With box office receipts exceeding $3 billion around the world so far, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has solidified himself as a global box office powerhouse. In recent years, the wrestler-turned-actor has earned a reputation as the hardest working man in Hollywood, starring in hits like Central Intelligence, Moana, The Fate of the Furious, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle from last fall. Even his misses are still massive successes — both San Andreas and Rampage earned over $400 million worldwide, despite underwhelming critical response. Now, only three months after his last theatrical release, Johnson continues his shock-and-awe campaign for box office supremacy with the action-packed, Hong Kong-set skyscraper disaster film Skyscraper; further testament to the movie star's enduring commitment to quantity over quality.
Every year we get a big batch of new coming-of-age films, but only a few of them really stand out. This is one of the very best of the coming-of-age films from 2018, a lovely dramatic feature Quebec. The Fireflies Are Gone, originally titled La disparition des lucioles in French, is the third feature film made by filmmaker Sébastien Pilote, and it's wonderful. It doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything, but it is a very fresh, funny, heartwarming take on today's youth growing up without a desire to conform to their parents' desires for a perfect career-focused life. This is one of those particularly outstanding indie films that is so enjoyable and exciting that it put a spring in my step. The moment it finishes up, I was grinning ear-to-ear and suddenly happy about the world and just wanted to get out and dance. I really love when films have this kind of effect.
Marvel Comics first introduced the character of Ant-Man in 1962 with the publication of Tales to Astonish #27. The insect-controlling, half-inch hero later appeared in Avengers #1 alongside his partner-in-crime, the Wasp, as founding members of the team. It wasn't until 2015, however, that the iconic duo made their big screen debut in director Peyton Reed's heist comedy, Ant-Man. Well, sort of. In the movie, the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), resurrects the hero and handpicks good-natured thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to don the suit. Pym's daughter, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is set to become the Wasp by the movie's end, but we never actually see her in action. Enter Ant-Man and the Wasp, the twentieth installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), once again directed by Peyton Reed.
"Stick close to the concrete. Jam through the space. Keep it moving." Skateboarding is not just a sport, its a means of expression, a way to liberate yourself and be truly free. To ride where you're not supposed to ride, to act the way you want to act, without anyone telling you how to be or what to do. There have been many skateboarding documentaries over the years previously, but this new one is a superb look at the early days of skateboarding in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia. King Skate is a Czech documentary made by Simon Safránek, his first feature film, and it's packed with a mesmerizing selection of archival footage looking back at how skating became immensely popular in the 1970s & 1980s in this closed-off country. As expected, there's a rad punk soundtrack to compliment all the footage making it an intoxicating experience.
"There are those who jump, and those who make others jump." This line from the film is the one line that sums up the entire story and why it's being told, and it's a meaningful statement, one that should resonate with every single person no matter where they're from. Jumpman is a Russian drama about a boy who is born with a rare disease that prevents him from feeling any pain - though everything else functions as usual. It's the latest film made by Russian filmmaker Ivan I. Tverdovskiy (Corrections Class, Zoology) and it's an intimate, indie drama made with an intense focus on the main character, a compelling tale of dignity and integrity and humanity. It's an impressive, captivating film that I really enjoyed, even though it's cynical and depressing, there's hope found in the heart of this young boy. The filmmaking pulls us deep into that story.
In a time where journalists are under attack and a free press is becoming more and more important all over the world, this documentary film is a wonderfully uplifting look at the integrity and diligence of journalists who work so hard every single day to report the news. Breaking News, also originally titled Mimořádná zpráva in Czech, is a new documentary from Czechia made by documentary filmmaker Tomáš Bojar. The footage takes us inside the offices of two news organizations in Prague - covering one major political event in 2017. It's a very simple, straightforward doc film that trains the cameras on the various people working to report the news and lets the viewers bask in their tenacity and commitment to objective reporting. It's utterly fascinating and inspiring, and the kind of vital film that we should be showing to younger audiences.
