2016 is coming to a close. What a year it was. 2017 is bound to be another year jam-packed with big hits, some of which we already have trailers and/or teasers for. These are the 10 films that I am most curious and/or excited about next year.
#10: The Mummy
A remake of The Mummy? Not even 20 years since it was first released? Even though the original Mummy with Mr. Brendan Fraser was no cinematic masterpiece, it was still undeniably fun. Remakes and sequels have a bad habit of stripping the fun out of the original, so we'll see what happens this time with Tom Cruise at the helm. Fingers crossed that the fun is still there.
#9: Beauty and the Beast
Disney hit the ball out of the park with their live-action features in 2016. The Jungle Book and Pete's Dragon were visual overhauls that both proved highly successful. Now comes Beauty and the Beast, another Disney animated classic. Emma Watson will star as Belle, and I am expecting this film to keep up Disney's live-action winning streak.
#8: The Fate of the Furious
Furious 7 was one of the biggest box-office smashes of 2015, and paid a heart-warming tribute to Paul Walker. The trailer reveals Dom Toretto betraying his crew and being seduced by a criminal-mastermind woman. This is an interesting twist for a franchise that has continuously featured Vin Diesel talking about "family". I am interested in seeing how it plays out. Plus, how can you pass up another chance to see Vin Diesel, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, and Jason Statham all together, kicking ass and blowing stuff up?
#7: Wonder Woman
DC is probably praying and hoping that Wonder Woman turns out well. Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad might have been profitable, but they were both panned by critics and audiences. It's as if the future of DC's "rivalry" with Marvel is riding on the outcome of Wonder Woman. To me, this is a film that should've come out before Batman v Superman. We've gotten a brief glimpse at Gal Gadot's portrayal of Wonder Woman in BvS, which seemed to win a lot of people over. In addition, it's nice that Wonder Woman is getting a modern-day overhaul. As someone who enjoyed BvS and is not overly fond of Marvel, I hope that Wonder Woman is finally the hit that can get DC going.
#6: Kong: Skull Island
Peter's Jackson 2005 remake of King Kong was exciting, but overly-long. The difference with this Kong is that he is going to fight the new American Godzilla in the near future. If you were a fan of Godzilla and all the giant Japanese monsters growing up like I was, I don't know how you could not get excited for that.
Logan is advertised to be Hugh Jackman's last appearance as Wolverine, as well as Patrick Stewart's last appearance as Professor X. Seeing these two ride off into the sunset is going to (hopefully) make Logan another strong addition to the already robust X-Men franchise.
#4: Star Wars Episode VIII
The next chapter of Star Wars is unquestionably the most anticipated film of the coming year. There's little that we can speculate right now in regards to what will happen in this episode. Plus, with Episode IX to still be released in 2019, we're definitely not going to get all the answers to everything. I'm sure this film will break the box office just like Episode VII did. Star Wars really seems to have a knack for doing that nowadays.
#3: Justice League
We live in an age where superheroes are dominating the film industry. If Marvel can pull off bringing so many different heroes together, why can't DC? If Wonder Woman isn't going to finally give DC that push they need to make a name for themself, maybe Justice League will do it. For someone that highly enjoyed Batman v Superman, I'm super excited to see them again, and with other heroes like the Flash and Aquaman present as well? Come on, this kind of stuff is why we love superheroes and love going to the movies.
#2: Blade Runner 2049
Blade Runner is my favorite science fiction film, so how could I not be pumped for this? Dennis Villeneuve, the director of Arrival, will be directing this sequel that takes place 30 years after the events of the first film. More than anything, I hope that this sequel is not an action-filled special effects spectacle, because the world in which Blade Runner takes place is one that is highly thought-provoking, and action should not be emphasized. What the exact story will be is what really interests me, as well as how Ryan Gosling will play the new blade runner.
