2016 began the true golden era of superhero movies. From the multiverse, to a new Marvel or DC comic book movie every other month, 2016 showed us that this whole superhero, multiverse thing is really here.We saw everything from fan favorite superheroes getting their first big screen debut, to surprising superhero (and villain) team ups, that comic book fans would never even dream of.
So whether your favorite comic book movies are Avengers, Justice League, or just X-Men related, stay tuned as we begin ranking the superhero movies of 2016:
6. Batman V. Superman (Theatrical Cut)
In what was probably supposed to be the most anticipated superhero movie of the year, Batman V. Superman (theatrical cut) was probably one of the most disappointing comic book movies in recent history. The theatrical cut is a decent watch, but the plot, writing and most of all, scene editing is absolutely mediocre in this film. Whether this was Zack Snyder’s, or Warner Bros fault, the editing of this extremely anticipated movie was a disaster, as people say the much fuller, directors cut of this film is almost like an entirely different movie.
While seeing Ben Affleck’s Batman was fun, the overly revealing trailers, god awful pacing, and ridiculous plot errors, gave the DCEU the bashing they certainly didn’t want. While we were all certainly rooting for Batman V. Superman, even the biggest DCEU supporters (like myself) couldn’t look past the massive editing and plot errors of this film.
Did I mention I didn’t like the whole “Martha” scene? Or how they decided it would be a good idea to not have the real Lex Luthor in the movie (since Jesse Eisenberg is apparently Lex Luthor’s son)?
Anyway, Doomsday, and killing Superman super early was a good idea I guess (not really).
5. X-Men: Apocalypse
Another superhero movie that fell victim to what seemed like extremely un realistic expectations, X-Men: Apocalypse was another decent watch, with quite a set of flaws. Not only are the younger X-Men not as interesting as they have been in other X-Men movies, like Days Of Future Past or First Class, but each and every character is extremely under-written.
From Apocalypse who looked somewhat like a Power Rangers villain (not a compliment), to Psylocke who just looked hot and had no backstory or lines, X-Men: Apocalypse failed at what so many were expecting to at least be up to par with it’s Days Of Future Past predecessor. Oscar Issac is a brilliant actor who deserved to be a much better villain, and Storm was just kinda there, without any other type of story to cover how she ended up on Apocalypses side.
Michael Fassbender’s portrayal was great as usual, but so many characters were under-written and utilized in this flashy yet lackluster debut.
On the positive side, X-Men: Apocalypse did have some awesome action scenes, that in my opinion put it far above the disaster that was Batman V. Superman. Also, while many of the characters were poorly utilized, I did enjoy several of the moments between the 80’s class of X-Men.
4. Suicide Squad
This one is the hardest for me to write about because for me this was my favorite movie of the year, before it even came out. Unfortunately, the hype was too much for Suicide Squad, as the movie suffered one of the most catastrophic over editing events I have ever seen. It is clearly apparent Warner Bros forced David Ayer to change several parts of his original film, to the point that it severely mangles what could have been.
While Suicide Squad is no Batman V. Superman, going over the massive amount of missing scenes (even still missing from the extended cut) really makes you hate Warner Bros for what they are doing to their DCEU movies. Suicide Squad is a great movie and then again it’s not. The actors and characters are great and then again they aren’t. Warner Bros really screwed this one up by over doing the editing and not letting David Ayer do what he was hired for (making a hardcore, gritty villain flick).
While Suicide Squad had it’s flaws, I do think that it is a must watch for any superhero movie fan, as it will introduce you to something that hasn’t quite been done before in the superhero movie genre.
Also, please stop comparing this movie to The Guardians Of The Galaxy, it should not be anything like it, and if it is, it’s because Warner Bros thought that copying after Marvel was a good idea (which it clearly wasn’t).
3. Doctor Strange
Truly a mind trip of a movie, Doctor Strange was one of the best superhero movies of the year, while surprising most audiences (including me) in this regard. Doctor Strange had structure, plot development, and action like we have never seen in the superhero (or any genre) movie. It brought an entire new game to the superhero universe, and showed us just how versatile and developed Marvel can be.
Doctor Strange not only expands the Marvel universe, but it expands on what we thought would or could ever be shown in a superhero movie. Despite white-washing controversies, it exceeds in implementing eastern cultures (which I understand and study regularly) with a proper story telling, and plot line that works well.
Doctor Strange is a mind trip that you definitely don’t want miss if you are any type of movie fan.
2. Captain America: Civil War
It was very hard to decide if this movie sits at number two or number one on our list, as I feel it is quite interchangeable. Captain America: Civil War was single handedly one of the most fun times I had in theater this year, as Marvel mixed about 30 different main characters into one movie, extremely well! The action was non-stop and continuously upgraded, while the storytelling worked well, just missing the mark of perfect.
While Marvel movies have structure and consistency, Captain America: Civil War exposed Marvel’s weakness, which is that their movies remain a little too safe, as I was kind of disappointed no characters died or anything at the end of this (supposed to be dangerous) film.
Did I mention Black Panther and the new found Bucky? Captain America: Civil War, really made like 30 different superheroes shine, on screen at the same damn time. How? I don’t know ask Marvel.
But really though, next time Marvel you are going to have to start killing off some important characters and taking risks.
While Captain America: Civil War was some of the most fun I have had in a theater all year, Deadpool may have been the most fun I have had in a theater all decade. With little knowledge of what to even expect, Deadpool surpassed nearly all of my expectations, as it was comedic, yet perfectly violent and action rich. Everything just mixed so well, as Ryan Reynold’s long awaited movie, proved that it was well worth the wait.
Ryan Reynolds is the perfect Wade Wilson, to the point that they should just change his characters name to Ryan Reynolds in the comics.
Anyway, Deadpool was nothing short of entertaining, as this movie is sure to please. While most movies on this list failed in my expectations (either across the board or in some other area), Deadpool surpassed all of mine, as I will always remember the fun and “WTF” moments that occurred while watching this movie with my friends.
Please, please, please, Ryan Reynolds take your time on Deadpool 2 so we can enjoy it as much as the first one.
The last week of the year brings some interesting home release titles. To close out the year these are some must see Blu-ray and DVD movies in time for the new year:
One of my favorites of the year. Citizen Four was a really fascinating documentary about ex-CIA man Edward Snowden, but this is full-length movie version is thrilling, exciting and entertaining. I was so impressed with Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrayal of Snowden. He definitely immersed himself in it, even altered his voice to sound more stoic. It feels a lot like the other classic spy movies by Oliver Stone. It got my attention from the start and kept me compelled till the very end, which isn’t easy to do considering the story is out there to look up online or just check out Citizen Four. It’s all you could ask for in a bio thriller. Sure the story is kinda skewed in favor of Snowden, but the title of the movie is SNOWDEN to begin with, so what else could you expect? It’s the kind of movie where you leave the theater a lot more informed and aware of what is going on in our society and with the government. It’s really a movie that impacts everyone, as it is a warning about the technology we use and how it’s used against us. Snowden is simply, must see.
