Watch “Kara,” a Star Wars fan film. It’s well worth your time.
Great film has the power to convey the unimaginable. We sit in the comfort of a darkened theater or our living room and watch protagonists suffer through physical and emotional pain that most of us can’t really comprehend. Too often, these endurance tests feel manipulative or, even worse, false. We’re smart enough to “see the strings” being pulled, and the actor and set never fades away into the character and condition. What’s remarkable about Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s The Revenant is how effectively it transports us to another time and place, while always maintaining its worth as a piece of visual art. You don’t just watch The Revenant, you experience it. You walk out of it exhausted, impressed with the overall quality of the filmmaking and a little more grateful for the creature comforts of your life.
Read the full review here. Love this movie! Clearly I’m on board with an Oscar sweep.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens – In a sense, I’ve been waiting for this movie since I was five-years-old, as it continues the legacy of what the original Star Wars started almost 40 years ago. Clearly, J.J. Abrams was the man for the job. He gives us a true new addition to the Star Wars universe. The best part? Daisy Ridley. She’s pure power and charisma on screen, and she’s supported by a very strong new cast. It’s also terrific seeing Harrison Ford again as Han Solo. I could go on, but you’ve heard it all. Suffice to say, this is my favorite film of the year.
Mad Max: Fury Road – This movie had me grinning like an idiot nearly the whole way through; it’s pure fun. It’s also one of the most raw and visceral cinematic experiences I can remember, pure jaw-dropping cinema. Wow.
The Revenant – Please see my brief review here. This movie is amazing.
Trainwreck – I don’t think I laughed harder at anything all year. Man, this is a funny film. I’ve been an Amy Schumer fan since I first saw her stand-up, and her sketch comedy show is one of the smartest satires on television. Schumer wrote and stars in Trainwreck, and it proves what her fans already knew: she’s one of the greatest comedians out there. Brilliant.
The Martian – The film is a perfect adaptation of a wonderful book, not that we would expect anything less from Ridley Scott. Drew Goddard’s script deftly plucks the best elements from Andy Weir’s novel, and forgivingly leaves out the tedium. (Not that I don’t appreciate hard science, but it doesn’t always make for the most compelling read.) The hilarious Matt Damon perfectly nails the role of astronaut Mark Watney, and the rest of the cast is wonderful. It all adds up to something really special.
Worst of the Year: Aloha – Awful in every way, just gross. How could so many talented people go so wrong?
Looking forward to what 2016 brings!
I finally checked out Ben Ostrower’s medium.com theory about Rey’s family, and it’s a must-read. If true, it could change the way we look at the entire Star Wars saga. How amazing would that be? Here’s an excerpt:
I left the theater after my first (and even second) viewing entirely convinced that Rey is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. Duh. All signs point to this (the inheritance of the lightsaber, Maz Kanata’s cryptic insights, the final scene with Luke, etc). After all, the whole story is about the sins and redemptions of the Skywalker family, right?
Not so fast. After days of marinating, I’m convinced: that was all misdirection — too narratively easy for what should be the biggest reveal in this new trilogy. In the following post, I’ll make a reasoned case that Rey is in fact Obi Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter — both because of clues planted in The Force Awakens and especially because it would bring the nine episode series to a much more satisfying emotional conclusion; lending more poignance to the earlier films, including the maligned Prequels.
Read the full article here. It’s well worth your time.
We’re just weeks away from the conclusion of the Red Rising trilogy by Pierce Brown, and I’m starting to freak out. It’s distracting how much I’m looking forward to reading Morning Star. It really is. I’ll be doing something completely unrelated like watching TV or trying to get work done, and my mind will wander to Darrow and his friends — or what’s left of them. I absolutely cannot wait to see how it all shakes out.
Brown has built a sprawling Greek pantheon-inspired universe populated by warring clans that rarely play by the rules. And neither does Brown. The thing I love most about these books is how he subverts expectations again and again, twisting and flipping the story on its head. Like his hero Darrow, Brown refuses to play by the rules or go easy, and it makes for exhilarating reading.
Red Rising is one of my favorite books period and one of the most compelling page-turners I’ve ever read. It’s almost impossible to put down once it gets its hooks in you. I’ve read it twice already, and I plan to read it a third time before Morning Star comes out. The follow up, Golden Son, continues to expand the world, the clashes exploding beyond anything we could have expected. It’s magnificent storytelling.
