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With the 2016 summer movie season all but officially over, plenty of movie bloggers/journalists have been quick to say this past summer has been rather lackluster for film. I would argue otherwise – while some of the blockbusters have crashed and burned at the box office, this past weekend Suicide Squad and Sausage Party still performed strong at the box office. Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and Disney's Pete's Dragon were highlights of the summer as well. So why all the “doom & gloom”? That's likely because most audiences never really gave some of the best films of summer 2016 a chance. There were quite a few hidden gems out there waiting to be seen, if you were brave enough to give them your time (and money).
"Be bold. Be brave. Be epic." That's one of the taglines for this movie, but it could also easily be the motto of Laika, the animation studio that created this excellent animated adventure. Kubo and the Two Strings is now playing in theaters and it's a must see. Please, go see this movie in theaters while you can, and enjoy the heck out of it. Please go see it because stop-motion animation needs all the love and support it can get nowadays, especially in the form of tickets purchased to see this beautiful work of art in theaters. It's all hand-made, animated and painted and created by hand (in Portland, Oregon), and it's wonderful. I really can't recommend it enough and I'm very happy to go out of my way to write an entire post about seeing this.
Now that you've seen it, what did you think? " The world is more giant than you can imagine." Now playing in theaters everywhere is the newest Steven Spielberg movie, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl book The BFG - which stands for The Big Friendly Giant. Ruby Barnhill stars as Sophie, a young girl who befriends the "BFG", played by Oscar winner Mark Rylance. The full cast includes Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, plus Bill Hader as one of the other giants. So how is it? Does it live up to Roald Dahl's book? Is it as wonderful as Spielberg's many other movies, or is it a waste of his potential? Once you've seen it, leave a comment below with your own thoughts on Spielberg's The BFG.
Now that you've seen it, what did you think? "We had twenty years to prepare. So did they." Now playing in theaters everywhere is the long-awaited sci-fi sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence, arriving in theaters exactly 20 years after the original movie first landed. Roland Emmerich returns to direct this massively epic alien invasion action blockbuster, bringing back some of the original cast including Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Vivica A. Fox and Brent Spiner. The newcomers this time around include Liam Hemsworth, Maika Monroe, Sela Ward, William Fichtner, Angelababy and French actress Charlotte Gainsbourg. So how is it? Does it live up to the original? Or is it a completely disaster? Once you've seen it, leave a comment with your own thoughts on Emmerich's Independence Day: Resurgence.
Now that you've seen it, what did you think? "She just kept swimming." Disney his released the latest Pixar Animation Studios movie, Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo (first released in 2003). Directed by Andrew Stanton and co-directed by Angus MacLane, the animated adventure brings back the blue tang named Dory, and her two clownfish friends Nemo and Marlin, for another trip across the ocean. The voice cast features Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy. So how is it? As good as Finding Nemo, or better? Did it make you cry? Once you've seen it, leave a comment with your own thoughts on Pixar's Finding Dory.
Last week, Star Trek Beyond star Chris Pine was interviewed in SFX magazine promoting the latest space adventure in the sci-fi series. When asked why the most recent films in the Star Trek franchise have been more action-oriented than thought-provoking – something the series has been traditionally known for ever since its inception in 1966 – he responded: "You can't make a cerebral Star Trek in 2016”. Well, I'm here to say you can. Let's take a look at why that's still possible. Pine's intriguing quote encouraged me to write some of my own thoughts about the Star Trek franchise and how it can still be intelligent today.
Now that you've seen it, what did you think? "Our hope is destroyed; there is nothing to go back to. Is war the only answer? " Now playing in theaters worldwide is Duncan Jones' adaptation of the popular Blizzard video game Warcraft (or World of Warcraft), pitting Orcs against Humans in the kingdom of Azeroth. The full ensemble cast includes Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, and Ruth Negga. So how is it? Best video game adaptation yet or not? Better than most are saying, or much worse? Is it for the fans of the games only? Once you've seen it, leave a comment with your own thoughts on Jones' Warcraft.
