A Star Wars without Jedi? Yeah, when I first heard about Rogue One, I gotta confess that I wasn’t very enthusiastic. I mean, I thought it was a clever premise, and I was glad for a Star Wars movie to hold me over for another year until Episode 8 came out, but I wasn’t counting down the days with a construction paper chain.

So, it was a pleasant surprise that Rogue One turned out to be more than the nostalgic sci fi romp I was expecting, and turned out to be an excellent character-driven story. I loved this movie! Even though I knew how it ended, there were moments when I was worried for the characters and the success of their mission—now that’s skilled filmmaking!

The acting, pacing, and action were topnotch, and it really brought the Star Wars setting to life for me in a way the original movies never did. This will sound stupid, but Rogue One made Star Wars feel more real than the saga films. Don’t get me wrong. I still loved Force Awakens more, but this backstory is a gem that no Star Wars fan should miss. I dare say even the unbelievers (those poor delusional souls) will find something to like in Rogue One. 3.5/4 Stars for Rogue One; a Star Wars Story!

Dead GirlDead Girl by Craig L Nybo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had a weird infatuation with ghost stories lately, but I’m finding that good ones are hard to come by. That’s why I was thrilled in reading Dead Girl. It hit all the right notes: dark enough to make me feel disturbed, but mixed with an expert dose of mystery and humor to keep things enjoyable. Sufficiently creepy with an engrossing plot; Dead girl is equal parts Supernatural, The Ring, and Stephen King’s Christine with a twist ending that will make you do a double-take. I loved Dead Girl, and heartily recommend it to anyone who like a good ghost story.

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Hey I’ll be at LTUE this week. So excited! I love this conference. It’s affordable, informative, and it’s where I got my start!

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10 Reasons Why I’ll Reject Your Submission Sibyl’s Scriptorium Contests Award Ceremony 50 Years of Trekking Across the Stars Finding Your Audience Writing Natural Dialogue
Th 2:00 – 3:00 Birch Th 6:00 – 8:00 Birch Fri 10:00 – 11:00 Arches Sat 9:00 – 10:00 Zion Sat 5:00 – 6:00 Birch

After seeing The Force Awakens four times, and reading the novel (in progress), I think I’m ready to post my SPOILER-FREE review.

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J.J. Abrams showed off not only his film making talent, but also his marketing savvy and business acumen with his creative Star Trek reboot, and that same brilliance shines through in The Force Awakens. Abrams seems to hit all the right notes in this deliberate ode to A New Hope, and sets the stage for new stories with characters who are just as fun and interesting as the original cast. I was right at home from the first scene until the credits rolled, and I felt like a kid again reveling in every minute of the film.

It’s clear a lot was cut from the movie as several plot elements are somewhat taken for granted by the characters (the reason I’m reading the novelization). Also, I know that Abrams likes to leave his audience in the dark sometimes in order to ramp up for future reveals. Whether he’s good at that or not is a matter of debate, but I think for this movie it works. Of course we really can’t know that until the new trilogy is complete.

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I especially liked Kylo Ren’s character. He seemed a lot more human than Vader (and even Hayden’s Anakin Skywalker) and I actually felt sorry for him at times…..at least until the end. Then I wanted Luke Skywalker to appear and kick his ass (which didn’t happen, so I’m not spoiling anything).

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Rey was, of course, my favorite character, and Daisy Ridley did a phenomenal job of portraying her as both brave and vulnerable. Finn was awesome as the “brave-coward,” and all the characters evolve over the course of the story in ways that endear them to the audience.

So, was The Force Awakens the perfect movie? No. I think we could’ve used more backstory on the relationship between The New Republic and The First Order, and the role of Leia’s Resistance. I also think a certain moment in the end with R2 D2 could’ve been portrayed with more clarity. But my complaints really pale in comparison to just how well this movie was done. From the use of more traditional animatronic puppets to the deliberate similarity of some of the camera shots from A New Hope, it’s clear J.J. Abrams was very careful in crafting this skilled blending of the old and the new. I love the fact that the events in the original trilogy have passed into myth and legend—a perfect vehicle for introducing new young fans to the characters and universe—and though rated PG-13, this movie is suitable for the whole family.

