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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.
Written and directed by filmmaker Rian Johnson (of Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper), Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second entry in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Upon its release in late 2015, The Force Awakens received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and praise from fans worldwide for restoring the saga's former glory while injecting it with fresh blood. As beloved as Episode VII was, however, one criticism continued to appear: it was too safe; a rehash of George Lucas' 1977 film. If Abrams' movie was too safe, then Johnson's follow-up may prove too risky.
Director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, received mostly positive reviews when it released in 2013, but ultimately underperformed at the box office. The second entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Snyder's sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, encountered an overwhelmingly negative response from critics and lukewarm audience sentiment, despite making $873 million. Similarly, the third film in the franchise, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, wound up with terrible reviews but still surpassed expectations. Everything changed this year, when Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman received widespread critical acclaim and overwhelming audience support, becoming one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time and the highest-grossing superhero origin movie in history. Now, Justice League hopes to ride Wonder Woman's coattails and deliver a fun, hopeful film that lives up to the legacy of the iconic superhero
First published in 1934, Agatha Christie's novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is considered one of the most suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever written. The book, which concerns the murder of a wealthy businessman aboard a luxury train, features one of Christie's most famous & long-lived characters, detective Hercule Poirot. The Belgian sleuth with a magnificent mustache has appeared in more than 30 novels and 50 short stories and has been portrayed on radio, in film, and on TV by various actors, including Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina, Orson Welles, and David Suchet. Now, 83 years after its debut, Murder on the Orient Express receives another lavish, star-studded film adaptation, this time by actor-turned-director Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), who also stars.
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Thor first appeared in 1962's comic Journey Into Mystery #83, a sci-fi anthology published by Marvel Comics. Based on the Norse deity of the same name, Thor is the God of Thunder and possesses Mjolnir, an enchanted hammer. A year later, Thor was included in The Avengers #1 as a founding member of the team, and the character has since appeared in every subsequent volume of the series. As a result, Thor has become one of Marvel's most popular and enduring superheroes, featured in countless comics, animated series, video games, and live-action films. Played by Chris Hemsworth, Thor has appeared in five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies - including Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a cameo at the end of Doctor Strange. His latest cinematic outing, Thor: Ragnarok, looks to set a new standard for not just the Thor series, but the rest of the MCU as well.
Based on the Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott's 1982 science fiction thriller, Blade Runner, introduced audiences to a dystopian future where synthetic humans, known as Replicants, are bio-engineered for use in off-world colonization. When these Replicants go rogue, special police units called Blade Runners hunt down and "retire" them. Despite its initial lukewarm critical and commercial reception, Blade Runner has become one of the most influential movies of the last 40 years, pioneering what became an entirely new genre: neo-noir cyberpunk. 35 years later, thanks to subsequent releases like the 1992 Director's Cut and the definitive 2007 Final Cut, Scott's film is now heralded as a groundbreaking visionary masterpiece and one of the most important motion pictures ever made.
Based on the acclaimed comic book by Dave Gibbons and Mark Millar, 2015's Kingsman: The Secret Service was a crass, tongue-in-cheek tribute to the spy films of the '60s and '70s. Co-written and directed by English filmmaker Matthew Vaughn (of Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass, X-Men: First Class), the stylish and subversive send-up became the filmmaker's most commercially successful film to date. Enter the highly anticipated sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, a movie so overblown and preposterous that it feels less like On Her Majesty's Secret Service and more like the deranged lovechild of Austin Powers and Crank.
Inspired by Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, H.P. Lovecraft, and EC Comics' Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, Stephen King carved a path for himself as the world's foremost writer of horror fiction throughout the '70s and '80s. By the time his novel It was published in 1986, many of King's best-selling books had already been adapted into successful films, including Carrie, The Shining, Cujo, The Dead Zone, and Christine. With the ambitious It, however, King's work shifted shape, much like the novel's titular evil entity haunting a small town in Maine. Instead of writing about the one thing that scared you, like a rabid dog or a demonic car, this time he was writing about everything that did - the very nature of fear itself.
The beloved sketch comedy group Good Neighbor was originally formed in 2007 by Kyle Mooney, Beck Bennett, Nick Rutherford, and Dave McCary. The comedians racked up millions of YouTube hits with their offbeat and uncomfortable sketch videos, including such notable standouts as "My Mom's a MILF", "Is My Roommate Gay?", "420 Disaster," and "Unbelievable Dinner," based on Steven Spielberg's Hook. In 2013, Mooney and Bennett joined Saturday Night Live as featured players along with McCary, who stayed behind the camera as a segment director. Now Mooney and McCary are transitioning to the big screen with the indie comedy Brigsby Bear, a feature-length narrative about friendship, family, and nostalgia that deftly blends humor and heart to create something that is both odd and oddly affectionate.
Written and directed by Luc Besson (of Léon: The Professional, La Femme Nikita, and Lucy), Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on the Valérian and Laureline graphic novel series by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. First published in 1967 in the French comics magazine, Pilote, the seminal science fiction series paved the way for Heavy Metal, and informed George Lucas' Star Wars and Besson's 1997 film, The Fifth Element, for which Mézières contributed concept art. The live-action adaptation, independently crowd-sourced and personally funded by Besson, is supposedly now the most expensive independent film ever made, but does it live up to its influential source material?