There are film festivals, and then there is Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The time of year die-hard film fans liken to Christmas is once again upon us, and we’re only moments away from this year’s batch of cinematic craziness and insane experiences being unleashed. If the last couple of years are any indication, 2016 is going to be a virtual madhouse in Austin thanks in large part to that special brand of madness only the Alamo Drafthouse can deliver. The movies are just the beginning, too, as the programming during the week of Fantastic Fest always seems bigger and better than the previous year. Movies and TV premieres; a Satanic escape room; a special, horror VR experience; and countless hours of additional insanity are just a few of the items that have piqued our interest for this year so far. And it’s only getting started.
The journey for Star Trek on the big screen hasn't always been going at warp speed. For the most part, the films have had a difficult time appealing to both the general audience and to the hardcore faithful (known as Trekkies). That changed, however, in 2009 when J.J. Abrams rebooted the film series with the simply titled Star Trek. For the first time in a while, Star Trek was accessible to both mainstream audiences and hardcore Trekkies alike. However, as the series progressed with Star Trek Into Darkness, some Trek fans started to dismiss the new films as being too action-oriented, as well as missing the philosophical essence that made Star Trek the groundbreaking success it was when it first aired on this day 50 years ago. So as Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary today, let's explore why I believe that all changed with the latest installment, Star Trek Beyond, and why I believe it is the best Star Trek movie in nearly two decades.
The mountains are a truly magical place. For the past nine years in a row, I've made a pilgrimage up to the beautiful mountain town of Telluride in Colorado for the Telluride Film Festival. It only lasts for one weekend and it's over way too quickly, but it's still one of my favorite weekends every year. At the 2016 version of the film festival, I was able to catch 11 films and many of them were wonderful. A few of them are guaranteed to end up my Top 10 this year, and that's usually the case with Telluride. I come to this festival year after year to fall in love with films again, to see some of the best that cinema has to offer, and I'm rarely disappointed. Plus over the four days the festivals lasts, I get catch up with old friends and make new ones.
It's nice to be back. Up in the mountains, ready to see more films and see what many talented filmmakers have in store for us. I have returned to the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado for my 9th year in a row, covering this festival with just as much enthusiasm as the first time I went (back in 2008). This film festival takes place an altitude of 8,750 ft (2,667 m), in a tiny little charming town nestled deep inside the San Juan mountains. It's such a beautiful location, the kind where you can see the stars, where everyone around you is always saying "isn't it so beautiful?", where it's easy to get a breath of fresh air, and where you must truly appreciate the place you at. I'm glad to be back, and I'm ready to start watching films. Let's begin the show.
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.