With all the hype, I was really worried Episode Seven would disappoint, but it didn’t. In fact I did not want it to end, and wish Disney had adopted the Peter Jackson approach in making the new trilogy so that we could get one every year. Yeah, I know I sound like a spoiled brat, and I don’t care.

3.5 out of 4 stars for Star Wars The Force Awakens! It made me feel like a kid again!

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I am more excited for Star Wars The Force Awakens than I have been for any movie since The Return of the King—no probably more. I greedily devour every bit of legit news that I’ve read, snack on the rumors, and watch the trailers over and over again—my wife has accused me of being obsessed. Like most fans, the prequels really let me down. Not so much for the bad writing, the unfocused, confusing plot, or even the unintentionally racist slave parody called Jar Jar Binks.

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The real reason I felt let down is because there was SO much potential to the story that I felt was wasted.

The Star Wars universe is easily the greatest world-build since Tolkien’s Middle Earth. The plot and character arc possibilities are as endless as the stars in that galaxy far far away. Now, I could write pages about all of Lucas’s missed opportunities for story depth and development, but I won’t. My focus in this rant is the Force, and what it can really do!

We heard over and over again in the movies (especially the prequels) about how “strong” or how “powerful” Anakin was. In fact, he was so powerful that the Jedi Council initially forbade his training.

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But as my editors always tell me when they’re tearing apart my manuscripts, “SHOW DON’T TELL!” Lucas didn’t do that with Anakin or really any of the other Jedi or Sith. For the original trilogy I always assumed this was due to special effect limitations, but the problem was even worse in the prequel trilogy even with all of its CG wizardry.

So let’s break it down. Taking only the movies, let’s list what powers a Force user can manifest:

  1. It can let a person move things with their thoughts, but it takes nearly all of a person’s concentration. Not too useful in a battle if you have to stop, close your eyes, and adopt a look of painful constipation to move something. In fact, the greatest display of Force telekinesis is Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the Dagobah swamp. This fact is demonstrated in Luke’s battle with the Rancor and his having to resort to throwing a skull to hit the button that dropped the gate on the monster’s head. Why couldn’t he have just “used the Force?”
  2. It can let someone sense people’s thoughts and emotions, even at great distances.
  3. With it, you can compel the weak minded to believe or obey you.
  4. If you’re bad, you can shoot electricity out of your fingertips.
  5. You can choke people (which is really just a variation on power number one).

That’s pretty much it, although it’s heavily implied that the Jedi and Sith use the Force to be faster and stronger than a normal person. I always assumed that’s why they didn’t slice off their own limbs with a poorly timed light saber swing.

So how do I think Lucas should’ve depicted the true power of the Force? That’s a tough question, because you don’t want it to be so flashy and absurdly powerful that it turns into a ridiculous Dragon Ball Z fight. Nor do you want the display of Force to be a serendipitous “get-out-of-jail-free-card” without rules or limitations. After carefully considering this matter, I propose the answer can be found in the 2008 hit game, “The Force Unleashed.” In that game, the protagonist, Starkiller, uses the Force in a variety of effective and creative ways: A repelling outward explosion, a blast of power from the hand, a lightning shield, ability to quickly levitate and throw large objects (like Stormtroopers), the ability to heal himself, superhero level strength and speed.  If you haven’t played the game, this video will give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

Now THAT is what a powerful Jedi looks like.

So do I think J.J. Abrams will give us some Starkiller-style Force action in the new movie? Probably not. Videogame powers don’t always translate well to the big screen. But I am hoping, with the title “The Force Awakens,” we’ll get to see a better representation of what the Force really can do, especially in battle. So, I now end my rant with this profound thought: 15 MORE DAYS!

Shadows of Self (Mistborn, #5)Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brandon strikes the right balance of humor, action, and drama in this emotionally engrossing follow up to Alloy of Law. I love Wayne, and also all the “historical” references to the original Mistborn trilogy. Four stars for Shadows of Self! Another excellent Sanderson offering with a heart twisting ending. Can’t wait for The Bands of Mourning.

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