Snowden is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
Shia LaBeouf does some really impressive work here alongside Riley Keough and Sasha Lane. The movie is about a group on teenage outsiders travels around the Midwest as a magazine sales crew. The movie feels like a realistic modern portrayal of teenage love, sex and partying. It delves into the lives of these misfit teenagers searching for a meaning of life and self-expression. I liked the talented and fairly unknown (besides LaBeouf) cast. The film sort of lets loose on everything from sex to teen alcohol and drug abuse. No doubt it’s worth checking out, as it has a different vibe to it than most movies released recently.
American Honey is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand
If you’re on the lookout for a Divergent, The Hunger Games or Maze Runner sort of movie, well Maximum Ride is sort of a blend that should satisfy your needs. The movie is also based on a novel just like the ones mentioned above. It’s about six cross-bred teens/kids, with wings, searching to discover their origins. The movie is a fun action adventure that’s ideal for teens, but adults should be able to be entertained by it also. The cast is fairly unknown, but they are solid as an ensemble. There are some cool CGI shots of the kids flying around. Fans of the book series should be satisfied with the movie.
Maximum Ride is available now on DVD
IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE:
Ethan Hawke and John Travolta come together for this–western! Didn’t expect to see those two guys in a western, but I was pleased with the end result. The movie has a lot of good shoot em’ up action, but what pleasantly surprised me was the humor of the movie. Hawke plays a drifter who arrives in a town with his dog (the dog is great) and causes unrest. It was fun seeing Hawke and Travolta duel against another. There has been a nice run of western’s recently with The Magnificent Seven and Jane Got A Gun, and this movie fits alongside those.
In a Valley of Violence is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
If you have seen any of the Alien movies or it’s related counterparts, you could guess that the Alien: Convenient trailer was going to have quite the extensive amount of gore and/or scary looking Aliens.
This trailer is not only full of gore that couldn’t be shown on a television trailer (which this movie may not be able to even have) but it also shows way too many death scenes of the major actors that are making up this film.
Therefore, if for any of those reasons you don’t want to watch the new Alien: Covenant trailer, turn away now, as things are only going to get gory and more character death spoiling.
For those of you like me, who don’t seem to care either way,
Watch The Alien: Covenant trailer below, and prepare to be goreyfied.
Well it looks like a couple of main characters won’t even make it through the first trailer. . .
Anyway, I wonder how Michael Fassbender’s character “David” will fit into the mix this time, since in his last “exploration” he decided to infect some of the crew with the Alien parasite.
Now for those of you wondering where in the hell this movie fits in between the prequel Prometheus and the original Alien movies, it looks like Alien: Covenant is set to take place directly between the two mentioned before.
That would make the Alien timeline something along the lines of:
Prometheus (year 2091)
Alien: Covenant (year 2103)
Untitled Alien movie (stated to complete the prequel trilogy)
Alien (year 2122)
Aliens ( year 2179)
Alien 3 ( year 2179)
Alien: Resurrection (year 2379)
Potential Alien 5 Hinted At By Neil Blomkamp
Side Note: it has been suggested that Alien V. Predator and Alien: Resurrection are not considered canon.
Also, If you haven’t seen Prometheus (2012), I highly recommend it, as it is definitely one of the best “Alien” movies.
Check out the official premise for Alien: Covenant:
Headed toward a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew members of the colony ship Covenant discover what they believe to be an uncharted paradise, but it is actually a dark, menacing world in which the only inhabitant is the synthetic David (Michael Fassbender), a survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.
Genre: feature-length documentary Length: 90 minutes Director: Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman Producers: Deborah Wallace, Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman Release date: November 18, 2016 from Abramorama Reviewed by: Connie Wilson
The opening scenes from the impressive documentary “Blood on the Mountain” show the beautiful forested hills of Appalachian coal country from the air. West Virginia, second in the nation in coal production (and second poorest state in the nation), looks beautiful from hundreds of feet overhead.
And then we go to ground and reality rears its ugly head.
A litany of mining disasters is listed: Hawks Nest, West Virginia: 764 African-Americans in unmarked graves with 10 to 14 dying in the mine(s) daily.
The conflict at Blair Mountain.
Buffalo Creek (125 killed, 4,000 homeless, engulfed 17 towns with coal slurry).
Brushy Fork Slurry: 9 billion gallons of coal slurry released to bury nearby towns.
52 dead under Donald Blankenship’s Massey Energy.
Sago Mine Explosion, Jan. 2, 2006.
Aracoma Mountain Fire, in 2000, 2 dead.
Upper Big Branch Explosion, April, 2005, in the #9 mine. Seventy-nine went in; 50 came out—“the worst explosion since 1984”—29 dead,’
And yet Don Blankenship’s (Massey CEO) e-mail, read into the Congressional record during the post-disaster investigation, said: “You need to ignore them (federal rules and regulations) and run coal.”
Anyone who wants to know what a mine that is trying to evade regulatory efforts might resemble need only take in Antonio Banderas’ 2015 film “The 33” about gold and copper miners trapped underground in Chile for 69 days before rescue (Banderas playedMario Sepulveda, the group’s leader). The precious metal may be different, but the methods to avoid ensuring the health and safety of the mine workers comes very close to coal mining in 2016. Any time a federal regulator was on the way to make an inspection, the word was put out; efforts were made to avoid detection/correction of any infractions of rules put in place to safeguard the health and safety of the workers.
Blood on the Mountain starts with a brief history of the rise of coal at the end of the 19th century. Because of the abuse of workers, unions began to form to fight for the rights of the working man. (Sylvester Stallone’s 1978 film “F.I.S.T.”, for which I attended the World Premiere, was about the fight to unionize in the face of brutal opposition frommanagement). A voice onscreen says, “That’s how we got the New Deal.” FDR in a Fireside Chat is shown telling the nation that government should “seek the primary good of the greater number.” Between 1935 and 1938 Roosevelt championed the New Labor Act and the Fair Labor Act and progress was made.
But the demand for coal as a cheap energy source peaked in the 1920’s and there are only 500 mines left in the United States today.
Of that number, those in Wyoming are far and away the biggest producers of coal (4x more than West Virginia), but West Virginia, long associated with coal mining, is second. It is also the second poorest state in the Union.
Once the heady days of the passage of Fair Labor Acts were past, Homer Adam Holt, Governor of West Virginia in 1939, tried to amend educational literature in the schools to make it more to his liking. Changing history by writing it to the Governor’s liking was recommended by those in power this way, “It is better to have a mediocre book than to antagonize the Governor.” Corrupt governors abounded before and after Holt.
The comment, prescient and predictive today, is made that “industrialists have been able to get along whatever they want” and, as the documentary attests, “there were a continuous stream of accidents and treatment of others as less important” but those in power. (*Recent Reference: “Deep Horizon” Mark Wahlberg film about the BP catastrophe in the Gulf.)
Corruption of the officials in West Virginia was a given. Between 1984 and 1991, under Governor James Manchen, more than 75 state officials went to jail. While this does not seem unique to West Virginia (witness Illinois and Louisiana officials, for openers), Davitt McAteer, head of mine safety and featured as a talking head in this documentary, does lay out their repeated attempts to break up unions, beginning in 1984.
The miners, for their part, are quoted in Blood on the Mountain this way: “You have a kid to feed. Do your job.” McAteer says, “A proud heritage came to a crashing end in the 1980s,” referencing the UMWA (United Mine Workers Association) looking out for the health, pensions and safety of its members. As a former worker said, “Production was the name of the game at all costs…We had to produce to keep our jobs.”
