‘Star Wars’ and ‘Sisters’
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is easily the most anticipated film release of the year. The action takes place 30 years after the events in “Return of the Jedi,” and there’s an ongoing conflict between the good guys (formerly the Rebels, now called the Resistance) and the bad guys (formerly the Empire, now the First Order).
Veteran returning “rebels” include Harrison Ford, 73, as Han Solo and Carrie Fisher, 59, as General Leia Organa (formerly Princess Leia). The cast members have been making the requisite string of media appearances. But Fisher, hands down, has been the most entertaining. She came off as a sort of Borscht Belt comedian and Monty Python character in a Dec. 4 interview on “Good Morning America” that has gone viral and really should be viewed.
Lawrence Kasdan, 69, co-wrote “Force,” as well as two much-loved sequels to the original “Star Wars” films (“Jedi” and “The Empire Strikes Back”). J.J. Abrams, 49, the director and co-screenwriter of “Force,” has a lot riding on how this film is received. He got a quick start in Hollywood when Steven Spielberg, 68, hired him in 1981, when he was just 15, to use the skills he gained making his own home-movie sci-fi films to repair a trove of Spielberg’s decaying home movies from when he was a teen. Spielberg became something of a mentor, and Abrams is now known for rebooting two movie series — “Star Trek” and “Mission Impossible” — as well as co-creating the popular TV series “Lost.” While most critics don’t rank him as a top writing or directing talent, he may vault into that rarefied air if “Force” blows away fans and critics. But if the overall reception is just OK, I expect Abrams will keep his reputation as a competent reviver of iconic film series and a workman-like director.
Abrams, I should add, may get a “wow” just from the film’s look. As noted in a recent Esquire magazine profile, Abrams grew up before the digital age and wanted to give “Force” a cool retro quality to distinguish it from the many CGI special-effects spectaculars so common today. “Force” was shot on film rather than made digitally.
“Sisters” looks like a hoot: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (who in 2013 married comic Nick Kroll, 37) co-star as sisters whose parents are downsizing and summon them to take away their stuff. The trip home becomes an excuse for a blowout party for their old hometown friends. Co-stars include Ike Barinholtz, 37 (playing Poehler’s love interest ) and Maya Rudolph, 43, as the sisters’ oldest friend.
Kennedy Center Honors
Each year, the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., holds a gala to honor five artists for lifetime achievements. The event, held earlier this month, will be aired at 9 p.m. Dec. 29 on CBS. One of the honorees is singer-songwriter Carole King, 73. Aretha Franklin’s bravura performance of King’s “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” reportedly was the highlight of the awards ceremony. Since most people of a certain age know who Carole King is, here are two lesser-known facts: 1) the lyrics of “Natural Woman” and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” actually were written by the late Gerry Goffin, King’s ex-husband and writing partner from 1958 to 1968. King has said their marriage might have lasted if Goffin related to women anywhere close to how he wrote about them in his lyrics. 2) King’s father, Sidney Klein, was a lieutenant in the New York City Fire Department. In the 1940s he established a rural Connecticut summer vacation retreat for NYPD Jewish firefighters. The four other Kennedy Center honorees are conductor Seiji Ozawa, actress Cicely Tyson, filmmaker George Lucas (who was born in Modesto) and actress-singer Rita Moreno, whose late husband, Dr. Leonard Gordon, was Jewish. Moreno has a home in Berkeley, near where their daughter and grandchildren live.