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With box office receipts exceeding $3 billion around the world so far, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has solidified himself as a global box office powerhouse. In recent years, the wrestler-turned-actor has earned a reputation as the hardest working man in Hollywood, starring in hits like Central Intelligence, Moana, The Fate of the Furious, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle from last fall. Even his misses are still massive successes — both San Andreas and Rampage earned over $400 million worldwide, despite underwhelming critical response. Now, only three months after his last theatrical release, Johnson continues his shock-and-awe campaign for box office supremacy with the action-packed, Hong Kong-set skyscraper disaster film Skyscraper; further testament to the movie star's enduring commitment to quantity over quality.
Marvel Comics first introduced the character of Ant-Man in 1962 with the publication of Tales to Astonish #27. The insect-controlling, half-inch hero later appeared in Avengers #1 alongside his partner-in-crime, the Wasp, as founding members of the team. It wasn't until 2015, however, that the iconic duo made their big screen debut in director Peyton Reed's heist comedy, Ant-Man. Well, sort of. In the movie, the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), resurrects the hero and handpicks good-natured thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the suit. Pym's daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is set to become the Wasp by the movie's end, but we never actually see her in action. Enter Ant-Man and the Wasp, the twentieth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), once again directed by Peyton Reed.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Jurassic Park, opened to critical and commercial success, earning over $914 million worldwide to become the top grossing movie ever at the time. More importantly, it impressed the hell out of an eight-year-old with an intense interest in prehistoric creatures. As a kid, I would spend hours pouring over books from the library, learning all I could about Ankylosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and Triceratops. I watched every dinosaur movie I could find: Caveman, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, The Land Before Time. They were the closest I could get to seeing living, breathing dinosaurs. Until Jurassic Park, that is. Spielberg's exhilarating masterwork of sustained awe and adventure ignited my imagination and made the impossible possible by resurrecting these long-extinct wonders with honest-to-goodness movie magic.
One in five Americans experiences some form of mental illness, with one in 25 suffering severe illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, or dissociative identity disorder (DID). For years, the horror genre has exploited these psychiatric disorders for shock value, perpetuating myths and stereotypes along the way. Movies like Psycho, Halloween, and Silence of the Lambs use mental illness as the motivation for the antagonist's violent behavior. More recently, films like The Taking of Deborah Logan and The Visit have used neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's as a conduit for evil deeds. With Hereditary, A24's new horror film, writer/director Ari Aster explores the darkest depths of mental illness and familial tragedy to create a profoundly disquieting moviegoing experience that stays with you long after the closing credits.
The "Star Wars Expanded Universe" – Lucasfilm's stockpile of officially licensed books, comics, video games, television series, spin-off films, and other media created outside of the official canon – began with the 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Written by Alan Dean Foster, the direct sequel to George Lucas's original 1977 film drew inspiration from early drafts of the script. In 1979, author Brian Daley expanded the universe further with Han Solo at Stars' End, the first in a trilogy of Solo-centric adventures (which would later be turned into comic books). For over 35 years, the EU gave Star Wars fans what they wanted most – more Star Wars – even if the stories and character developments weren't considered canon by the creator.
After playing an ill-conceived faux-Deadpool in 2008’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds spent years petitioning 20th Century Fox to give the beloved Marvel character the raunchy, irreverent big-screen treatment he deserves. He succeeded. In February 2016, Tim Miller's Deadpool debuted with the biggest R-rated opening of all time. It would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history with a global box office of more than $750 million in total. A hit with both moviegoers and critics alike, Deadpool's massive success made a sequel inevitable, but does Deadpool 2 live up to the enormous expectations of its rabid fan base, or does it do to sequel cinema what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late '90s?
From Marvel Studios stalwarts Anthony Russo and Joe Russo comes Avengers: Infinity War, the third installment in the Avengers franchise and 19th Marvel Studios film to date. The movie marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the release of Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire philanthropist playboy Tony Stark, the very first Iron Man movie was a worldwide phenomenon and would serve as the foundation from which Marvel Studios would build an empire. Ten years later, Marvel Studios has opened a record-breaking 18 consecutive movies at #1, with five grossing over $1 billion, and a combined total of over $13 billion at the worldwide box office. To say Avengers: Infinity War has been eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. But does this film, a decade in the making with unprecedented hype, live up to fan fervor and unrealistic expectations?
In a legendary career spanning more than four decades, Steven Spielberg changed the film industry with his influential science fiction and adventure movies. Timeless films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993), are revered as archetypes of contemporary Hollywood escapist cinema. Along with other pop culture touchstones of the era, like Star Wars (1977) and Superman: The Motion Picture (1978), Spielberg's movies paved the way for the massive blockbusters that now dominate the box office year-round. With his new film, the unabashedly entertaining Ready Player One, Spielberg adapts author Ernie Cline's NY Times bestseller, a love letter to the 1980s that would not exist without the director's unparalleled output.
In Guillermo del Toro's 2013 movie, Pacific Rim, a dimensional rift opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and through it emerged Kaiju, giant monsters engineered by the alien Precursors to move between dimensions and terraform planets. The Kaiju unleashed their fury on cities along the Pacific Rim and proved virtually unstoppable with conventional weapons. Gigantic humanoid mechas called Jaegers — piloted by humans connected via a neural bridge — were engineered to fight back. Jaeger Gipsy Danger, piloted by Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori, successfully closed the rift by detonating a bomb, aided by legendary Jaeger Marshal Stacker Pentecost, who gave his life to ensure the success of the mission. Ten years after the Battle of the Breach, the oceans have become restless once again. Enter Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Marvel's "Daredevil") and starring John Boyega as Pentecost's son.
English novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker Alex Garland rose to prominence in 1996 with the release of his first novel, The Beach. After Danny Boyle filmed an adaptation of the book (released in 2000), Garland transitioned into screenwriting, with a proclivity for dystopian science fiction. His impressive filmography reads like an abbreviated list of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century, including 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), Never Let Me Go (2011) and Dredd (2012). In 2015, Garland made his directorial debut with the sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, for which his script was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. Garland's second directorial effort, Annihilation, is another mind-bending masterstroke in the writer-director's ambitious oeuvre that will prove profound to some viewers, but polarizing to others.
Originally co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel Comics, Black Panther made his first appearance in 1966's Fantastic Four #52. The first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, Black Panther debuted years before early black superheroes such as the Falcon (1969), John Stewart's Green Lantern (1971), Luke Cage (1972), and Blade (1973). Crossing racial and cultural lines, Black Panther has continued to resonate with readers over the years, spawning multiple publications, and appearing in numerous video games and animated series. It wasn't until 2016, however, that the iconic hero made his big screen debut. Included in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's massive fan base, setting the stage for this stand-alone feature film. Enter director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, the eighteenth entry in Marvel's shared cinematic universe and, perhaps, the most absorbing and entertaining installment yet.
Over the last 12 months, I've seen more than 100 new releases — that's over eight days of time in total spent watching new movies — and I'm happy to report that it's been another incredible year at the cinema, despite claims that "film is dead." This year, I was lucky enough to see vital new work by visionary filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, and Darren Aronofsky. I witnessed soul-stirring performances by Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Mary J. Blige, Willem Dafoe, Sally Hawkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg. And I was thoroughly entertained by emotionally engaging, visually impressive blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049. So which films did I enjoy the most? Which are my favorites? Let's find out.