"We have no control of time. Except, of course, you're a filmmaker." There's an excellent new video essay made by Julian Palmer to check out, this one all about the use of slow motion. The video examines the slow motion work in films ranging from Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957) to many of Scorsese's films including Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976) to recent films like Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009), Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (2008), Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) and Pete Travis' Dredd (2012), which had a crazy cool slo-mo storyline. Of course there's the scene in The Matrix, because it's so iconic. There's plenty to admire and plenty to learn in this video essay on slow motion, so check it out.
"This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel." Who would have thought that line, spoken by actress Felicity Jones' character Jyn Erso in the Rogue One teaser trailer, would have such great significance for the actual film itself? According to several unconfirmed sources, Rogue One might've rebelled a tad too much. That's the story that has been sweeping the internet this week with major rumors that the first film in the Star Wars Anthology series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, will undergo significant reshoots after initial internal test screenings at Disney apparently failed to impress senior executives. Let's examine why I think that might not bode well for the spin-off and why the film should rebel against the famous Star Wars formula.
"Is film criticism still relevant?" That is a question I have been hearing a lot lately. Conversely, I think the more important question is, "Is film criticism relevant to you?" In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I don't consider myself to be a film critic. I don't have a journalism degree. However, I don't hate film criticism. As a matter of fact, some of my favorite writers are critics. I grew up reading the reviews of Roger Ebert, Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up and become a critic. As an adult, it feels like that dream has changed and the significance of film criticism isn't quite what it was. As of late, I have noticed a strange disparity among casual moviegoers and online film criticism when it comes to some major films this past year. This isn't some new trend that only started in 2016 (see this article or this one); it is something I believe has been happening for some time. If the rocky relationship between critics and audiences is a marriage, I think it's safe to say some audiences have filed for divorce.
I'll never forget seeing movies the summer of 2000. I was 11 years old and I was impatiently awaiting this one summer blockbuster that honestly looked unlike anything I had seen before. I remember seeing adverts for the movie in Circuit City. Does anyone remember the original teaser trailer for the film? The tagline teased "Change is coming". I don't think anyone had any idea what that could possibly mean sixteen years later. While Blade and the success of that film made a huge impact just two years earlier, Bryan Singer's X-Men and its sequel X2: X-Men United arguably jump-started and helped define the entire superhero genre as we know it. Let's take a look at how the genre has changed and evolved nearly two decades later.
I'm back again in the South of France for the Cannes Film Festival, and it feels so good. I had to skip last year as I just couldn't afford to make the trip, and I really missed it. So I told myself I'd be back again this year, and here I am. There's just something about this place, a magic in the Mediterranean air that is almost tangible. There's so much history here, but right now I'm here, I'm a part of it. When I was mirroring Roger Ebert's book a few years ago (see "Two Weeks in the South of France" posts from 2014) there is a section where he talks about going out to Francis Ford Coppola's boat after the Apocalypse Now premiere. That's the kind of history that hangs over this festival, but it's actually inspiring and exciting, not overwhelming.
Now that you've seen it, what did you think? "You have operated with unlimited power and no supervision. That's something the world can no longer tolerate." Now in theaters is Marvel Studios' latest, Captain America: Civil War, directed by the Russo Brothers. This time they pit hero against hero, as the Avengers universe begins to go crazy as two sides are formed. On one side you have Captain America, Bucky, Falcon, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye; on the other side there's Iron Man, Black Widow, War Machine, The Vision, Black Panther and yeah maybe Spidey. So how did this one turn out? Is it really one of their best yet? Once you've seen it, leave a comment with your own thoughts on Marvel's Captain America: Civil War.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America and Iron Man are currently at odds, fighting tooth and nail for their own respective ideologies. However, in the playing field that is the superhero genre, some are arguing that superhero movies are starting to become a tad predictable, their routine less super. They are familiar with Cap's shield and Iron Man's armor with some saying they just don't have the gleam they used to have. Marvel's greatest heroes might be facing a new battle altogether: fatigue. This isn't a battle just facing Marvel, but all superheroes alike. While Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, DC's own answer to that debate, might have proved a bit more polarizing than originally intended, Marvel's Captain America: Civil War proves that superheroes still have a bit more fight to them – and here's why.