Star Wars: The Force Awakens

tfa_poster_wide_header-1536x864-959818851016It’s everywhere. You can’t turn on a screen without seeing Star Wars right now. You can’t turn a corner in any major city without seeing a bus stop poster or a billboard. Saturation has reached a Disney-fueled fever pitch like nothing I’ve seen since Harry Potter died. (oh, spoiler…)

You have to understand that Star Wars is an intensely personal thing for millions and millions of people. There are endless streams of little boys and girls that have grown up swinging lightsabers and fighting over who gets to play Han and who gets to be Luke. How many of us remember when there was actually a viable love-story between the beautiful space princess and the cocky kid from Tatooine? How many of us remember going “NO WAY!” when we learned they were brother and sister, having spent so many afternoons trying to save her from the Death Star, and ending up playing a Star Wars version of house after the blaster-fire settled? I grew up with Star Wars figures in my hands 24/7. I still have stormtroopers on my shelf in my office, alongside my Darth Vadar head walkie-talkies. I have loved it so long, I don’t remember my life without it.

starwars-happyfamily_hugeI’m not alone. I don’t even go to conventions or cosplay, I’m just a “normal” Star Wars geek. Think of all the people that are ACTUALLY obsessed with it. (oh, wait…) Over the decades, not even the “enhanced special editions” (with added lame computer graphics) nor George Lucas’s prequel trilogy could ruin it for me… The Phantom Menace is literally one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Only Ewan McGregor was worth a damn, and I will always cringe when I see Hayden Christenson’s ridiculous whinging face.

So when I heard that Disney bought Lucasfilm and had tapped JJ Abrams, today’s hottest action director, to helm Episode VII, that 9 year-old child inside of me that had been lightsabered into pieces and tossed into a lava river by George Lucas jumped up and down on the bed like he hadn’t done in decades. On the outside, I’ve kept my cool.

Until now. I’m officially freaking out.

We are now days away. The premiere happened in LA last night, and the reviews will hit the internet tomorrow. I’m only one of probably hundreds of thousands of people that are sitting at a laptop writing about Star Wars right this very second. I doubt anyone outside of my Facebook friends will even read this, and even that is rare… Who wants to read ANOTHER Star Wars article? I haven’t allowed myself to get sucked into the hype beyond looking forward to it. I don’t want to know anything about the plot before I see it on the screen, which means I’ll have to stay off the internet for a week before I can go see it Christmas weekend.

This is a tricky thing for me. On one hand, Star Wars has been in my life longer than any other relationship outside of my birth family, I’ve loved Luke Skywalker and Han Solo longer than any other characters in the whole universe of different “universes” out there… When I think of science fiction, pictures of the Falcon zipping through asteroids or weaving through the reconstructed Death Star flash in my mind for pity’s sake. Seeing the original cast all old and grey only reflects my own nearing middle age. Luke Skywalker probably won’t be swinging from any tiny ropes this time… although I’m not counting out him doing some kind of CGI-enhanced Yoda flips with a lightsaber in his hand (a reality that both saddens me, and makes me very happy at the same time), Han broke his foot on the Falcon’s door, and Leia probably won’t fit into Jabba’s bikini anymore… But despite the next generation taking over, I really only have one concern. Us Original Trilogy types might be a little wider in pant size, but we know more about the Force that these Midiclorian-loving Pod Racer types…

starwars3The Force is the beating heart of the Star Wars stories, and yet it’s always been treated as a gimmick or a weapon. While Yoda and Obi-Wan might’ve talked a big spiritual game, when it came down to it, it was always “can I throw this large object at someone with my mind?” or “Now I will turn into a CGI-character who can move like a super hero!” JJ Abrams might be a superb movie maker, but if the Force Awakens leaves the Force out in the rain like the other movies, I will be sorely disappointed.

After all, its an invisible energy force that surrounds everyone and everything, binds them together in a galactic fate that hints of prophecy and redemption… There are aspects of Star Wars lore that mean more than the sum of their parts. They create wonder and yearning in the heart, tempting even the most cynical to look to the stars and dream of other worlds. They weave in and out of the imagination, surrounding us, binding us together in a shared experience that reflects the very story being told.