Cecil Roberts (a mine worker) refers to “the power of intimidation” and talks about one mine administrator with a wife with cystic fibrosis whose medication cost $5,000 per month. Threaten that mine worker with loss of his position if he does not do your bidding. If someone tried to stand up to then-president of the UMWA, Tony Boyle, as Jock Yablonski did in 1969, that individual risked his life. Murder was used as a tool. Wikipedia entry: Joseph Albert “Jock” Yablonski (March 3, 1910 – December 31, 1969) was an American labor leader in the United Mine Workers in the 1950s and 1960s. He was murdered in 1969 by killers hired by a union political opponent, Mine Workers president Tony Boyle.”
Therefore, the number of mine workers steadily declined from a high of 500,000 to, currently, 80,000—and all but 14,000 of those members are retired. It is obvious that, like Social Security where those taking out money are outnumbering those paying in money, the funds to support miners in their retirement or ill health are drying up, while, simultaneously, the demand for coal (and coal miners) is declining.
While President Obama’s regulations against coal are used to urge coal miners to vote for the opposition, the reality is that such EPA regulations began under Republican President George W. Bush. The reasons for the precipitous decline in jobs in West Virginia mining coal are many and varied and blaming “tree huggers” just won’t fly in the face of facts.
Mechanization and automation has idled thousands. “Appalachia is a shell of its former self…Parents are telling their children to go.” No less an authority than Jay Rockefeller is seen telling his audience, “It’s a disservice to coal miners and their families to pretend that things can be as they were.” Coal is a finite mineral and mining has been going on since the 1800s. Is it any wonder that now you have to go deeper and deeper into the ground to mine? Instead of even trying, mines have resorted to simply blowing off the tops of the mountains using explosives, which damages the environment and the topography of the state.
Despite the fighting words “Coal IS West Virginia,” coal mining is a dying industry. 80% of coal mines are owned by out-of-state corporations. Mines have destroyed 352,000 lush forested acres using explosives as of 2009. Wendell Berry is heard to say, “The global economy is built on the principle that one place can be destroyed for the benefit of another.” [What comes to mind is the Brazilian rain forest and attempts to save it, or the Arctic and attempts to ban drilling beneath the polar ice caps.]
In addition to silicosis (“black lung disease”) which has made the average miner’s life expectancy only 42 years of age, in Charleston, West Virginia, “They poisoned people’s water and commerce goes on.” The chemical MCHM used by Freedom Industries to process coal caused a Flint, Michigan, water situation (for different reasons) where water could not be consumed, used for washing, or considered safe in any way. Dr. Rahul Gupta, a medical director, is shown speaking to that issue, and Chris Hedges, an author, says, “They tried to make it appear to be an anomaly.” Nine counties were affected and a state of emergency was declared. Bottled water had to be delivered to anyone living in those nine counties.
Immediately thereafter, on January 17, 2014, Freedom Industries declared bankruptcy.
The declaring of bankruptcy is a common ploy used by unscrupulous coal companies to avoid having to pay reparations or retirement sums due or health care promised to workers when they began in the mines. It’s a bit like the plot of “The Producers” (i.e., Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel plan for a play to fail so they can use it as a tax write-off) where a mine is set up to fail and then bankruptcy can be declared, relieving the unscrupulous mining company of any obligations to the men who risked their lives underground mining the coal. Seven thousand coal mining jobs have been lost in West Virginia since 2011. In 2015, over 11,000 coal miners lost their jobs, according to “The Hill.”
“The Hill” goes on to attempt to blame the loss of coal mining jobs on federal regulations, but the truth is much more complicated.
China is trying to clean up its pollution problem, so the Asian demand for coal from places like West Virginia did not measure up to expectations.
Clean, renewable energy sources are cutting into the concept of coal as king. Natural gas, for one, is cheaper and the head of Exxon is all for using natural gas rather than coal for power. In fact, the day the Paris Climate Control Pact took effect, the head of Exxon announced his support for the climate initiatives the Paris act endorsed, which included cutting back on coal to eliminate pollution and global warming.
Although Donald Trump hates wind turbines because they clutter his Scottish golf course view and kill birds, Obama supported wind and solar efforts, and, even in the coal state of Illinois where I live (Illinois is 5th in coal production), the nuclear power plant in Cordova (IL) recently received a death sentence reprieve from Republican Governor Bruce Rauner which is good for the next decade, despite consistently losing money operating it.
If the demand for coal were still high, eastern states have cleaner coal and it is easier to get Eastern coal to market.
Australia also is capable of producing coal for export.
Mechanization and automation, mentioned previously, have cut into the need for coal miners.
Changes in how coal is extracted also reduces the demand for coal mining positions.
Blood on the Mountain is a documentary with a point of view and those who do not accept climate change and global warming as fact will dispute its point-of-view. It also did not address the life-and-death struggle in the halls of Congress ongoing in December of 2016 to help save miners’ pensions and retirement benefits, gutted by unscrupulous companies who do not believe that promises should be honored. There is footage of a UMWA rally in September in Washington, D.C. regarding Senate Bill #1714, the Miners’ Protection Act.
After a huge coal miners’ strike in 1946, Harry Truman nationalized the mines and, in order to end the strike, hammered out a deal with UMWA President John Lewis and Interior Secretary Julius Krug that would guarantee coal miners certain benefits, like pensions and health care. That, to the miners and the UMWA, is the promise made that should be kept, but there are those who argue that the promise was not forever and not the government’s responsibility.
If you accept the premise that coal mining is a dinosaur industry that is dying a slow, tortuous death, quotes like this one from Jeremy Nichols, spokesman and director of climate and energy for Wild Earth Guardians are incendiary. When asked about the plight of coal miners in West Virginia (and elsewhere) Nichols said, “My initial response is tough shit…Keep it in the ground.” There is an obvious disconnect between the blue collar miners and the college-educated environmentalists who they see as a threat to their livelihood—even though the threats are far more wide-ranging.
The Wild Earth Guardians brought a suit in 2013 that threatened to shut down Colowyo and Trapper mines in Colorado, saying that the environment was “inadequately protected under the National Environmental Policy Act.” The mines were sued by the United States Office of Surface Mining.
Headlines in primarily Republican organs (“The Hill” was one) read: “Happy BirthdayClean PowerPlan, Thanks for the Job Losses and Billions in Costs.” Another read: “Clean Power Plan: All Pain, No Gain for West Virginia” (The Hill). The same source made the dire prediction of 24,000 coal mining jobs displaced by the year 2020 blaming it all on EPA regulations and cited rising cost for electricity if coal were cut out of the power equation.
But the truth is that MANY factors play into the fall of coal as a power player. It is NOT just EPA guidelines that have put coal miners in the position of losing their pensions and their health care by Dec. 31, 2016.
The UMWA pension system is irreparably broken. No union members to pay in; no union money to pay out. “The looming insolvency is due to the precipitous drop in demand for coal in recent years…” say the experts. Union busting mine owners helped destroy the organization that had fought for workers at the turn of the century, and that began in earnest in 1984.
