It was late 2003 and I was still finishing high school. Although I had never read the books, each year I kept growing more fond of Middle Earth thanks to Peter Jackson's adaptations of Lord of the Rings. By 2003, I was a movie maniac, following websites non-stop for info about the Matrix trilogy (which also concluded in 2003), Terminator 3, Hulk, X2 and Kill Bill, not to mention the Star Wars prequels in the middle of their grand finale. But it was Return of the King, and its triumphant debut on December 17th, 2003, that won my heart. On the Tuesday before release, I participated in a global event known as "Trilogy Tuesday", one of the first times ever a trilogy of movies were billed back-to-back-to-back. It ended with the midnight show of Return of the King, in total over 12 hours spent in a theater. One of the best experiences of my life.
Editor's Note About This Editorial: This is a must read discussion by longtime friend of the site Patrick Campbell (@pj_campbell). It's time to discuss an issue that has been getting worse and worse. Everything mentioned in this editorial is something that I've observed as well, but I've had trouble figuring out how to voice my concerns without sounding too meddlesome. It's hard to speak out about a community when you're a part of that community, but thankfully others have started expressing their honest feelings. What began as a couple of paragraphs on Facebook has turned into a full-fledged editorial. It needed to be said.
Every single frame of the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been examined all over the internet, and it's led to rampant speculation about a variety of things. However, one element that seems to have been largely overlooked isn't something that can be seen, but rather heard. At the very end of the teaser trailer, after the "December 2015" bumper disappears, there's the sound of a lightsaber. For some reason, "Good Morning America" went out of their way to reveal the "exclusive" detail that the sound was that of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Who cares, right?
Long ago – this past Friday – in a galaxy far, far away, the first footage from J.J. Abrams' maiden voyage to the Star Wars universe, The Force Awakens, was unleashed in 30 theaters across the country and on the web for the world to see. It was short. It was simple. It was to the point, and, through and through, it was utterly captivating. Even those completely underwhelmed by George Lucas' last three entries into the series were silenced by the overwhelming visuals Abrams and crew presented. And now, nearly 48 hours after its release, that teaser continues to stun and amaze from frame one to that final, breathtaking shot.
When Disney announced that the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens was arriving in theaters this weekend, but only in 30 movie theaters across the country, there were plenty of fans who were annoyed. Perhaps sensing some backlash, Disney still ended up releasing the trailer this morning, only adding to the Black Friday madness that always follows Thanksgiving. However, for fans like me, a trip to the nearest movie theater playing the trailer was still in order. But now that we've all seen the first trailer, the question is whether or not seeing the trailer on the big screen was worth the trip to the movie theater.
Continuing our annual tradition of posting Thanksgiving and Christmas Movie Guides every holiday season, our San Francisco contributor, Marco Cerritos, has once again put together a holiday movie guide for Thanksgiving 2014, giving a recap and rundown of what's playing and what's worth seeing (or skipping). Marco has seen everything playing, and while you may not always agree with his opinion, he provides the best reviews he can to make it a bit easier for everyone to choose. There are quite a few wonderful films now playing in theaters, so if you're still a bit unsure of what to watch or need extra tips, then look no further!
Hollywood loves repeating itself. This week alone we're getting new trailers for brand new Star Wars and Jurassic Park movies, like it's the 90s all over again. But there is a new trend that is becoming increasingly frustrating - the two-part split finale of film-to-book series like Twilight, Harry Potter and now Hunger Games. With the first half of Mockingjay, the finale of The Hunger Games, now playing in theaters (my full review) the unsettling feeling of "why?!" has grown in me. This film once again proves that the quality of the work diminishes in exchange for a desire to make more money on a franchise that's temporarily popular. When will this fad end? Because it needs to stop. Don't Hollywood executives already own enough yachts?