The Force might not be real, but in a way it is. While we can’t move things with our minds or shoot lightning from out fingers, Star Wars fans are all united by the same shapeless “force” shared in those moments when lasers flash across the screen or when a spontaneous lightsaber duel breaks out in line for the midnight show. star-wars-force-awakens-teaser-3-1205x803It is a “force” of dreams and imagination, of spaceships on fire and epic struggles for the future of the galaxy. It is hope in the face of evil and despair, it is a chance for redemption after a lifetime of mistakes, it is the ache of home and the futility of fighting destiny.

From everything I’ve seen, and from my level of trust in JJ Abrams, this is going to be one of those rare moments in life where everything converges at once around some popular culture event. Where an artist has been given the tools necessary to unite the past, the present, the future, emotion, imagination, laughter, and family… And it’s all thanks to a few short hours of film and a whole lifetime of dreams.

I can’t wait.


World War Z Movie Review


I’m a zombie guy, always have been. Vampires are alright, werewolves eh… But zombies? Yes please! I know it’s so freakin cool to like zombies these days that it’s almost cool NOT to like them anymore… Popular culture just works that way. Popularity is like a zombie apocalypse. It’s manageable when there’s only a few of them, but as soon as you attract the attention of the horde, it’s all over. Ever since I saw George Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead years and years ago I knew that these shuffling, mindless, flesh-ripping monsters were really just a symbol of our modern society. In the good old days social commentary and satire went hand-in-hand with exploding heads and fists full of entrails.

Zombies have changed since 9/11. Now it’s all about social anxiety.

Dawn%20of%20the%20Dead1It used to be a voodoo curse or a weird green comet that reanimated dead flesh, sending it slowly in the direction of the all-nourishing brains. Now it’s all about the end of times. It’s a secret biological weapon or a mutated infection that sends our feverish husbands, wives, or kids into mysterious comas that end tragically with them gnawing on our ribcage. Now days it’s all about the system breaking down, the safety of our everyday lives being dowsed in gasoline and set on fire… And why not? We don’t need zombies to see this kind of human atrocity every day. Remember this is the same human nature that causes neighbors to stab each other over food or water during hurricanes and turns policemen into shoot-first-ask-questions-later militias…

28days31That’s the true fear we see reflected in the images of the Walking Dead, 28 Days Later, and now, World War Z. It’s not the inevitable zombie bite that scares the crap out of me, but the way that people react to it. How fear can twist the mind into something unrecognizable. It’s the stripping-away of our morals, our rights, our comfortable sense of home and safety. The de-evolution of mankind apparently happens in the blink of an eye.

We lose our shit quick. We are a world already torn apart by unspeakable violence, disease, political unrest, and worst of all… Apathy.

15362162_0This is the stage set in World War Z. A fast-paced, lean, and severely disturbing experiment in big-budget zombie movie making. No one who has read Max Brooks‘ novel seems to be pleased with the movie as far as I know… Luckily for me I haven’t read it yet. I’m still pissed at him for stealing my idea for the Zombie Survival Guide… But that was years ago. My point is this: apparently if you want to enjoy this movie you can’t be a WWZ novel fan-boy.

But I got into this movie, big time. It sucked me in from the opening credits, a montage of news footage and doomsday talk all set to a creepy, frenetic soundtrack by rock gods Muse. I also went to see it early on in the day, before my bullshit meter was filled up. zombies-world-war-zIt’s really the best time to see a scary movie. Most zombie movies are inherently campy, even the Walking Dead has a thick slab of cheese on top. It can’t be helped. It’s partly the gore, the make-up, the shufflin’ hordes I mentioned earlier.

World War Z side-steps the cliche by taking a few pages from Danny Boyle‘s low-budget masterpiece 28 Days Later… Which is in my opinion the scariest damn zombie flick ever made. With World War Z it’s almost as if Brad Pitt (and the studio) said, “Ok this is a great book, but let’s just use the name…” then they proceeded to make a Hollywood prequel to the Danny Boyle movie. Plagued by rewrites, bad press, and massive reshoots including an entirely new ending, this movie was destined to fail.


