Star Wars: The Force Awakens Fan Review

starwarstheforceawakensmovieposterartwork-1The last time fans saw Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C -3PO and R2D2 together, emotions ran high with pride of victories. George Lucas brought to life a complex tale of open warfare fought on a galactic scale thirty eight years ago. The characters were swept up in the drama of Star Wars, some willingly, some reluctantly, but in the end, respective goals were met. The Death Star was destroyed. Luke faced his fears, reconciled his heritage, and brought his father back to the Light. The Emperor is gone. Darth Vader is gone. The celebration in the Ewok village on the Forest Moon Endor is a memory. The latest film is now in cinemas. The control of the galaxy is in the hands of the First Order. The New Republic and the Resistance threaten their power. Skywalker is a wanted man again. One of the best modern cinematic fables continues with The Force Awakens. It all happens a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

The heroes came together because of the need for a greater good. Each from different places in their life journey. The common bond is loss of roots. They are outsiders who wanted to be somewhere, and to be someone. They found acceptance and faith in each other. Now, the heaviness of battle is in their eyes. The death of friends, mentors, and comrades creates an emptiness inside heard louder and louder when the fighting stops. No matter what, life goes on, children are born, and family angst continues.

The Force Awakens storyline revolves around disappointment of a child taken by temptation. Han and Leia call their son Ben. Is he Benedictus? The blessed. How could they know he would become Ben-oni? The son of my sorrow. A mother can think as long as he is alive, there is a hope. The parents bear the pain of knowing he is theirs. They endure the shame of things as they are. What did we make together? Kylo’s redemption seems impossible.

The established and new characters are each on a life course that brings them together based on need. A need for power in some. A need for acceptance in others. A need for many to live free of hate and toil. The Skywalker family are working out karma with each generation. Theirs is to walk the paths of lightness and darkness. The Force flows strong through their ancestry. The ability to shape the will of others is godlike. Is anyone worthy of such powers? Can any human stay in balance with this at their command? This power does lend to them a solitary existence. Who are their equals?

Artwork by Elina Novak
Artwork by Elina Novak

New Characters

Rey – A scavenger, left behind to find her way alone. Vestiges of childhood in a homemade doll. Every sun down marking the wait in blasting sand and blistering sun. The heart of a lioness when charging her prey. The staff she carries is her spine exposed. Tis of ironwood and will not break. She is Nike, the goddess of victory. In BB8, she could find no truer friend. Courage will be their steady companion. Destiny has swept her out into the stars where she finds her soulmate. They spit and snarl at first, but once met cannot be separate for long. He wants her but, finds his power taken. She will best him this time. Can she coax Luke to step into the Light again? A Skywalker’s fate is to be among the stars. The Light is close. It is not your destiny to be alone. It was not a failure. It was the Force. It set you free once, let it find a home in your weary heart again. Let it in Skywalker. The fey elfin Rey, played skillfully by Daisy Ridley.

Artwork by Danny Gonzalez
Artwork by Danny Gonzalez

Kylo Ren – A panther, prowling in the night. The ghost of Vader brings comfort. Every step pulls him farther to the dark side. The heart full of passion. A warrior eager for battle. Behind the mask is a young man corrupted by want. The Force brings him courage and strength. He mistakes what a man can be and snuffs out life. He is Mars, the god of war. She bested you. She struck you with the Light. How could you take him? How could you blame him? The dark can be a great comfort; it is so warm and close. You are not meant to be alone. You were born in love. Why do you destroy it so eagerly? The capricious Knight brought to life by Adam Driver.

Finn – A stormtropper who makes a choice. In his first battle with orders to kill innocent villagers, he considers the consequences and cannot do it. He takes a chance and runs away. His actions bring him into the heart of the conflict. The challenges he faces escalate. When the fight is fair, he finds his courage and fights until struck down. He is afraid but moved through the fear to fight another day. Finn follows his conscience. Played with endearing anxiety by John Boyega.

