“10 Cloverfield Lane”

The initial scenes in the psychological thriller “10 Cloverfield Lane” feels fresh and innovative. Like a zigsaw puzzle, images are twirled around in the frame mimicking emotional unsteadiness. Silently, we follow our protagonist Michelle  ( Mary Elizabeth   Winstead ) as she checks her cell phone, packs and zips her bag, and leaves her rings on the table. These images are quite effective in showing a  young woman leaving her life and marriage behind. She is filled with purpose , a runaway in a getaway car. She listens to her husband’s voice-message pleas for twenty-nine seconds, but does not pick up. She shows awareness of her surroundings. A late night gas station and headlights cause her pause. This is a savvy woman, careful, deliberate and determined.

On the road again, she hears the truck before the crash. The impact is expertly filmed in both slow motion and quick flashes.  We see her car flip over and spin off the road into a culvert. The next scene has her on a floor pallet with an i.v. in her arm and a brace on her knee. She tries to move, but we see that she is handcuffed to the cinder block wall.

She is a fighter, a planner and not likely to succumb to the whims of a conspiracy theorist ( John Goodman) with twisted needs. Like t.v.’s “The Bates Hotel”, superb acting keeps you watching despite the silly “four-movies-in-one ” storyboard line. Tension is built, and it seems familiar. Air duct runs, knife pokes, and freedom lead to humanitarian work in Houston. But not until an alien encounter with  an eye-telescoping reptilian and a  hastily made Molotav cocktail are thrown into the mix.

Produced by J.J. Abrams and a directorial debut by Dan Trachtenberg, “10 Cloverfield Lane” gives its best line to Michelle’s fellow prisoner Emmett DeWitt ( John Gallagher, Jr.) “Howard has a black belt in conspiracy theories.” A bloody earring leaves us with theories of our own.

What we end up with is super girl power akin to that of “Hunger Games” and “Star Wars” and “Mad Max”. I have a friend who refuses to see “women as victim ” movies. I wonder how long it will take for millennials to cringe at ” women as savior combatants”. Alien monsters and vats of acid be damned: this movie loses its innovative touch a third of the way through and reverts to slasher film antics and disaster film airs. See it for an example of what happens to an almost art film that tries to include every germ in the kitchen sink. Get out the scouring powder, guys.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

It is still 2015, and George Lucas’ characters are a bit worn. Instead of Luke,Han and Leia, we now have a new trio: Poe,Rey and Finn. It was fun to see Carrie Fisher in a new hair style and Harrison Ford re-cracking some familiar jokes,but the whole shebang was a tad retro for me. The new characters introduced are richer if one purchases and reads the  available prequel to  better understand their individual histories. I like deep characterization within a film, action or not. Buying a book to better understand the fledglings seems too commercial here. Franchised comics and toys tool this movie as much as nostalgia does. However, little girls are now slinging their own light sabers.  Yet, “May the force be with you” seems utterly hijacked.

Rey is a savvy pilot whose breathtaking zooms and swivels delight the game playing set the same way the light sabers and blasters do. I was more into gliding through the stars when the  action  cooled. Working as a scavenger for food portions, Rey played by Daisy Ridley is a fresher -faced Jennifer Lawrence in that she portrays a girl willing to fight for what is right in the world order. She is independent and is often annoyed by the cavalier  Finn (  John Boyega  ) wishing to take her hand. His “stay calm” is given Rey’s disclaimer, “I am calm”,only to have Finn retort with. “I’m talking to myself !”  This  rather rye tone of asides continues throughout the action giving everyone a little breather from all the zooming.  Harrison Ford’s Han Solo’s  “This is not how I thought this day was going to go” continues in the same vein.  Solo’s  “The girl knows her stuff”  makes certain that no one misses “the girl power”.

Oscar Isaac as Poe,the resistance fighter pilot, looks lovely even when he is presumedly sand -swallowed with the freighter wreckage. He is best being surprised by Rey’s prowess,and his absence leaves her with time to shine like Katniss “Ever after” of “Hunger Game” fame. Not much is newly creative in Episode VI of “Star Wars”. Getting the piece of  the map which may help locate the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker, is the quest.

Hidden in the droid by Poe, the map hints at the first Jedi Temple rumor. Could this be where Luke resides? Enjoy the bar-like shenanigans, the tender meeting of Leia and Hans,Nazi-like power symbols and a grizzled Harrison Ford. All the flying parts-and there are lots of them- are balanced by mind- reading magnetic forces. “Get out of my  head” takes on literal meaning. Dialogue like  “The galaxy is counting on us” , “It would take a miracle to save us now” and , “Escape now,hug later” is best written for the pre-teens who will rush to see this.  A juvenile throw back with oscillators and storm troopers, J.J. Abrams’ movie is raking it in.

On the dark side, the patricide bothered me . General Leia’s comment to Han that there is still light in their fallen son did not ring true ,at least in this episode. My favorite line was another of Leia’s ( Carrie Fisher). To her former husband she says, “No matter how hard we fought. I always hated to see you leave”. Has the collapse of the planet really begun ?!