Well done J.J. Abrams, you’ve successfully resurrected the Star Wars franchise with some much-needed energy and former glory. Believe the hype, The Force Awakens is spectacular.
It’s the movie event of the year and the wait is finally over! The Force Awakens is finally here and believe the hype, this is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. The true praise and applause goes to the man in the director’s chair, J.J. Abrams (Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness). Sweeping the franchise out of a black hole from George Lucas’ Star Wars Prequels. So, the saga continues 30 years after Return of the Jedi with a fantastic reunion of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca, C3Po and R2D2. Abrams even introduces us to new characters: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) BB-8 (a witty new droid), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
If you thought that the Galactic Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi with Ewoks dancing on Stormtrooper’s, then think again. Abrams and co-writers Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) and Lawrence Kasdan (he co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) bring forth a new force of evil called the First Order, led by a young villainous Kylo Ren. Ren is continuing what Darth Vader started and has built a new Death Star that makes the old one look like a pipsqueak. Ren also reports to the new Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis by motion capture), a mysterious new leader holding all the cards.
On to the good side of the story; it’s been three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop the First Order, along with the help of the Resistance. Rey is a desert scavenger abandoned by her family on Jukku; while Finn is a Stormtrooper with little taste for killing and goes rouge. Poe is a pilot working for Leia, a princess turned general who now leads the Resistance. Together is group of heroes kick ass and will send fanboys cheering in their seats. The Force Awakens is heavy on nostalgia. Ridley is a woman with heart and mind; this is her show as she steals multiple scenes throughout.
Ford, Hamill and Fisher’s presence have never felt so surreal. Bravo for Ford who sends Han soaring sky high throughout the film. He’s never been better! Along with his faithful friend Chewbacca as they also team up with Rey and Finn on the good ol’ Millennium Falcon, that hunk of junk is still flying. As Leia’s scenes show heartache and struggle; The Force Awakens sends an emotionally charged message throughout. It will probably be one of the biggest movies of all-time and it has every right to-do so. Yes, The Force Awakens recycles old material from A New Hope, pleasing old-time fans and introducing new ones to the Saga. Spoilers are a burden so I won’t say anymore, just that as a fan and film lover you won’t be disappointed this Christmas.
You’ll shed a tear when you hear Han confidently say, "Chewie, we're home.” Ain't that the truth Han, ain't that the truth.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For sci-fi action violence.
Spotlight respects its attention to detail and its understated approach to the subject matter in this journalist vs. Catholic Church drama. It’s one of the best films of the year.
Riveting and devastating, director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent, Win Win, The Visitor) takes on the fact-based story of the Spotlight team for The Boston Globe when, in 2002, they published nearly 600 articles on child sex-abuse allegations against Catholic priests and the decades of church cover-ups. The team won a Pulitzer for its scalding exposé. It’s a heavy film to watch and take in due to the subject matter, but it’s an important film that will shake you to your spiritual core. Currently, Spotlight is one of the frontrunners predicated to win Best Picture this year and they for sure have my vote.
There’s no Hollywood B.S. in this script thanks to McCarthy and scriptwriter Josh Singer (The Fifth Estate), who throttle through this haunting true story. With an exceptional cast consisting of Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci, Liev Schreiber, Brian d'Arcy James and John Slattery; Spotlight digs deep into dirty secrets and shattered lives. Blood, sweat and reporting; McCarthy shows us the dedication of these journalist and their perseverance to uncovering and exposing these pedifiles. Ruffalo soars as the reporter Michael Rezendes who is tough as nails while digging through old secrets.
Keaton performs to perfection, as Spotlight editor Walter "Robby" Robinson, just like he did last year in Birdman. McAdams excels as Sacha Pfeiffer along with researcher Matt Carroll (d'Arcy James). Robinson is skeptical that his Spotlight team can take down the Boston Archdiocese, while risking readership due to Boston being largely Irish-Catholic. The survivors from priest molestation and sex-abuse give the Spotlight team’s story a beating heart, as they deliver raw and numbing emotion about the corruption hidden inside the Catholic Church and the lives broken forever. In the end, Spotlight kicks ass and can hopefully win Best Picture this February. 5 out of 5 stars! It’s an eye opening film that will shake you to your spiritual core and shows us the fighting spirit of journalism.
Spotlight is rated R (Restricted). For some language including sexual references.
Brooklyn’s leading romantic duo (Saoirse Ronan and Emory Cohen) will tug at your heartstrings and satisfy the mind. It’s one of the best films of the year.
With the universal acclaim from critics (98% on Rotten Tomatoes), Brooklyn should have easily scored multiple Golden Globe noms this year. Unfortunately, the Golden Globes decided to snub this beautiful period drama and grant it with only one nomination (Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Ronan). This is a catastrophe because Brooklyn is not only a burning love story, but also a film that captivates the lives of Irish immigrants coming over to the United States for a better life during the '50s. With recent events going on in the world today, for me, Brooklyn was an important history lesson and also teaches us the value of life in human beings.
It shows us people searching for a better life, one that they think can restore in the U.S.A. Change is different, change is hard and change is good. Through Brooklyn, we get a first hand experience through the eyes of Eilis Lacey (Ronan). Eilis is an Irish girl traveling to New York City in the means to start fresh because she is economically strapped back in Ireland. Change is hard on Eilis because she is not only leaving her homeland behind, but also leaving her mother and sister behind as well. Lonely and innocent, Ronan gives us a knockout performance as she did in her past films: The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Lovely Bones, Atonement and Hanna. Set in 1952, director John Crowley (Boy A, Intermission) craftily captures the heart and soul of New York City.
