‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
(PG-13, 136 minutes, Disney): J.J. Abrams reboots the iconic George Lucas sci-fi saga, with almost universally praised results.
From Ann Hornaday at The Washington Post: That giant wheezing sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief, heaved by now-legion generations of “Star Wars” fans, from toddlers to their grandparents, who can rest assured that the Force is still with the franchise they grew up on or grew old with.
“The Force Awakens” strikes all the right chords, emotional and narrative, to feel both familiar and exhilaratingly new. Filled with incident, movement and speed, dusted with light layers of tarnished “used future” grime, it captures the kinetic energy that made the first film, from 1977, such a revelation to filmgoers who marveled at Lucas’s mashup of B movies, Saturday-morning serials, Japanese historical epics and mythic heft.
What’s more, Abrams has united the original cast with a group of newcomers who mesh seamlessly with their elders, in an ensemble effort that brims with the chops and brio of a great jam session. He’s gotten the band back together in a perfectly balanced performance of oldies and new riffs, respecting all that’s come before but never getting mired in minutiae or fatuous nostalgia.
Suffice it to say that Abrams has done stellar work by casting actors who will be unknown to most filmgoers but who shoulder their responsibilities with skill and confidence. Daisy Ridley resembles the plucky younger sister of Emma Watson and Keira Knightley as Rey, a scrappy, steampunk-ish scavenger who befriends a wandering soldier named Finn (John Boyega). Oscar Isaac brings just the right amount of cocksure street smarts to his role as Poe Dameron, and Adam Driver is similarly right-on as a shadowy, somewhat simian figure named Kylo Ren.
“The Force Awakens” has succeeded where it counts most, in creating a cast of characters that viewers can spend the next several years rooting for, especially the spirited, resourceful heroine at its center. Put another way — and hallelujah for it — there’s not a Binks in the bunch.
Contains sci-fi action violence. Extras: “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey” behind-the-scenes documentary; “The Story Awakens: The Table Read”; “Building BB-8”; “Crafting Creatures”; “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight”; “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony”; “ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force”; “Force For Change”: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the “Star Wars: Force for Change” initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others; deleted scenes.
‘East Side Sushi’
(PG, 106 minutes, Sony): A working-class Latina single mother (Diana Elizabeth Torres) is forced to give up her fruit-vending cart and lands a position as a kitchen assistant at a Japanese restaurant, where she discovers a new world of cuisine and culture.
Jen Cheney at The Washington Post: Anthony Lucero, writer and director of the charming and wonderfully meticulous “East Side Sushi,” treats the frame of the camera like the sides of a bento box, holding on tight close-ups of California rolls and tuna nigiri. Those beautifully crafted images – along with the sight of Juana’s furrowed brow as she unfurls her bamboo mat in yet another attempt to sculpt the perfect Japanese delicacy – serves as a reminder that making sushi is as much art as culinary pursuit.
Torres – who could pass for Salma Hayek’s younger sister – plays Juana with quiet determination.
The film includes a number of moments that are a little too on-the-nose in their eagerness to convey the obstacles – both cultural and gender-based — that Juana faces. But Lucero compensates for such missteps with subtly persuasive visual choices and narrative restraint.
Also out April 5
- “Cherry Tree”
- “The Great Hypnotist”
- “The Hoarder”
- “The Identicals”
- “Morgan Spurlock Presents Meet the Hitlers”
- “Mutual Friends”
- “Stealing Cars”
- “Twinkle Toes Lights Up New York”
- “The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music”
- “Banshee: The Complete Third Season”
- “Casual: Season One”
- “Episodes: The Fourth Season”
- “House of Lies: The Fourth Season”
- “NYPD Blue: Season Nine”
- “The Odd Couple: Season One”