I'm just going to come right out and say it here right at the beginning - Taylor Sheridan is one of the best screenwriters working today. It's not even debatable. And with Wind River, he shows that he is just as capable and talented at directing as well. Wind River is the feature directorial debut of screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (of Sicario and Hell or High Water previously) telling a riveting murder mystery in the snowy mountains of Wyoming. Sheridan's screenplay is brilliant, filled with metaphors and truthful characters and twists and turns and thrilling moments, all intertwined within themes of grief and vengeance and survival and good-vs-evil. It's topped off by fine performances from the entire cast, making this an invigorating film.
What would you do, how would you change your life, if there was definitive scientific proof that there is life after death? That is the pivotal question at the heart of The Discovery, the new film from writer/director Charlie McDowell (of The One I Love previously). McDowell is an immensely talented filmmaker proving with this new film that he is making cinema for intelligent minds. The kind of uber-intelligent films which challenge audiences to examine their own choices while also asking very big (often unanswerable) questions about the world around us. The Discovery is a deep, very deep, film that earns appropriate comparisons to Primer and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and if that interests you, it is definitely worth your time.
Assassin's Creed is the best film adaptation of a video game we've ever seen. Granted, that's not exactly a huge wall to scale. The world of video games adapted to the big screen has had more valleys than peaks, and problematic films like Silent Hill and Resident Evil are considered the best this brand of movie making has to offer. Cult status has been kind to movies like Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat in recent years, but even those fall into the category of fun rather than good. Leave it to a filmmaker like Justin Kurzel (of Snowtown and Macbeth) to show how it's done. With breathtaking visuals, commendable performances, and an unconventional story Assassin's Creed handily Parkours its way up through the ranks to come out
The new regime behind the Star Wars franchise came with a promise to the die-hard fans of the world. We would be offered one, new entry into the series every year until the brand became old and tired or until the stars overhead burned out, whichever came first. That meant every other film would take a side step away from the main saga and branch out into the ever-expanding universe surrounding it. This meant something as trivial as the first paragraph of A New Hope's opening crawl could be fleshed out into a feature film, which is what they've done with Rogue One, the first of many Star Wars stories to come. What looks like fodder to fill out the Star Wars release slate on paper, though, ends up delivering the freshness this beloved franchise desperately needed and all the excitement those die-hard fans have come to expect.
Directed by Gareth Edwards (of Monsters and Godzilla), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first in a new series of Star Wars standalone films. Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, from a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta, this is inspired by the opening crawl in George Lucas' original 1977 film:
"It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…"
"It's conflict and it's compromise, and it's very, very exciting." That's how Sebastian, the character played by Ryan Gosling in La La Land, describes jazz, his obvious infatuation with the genre of music seeping into the actor's delivery. It's a description that could just as easily be used for the concepts of life and love and the way writer/director Damien Chazelle handles them in his film. La La Land is never as aggressive as Chazelle's first film, Whiplash, nor does it reach the sincere depths of that film. The intensity works its way into the film in different ways, though, the musical structure leading the viewer through Chazelle's story of failure and success in Los Angeles with joyous results. For so many different reasons La La Land is every bit the success that Whiplash was, chief among these the undeniable impact the film, and music, has on you.
Back in 1997, author J.K. Rowling unveiled a fantasy novel, titled Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, introducing readers around the world to Harry Potter, an orphan who, on his eleventh birthday, learns he is a wizard. Potter is whisked away from his mundane reality to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he practices magic under the guidance of Albus Dumbledore and makes lifelong friends in Rubeus Hagrid, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger. During his time at the school, Potter learns of his magical heritage, and of Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who's responsible for the death of his parents.
We were bound to hit a lull in the excitement that comes from Marvel movies, especially the origin story part of the deal. That natural – and vital – aspect to the expansion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been played out up, down, and all over the place to the point we find ourselves craving something, anything outside the norm. Thank God for Doctor Strange, that atypical, origin story for which we've been waiting. Sure, it delivers on the excitement and humorous fun we've all come to expect, but under the direction of Scott Derrickson, the Marvel superhero who deals in mysticism and the strange, otherworldly creatures knocking on the door to our plane of existence comes alive with unexpected and surprisingly fresh results.
Can Marvel still make an origin story exciting? Yes. As formulaic as Marvel Studios movies have become, they can still deliver thoroughly exciting big screen entertainment. Doctor Strange is the latest in their line-up that proves with the right formula (in this case, a good thing) of talent behind and on the screen, they can pull off another vibrant introduction. I'm admittedly not that familiar with Doctor Strange - I never read any of his comics and only know what I've learned writing about the movie leading up to the release. After seeing the movie, I'm now a big fan. It's the story of an arrogant, egotistical doctor who has to see the world differently, figuring out how he can still contribute to the greater good even though he can no longer heal people with his hands. Beyond that, the visuals are spectacular and it's worth seeing for them alone.
Conjured up out of America's obsession with spiritualism in the 19th century, "Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board" was created in 1891 by entrepreneur Charles Kennard and attorney Elijah Bond, and made by the Kennard Novelty Company. After Kennard and Bond left the company in the early 1900s, William Fuld, one of the company's first employees, took over and continued making the popular spirit board. By 1920, the game had become such a fixture of American culture that Norman Rockwell featured a couple playing with a Ouija board on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. After Fuld's death, the assets were sold to Parker Brothers, who manufactured the game until 1991, when the company was acquired by Hasbro.
There's something inevitably comedic about a film called The Accountant, especially if that movie is about a cool-blooded CPA with equal penchants of crunching numbers and cracking skulls. My father was a CPA, and I can assure you the thought of him as a ruthless killer in the vein of John Wick is in itself almost laughable. That's the idea behind this film, The Accountant, though, and the fact that it stars Ben Affleck as the eponymous character certainly goes a long way in helping boost its sincerity. Aid also comes from the commitment from his surrounding cast as well as the film's ability to notch up the intensity and excitement with an endless stream of cliché-ridden-but-entirely-enjoyable action sequences. If you can get past the cheesiness and forgive it for its by-the-numbers suspense, The Accountant is a thriller worthy of your time.
Reality can be more bewildering than fiction. On the surface level, the documentary Kate Plays Christine is about an actress, Kate Lyn Sheil, researching a challenging role for an unnamed film project. Christine Chubbuck was a real news anchor who worked at Sarasota's WXLT-TV in 1974 and shocked viewers by shooting herself in the head live, on camera, taking her life. This moment became something of legend, then was largely forgotten but at times interest in the incident is renewed. The film's writer, director & editor Robert Greene quickly leaps between archival footage, behind-the-scenes snippets and a few dramatized recreations, forcing you to think, first, about what is fact and fiction and then, where the two should meet.