Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Greatest Showman movie review.

I will never not be excited for a movie musical. As one of my favorite film genres, it just seems to have all the ingredients for a great movie, relying on fabulous spectacle, physicality both in voice and movement, but most importantly for their heavenly tunes and elegant storytelling through lovely melodies. Even if the finished product comes out a turkey, I'll still be ecstatic to see one make its way to the screen, and with the recent success of La La Land, and Disney churning out more of the old-fashioned musicals they always excelled at, we seem to be experiencing a new wave of musical spectacles.

But even rarer is to see an *original* musical, one not based on any Broadway shows or pre-existing properties, make its way to the screen. 2017 alone has yielded two epic results, Pixar's Coco, and this Christmas season's release of The Greatest Showman, inspired by the Prince of Humbug P.T. Barnum. I guess Barnum was right, and I'm that sucker born to indulge in unabashed romps like this one. So how did this one stack up?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie review.

It only feels like yesterday when The Force Awakens made such a big splash, reinvigorating the long misused and tainted Star Wars brand, and introducing those grandeur space battles to a whole new generation. The Force Awakens did precisely what it needed to, and then some, by negating the damaging impact of the prequels, and restoring the good will and old-fashioned adventurism the series had become classic for. The results were outstanding to say the least, even if viewers felt some disappointment that the film (understandably) heeded so closely to the structure of A New Hope.

And while this wasn't enough to take away from what a great time it was, it was still clearly a first step into a much bigger and greater sandbox. Now freed from the shackles of nostalgic expectations, and able to more carefully craft its blank slate, and a time-waster spin-off inbetween to tide us over, the adventures of Rey and company can continue down darker, more complex, more unexpected routes in the follow-up film, The Last Jedi. And if falling short of the same standards set by The Force Awakens, is only slightly so. The fact still remains that this is one thoroughly satisfying and awe-inspiring film.

Reviewer's note: This review will have minor spoilers for The Last Jedi, as well as spoilers for The Force Awakens. Read at your own risk.

Friday, December 1, 2017

(Not so) Brief thoughts on Justice League.

As much I think DC's Extended Universe has had some middling returns, I'm not one to indulge in the "Marvel v DC" debate. Both are perfectly capable of co-existing with each other. The problem is that whereas Marvel has taken careful time to slowly build their universe, DC's universe has always felt like a Frankenfranchise of numerous cooks throwing their eggs into one basket, and then try to compensate for their dour moods and numerous missteps with badly judged course corrections, Suicide Squad being a particularly embarrassing shipwreck.

Clearly they still haven't learned from their mistakes, because the recut and retooled Justice League finally sees those sins come back to haunt them. What should have been an event the scale of The Avengers or The Force Awakens, instead feels like any other blockbuster out there, opening to a comparatively pathetic $93 million opening weekend. And... it really isn't that bad.

Friday, November 24, 2017

A Thanksgiving Double Feature: Lady Bird and Coco.

Over Thanksgiving, I was thankful to turn my attention to what I comfortably consider among the year's finest films, Lady Bird from Greta Gerwig, and Disney/Pixar's Coco. Stylistically, the two are practically nothing alike, one a snarky but sweetly delivered time capsule of emotional teenage turbulence, the other a whimsical and tearjerking adventure of heritage and music, and while both are hilarious, they are so in markedly different ways. But I found this particular match-up to actually be a perfect juxtaposition, as both deal in weighty and complex issues of family and parentage, whose oddities and alternating pessimism/optimism served as a great counter balance to each other. Both are terrific works, and I'll leave my thoughts on both today.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Brief thoughts on Cars 3.

With Disney and Pixar's upcoming Thanksgiving release of Coco, it's time I turned my head to Pixar's other big release of the year, Cars 3, which made its way to Blu-Ray recently. For the record, I didn't have any desire to actively seek this movie out. I'm not even sure why Pixar finds it such a big deal, to be honest. For a studio responsible for some of the greatest animated features ever made, to see them continually spin their wheels (I apologize) on a franchise with little left to offer can be irritating. Why did we get three Cars movies before we got a second Incredibles? Personal feelings aside, how does the end result turn out?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok movie review.

Out of all the A-listers in Marvel's ongoing cinematic universe, I doubt many would consider the Thor entries to be among their absolute favorites. In their infancy, Marvel faced a tough time integrating the Norse god of thunder with the likes of Iron Man and Captain America, as his fantastical vibe made it tough to make him feel at home with the rest of his crew. Knowing this, his first solo entry from Kenneth Branagh stripped him of his powers in order to humanize him, serving as a taste of things to come in later entries.

Unfortunately, its follow-up The Dark World is one entry that does not survive the test of time, feeling uncharacteristically generic among Marvel's portfolio, and even its attempts at gargantuan scale were burdened by an over-reliance on powerless audience surrogates. But with Guardians of the Galaxy proving that the universe could dive in to the surreal and fantastical, and be embraced in the meantime, it feels like Marvel is finally letting Thor have the movie he deserves, the joyously eccentric Ragnarok that serves as a fantastic retooling of the character, leaning us closer to what these films should have been in the first place.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My Top 10 Favorite Halloween Movies.

