Review (kinda): Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens

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NOTE: This is hardly what I wold consider a “proper” review. These are words that came pouring out in a semi-state of euphoria at about 2am following my screening. This is merely a place to get the conversation going before all of the podcasts are released in the days to come.

Also, if you want to know absolutely nothing, then do not read ahead. For the rest of you, this is a relatively SPOILER-FREE stream of un-consciousness.

2D version

It’s tough to put thoughts to paper right at the moment. The entire experience was kind of a mind trip. There were nostalgic tears of joy (and maybe partly of relief) on at least three occasions and I have no idea what the opening crawl said. Something about Luke Skywalker I think.

I’m sure every review out there will call this essentially a remake of “A New Hope” or (at best) a greatest hits of the original trilogy. And they wouldn’t totally be wrong. But I don’t care. Some may call it lazy, other may call it playing it safe, others may call it pandering. I say all the better for it. Grow balls when and where needed, keep everything else just how we like our Star Wars universe: fun, exciting and familiar. Keep it simple, keep it fun and keep it real. Abrams excelled at this on almost every front.

That isn’t to say there’s nothing new. The three (four?) new leads/heroes are fantastic. Poe and Finn are great new characters that have their own swagger, but with flaws they must conquer. Kylo Ren is a fascinating villain and Adam Driver brings it home. Though the clear front-runner here is absolutely Daisy Ridley as Rey, in a career making role and performance.

Han is back in a big way thanks to the return of Harrison Ford finding his inner movie star again (it’s only been 20 years, Ford. Where ya been?). Even Carrie Fisher, who is clearly the weakest link, works out alright for what she’s been given to do. The short of it is, all characters hit their mark and make us care and believe and grow with anticipation on where they journey will lead next. Hashtag Chewbacca!

Outside of the opening battle (which does feel a lot like your typical JJ Abrams joint), the set design, locales and side characters all feel remarkably old-school; in the best possible way. In other words, this is the Star Wars Universe I remember really growing attached to throughout my younger days and adolescence (and beyond!).

There are moments here and there that don’t work perfectly and there are minor quibbles; but that’s just what they are: minor. They don’t come anywhere close to casting any sort of dark shadow over the enjoyment I got from the rest of this film. This is pure, simple entertainment with strong characters, wonderful performances, charismatic and beautiful action sequences, perfect pacing (seriously, I have no idea when the best time to go pee is during this movie – I don’t think there really is one) gorgeous effects, sound design and that John Williams score coming home at just the right (yes, pandering but I love being pandered to) all with a nice setup for a much deeper and meaningful story to carry the fans into a whole new adventure with all new heroes, but with a familiar face. I liked the end of one review which simply said, “your move Rian Johnson.”

I am very very pleased.

 

Trailer: Independence Day: Resurgence

As you may or may not be aware, I’m a pretty big fan of the goofy awesomeness that is Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day from 1996. Even then, I was told there would be a sequel including a land invasion. After fifteen years I had pretty much given up hope.

Until today. President Sela Ward and General William Fichtner and many returning members of the original cast as well as an impressive Asian cast have given me hope and excited my anticipation. It’s just too bad Robert Loggia won’t be around to help win the day. It’s also weird that it comes out almost two weeks before the fourth of July, but whatever. Jeff Goldblum/Bill Pullman represent.

Enjoy. See you for the fireworks.

 

The Star Wars Interviews Episode II

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Since today is unofficially Star Wars week around here – and let’s be honest, pretty much the entire world wide web – we’re kicking it off with a podcast from one of our sister sites, Where the Long Tail Ends. Jimmy “The Shark” Gillham is conducting a series of interviews on Star Wars fandom. Sort of a “This is Your Life” show revolving around all things Star Wars (the movies, the books, the toys, the make-believe, the video games, the merchandise and everything else in between).