Fortunately the rewrites and the reshoots were a good call. Despite it’s flaws, World War Z is a solid piece of action film making. I was on the edge of my seat from the first few scenes til the credits came up at the end… And Holy Shit did I mention the zombies are scary? I mean mercilessly-vicious kind of scary? Like a flowing river of running, grabbing, chomping pack animals? These aren’t your Romero zombies baby, these suckers are more akin to wild animals infected with rabies and meth. They head-butt through glass to bite you, then on to the next person. They’re a spreading disease, not a legion of the undead.

world-war-z-trailer1Right away we’re introduced to Gerry Lane (Pitt), an ex-UN hot shot who wrote a controversial paper that got him an early retirement at home with the family. His comfortable little home life provides the emotional core to the movie, and co-star Mireille Enos provides a solid supporting role… Even if her part was cut down significantly. The star of AMC’s the Killing, Enos is underutilized here… (at least she isn’t Matthew Fox, who had his entire role trimmed down to two scenes and one line). The Lanes are going on a trip to Philadelphia, and that’s where they find themselves in the middle of a zombie outbreak.

pg_07_009_pcs__0730The scene is perfect. Quick cuts and some shaky-cam provide a sense of forboding as the family is stuck in a traffic jam that seems to stretch on forever. Soon the station-wagon is clipped by a passing motorcycle cop, and Gerry gets out to retrieve his side mirror. The buildings seem to loom over them in the downtown traffic. It’s claustrophobic, confusing, and brilliantly shot. When an explosion further up the street a few miles raises the panic meter, another motorcycle cop drives up and ushers Gerry back into his car. He shrugs his shoulders and does just that, before one of those physically-impossible speeding vehicle effects sends the cop sailing through the air as a garbage truck goes crashing through the lane next to them, plowing through parked cars like a hot knife through zombie. Soon Gerry, sensing he needs to get the hell out of there, falls in behind the truck, like Moses and the Red Sea of Philly traffic. Before they can get clear the car is t-boned by another escaping vehicle and the family is sent reeling. As Gerry pulls his wife and kids out of the Volvo he hears a noise… Behind the screams… Some kind of terrifying animal snarl. More quick-edits of people running and panicked faces are spliced with frightening images of zombie faces. It’s a good effect. You see them in the crowd, like Gerry, and then the music comes up… And the snarls are getting closer.

Remember Philly!

World-War-Z-ZombiesIn this movie there are Zombies leaping from tall buildings, crashing down with bone-crushing force, only to jump up and pounce on the nearest victim… All to spread the infection. It takes anywhere from 10 seconds to 10 minutes for people to “turn” and the lingering “how the hell does something that works that fast get through an airplane ride to disburse across the globe?” question will bug you through the whole thing. Suspend your disbelief. It’s worth it. This is one of the most suspenseful action/horror movies that has been pumped out of the Hollywood machine… And while it doesn’t do justice to the political satire and social commentary of the novel, it works none the less.

World-War-Z-HelicopterIn the end, World War Z is the “scariest” zombie flick I’ve seen in years. The CGI is perfect, the story is just enough to get us from one terrific disaster scene to the next, and even though it ballooned over budget and out of control, I’m glad it made some serious money. This one deserves a sequel!

Toomb’s New Releases for 6/10 (Old School Blockbuster Edition)

Filmmakers do wonderful things, fantastic things, and those very few who have the gift and the eye, filmmakers perform magic that can change our lives, move us emotionally, and even now… time-travel. While I know time-travel as a plot device has been done and done again, that’s not the kind of time-travel I’m talking about. Time-travel (sorry, I had to say it one more time).

What I’m talking about are those precious images that many of us have, those nostalgic and faded memories from a childhood that was simpler than the fast-paced world we live in today. Of tying cards to our spokes and pedaling down the street with our original Converse All-Stars (the ones made in America) and our faded Levis jeans… For me, as a child of the 80s, it was all about Steven Spielberg movies… (although I’m not sure it’s because of my childhood that I remember these classics the way I do, or whether it’s because of these classics that I remember my childhood the way I do… how meta, I know…)

When I remember my younger years, I remember the world that movies like Jaws and E.T. portrayed, the sentimental summer evenings when kids actually left the house to find adventure, my friends and I were the Goonies, we were the Explorers (yeah, not Spielberg, but still, a classic). Today when I watch Spielberg movies I see my childhood, harkening back to a different time, when we sought adventure in the fantastic, and movies like E.T., Goonies, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were the foundation of our imagination machinations.

