Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year-end Mini-Reviews.

"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

"Star Wars Saga" Retrospective: In Conclusion.

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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie review.

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

My Top 10 John Williams Scores - 200th Post Special.

I originally intended to post this in June before Jurassic World, but decided to hold off on it for the time being. Now with The Force Awakens almost being upon us, I decided to post it now.

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

My Top Ten Star Wars Characters.

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

"Star Wars Saga" Retrospective - #6: Return of the Jedi.

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

Brief thoughts on Spotlight.

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

"Star Wars Saga" Retrospective - #5: The Empire Strikes Back.

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.