Last week, in Episode I, James interviewed Cinecast co-host Matt Gamble about his life experiences with Star Wars. This week, for Episode II, you can find yours truly talking about my life with Star Wars, which reveals a secret about Empire Strikes Back I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone about before. If your life isn’t already over-saturated with Star Wars and your brain isn’t in overload, stick this in your ear and have a listen. Both episodes are available at the links below and you can stream my interview with the player below.

Have a listen and feel free to share your experiences and ideas about Star Wars in the comments section below. Thanks for listening and thanks to Matt Gamble for hosting the interview session with his sound equipment. Happy Star Wars week everyone. Cheers!

EPISODE I (Matt Gamble)
EPISODE II (Andrew James)

 

 

2016 Golden Globe Nominations

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People hate them, people like them, blah blah blah. “It’s the Oscars that matter!” they cry. Yet every year we sit down in front of The Oscars and just complain about how stupid it is; how they should have done it this way or that way. Frankly, I’m kind of tired of it (that isn’t to say I won’t be watching and betting and blogging and podcasting about it as hypocritically as possible, mind you).

Which is why it’s just much more fun to watch the Spirit Awards or watch Ricky Gervais or Tina Fey and Amy Poehler do their thing (in under three hours mind you) with The Golden Globe awards and not take any of it seriously at all – because honestly, voting on art by committee is about the least interesting thing I can think of – outside of Cricket.

With that rant over, because it was all I could think of to say in regards to the awards in general, here are the 2016 Golden Globe nominations, dished out by The Hollywood Foreign Press. Not sure why The Martian is considered a comedy or musical, but whatever. I do like the inclusion of “TV” categories though…

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Carol = 5 nominations
The Revenant = 4 nominations
Steve Jobs = 4 nominations
The Big Short = 4 nominations
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Best Picture, Drama
Carol
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Room
Spotlight

Best Picture, Musical or Comedy
The Big Short
Joy
The Martian
Spy
Trainwreck

Best Director
Todd Haynes, Carol
Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road
Ridley Scott, The Martian

Best Actress, Drama
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl
Saorise Ronan, Brooklyn

Best Actor, Drama
Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
Will Smith, Concussion
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant
Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl
Would you like to know more…?

Trailer: The Legend of Tarzan

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Pretty sure I’ve never seen any iteration of the Tarzan legend. I vaguely remember the Greystoke trailer playing on Showtime when I was a kid, but I don’t think I ever saw it. I was too old to care much about the Disney version of Tarzan in 1999. Sure I saw some of the original black and white television bits and I’m well aware of the infamous call of Tarzan as he swings through the trees on vines. Otherwise, outside of “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” I know nothing of the original tale. But David Yates is here to remedy that.

If for no other reason than the cast (Margot Robbie, Christoph Waltz, Samuel L. Jackson, Alexander Skarsgård, Casper Crump, John Hurt, Djimon Hounsou), I’m interested in seeing this. It could be throwaway blockbuster fodder just trying to fill a hole in the midst of July but it also could be something great. From this trailer, I’m sort of reminded of a cross between Peter Jackson’s King Kong and Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto (although nowhere near as gorgeous as either of those titles).

Does look like something you’re interested in seeing? What’s your precursor knowledge of Tarzan before entering the theater?

  

2015 Movie Mashup Video #1 of 731

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Fe’ll see a lot of these over the next few weeks and we’re not going to post them all. But this is the first one I’ve seen from the folks over at JoBlo and while it’s mostly all of the cineplex, populist stuff – about half of which I didn’t see – there are some really clever things going on in here. At least get to the action segment; the way it’s handled is pretty fun… if you’re into this sort of thing.

 

“I Saw the Light” – The Hank Williams Biopic [trailer]

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They just don’t git much more cliche than this then do they? Love the cast, but unless something really strikes a fiddle chord with the folks out yonder, I think I’ll pass on this. I mean seriously, “I Saw The Light?” That’s your title?