"When the crypt doors creak and the tombstones quake,
Spooks come out for a swinging wake."
That day is almost upon us. It's nearly time for Halloween, a time that I like many others look forward to every year. And not simply because it signals Christmas as coming closer anytime it's over, but for being that rare time of year when everyone is free to let their freak flag fly, and the macabre spooks and haunts come to go bump in the night, full of festivities for everyone from trick or treaters, to those desiring something a little more ghastly, being that one time of year we welcome the frightening.

And key in this plays into those old annual classics to grace the silver screen and our home theaters, that linger and fester in our mind as they play their horrifying tricks on us, or give us something a little more light to ease us out of the terror and tickle us. Subgenres like the Slasher films were practically born because of Halloween, from Texas Chainsaw to (the appropriately named) Halloween, whose iconic villains and terrorizing nightmare fodder continue to haunt us even today.

It seems every film buff has his or her personal perennial favorite to sit back and enjoy this creepy time of year, and I'm no different. So in celebration of All Hallow's Eve, I've decided to leave my personal favorites for this time of year. These are not meant to be my favorite numerically ranked films, nor are they my attempt to say these are the scariest films ever made. Rather, these films stand here not by preference, but by how perfect they are to watch based on the atmosphere of the season, even if they have little to nothing to do with Halloween. Whether they be scary for the supernatural, for their humanity, or they work as nice counterprogramming to the grim and dark, I think these films are among those perfect to revisit this time of year.

And before we get to the main top ten, some honorable mentions to:
An American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 2, The Addams Family, The Others, and ParaNorman.

And so, here presented in chronological order of their release, my top ten favorite Halloween films.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 movie review.

Coming into the 1980's, Sci-Fi traveled down a road less of fantastical adventure flicks, and as attitudes in the world changed, became much more grungy, and more chaotic than what we expected of the genre. Director Ridley Scott was one of those who pioneered its migration to that direction, having helmed the retro-fi blue collar Alien, and immediately following it up with Blade Runner, a then divisive film that soon was seen as a classic on reflection, casting usual charming rogue Harrison Ford against type as Rick Deckard, even as Scott spent years perfecting the film with edit after edit.

For years, the idea of a sequel had long gestated, but it seems any ideas simply didn't materialize. But now the idea finally becomes reality, tempting Harrison Ford back alongside Ryan Gosling, and now under the control of Denis Villeneuve. Although, pedigree is one thing, but can those ingrediants capture the same lightning in a bottle? The short answer is yes. Very, very well. Blade Runner 2049 not only stands as one of the year's finest films, but looks poised to be another classic in its own right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Transformers: The Last Knight is wrong on so many levels.

I don't even feel the Transformers movies are worth the time it takes to talk about them anymore. Everyone has gladly come to the consensus that with each passing entry, Michael Bay's new signature franchise has actively gotten emptier, meaner, dumber, and more aggressively convoluted as they get bigger and louder. In an attempt to restore the series back to basics following the original trilogy's conclusion, the dreaded Age of Extinction only further dug the series into a rabbit hole. But with the removal of screenwriter Ehren Kruger, and this being Michael Bay's last foray into the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, one might have a slim bit of hope that this would be the least bit enjoyable...

...But man, you ain't seen nothing yet. The Last Knight is such old news and such a minuscule blip on the pop culture radar right now, I had no intentions of even giving it the decency of a full write-up. But no film this year has left me so angry, bitter, bored, and above all numb as this one. It's almost mesmerizing how a major blockbuster with one of the highest budgets of all time would manage not only to feel boring, but so incompetent at the same time.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It movie review.

Stephen King is one of the most singular creative voices in literature. Having forged a unique style primarily rooted in cult classic horror tales concerning the supernatural and evil animals. However, King's novels also afford filmmakers a chance at tremendous emotional heart and dramatic depth, sometimes with influence taken from King's own life and personal struggles. Frank Darabont and Rob Reiner are among those whose treatment of King's work has yielded great rewards, and even tends to highlight my feelings that while King is an admirable and inimitable writer, his stories are typically better accentuated by what other writers bring to his tales.

And much like last August's The Dark Tower, it's been a long road to the big screen for his popular 1986 novel It, which many may know was previously adapted into the ABC miniseries starring Tim Curry. But from what I've heard from fans of the Les Miserables sized book, that series did little justice to the material, whittling down its content to fit cable regulations and a three hour timeslot. With fans becoming eager to see the story done justice, Warner Bros. has decided to split the epic story into two separate chapters covering two different timelines, with this first entry, under the leadership of Mama director Andy Muschietti, following its core cast of characters as children. So how does the new take float...?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Brief thoughts on The Dark Tower.

