"Another year over / and a new one just begun.” With the year finally drawing to a close, I thought I would take some time to run through some very short write ups of smaller movies, or bigger ones from earlier in the year that I haven’t gotten a chance to talk about yet, either because I was too busy, or some of them weren’t large enough for their own individual posts. There’s going to be quite a lot here, and I still have plenty more to get around to, so I hope you enjoy my thoughts on these movies. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, December 20, 2015
And with that, I have finally reached the end of my long Star Wars retrospective, and frankly, the fact that Star Wars has been able not only to get made, but to retain as much staying power as it has is quite surprising. I can think of no other franchise in cinematic history with the kind of enduring passion from fans and long-lasting iconography, with the many artists behind the various films and spin-offs taking the influence from Lucas’ initial themes and lore, and expanding them into some of the most vast and staggering world-building ever seen, possessing a limitless potential for new story routes and characters to contribute to every generation.
Saturday, December 19, 2015
It’s finally here! Ever since the Disney buyout of Lucasfilm in 2012, it was only a matter of time before a potential Episode VII of Star Wars was in the works. To everyone’s delight, that’s exactly what came to be. But the question was never “Would it be a financial success?” It was, “Can it live up to the standards the prequels failed to deliver on?”
Ever since the fallout starting with The Phantom Menace and ending with “The good one”, Revenge of the Sith, many of the most die-hard fans of Star Wars felt badly burnt by the underwhelming, overly digitized quality of George Lucas’ expansion to the Star Wars universe. Fans waited impatiently for a proper expansion and follow-up to the films they fell in love with, but maybe that same lightning in a bottle was impossible to capture.
Whatever fears there were, they were pacified by the decision to enlist JJ Abrams as the film’s director, as the former Lost creator had already delivered on spectacular sci-fi adventure with his reboot to the Star Trek film series. Coupled with key members of the original trilogy being brought onboard, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan making his first return to the saga since 1983, and we were even more excited than before. Once again, we asked, “Can it live up to the hype?” Long answer is all below, but the short answer… ABSOLUTELY!
Also, as a fair word of warning, while I will steer clear of major spoilers, my review will likely contain smaller ones, so if you’ve not yet seen the film, do so at your own discretion. With that addressed, let’s begin.
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
There really is no need for an introduction to John Williams, as far as I'm concerned the greatest film composer that ever lived, and that will ever live. From his collaborations with Steven Spielberg to being behind some of the most legendary franchises of all time, it almost makes a ranked list pointless given that his resume is chock full of some of the greatest and most memorable scores in cinematic history, even becoming the second most award nominated person in history by AMPAS behind Walt Disney, tallying an impressive 49 nominations and five wins, and likely on his way to a fiftieth this year. His themes are so iconic that even people who've never seen movies he's composed know of his melodies.
So for today's topic, we're going to be honoring this great composer with a rundown of my personal favorite scores of his, and it's going to be an impossible one for me to narrow down, but I'll try anyway.
First up are some honorable mentions. Not quite making it on was The Phantom Menace, for while George Lucas stumbled in the 16 year gap, Williams never did so with his evolution of old themes meets excellent brand new additions. While I'm not the biggest fan of Richard Donner's Superman, the music by Williams is the greatest superhero score I've ever heard, particularly for it's amazing main title march. War Horse featured some of the most unashamedly old-fashioned and bold compositions of Williams' entire career, complementing the colorful and epic nature of the film with suitably sweeping and emotional tracks. The score from Hook is such an underrated gem, seeing Williams putting a clever spin on swashbuckling adventure with much graceful beauty. The Adventures of Tintin takes all of his most famous stylistic ticks and tendencies, and turns it not only into a thoroughly entertaining album presentation, but a fun spot the reference game. We may as well lump in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith as well... and Far and Away... and Empire of the Sun... and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban... an-
Now onto the actual list.
Monday, December 14, 2015
The Star Wars movies are filled with some of the most iconic and endearing characters ever put to film. Through their deceptively simplistic and layered personalities, their moral codes and endlessly quotable dialogue, and even their designs, they’ve captured the hearts of viewers all over the world, to the point that we see them as more than just people on a screen, but as family. They’re the kind of characters we wish were real, and every fan will always have their obligatory list of favorites.
So that’s what I’m going to talk about today, unveiling my list of my top ten favorite Star Wars characters at this moment. For this list, I’m going to be looking back through not only the main movies of Star Wars, but also the TV shows and various spin offs to form my list. Who knows how The Force Awakens will shake things up, but until then, here’s my top ten as of now…
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Following the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, George Lucas was on top of the world. On top of launching his dream project the Star Wars trilogy, he'd even found time to launch the Indiana Jones series starting with Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was a worthy and riotous follow up to the Wars films, and remains the most thoroughly entertaining popcorn film of all time. Yet even with such a great new iconic franchise being brought to life, the entire world impatiently waited for the grand finale to the series that made Lucas such a household name in the first place.
Despite Empire’s initially mixed critical reception, it rightfully received stronger notices on re-evaluation years later, and served as a proper set up to grander things to come. Such things would finally come to pass three years later in Return of the Jedi (originally titled Revenge of the Jedi), where the trio of Luke, Han, and Leia would band together one more time in one last assault against the Imperial forces. It was nothing short of the grandest finale for Star Wars… until The Phantom Menace rolled along… and now the saga is about to continue once more, but I digress.
So with all that excitement, did the film live up to its expectations? For the most part, yes it did. Once again, it continually developed the characters and previously established lore and worlds, and gave us an epic last action hurrah, though not without some stumbles along the way.