December 5, 2016: Senate Democrats staged a last-ditch attempt to pass a stop-gap measure for miners who face the loss of their pensions and health care NOW (i.e., Dec. 31, 2016). Senate Bill #1714, the Miners Protection Act, was co-sponsored by Virginia senator Tim Kaine and it passed out of committee 18 to 8, with 8 Republican Senators voting with the Democrats to take millions earmarked for the cleaning up of abandoned mines and put it into a fund for displaced and retiring mine workers. Republicans who crossed party lines to vote for the bill included Orrin Hatch (R, Utah), Mike Crapo (R, Idaho), Pat Roberts (R, Kansas), Richard Burr (R, NC), Rob Portman (R, Ohio) and Pat Toomey (R, PA). Saying “Congress, in my view, has an obligation to the Miners Protection Act” this group tried to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. ButHouse Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has no love for the UMWA or President Obama, refused to allow a vote. (*Note: McConnell’s wife was just named Secretary of Transportation.)
Meanwhile, a variety of mining companies (Peabody, Freedom, Alpha Natural Resources) continue to file for bankruptcy and the courts have relieved the bankrupt companies of their obligation to pay retiree benefits. All of this hits home here in the Rust Belt when I think of the waning days of International Harvester, which went under and took many pensions with it.
Let’s also not forget how we all suffered in 2008 when the economy nearly collapsed and was rescued only in the nick of time by the stewardship of the incoming administration. Pension funds—like all of ours—took a hit then, too.
He’s not in the Blood on the Mountain, but Joe Stowers, age 72, from DuQuoin, Illinois, a retired miner who worked 28 years, is thinking of coming out of retirement to try to find a job because, as many who were interviewed for “Blood on the Mountain” said, “I thought my tomorrowwas safe. Apparently, it’s an entirely different story.” As of October 5th in a letter sent to 12,500 union members, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Patriot Coal, have all told their union employees that their health care coverage will be lost on December 31, 2016 unless Congress acts. Following on the heels of those three companies are Walter Energy and Alpha National Resources, who have sent out letters announcing similar losses to miners in March and July of 2017.
In a December 9, 2016 article in Mother Jones, Katie Herzog wrote: “President elect Trump campaigned on bringing back those same coal miners’ jobs, through sorcery, perhaps. Someone is working to help miners, but it ain’t Trump—or many Republicans, for that matter.”
One coal miner quoted in this truly grim-but-important film says, “We’re like lepers. Put us in a colony and let us die off. We’re not losing it (the land); we’re sacrificing it for the good of mankind and we’re sick of it.”
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker Writers: Ron Clements , John Musker Actors: Auli’i Cravelho, Dwayne Johnson Genre: Comedy, Action and Adventure
Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new feature film “Moana” is about an adventurous teenager who, with help from demigod Maui, sails out on a daring mission to prove herself a master wayfinder and save her people.
Disney’s Moana is the latest in the long line of animated feature films to be released by the house of mouse. Following in the tradition of the Disney princess we find ourselves enjoying an adventure based deep in Hawaiian culture.
There are aspects of Disney’s Moana that were really strong and worked toward hitting the right marks. When I see a Disney princess movie, I know what I want. I want some predictability with a little bit of surprise and intrigue. Maybe an unexpected twist on the tried and true formula but the last thing I want to see is for someone to try and reinvent the wheel. Thankfully directors Ron Clements and John Musker are vets and have this process down to a science having shaped my childhood with movies like The Little Mermaid. So you can tell with some of the choices, style, and storytelling beats that Moana is the product of a well refined process.
I liked that it gave the impression that it was sensitive to Hawaiian culture. I don’t know much about Hawaiian culture so everything at least seemed thoughtful and refreshing. I felt like I was learning as much as I was being entertained which is a nice, appreciable, feat in an animated feature.
SPOILER ALERT: Disney’s Moana does not include a love story. Moana is a brave princess who is actually the leader of our adventure and doesn’t rely on that old trop continuing Disney’s efforts of featuring strong princesses, which is a great theme of female empowerment. Moana is groomed to LEAD from childhood without any requirement, let alone mention, for marriage. I love it!
I like the designs and Dwayne Johnson’s character Maui. Maui isn’t the dashing hero, nor should he be, He’s not uber attractive which helps deter implying an unintended romance with Maui and Moana (which would have been awkward to say the least).Also, The Rock can carry a tune! I only remember him singing one song but hearing him in a professional setting and actually SINGING is… Check it out for yourself:
Hei Hei was disappointing as the animal sidekick. There’s some misdirection with his introduction with a few folks in the theater hoping that Pua would have been the animal accompaniment and were also a bit disappointed that Disney chose the mute chicken instead. missed opportunity. The chicken was well designed and had potential to be a great sidekick but he was a mute. He had no funny lines or anything memorable about him other than him being a handicap in Moana and Maui’s adventure.
This movie does not have a clear central antagonist and the story suffers as a result. It’s just weird seeing this film without a central villain to anchor some of the story. Even though the characters have a clearly defined destination to make up the bulk of the film’s story it still feels a bit directionless at times. You don’t really know what will happen next but not in a good way. These issues pop up from time to time but are rationalized away later in the film. Things aren’t fleshed out until the end of the film but even that feels like an easy way to try to get me to disregard that the scenes feel disjointed since there’s a reason. Kinda, sorta. Disney’s Moana does contain an actual “villain” for our heroes to face but the villain fails to really stand out in this movie.
Disney’s Moana is a good movie. I enjoyed the characters, the wonders designs, the locales and more. I enjoyed the music, initially, but they seem to reuse a some songs a lot in this movie. Either that or too many songs sounds similar and I would have liked some more variety in the songs. I really enjoyed the humor found in this movie. The jokes are prevalent with some better than others but consistent throughout. The film felt a little boring at times. The random setup for putting the characters in certain scenarios made the film feel a bit disjointed at times but that’s overshadowed by how the characters interact and create great moments in the film once in these scenes. Overall I feel that there’s nothing inherently wrong with Disney’s Moana, but there isn’t a lot that’s remarkable either.
Here, in order, are what I consider to be twenty of Paul Newman‘s “best” film roles.
1) “Butch Cassidy and the Sun Dance Kid” (1969)
Is there anyone who was alive and going to the movies in the year 1969 when George Roy Hill directed Newman and Robert Redford in the William Goldman written script that doesn’t think of Paul Newman as “Butch?” Remember the scene where Newman is urging Redford to jump from a high cliff, to avoid those pursuing them so relentlessly that they ended up in Bolivia? Redford admits, reluctantly, that he can’t swim. Newman laughs and says, “The fall alone’ll kill ya’!” And they jump.
2) “Cool Hand Luke” – (1967)
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Fifty hard-boiled eggs. Strother Martin’s green teeth. Luke as a symbol of man’s indomitable spirit. A classic. Newman was nominated for the 1969 Oscar, but did not win.
3) “The Hustler” – (1961)
As “Fast Eddie” Felsen, he took on Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason) in the pool game of the century. Newman was nominated for the 1962 Oscar, but did not win.
4) “The Color of Money” – (1986)
Re-teamed as “Fast Eddie” with Tom Cruise, Newman took home the Oscar for his role in this film. It might not have been as good as the original role or the others on this list, but this one won him the gold statuette.
5) “Hud” – (1963)
The scene with Patricia Neal in the kitchen oozes sexuality. Another movie for which he was Oscar-nominated in 1964, but did not win.