You must read these books.
Now THIS is cinema! Like Mad Max: Fury Road or Gravity, The Revenant is a film you absolutely need to watch in the theater. I don’t care how big your LCD screen is, it won’t be the same. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is gorgeous, the true star of this picture. Combined with naturalist pacing and a subtle score, it transports out of the present day into the beautiful yet terrifyingly dangerous wilderness.
Of course, Leonardo DiCaprio continues his juggernaut performance streak by subjecting himself to more rigors than most of us will experience in a lifetime. He fully deserves all the accolades being heaped on him and more. His brilliant work is supported by another terrific villainous turn from Tom Hardy. Will Poulter rises to the occasion alongside these titans. And hey, look, it’s Domhnall Gleeson again! That guy is everwhere!
Alejandro Iñárritu pulls the best from his talented performers and weaves them into a brutal and breathing tapestry of life and death (mostly death) that gushes out of the screen. I can’t begin to figure out how they shot a lot of it. From the fabled bear attack to other jaw-dropping action scenes, it’s like you’re there living it as the chaos erupts around you. Utter insanity. To call this movie ambitious is an insult. Iñárritu attempts something unlike anything we’ve seen before, and he succeeds in creating a masterpiece.
The Revenant is a theatrical experience not to be missed.
It’s art, not entertainment.
Look, I like Charlie Kaufman’s work. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich are both mind-bending, terrific films. I admire the man’s mission to subvert Hollywood conventions in everything he does, and I was excited to see Anomalisa. The animation is initially intriguing, sure, but I found it more unsettling than anything. Maybe this is the point. I don’t know. The bigger problem is that almost nothing happens for the first half of the film; it’s a mundane slog. It does eventually get interesting and even compelling, but by then it had lost me. Yes, there’s some good stuff in there. Yes, it will make you think. But Anomalisa isn’t interested in your enjoyment as an audience member. The film is only 90 minutes, but it feels like forever. You have been warned.
See you in April, buddy.
Like most of you, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I stepped out of the theater. The Force Awakens is actually really good. It’s great, actually. It’s a worthy addition to the series and the first Star Wars film in a very long time that lives up to its name. So let’s take a moment to appreciate it:
Rey – It’s an amazing thing to behold a star being born. Daisy Ridley is a name we should get used to hearing, one that will outlive us all. She commands our attention and respect as Rey, a strong and uncompromising hero who will be an inspiration to girls and boys alike. We admire her toughness but relate to her struggles and doubts. In the end, it is her courage and heart that carry her through. Can’t wait to see what she does next.
Han – Harrison Ford doesn’t miss a beat stepping back into the skin of Han Solo. The cocky grin, wisecracks and perfect timing are all still there, and the smuggler has fallen back into his old ways. A scoundrel will always be a scoundrel, I suppose. Part of the magic of the film is how it unravels the mystery of what’s been going on for the past 30 or so years, and it hasn’t been an easy ride. Han has emerged older and wiser, and his progression plays out perfectly for the guy who shot first.
Grit – The Star Wars universe once again feels gritty and dirty, the way it’s supposed to. Jakku is essentially a planet-sized landfill, and Rey is consistently getting short-changed there by Simon Pegg’s corrupt Unkar Plutt. We get to explore another hive of scum at villainy at Maz Kanata’s. Han even encounters bounty hunters after his head. And yes, the Millennium Falcon is still barely holding together. The sets look real and worn throughout just like the Star Wars we know and love.
Pacing – The Force Awakens almost never lets you catch your breath. The movie flies by faster than an X-Wing. Like Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi before it, our heroes find themselves escaping one scrape only to find themselves landing in another situation that’s even worse. Tight editing combines with another terrific John Williams score to power us along a relentless ride that never lets up.
J.J. Abrams – We can be forever thankful to the Jedi Master who shepherded us into this new Star Wars era by recapturing what we love about the original series and still delivering an experience that feels fresh. Critics and naysayers will nitpick and debate The Force Awakens for years, but no one can deny that Mr. Abrams has crafted a grand and fun adventure that allows us to once again escape into a galaxy far, far away. Thank you, sir. We are forever in your debt.
Of course, we also love Finn, Poe and Chewie. No end of internet fun has been made of Kylo Ren, but he is a frightening new villain. And didn’t seeing Luke give you chills? I can’t wait to see the movie again and again and again. It’s a great time to be a nerd. Thoughts?