Friday, December 11, 2015
The US was going through many changes in 2002. It had been several months since the attacks of 9/11, fear was at an all time high, and we were on the brink of war. In the midst of these things, The Boston Globe published an article calling out the Catholic Church of Massachusetts for its countless cases of child sexual abuse, which had been swept under the rugs to keep its name from being tarnished. It was a long road to uncovering the truth behind the case, documented here in Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight, a movie so great that it makes you forget that this same director was behind The Cobbler earlier in the year.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
After the release of Star Wars, it seemed like George Lucas was on top of the world, with his dream project having finally been brought to life, and to the surprise of everyone across the world, became the most successful film of all time up to that point. It was a pop cultural phenomenon unlike anything before or since, with showings selling out daily, merchandizing flying off the shelves, and earning a tally of ten Academy Award nominations, as well as six wins and a Special Achievement Award.
The fandom of Star Wars was growing day by day, and soon the wait began for the eventual follow up. Deciding not to direct the film this time, and hang back as a producer and story consultant, directing duties were handed to Irvin Kirschner, while Lawrence Kasdan would serve as screenwriter and flesh out Lucas’ original treatment. Titled The Empire Strikes Back, and picking up where the original had left off, this second installment of Lucas’ original trilogy was primed to take the characters down darker and more expansive routes. Anticipation was through the roof, with dedicated fan sites everywhere scrounging for every detail they could find about the film’s secrets before its release.
And the end result, while rocky at first, was nothing short of spectacular, arguably becoming the film that defined the universe of Star Wars, and in this reviewer’s personal opinion, ranks among my all time favorite films.
Monday, November 30, 2015
Since its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Brooklyn, adapted from the Colm Toibin novel of the same name, has become one of the year’s most beloved films, even stirring bidding wars after its debut between competing distributors. Having played in limited release for a few weeks now, general audiences finally got a chance to see the film on Thanksgiving. The film features Saoirse Ronan as Ellis, a young Irish woman immigrating to New York City to build a new life for herself, with all the homesickness and new life discoveries that come with it. Having been anticipating the film all year, I can safely say that the movie met my expectations, undoubtedly becoming one of the year’s most beautiful films.
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Before Star Wars, USC graduate and Independent filmmaker George Lucas was best known for his debut feature THX 1138, and his 1973 smash hit American Graffiti. A fan of the classic Flash Gordon Sci-Fi serials, and fascinated with Joseph Campbell philosophy, his success then led him to his most ambitious project yet. It was a trilogy of films under the name of Star Wars.
After taking his idea to 20th Century Fox, and adapting the first third of his story (which years later would be given the subtitle A New Hope) to form its first installment, Lucas’ desire for creative control over his dream project and the heavy influence of the production company created friction to the work environment. Couple that with a disastrous initial edit, and various production problems on location, and it seemed like this project was doomed to failure.
However, the film just kept pressing forward, against all odds and expectations making its way to theaters in May 1977. To everyone’s surprise, including Lucas’, the film was a gargantuan success, selling out theater showings for months, and eventually earning a total of ten Academy Award nominations, including six wins and a separate Special Achievement Award. Ever since its release, it has remained one of the most fondly remembered films in all of cinema, and is commonly included among the greatest films of all time, and all for good reason.
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Just 5 months ago, Pixar came back with a vengeance. After disappointing output following Toy Story 3, Inside Out released and restored them back to the top of the animation circuit, already on its way to becoming one of the year’s defining films. Flash forward to now, and for the first time ever, Pixar has a second offering in the same year with The Good Dinosaur. Two Pixar movies in a year could only mean great things, right?
In theory, yes it could, but in practice, there was still skepticism. The Good Dinosaur, originally under the creative control of Pixar icon Bob Peterson, has had a rocky production schedule, with Peterson’s eventual removal from the project and the story being reworked under new director Peter Sohn. Not only that, but in order to accommodate the new changes, the film was pushed back from its original June 2014 release to Thanksgiving 2015, making it the first time since 2005 that a Pixar film skipped a year entirely. The question remains, did the wait pay off?
In my opinion, it did. While not in the top tier of Pixar’s outings, the end result still delivers quite nicely on family fare.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
So with the utter disappointment of those two movies, anticipation for Episode 3 was justifiably low. Sure, we’d see it, but it was more based on obligation so that we could finally put this new trilogy to rest. This third prequel, which would be named Revenge of the Sith, was going to bring the entire saga full circle, and showcase the formation of the Empire and the near-eradication of the Jedi, and the test of willpower between friends Anakin and Obi-Wan.
But to everyone’s surprise, the movie was actually well-received. Often praised for its dark tone and significant improvements in storytelling, Revenge of the Sith to this day remains the best of the Star Wars prequels… even if that’s not a high bar, and it only occasionally flirts with greatness, for it still has several of the same problems as Menace and Clones.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
I’ll just cut right to the chase. I’m a huge fan of the Hunger Games books by Suzanne Collins. I’ve gone on about them enough times; complimenting their take on reality television exploitation meets governmental uprising, as well as their now iconic lead character Katniss Everdeen.
Similarly, I’ve been a huge fan of their following feature film adaptations since the beginning. Starting in 2012’s superb Gary Ross directed original, it then bested itself with Francis Lawrence’s spectacular continuation Catching Fire, and was bigger and more expansive than its predecessor without sacrificing its heart.
Next would be the adaptation of the final book, and my favorite of the series, Mockingjay, which had a lot of skepticism thrown its way because of the decision to split the book into two films. I myself have come to hate this trend of splitting a book into two (or three) films myself, but I was always very defensive of this decision, as the book never went beyond Katniss’ immediate point of view, and it could give us a chance to see the uprising outside of District 13 that we heard about, but never saw. I found the first part very engaging despite its occasional filler, and I’m happy to report that this finale to the Hunger Games series is every bit as satisfying as I wanted it to be… albeit with a couple stumbles keeping it from being Catching Fire good.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
In the next chapter, Attack of the Clones, Lucas would be further expanding on the Star Wars lore by showing us the origin of The Clone Wars, an admittedly glanced over moment in history only briefly referenced by Obi-Wan in A New Hope. There would also be more focus on the love between Anakin and Padme, the future parents of Luke and Leia. It also featured the origin of Star Wars favorite Boba Fett, and looked to be an epic event.
