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).
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.
"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.
What are the best films out of this year's Cannes Film Festival? Which ones should you be taking an interest in? What are the priorities? After 12 days at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, after 28 screenings, it's time to present my 2016 list of my Top 7 Favorite Films. I love Cannes and this year it was a particularly fantastic year of films, with so many that will stick with me well beyond the festival. Many of these will be well received outside of the festival, too. Jim Jarmusch's Paterson is already one of my all-time favorites, seriously, it's a perfect film and I went to see it twice because I'm so in love with it. There are many others worth checking out, and this is my final recap of the festival (with a full list of all the films I saw at the end).
When covering film festivals in the press, most reports are about the many films (with hundreds of reviews published daily) or the celebrities on the red carpet or the business deals being made in the market. Rarely is there any discussion about the people who attend the festival, the die-hard cinephiles from all over who spend two weeks in the South of France watching films. Whenever I'm asked to describe the Cannes Film Festival, there's always one thought that comes to mind first - it's the most well known film festival in the entire world. Sundance draws mostly American crowds, with some international coverage. But Cannes is the place where the world comes together to experience cinema history. I'm inspired by the way this unites us.
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.
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.
On March 6th in 2009, Zack Snyder's Watchmen opened in theaters. The movie ended up being a modest success – earning nearly $200 million worldwide on a $130 million budget, with 65% on Rotten Tomatoes – but it would later develop more of a cult following on home video, with a "Director's Cut" and eventually an "Ultimate Cut" with a run-time of 215 minutes. Watchmen was released a year after Marvel Studios' Iron Man and several years before The Avengers and the big boom of superhero movies as we know it. As the film celebrates the 7th anniversary of its release, let's take a look back at how Watchmen paved the way for Snyder's upcoming Batman v Superman movie, and perhaps the entire DC Extended Universe itself.
The box office totals are in. The reviews have been read and audiences have spoken with a mouth as loud as a merc - Tim Miller's Deadpool is a huge success, and not just financially or even critically. It has been universally well received, which is a tremendous accomplishment for a third tier superhero character that (according to 20th Century Fox) had minimal mainstream appeal that languished in development hell for years. It was the vulgar, graphic and unadulterated version of Thomas the Tank Engine, the little irreverent train that could. However, with the success of Deadpool, major movie studios everywhere might not take the best lessons from the film's astronomical success – as James Gunn illustrated so brilliantly last weekend. So let's take a look at what Hollywood can glean from the outrageous success of the Merc with a Mouth.
The best of the best - that you didn't see last year. We have returned with another set of worth watching, underseen films from 2015. Back again is our ninth annual list of the 19 Best Movies That You Didn't See in 2015 (past lists here: 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007). Featured below is a hand-picked line-up of the best independent and/or mainstream films that were either quietly dumped, ignored by audiences, or just not marketed well enough. So to give them extra attention in the spotlight, and to support some of the finest filmmakers out there, here is our best of 2015 recap. Read on for the full list!
Onward to Berlin! I'm off on my next adventure, just a few weeks after wrapping up my 10th year back to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, I'm headed over to Germany to attend the Berlin Film Festival (also known as Berlinale). This is my third year back to Berlinale since first attending in 2014, and I've grown to love the festival (they have amazing food trucks!). Berlin is a great city, and the fest runs between Sundance and SXSW, meaning it's the perfect time to catch more great films. During Sundance this year, I wrote a passionate editorial about how much I love film festivals to explain why I keep flying all over the world to see films. Over oceans, over valleys, mountains, rivers, and towns of all sizes, all for the love of storytelling.
The 2016 Sundance Film Festival has finally come to an end and to put a wrap on things and finalize our nearly two weeks of coverage, it's time to present our Best of the Fest list. This year it was only me (Alex) covering Sundance for FirstShowing, so I decided to simply reveal my own 5 favorite feature films and 5 favorite documentaries. There are always a couple of films that I didn't have time to see (The Intervention, Eyes of My Mother) that seem to be getting great buzz, just can't make it to everything. But I am very happy to say that I ended up seeing amazing films at Sundance this year that will be on my mind for a while. At least one (or maybe two) of these will end up on my Top 10 list at the end of the year. Let's get right into it.