Archive for the 'Features' Category
Adapting young adult novels into big screen franchises has been popular in Hollywood for more than ten years now. The Harry Potter movies really started it, while the so-called “craze” really started with 2008’s Twilight. Many of the attempts to take advantage of this craze have failed to find a wide audience, but a few have broken out from the pack to become legitimate blockbuster franchises. The queen jewel of the heap is certainly The Hunger Games franchise, which now concludes with Mockingjay Part 2.
All the Cardinal’s Men
This modern era of cinema is dominated by special effects-laden stories of fictional superheroes saving the world from destruction, but what about the real heroes in this world? They may not have superpowers or wear colorful costumes, but they are heroes because they do their jobs and they do what is right. Fortunately, the movies still find time to tell these stories and because they are about real people and real events, they are often even more fascinating than those big-budget action spectacles.
A Locked-In Drama
The new kidnapping drama Room starts out just like most of those enclosed space thrillers that take place almost entirely in a single location, but it quickly becomes so much more. Thanks largely to the terrific lead performances by Brie Larson and 9-year-old Jacob Tremblay, Room becomes a powerful emotional drama that hits all the right beats. It won’t be for everyone, though. It is a hard-hitting drama that never tries to be a crowd-pleaser.
Fast-Moving, Fast-Talking Biopic
The screenplay for the new biopic Steve Jobs was written by Aaron Sorkin, so it will instantly draw comparisons to 2010’s The Social Network, another movie written by Sorkin about a major personality in the world of computers and the Internet. In fact, Social Network director David Fincher was originally attached to the project that was eventually taken on by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle. The comparisons between the two movies are warranted for more than just their shared screenwriter and similar subject matter, though.
Castaway on a Deserted Planet
Author Andy Weir first self-published his novel The Martian as a free online blog, before creating an Amazon Kindle version at the request of his fans. The Kindle version instantly became a best-seller and before long, Hollywood came calling. The book has been described as something of a cross between Apollo 13 and Castaway and that comparison is even more readily apparent when it comes to the film version. Don’t mistake that for meaning that the movie feels like a retread, because it doesn’t; far from it, actually. The Martian definitely stands out as an exhilarating experience on its own and is easily one of the best movies of 2015.
Experience Pays Off
After a long and storied career made up mostly of dramatic roles, Robert De Niro has found some success in his later career with comedic roles. He played on his history of playing gangster roles with the big hit Analyze This and then followed that up with the even more successful Meet the Parents series, but The Intern might be his best work in a comedy since Midnight Run came out in the eighties. And De Niro is the star of the show. The actor is perfect as the retired businessman with a lifetime of experience he can share with his new younger co-workers.
An IMAX Experience
A lot of blockbusters recently have built themselves up as “an IMAX experience,” but they are not necessarily the cinematic experiences for which the IMAX format was originally designed. In fact, it was not that long ago when IMAX theaters played host mostly to documentary and travelogue films that took the viewer to amazing places around the world. Perhaps the new film Everest is the best of both worlds as it takes viewers to the highest place on Earth and showcases some incredible visuals, all while telling a dramatic narrative story based on real-life events. In fact, the movie briefly references the IMAX film crew that was creating a documentary film of the same story (and same name) when the events portrayed actually happened… a film that we were told prior to our screening was the one that opened the very IMAX cinema where we sat.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Actor Owen Wilson is mostly known for his comedies, but over the years he has shown some quality dramatic chops in movies such as Midnight in Paris and Marley & Me. In the new movie No Escape, Wilson has his most intense and dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. Both movies are stories of survival, with No Escape pushing the actor’s character to the very limits of humanity.
Cruise Takes to the Skies
Ever since Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt ran away from a crashing fish tank in 1996, the Mission: Impossible movie series has been all about the big stunts. The same is true of the latest film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which even goes so far as to hang its star outside of an airplane while it takes off. Those crazy practical stunts are refreshing in a summer that to this point has been mostly dominated by computer-aided science-fiction and fantasy movies. For what is really the first time in the series, the new movie picks up right where the last movie left off. In fact, this is the first movie in the franchise in which every member of Ethan Hunt’s core team was in at least one of the previous movies.
Boxing is Life
Director Walter Hill is famously quoted as saying that “most Hollywood boxing movies are metaphors” and it is no wonder. A boxer stands there and takes the punches his opponent throws at him and his success is determined by how well he can take these punches while continuing to fight back. We all face our challenges in life and our success is largely determined by how well we fight back against or through those challenges. Fortunately for the rest of us, those challenges usually don’t involve getting punched in the face. The new movie Southpaw follows the boxing-movie-as-metaphor template laid down by the many great boxing films that have come before it. It succeeds, for sure, but it follows that template a little too closely to truly break any new ground in the genre.
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