6) “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” – (1958)
As Brick Pollitt opposite Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie the Cat, the pair personified hot, steamy sex. He even looked good on crutches.
7) “Sweet Bird of Youth” – (1962)
Chance Wayne (Newman’s character) was as hot as Brick. Geraldine Page was the beneficiary in this Tennessee Williams play made into a movie.
8) “The Long, Hot Summer” – (1958)
As Ben Quick, Newman provided the steam in this movie based on a William Faulkner novel “The Hamlet.” The cast included Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Orson Welles, Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury.
9) “The Verdict” – (1982)
As Frank Galvin, an attorney with a drinking problem, Newman gave an Oscar-worthy performance and was, in fact, nominated for a 1983 Oscar. He didn’t win. The movie received 5 nominations and the performance by Lindsay Crouse as Nurse Kaitlin Costello was a tour de force.
10) “Road to Perdition” (2002)
Paul Newman came storming back in the role of John Rooney, co-starring with Tom Hanks in the film based on the Max Allan Collins graphic novel, (which, in turn, was based on an actual gangster named John Looney who terrorized the streets of Rock Island, Illinois back in the day.) The name was changed and Jude Law was added as a villainous photographer. This Sam Mendes-directed film was to be Paul Newman’s last “great” role, and also the last time that legendary cinematographer Conrad L Hall would do the lighting, which is superb. Hall was reputed to be the best in the business and the last man working who could call for the right camera lighting without a light meter.
The second ten are included to show the breadth of Paul Newman‘s career, but the “Must See(s)” are above.
11) “Absence of Malice” (1981)
Playing Michael Colin Gallagher with Sidney Pollack directing, the film garnered 3 Oscar nominations and co-starred Sally Field, Bob Balaban and Melinda Dillon.
12) “The Sting” – 1973
Re-teaming Newman (as Harry Gondorff) and Robert Redford as con men was a no-brainer. Arguably, belongs in the Top Ten. A great Scott Joplin song or two didn’t hurt.
13) “The Drowning Pool” – (1975)
Lew Harper (from 1966) comes back to the scene as a gumshoe detective. Co-starring Joanne Woodward and Anthony Franciosa, again, the film gave ingénue Melanie Griffith her first big part.
14) “Harper” – (1966)
Lew Harper’s first appearance on the scene as detective extraordinaire.
15) “Somebody Up There Likes Me” – (1956)
The life story of Rocky Graziano, Paul Newman rebounded from “The Silver Chalice,” which he considered so bad that he bought up all the prints and publicly apologized.
16) “Slap Shot” – (1977)
Reggie “Reg” Dunlop – Hockey. George Roy Hill directed. Some familiar co-stars resurface, including Strother Martin (from “Cool Hand Luke”), Lindsay Crouse (from “The Verdict”) and Michael Ontkean. (Whatever happened to Michael Ontkean’s career?)
17) “Sometimes A Great Notion” – (1971)
Logging story. Nominated for 2 Oscars. Based on the Ken Kesey novel. Co-starred Henry Fonda, Lee Remick and Richard Jaeckel, whose scene when he is trapped under a log and will soon drown if the log cannot be removed alone is worth the rental.
18) “Exodus” – (1960)
Ari Ben Canaan. A movie about the formation of Israel based on the Leon Uris best-selling novel. What I remember about this film is that the theater down the street from my house (one block away) was evacuated when sparks began landing on the roof of the theater from a blaze that burned down one entire block right across the street from my house! I had to take a back alley to get home. When there, I found my father manning a garden hose in an attempt to keep our house from catching fire. Had to go back to finish the film another day.
19) “From the Terrace” – (1960)
Paul Newman played David Alfred Eaton. “An ambitious young lawyer chooses a loveless marriage and an unfulfilling life, in exchange for a successful Wall Street career,” says the International Movie Data Base. In other words, it’s the life story of a broker today. I always thought that Ina Balin (as NatalieBenzinger) was poorly chosen as the love interest; she needed some depilatory cream on her upper lip.
20) “Towering Inferno” – (1974)
Yes, I know. You liked this one better than half of the others, but, let’s face it, it was a popcorn movie. Paul Newman played Doug Roberts and there was talk of strife between Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who played the fire chief assigned to rescue the hapless individuals trapped in a high-rise building. It had a great cast, though: Newman, McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Robert Vaughn, Robert Wagner and…..wait for it….O.J. Simpson. (Yes, that O.J. Simpson.) I was teaching junior high school students at the time, and we took busloads of students, who had been participating in some after-school “craft activity” classes, to see a double bill of “Towering Inferno” and “Earthquake.” Wags dubbed it “the Shake-and-Bake special.” That was bad enough, but my friend, Nelson, the history teacher, put a sign on MY bus that said, “HOOKERS: this bus.” [This was because the students in my group had been taking part in an after-school class in rug hooking.] Nelson: I’m still smiling.
Genre: Drama | Mystery | Sci-fi Directed by: Michael Crichton Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris Written by: Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan
Westworld isn’t your typical amusement park. Intended for rich vacationers, the futuristic park — which is looked after by robotic “hosts” — allows its visitors to live out their fantasies through artificial consciousness. No matter how illicit the fantasy may be, there are no consequences for the park’s guests, allowing for any wish to be indulged. “Westworld” — which is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton movie of the same name — features an all-star cast that includes Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins and Golden Globe winner Ed Harris.
Going into Westworld you may think you are about to embark on some weird Sci-fi channel adventure. For those who feel too weirded out by those type of shows, I promise you that, Westworld is so much more. Westworld is not only the most watched first season in HBO history, but it is single handedly one of the best shows I have ever seen.
The acting was one of the obvious strong points of HBO’s Westworld. From the hall of fame stars in Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, and Ed Harris, Westworld continues to debut their peak acting abilities as they portray some of the most mysterious, yet complex characters you will ever see. Through out the season you will be wondering what each characters intentions are, which characters are the villains and what characters are even human.
Just about every actor plays one of the best characters of their career, as Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden and heck, even another Hemsworth brother, show why they deserve to star in many more shows to come. Evan Rachel Wood play an AI who is stuck to a cycle of trauma and damsel in distress, while Thandie Newton plays one of the most well-developed and self empowering characters on the entire show. This comes as a big surprise as her character is seen as a small supporting role at the start of the season.
From the first couple episodes to the last, you will be truly shocked with how much each character truly develops and changes from what they seemed they were in the first couple of episodes. Even less well known actors like Ben Barnes, and Jimmi Simpson play some excellent roles that have to be some of the best of their career.
Let me not forget to mention the likes of Shannon Woodward and Tessa Thompson. The acting in this show was so stone cold, that I could literally list the entire IMDB cast of this show, as having some of the best performances of their careers. Since so much of this show is based off of mystery and what will happen next, each actor does an excellent job at keeping the viewer wondering how their character will affect the show next, as each episode is filled with more and more mystery, that is quite hard to predict.
While the acting is an obvious key aspect of the hit HBO series, Westworld is also filled with amazing storytelling and directing, that plays like a book, filled with layers of original story telling and surprisingly deep philosophical content. This content is so well-founded that it could and should easily be written into someones college thesis. From the limits of ones mind, to the ideas of artificial intelligence and ones self awareness, Westworld is nothing short of spectacular in it’s multiple layers of storytelling and never ending depths.
