Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top 10 movies of 2015 - By Daniel Kilgallon

(Note: I missed a handful of big name movies this year, including Creed, Spectre and The Martian, just to name a few. Additionally, films like The Hateful Eight and The Revenant are not yet in wide release, but watch out for those reviews over the next couple of weeks.)

10. Mad Max: Fury Road (R)

Run Time: 120 mins

My Rating: 7/10

While some critics may place this even higher on their own personal lists, I still had a total blast watching this relentless, crazy movie. Praised as one of the best pure action movies in years, the sequences in this film are brutal and absolutely thrilling, loaded with mind boggling visual effects and plenty of big budget explosions.

9. Ant-Man (PG-13)

Run Time: 117 mins

My Rating: 7.5/10

I found the twelfth installment in the absurdly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe to be a surprisingly enjoyable summer action hit.  Although it is certainly not on the big time scale of some of their other projects, there were tons of awesome action scenes to keep the story moving and the visual effects used for the Ant-Man sequences were absolutely stunning to watch.

8. Straight Outta Compton (R)

Run Time: 147 mins

My Rating: 8/10

Telling the story of the rap group known as N.W.A., this movie was perhaps the singular biggest sleeper hit of the summer blockbuster season. The seemingly unknown actors of the cast portrayed these distinct cultural icons in such an incredibly realistic manner, leading the way for what is an entertaining, intense and emotionally powerful film, despite the extreme content and language.

7. Furious 7 (PG-13)

Run Time: 137 mins

My Rating: 8/10

Ironically enough, the seventh installment of what has developed into a worldwide blockbuster franchise falls at the same numbered spot on my list. While extremely over the top and unbelievable at times, it is still an excellent action film, one of the absolute best in the series, and above all, an emotionally moving sendoff to the late Paul Walker; a truly beloved Hollywood star.

6. Black Mass (R)

Run Time: 122 mins

My Rating: 8.5/10

One of my favorite actors of all time, Johnny Depp undeniably delivers the performance of a lifetime in what I thought was an awesome and violently realistic Boston gangster film. Depp completely blew it out of the park with his portrayal of the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger and flat out owned every scene he was in.

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron (PG-13)

Run Time: 141 mins

My Rating: 9/10

Sequel to the 2012 blockbuster, The Avengers and the eleventh installment in the record-breaking franchise, this movie had unbelievably high expectations to live up to. I personally thought it met those expectations, in my opinion topping its very impressive predecessor largely due to the more serious/dark tone throughout.

4. Southpaw (R)

Run Time: 123 mins

My Rating: 9/10

The extremely underrated Jake Gyllenhaal follows up 2013s Prisoners and last years Nightcrawler with yet another performance that is worthy of an Oscar nod. Highlighted by his physical and psychological transformation, this is a gut-wrenching film that was honestly far more intense than I ever anticipated it to be.

3. Kingsman: The Secret Service (R)

Run Time: 129 mins

My Rating: 9/10

Although it is officially listed as a 2014 film, this Matthew Vaughn directed spy movie didn't actually hit theaters until this past February. Nonetheless, it seems like a summer blockbuster and I just have so much fun with this movie every time every time I re-watch it. It almost feels like you're watching a Quentin Tarantino/ James Bond film, which makes for a blast of an action movie. 

2. Inside Out (PG)

Run Time: 95 mins

My Rating: 9.5/10

I cant believe I allowed myself to wait a few weeks to catch this gem, as it is in my opinion Pixars best work to date, standing only behind The Lion King on my list of favorite animated films. The visuals are completely breathtaking and there are more than a few heartfelt moments that had me tearing up. This is a masterpiece of visual storytelling that genuinely speaks to people of any age.

1.   Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PG-13)

Run Time: 135 mins

My Rating: 10/10

This monumental movie event of a generation somehow surpassed the sky high expectations it had. Perfectly executed by director J.J. Abrams and everyone else involved in the amazing project, I truly couldn't speak any higher of this film. Balancing incredible new characters with lovable old faces, this is an unbelievably enjoyable movie, but also an epic and emotionally powerful adventure.

Movie Review - Creed - review by Jordan Dos Santos

133 min.

When it comes to movie theater etiquette, I am of the most disciplined. My cell phone is turned off, all attention is directed toward the screen, and I have such an aversion for people who talk during movies that I almost always go alone to help amplify the silence. With that said, I still cheered aloud more than once during Creed.

Anyone familiar with the Rocky films will instantly recognize the name for which Creed gets its title. Champion fighter Rocky “The Italian Stallion” Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) first encountered boxer Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the franchise’s first picture, Rocky, in 1976. What started as a rivalry eventually blossomed into a friendship, with Apollo Creed making his final appearance in Rocky IV. After that followed two additional movies, finally bringing us to Creed, a film that celebrates the legacies of both Rocky and Apollo, while equally serving as a pass-the-torch moment in Rocky’s decades-long story. This time around, director Ryan Coogler reunites with his Fruitville Station star Michael B. Jordan, portraying the love child of an affair Apollo Creed once had. 

When we’re introduced to our main character, we see a rebellious youth whose scrappy ways keep him in juvenile detention. Born under the name Adonis Johnson, the young man’s life makes an about-face turn when a woman enters the picture, requesting to take him home and raise him in a loving environment. The woman identifies herself as Apollo Creed’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad). Although she isn’t Adonis’s birth mother, Mary Anne takes him under her wing and raises him as her own. Mary Anne wants nothing more than to see Adonis succeed in any field other than the one his father was famous in, but, true to his roots, Adonis won’t be satisfied until he can become a boxer—one who could rival his own father’s legacy. Though Mary Anne protests, Adonis sets off for Philadelphia to find Rocky Balboa and ask for his help in becoming the boxer he’s always aspired to be. 

