Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Eleven years ago to the day, a minor miracle happened. With the release of The Return of the King, Peter Jackson not only finished an ambitious film trilogy (filmed as a single project over more than a year of shooting), but managed the double-tap of a worthy adaptation of fantasy literature AND a genuinely great cap to a film series. And as trilogies like The Godfather can attest, sticking the landing can be a hell of a thing.

I bring this up in relation to the third and final film based on the Lord of the Rings prelude The Hobbit because. . . well frankly, The Battle of the Five Armies relishes referencing its own bigger, better siblings at every opportunity.

As to whether Jackson managed to stick the landing again? Short answer: sort of.

Friday, November 7, 2014

BIG HERO 6 - How to Train Your Robot

The best superhero stories are, in actuality, about internal conflicts. In spite of the razzle-dazzle of super powers, strange creatures, other-worldly invasions, and science fiction marvels, the action in these tales is best used to mirror and drive the inner struggles of the protagonist. Whether it's Spider-man's struggle with responsibility and guilt, the X-men's bid for acceptance from society at large because they have trouble enough accepting themselves, or Mr. Incredible's mid-life crisis, that's what these movies are really about, even when it looks like a guy in a mask fighting a villain on a bridge.

Big Hero 6 understands this, and while its surface is a basic superhero team yarn celebrating science and the power of friendship, it's actually about a boy's struggle against grief and helpless rage.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

JOHN WICK - Stylish Minimalism

It can be easy to forget, in this modern age of clashing CGI armies, zooming spaceships and high-flying superheroes, that at one point in history, the biggest action thrill in cinema was watching a guy with a gun and a damn good reason to use it.

John Wick is a reminder of precisely why that simple premise used to be - and in fact still is - so viscerally compelling.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

THE BOOK OF LIFE - Amor de los Muertos

Many great movies are meticulous, laser-focused affairs, films that have a mission statement that they zero in on early and hew to from the first frame to the last, using every facet of the script, visuals and performances to reinforce this single imparted truth. This can be especially helpful with family films meant for a wide child audience, allowing a movie to be accessible and stimulating to a young audience in a "digestible" manner.

And when properly executed, it works like gangbusters. The environmentalism of Miyazaki, the self-actualization of Brad Bird, the praises of true love through acceptance in Frozen or Beauty & the Beast, or the message of friendship until the end of the Toy Story films - the results speak for themselves.

But rules are made to be broken. The Book of Life takes a different approach. And while the result isn't the sort of richly-crafted masterpiece of message, tone, and perfect plotting seen in these previously-mentioned cinematic titans, it creates a beautifully unwieldy magic all its own.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

THE BOXTROLLS - Beautifully Bizarre

I'm not entirely sure who The Boxtrolls is "for" (other than me) in the sense of target demographic or potential audience. It's a stop-motion animated film, hardly an historically record-breaker at the box office, and Laika (the studio behind Coraline and ParaNorman) hasn't bucked this trend. And while it's been marketed as a family film, its tone and sensibilities have more in common with PG-rated "kids" films of the 80's than more modern fare, the kind like Ghostbusters or Gremlins that have just as much material for the adults that will fly far enough over the heads of kid audiences that it's still "safe" for them. Barely.

But I'm pretty ecstatic that it exists at all, regardless of why.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW - Groundhog Troopers

I really like Tom Cruise. There was once a time when this statement wasn't remotely out of the ordinary, as Cruise was one of the few movie stars of the 80's to actually gain popularity in the 90's as the modern ideal of the action hero morphed from beefy Olympian to more of an everyman, but the guy seems to have fallen out of public favor. The fact that, apart from Brad Bird's examplary live-action directing debut on Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol aside, his movies haven't been terribly great lately.

And while he made some bold choices when choosing roles a few times in the last couple decades, lately he seems to have been on - well, for lack of a better term, Cruise Control, choosing parts that ask little from him outside of the ability to smile, punch, and run.

Luckily, Edge of Tomorrow proves to be a major course correction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Along with 1998's Blade, the original X-men helped to kick-start the modern superhero genre. While a few hallmarks of the original X-films (more serious focus, toning down of the colorful comic book elements) saw themselves reflected in movies like Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy, there was very little else to the early films of the franchise of note, other than giving screen appearances of varying quality to an increasing roster Marvel mutants. As the franchise hit choppy waters with X-men: The Last Stand and X-men Origins: Wolverine, Fox looked for ways to breathe new life in to the franchise.