I've often considered myself someone who respects Stephen King's stories more than I love them. While he's earned every accolade for crafting one of the most unique creative voices in literature, I often find the strengths - and weaknesses -  in his text are usually better accentuated by the interpretations of other writers, and with a bibliography as vast as his, has resulted in films among some of the greatest (The Shawshank Redemption) and some of the worst (Maximum Overdrive) of all time.

But I doubt any of them has had as rocky a road as The Dark Tower, based on King's popular long-running series, centered around the everlong battle between gunslinger Roland of Eld, and the devilish sorcerer the Man in Black. After several attempts spanning well over a decade, the final film makes it way to the screen under Nikolaj Arcel and Imagine Entertainment, and the first of two King adaptations this year (with the reimagining of IT to release next month). Sadly, I'm left wishing that The Dark Tower's bumpy production didn't show.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Brief thoughts on Okja.

Okja, when we first meet her in her title movie, roams around her countryside home without a care in the world. A spectacular, genetically modified "Super-Pig" who's been bred solely for the purpose of being killed for food at a mature age, Okja is a precious and innocent being of nature, that were the corporations trying to get hold of her were to have their way, would warp and mangle into a viciously mutated and marketable product. But maybe Okja is representative of more than just food, as seen through writer/director Bong Joon-Ho's eyes in his latest film from Netflix.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk movie review.

It seems customary that at some point in their careers, every director that achieves fame is bound to create a World War II movie. As one of the most significant periods in history, the long and arduous war was a series of battles with numerous outreached arms, taking place on battlefields not just of violence and bloodshed, but sanity and humanity. The perspectives it provides are so versatile, and the scope so expansive, that any director can find a new spin on an already well-documented event.

So if any modern director seemed destined to create one, it had to be Christopher Nolan. Having already carved his name with epics the likes of The Dark Knight trilogy, showing he had a knack for full-scale explosive action and practicality, it seemed only a natural fit for one. But being such a cerebral-based filmmaker, the question still remained if his stylistics would truly blend with the traditional format. Yet while less scientific than his usual repertoire, heady it still remains, in very visceral, intentionally overwhelming ways, more of a thriller and suspenseful horror under the guise of a war movie.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Brief thoughts on Spider-Man: Homecoming - 300th Post!

How many times you gonna do it, Spidey? Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man films were crucial events in the infancy of modern Superflicks, perfecting the mold that had been established with X-Men, and delivering on all the fabulous campiness, lightness, sweetness, and even downright horror of Peter Parker's universe with the definitive representation of the character to date. Unfortunately, this came crashing down when Sony (the holders to the production rights) decided to interfere with Raimi's work by overstuffing Spider-Man 3.

Cut to five years later, and in an attempt to keep the rights from reverting, as well as to copy the successful moves of his former owners at Marvel, decided to create their own expanded universe, leading to the apathetic Amazing Spider-Man that retread the familiar origin story, and the spectacular disaster of its sequel, not to mention laughable proposals like a spin-off with Sally Field's Aunt May as a secret agent. Having reached an agreement to share the character rights, Sony's partnership with Marvel finally allowed the beloved webhead to join the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, first debuting the character in Civil War.

This seemed to be a move that indicated great things to come, especially since Tom Holland's Spidey made for a great scene-stealer in his limited screentime. But upon exiting Spider-Man: Homecoming, I can't help but feel my apathy resurfacing yet again. This is my first true disappointment of Marvel's otherwise highly enjoyable universe.

Friday, July 14, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes movie review.

As someone who never considered himself a fan of the Planet of the Apes series, the newly rebooted franchise following Caesar and his clan's rise to power and freedom has made for some of my favorite blockbusters of this decade. Starting with Rise, the series decided to shift focus from the humans onto the apes, creating a rousing, and well-built origin story that made the most of their primate cast and motion-capture, even if it meant the humans were generally boring.

Cut to Dawn, when the film went even more ambitious and brutal, managing to make these "Animals" feel  human, delivering on blockbuster excitement without sacrificing mood or character, even making the humans better defined in the meantime. Of course, both movies featured beautiful, lifelike motion-capture from Weta Digital, and outstanding central performances from Andy Serkis. Now with Dawn's seeds sewn for all out war between humans and apes, we join the clan once more for a no less suspenseful, rich, and poignant closer to the new trilogy.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Brief thoughts on Baby Driver.

As his criminal allies wander into the bank to rob its riches, a lone getaway driver waits in his sleek car, drowning out the noise with his rockin' tunes, pounding and drumming to the music in rhythmic pace. Even when the group make their big getaway, his keen sense of rhythm still chugs along, weaving and bobbing through traffic in time to his soundtrack like a devil behind the wheel. One could say that the rhythm of these songs is like a heartbeat to him; a frantic, unruly, but also soulful heartbeat acting as something of an odd moral compass, that suggests numerous deep and unexplored layers with each new track. As is the case with this man (his name's Baby), so too is with the film he is attached to, a film so rousing and hyper-kinetic that you'll be left breathless by the time of its closing moments. This is Baby Driver.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Brief thoughts on The Beguiled.

