ENJOY THE MOVIES
Directed by brothers Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, Avengers: Endgame is the fourth installment in the Avengers franchise and the 22nd Marvel Studios feature to date. The 181-minute movie represents the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, which first began with the release of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in 2008. Since then, Marvel Studios movies have grossed a combined total of over $18 billion worldwide over the last 11 years. The previous Avengers entry, 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War, has already earned over $2 billion at the box office, making it the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time. To say this follow-up is eagerly anticipated would be an understatement, but does Marvel's Endgame – a finale 11 years in the making – live up to the unprecedented hype and unrealistic expectations? Yes it does. And then some.
Originally based on the book written by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, 1941's Dumbo was the fourth animated feature film made by Walt Disney Productions, following up Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), and Fantasia (1940). Originally conceived as a short film, Dumbo was reworked as a low-budget feature to help recoup the financial losses of Pinocchio and Fantasia. Made for half the cost of Snow White, the 64-minute film turned a profit, earning $1.6 million during its initial release. In addition to box office success, the film garnered some critical acclaim as well, winning Best Original Score at the 14th Academy Awards. Now, 77 years later, Walt Disney Productions is re-introducing the iconic character to a new generation with a live-action remake directed by Tim Burton (Alice in Wonderland, Frankenweenie).
Myths of duplicates and alter-egos have persisted for thousands of years… In Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest religions, the deity Spenta Mainyu is The Holy Spirit while his "evil twin" – Angra Mainyu – is the Destructive Spirit. In Ancient Egyptian mythology, a ka is a "spirit double" with the same memories and feelings as its counterpart. Native American folklore depicts an upper world where the good people reside and an underworld where their evil doubles dwell. Today, we refer to look-alikes as doppelgängers, a German word meaning "double-walker." When it comes to cinema, numerous iconic films have tackled the phenomenon, from Vertigo (1958), Persona (1966), and Dead Ringers (1988), to more recent movies like The Prestige (2006), Black Swan (2010), and Enemy (2013). Now, Academy Award winner Jordan Peele follows up his provocative 2017 horror-thriller Get Out with a definitive take on doppelgängers in Us.
Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, Captain Marvel debuted in 1967's Marvel Super-Heroes #12. During the Silver Age, the name belonged to Mar-Vell, a Kree military officer who becomes Earth's protector. In the '80s, Monica Rambeau assumed the title and later became the leader of the Avengers. In the '90s, Rambeau ceded the name to Mar-Vell's son, Genis-Vell, who passed it down to his sister, Phyla-Vell, in the 2000s. In 2012, Carol Danvers, a super-heroine long known as Ms. Marvel, assumed the mantle in a series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. That series serves as the basis for the twenty-first movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), titled Captain Marvel, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, and starring Academy Award-winner Brie Larson as Marvel Studios' first stand-alone, female-franchise title character.
In 2007, following her breakout performance in Michael Bay's Transformers, Megan Fox was set to star in her next project, a Rogue Pictures horror-thriller produced by Bay. Then called Half to Death, the project was pitched as Groundhog Day meets Scream, with the script following a college freshman who must relive the day of her murder over and over again, stuck in a time loop that will end only when she discovers the killer's identity. For reasons unknown, the studio decided not to move on with the project. A decade later, Blumhouse Productions revived the long-gestating project with director Christopher Landon and actress Jessica Rothe. Now titled Happy Death Day, the horror comedy was a surprise hit, grossing $125 million worldwide on a small $4.8 million budget. A sequel was inevitable after that kind of success. Enter Happy Death Day 2U, an inventive and entertaining follow-up that expands upon the first in nearly every way.
Indian-American filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan first gained major acclaimed for his 1999 supernatural horror drama The Sixth Sense. That film was a commercial and critical success and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. His next big feature released in 2000, the ambitious Unbreakable, kickstarted the modern comic book movie boom alongside Bryan Singer's X-Men, also released the same year. Shyamalan's Unbreakable, which co-stars Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, is a serious-minded deconstruction of the superhero subgenre before movies like Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, Jon Favreau's Iron Man, and Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy made it the industry mainstay it is today. He finally follows up this with Glass, continuing the story 19 years later.