So when I saw the original trailer for Super 8, a movie-within-a-movie about a group of kids in 1979 who are helping their buddy finish his “zombie-movie masterpiece” while a possible real (alien?) threat descends on their small town… I was floored. Taken immediately back to my childhood, with the bell-bottom jeans and the hot-rod cars, people who actually talked to each other in person… Super 8, named after the camera the kids are using to film their movie, hearkens back to an age of filmmaking that brings all of those memories flooding back… the trailer alone looks like a peek back in time… like uncovering a missing Spielberg masterpiece from 1984. Super 8 is the attempt, by young filmmaker JJ Abrams, to recapture that lost, true Summer Blockbuster… and from all the reviews I’ve seen, Abrams has seamlessly blended nostalgic camerawork and cinematography with ulta-modern special effects to give us what possibly might be the last of the true Blockbusters (well, unless he’s creating a new genre this weekend… “The Spielberg Throwback” perhaps?).

Often billed as the creator of Lost, Abrams has been making a significant splash in tinseltown the past few years. Starting with the oft-overlooked Mission Impossible III, which came out at the height of Tom Cruise’s madness a few years ago (when everyone realized he was insane, but forgot he was still a great actor). MI:III, in my opinion, was the pinnacle of a frankly lack-luster franchise previously helmed by auteur Brian De Palma and Hong Kong shark-jumper John Woo. From the first few frames of MI:III, it had me absolutely hooked, and I knew I was seeing the work of a skilled director. With 2009’s sci-fi pop masterpiece reboot, Star Trek, Abrams’ cemented his status as a rock-solid action director who seemed to have learned the most important aspect of blockbuster filmmaking, knowing what the audience wants to see, even when we don’t know. Star Trek is such a triumph in every way, as a homage, a reboot, and most importantly- it was accessible to the general non-Trekkie public.

So if you’re looking for a great time at the movies this weekend, Super 8 will be worth the lines at the theater. If not, perhaps the significantly horrible-looking Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer.

Also this weekend we’ve got the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris,which is getting rave reviews as well. Owen Wilson plays an aspiring writer who gets lost while walking the streets in Paris and runs into many famous writers, much to the chagrin of his wife who wants to know who he has been spending his nights with. How do you tell your wife you’re having late-night conversations with Ernest Hemingway? Midnight in Paris is rated PG-13 for some sexual references and smoking.

From Japan we’ve also got Takeshi Mike’s latest brutal look at the waning days of the Samurai (no Tom Cruise in this movie),  13 Assassins. I watched this movie last weekend, and while some of the early scenes of brutality (used purposely to show just how insane and evil the bad-guy is) may turn some viewers off, this is truly one of the best Samurai movies I’ve ever seen. An aging Samurai must hatch a plan to assassinate the Shogun’s mercilessly evil brother in late 1800s Japan in this sword-and-honor historical piece from one of Tokyo’s most shocking directors. A must see in my book, despite the decidedly dark first act, 13 Assassins proves to be an instant classic… the real “Last Samurai,” and it’s rated R for sequences of bloody violence, some disturbing images and brief nudity

Our local theaters in Eugene are featuring the following:

(thanks Google)

Bijou Art Cinemas

492 East 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR – (541) 686-2458

‎1hr 28min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Comedy/Romance‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 4.0 out of 5.0

5:25  7:45pm

‎2hr 6min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Action/Adventure/Drama‎ – IMDb – : Rated 3.9 out of 5.0


‎1hr 43min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 3.9 out of 5.0

4:50  7:00pm

‎1hr 46min‎‎ – Action/Adventure/Drama‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 2.8 out of 5.0


The David Minor Theater and Pub

180 E. 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR – (541) 762-1700

‎1hr 50min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Drama/Western‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 4.0 out of 5.0

5:10  9:30pm

‎1hr 53min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Drama‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 3.5 out of 5.0


‎1hr 57min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy‎ – IMDb – : Rated 4.6 out of 5.0


‎2hr 9min‎‎ – Rated PG-13‎‎ – Drama‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 4.1 out of 5.0


‎1hr 47min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy/Romance‎ – IMDb – : Rated 4.1 out of 5.0


Toomb’s New Releases for Friday 6/3 – (Mutant Edition)

It’s that time of year people, the budgets are high and the releases are few, it must be Hollywood Summer Blockbuster Season. While Hollywood scales back their number of releases, they simultaneously jack up the budgets in hopes of catching that all-important tidal wave of summer enthusiasm (as long as you’re not wanting anything rated R).