A lonely, but idyllic all girl's school sits within the woods of Virginia during the Civil War. A student of this school comes across the badly injured John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a Union soldier that the students and teachers take in until his injuries are healed. The location seems tranquil and unassuming, but soon that surface reveals a web of seduction, infighting, and cruelty as the occupants spend more time with their unlikely guest. For all these reasons and more, Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled seems destined to be among the most beautifully twisted films of the year.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Wonder Woman movie review.

With DC now four movies into their cinematic universe, their efforts to clone the success of their rivals at Marvel have not panned out for the better. Because of the studio's frantic and misguided production schedule, they've painted themselves as this wayward ship whose crew has no idea how to steer it, leading to underwhelming clunkers like Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and the absolute failure Suicide Squad.

For those reasons, I was never eager for Wonder Woman, not because I wanted it to fail, but I was afraid of how the studio could botch it. It's no secret that we've been desperately starving for good female-led superhero films after bombs like Catwoman and Elektra, but with how aimless and lost Warner Brothers is, I was terrified that seemingly the most surefire victory they could possibly ever be handed, would instead become yet another notorious trainwreck...

...Which is why I'm thrilled to report that Wonder Woman finally rights all those wrongs, and does justice to its iconic source material.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales movie review.

The surprise success of the Pirates of the Caribbean film series cannot be understated. Back when The Curse of the Black Pearl graced us with its presence, few would have seen it becoming the smash hit that it did, and no one would ever have imagined that Johnny Depp would receive an Oscar nomination for his performance as Captain Jack Sparrow, an eccentric and anarchic character who took the world by storm. Seeing the successful results, it didn't take Disney long to see that they had a new star franchise on their hands, greenlighting and releasing several sequels in the years since.

Unfortunately, very rarely did those sequels ever manage to capture the same spirit of the original, and after a very convoluted and reviled third entry, the studio tried to restore the series back to basics, with the result being the underwhelming On Stranger Tides. This summer sees the fifth entry Dead Men Tell No Tales, that intends to act as a farewell to the franchise, and to Jacky boy himself. Unfortunately if this film is anything to go by, a more accurate response would be good riddance.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Brief thoughts on Split.

Poor M. Night Shyamalan. After being thrust onto the Hollywood scene following his success with The Sixth Sense, the young talent - once touted as being the next Spielberg - was subject to one of the most notorious career fall-outs in recent cinematic history. No director was in more dire need of a revival at this point, and despite finding mild success with his low budget found footage flick The Visit (I myself was no fan of that film), I feel confident in saying that Split, in which three young girls are kidnapped by a man whose mind houses 23 distinct personalities, was just the rebirth he needed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"A Pirate's Life For Me" Retrospective: Part 2.

"No fear of evil curses, says you." Welcome back to my continuing coverage on Pirates of the Caribbean. As we set Jack's misadventures surrounding cursed Aztec gold and vicious sea monsters aside, it's time we ventured to the growing pirate war, and to the future beyond that. And take heed of these words, for in order to get my full points across and to tie the series and thematic knots together, I will have to spoil key moments on both current films and prior ones.

"Properly warned ye be, says I..."

Monday, May 22, 2017

"A Pirate's Life For Me" Retrospective: Part 1.

Drink up me hearties, for this Memorial Day, that scurvy scoundrel Jack Sparrow be back for one more plunderous and thunderous adventure, as those savvy scallywags Disney and Bruckheimer take the helm for the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean film. ARRR!!!
 And talk about a property that's more successful than it had any right to be. As we all know, the Pirates of the Caribbean series is based on the hugely popular ride of the same name within all the Disney theme parks. The film series originally began near the end of Michael Eisner's tenure, at a time when other attraction based films such as The Country Bears and The Haunted Mansion became epic failures, and many would be forgiven for thinking this series would follow the same path. Instead, the original film was embraced by the general public and critics, and soon spawned what is now one of Disney's flagship live-action franchises, that is still so popular today, its fifth entry will probably make gangbusters at the box office whether or not it's any good. Hopefully that doesn't mean it takes that fact for granted. And once again, I'll be leaving my thoughts on every entry in the series leading up to the (supposed) finale to the franchise, here and in a follow-up with some rapid fire thoughts laid out on each entry.

So keep a weather eye open, mates, and proceed at your own risk. These be the last friendly words ye'll hear...

Friday, May 19, 2017

Alien: Covenant movie review.

38 years ago, a little known director named Ridley Scott brought us Alien, a horrifying and suspenseful sci-fi flick that terrorized audiences everywhere, and launched its main director to superstardom. In the decades since, the film has seen a number of sequels, the most notable example being James Cameron's also fantastic pluralized action film. But the series suffered an inevitable decline with two terrible sequels, and reached its consensus nadir with the indignity of the Alien vs. Predator crossover series, which left the franchise in the gutter.