Just watch this film! If you love cinema, if you love filmmaking, if you love wacky Japanese cinema, if you love Tarantino, if you love supporting foreign films, if you love wacky, fun coming-of-age stories, if you love Japanese culture - don't walk, run to see this film (even if that means just running to your living room). Our latest Monthly Must See feature is one titled Why Don't You Play in Hell?, one of the recent films from Japanese auteur Sion Sono (he also recently made Tokyo Tribe which we flipped over at Fantastic Fest). The concept for this movie is basically: a young, renegade film crew becomes embroiled with a yakuza clan feud. Or: a bunch of wannabe filmmakers end up filming an actual yakuza war. It's crazy, but so much fun.
Just this afternoon, the official title for Star Wars: Episode VII was announced as being Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While most of the focus should actually be on the title itself (which is just fine), there seem to be a fair amount of complaints and observations on what isn't there: the words Episode VII. Frankly, I'm not sure why this is such a big deal, especially when the argument for the inclusion of Episode VII in the title seems to just be to go along with the title pattern of the prequels, which most Star Wars fans have done nothing but complain about for years now. It's not as if there isn't a precedent for having a Star Wars title appear without an "Episode" number attached to it in the history of the whole saga. More below!
"Like any journey, it's not what you carry, but what you leave behind." Continuing our latest feature, the Monthly Must See profile, this time around I'm highlighting an extraordinarily beautiful film called Tracks, set in Australia directed by John Curran of We Don't Live Here Anymore and The Painted Veil previously. Tracks is now playing in limited theaters and first premiered at the fall film festivals in 2013, where I first caught it. Actress Mia Wasikowska stars as Robyn in the true story of an independent young woman who decides to hike 1,700 miles across the Australian desert on her own. Aside from her dog and three camels.
This past weekend it was New York's time to geek out. The New York Comic-Con took place at the Javitz Center on the west side, with over 100,000 geeks/nerds/fans of all ages attending. On Friday evening I was invited to participate in a panel called Your Opinion Sucks! Rotten Tomatoes Critics vs. Fans where a small group of "professional critics" sit in front of a room full of fans and argue about what they like/didn't like. This isn't the first time this panel has appeared, as Rotten Tomatoes has been hosting it in San Diego and at conventions like CinemaCon for years, but it was my first time on it. I really wanted to have fun, see what people wanted to debate, and enjoy the experience of being on a panel instead of covering it (for once).
There's a film festival that takes place down in Austin, Texas at the Alamo Drafthouse (the one on South Lamar) every fall that is one of the best in the world. No it's not the overrated and overcrowded SXSW, it's a "genre" festival conceived by and run by Tim League, CEO and mastermind of the Drafthouse. The festival is called Fantastic Fest, now in its 10th year, and I have been attending since 2007, its 3rd year. For the last few years I've let The Golden Briefcase guys Tim and Jeremy (an Austin local) go wild and cover the fest on their own while I return from Telluride and Toronto back-to-back, but this year I had to go back. And I'm so glad I did. It was like coming back to my home again after years of being away. I missed you, Fantastic Fest.
"There are no two words in the English language more harmful than good job." It's very refreshing, and admittedly exciting, to watch a young filmmaker's career take off over the course of a year. At the Sundance Film Festival in January 2014, the very first film I screened was Whiplash from writer/director Damien Chazelle. It blew me away. Now, almost 10 months later, the film is still playing strong at the New York Film Festival where I caught it for a second time. Over the last year it has also played at Cannes, Toronto, Deauville, Helsinki, Busan, and plenty of other films festivals/events/premieres all over the world earning rave reviews wherever it shows up. It deserves that praise because it truly is an outstanding, inspiring film.
It's your time New Yorkers! Don't miss out! Forget Tribeca, this the best festival in the city. Today is the first day of the 52nd New York Film Festival, the annual film festival run by the Lincoln Center. They have better films than Tribeca, better venues, better experiences, everything is better at the Lincoln Center. And if you've been waiting to see some of the best films of 2014, now is your chance. The festival kicks off with David Fincher's Gone Girl premeiring tonight (which we're screening this evening) and runs for over two weeks, highlighting the best that cinema has to offer from all over the world. Tickets are available online for anyone to buy, and they're worth hunting down if you're a cinephile from New York City with free evenings.