This weekend we’ve got one new release, the prequel (and hopefully decent reboot to) the X-Men franchise… X-Men: First Class. I’ve been reading the X-Men comics since I was 11 years old, and they’ve always been my hands-down favorite super heroes. Forget Superman (too milquetoast), forget Spiderman (too much of a geek), forget Batman (but do not forget Chistopher Nolan’s immaculate films based on him)… The X-Men are the best of the best.

In the world of the X-Men, human evolution has taken another turn in the 20th century, and due to evolutionary, environmental, and other “factors,” people are being born with an extra gene… the “X Gene.” When these people hit puberty, and their bodies start to change, the X Gene kicks in and they begin to show powers. Labeled mutants and cast out from society, whether their families or communities or society in general, due to fear of the abnormal… they have very few places to turn for help in their struggles. They are “ordinary” people with extra-ordinary powers, who are put in incredible situations. Mutants (as they are referred to affectionately and with hatred) are the outcast, the unwanted, the feared… and yet they hold the key to defending and saving the very world that rejects them. 

Whether a holocaust survivor with a penchant for bending metal with a look, or a young man who finds the ability to peer inside others’ minds,the “mutant problem” is escalating in this world’s version of the 1960s. Two friends, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender), are two young men discovering their powers. They join up with other mutants to stop the looming threat of nuclear war. Meanwhile a rift grows between the two forces, and they split into two factions, with Professor X’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants… a war that will rage for decades.

X-Men: First Class tells the origin story of the X-Men, set against the back-drop of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and is certain to be a fun ride. It is rated PG-13.

Also playing this weekend are: (thanks Google)

The David Minor Theater and Pub

180 E. 5th Avenue, Eugene, OR – (541) 762-1700

‎1hr 57min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy‎ – IMDb – : Rated 4.6 out of 5.0

5:10  9:30pm

‎1hr 54min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Drama‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 3.9 out of 5.0


‎1hr 47min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy/Romance‎ – IMDb – : Rated 4.1 out of 5.0


‎1hr 50min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Comedy/Romance‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 3.2 out of 5.0


‎1hr 40min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Action/Adventure/Drama‎ – IMDb – : Rated 3.0 out of 5.0



Bijou Art Cinemas

492 East 13th Avenue, Eugene, OR – (541) 686-2458

‎1hr 44min‎‎ – Rated PG‎‎ – Western‎ – IMDb – : Rated 3.9 out of 5.0


‎1hr 16min‎‎ – Documentary‎ – IMDb


‎1hr 43min‎‎ – Rated R‎‎ – Drama/War‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 3.0 out of 5.0

5:00  7:15pm

‎1hr 46min‎‎ – Action/Adventure/Drama‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 2.8 out of 5.0


‎1hr 41min‎‎ – Documentary‎ – TrailerIMDb – : Rated 4.1 out of 5.0

From my desk at Eugene Daily News

Toomb’s New Releases for Friday 4/22

Whew, well hello Eugene! I’m recuperating from the laugh-tacular Doug Benson show last night, so I apologize for the late release… but there’s really not much going on in the theaters this Easter weekend. Hollywood is on autopilot in anticipation of Fast and the Furious Five next Friday, and the official summer movie season starts the weekend after with Thor.
There IS an amazing documentary at the Bijou this weekend called Queen of the Sun, I personally believe… Read More »

From my Desk at EDN


How Danny McBride and James Franco Saved The Princess (and the Movie Business)

What do you get when you cross an evil sorcerer, a beautiful princess, a brave warrior, and a truck-load of special herbs? One of the greatest medieval adventures of recent times, that’s what. …

Apr 19 2011 / Read More » /


Toomb’s New Blu Rays (and DVDs)

Matt Toomb takes a look at today’s new DVD and Blu Ray releases.…

Apr 19 2011 / Read More » /