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The last edition of 'OffBeat" was written just as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was opening, and I hadn't seen it yet. Now, just a few weeks later, it seems like most people have seen it at least once, and the film is an enormous hit. Writer/director JJ Abrams has hit yet another home run, resurrecting a franchise that had lost a lot of momentum even as fans held fond, often passionate memories of the originals.

So what's left to say? Little, I'm afraid, that wouldn't be redundant. So let me just offer this brief opinion - that The Force Awakens is enormous fun, managing to be both respectful and evocative of the original films while finding some measure of its own voice. The people who questioned why there was a black Storm Trooper and a female as the main protagonist are idiots; John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are wonderful, and along with Oscar Isaac, they create a new trio that will drive the story forward in coming installments.

There have been a few stories out there by people who say they've never seen any of the Star Wars films, and consider them a mindless waste of time. They can think what they want, but for the rest of us, Star Wars continues to create a modern mythology about good and evil that speaks to multiple generations.

While I was watching it, I couldn't help but think of my old friend Shelley Broader, who we quote in our book, "The Big Picture: Essential Business Lessons from the Movies," as often referencing Star Wars. When employees are making bad decisions, Shelley told us, she'll just go over to them and say, "You're going over to the dark side," and most of the time, they'll instantly get the reference.

There is, naturally, a business lesson to be learned from Star Wars: The Force Awakens - that there's always a dark side, and that even in the most advanced and progressive cultures, there always will be people who will appeal to others' worst instincts rather than their best. The Force Awakens reminds us that we have to be eternally vigilant, lest we go over to the dark side, too.

Fun movie. Important lesson.

I also saw several other movies during the break...

Time Out Of Mind is an excellent depiction of a homeless, possibly mentally ill man trying to survive in New York City, played by Richard Gere in as strong and unselfconscious a performance as I've ever seen from him. The movie does't have a strong plot, but is a compelling depiction of how homeless people become virtually invisible to the rest of us, and how the system is not structured to help them find their way out of their desperate circumstances. It is a terrific piece of work.

I finally caught up with Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, a documentary about how the country music star and his family deal with his Alzheimer's disease. After going public with the diagnosis, they decided to produce one final album and do one final tour, and the movie in an often unsparing look at the tensions and challenges as Campbell's condition grows worse. I found it to be an extremely touching, honest look at this dread disease and its impact ... and would recommend it without reservation.

Youth is a fascinating film - essentially an impressionistic film by Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino, about a British composer and conductor (Michael Caine) vacationing at a Swiss spa. Caine's character is caught between the realities of his advancing age, a certain bitterness born out of certain experiences, and a still youthful spirit that emerges from time to time, often surprising even him. Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz and Jane Fonda add supporting talent and texture to what is a lovely meditation on aging.

Daddy's Home is not fascinating,nor is it touching nor honest. This Will Ferrell-Wahlberg comedy is dumb pretty much from the beginning - funny at times, but never better than dumb. I laughed, but hated myself for it. The talents involved can and should do much better for themselves, and for us.

Had a beer last night with my friend, novelist Bob Morris ... and it ended up being a Cigar City Guayabera Citra Pale Ale. I'm not big on fruity beers, but this one has just a hint of citrus ... and it went down very easily.


I'm thinking today, as I always do on January 8, about my friend Vic Magnotta, who died 29 years ago today. I wrote about him here a few years ago, and for those of you who were not MNB readers then, I'd like to share it with you ... here. He taught me lessons that I've never forgotten, and I miss him.

That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

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