From episode one, to the season finale, the viewer is certain to see some of the best story building up and character development that they have seen in a television show all year. Episode one does enough to keep the viewer interested, but episode two and beyond, will have you hooked and ready to see how this myserteous season will possibly end.
With this deep nature of storytelling, comes a layer of amazing action and mini-storylines that the “hosts” will intrigue the viewer with even more. Since this show does take place in a sort of “Wild Wild Westworld”, there will are plenty of shootouts for the viewer to enjoy, while being layered with tons of deeper philosophical content.
Episode one starts off with tons of mystery that intrigues the viewer with wanting to see more, while the show continues to slowly answer and open up more questions without it being done in an un-interesting and annoying fashion. The writing of Westworld is nothing short of genius, as it has some of the best layering I have ever seen in a movie or television series all year.
Philosophical content, to the wild wild west thematic shootouts, Westworld is a complete show full of action and deeper layers! The perfect mix for a HBO masterpiece.
While there truly is not much bad to say about the greatness that is Westworld, it is because of this deep layering that this show may find it’s problems. The season finale in particular (which is actually a solid thirty minutes longer), has so many shocking twists and things to digest, that the viewer may find themselves confused or without the appropriate amount of time to properly digest all the “WTF” moments.
While some may be just taking in all the action, plot reveals and “master plans” that have just occurred, others like me are battling between digesting all of that and contemplating the deeper philosophical meanings of all this. Since Westworld is so great at layering so much into one hit show, it is this extra thirty minutes in the season finale that feels like it crams way too much into one viewing. Luckily we have people like Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair to sort things out (do not read if you don’t want massive spoilers).
Overall Westworld season one is not only the most watched first season in HBO history, but one of the best ways to start a new HBO series, as it answer so many questions, yet leaves season 2 open to so many different possibilities.
While the season finale may leave the viewer with wondering what in the world all of this means, it just shows us how many more times this first season is re-watchable as it is loaded with layers of beautiful storytelling, philosophical meaning, and deeper undertones that many different types of audiences can enjoy.
Westworld is hands down one of the best television shows this year, and will definitely be taking home plenty of Emmy’s as it is one of the most complete and original HBO shows in television history.
So with all of that layering and depth, make sure to give Westworld season one another watch, as we will have to wait until 2018 for the second season!
The holidays are upon us and there are some awesome movies that coming out in time for Christmas. The variety of choices on this list are perfect stocking stuffers and movies you should own or give as a great gift.
The world’s most dangerous villains unite together to save the world. Yes, that’s what happens in Suicide Squad. The all-star squad of baddies consisting of Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Deadshot (Will Smith), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje) are lead by Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) to stop the Enchantress (Cara Delevingne) from taking over the world. Ohh and The Joker (Jared Leto) makes his presence felt also! Suicide Squad is fun. Seeing all these characters team-up together is unique. Leto is a very edgy new-age kinda Joker. Robbie is the perfect Harley Quinn. The film has a lot of all-out action and humor to keep things entertaining. What makes this a must own is the Blu-ray Combo Pack comes loaded with some cool features, most importantly the 13 minutes of footage not shown in theaters. That itself is worth getting this extended cut edition.
Suicide Squad is available now on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD.
The remake of the Charlton Heston classic stars Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell and it’s plenty action packed. The visuals are really on point. For those who never saw the original, this remake is fairly true to its predecessor, but amped up with special effects. The chariot race is really intense and awesome. This is a fairly violent movie (especially the chariot race) with some intense fights and battles. The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with a $10 movie card inside! The voucher can be used to see any movie at a participating movie theater. Basically you get a free movie out of it. The Blu-ray features include a feature on the chariot race and the Ben-Hur legacy.
Ben-Hur is available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS:
Meryl Streep, Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg star in this heartfelt and humorous story of a NYC socialite who believes she’s a great opera singer, but she’s not. This movie is based on a true story, which is the wildest aspect of this film. Streep is great as the endearing, yet delusional Florence Foster Jenkins. Helberg steals the show playing a goofy pianist. This movie will make you laugh as much as it will make you sad. Some top performers doing good work. This is a very entertaining character portrayal. The sets and costumes look terrific. The Blu-ray specials features contain a “designing the look” featurette among many other.
Florence Foster Jenkins is out now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU:
Parker Sawyers and Tika Sumpter transform themselves into Barack and Michelle Obama. Literally perfect casting as these actors with the uncanny look and mannerisms of Barack and Michelle. The film is about Barack and Michelle’s memorable first date that takes them around the South Side of Chicago. The film is a romantic and fun inside look into the start of the relationship of the future President of the United States and the future First Lady. The movie depicts the unique bond between them and how it wasn’t all perfect when they first met. The coolest part about it is that the movie does have an authentic feel of a first date.
Southside With You is available now on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
CHRISTMAS ALL OVER AGAIN:
I was sold with the adorable non-pretty doggie on the cover. He’s not much the movie, neither is Joey Lawrence, but it’s a fun Christmas movie for kids. It’s about a teen boy Eddie (Sean Ryan Fox) who keeps reliving Christmas day. It’s like a Christmas groundhogs day. Eddie’s biggest want is a pair of Breezy 3000 sneakers to impress a girl, while trying to sabotage his brothers wedding. The movie is fairly cheesy and corny, but in a fun-kid kinda way. There is a really good message that the movie ultimately has. Kids and young teens will like this one.
Christmas All Over Again is available now on DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
HARLEY AND THE DAVIDSONS:
How did the iconic motorcycle company came to be? This 3-part series will explain the true story of the Davidson brothers and how they risked it all to see their vision come to life. It’s a really interesting story of the brothers and their journey to create an empire that still is the king of motorcycles. This movie isn’t just about the creation of the bike, it’s about the brothers and their personal relationships and struggles. Surprisingly to me the movie was fairly edgy, which added more zest to the story. It was neat to see the ascension of the motorcycle models as they kept developing the bike brand.
Harley and the Davidsons is out on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD
Super fun animated feature about bird delivery service. Storks used to deliver babies, but now they deliver packages for a retailer, until there is one more baby left to deliver. This is a film that’s fun for the family. The humor is good and the story is clever. Birds have been a popular theme for this year with Angry Birds and Storks. These birds aren’t angry, but they sure are outrageous and will take you on quite the adventure with them. The voice cast is strong, lead by Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer, Ty Burrell and Keegan-Michael Kay. Check this one out.
Storks is available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD
This isn’t your typical frat party movie. Goat depicts the ugly side of fraternities and their initiations. Haven’t seen an ugly and honest take on this before. There have been a ton of movies about college frats and sororities, but they always end up being comedies, not this one. I appreciated the movie because it was a popular and common theme, but told in a different and jarring way. Nick Jonas, James Franco and Ben Schnetzer star in the movie. This is the kinda movie that will change your view on college. This definitely isn’t a kid friendly movie, but a movie that college kids and adults should see.
