1989)
Unlike real high school, this one is actually fun.
I watched this throughout my high school and middle school years. I must have watched each episode at least 5 times. Some scenes I know backwards and forwards. How is it possible to like a show about high school so much and to hate the real thing so much? That is the mystery of Saved by the Bell. I have theorized that I needed some type of high school experience, so in absence of a real high school experience worth having, I lived vicariously through these fantasy high schoolers in California, like so many others have. Real high school was 9-10 hours of classes a week and after school activities. Fake high school was 1-2 hours crashing after school in front of the TV set escaping into this magical fantasy land where the principal is everyone's friend and nothing has any weight whatsoever.
In real life, you have cliques and outcasts, and few ever associate with each other. They live in their own world. Saved by the Bell had the Fellowship of the Cliques, representatives of all the major cliques who in turn watch over the whole school to ensure that no evil shall come upon the The School beside the Bay.
Mr. Belding is the wise overseer of this chosen fellowship. He wields the mighty power of Detention, to banish evil doers for a whole hour after school. He is always curious about the events in his immediate locale, and therefore wants to know what is going on "here".
Zack Morris is the king of kings, and ruler of the student body. He is representative the preps, the brick-phone wielding scholastic pre-cursor to yuppiedom. As this group's Aragorn, he leads the way against the evil forces in the great Valley. Not of flawless moral standard, he is known to lie at times...okay he's a compulsive con-artist. Still his brains and cunning ensure the Fellowship will never be overthrown.
Kelly Kapowski is head of both the female jock and cheerleading factions of The School beside the Bay. Her cheery temperament and boundless optimism helps the Fellowship through even the harshest of trials. Oh, she's hot too.
Jessie Spano represents the Fellowship on the Student Council, and ensures that they stay on top of the school politics. She is an exemplary student, and any teacher's dream. She also provides a moral compass for the Fellowship.
Albert Clifford Slater, otherwise known as A.C., is leader of the mighty jock contingent. He leads the front line of the physical warfare against the savage Valley fiends. Once a love interest of the fair Kelly, he now shows affection towards Jessie.
Lisa Turtle is the queen of fashion of gossip. This materialistic diva often gets the Fellowship into trouble with her desire for more material possessions and beauty, but her silver tongue can spread rumors to maintain control of the school, and keep the evil Bulldog forces of the great Valley at bay.
Samuel Powers, a.k.a Screech, is the glue that keeps the whole unit together. This seemingly clueless member of the Dork, Nerd and Geek factions may seem like a lot of trouble, but he is sincere and honest. Sometimes this honesty exposes the Fellowship to its enemies, but in the end his innocent nature keeps the group grounded. His Achille's Heel is his attraction for Lisa, from whom his love is not returned.
Okay, maybe not, but this interesting assortment of characters is the primary reason for the show's success. Whether people think it is realistic or not (I didn't), it still works, and makes for a very entertaining show. Saved by the Bell was one of TV's last triumphs as an escapist medium. It is much like a Gilligan's Island for teens in its odd collection of characters that would probably never even talk to each other in real life (in fact Gilligan's Island is referenced a lot in the show, so maybe this is an intentional connection).
Back to the Future (1985)
A generational epic disguised as a sci-fi comedy
In the movie Back to the Future, we follow Marty McFly, a typical American 1980s teen (performed by a 24 year-old Canadian...) who has big dreams. Much of his ambition is driven from his underachieving family, headed by an alcoholic mom and a nerdy beta male dad. His two older siblings aren't much better. He just can't seem to make sense of how he, a seemingly cool guy in a garage rock band, with a hot girlfriend, can be related to these losers. It is easy to see why he was drawn to a persistent dreamer, an inventor by the name of Doctor Emmett L. Brown. This relationship leads him on the adventure of a lifetime - not just his, but those of his ancestors and descendants.
Over the course of the film, Marty finds out that his loser, hopeless parents, once had the same hope for the future and dreams that he had. He finds out that his dad got that way that he is by suppressing his dreams to become an author due to fear of rejection, much like Marty himself is afraid of taking his guitar talents all the way. He also finds that his seemingly traditional "nun" of a mom was actually quite the opposite in her earlier years. It turns out they aren't that much different from himself as he had imagined.
This is a major theme of the film. It was very relevant in the era of the 80s, where so-called "generation gap" alienated teens from parents who came from an era before the cultural revolution of the 60s and 70s. Often many young people of that time thought what they saw in 50s reruns (also referenced in the film) was the way life was really life back in the 50s. This is natural. For whatever reason, younger generations paint a picture of previous generations. Some of this is their own imagination based on a lack of experience, and some is the idea that parents have of making sure their kids don't repeat the same mistakes that they did. Either way, it is an issue that kids of the "Generation X" or "MTV Generation" dealt with, and also covered in John Hughes movies like the Breakfast Club.