This Rocky Balboa isn’t the one we’ve seen in previous films. This Rocky is worn, weathered, and content with living a quiet life while remaining Philadelphia’s champ. Upon introduction, Rocky is surprised but happy to know that Apollo Creed has a son who wants to honor his father through fighting. He’s hesitant, however, and has to tell Adonis the unfortunate truth: He just doesn’t have any fight left in him. With persistence, Adonis eventually convinces Rocky that, through training, this is something they both need to make their lives whole. Creed does a wonderful job at making us sympathize for an aging character audiences have known for ages. You can’t help but watch Creed and think beyond the screen, pondering over how age affects fictional and non-fictional people alike. Creed parallels 1976s Rocky in so many ways, but it does so in the name of admiration and respect. We live in a world of generic remakes and “reimaginings”, and this is certainly not the case when it comes to Creed. By the film’s finale, Rocky has trained Adonis for the fight of his life (so far) and Adonis agrees to adopt Creed as a last name, completing the pieces of a once-broken life. As the saying goes, every new beginning comes from some beginning’s end. Creed is such a good movie, that I hope this is the case. As time progresses, it’s inevitable that we see less of Rocky Balboa. With that said, the world would be a better place if, down the road, we see plenty more of Adonis Creed.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Movie review - Krampus (PG-13) - review by Jordan Dos Santos

Believe it or not, American cinema in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s provided audiences with a sub-genre so mismatched, so specific, that it seems borderline absurd: Holiday-themed horror. I was worried that the days of such films were long gone. Alas, along comes Krampus in all of its mean-spirited glory, new and ridiculous to younger viewers who didn’t grow up on these flicks and a refreshing revival for the viewers who did. I could rattle off a list of the “classic” holiday horror movies, but the pinnacle of them is 1984’s Gremlins. Krampus would make the ideal double feature to Gremlins. Director Michael Doughtery has successfully made a piece of work that both acts as an homage to those movies, while proudly standing on its own.     
For those unfamiliar with the legend, it’s easiest to describe Krampus as the anti-Santa. Krampus, celebrated in certain areas of Europe for more than 100 years, comes once a year to punish the bad children. This Krampus definitely makes good on tradition, racking up 98 minutes worth of naughty children paying their dues—along with the adults who spawned them. What brings Krampus to town this time, however, is a young boy who is fairly well-behaved, named Max (Emjay Anthony). Upon discovering his newest letter to Santa, Max’s terrible cousins relentlessly mock him about his belief in the big guy in red, leading Max to tear up the letter and throw it out his bedroom window. And with that one action, Krampus is called to work. Within minutes, Max and his entire family become stranded in their home by a blizzard, unaware of the terror(s) headed their way. 

An ensemble cast that includes Toni Collette, David Koechner, and Adam Scott does a wonderful job of walking a fine line between, “This can’t really be happening,” and, “Oh my God, this is really happening!”
The movie doesn’t take long to swing into action. Max conjures the beast not long into the first act, providing plenty of time for chaos galore. As if Krampus himself wasn’t scary enough, he brings along a bag of deformed versions of familiar toys to help spread the holiday fright. There’s very little gore in Krampus but that doesn’t mean it’s short on scares—there are plenty of those from start to finish. 

Krampus is tailored to families with a slightly morbid sense of humor who might be looking for some off-the-beaten-path fun this Christmas. It’s too scary for young children, but just scary enough for the pre-teen set on. If you’re tired of traditional holiday movies and you want something just dark enough that it puts a smile on your face, then Krampus is the perfect gift for you.

Movie Review - Mockingjay Part 2 (PG-13) - By Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 137 min

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is the fourth and final installment of The Hunger Games film series based off the popular trilogy of books by Suzanne Collins. As with many other book-to-movie franchises, the concluding chapter of this dystopian science-fiction story was split into two separate parts. Personally, I thought that Part 1 was a pretty decent movie, but it definitely suffered a little bit from being the build up to the final act. Having said that, I was really hoping that Part 2 would deliver an epic sendoff to the blockbuster saga. In the end, I thought that this movie didn’t quite live up to its high expectations, but it was still a satisfying conclusion to what has become an absolute global phenomenon. 

To no surprise, the impressive cast of the previous films returned for this finale including: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Julianne Moore, Donald Sutherland and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. With so much going on in the plot twisting story of this climatic final chapter, I will keep my summary short and sweet. Obviously, this movie picks up right after the cliffhanger ending to Part 1. Taking place in the futuristic continent of Panem, the war between the corrupt Capitol and the rest of the districts has finally come. Now it is up to Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to fully embody her leadership role in the rebellion and overthrow President Snow (Donald Sutherland) once and for all. 

Overall, I had a pretty enjoyable time watching this movie. Being the final chapter of a blockbuster series of this level, big time special effects and climatic action sequences are practically a given, and this film certainly had plenty of each. It made for a pretty entertaining movie that also had some quality acting, particularly from Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role.

However, I think the one glaring issue with this film is the pacing of the story. Similarly to its predecessor, there are more than a few moments when this movie just loses steam and drags on. I think this goes to show that it was really unnecessary to break this final chapter into two parts, as a single, fast paced film would have been more effective. Putting that aside, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 is still a quality time at the movies that should satisfy fans of the franchise.