Eager to restore his career-making franchise back to its former glory, Scott took the helm once more for 2012's Prometheus, that was intended to serve as a prequel, exploring the origins of the Space Jockey. That film polarized its audiences when it was released, mainly due to its frustrating vagueness and numerous loose ends that were clearly building to future continuations. Which finally brings us up to speed with Alien: Covenant, an entry that intends to restore the franchise back to its roots while also diving deeper into the mysteries of Prometheus. But does it succeed at either?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

"The Terror of Alien" Retrospective: Part 2.

Welcome back, and let's continue our coverage of the Alien saga. Today, we take a look at the single most divisive entries in the series.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Brief thoughts on The Discovery.

"I just don't know why we think it's gonna be different somewhere else", mulls Jason Segel as he notes mankind's habit of repeating mistakes on an endless loop. For within Charlie McDowell's The Discovery, the afterlife itself has been proven an indisputable fact, a fact that has caused the unfortunate side effect of mass daily suicides, and men and women seeming all too eager to greet death like an old friend. It's a premise that serves for the film's intriguing set-up, and quite a heady one full of interesting ideas, but can the ideas alone make the film?

Monday, May 15, 2017

"The Terror of Alien" Retrospective: Part 1.

This Friday sees the release of the latest addition to the Alien franchise, Alien: Covenant (or Liaen: Oven Can't, for those in Cambridge). One of the most beloved sci-fi franchises, as well as one of the most fluctuating in quality, the original film showing seven crew members facing off against a brutish unknown alien, has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, video game tie-ins, and one huge and enduring fanbase. So in preparation for the latest entry, I'll be running through my thoughts on every main series entry in chronological order (skipping over the AVP films, of course). However, unlike past retrospectives, and due to time constraints, this won't be in my usual format. Instead, I'll be leaving my thoughts on every film within two posts (I've got something similar planned for next week's fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie), so I hope you enjoy my thoughts.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 movie review.

This time three years ago, few people would have known who the Guardians of the Galaxy were. They were a particularly niche and obscure brand within Marvel Comics' storied history, given that their main cast included a tree man and a talking raccoon. So in an effort to expand on their ongoing cinematic universe, the company took a big gamble by giving the team of "A-holes" their own movie, which became a big hit back in its late summer release, becoming the company's breakout success.

The film played out like a long, unabashed love letter to 70's and 80's pop culture, becoming a Raiders of the Lost Ark of its day, and had one sweet soundtrack to go along with it. As the first big release of the summer movie season, director James Gunn is back to unleash his dysfunctional creations in one more quest to save the galaxy in Vol. 2, with all the irreverence that you would expect. So what have our fine heroes gotten themselves into this time?

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Brief Thoughts on Going in Style.

This weekend sees the release of Going in Style, a caper comedy starring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin as three elderly men who attempt to rob a bank, after the company they work for freezes pension payments. The film is a remake of a 1979 film from Martin Brest, with Garden State's Zach Braff taking over for this update. I should make it known very quickly that I have not seen the original film, and I came into this movie fresh, so I won't be comparing this film to the original at any point. That being said, how does the remake itself hold up?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Beauty and the Beast movie review.

Out of all the many titles within Disney's beloved Animation Classics lineup, few are beloved greater or as much as Beauty and the Beast. A timeless, beautiful, and modest love story that continues to age gracefully, its iconic music and imagery, as well as its powerful central romance has continued to earn it new fans, and high ranks among the "best of" lists of Disney enthusiasts.

In short, it should be no surprise that Disney decided to give it a live-action remake. From a business standpoint it makes sense, but creatively, it's a mixed bag. Beauty and the Beast has already become a done-to-death property, and compared to its decades-old counterparts like Cinderella and The Jungle Book, it's practically a "youngin" within its pantheon of classic Disney films, with the original still fresh within viewers' minds, and there being little to fix what was already perfect. But with all of that hanging over it, how exactly does this new take on the tale as old as time blossom?

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brief thoughts on Logan.

For 17 years, Hugh Jackman has been the one constant in the X-Men film series. Having defined and carved out the character from his first onscreen appearance, and having played a part in every film in the series (minus Deadpool), it became clear through Jackman's commitment to even the most mediocre of material that he was doing more than just playing Wolverine, but that he was the Wolverine. But with Jackman himself aging and growing out of the role of a rapidly healing man, the studio intends to finish off his last appearance in the series in big, bloody, brutal fashion with Logan.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Post-Oscars Analysis: Winners, Ceremony, and Looking to the Future.

I've never done one of these before, nor did I have any intention of doing so, but with everything that's gone down in the last few hours, I simply couldn't step away from addressing this. Because, oh my lord, did things take a turn for the crazy...