However, it appeared that Phantom Menace was no fluke, with Attack of the Clones receiving a similarly mixed reception, although the word was more positive this time around. And I’ll be honest… I don’t get it. Phantom Menace may have been a dud with redeeming qualities, but this follow-up is an utter failure.
Sunday, November 8, 2015
With a production cycle of fifty years, the Peanuts comic strips by Charles Schulz remain one of the most recognizable and iconic comic series in history. Thanks to its quick-witted and lovable humor, as well as its endearing characters, it’s stood the test of time with countless reprints, TV specials, and theatrical features. Even those who haven’t read or seen its products are still familiar with Charlie Brown himself, it’s so popular. Because of this, it felt only natural that it would inspire a new modern animated feature, here in the form of the computer generated charmer that is The Peanuts Movie, from the minds at Blue Sky Studios.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
In fact, to say that they were hyped would be the understatement of the century. Details of the film were kept under heavy lock and key, major news outlets covered every inch of the film leading up to its unveiling, and films showing the prequel’s trailers had fans buy tickets solely to see said trailers. Said fans also lined up for the premiere weeks in advance. The film was already becoming a cultural explosion, and ever since then, there’s never been anything like it.
Unfortunately, that’s not for all the right reasons. Receiving a mixed critical reception at the time, the film was held under extreme scrutiny by many die-hard fans of Star Wars, although there were just as many that were forgiving of the film despite its objective faults. Its reception has more or less improved as time goes on, so to kick off my retrospective, let’s take a look at both the good, and the bad, in The Phantom Menace.
Friday, November 6, 2015
The name is Bond. James Bond. For over five decades, Bond has been a staple of action cinema, spawning 24 theatrical films, and jump-starting the careers of six classic actors. After a rough patch in the Brosnan era, the timeline was rebooted to feature a grittier version of the character. Played by Daniel Craig, this era of Bond has given us thrilling and (refreshingly) psychologically inventive films the likes of Casino Royale, and 2012’s smash hit Skyfall from Sam Mendes.
At this point, it goes without saying. I am a huge fan of the 007 films. I have loved this series for years, constantly make callbacks to it, listen to its theme songs obsessively, and even if I don’t end up liking an entry of the series, that still won’t stop me from being the first one in line to see it (Well, first in line in America, that is).
After being blown away by Skyfall, which became my new favorite Bond film to date, I was beyond eager to see what director Sam Mendes would bring to Bond 24, Spectre. I love the Craig films for heeding to the classic tropes of Bond, but also having the smarts to deconstruct them and bring new meat to the table, which is what I hoped this new entry would bring me. Needless to say, it gave me exactly what I wanted… but only in the first fifteen minutes.
Saturday, October 31, 2015
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
With Halloween around the corner, along with all the classic holiday favorites, everyone will be heading to the local multiplexes for new annual offerings. One of the more notable is Crimson Peak from Guillermo Del Toro. Ever since Pan’s Labyrinth in 2006, Del Toro has found himself in the realm of action as opposed to the fantasy-horror films that made him a household name, mainly due to his attention being diverted by The Hobbit trilogy that Peter Jackson ultimately took over. Clearly inspired by classic haunted house mysteries of horror’s golden age, as well as classic romantic literature, the film is as much a gothic romance as it is a mystery thriller… and unfortunately, the film walks a wildly uneven tightrope because of it.
Monday, October 26, 2015
After several books, and documentaries, and even a more lighthearted biopic in the form of the dreadful Ashton Kutcher starring vehicle, everyone has attempted to tell their sides of Jobs’ rise to fame and rocky personal life. In short, it became a perfect fit for The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, who already tackled similar territory in David Fincher’s The Social Network, to transcribe his own interpretation of what the tech legend’s personality must have been like. In fact, it may very well be the most definitive representation of the man to date.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
After helming A-grade period pieces Pride &Prejudice and Atonement, director Joe Wright fell into a slump of back to back duds with The Soloist, Hanna, and Anna Karenina. It appears that same trend continues with Warner Bros. misfire Pan, an origin story to the character Peter Pan created by J.M. Barrie.
It’s frustrating to see a once promising director throw his potential away on such mediocre fare, but at the very least, all of them have shown inventiveness and gorgeous attention to detail despite their failings, and the same is true with Pan. Despite being an objectively bad and nonsensical movie, it’s still such an entertaining mess to behold.
Saturday, October 17, 2015
The trend of YA novel adaptations shows absolutely no sign of slowing down, with newer franchises continually coming into play to be the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games. It’s led to some foul duds the likes of The Host, The Mortal Instruments, and many more. One of the better ones, however, came in the form of last year’s surprisingly enjoyable The Maze Runner, and in spite of its inconsistence in action and pace, made for an entertaining watch thanks to its interesting mystery and engaging characters. A sequel was obviously to be expected, and unlike its predecessor, The Scorch Trials largely pushes its characters to the sidelines in favor of bigger – less satisfying – action.
Friday, October 16, 2015
I’ve gone on about Steven Spielberg too many times to count. At 68, not only does he remain the greatest living director, as well as the pioneer of the modern blockbuster, he’s also stretched his versatility with some of the most impressive prestige pictures of all time, such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. Even as he gets older, he shows no sign of slowing down or losing his touch, as evidenced by his one-two punch of Tintin and War Horse in 2011, the more restrained and methodical Lincoln in 2012, and in 2016 with his adaptation of The BFG.
As for what he has going on inbetween, today we’ll talk about his Cold War espionage Thriller Bridge of Spies. A film inspired by true events of the exchange of a Soviet and American spy to be released back to their respective countries, it seemed like such a natural fit for Spielberg’s directorial eye. Yet at the same time, it also seemed like a potential change of pace to Spielberg. Regardless, Bridge of Spies stands comfortably among Spielberg’s best, and most restrained films yet.