Over the last 12 months, I've seen more than 110 new releases — that's over nine days of time in total spent watching movies — and I'm happy to report that it's been an exceptional year at the cinema. In fact, I could probably make a Top 50 Best Films of 2018 list and still leave off a few notable titles. Just think about it – we got to see vital new work from visionary filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Alex Garland, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee, Lynne Ramsay, and newcomer Boots Riley, whose Sorry to Bother You is one of the most unique and refreshingly original movies of the year. We witnessed fantastic performances by Lady Gaga, Ethan Hawke, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Mahershala Ali, Richard E. Grant, as well as Christian Bale. We saw breathtakingly beautiful films like Roma, The Favourite, If Beale Street Could Talk, and First Man – works of flawless craftsmanship by cinematographers and production designers alike.
Created by Paul Norris & Mort Weisinger, Aquaman debuted in 1941's More Fun Comics #73. In his Golden Age appearances, Aquaman is described as a human being who lives and thrives under the water and can speak with sea creatures "in their own language." During the late '50s and 60s, Aquaman was established as a founding member of the Justice League and was a mainstay on Hanna Barbera’s Super Friends, which ran from 1973 to 1986. In the '90s, the wholesome seahorse-riding superhero was re-imagined as the brooding King of Atlantis. Fast-forward to 2011 and The New 52, DC's relaunch of their entire superhero line, and Geoff Johns' cutting-edge revival of the character, which serves as the basis for Aquaman, the third live-action movie featuring the character, following Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League.
Based on characters created by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Sara Pichelli, the new Sony Pictures Animation movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, offers an entirely different take on Marvel's beloved web-slinging superhero, which was first introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962. Produced by the filmmaking team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (of 21/22 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie series), the story centers on African-American/Puerto Rican teenager Miles Morales (voiced by Shameik Moore of Dope and Netflix's "The Get Down") as he tries to fit in at the prestigious Brooklyn Visions Academy. Miles' father, Jefferson (Brian Tyree Henry of Widows and If Beale Street Could Talk), is a straight-laced police officer and his mother (Luna Lauren Velez) is a hard-working nurse — both loving parents who are proud of their son's achievements, and really want to see him succeed studying at the school for gifted students.
When Creed was released in 2015, co-writer and director Ryan Coogler (of Fruitvale Station and Black Panther) pulled off a seemingly impossible task: staying true to the spirit of the film’s iconic predecessors while forging its own path — not unlike the odyssey of its protagonist, Adonis "Donnie" Creed (Michael B. Jordan), searching for an identity and fighting for an opportunity to prove his own self-worth. The film reinvigorated and expanded the Rocky series by returning to its underdog roots and became a fable for a new generation; the rebirth of the American Dream. Now, director Steven Caple Jr. steps in to tell the next chapter in Creed II, an inspiring and affecting sequel that isn't another bum from the neighborhood.
Originally based on the popular UK television series from the 1980s created by Lynda La Plante, Widows is directed, co-written, and produced by British filmmaker Steve McQueen, whose 12 Years a Slave won the 2013 Academy Award for Best Picture. McQueen's films, including Hunger, a historical drama about the 1981 Irish hunger strike, and Shame, a drama about a sex addict coming to terms with his traumatic past, are always concerned with pain and suffering. McQueen's latest, the heist-thriller Widows set in Chicago, is an entertaining departure from his signature brand of Criterion Collection-ready misery porn, but still finds time to explore grief and despair with his characters, amidst the explosions and shoot-outs.
During an interview in 2010, Queen guitarist Brian May announced that a film about the legendary British rock band was in the works. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat, Brüno) was set to play Freddie Mercury, with Peter Morgan (The Queen and Frost/Nixon), writing the screenplay. In 2013, however, Cohen left the project due to creative differences. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that director Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle) would helm the biopic with Ben Wishaw as Mercury. That fell apart, too. Then in 2015, writer Anthony McCarten (The Theory of Everything, The Darkest Hour) signed on to the seemingly doomed project. The film was soon fast-tracked by 20th Century Fox, with director Bryan Singer and actor Rami Malek set to play Freddie. And now Bohemian Rhapsody, a paint-by-numbers biopic that feels less like a definitive telling of Queen's rise to fame and more like Oscar Bait Mamma Mia!™.