As far as the actual ceremony went, it was a fairly good outing with some major, but not crippling bumps in the road. Speeches were eloquent and succinct (Asghar Farhadi's speech - given by his designated recipient in protest of Trump's controversial travel ban - being a standout), time was overlong as expected, though not intolerable, and in a very pleasant surprise, Jimmy Kimmel proved a greatly compelling and funny host. That overlong gimmick about tourists visiting the theater went absolutely nowhere, having nothing to do with the ceremony in general, but that was probably the only real drawback of the production quality (well, as far as planned events go, but we'll get to that). Kimmel managed to strike that perfect balance between classiness and charm, while also working in biting and superbly timed gags and wordplay. The monologue in particular had some early outstanding zingers, and the momentum certainly kept up, with gags like his taunts at Donald Trump, and his continual trolling of Matt Damon leaving me in fits. This is actually everything that I wanted out of the Oscars when Neil Patrick Harris hosted (In which case, I can't remember the last time my enjoyment of a ceremony dropped as quickly or as harshly as it did there), and this was easily my favorite Oscar ceremony in recent memory.

Friday, February 24, 2017

My official predictions for the 89th annual Academy Awards.

Once again, the annual Academy Awards ceremony is just around the corner. On Sunday, AMPAS will hold their 89th awards ceremony honoring what they feel best represents the greatest achievements in film. Certainly this year's ceremony will not be controversial in any usual fashion, with the Academy not only taking steps in acknowledging the events of the #OscarsSoWhite fiasco, but Hollywood in general stepping up their game in showcasing films with prominent characters of non-white race.

In fact, far more controversial were the events of 2016 outside the Oscars (of which I've already covered in length), and all eyes watching the ceremony must be curious just how much they'll be letting the hot-headed and fear-mongering current US President have it, and not merely in whatever material host Jimmy Kimmel has up his sleeve.

But I'm here to predict winners rather than events of the show, so like I've done every year for several years, I'll once again run through all of my final predictions for all 24 categories that the Academy will honor. And honestly, this is a very rare year in which the technical categories feel far more contested than the major categories, so those famous below the line categories that people pay less attention to could ultimately hurt my score. Still, this is as confident as I'll ever be, so without further ado, let's start from the bottom up...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Top 15 Most Anticipated Films of 2017...

Oh boy, was 2016 ever such a disappointing year. I think I speak for all of us when I say I'm happy that we can finally put that disaster (not merely in film) behind us, and look ahead to the future. Surely things must be looking bright going forward - I mean, aside from a petty and depraved egotist running the White House, but still...

And yes, one of those areas include a great number of potentially good-to-great films, with films covering various different genres and experimentation, as well as seeing the return of directorial talents like Sofia Coppola, Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, and many more. Admittedly, I've learned that I really need to tone down my excitement, knowing full well that quite a number of these could potentially disappoint, but my eagerness to see them all still stands. So once again, I'll be listing down my top fifteen most anticipated films of 2017.

I only have a couple select rules in putting this list together, as always: The film must have a guaranteed release for this year, or at least have some trajectory aimed at releasing it this year (hence why I'm leaving off Alfonso Cuaron's Roma). The film must also have not come out yet (ie. The Lego Batman Movie), and if the film made the list or the honorable mentions last year (like Personal Shopper with Kristen Stewart, or James Franco's The Masterpiece), it will not be eligible for this year.

Also, this list mainly caters to those films with bigger clout to them that many independent films don't, not accounting for smaller or more experimental films like Birdman making their way into the fold, so this list is purely how it stands at the moment. And if a film you're personally anticipating isn't on here, I either haven't heard of it, I'm looking forward to it, but not enough to put it on the list, or I'm simply not anticipating it at all (Hey there, Kong: Skull Island).

First up, we'll start with some honorable mentions:
25. Battle of the Sexes

24. The Greatest Showman

23. Kingsman: The Golden Circle

22. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

21. The Darkest Hour

20. The Death of Stalin

19. Mute

18. Molly's Game

17. Coldest City

16. Murder on the Orient Express

And now onto the big fifteen...

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Top Ten Best Films of 2016...

Welcome back everyone, as we can finally start to look at the positives of what looked to be an otherwise very bleak year, and despite the very moody and cynical ways of thinking that soured it, let it not be mistaken that this year did see some truly wonderful stuff.

Pop culture alone experienced a great revitalization with numerous properties hitting TV screens, silver screens, sports, music, and technology. Whether it be shows like Stranger Things becoming instant cult favorites, Pokemon Go revitalizing the mobile phone experience, people uniting as the Olympic Games took place and the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in decades, or even Broadway's Hamilton rejuvenating music and musical theater and taking the world by storm, the year offered something for every type of fan. Heck, even our films made long overdue moves in the right direction, as following the #OscarsSoWhite movement and the lack of representation in the industry, 2016 answered back with numerous films addressing those concerns, featuring non-white lead characters or mostly non-white casts (films that included Lion, Moonlight, Fences, Hidden Figures, and many more). Even Disney got their voice heard, with Zootopia tackling issues of racism in an accessible and hopeful manner, all on its way to becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. Even putting aside politics, while 2016 was a largely disposable affair with some notable bumps along the way, its output from October onward yielded such great effort, from independent fare striking big chords with viewers, even down to restoring interest in the movie musical.