Goat is available now on DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
The incredible true story of the Miracle on the Hudson. Tom Hanks stars as Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger. Hanks does fantastic work as Sully. You can barely tell apart Hanks from the real Sully, he’s incredibly believable with his delivery also, an Oscar consideration worthy performance. What I really liked about the film was the storytelling. The information has been out there that recount the events of what happened, that stuff is easy to access, but the execution of it in the movie is outstanding. The events are told from multiple views and angles, not just from Sully. The film doesn’t feels honest, not biased like it could have been. Sully is an engaging movie with great directing work by Clint Eastwood and very good performances, especially by Hanks and Aaron Eckhart. A definite must see.
Sully is available now on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand
Christmas is almost here, so of course that means non-stop marathons of Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Jack Frost and just about every other typical Christmas story movie.
While most people would name their favorite Christmas movie as something along the ranks of Home Alone, or Frosty The Snowman, there are some less conventional folks who prefer something a little less traditional.
Maybe something along the lines of an adult comedy, or even grittier like my personal favorite, Die Hard?
Anyway, here are a couple of my favorite un-traditional Christmas movies, let us know yours in the comments!
1. Batman Returns
Known as perhaps one of the all time greatest Batman movies, Batman Returns features what some would refer to as the best Batman, Michael Keaton. Batman Returns is a great un-traditional Christmas film, because what is better than a hell hole like Gotham city being bombarded by The Penguin and Catwoman, during the holiday festivities? Batman Returns is such a good Christmas movie, that it’s villains are an even better substitute to The Grinch, who fortunately didn’t get to face Keaton’s Dark Knight.
Here is some Batman Returns footage, sure to get you in the holiday spirit:
Side Note: I can’t wait until the DCEU (hopefully) tops the creepy performance of The Penguin by Danny DeVito.
2. Die Hard
Now for my personal favorite Christmas movie, and one of the best movies ever made. Die Hard came out in 1988, and since then it has become the pillar for all action movies to follow. Bruce Willis not only paved his entire movie career with this movie, but played one of the best characters in cinematic history, John McClane. From the brutal shootouts, to the hilariously brutal dialogue, Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas classic you need to watch. While most millennials my age have not seen the masterpiece that inspired their favorite action movies, I highly recommend giving it a watch, because just like the franchise (which is still looking to make another movie), Die Hard does not die easily.
Of course it’s time to watch one of the most classic Die Hard scenes:
3. Lethal Weapon
Lethal Weapon is another cult classic, that will not die for as long as movies are in existence. Lethal Weapon serves as a bit of a prelude to Die Hard (in the sense that it blends comedy and gritty action quite well). Danny Glover and Mel Gibson play some of the most popular characters in cinematic history, as Roger Murtaugh’s “good cop”, and Martin Riggs “crazy cop”, are the perfect mix of bad-ass and comic relief. Whether you consider this movie a Christmas classic or not, one thing is for certain, Lethal Weapon is a must watch for all movie fans.
So instead of watching some sappy Christmas classic like Home Alone, or A Christmas Story, be non-traditional and watch something along the lines of Die Hard or Lethal Weapon.
Denzel Washington’s upcoming movie Fences (based on the August Wilson novel) is a riveting story of family dynamic. I had a chance to speak to two of the films stars Stephen McKinley Henderson and Jovan Adepo when they came through Chicago promoting the film. I was joined in a roundtable interview along with some outstanding Chicago critics: Pat McDonald, Lee Shoquist and Jacob Oller. Stephen and Jovan discussed working with Denzel, what the film is trying to portray and a lot more. Check it out below:
LS: What the show is really about and also what this particular version is about (the movie) versus other versions:
Stephen: It’s so much about family, extended family, how you get to know yourself when you accept all the flaws in the other members of the family, you accept your own flaws, it fortifies you to survive whatever comes your way so it’s always relevant, it’s a timeless story. It’s about the human internist.
JA: What was it like for you guys to work with Denzel the actor and Denzel the director:
Jovan: To me he was a teacher the entire time and I used this opportunity to approach this as actors master class just being around him, Viola, Mr. Anderson and the rest of the talented cast. Everyday even when we were in scenes he was trying to see where my head was at, what type of choices I was making. As far as how he is with a directors hat versus the actors hat, I would like to say it was seamless.
Stephen: It was seamless and he was so fit, I just wondered when the dude slept!
I wish I got to talk to these guys more and get a few more questions. Both Stephen and Jovan were very polite and respectful. Jovan was definitely raised well with the way respectful way he speaks to people. I found both men to be intelligent and thoughtful. Well spoken. Stephen is just such a veteran actor and has this richness to him with his storytelling and opinions. Jovan was very humble and I was really surprised how he ended up getting into the industry and knowing Viola Davis’ family through church in Maryland, what are the odds of that?! Both men really have terrific performances in the film. Stephen has had quite the year, also starring in awards favorite Manchester by the Sea and one of my personal favorites The American Side. Jovan has definitely got himself a bright career ahead, hard to dispute it with Denzel’s blessing. I enjoyed the interview and the great questions my fellow critics had, especially the thought provoking one by Pat McDonald.
While Vegas is still the most popular destination for traditional brick and mortar casinos, the fact of the matter is that they are located practically all over the world and are still a great source of entertainment and a classy night out. If you don’t have a casino located near you, or just can’t face the commute, be sure to visit best deal casinos to find the latest offers and promotions at the best online casino sites. Online casinos, don’t lend themselves quite as well to the movie industry, with traditional land based venues still offering the best locations for anything from comedies to hard hitting dramas. Here we take a look at some of the very best casino based films from the golden age of cinema.
After catastrophic 20th movie that was ridiculously cheesy, packed full of clichés and an invisible car, the producers decided to press the reset button on the franchise. This meant replacing Pierce Brosnan with a younger Daniel Craig and taking the Bond character back to his first ever mission with a grittier style that made the early Connery films such a success.
Having recently been granted his license to kill and Double-0 status, Bond is dispatched to Montenegro where he must defeat Le Chiffre in a high stakes game of poker. With much of the movie taking place inside the titular Casino Royale, around the poker table where the game gets ever tenser, a game of poker has never been more interesting.
Based on the autobiographical Bringing Down the House, 21 glamorises the story of the MIT Blackjack Team who successfully knocked off a series of Vegas casinos by counting cards. Starring Kate Bosworth, Lawrence Fishburne and Kevin Spacey (who also produces), 21 was a box office smash earning $157 million from its initial $35 million budget. There were initial fears that the film would teach audiences too much about the method of counting cards and would attempt to knock off a number of casinos themselves. Thankfully, the filmmakers deliberately held back most information about the method of card counting, meaning this movie wouldn’t make a good educational resource, but it is still very entertaining.
For many, Martin Scorsese is the Godfather of modern cinema and most of his best loved movies have starred Robert De Niro, in fact the duo have collaborated on eight separate occasions. Casino is the most recent of their collaborations, in 1994, and is adapted from the factual book by Nicholas Pileggi who also co-wrote the screenplay. De Niro stars as Sam Rothstein, a gambling handicapper enlisted by the Italian Mob to oversee the running of Tangiers Casino in Las Vegas. The events of the movie are loosely based on the life of Frank Rosenthal who oversaw the Stardust, Fremont, and Hacienda casinos for the Chicago Mob through the 70’s and early 80’s. the film also reunites De Niro and Scorsese with Joe Pesci from Goodfellas.
Since it’s 2016 and now it’s the new thing for actors to “tweet out” their desires for new movie roles, Stephanie Corneliussen followed the trend, as she tweeted a beautiful red-haired photo of herself, stating “Can I Be Your Poison Ivy”.