Beautifully shot and elegantly told, Brooklyn’s undertone is, of course, the love connection between Eilis and Tony (Cohen), an Italian plumber. Eilis meets Tony at a local dance. Eilis catches Tony’s eye and our love story begins there. Cohen is dynamite in the role as he exclaims, “he has a thing for Irish girls.” Ronan and Cohen’s chemistry mesh and send the film soaring is new directions. Of course, life is not easy and Eilis faces new challenges in her life when a family crisis comes up back from her homeland. What will she do? Can Eilis really go home again? While, Tony comforts her and says, “home is home.” This passionate film hits some deep notes towards the end. Come on Oscars; don’t let me down this year! You’ll cheer, you’ll cry and you’ll love Brooklyn.
Brooklyn is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.
By The Sea is an arthouse beaut that is so narratively hallow, it will leave viewers infuriated.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt take a gamble on arthouse cinema and they beautifully fail. Yes, the vintage film and cinematography is wonderfully captured in Jolie’s picture, but the story and narrative depth is so shallow it engulfs the rest from achieving. This voyeur adventure is not intriguing enough to most viewers who are looking for something with more structure. Jolie and Pitt pitch to us a dull story of a ‘70s marriage gone stale. Unfortunately, the script is just as stale as the marriage. The couple suffers gorgeously throughout the film and takes a vacation to a ritzy hotel in Malta. Jolie and Pitt throttling through the film with endless pain will leave viewers numb by the end. By The Sea is a cinematic beaut with disappointing results … damn.
By The Sea is rated R (Restricted). For strong sexuality, nudity, and language.
The Peanuts Movie is a grand family getaway during the holiday season. You’re in good hands Charlie Brown.
After 65 years of comic strips and endless TV specials, Charlie Brown finally got his first full-length CGI treat. This could have been a recipe for disaster, given Hollywood’s recent history of classic cartoon characters gone bad (The Smurfs, Yogi Bear, Scooby-Doo, Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks). Fear no more, 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Animations produced a colorful and worthy tribute to the world we know as Charlie Brown. These beloved “Peanuts” came out in 1950 and have since ran in over 2,600 newspapers and have been in several TV acclaimed specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). Faithful to the source of material, America’s favorite "blockhead" is done right … Charles M. Schulz would be proud.
So, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Pig-Pen, Woodstock, Snoopy and the rest of the gang bring back familiar laughs, memories and old-school friendship. In a day and age where technology rules the world, there’s not a computer or cell phone in sight. Instead, typewriters, landlines and pencils rule the day. Plenty of treats are sprinkled in throughout the film that will send adults back down memory lane. Yes, these beloved characters are transformed from comic strips to CGI but they still retain the classic drawings from the artist himself … Schulz. Snoopy’s red dog house, flying kites, and “Wah-Wah” all make their sweet appearance into the film as well. In a world where classic cartoons are being destroyed, Fox paved a new direction and got it right. The Peanuts Movie is warm and a genuine all-ages movie with timeless messages.
The Peanuts Movie is rated G (General Audiences).
Spectre brings Daniel Craig's Bond full throttle and full circle. Shot on glorious 35mm film, Spectre delivers spectacular action and riveting Bond villains, but with formalic storytelling.
Spectre is no Skyfall, nevertheless; it still is a worthy entry to the Bond canon. Now, that we got that behind our backs lets move forward with the review. Spectre is the 24th Bond film to hit theaters under Econ Productions as they continue to infuse our Bond-mania. 007 has been a cultural icon for more than 50 years. Created by Sir Ian Fleming in 1953, Bond has left his trademark from action spectacular, to vodka martini's ... "shaken not stirred" of course. Craig continues to show us a darker and more vulnerable Bond since taking on the role in 2006. Spectre marks Craig’s fourth time suiting up as the MI6 agent. While, Casino Royale and Skyfall have drawn away from the predictable 007 formula Spectre is admittedly reliant on it. Craig’s blunt force and sexual swagger sends 007’s reinvention soaring to new levels.
Director Sam Mendes (Skyfall, American Beauty) returns to the chair to finish what he started three years ago. Along side him are scriptwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis, and Robert Wade. And what better way to kick off a Bond film than in Mexico City? This Day of Dead opener is drop-dead gorgeous. Dutch camera whiz Hoyte van Hoytema (Interstellar, and Her) swings the camera from every angle. He begins the film with a three-minute continuous take and it is marvelous. The plot reveals a cryptic message from Bond's past that sends him on a trail (Mexico City, Rome, Austria, and Tangier) to uncover a sinister organization A.K.A SPECTRE. Meanwhile, M (Ralph Fiennes) battles political forces to keep the secret service alive in London. Along the way Bond meets Lucia Sciarra (the stunning Monica Bellucci) and Madeleine Swann (the wonderful Léa Seydoux). Bellucci's short appearance in the film is enough to staple her has the oldest Bond woman, 51, in the franchise; while Seydoux gives the audience a fresh new take on the Bond woman. She’s smart, strong, and empowering. Seydoux also becomes Craig’s new love interest throughout the film.
Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw also reprise their roles as the enjoyable Moneypenney and Q and continuing to back 007 throughout the chaos. Christoph Waltz helms the villain role for the film as the evil Franz Oberhauser. He’s the head of SPECTRE and the mystery man from Bond's orphan past. Faithful Bond fans will already know his true identity has he purrs the line, "I'm the author of all your pain” to 007. The downside to Waltz’s role was that I wished we could have seen more of him throughout the 148 minutes. Like in Skyfall, Mendes throws a dash of Bond homage into the film like a From Russia with Love train fight scene with henchmen Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) or the historic Sean Connery white tux. Overall, Spectre isn’t better than Skyfall or Casino, and it gets bogged down with all of the Bond mythology after a while. But it has it's moments of worthy action spectacles and mysterious tones. Hopefully, this isn’t Craig’s last outing as 007.
Spectre is rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned). For intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.
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