Sunday, October 4, 2015
There’s a reason that Ridley Scott has made a name for himself in the world of cinema, having been the architect behind classic films the likes of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Thelma and Louise. However, his most inherent vice has always been his inconsistent ability to pick decent scripts. This has especially become prevalent in the last decade of his filmography, with Scott having been behind some truly awful movies such as Prometheus, The Counselor, and the utter failure Exodus: Gods and Kings.
It’s enough to discourage the cinema lover into believing Ridley Scott wouldn’t have any good films left. Nevertheless, a lot of attention was given to his adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel The Martian. Itself a popular source material, it seemed like an atypical fit for Scott’s usually grungy style of Sci-Fi. Perhaps that was just the difference and the challenge that Ridley needed to prove naysayers wrong. That’s precisely what he did, and the result is so great that you’ll wonder why he’s been wasting his efforts on such sub-average material prior.
Saturday, October 3, 2015
With the anticipated fall releases making their way to the stage, I’ve decided to end my review hiatus to talk about some of the year’s most eagerly anticipated films. One of these is admittedly an old release that I’ve been putting off reviewing for long enough, but the other two are much more recent releases. I’ll also have a full write up later for Ridley Scott’s The Martian, but for now, please enjoy my thoughts.
Monday, August 24, 2015
Welcome back, readers, and as the long summer movie season draws near its conclusion, I’m among the early few to watch No Escape starring Owen Wilson.
Wilson stars as Jack, a businessman uprooted along with his family – including wife Annie (Lake Bell) and their two daughters - from their life in Austin, Texas, for a new start in a new city (vaguely defined as Asia). Of course, the changes are tough to get used to at first, what with no internet capabilities, cable television, or decent phone service of any kind. However, those problems quickly get pushed to the side as local bandits and citizens start rampaging through the city streets as an act of rebellion, killing foreign visitors along the way, leading Jack to keep his family safe, “ten steps ahead” as he puts it, at any costs.
Directed by John Erick Dowdle, whose previous credits include the likes of Devil and As Above, So Below (Now there’s a track record that gives faith), this film seemed to come virtually out of nowhere with little advertising even a week before its release, perhaps making one fear that its distributor, The Weinstein Company, don’t have much confidence in it. So it’s with a heavy heart that I can say that there’s a reason for that.
Also, fair bit of warning, there are minor spoilers present.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
I’m literally speechless…
If you’ve seen my review of The Past, then you know by now what I think of Asghar Farhadi. Despite having only been introduced to his films via A Separation a few years ago, I think with just his two latest films that he’s established himself as one of the great modern writer/directors. He simply has an unmatchable talent when it comes to shaping natural and realistically sensitive portrayals of familial conflict, and I was convinced that he could do no wrong.
Then I heard news of About Elly, which was filmed before either A Separation or The Past, and released in its home country of Iran in 2009. It wouldn’t make its way stateside until six years later following the success of those two films, so you can bet I was impatient to finally see it. Frankly, this movie is sensational.
I know I’ve used buzz words like that to describe movies numerous times before, but this time, there’s no needless hyperbole behind those words. Little did I know that this movie would have so profound an impact on me, I would find it almost impossible to form a coherent review.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Cinema mainly exists as an expression of art, but much like any other form of media, it also is open to its fair share of titles existing purely for entertainment value. One such example includes the Mission: Impossible franchise, the long running starring vehicle for Tom Cruise. Despite varying quality early on its run, it found itself back in form with JJ Abrams’ rock solid third entry, and again with Brad Bird’s hair-raising Ghost Protocol, and with Rogue Nation, directed by The Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie, the series still shows no sign of losing any of its exhilarating spirit. As far as I’m concerned, this is the year’s best pure action film thus far.
Monday, August 10, 2015
Ever since Marvel’s rise to power with Iron Man, and their culmination of their expanded universe with The Avengers, studios have tried (and often failed) to recreate their success by copying their moves. Or if that wasn’t the case, they were desperately seeking to make more sequels, or simply rebooting their films, to hold onto their purchased rights like The Amazing Spider-Man.
So here we have Fox, who has actually done great work with Marvel’s own X-Men series and characters. However, their other attempts at launching franchises (ala Daredevil) have been less than successful. With that in mind, let us now discuss Fant4stic. I know it’s called Fantastic Four, but that’s what they put on the poster, and it’s my review, so I can call it anything I wish. I can call it Lee Daniels’ The Butler if I want.
Anyway, Fant4stic is a reboot to the Fantastic Four in film, which was first brought to life in 1994 with Roger Corman’s unreleased rights retainer, and then again in the silly but watchable 2005 rendition and its sequel. Now under the direction of Chronicle’s Josh Trank, this new film was meant to take the characters down a more serious route. However, all intentions backfired catastrophically, leading to the most universally reviled tentpole release since The Last Airbender. Bar none, Fant4stic is the worst superhero film I’ve ever seen, and simply one of the worst films I’ve ever suffered through.
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Before the likes of Laika came along, the most celebrated name in stop motion animation was, and still is, British studio Aardman. Best known in the 80’s and early 90’s for their Wallace and Gromit animated shorts, they soon ventured into theatrical length films in 2000 with Dreamworks’ Chicken Run. Five years after came the first feature length Wallace and Gromit film, which won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
After their studio tragically burned down in a fire, the studio then went on to a brief foray into computer animation with Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas before swinging back into their roots with The Pirates! Band of Misfits. In arguably the most experimental effort they’ve delivered to date, Shaun the Sheep, adapted from Aardman’s own series of shorts based around its title character, is by far the most visually driven film they’ve produced yet, and remains just as hilarious as any of their previous movies.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Hello everyone, and as the month of July begins coming to a close, and Oscar season will be in full effect come September, I decided to lend my attention to a few more notable summer flicks, with more like Trainwreck and Mr. Holmes to follow I hope. Today, I’ll be taking a look at two very different but much anticipated new releases. The first is the latest adaptation of one of Fault in Our Stars author John Green’s books, and the other is the latest Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels. Enjoy reading!
