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The "Star Wars Expanded Universe" – Lucasfilm's stockpile of officially licensed books, comics, video games, television series, spin-off films, and other media created outside of the official canon – began with the 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. Written by Alan Dean Foster, the direct sequel to George Lucas's original 1977 film drew inspiration from early drafts of the script. In 1979, author Brian Daley expanded the universe further with Han Solo at Stars' End, the first in a trilogy of Solo-centric adventures (which would later be turned into comic books). For over 35 years, the EU gave Star Wars fans what they wanted most – more Star Wars – even if the stories and character developments weren't considered canon by the creator.
After playing an ill-conceived faux-Deadpool in 2008’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds spent years petitioning 20th Century Fox to give the beloved Marvel character the raunchy, irreverent big-screen treatment he deserves. He succeeded. In February 2016, Tim Miller's Deadpool debuted with the biggest R-rated opening of all time. It would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history with a global box office of more than $750 million in total. A hit with both moviegoers and critics alike, Deadpool's massive success made a sequel inevitable, but does Deadpool 2 live up to the enormous expectations of its rabid fan base, or does it do to sequel cinema what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late '90s?
From Marvel Studios stalwarts Anthony Russo and Joe Russo comes Avengers: Infinity War, the third installment in the Avengers franchise and 19th Marvel Studios film to date. The movie marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the release of Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire philanthropist playboy Tony Stark, the very first Iron Man movie was a worldwide phenomenon and would serve as the foundation from which Marvel Studios would build an empire. Ten years later, Marvel Studios has opened a record-breaking 18 consecutive movies at #1, with five grossing over $1 billion, and a combined total of over $13 billion at the worldwide box office. To say Avengers: Infinity War has been eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. But does this film, a decade in the making with unprecedented hype, live up to fan fervor and unrealistic expectations?
In a legendary career spanning more than four decades, Steven Spielberg changed the film industry with his influential science fiction and adventure movies. Timeless films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993), are revered as archetypes of contemporary Hollywood escapist cinema. Along with other pop culture touchstones of the era, like Star Wars (1977) and Superman: The Motion Picture (1978), Spielberg's movies paved the way for the massive blockbusters that now dominate the box office year-round. With his new film, the unabashedly entertaining Ready Player One, Spielberg adapts author Ernie Cline's NY Times bestseller, a love letter to the 1980s that would not exist without the director's unparalleled output.
In Guillermo del Toro's 2013 movie, Pacific Rim, a dimensional rift opened at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, and through it emerged Kaiju, giant monsters engineered by the alien Precursors to move between dimensions and terraform planets. The Kaiju unleashed their fury on cities along the Pacific Rim and proved virtually unstoppable with conventional weapons. Gigantic humanoid mechas called Jaegers — piloted by humans connected via a neural bridge — were engineered to fight back. Jaeger Gipsy Danger, piloted by Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori, successfully closed the rift by detonating a bomb, aided by legendary Jaeger Marshal Stacker Pentecost, who gave his life to ensure the success of the mission. Ten years after the Battle of the Breach, the oceans have become restless once again. Enter Pacific Rim: Uprising, the sequel directed by Steven S. DeKnight (Marvel's "Daredevil") and starring John Boyega as Pentecost's son.
English novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker Alex Garland rose to prominence in 1996 with the release of his first novel, The Beach. After Danny Boyle filmed an adaptation of the book (released in 2000), Garland transitioned into screenwriting, with a proclivity for dystopian science fiction. His impressive filmography reads like an abbreviated list of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century, including 28 Days Later (2002), Sunshine (2007), Never Let Me Go (2011) and Dredd (2012). In 2015, Garland made his directorial debut with the sci-fi thriller Ex Machina, for which his script was nominated for a Best Original Screenplay Academy Award. Garland's second directorial effort, Annihilation, is another mind-bending masterstroke in the writer-director's ambitious oeuvre that will prove profound to some viewers, but polarizing to others.