Another theme is that of the wise sage and his protégé. This goes back to ancient times, Alexander and Aristotle, David and Samuel, Arthur and Merlin, and so on. This relationship is also used in the Star Wars movies, with Luke and Obi-Wan. Of course in the modern frame of reference, a wizard, philosopher or prophet becomes a mad scientist aloof to the world, and the young protégé is a high school kid who plays the guitar and rides a skateboard. The basic idea, however, is still the same. The old man, declining in years, passes on some wisdom to the next generation and helps the hero come of age.
Back to the Future is, after all, a coming of age story. It is perhaps *the* coming of age story of the generation. While some come to the realization that their problems are not "unique" to their era through contemplation, Marty came to this realization based on first hand experience. Marty starts out somewhat immature and naive about the world. He thinks every parent started out as a parent (with maybe a few less gray hairs) and that for him it will be different. He starts to realize that the way people are in their adult life are the direct result of their choices as dumb teens, when they think that they know better. Back to the Future is a trilogy, of course, so Marty doesn't learn all of his lessons in the first movie, but he does learn a lot of them.
Of course this is not all that the movie offers. There are perfectly-executed action sequences, the stories of Marty's parents getting a second chance at life, and one of the best villains in a teen movie - Biff Tannen. A lot can be said about the small town of Hill Valley, with its repeating generational problems. However, I don't think this message is as universal since most today live in different towns and neighborhoods than their parents did. Still it an amusing plot device to see how these small town families repeat the same patterns over the generations. Even the manure haulers are not left out of this generational gag.
I call Back to the Future epic, because it is. It deals with a "heavy" issue - time, and plays with it in ways no other movie has before or since. The heroic scale of preserving one's own material existence seems to me to be worthy of being called epic. The isolated three-dimensional location of Hill valley is purposely small and obscure. It is not a sprawling land like Tolkien's Middle Earth or a vast space empire like Lucas' Galaxy far away. Its is very unlikely it has had many newcomers in its 100+ years of history. This isolated spot is not to give the movie a quaint feel, as small towns are used in other films, but to focus on the epic nature of time itself. The musical soundtrack of this film definitely adds to the epic feel of the movie. It is still a sci-fi comedy, however, and there are plenty of laughs to be had, and many technical wonders to behold. It's best not to label the movie and enjoy it for what it is. I think movies like this defy traditional labeling by genre.
The Sandlot 2 (2005)
Liked it, and hope for a followup in upcoming years
I hope they make a 1982 & 1992 followup Those two years would capture my childhood pretty much. I was 4 in '82 and 14 in '92. I'd like to see what becomes of the Sandlot and Mr. Myrtle's house in these years.
Unlike many here, I took Sandlot 2 for what it was, a continuation of the neighborhood story in Southern California that captured the early 70s era from the eyes of kids of that generation. The kids were living in a drastically different period only 10 years after than the original. NASA -- which also hit close to home considering where I live -- was getting ready to start its shuttle program, which it still uses today. Women's lib was in it's boom, with more and more women entering the workplace. Wealth was increasing throughout the country, and things like private swimming pools (notice how in the first movie it was public) and whatnot are more common. That among other things, make this movie a sharp contrast from the original.
But even with all the change, there are still many links to the past still there. Old Mr. Myrtle is still subject of the kids' folklore (though the kids in this movie are a bit older and harder to fool with the tales). The kids are still spending their summer on the old lot, albeit doing somewhat different activities. Baseball isn't played as religiously as it is in the first film, where 2 went on to become pros later on, but still a big part of the activities. These things plus many more constants link the two films together.
To sum it up, though it was not as baseball-centric as the first, and the main character remains a 'geeky' rocket wizard instead of becoming a baseball lover, I liked the movie. Maybe not up to par with the original, but a good flick by itself. I didn't mind the "repeated" phrases, as I thought they connected the two films. Heck, Back to the Future does this all the time, and no one seems to mind -- it was just part of the generational continuity that made the trilogy what it was.
I couldn't help but be reminded of Bad News Bears as well watching this movie. It may have as many similarities to that series/movie as the original Sandlot.
Well, if you are a purist and want to only remember the original Sandlot, don't watch this. But if you liked the original and don't mind a 70s flavor applied to the baseball classic, go ahead and watch this. I was kind of in the former category before watching this a few times, but later grew to appreciate the sequel. While the 'skeleton' and theme of the story is essentially the same as the first, the movie is unique enough to not be a complete copy it of its predecessor.