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An enjoyable remake of Episode IV (Spoiler alert)
I would like to start by saying I loved Star Wars as a child, I enjoyed the films and even thought the prequels were entertaining. However, I can't understand why everyone thinks The Force Awakens is so much better than Episode 1-3 (other than the one inexplicable twist Episode 7 is better), except maybe for the fact that JJ Abrams has effectively remade Episode 4 without calling it a remake or a reboot!
From a pure film making standpoint, The Force Awakens is a very well made film with a solid script and excellent action sequences and CGI. However, when you think back the film is essentially a remake of the much loved Episode 4. The film starts on a desert planet not named Tatoine with a Darth Vader type dude leading his storm troopers to capture this time a young pilot (not a female princess) who hides a map (instead of a message) in his droid. Clearly the droid escapes capture and finds Ray, a young female talented scavenger, definitely not Luke who is a natural behind the controls of all forms of transport. Then there is Finn, a rebellious storm trooper who becomes the first ever to have the common sense to take off his helmet when he needs to...definitely not a Han Solo. You then have the new sith lord, his apprentice and a new general building a bigger death star that can now destroy multiple planets at a time, mind blowing stuff! In comes Han Solo and Chewey who hasn't aged at all...I'm not sure how long wookies live for but he is doing well! Clearly these people did not have to escape the evil empire's battleship and subsequently get recaptured and then meet up with the resistance and has to destroy the new death star before it destroys them. Then comes a moment of madness and a father and son moment where the director/writers and a meeting on a drawbridge (sounds familiar)...this time given they already knew that they are related the twist is about more shocking. The new death star looks awesome but is clearly bigger now and still has a point of weakness which causes it all to fail. After just over 2 hours of excitement, deja vu and bewilderment you arrive at a point where Ray meets Luke, who is in hiding on a mountain top (not a swamp) and we only hope Luke doesn't talk like Yoda in Episode 8 and 9.
I can understand why the producers after all the fan boy backlash wanted to go for a remake of the loved Episode 4 rather than trying something new. For me Star Wars was more than just a movie, it was innovative story telling, science fiction, nature all packaged in a melodrama...perhaps after the expected and inevitable success of The Force Awakens, Episode 8 and 9 will break new ground once more!
The Program (2015)
The seven deadly sins of David Walsh and Stephen Frerars
My review is very much written from the point of view of a cycling fan and rider who has followed the story for nearly 2 decades. I have to declare that I have a more sympathetic and favourable view of Lance Armstrong and Michele Ferrari than others.
Overall, The Program is a flawed and poorly researched biopic full of inaccuracies and misconceptions. The movie tries to cram a lot of events over 13 years in without presenting it in a clear and coherent way for the audience.
The film is almost wholly one sided and does not tell the whole story. Its protagonist, David Walsh is portrayed as an innocent journalist who walked into the evidence rather than someone who spent a decade trying to destroy Armstrong and cycling through methods not too dissimilar to its key antagonist. The story does not tell of how Walsh harassed, pushed and entrapped some of the witnesses including the Andreus into a corner and force them to come out against Lance and their friends against their will. It also glorifies irresponsible journalism, Walsh wrote the damning LA Confidentiel without hard evidence and purely basing on his gut, accounts from his sources and inadmissible evidence. The fact that he turned out to be largely right does not make him a hero or what he did to be right and the film does not reflect that in anyway. I won't go into the Armstrong story in too much detail except to say that Lance was portrayed as the doper and at times the only one driving the doping. The fact is everyone of his rivals doped and he was as much of a product of his time and situation than anything else.
The science and history behind the story was so lazy and badly researched it was laughable. If VO2max is the only determinant of performance, why do we bother having the races and wouldn't young Oskar Svendsen be the most successful rider ever? Then the film celebrates the fact that Walsh predicted he would be a great one day rider and he couldn't win races in Europe...when the truth was Armstrong at the time when he first met Walsh was already world champion, the most prestigious one day race in the world and had won it in Oslo before his 22nd birthday.
Finally, it is a real shame the way Michele Ferrari was portrayed...in essence like a shady drug pusher with a French accent. Canet looks like a villain from the 60s Batman than a middle aged Italian physician. The real world truth is that Michele Ferrari is the most brilliant sports physician of his time, his methods may or may not have been ethical but his aim was like many human scientists to push boundary of our race and in the spirit of how we evolved through the ages. Check out his articles on 53x12.com, even the public research and knowledge and new ground is so inspirational and insightful it is quite amazing.
The truth is I see The Program as a fable on modern media, where it has the power to build you up and then tear you down if it sells. Cycling has paid for its sins many times over but it is by no means the dirtiest sport, the standards of testing and controls even back in the really dark ages of the 80s and 90s is so much ahead of other sports like NFL, soccer, athletics, tennis etc. I will always love the sport of cycling both as a fan and as a rider, it enriches so many people's lives that I really hate people who tries to destroy it, especially to create headlines and sell newspapers/books.