BB8 – A heart of gold rolls along in this droid. What a joyful character. How brave to fly into battle. BB8, as R2D2 does, keeps secrets safe. They grieve the loss of companions. They accept things as they are and move forward. Andare sempre avanti e non fermarsi mai. Keep on going and never stop. Their instincts are superb and relate with as much, sometimes more emotional intelligence than the humans. The clunk, clunk, clunk of BB8 down the stairs following Rey into the rooms below the House of Maz Kanata was only one of so many charming moments. Keep up, stay close, and take care!

Artwork by WeGeekGirls
Artwork by WeGeekGirls

The curtain is drawn on the first act. We lost an old friend. The Star Wars saga continues to the delight of so many fans old and new. J. J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt have brought the story forward with much brilliance. The space ships, planets, creatures and droids fill the imagination. The villains and heroes are in place. The screenwriters, artists, technicians and special effects wizards present a flawless cinematic experience. Fans of old are thrilled to see Admiral Ackbar back in the war room. The trumpet fanfare heralding the overture to the Star Wars theme by Maestro John Williams reminded many of dreams awoken so long ago. We missed you so much and cannot wait to see the rest of the story.




Star Crossed Voyagers: IV Fans Tour Italy Update

A few weeks ago, I posted about: Star Crossed Voyagers: IL Volo (IV) Fans Tour to Italy. Here is an update on what has taken place.

Briefly, this all began in June 2012 when I tuned into the PBS fund raiser and became a fan after viewing of Il Volo Takes Flight. Not only have IV revitalized my love of music, but also awakened the foodie in me with new appreciation of Italian cooking and wines. They brought their language inviting me a imparare la lingua dell’arte ch’è l’italiana. The most intangible gift of all was the awareness of something else present whenever they sing.IV Eh

My major in college was International and Comparative Studies. This is a combination of international relations with an understanding of the common bonds that unite but also can divide cultures. I can become fascinated by diverse cultures and as IV represent something old, so very old from Italy, renewed was the curiosity to know the differences between us.

My style of learning is by osmosis. When I fell in love with Nathaniel Hawthorne, it was only satisfied when I traveled to the Old Manse in Concord and touched the desk he wrote on, walked through the remains of the garden “which in a good year, tormented me with peaches” and stood at the very spot where the revolution began. Hawthorne traveled to Italy and wrote several classics derived from his adventures, notably the Marble Faun and Rappaccini’s Daughter. So, when IV brought to me their culture, music and energy, it was a natural progression to wish to be where they are from. Unless I touch, taste, smell, walk and breathe it, I cannot know it. Like the music, it’s absorbed or felt in the senses.

Any person can pack their bags and take a tour of Italy. There are hundreds of tours, agencies and opportunities to visit the antiquities of Rome, Venice and Florence. Every tour promises the best of Lake Como, Amalfi Coast or Tuscany. This tour is not to be endured elbow to elbow with the masses that descend annually on the peninsula. This tour, like IV, is to be something more.

I became fuddled with the details and have veered close to a home grown Michelin Green Guide from Milan, to Bologna, to Rome to Assisi, to Abruzzo to Sorrento to Marsala to Naro to Taormina. This is exhausting and can be done if a month is set aside to explore. It can be done with $$$ and lots of it. As I work, have a mortgage and maintain the bare bones of a social life, it’s hard to pull it all together and find the $$$ and the time off to travel. We have two precious weeks. What can be done with comfort rather than what can be hurried. That’s the outcome preferred.

As with that moment when I experienced IV on stage in Boston in 2012 and was lifted up in spirits, I went to my source for renewal and guidance when overwhelmed by choice and angst. I simply walked outside and found hope. A rolling, cheery spring brook spilling into a marsh just freed from the ice. The ducks splashed in and birds chirped in the sun. I had a moment of brilliance. Of all things that I am, when I remember to include the spiritual, things come into balance. My interpretation of the spiritual is found in the natural world. This is not just a trip to Italy, it’s a bit of pilgrimage. I am on a journey to find the source from which IV rises. To find the ancient places and be a part of it all.