War is good for absolutely nothing, right? But what if your significant other is a war correspondent, whose job it is to go to these dangerous places and report the truth? That's what this film is about - 53 Wars, the feature directorial debut of Polish actress Ewa Bukowska. Bukowska adapts an autobiographical novel by Grażyna Jagielska, telling the story of a Polish woman (played by Magdalena Popławska) whose husband is a war correspondent, spending most of each year away on assignment. The story focuses on Anka, who slowly becomes more and more hysterical and paranoid, experiencing the weight of war herself through her own anxiety and concern over the safety of her husband. This film is a remarkably intense, mature, complex portrait of a woman who goes through hell out of a love for her husband and loses her mind in the process.
There's nothing better than that feeling you get when you're watching a really great film, nay a phenomenal film, that is brilliant in so many ways. It's a deeply visceral feeling of joy and excitement and invigoration and enthusiasm. Ulrich Köhler's latest film In My Room premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard category, but I only recently caught up with it at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in Czechia. And it's brilliant. One of my favorite films of the year so far, for many different reasons. I'll try to get into a few of the reasons here, but it's hard to explain everything, because some of it is just an indescribable feeling – how it connects deep down within me, not only as stellar cinema but as commentary about relationships and humanity and life on this planet. And how intelligently it handles storytelling to inspire us with wisdom.
Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Jurassic Park, opened to critical and commercial success, earning over $914 million worldwide to become the top grossing movie ever at the time. More importantly, it impressed the hell out of an eight-year-old with an intense interest in prehistoric creatures. As a kid, I would spend hours pouring over books from the library, learning all I could about Ankylosaurus, Plesiosaurus, and Triceratops. I watched every dinosaur movie I could find: Caveman, Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, The Land Before Time. They were the closest I could get to seeing living, breathing dinosaurs. Until Jurassic Park, that is. Spielberg's exhilarating masterwork of sustained awe and adventure ignited my imagination and made the impossible possible by resurrecting these long-extinct wonders with honest-to-goodness movie magic.
Some animated films are made for kids. Some animated films are made for adults. But some animated films are made for audiences of all ages, for everyone to enjoy, and for everyone to appreciate and learn from. Tito and the Birds (Tito e os Pássaros) is one of these animated films made for audiences of all ages, and it's an important film for the times we live in. Directed by three filmmakers – Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, Gustavo Steinberg – the film comes from Brazil and is set in Brazil, telling the story of one young boy who saves the world. Not with any superpowers or clever tricks, but by using his brain, and by resisting the urge to cave to the paralyzing fear that pervades society these days. It's a gorgeous film, both in the way it looks and its story, and one that I hope finds a global audience as it certainly deserves the attention and acclaim.
One important lesson we all learn in life is that happiness is an endless pursuit. There's no such thing as a permanent state of happiness. But this is a hard lesson to learn, and something that takes years to discover, through trial & error, experience, and understanding. On Happiness Road is a lovely little animated film that addresses this very idea, taking us on a journey through past and present in the life of one woman from Taiwan. On Happiness Road is an autobiographical film made by Taiwanese animator/filmmaker Hsin-Yin Sung that is about her pursuit of happiness, and learning what exactly that means, how to get there, and that happiness is not forever, and is not something you can just obtain. It's a very deeply personal film, but also a very meaningful and enjoyable, with a light touch that makes it that much more captivating to watch.
What have I stumbled upon?! What is this genius work of cinema?! Seder-Masochism is the new film by filmmaker Nina Paley (of Sita Sings the Blues previously) and it's totally amazing, brilliant, and hilarious. It's very hard to describe the film, but I will try. Seder-Masochism is an animated exploration of Judaism, featuring Moses and a few other characters singing and dancing to various pre-existing songs (of all kinds). I could almost describe this as fun animated YouTube short extended to a full-length feature, but it deserves more credit than that. It's also a personal film for Nina, as she interviews her father about her upbringing and his views on Judaism, while taking us on a journey into the history of Moses and the Book of Exodus.