John C. Reilly did it better

Having said that, one of the best things about 2005’s Walk the Line was the soundtrack; with music provided by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. It ended up being one of the best albums of the year in my opinion. And here we are, a decade later, and apparently Tom Hiddleston does sing all of the songs himself for the film and if the trailer is any indication, it sounds like he’s nailed it.

 

Review: Creed

creed-posterDirector: Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station)
Writers: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington
Producers: Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King Templeton, David Winkler, Irwin Winkler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad,
Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 133 min.

 


Full disclosure: I’m a Rocky fan. I was born and one year later, Rocky won best picture at the Oscars. A few years after that, Rocky (and subsequently Rocky II and Rocky III and Rocky IV and Rocky V) hit HBO and Showtime and I was hooked. No other franchise outside of maybe the “7 Up” documentary series has captured a person’s career life, like Rocky Balboa’s has. Also full disclosure: I’m not a boxing fan. Always thought it for the knuckle-draggers and the gamblers. But damn if I’m not ducking and weaving in my theater seat every time Balboa throws a haymaker or is training for the next fight of his life. The thing is, this movie ain’t completely Balboa’s. Except it kinda is.

In the movie Airplane II: The Sequel, during the scene in which Sonny Bono is buying a bomb in the gift shop (no, not a ba, a bomb), there is a poster on the wall in the background advertising Rocky XXXVIII. The poster depicts an aging old man with boxing gloves on. I never thought I’d actually see that movie come to fruition. In Creed, The Italian Stallion is literally in a wheelchair and can barely make it up the steps of the infamous Philadelphia Museum of Art without assistance. If this were in any other context, it would be a punchline. But here, it brings a man’s career and life (and the lives of those he’s loved) full circle. And by invoking the past we know and love, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

If you thought Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler was meta, it ain’t got nothing on this film; it’s ridiculous. Whether it’s living up to a name or trying to distance yourself from that name or trying to embrace a name to bring about a comeback, the audience can feel the obviousness of the film’s title floating through the room like a butterfly but unsurprisingly stinging like a bee.
Would you like to know more…?

2016 Independent Spirit Award Nominees

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We always dig on the Spirit Awards around here, it’s sort of our bread and butter of award shows. I just can’t believe it’s that time already; ya know, award season.

These nominees are fun to look through, it makes me happy to see things I’ve loved throughout the year getting some hat tips (Bone Tomahawk, It Follows, Beasts of No Nation, Love & Mercy, etc.), it makes me realize all of things I need to catch up on (Girlhood, Anomalisa, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, etc.) and gets me excited for the things to look forward to (Carol).

Here’s the list of the best 2015 had to offer in independent studio cinema…

Best Feature
Anomalisa
Beasts of No Nation
Carol
Spotlight
Tangerine

Best Director
Sean Baker, Tangerine
Cary Joji Fukunaga, Beasts of No Nation
Todd Haynes, Carol
Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson, Anomalisa
Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
David Robert Mitchell, It Follows

Best Screenplay
Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa
Donald Margulies, The End of the Tour
Phyllis Nagy, Carol
Tom McCarthy & Josh Singer, Spotlight
S. Craig Zahler, Bone Tomahawk

Best First Feature
The Diary of a Teenage Girl
James White
Manos Sucias
Mediterranea
Songs My Brothers Taught Me

Best First Screenplay
Jesse Andrews, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Jonas Carpignano, Mediterranea
Emma Donoghue, Room
Marielle Heller, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
John Magary, Russell Harbaugh, Myna Joseph, The Mend

Best Male Lead
Christopher Abbott, James White
Abraham Attah, Beasts of No Nation
Ben Mendelsohn, Mississippi Grind
Jason Segel, The End of the Tour
Koudous Seihon, Mediterranea

Best Female Lead
Cate Blanchett, Carol
Brie Larson, Room
Rooney Mara, Carol
Bel Powley, The Diary of A Teenage Girl
Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Tangerine

Would you like to know more…?