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Antoine Fuqua is something of a one hit wonder. After bursting onto the scene with his 2001 smash hit Training Day, pretty much all of his follow up films have ranged from mixed to outright deplorable critical reception. Fuqua is a case of director very comparable to Ridley Scott, in that he’s a technically proficient and uniquely stylish director with a tendency to pick poor screenplays.
For this reason, there was always a sense of justified skepticism over his boxing-centric drama Southpaw. Originally intended to be a star vehicle for Eminem, the film would have been his first major film role since 2002’s 8 Mile. In the end, though, Eminem exited the project (while still contributing to its soundtrack), and the lead role instead went to Jake Gyllenhaal, who has been on a recent hot streak culminating with last year’s Nightcrawler. So, it’s with a heavy heart that Southpaw turns out to be a disappointment. It’s Fuqua’s best film since Training Day, but with his output, that’s not setting a high bar.
Friday, July 17, 2015
Ever since Marvel began producing films independently with their continually growing cinematic universe, along with some of their modestly known franchises such as Captain America and Iron Man, they’ve also began to introduce more obscure franchises such as last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s something of a risk that has no guarantee of paying off, but provides a welcome shake up to the usual formula.
And so we come to Ant-Man, which has actually been in development since the company’s early days as a movie studio in 2008. Originally intended to be directed by Edgar Wright, best known for kinetic cult comedies such as Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it suffered from a few hiccups in production, including Wright himself exiting the project. The movie moved forward into production with new director Peyton Reed, and acts as the official conclusion of Marvel’s second phase of films (and unofficially the start of its third). While it may not pay off as well as Guardians of the Galaxy did, it is an incredibly fun shake up to Marvel’s ongoing film series.
Monday, July 13, 2015
James Cameron turned into something of an overnight sensation in the 1980’s. His first true director’s credit came in the form of 1984 classic The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the iconic title character. Soon after came Aliens, The Abyss, and in 1991, Cameron returned to the looming threat of Skynet with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which was both bigger and better than the original, and stands as one of the greatest action films of all time.
However, much like the Alien franchise that Cameron played a part in, the Terminator films to follow suffered an inevitable decline in quality. 22 years and two lazy sequels after Terminator 2, the franchise returns with Terminator Genisys (I hope I’m spelling that right). Acting as an X-Men: Days of Future Past continuation and reboot to the series, the film is intended to jump start a brand new trilogy of Terminator films. And as a huge fan of this series, if this is how they want to start that trilogy, I have no hope for anything that’s going to follow.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
It would appear even Illumination Entertainment was aware of this, as distributor Universal Pictures has essentially milked the characters for all they’re worth with t-shirts, toys, short films, theme park rides and meet and greets, all the way down to a real-time strategy mobile game from Electronic Arts. So, it’s with all that in mind that Minions feels exactly like all of that; a marketing scheme that further capitalizes on the success of the characters.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Perhaps a two year break was just what they needed to get them back on track. So who better to do it than Pete Doctor? Hired in the company’s early days and having written the first two Toy Story films, he found himself shot to prominence after directing the smash hit Monsters, Inc. The rest is history, as the man later returned to direct Up, a film that brought critics and audiences both to tears and their feet, and which practically defined everything that made Pixar a spectacular filmmaking force. Six years later, he returns with the first of Pixar’s two big releases of 2015, Inside Out. For Doctor to not only bring Pixar back to their prime, but to best even his own career best effort was clearly no easy task… and yet by some miracle, that’s exactly what he did.
Friday, June 12, 2015
One must often wonder what John Hammond’s original vision for Jurassic Park would have turned out had it not been sabotaged by Dennis Nedry. 22 years after Steven Spielberg’s original blockbuster, we finally get to see that vision realized in the fourth film, Jurassic World.
Longtime readers are no doubt familiar with my adoration of the original Park film, as well as my furious disdain for its two sequels. For those reasons, I initially dreaded, laughed off, and completely derided the idea of a fourth entry ever getting made. It really is difficult to recapture that same lightning in a bottle. However, with the film attracting a fantastic set of actors and technicians, as well as the guidance of newcomer director Colin Trevorrow of Safety Not Guaranteed fame, all of those bitter feelings and fear were replaced by hope and optimism.
So for all of these reasons, I’m glad to say I can breathe a huge sigh of relief, and say that this was not a disappointment. A dazzling and thrilling adventure, Jurassic World is an epic dose of popcorn excitement.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Melissa McCarthy became an unlikely breakout star in 2011. Then known for her CBS sitcom Mike & Molly, she crossed over into film with the Paul Feig directed/Kristen Wiig scripted Bridesmaids. A film that became a surprising smash hit both critically and commercially, the film somehow managed to transcend genre bias within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to secure both an Original Screenplay nomination, but more surprisingly, a Supporting Actress nod for McCarthy.
McCarthy is something of an oddity after all of that. Her next films would feature her in double acts alongside Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock, but rarely did they hit. When McCarthy is able to play an actual character, she’s hilarious, but when she’s nothing but a punchline, she’s insufferable. So, it’s with much relief that I’m glad that the movie Spy allows her to better use her talents, but the actual film is a mixed bag of varying success.
Monday, June 8, 2015
What more can I say about Jurassic Park that I’ve never said before? It’s my favorite movie of all time. I adore everything about it. Unfortunately, its legacy isn’t perfect. We’ll see if Jurassic World somehow rectifies this, but the series has never generated the best sequels. The Lost World was a major disappointment that left a bitter aftertaste for years to come, but was still very successful at the box office, and in the CGI overload that dominated the late 90’s, that was enough to get another sequel in production.
Jurassic Park III was the first film in the series not based on one of Michael Crichton’s original stories. Originally, he did meet with producers to get story ideas, but none of them (including where teenagers became stuck on the island) made the final cut. Steven Spielberg also stepped down as director to turn the reigns over to Joe Johnston, best known at the time for Juamnji. When the film was released, critics were once again mixed, but it was still a success at the box office, albeit to a lesser degree.