This paid off with the pretty good The Wolverine from last year, and the very good X-men: First Class from 2011, but interestingly enough it's this year's Days of Future Past that not only restores the franchise's financial success and brings it to new critical heights, but finds a unique twist that both makes Days a compelling film, and also gives the franchise something to truly call its own in a continually crowded field.

In creating one of the most "comic book-like" films ever made, this franchise has actually retconned it's own history.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Summer of Trilogies - X-MEN

This is the second in a series of reflections of film trilogies that helped reshape the blockbuster landscape going into the 21st century, and gave rise to the Golden Age of Geek Cinema. Part 1, covering Sam Raimi's Spider-man Trilogy, ran already. And while those films cemented the superhero as the new heavy hitter at the box office, Marvel was counting on another property to jump-start Spider-man and several other franchises that they'd sold off to various studios.

That property was X-men.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Summer of Trilogies - SPIDER-MAN

We are in the middle of a Golden Age of "geek cinema" - a studio system that was once built upon seeking out the biggest stars to headline tentpoles has now almost completely inverted. Now big-name stars line-up for the sorts of roles that Alec Guinness regretted and resented being most well-known for, and fantastical genre projects that would never have seen the light of day are the bread and butter of an entire industry.

But that didn't happen over-night, or with a single film.

I seem to run with a lot of themed series on this blog - The Disney Renaissance and the Harry Potter Marathon were incredibly fun to write and even more sober reflections like the Tony Scott In Memorium series hew closely to my own fondness for movie production details and genre cinema. This year sees the release of a new Middle-earth film, a new Spider-man movie, a new X-men movie, and a new movie from the Wachowski siblings, so the coming summer months seem an appropriate time to revisit a lot of the trilogies that had a major hand in shaping the blockbuster landscape we now find ourselves in.

Some of these films I love, some of them I don't. Many are perennial favorites, others I haven't seen in years. But all of them, in their own small way, helped to change movies forever.

And I'll be starting with one of the most recognizable - and possibly controversial - entries of all. Sam Raimi's Spider-man Trilogy.

Strap in, this is gonna get long.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


A "perfect sequel" is a rare breed. Even (or especially) in this age of factory-pressed franchise templates ruling the mega-plexes, it's easy for a sophomore outing to merely coast on its predecessor's success (see: Iron Man 2, Star Trek Into Darkness) or completely miss what made the original film successful. For decades, sequels to good, widely-liked movies that genuinely matched or out-stripped their predecessors have been treasured almost like holy relics, an all-to-rare confluence of the right elements coming together to form something glorious.

And in the realm of big-budget genre entertainment, these films become legends. The Empire Strikes BackStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. AliensTerminator 2Spider-man 2The Dark Knight. And now, they have a new member among their ranks.

Yes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier really is that good.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE - Brain Over Brawn

DIRECTOR: Noam Murro (though rumors have it this is as much Zack Snyder's film)

SHORT VERSION: Wait, that was. . . actually pretty good?

Yeah, I'm as shocked as you are.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY - "You got superheroes in my FIREFLY!"

Can we all agree that the existence of this film, a movie that represents MARVEL throwing over one hundred million dollars at the director of SLITHER and SUPER to create a sci-fi adventure movie, makes DC/Warner's refusal to pull the trigger on a WONDER WOMAN movie absolutely embarrassing?

Because this trailer is completely insane, and just does not care.

Monday, February 10, 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE: Building a better blockbuster

Oh yeah, this is going to be one of  "those" reviews. Because there's no way I'm going to let a chance to make this many toy-related puns pass me by.

Monday, January 13, 2014

FILMS OF 2013 - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

So last year I did a "Top 10 And Then Some" list regarding film in 2012, and being that 2013 has just recently ended, I feel it's time to revisit this idea. I like talking about stuff that I enjoyed, and there was quite a lot to enjoy in cinema in 2013 - while it wasn't as good a year for big blockbusters as last year (no AVENGERS or SKYFALL), it delivered with plenty of smaller human stories.

And some of the blockbusters were pretty great as well.

Once again, there are a few films I haven't been able to see yet, but again, I don't like waiting too long to do this. So here we'll do the best, the worst, the surprises, and the rest.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET - The Success of Excess

Director: Martin Scorsese

Short Version: In the adaptation of Jordan Belfort's auto-bio, Leonardo DiCaprio re-teams with Scorsese in one of the most angry, funny, enraging, and enthralling film experiences of the year. If this movie were made by someone in their 20's, they'd be championed as a bold new vision in the medium - the fact that Scorsese is capable of this at 71 is just astounding.