I’ve found a potential for the Abruzzo tour. At this stage of the journey, it may be as much as 5 days just in Abruzzo. This corner of Italy is not as well travelled and safe from the swarms of tourists. To find the guides took some digging but I have met the people who will take care and help deliver satisfaction. Above all else, as I have never travelled in Italy, some uncertainty has to be lowered. This is sure. In this one step, I feel secure.

As it is spiritual and my namesake is for St Francis. I potentially include a stop in Assisi, on to Sorrento and hopefully, Sicily. I also found a tour in Sicily that may be just right. But, costs, the costs are rising and may give cause for pause.

Several members of the group are going to their sources and drawing on experiences to pull this together and with the best outcome in mind for all. Any person can do this, it just takes a bit of thought, planning and digging. Keep exploring, keep talking and keep the faith. Il Volo is the spark. They opened doors for me I never thought I could step through. I am finding spirit, community and myself all because of music. The tour is in progress. As people need time to consult with their partners, families, jobs and sort out their own goals for the tour and it is most likely to take place in Spring 2015.

Amore & PsycheAnd, than there is this. This is Cupid (Amore) & Psyche by Antonio Canova. Unfortunately, this sculpture is at the Louvre in Paris France. I’d hoped it was in Italy where I think it belongs. This gives pictorial form and captures very well the sensation of artistic brilliance, sensuality and revival that is Il Volo. When I see and hear Piero, Ignazio and Gianluca, I feel this.


Star Crossed Voyagers~ Il Volo Fans Tour in Italy

Abruzzo ItalyEver since I discovered Il Volo, I have been planning to travel to see Bel Paese, Italy. Slowly, I am acquiring basic language skills along with the sense of how complex and how much there is to see and do. At first, I considered joining a tour group and settling on where and when to travel. I started watching travel shows, reading many travel memoirs and listening to friends who have already been to Italy. I set up a bank account solely for the purpose of securing the funds necessary for the trip. At best, my income is modest and the needs are many. There’s the house, the car and everything else in between. But, as I get closer to the target amount, the determination to reach the destination doubles.

My nature is that of a classic Libra. I love beautiful things, the arts, nature and finding balance. As much as I enjoy privacy, I also have a need to be a part of it all. As attractive as solo travel is, it is not the wisest choice. There are so many fans of IV, I wondered if I could find companions for this tour. The tour is to be different. Instead of the traditional trek of Venice, Florence, Rome, Naples, couldn’t I do better by visiting those places IV has shown to us over the years. Bologna, Abruzzo, Sicily.

Several weeks ago, I advertised on FB the idea of traveling to Italy with fans. The name came from the song, “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John. There is a magnificent moment during the PBS Concert from Miami when Piero reaches deep inside to sing the phrase, ”When the heart of this star-crossed voyager, beats in times with yours.”  He touched something inside my heart and this is my response.

The group is for serious fans who would consider joining the tour or who can make a substantial contribution to sorting this out. And, as much as I try to avoid cliché, this is like making sausage. It’s a challenge to sort out where to go, how, when and above all, $$$. Who will go? I’ve got it started. I have no idea how this will end. But, that’s the fun of travel.

The tour will be mostly done via public transportation in Italy. I love being outdoors and walking through old towns, marketplaces and spending time at the seaside whenever possible. People who would join the tour would need to be physically fit and able to walk 2-9 miles per day on uneven surfaces as well as climbing lots of stairs.Roseto Degli Abruzzi

The tour would take place either in Fall of 2014 or Spring 2015.

A tentative itinerary would be as follows:

• Land in Milan or Rome, 1st day meet, greet each other and relax

• Travel to Bologna for visit to IV office. Enjoy the fine foods of Emiglia-Romano

• Travel to Umbria to visit San Francesco Basilica in Assisi

• Travel to Abruzzo

• Travel to Sicily and tour Agrigento province, Marsala, etc….

• Depart from Palermo or Catania

All this is in flux. Considering the scope of travel, this would be a two (2) week trip.

This blog will record the preparations and adventures as they are coming together. I’ve had a few inquiries from different fans, so people know about the idea. I’d enjoy hearing from folks. Leave a comment or contact me via FB, Twitter or a personal message. Buon Viaggio!Valle dei Tempi Agrigento