Tom Cruise is back as Jack Reacher! This time he’s joined by Cobie Smulders to provide double the action. I feel this Jack Reacher is a new action franchise that will really have some staying power, it definitely has potential to be like the Bourne franchise. The Digital HD release is slated for January 17, while the 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand release is slated for January 31, 2017 by Paramount Home Media Distribution. The Blu-ray Combo Pack comes with an exclusive Jack Reacher illustrated short story.
Feature film in high definition
o Reacher Returns
o An Unexpected Family
o Relentless: On Location in Louisiana
o Take Your Revenge First: Lethal Combat
o No Quarter Given: Rooftop Battle
o Reacher in Focus: With Tom Cruise and Photographer David James
Mel Gibson’s war themed hit movie starring Andrew Garfield is coming to Blu-ray and DVD. Based on a true story of soldier Desmond Doss who fought in Okinawa without using any weapons. This is a fascinating real story that is a must see. Gibson is back! Check out Hacksaw Ridge when it comes out on Digital HD on February 7 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Combo Pack, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand on February 21, 2017 from Lionsgate.
4K/BLU-RAY/ DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES
“The Soul of War: Making Hacksaw Ridge” Documentary
The all-star cast of Anthony Hopkins, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Abbie Cornish come together in this murder mystery drama. Hopkins plays a psychic doctor who is assisting the FBI in a string of homicides. Solace will release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on March 14, 2017.
Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD Special Features
Commentary with Director Afonso Poyart
“Visions and Voices: The Making of Solace” Featurette
Tim Roth has always been a favorite of mine. The man is a terrific actor and shines in whatever he does. In Chronic he plays a home-care nurse taking care of terminally ill patients. This sounds like a very emotional and depressing movie. My mother is a caregiver so I can understand the context of this movie and relate to it. Chronic comes out on DVD, Digital HD and On Demand on February 28, 2017.
A war journalist returns home and gets caught in the middle of a potential murder. The film stars Melissa Leo as a town sheriff (awesome) and James Franco. I’m into mystery thrillers, so this should be a good one based on the premise. Burn Country comes out on DVD on DVD and Digital on February 7, 2017.
Synopsis: As a former “fixer” for journalists in Afghanistan, Osman (Dominic Rains) finds asylum in a small California town. Promised a job as a crime reporter for the local paper, and a home with his best friend’s mother, the town sheriff (Melissa Leo), Osman is ready to settle in. But, when the job falls through, Osman finds himself restless and looking for action. His attempts to get to know the area lead him to develop friendships with an elusive local actress, Sandra (Rachel Brosnahan), and a charming local troublemaker named Lindsay (James Franco). But, when a dead body turns up and Lindsay goes missing, Osman must face the possible evil lurking just beneath the surface and the depths of his new home’s darkness.
American Pastoral looks very intriguing. The cast is rock solid, lead by Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning. Just by the quick look of the trailer, the film deals with a family self-destructing. The film comes out on Digital HD on January 27 and on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and On Demand on February 7 from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
BLU-RAY/ DVD/ DIGITAL HD SPECIAL FEATURES
Audio Commentary by Ewan McGregor
“American Pastoral: Adapting an American Classic” Featurette
It’s been 30 years since Dirty Dancing captivated audiences around the world. Wow, time sure flies. Fans will get a chance to feel the nostalgia once again when Dirty Dancing 30th Anniversary Edition will release in a limited collectors boxed set on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD on February 7, 2017. Who could forget the dances and the chemistry that Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey had. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” once again.
The Dirty Dancing 30th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition box set includes the Blu-ray and DVD in collectible, numbered packaging along with exclusive memorabilia. The box set, Blu-ray and DVD releases all feature over six hours of special features including never-before-seen moments from Patrick Swayze’s last in-depth Dirty Dancing interview, “Patrick Swayze Uncut,” and interviews with celebrity fans reflecting on the anniversary. Additional special features include deleted and extended scenes, outtakes, cast interviews, music videos, filmmaker commentaries and more.
Genre: Horror Movie Director: AndreOvredal (US, UK) 99 minutes Actors: Emile Hirsch, Brian Cox, Olwen Kelly (as Jane Doe) Release Date: Dec. 21, 2016 Review by: Connie Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com)
As part of the After Dark series of frightening fare at the Chicago Film Festival, veteran actors Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in 1986’s “Manhunter”) and Emily Hirsch (2007’s “Into the Wild”) are a father/son coroner team assigned to autopsy a beautiful young corpse found at the scene of a harrowing multiple murder. Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden work together at the creepy old Tilden morgue and crematorium in Grantham, Virginia.
As the father-son team dig deeper into examining Jane Doe’s body, they uncover increasingly strange and terrifying things. Look for a more complete review closer to release date, but be warned that this is bloody, clever, medically rigorous and turns the genre literally inside-out.
As part of the After Dark series of frightening fare at the Chicago Film Festival, veteran actors Brian Cox (the original Hannibal Lecter in 1986’s “Manhunter”) and Emily Hirsch (2007’s “Into the Wild”) are a father/son coroner team assigned to autopsy a beautiful young corpse found at the scene of a harrowing multiple murder. Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden work together at the creepy old Tilden morgue and crematorium in Grantham, Virginia.
Morgues and crematoriums are creepy by definition, but this one is also underground with flickering lights and a storm raging outside. When the pretty young dead girl (Olwen Kelly) is brought in with instructions to make this a “rush” autopsy, young Austin is about ready to leave on a date with his girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond), but he stays behind to help his father try to determine the COD (cause of death) of the enigmatic female corpse. He begs off on the movie he and his girlfriend were planning on attending, telling her to come pick him up in 2 hours.
The creepy ramshackle Victorian house morgue/crematorium is practically a character in itself. The fact that it’s also underground and services by a dilapidated elevator is a plus. I haven’t been that affected by a stormy night crematorium scene since the original “Phantasm” in 1979 (and, yes, I know there have been 3 others) which I saw so long ago that it was at a drive-in and there really was a terrific thunder and lightning storm actually going on around us, which certainly scored a point for realism.
The acting, with pros like Emile Hirsch and Brian Cox, was bound to be good. It’s interesting to note that the part of Tommy Tilden, the father, was originally supposed to have been played by Martin Sheen before scheduling conflicts caused him to be replaced by Cox.
The autopsies and dead bodies were just as scary as you’d expect, and
The music by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans is a good fit for this film and the cinematography by Roman Osnin is appropriately spooky.
Once the full plot is revealed, it doesn’t make much sense. That is too often the case with paranormal or supernaturally-based themes in horror (and I was an active voting member of HWA—the Horror Writers’ Association.)
The only false acting note, for me, was girlfriend Emma (Ophelia Lovibond). Part of that failure to impress can be attributed to the plot itself, which gave her short shrift.
I wanted better explanations for various phenomena depicted in the film, whether crazy radio interruptions, morgue body drawers opening mysteriously on their own, or enigmatic figures glimpsed in parabolic mirrors. But that’s just me (and one reason I moved from HWA to ITW, International Thriller Writers).
Not sure that releasing a creepy autopsy movie 4 days before Christmas is in keeping with that season, but seeing it this close to Halloween was perfect.