#1: War for the Planet of the Apes
Thereis no film that I am more excited for this upcoming year than War for the Planet of the Apes. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is one of the best science fiction films to come out in the past 10-15 years, and this sequel should only add upon it. Andy Serkis has been terrific as Caesar, and Woody Harrelson is an intriguing choice as a human villain. Will the apes prevail? Or will the humans survive?
War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters July 14!
An American in Paris is a 1951 musical romance film directed by Vincente Minnelli and stars Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron. The film is based on a 1928 orchestral piece of the same name by George Gershwin.
Jerry Mulligan (Kelly) is a World War II veteran who resides in Paris, attempting to make a living as a painter. He meets a woman who takes interest in his artwork, which later results in Mulligan meeting Lise Bouvier (Caron). Jerry soon falls for Lise, hoping to win her affections.
An American in Paris is the first Best Picture winner to be seen in color since Gone with the Wind. I appreciate that the film is not in black and white, mainly because it contains a light-hearted and colorful style that requires the vibrance and underlying emotional attachments of colors. This is also Leslie Caron's feature film debut, and she would also appear in a later Best Picture winner, Gigi.
There's a plethora of musicals that have won Best Picture, and when you think of musicals, the initial hope is that the singing and dancing are reasonable, if not top-notch. That doesn't mean that the other important qualities such as story/plot and characters can be foregone. An American in Paris is an example of excellent singing and dancing being displayed with plot coming up as an alarming opportunity cost.
- Gene Kelly. No one can deny that Gene Kelly was one of the best of his generation, and his talents are brought full force to this film. His syrupy-sweet charm and clicking dance feet are as pleasant a sight as they are in Singin' in the Rain and his other films. Songs such as "I Got Rhythm" and "'S'Wonderful" are the most memorable, and the 17 minute ending ballet dance sequence is swift and highly active, all with Kelly leading the way.
- The lighthearted and upbeat tone. I fail to a see a proper reason to "hate" An American in Paris, primarily because it is busy acting as if it doesn't have a care in the world, conveyed by its jubilant dances and the constantly smiling faces seen throughout. That's a plus because there's nothing preachy or shove-it-down-your-throat.
- The plot. Outside of Gene Kelly's character being an artist and him developing a romance with Leslie Caron's character, there's not really any more movie sandwich-meat for us to chew. An American in Paris not having a care in the world is also a minus because the paper-thin plot is not given the time and attention that it probably needed.
- The weak romance. The singing and dancing are smoke and mirrors for the poorly developed love story between Kelly and Caron. The problem is not that the two fail to create a spark of chemistry, but more-so going back to the half-empty plot, which fails to deliver to the two characters the screen time that they need. Gene Kelly usually spends more time singing about being in love, rather than actually being in love.
An American in Paris features quality work from Gene Kelly, and though the plot and romance leave a lot more to be desired, the joyous dance routines and singing make the film a harmless experience that is highly enhanced by being in color.
Recommend? Flip a coin. Heads-yes. Tails-no.
All About Eve is a 1950 drama film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and stars Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, and Celeste Holm. The film was nominated for 14 different Academy Awards and won 6, with one being Best Picture.
Margo Channing (Davis) is a popular, though aging, Broadway actress who fears that her career is beginning to reach its downhill slide. Her life gets turned upside down when she meets superfan Eve Harrington (Baxter). Margo hires Eve as an assistant, and while everything seems fine at first, Eve begins to sabotage Margo's life, disrupting her relationships with her closest friends, and eventually aims to swipe Margo's Broadway spotlight away from her.
Bette Davis and Anne Baxter shine as a memorable female duo in All About Eve, a film with a premise as interesting as it is daring. The film could've been borderline-horror if the right buttons were pushed, but director Mankiewicz doesn't let us think of Eve Harrington as a stalker or psychopath. It makes sense that the film is All About Eve, because we spend the 138 minute run-time trying to decipher who Eve Harrington really is, what her motivations are, and what she hopes to achieve in the end.
