There's really only one thing to talk about this week and that is Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which opens Thursday night at the Whistler Village 8. Well almost the only thing, there's another Chipmunks flick and Sisters also opens.
The latter is the new Tiny Fey/Amy Poehler flick about two grown sisters throwing one last boozed-up shaker at their childhood home before their parents downsize. It's not the comedic gold one would hope for with those names attached (Fey/Poehler didn't write it) but it survives (barely, It's no Project X) on chemistry, a solid supporting cast, and a few good gags. Sisters lacks the kind of real character or story elements to make it memorable. Which is probably why it got dumped on audiences this week. Because if you don't want to watch the continuing saga of Force... well beggars can't be choosers..
As it is Star Wars is playing on most screens around the world this week and it's kind of a big deal. Hollywood practically shut down and the North American box office all but went into hibernation last weekend as the behemoth Episode VII lumbered towards it. Advance ticket sales already upwards of $100 million and fans have been camping outside theatres for over a week. Disney has a new theme park, the merchandise is already flying off the shelves and even I found myself trying to explain roman numerals to a six-year-old.
But will the movie be any good? Yes, it will. The fact that Disney is producing it would be cause for concern if you were expecting an R-rated romp through the ashes of the Empire but Star Wars has always been aimed primarily at kids so Disney works (they also own Marvel and Pixar).
The other good news is that director JJ Abrams (Lost, Star Trek, Takin Care of Business) co-writes with Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Inside Out) and Lawrence Kasdan, who penned Episode V and VI. Apparently, George Lucas himself began working on the stories for a whole new trilogy back in 2011 but that was most likely a business play to drive up the value of his company before he sold it (Disney paid just over $4 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012). In any case the story has reportedly been taken in a different direction and will be cohesive with the pre-existing films but not the rest of what fans know as the "expanded universe" of books and animated shows.
But the original actors and characters (and composer John Williams!) are back to support a new, self-contained-but-not-isolated story that happens about 30 years after that epic Ewok treehouse party that closed our Return of the Jedi. Other than that, we don't know much other than there are new characters, a feat-of-engineering droidlet called BB-8 with an "I gotta have one" hype factor that beats even Omnibot, (and you can have one, and control it with your smart phone, for about $150).
In case the $4,250 LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector's Millennium Falcon set on ebay didn't tip you off, there is huge money involved with this new Star Wars film, franchise and future — and that can be dangerous — but the truth is with the cast and talent involved it would be an intergalactic miracle if this film ended up worse than Episode 1, and we all watched that, (twice if you have kids). Hype and expectations are always dangerous but there's a good chance Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be pretty kick-ass. This is the movie you've been looking for...
And if not, too bad — it's the only movie playing. But there is good stuff to be found online. Since Sushi Village just celebrated 30 years of rocking the boat last week now is as good a time as ever to slice into Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a powerfully subdued character study of perhaps the greatest sushi chef on the planet.
At age 85, Jiro Ono still works every day at his unassuming 10-seat, sushi only restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Looking a lot like the turtle from Kung Fu Panda, Jiro-san has been making sushi for the past 75 years, even as his eldest son (now 50 years old) stands poised to take over. Amidst glimpses of the technique and history behind the Japanese cuisine that has rocketed to prominence in the past three decades, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is essentially about a master at work, and how Jiro's discipline and lifelong dedication towards cutting the perfect slab of tuna has also essentially robbed him of much of life's great joys. The Force is strong in this one... but darkness there is, also. Everything costs something.