Originally co-created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and published by Marvel Comics, Black Panther made his first appearance in 1966's Fantastic Four #52. The first superhero of African descent in mainstream American comics, Black Panther debuted years before early black superheroes such as the Falcon (1969), John Stewart's Green Lantern (1971), Luke Cage (1972), and Blade (1973). Crossing racial and cultural lines, Black Panther has continued to resonate with readers over the years, spawning multiple publications, and appearing in numerous video games and animated series. It wasn't until 2016, however, that the iconic hero made his big screen debut. Included in Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther (played by Chadwick Boseman) was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's massive fan base, setting the stage for this stand-alone feature film. Enter director Ryan Coogler's Black Panther, the eighteenth entry in Marvel's shared cinematic universe and, perhaps, the most absorbing and entertaining installment yet.
Over the last 12 months, I've seen more than 100 new releases — that's over eight days of time in total spent watching new movies — and I'm happy to report that it's been another incredible year at the cinema, despite claims that "film is dead." This year, I was lucky enough to see vital new work by visionary filmmakers like Denis Villeneuve, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg, and Darren Aronofsky. I witnessed soul-stirring performances by Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Mary J. Blige, Willem Dafoe, Sally Hawkins, and Michael Stuhlbarg. And I was thoroughly entertained by emotionally engaging, visually impressive blockbusters like War for the Planet of the Apes, Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Blade Runner 2049. So which films did I enjoy the most? Which are my favorites? Let's find out.
Written and directed by filmmaker Rian Johnson (of Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper), Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the second entry in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, following J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Upon its release in late 2015, The Force Awakens received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and praise from fans worldwide for restoring the saga's former glory while injecting it with fresh blood. As beloved as Episode VII was, however, one criticism continued to appear: it was too safe; a rehash of George Lucas' 1977 film. If Abrams' movie was too safe, then Johnson's follow-up may prove too risky.
Director Zack Snyder's Superman reboot, Man of Steel, received mostly positive reviews when it released in 2013, but ultimately underperformed at the box office. The second entry in the DC Extended Universe (DCEU), Snyder's sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, encountered an overwhelmingly negative response from critics and lukewarm audience sentiment, despite making $873 million. Similarly, the third film in the franchise, David Ayer's Suicide Squad, wound up with terrible reviews but still surpassed expectations. Everything changed this year, when Patty Jenkins' Wonder Woman received widespread critical acclaim and overwhelming audience support, becoming one of the best-reviewed superhero movies of all time and the highest-grossing superhero origin movie in history. Now, Justice League hopes to ride Wonder Woman's coattails and deliver a fun, hopeful film that lives up to the legacy of the iconic superhero
First published in 1934, Agatha Christie's novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is considered one of the most suspenseful and thrilling mysteries ever written. The book, which concerns the murder of a wealthy businessman aboard a luxury train, features one of Christie's most famous & long-lived characters, detective Hercule Poirot. The Belgian sleuth with a magnificent mustache has appeared in more than 30 novels and 50 short stories and has been portrayed on radio, in film, and on TV by various actors, including Albert Finney, Sir Peter Ustinov, Tony Randall, Alfred Molina, Orson Welles, and David Suchet. Now, 83 years after its debut, Murder on the Orient Express receives another lavish, star-studded film adaptation, this time by actor-turned-director Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein), who also stars.
Created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby, Thor first appeared in 1962's comic Journey Into Mystery #83, a sci-fi anthology published by Marvel Comics. Based on the Norse deity of the same name, Thor is the God of Thunder and possesses Mjolnir, an enchanted hammer. A year later, Thor was included in The Avengers #1 as a founding member of the team, and the character has since appeared in every subsequent volume of the series. As a result, Thor has become one of Marvel's most popular and enduring superheroes, featured in countless comics, animated series, video games, and live-action films. Played by Chris Hemsworth, Thor has appeared in five Marvel Cinematic Universe movies - including Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a cameo at the end of Doctor Strange. His latest cinematic outing, Thor: Ragnarok, looks to set a new standard for not just the Thor series, but the rest of the MCU as well.