Eve seems relatively simple on the surface; she's an up and coming actress who adores Margo Channing and wins everyone's affection with her innocence and youthful looks. But much is left to our imagination, because we never see her actually perform, plus we never see her in some flashback witnessing Margo Channing on stage. Is she envious? A suck-up? Or maybe does she secretly detest Margo so much that she wants to ruin her whatever the cost? No answer is totally straightforward, which is what makes Anne Baxter such a compelling and noteworthy villainous.
- The acting. All of the main actors and actresses do a fine job in their respective roles, with Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and George Sanders deserving the most praise. There are no weak links in the main cast, and every character besides Margo and Eve get their chance to be a part of a significant scene. Celeste Holm's Karen Richards has a tense one-on-one conversation with Eve in a restaurant, who shares her intention to steal a Broadway part from Margo. George Sanders' Addison DeWitt keeps his eye on everyone, smoking from his long pipe, and paying close attention to Eve and her devious deeds. Did you know that Marilyn Monroe plays a small(er) part in this film?
- The story. It's one that finds a way to keep you intrigued throughout, beginning with an introduction to Eve, a seemingly harmless fan, who justs wants to meet her idol. But then you realize that she has a twinkle of wrong-doing in her eyes, and Eve's supposed friendship with Margo grows more strained by the minute. There's no sure-fire way to guess how the story will play out, which is always a plus.
- I failed to see how All About Eve is considered to be, according to other reviews, wickedly funny. The premise is too solemn to have All About Eve be considered a comedy. I am not claiming that the film has no humorous moments, but whatever bits of dialogue or physical gestures there were that were intended to be funny, did not stick out as such.
The Academy doesn't get the proper Best Picture winner correct all the time, but this is a time that they do. All About Eve features terrific performances, a thought-provoking story, and makes for a memorable movie experience. The Best Picture winners of the 1950's are off to a great start.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an epic space opera film and the first stand-alone Star Wars Anthology film. It is directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Felicity Jones.
Rogue One takes place between Episodes III and IV of Star Wars, where Garen Erso, a research scientist for the Galactic Empire, is in hiding with his family. The Empire finds him and forces him to return to work on the Death Star. Erso's daughter, Jyn, is found fifteen years later by the Rebels, who want to use her to find her father and prevent the Death Star from being completed. Jyn discovers a message left by her father, who reveals that he designed a flaw within the Death Star that can destroy it completely. Jyn, with several other Rebel troops by her side, sets out to retrieve the Death Star plans, and possibly find her father as well.
Don't you hate it when a film seems so full of itself? That's a nagging impression I got from watching Rogue One, a film that seems to believe that just because it has the words Star Wars slapped onto its title, it's automatically an incredible piece of cinema. Rogue One is more of an ostentatious work of cinema that provides little more than nostalgia value to keep the Star Wars hype train chugging along until Episode VIII comes out next year.
- The nostalgia. I won't deny that there is some giddy excitement that comes from watching old-school Stormtroopers fire their blasters and seeing Darth Vader on screen (sparingly though). The action sequences are a nice reminder as to why we loved the original trilogy so much, especially if someone watched them in their earlier childhood.
- The giant fight when the Rebels are retrieving the Death Star plans. This sequence is riveting and full of dazzling action. It's a third act finale that the film builds up to and highly delivers on.
- The characters. What were a few reasons why we fell in love with Star Wars so much in the first place? Because we loved watching Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C3PO, and R2-D2 and their exciting adventures. We stood in complete awe of the villainous Darth Vader. They were all characters with qualities that still resonate today. This seems so contradictory for the Star Wars universe to have them present to us characters that feel one-dimensional and who spend half the film languishing about their past sufferings. It doesn't help when our main cyborg character, K2SO, is little more than comic relief (and he's not even that funny).