All the while, even when the world was shown to be falling apart, people were becoming divided, and bitterness cast an intimidating shadow, 2016 was also full of countless seemingly insignificant, but no less hopeful personal stories of love and unity, reminding us that even the smallest actions can make significant ripples affecting the people and places around us. Even as fear and uncertainty set in, alliances become tested, universal rights are shamefully and wrongfully taken away, and our most powerful government officials abuse their power for their own selfish agendas, what we must never forget about mankind is that we are not defined by our symbols, but by our people, those not concerned with trivial things like race, gender, sexual preference, or religion, who help to better us every day, sharing unconditional love, and celebrating those differences that, strangely enough, make us more similar than we think.

And like always, even our selection of films, and the common love of good cinema, showed a great deal of unity between audiences. And to be fair, while my pickings were a bit slim this year, the good from this year was still plenty to go around. However, I would like to make it known that there are still a few highly acclaimed titles I have yet to get around to, including what was my most anticipated film of the year, Asghar Farhadi's The Salesman, so this list as always is purely how it currently stands as I form it.

First up are some honorable mentions. In eleventh was 13th, Ava DuVernay's scathing examination of the cruelty and discriminating nature of the prison system, and how racism is secretly embedded within the US constitution on a repeating loop. While it didn't have the novelty of the original, Pixar's Finding Dory was a hugely satisfying and hilarious adventure, expanding on its title character in terrific ways without dumbing the drama of the piece down. Loving was a subdued, but greatly executed love story, treating its interracial lead couple played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga in very modest and compassionate ways, using its central focus to say greater things about the nature and universal rights of marriage today. Elle played like a dark subversion of terrible Lifetime movies, crafting a disquieting and eerie web of secrets born from sexual liberation and dominion, with Isabelle Huppert crafting a cold, but dubious title character moving the other figures in her life like pawns. Finally, The Jungle Book may have been slight, but improved upon its animated counterpart in storytelling, making use of a perfect voice cast, and featured some of the greatest and most seamless CGI I've ever seen in a movie.
Lastly, while it isn't a movie, I want to give a huge shout-out to game developer Naughty Dog for their epic finale to the Uncharted series, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Not only a great send-off to its beloved characters while exploring them in more direct ways, delivering on sweeping and gorgeous visuals and epic set-pieces, a total riot to explore and traverse the gorgeous environments, but also for delivering on adrenaline-pumping exhilaration and story depth so powerful, it puts modern blockbusters to shame.

Having said that, it's time to get started. So if you must blink, do it now...

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The Top Ten Worst Films of 2016.

As usual, I'm the last on the bandwagon to bid 2016 adieu, but always better late than never to catch up with any last minute surprises before moving on, and trust me, it's always well worth it to find those last few incredible gems before wishing a year goodbye. Although, a better send-off for 2016 would probably be good riddance. Let's face it, 2016 was a lousy year. And I'm not merely talking about films, of which while there were a good deal of gems to be found (including one that might well be the best film of the decade), those were unfortunately burdened by stretches of utterly limp and lackluster fare, sequels that nobody asked for, and one of the most unenthusiastic Summer slates I've seen in recent memory.

More importantly, 2016 was a bad year not merely for films, but for the world in general. For one, it was a year with some of the most shocking group of iconic celebrity deaths I can remember, with figures like David Bowie, Muhammed Ali, Prince, Anton Yelchin, Alan Rickman, R2-D2 performer Kenny Baker, Gene Wilder, and Leonard Cohen among a few of them. The joint death of mother and daughter Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher brought the year to a grim and deeply depressing close, and even now it feels so hard to believe they're really gone.

Not only that, 2016 was a year that seemed to bring out the most cynical in people, with prominent events that included the passing of the Brexit movement, the tragic terrorist attack in Orlando, Florida, Paul Feig's all-female Ghostbusters becoming the year's most hated and controversial film before anyone saw a single frame of it, all before capping everything off with Donald Trump being elected as President of the United States. As much as I try to steer away from politics on my blog, it's a sad state that we're in, and it's one that could very well get worse as time goes by, threatening to put back walls - both figuratively and literally - that we as a people have fought so hard to abolish.

But that's not what I'm here for, although putting these lists together do allow me some much needed venting for my frustrations. I've seen a rough total of about 100 films from 2016, though there are still plenty of badly received titles out there I haven't watched (even I can't tolerate every bad movie), so I've been lucky to escape such dreck as Norm of the North, I'm Not Ashamed, The Darkness, Masterminds, and Boo! A Madea Halloween. Also, I didn't see the scornful Hillary's America from documentary filmmaker Dinesh D'Souza, but I'm certain that would have been high up on this list if I did, with so-called historian D'Souza continuing to misrepresent facts for his hyperbolic propaganda pieces, and shamefully stirring more tension in an already upset time for America. D'Souza clearly wants to be the right-wing answer to Michael Moore, but feels more in line to be a modern day Leni Riefenstahl, only without the artistry to mask his politics.

As for the films I did end up seeing, as always, it's time for some dishonorable mentions before the big ten. Just missing the list was YouTube Red's first original movie Lazer Team from Rooster Teeth, a poor man's match up between Chronicle and a Happy Madison movie, stretching its low budget charm and grating sense of humor thin. Independence Day: Resurgence tried to be bigger than its predecessor, but lacked any of the heart or the spirit of the original, recreating old plot points like a carbon copy, and going absolutely overboard in its attempts to one-up the first. The whitewashed Gods of Egypt became this year's Jupiter Ascending, squandering its hefty budget on a lazily cobbled together script, garnering poor performances, and boasting CGI effects that would've looked dated in the 90's. Morgan was the directorial debut of Ridley Scott's son Luke, that revolved around a script loaded with plot-holes and logic gaps, and populated by intelligent characters making exclusively dumb decisions. Assassin's Creed was yet another bad video game adaptation, choosing to focus more on the present day corporation story with bland characters, and failing to be able to please either fans or newcomers to the series, trying and failing to be another Inception.

Okay, now that that's all been addressed, let's hurt some movies. Really, really, bad...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Brief thoughts on Silence.

Martin Scorsese sure likes to take his dear sweet time inbetween passion projects. Silence, based on the novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo, has been slowly gestating for well over 25 years, and in fact was even prepped before Scorsese had taken on Shutter Island and Hugo. Through delay after delay, and project after project, his dream film finally arrives, a deeply haunting examination of spirituality versus human nature, but does the end product make the long wait worth it?

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January Mini-Reviews - Part 2.

Part two of my ongoing series of posts for some quick reviews of films I watched in January. Enjoy!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Brief thoughts on 20th Century Women.

2016 has seen a great deal of movies concerning the personal impression that people leave on younger generations, from Moonlight's deconstruction of stereotyping coming to define someone, to Kubo and the Two Strings doing the same with memories of the past. But in no film has that idea been hit nearly as well on the head as 20th Century Women, the latest from Beginners director Mike Mills, making his way back into the independent circuit with an autobiographical touch, and crafting one of 2016's most perfect yet fittingly imperfect films.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Brief thoughts on Moonlight.

They say that the hardest person to truly accept you, to look past all of your imperfections and see the valuable person underneath, is yourself. That sense of identity and self-worth can often eat away at us, filling us with intense personal scrutiny, in many ways defining the term "my own worst enemy". That's a trait that director Barry Jenkins observes with one of the most celebrated movies of the year, Moonlight, a quietly affecting and introspective piece of filmmaking of analyzing, and deconstructing stereotypes to get to the true core of its characters.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Janurary Mini-Reviews - Part 1.

In preparation for the Oscar season, and for my Best and Worst lists of 2016, throughout the month of January, I'm going to be posting some smaller reviews of films I've been checking out in the meantime. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Brief thoughts on Passengers.

Passengers is a film that sounds too good to be true. An epic sci-fi romance and action film, produced with a hefty $110 million dollar price tag, starring two of the hottest actors currently working, and helmed by the Academy Award nominated director of The Imitation Game. On paper, it sounds like a great career choice for anyone involved. And yet, despite all the impressive pedigree, Passengers has become one of the more notorious disappointments of 2016, garnering a generally poor response from critics and viewers. So the question is, "Where did it all go wrong?"

Monday, January 2, 2017

Brief thoughts on Assassin's Creed.

The medium of video games is an incredible industry that rivals even cinema nowadays, but when it comes to taking those same properties and putting them to the big screen, their track record is terrible. Ignoring easy targets the likes of Super Mario Brothers and Mortal Kombat among others, this very year saw two more making their way into multiplexes to subpar results, one being the epic Warcraft from Duncan Jones, the other being the thoroughly grating Angry Birds Movie. It seems even Michael Fassbender couldn't resist getting in on the fun, having backed an adaptation of Ubisoft's mega-hit Assassin's Creed franchise, reteaming with his respective Macbeth director and co-star Justin Kurzel and Marion Cotillard.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Brief thoughts on Manchester by the Sea.

We as humans are subject to a wide variety of feelings both pleasant and unpleasant. In fact, many of these emotions are triggered not by any actions of our own, but by a shared connection formed with other people. Sometimes these bonds can be so strong, and our love of these people can be so powerful, that the thought we may someday lose them can be unbearable. Such grief can cause unpleasant and unstable thoughts beyond our control, all of which that writer/director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester by the Sea examines in as painful, but deeply emotional context as possible.