Even as someone who enjoyed the movie when I was younger, I was quite disappointed in it. Then as the years progressed, I became angry with it. I have talked about it several times before, but in the years since, I’ve heard varying points of view, including a common defense that it can be enjoyed as a B-Movie, a fun action movie that exists to get a group of people on and off an island in a short amount of time. I like to think of myself as reasonable, and I like to think that age has mellowed me. Coupled with more critical experience in my years, you’ll probably be surprised to know-
I HATE THIS MOVIE MORE THAN EVER!!!
Wednesday, June 3, 2015
In anticipation of Jurassic World’s upcoming release, I’ve decided to post reviews for the two Jurassic Park sequels leading up to the fourth film’s release.
As most of you know, Jurassic Park is my favorite movie of all time. I love its characters, I love its story and suspense, I love its music, and I love that it was the first time that dinosaurs in movies got the grand scope and scale that they deserved, as well as treating them like grounded, feeling animals rather than bloodthirsty, mindless brutes. To this day, it remains one of Steven Spielberg’s most popular films, as well as his most financially successful. For those reasons and more, a follow up was inevitable.
Though Spielberg had proved a capable sequel director, the book’s original author, Michael Crichton, had never had the same experience. The two, as well as writer David Koepp, began brainstorming for ideas, and two years after Crichton finished his novel, Spielberg unveiled the next installment in the series, The Lost World.
When it was released, the film sparked a polarizing critical response, especially those comparing it to its predecessor, but it proved to be another success for Spielberg at the box office. Moving out of the more carefree and wondrous light with slight horror touches of the first film, this sequel was painted in a darker, more environmentally driven action mode. Admittedly, I used to like this movie a lot when I was a kid, but this is one of the rare Spielberg films that haven’t aged gracefully. I find myself having to divide my thoughts into separate mindsets. As a standalone film, it’s more mediocre than outright awful, but as a follow up to an outstanding film, it’s downright embarrassing.
Sunday, May 31, 2015
The answer to that question posed by Britt Robertson’s Casey Newton is “whichever one you feed.” By that analogy, which wolf does the future feed? Once upon a time, the future was once a wondrous and fantastical place that we embraced with open arms, but nowadays, that future seems more and more like that: fantasy. Our outlook is much bleaker in the wake of sudden epidemic, national divides, energy crises, and so much more. Nowadays, it appears the wolf of darkness is winning.
However, in an effort to combat the more pessimistic blockbuster fare about the future, along comes Brad Bird with a refreshingly optimistic and wholly original idea in the form of Tomorrowland, a concept he conceived with JJ Abrams alum Damon Lindelof. In a way, this film feels like Disney’s answer to Interstellar, creating in an of itself a very heady film with infectious adventure to spare.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
You ever have that one movie you see trailers for and think “Hmm. That looks forgettable, but kind of fun”, but then find yourself surprised by the actual movie’s heated critical hatred?
That was me in the case of David Koepp’s caper-comedy Mortdecai. When I initially saw trailers for it, I thought it looked like a cute, harmless time waster, so you can imagine how curious the comparatively scrutinizing reviews for this film made me.
So, to satisfy my curiosity, I rented the movie. Despite my initial hopes for an enjoyable diversion, never could I have imagined this movie being such a catastrophic error of judgment by all involved parties. Sadly, that’s exactly what Mortdecai turns out to be; a movie as unruly and ghastly as the main character’s moustache.
Monday, May 18, 2015
Of course, it isn’t that uncommon for sequels to emerge after long waits of their own, including an eleven year gap between the second and third Toy Story films, but three decades? It’s certainly something of a testament to the popularity and passionate acclaim towards the Mad Max films that it was able to even be conceived on paper, let alone get green lit.
I can’t consider myself a fan of the original trilogy, as there’s only one film in that series I actually like, but I do see the appeal behind it, as well as the tremendous hype and critical adoration this fourth entry has generated. While I can’t call it the instant action staple that so many others have…. This movie is such a great time that I don’t care. This is the equivalent to a steampunk David Lean fever dream… and I love it!
Friday, May 1, 2015
Flashback to 2008. The first Iron Man film had been released, the film was a breath of fresh air, a creative and often hilarious switch up to the usual superhero flick. However, at the tail-end of its credits, the film yielded the promise of what was then unthinkable… an interconnected universe uniting the heroes of Marvel.
Before The Avengers debuted in 2012, many of us assumed that it would crash and burn. What Marvel was attempting was a big risk that threatened to sink their ongoing film series once and for all. What a difference it made when we saw the film. The film was a runaway success, setting box office records across the globe, and was near-universally acclaimed. The film set unreasonably high expectations for all future superhero features that would follow, and sadly led to numerous studios attempting to cash in on their moves.
Flash forward to now, and Marvel’s second phase of films (to be concluded with Ant-Man in July) brings its heated boil to a bang with their next major crossover, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Once again under the direction of Joss Whedon, the new installment of Marvel’s ongoing saga proves to be a peculiar case. What it may lack in the consistency in quality and refreshing simplicity that the original film had, it makes up for with arguably higher highs.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Soon every film was attempting the same formula. Soon came Universal unveiling Snow White & The Huntsman, while Disney themselves would release another retelling of one of their classic films with Maleficent, and this cash cow clearly shows no signs of stopping anytime soon.
So, with so many films competing to see who could produce the most “original” and “gritty” revision of a classic fairy tale, it’s nice to see Disney try something refreshingly familiar and light-hearted with Cinderella, directed by Shakespearean thespian Kenneth Branagh. However, to boil Cinderella down as merely a carbon copy of its animated counterpart does it little justice, for it is both a faithful yet divergent adaptation of the classic story.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Monday, March 9, 2015
Neill Blomkamp clearly has no shortage of fascinating ideas as a filmmaker. For years he’s specialized in truly original, high-concept sci-fi that seeks to blend social allegory with visceral imagery. His 2009 feature-length debut, District 9, blew critics, audiences, and box office expectations away through its mixture of documentarian slice of life meant to elicit comparisons to Apartheid, as well as a graphic action experience that questioned mankind’s disturbing (and all too real) thirst for stronger weapons technology. It’s even more surprising just how fantastic a movie it was in every technical sense, made with a modest 30 million dollar budget that puts most 100+ million action flicks to shame.
His follow up, Elysium, did not live up to those high expectations that Blomkamp set for himself, but it certainly wasn’t lacking in creativity and thought provocation, so you could have easily deemed it a fluke loss.
However, with his latest film Chappie, I’m starting to question if it was actually District 9 that was the fluke victory. While I admire Blomkamp’s unashamedly high-concept premise, Chappie is by far the director’s most heinously underwritten and unruly film yet.
Friday, February 20, 2015
It is true that in years past, many of the categories have felt easy to predict, but this year, a number of categories feel like an incredibly close race not just for two films, but in some instances even three or four. The Best Picture victor in particular is the hardest it has been to call since before The Return of the King in 2004. It makes it not only exciting to see which films will ultimately come out on top, but also a nail-biter to see if our favorites will somehow be able to hit it big.
So, like I did last year, I’m going to make a post detailing my picks for what I think the eventual award winners will be, and my reasoning as to why, and I’ll also chip in my picks for what I’d most like to win in each category. Keep in mind that I am nowhere near 100% on most of these, but this is about as certain as I’m ever going to be. With that said, let’s get started.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
With 2014 past us, and the Oscars set to air this Sunday, I thought now would be the best time to finally reveal my list of my most anticipated films of the year. 2014 wasn’t all that impressive of a year to me, despite three fantastic movies that were each fiercely battling it out with each other to be my favorite film of the year. However, if you were underwhelmed with the number of stellar films, then 2015 should bring incredible promise.
2015 is going to be LOADED with potentially fantastic films, from smaller and creative independent fare, to bigger and possibly wildly fun blockbusters. There are so many films that look great coming out this year that I found it uncommonly difficult to narrow down a list of what films I’m most looking forward to. For this reason, rather than narrow it down to ten, to include all the films I’m excited for, I made a list of my top fifteen most anticipated films, along with ten honorable mentions… And believe me, there were STILL movies I wanted to include here.
Anticipation can often be a dangerous thing, because we’re never necessarily sure if these movies will live up to expectations, if they’ll be good, or if they’ll suck. In fact, some movies may not even be released this year at all. Sometimes, smaller films can even swoop in with little fanfare and steal anticipation away from another film, much like films like Birdman and Whiplash which made huge splashes in the festival circuit. So for these reasons, this list is merely how it stands at the present, and films could likely swap places as time goes on. Also, I neglected to include films that aren’t guaranteed to be released this year, such as David O. Russell’s Joy.
As always, this list is based on my own personal preferences and taste, so if a film you’re anticipating isn’t on here, it means I haven’t yet heard of it, I’m anticipating it but not enough to put it on the list, or I’m simply not looking forward to it at all. So if you were hoping to see Mad Max: Fury Road in here somewhere, I apologize in advance for the disappointment.
Anyway, let’s start off with the films that didn’t quite make it in the top 15.
Honorable Mentions include:
25. The Stanford Prison Experiment
21. Knight of Cups
19. Jane Got a Gun
18. Dark Places
17. In the Heart of the Sea
And with those addressed, let’s get to the real list.
Saturday, February 7, 2015
Last week, it was very refreshing to let off some steam against movies that I absolutely detested, but today, it’s time to look at those that I had nothing but high admiration for. As I’ve said before, 2014 wasn’t full of much variety due to countless sequels and the like having been released, but films of immeasurable quality and genuine originality shone through the cracks. Even though the sequels were overloaded, that still didn’t mean we didn’t get fantastic experiences out of them, for though some of these films were based on previous material, they still put their own creative spin on what they were given to work with.
That led to a big problem for me, though. Choosing what I ultimately wanted to be my pick for the best film of 2014 was agonizing, because it was such a dead heat between my top three, as I could see any of them being my pick, and any of them would make sense. Well, after a long time mulling it over, I’m as confident as I’ll ever be in this list.
First up are some honorable mentions. The hardest movie to leave off this list was The Lego Movie, a clever satire of ongoing pop culture trends and corporate perfectionism, but above all was the funniest film that I saw all year. Two Days, One Night was both a gorgeous and gloomy film, creating a disturbingly accurate portrait of deep-rooted depression, and featured a stunning Marion Cotillard in the leading role. Foxcatcher felt a lot like watching a disturbing documentary, its analysis of American patriotism and the fight for global relevance and fame deeply unsettling, and its trio of lead actors all turning in performances that stand among their greatest. The Babadook was practically the film that saved modern horror for me, boasting genuinely excellent storytelling and allegories to depression and suicidal contemplation, and knew how to scare audiences without resorting to ten million jump scares. While I wasn’t quite as enthusiastic for Whiplash as others, there’s no denying that it’s a psychologically invasive film, mainly thanks to a passionate but utterly venomous J.K. Simmons.
And without further ado, here’s the list.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Hi, everybody! My list of my top ten best films of 2014 will be unveiled this Saturday, but in the meantime, I thought I’d add a new annual feature to my blog. In celebration of the upcoming IFMCA nominations in two days, I decided to post my list of the top ten best film scores of 2014.
I adore film music! I’m practically spoiled on the classics by John Williams, and nowadays, my appreciation for orchestral scores and the like have still remained just as strong. If you’re willing to look hard enough, you can usually find a spectacular score even in the worst films, and this is one reason why I admire the IFMCA’s so dearly. They judge film music exactly how it should be judged, basing their final verdicts on how the scores work just as well on a separate album experience as they do in the film (an inspired change from the Oscars always equating Best Score to Best Movie).
So, for my list, I’ll be basing my rankings based on how well they work outside of the film, and how well they work in context. For this reason, you won’t be seeing Gone Girl on my list, for while it may compliment David Fincher’s atmosphere fine, on its own it’s simply deplorable, grating, and lacking any cohesion and thematic development.
So, with all that established, let’s proceed with the actual list.
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Oscar season is in full swing, and 2014 has come to its close. In many ways, it’s both a blessing and a curse. The end of the year towards the first half of January finally gives us a chance to witness many of the year’s best and most anticipated films, usually the raved Oscar heavyweights. However, it also usually yields some truly horrendous new releases as well. But January isn’t the only month we get some truly awful films. For every Birdman, there will also be a Left Behind. For every How to Train Your Dragon 2, there’s a Planes: Fire and Rescue. So, like I did, last year, I’m counting down the worst 2014 films I saw, but rather than five, I’m increasing this year’s slate to ten to unleash some bottled up negativity on these awful movies.
I saw a total of about 74 films this year, and while I don’t consider 2014 to be a bad year for movies, compared to last year’s slate of releases, it had by far less variety, overloaded by sequels and the like (even those that I liked), so much so that a movie where Seth Rogen shoves a tracer up his butt is now part of American history. In spite of what wholly original films I saw, it also yielded just as many that were vile and insulting. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen some reportedly horrible titles like Left Behind, Sex Tape, God’s Not Dead, The Legend of Hercules, Quija, Grace of Monaco, or Exodus: Gods and Kings (Because I’d prefer to see something I might actually enjoy), so this is limited exclusively to my worst experiences.
Not quite making it on this list is The Expendables 3, a mildly fun movie that unfortunately lacks any of the same spark and witty chemistry that made the first two films enjoyable. Also just missing out is the Michael Bay-produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a generally inoffensive and harmless movie, but is too overly rushed and underdeveloped to recommend. This is Where I Leave You had a charming and A-Game cast all across the board, but saddled them with thoroughly mediocre characterizations and dialogue, as well as a wildly undisciplined tone. The Amazing Spiderman 2 suffered from an overload of subplots and characters, highlighting obvious interference from Sony, and saved only by the chemistry of its two leads. Meanwhile, Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever may not have gotten a theatrical release, but is such a bizarre and nonsensical movie that, oddly enough, I think you should check out to believe.
As for the real top ten, I’ve not had the “honor” of reviewing most of them, so this list will also act as a review page for them.
With that said, let’s begin.
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
With the year over, and the Oscar season in full swing, I didn’t have much time to make many more full reviews. So, in my spare time, I’ve managed to jot down some write ups for some films I finally got the chance to get around to (many of which I watched simply because of said Oscar season). They’re all quite brief, but I hope you enjoy reading them.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
In Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, whenever Chris Kyle (played here by Bradley Cooper) stares down the scope of a sniper rifle, it always leaves you holding your breath for so many reasons. Whether it be questioning what it means to take a life, or knowing that split second hesitations will result in the fatalities of close allies and friends, and eventually how the weight of these burdens can carry long-term trauma to one’s state of mind. For that reason, it’s no understatement that American Sniper, the recent recipient of six Academy Award nominations, is one of the most intense and suspenseful movies of the year.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Tomorrow at 8:30 AM, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce their nominations for the best achievements in film of 2014. For the first time in their history, the Academy will be announcing all 24 categories at once, and man, are we all excited for it!
Recently, expert Oscar predictors have released what they think will be nominated in all the categories, and some have even released wish lists for films that they wish to see nominated.
In light of this, I decided to do the same thing, and give you my top five nominations I want to see most. I only have a couple of rules for how I went through with this.
1) The film must not be a longshot (ie. a performance from Ida getting in), and must have some legitimate chance at making it in.
2) The wish list cannot include any guaranteed locks.
3) The wish list cannot have any one film receiving more than one slot.
With that said, here’s my list.
Monday, January 12, 2015
This will likely be my last major review of a 2014 release, while some smaller reviews will be posted in a collection later on.
The year was 1965 when Martin Luther King Jr. led the march from Selma to Montgomery in the state of Alabama, in a campaign for African-American men and women to have equal voting rights. In that period of time, tensions were heated, blood was shed, and in the end, justice ultimately prevailed.
And yet, in spite of the progression and much more welcoming environment in the years since, when we really reanalyze the words of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, how close have we actually come to fully realizing the equality he wanted all men to have? This is merely one of the many fascinating aspects present in Ava DuVernay’s Selma, a biographical film of the historical march, and hands down one of the greatest and most searing films of the year.
Friday, January 9, 2015
With Oscar season in full steam recently, I’ve been able to get around to a few new titles (and hope to get around to some more) vying for awards attention. Today, I’ll be reviewing Angelina Jolie’s World War 2 drama Unbroken, and Disney’s big release of the holiday season Into the Woods. Hope you enjoy reading my thoughts on them.
Monday, January 5, 2015
“We came all this way, but now comes the day to bid you farewell.” So sings Billy Boyd during the end credits song “The Last Goodbye” from Peter Jackson’s final installment of The Hobbit trilogy, The Battle of the Five Armies.
After having been witness to so many hardships alongside the characters of the Middle Earth saga, it’s quite bittersweet to finally say goodbye to this world. However, you could also argue that it’s just as appropriate to wish it good riddance.
Ever since the departure of original director, Guillermo Del Toro, and after the decision to extend the films to three rather than the originally envisioned two, this trilogy has received a non-negligible number of criticisms for its excessive context and bloated running times, a steep contrast to the simplicity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s original book. Seen as a greedy attempt at recreating the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it’s one of numerous adaptations guilty of this sin. I once made a statement in my review of The Desolation of Smaug that my thoughts were so similar to An Unexpected Journey that I could copy and paste most of my original thoughts verbatim. With The Battle of the Five Armies, I feel like I could just as easily do so, for much of what worked and didn’t work in the previous films are also present here.