- The storytelling, and this is something that Star Wars just hasn't seemed to really do right since the end of the original trilogy. Our heroes travel from planet to planet, and we sit with a vague understanding as to why they are there in the first place, with the exception of Scarif, the planet where the Death Star plans are located. Jyn is a captive of the Galactic Empire before the Rebels rescue her, and it's never clear as to how she was captured and for how long. The plot is, for the most part, bumpy, especially in the beginning. If you've watched all the previous Star Wars beforehand, you know how it plays out in the end anyway.
Rogue One is abundant with nostalgia, but it seems convinced that the sight of all of its nostalgic pieces, such as classic Stormtroopers and Darth Vader, is enough to make you think that it's something greater than it actually is. Flimsy characters and a shaky plot stick out like a sore thumb, and the epic third act action sequence isn't enough to save the day. If these spin-offs are going to be major hits in the future, it'd be nice to have the filmmakers give a more convincing argument to go see them other than, "Because it's Star Wars."
Recommend? If you're an avid Star Wars fan, yes. Otherwise, no
All the King's Men is a 1949 political drama film based on Robert Penn Warren's Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name. It is directed by Robert Rossen and stars Broderick Crawford.
The story follows the rise and fall of politician Willie Stark. He rallies the people living in his rural county when he announces that he is running for governor. After suffering a narrow defeat, Stark wins on a second attempt. Stark brings about many promised changes, but in the process, he slowly becomes ruthless and corrupt, damaging his relationships with those close to him. Much of the story is narrated by journalist Jack Burden, who follows Stark and sticks with him through thick and thin.
The rise and fall of someone is a common topic in film, and especially so in several Best Picture winners. The Great Ziegfeld observes the success and eventual downfall of the womanizing theater figure, Florenz Ziegfeld. Several winners later on have a similar story, but since I haven't gotten that far yet, I will refrain from discussing them.
The political components that All the King's Men needed to get right are definitely done right. Fiery, emotional speeches generate applause from large crowds. Our central figure is a corrupt governor who we grow to despise. There are no real heroes in this film, because it's rare to see one in a political setting.
- Broderick Crawford. His performance was well-deserving of Best Actor, creating the vision of a politician that us as Americans, especially after this most current election, would hate with all our guts. The sign of a great performance is when you hate the character that you're supposed to hate and not become angry at the actor/actress. The lean muscle of All the King's Men is in Crawford's role, and it is portrayed masterfully.
- Political films are usually exciting, but All the King's Men awkwardly wavers in and out between boring and exciting. Willie Stark's intense speeches are shortly followed by dull conversations between secondary characters. The uneven tone has you hooked one second, and then half asleep the next. It's like watching Fast & Furious with clips from Cimarron spliced in after each action sequence.
Broderick Crawford's memorable performance bolsters All the King's Men into a reasonable Best Picture winner, giving a clear portrayal at the detrimental effects of power and corruption. It's worth at least one viewing, but probably not multiple.
Recommend? Yes, though you probably won't care to watch it again
Nocturnal Animals is a 2016 neo-noir thriller film directed by Tom Ford and features a notable group of stars; Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Laura Linney, and Aaron Taylor Johnson.
Susan Morrow (Adams) is a wealthy art-gallery owner, who lives in a complicated marriage with her husband constantly away on business trips. Morrow is delivered a manuscript from her ex-husband, writer Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal), titled Nocturnal Animals. The manuscript tells the story of a couple who have a supposed road trip go horribly wrong. Morrow reads through the manuscript, finding herself haunted by memories of her past.
There is no sweet or cheeky fluff here. Nocturnal Animals is dark, biting, and will leave your head rattled. Tom Ford has stylishly crafted a thriller that does what just about any thriller should do, which is make you think a little more when it's over.
If the opening credits which are sequences of obese, naked women dancing around doesn't make you uncomfortable, then I'm not sure what will. The sequence is an appropriate metaphor about what transpires throughout the film. On the surface is a relationship of love that seems to have artfulness to it, like a perfectly normal woman dancing to a melodic tune. But when we throw in malevolent and grotesque details, we now get a layer of fat that perverts what may have once been beautiful and meaningful.
- The neo-noir elements and cinematography. Tom Ford and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey have shots frequently shown with low-lighting and shady coloring. It heavily reminds me of Donnie Darko, another Jake Gyllenhaal film that felt dark and brooding in almost every frame, even ones clearly during the day-time. The tone and atmosphere are effectively eerie, and we are unsettled as an audience.
- The acting. Everyone in the pseudo-ensemble cast does a job well done in their respective roles. Adams is excellent, evenly balancing mental confliction with emotional flare. Gyllenhaal thrives playing a fictional character within the manuscript who grows more disturbed by the minute. Michael Shannon also deserves praise as a police detective who loves to size up arrested criminals.
- While Michael Shannon's performance deserves praise, his character is given weak development that weighs down on the progression of the story. Some information is simply dumped on us, such as announcing that he has lung cancer just out of the blue while sitting with Gyllenhaal in a diner. Shannon then begins to act noticeably sick the rest of the way. At times, it seems that Shannon's character almost takes over the movie, and Gyllenhaal's character is left to play bystander. When all is said and done, you might think if so much screen time was necessary for a character whose appearance seems only necessary to help Gyllenhaal until Gyllenhaal can move forward on his own.
Nocturnal Animals is a head-trip, crawling under your skin and taking you out of your comfort zone. Tom Ford has crafted a dark and sometimes stylish thriller that also helps Amy Adams promptly finish what should be considered one of the best years of her career.
Hamlet is a 1948 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy of the same name. It stars and is directed by Laurence Olivier. The film was the first British film to win the Best Picture Oscar.
A great deal of the original play is cut or altered in the film, but the basic story remains the same. Hamlet is the Prince of Denmark, and his father, the late King Hamlet, has died recently. The ghost of the deceased King comes to Hamlet, telling him that his brother, the new King Claudius, had killed him. Hamlet, at first refusing to believe this is true, decides to feign insanity to test Claudius, in hopes of eventually seeking revenge for his father's death.
Looking at all the previous Best Picture winners, Hamlet feels like a drastic change-up. That might be because the film is the first Best Picture winner (of many) to take place in a centuries ago time period. On top of that, there are some supernatural/fantasy elements at work, mainly with the presence of a ghost. Future winners give evidence to the fact that the Academy is easily baited by period films. But it's not right to immediately claim that all such period piece winners are unworthy of the ultimate Oscar. Hamlet was a deserving winner for its time, with its strengths in being well-acted and mildly exciting.
- Laurence Olivier. Wherever you might look, Olivier has his name all over this film. Despite criticisms from the most avid of Shakespeare scholars, Olivier commands the screen as Hamlet, speaking the Shakespeare language with natural ease. His Best Actor award was certainly well-deserved.
- The ghost. I was looking forward to seeing how the ghost of Hamlet's father would be portrayed, given the lack of special effects back then. The ghost appears as a knight in armor, being cloaked by eerie fog. Unfortunately, what is disappointing is his voice sounds as if he is talking from an astronaut's space suit, sounding muffled and hardly audible. The ghost's explanation of his death isn't communicated to us very effectively as a result.
- The uneven pace. At times, Hamlet is exciting and passionate. But other times, it seems gentle and stagnant. Hamlet's attempt to kill a praying Claudius is riveting, but is followed later by a lengthy scene of Ophelia walking slowly through the halls, singing and talking to herself. It leaves us frustrated, going back and forth between enthralled and semi-bored.
Overall, Olivier's Hamlet is a worthwhile viewing with some praiseworthy acting and some modest excitement. Most of the original play was cut, but this 2 and a half hour film version is a reasonable substitute for the full on-stage experience.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: