Friday, December 30, 2016

Top 10 movies of 2016! - By Stephen Signor

This has been the most difficult task I have encountered so far. In a year full of potential blockbusters and sequels from every genre, the arduous and daunting task of rating them has come to fruition. To that end, here they are.

Passengers (PG-13)
I had originally rated Rogue One first until I saw this film and the weighing every element between Star Wars and this one I leaned toward Passengers mostly because of the uniqueness of the film. Not only was it an excellent story line it was accompanied by spectacular panoramic views of our universe with accuracy. In addition to this, the Avalon’s exterior and interior views were amazing and creative. The level of CGI expense that went into producing this film was well worth it for science fictions fans. 

2. Arrival (PG-13)
Placing this awesome film second was not an easy choice. But since I am rating my picks on a set of predetermined criteria this is where it lands. Arrival, although not the only science fiction film that made my list, was refreshing because of the unique aspect of the plot, the originality of the script and the lack of being immersed in and deluged with, special effects. Arrival also provided hope that not all films of this nature have to involve armament, confirming that not all aliens are created equal.  

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)
Rating this movie was easy. I remember the first ever Star Wars movies and attempting to compare others even back then. There are few franchises that can withstand and endure the test of time. I can only assume, with hope, that the future will hold many more adventurous versions of this legacy.


4. Free State of Jones (R)
As a story based on historical facts, I was compelled to give this film a descent rating. I thought that the way it was presented, executed and concluded was seamless and the characters portrayed with accuracy. It was refreshing to get moved and mesmerized.

5. BFG (PG)
If not for the other four on my list this would have had a higher rating. I loved this film. There’s something about the mystical power of giants that captivate the imagination. Movies such as this that deliver an often subliminal, but mostly obvious message have a huge place in value. No one does this better than Steven Spielberg.


6. Storks (PG)
There’s much to say about this film and so little space.  Its myth meets reality. From cast and crew to the delivery (pun intended) of its plot and scenic surroundings, this film offered viewers of all ages a chance to revisit the myth of the stork. Although geared toward children, the child in the parents’ hearts have a chance to escape the reality into a well presented fantasy world.


Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children (PG-13)
This was a tossup between Alice Through the Looking Glass. I opted in the direction of two times Oscar winner Tim Burton’s because I have always gravitated toward the way in which he views a world. I have yet to see a Burton film that did not offer a bizarre element. I found the entire 127 minutes intriguing, amusing and full of surprises.  

8. Morgan (R)
This had to be strangest yet most enjoyable horror/thriller I’ve seen in awhile. The mystique of the hood wearing protagonist added to the meat of the plot and served up an unpredictable ending.  It was difficult not rating this higher up on the list.

9. Office Christmas Party (R)
‘Tis the season and these players took holiday cheer to a whole new level; not top floor as number nine, but good enough to make the list. Anniston is classic and Bateman is Bateman. Those are good things. All rolled up this was like watching an extended version of a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit.

10. Ghostbusters (PG-13)  
Despite the fact that this film exceeded my expectations as the trilogy of the same title, I still have to admit that it lacked the ability to impress on every level as opposed to the other nine. While I did enjoy the use of female protagonists, I certainly hope that a sequel is not in the making. I’d like to believe I can be left with the enjoyment that incurred rather than be deluged with yet another sequel.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Movie Review - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) - review by Daniel Kilgallon

Run Time: 134 mins

Just like last year, the most popular and successful science fiction movie franchise of all time has given fans yet another early Christmas present. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards (2014s Godzilla) and stands alone as the first movie in what is now being called the Star Wars Anthology series. I always liked the original Star Wars trilogy and continue to respect The Empire Strikes Back in particular as one of the greatest films ever made. However, The Force Awakens actually made me a Star Wars fan, being my number one film of last year and my favorite installment of the franchise. All of that being said, I was beyond excited to see what this new movie would bring to the table. 

Rogue One takes place before the events of the original Star Wars movie, leading directly into the events of the 1977 classic that started it all. The film is about the Rebel Alliance’s risky mission to steal the plans for the first Death Star, a space station with the power to destroy an entire planet. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) was the unwilling designer of the massive weapon and is captured by the Empire to finish what he started. Fifteen years after this, the Rebel Alliance recruits his criminal daughter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as the first step of their quest to track down her father and retrieve the secret plans he made to destroy the Death Star.

Rogue One is far different than any other Star Wars film, made quite clear by the fact that it strays from the Skywalker-based story that fans have become accustomed to in the episodes. That being said, it requires a bit more attention to detail and knowledge of the vast universe than the other films have. All of this considered, I still had a blast watching this movie and really loved this fresh take on the iconic universe. While it has a relatively slow buildup, the last act of Rogue One has a huge payoff in the form of what I think is the best battle scene in the series to date. It was also amazing to hear the legendary James Earl Jones voice Darth Vader once more in some of the film’s best moments. Overall, I would say that Rogue One is an excellent addition to the Star Wars universe that certainly shouldn’t be missed.

Movie review - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13) - review by Stephen Signor

In a galaxy far, far away a plot has developed and a civil war has begun. This is how the film begins. No opening crawl and immediately following that iconic phrase the action begins. It is relentless and it never stops. Having been a Star Wars fan since its premier almost 40 years ago I have to say this has to be the best one I have ever seen! What I enjoyed most about this film is, that as a spin-off, it is somewhat of a departure from the usual. Interesting as well as the fact that there were far more battle sequences without clear-cut villains and heroes.

Set before the events of the original Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) and following the formation of the Galactic Empire Star Wars Rebels (2014) it is a first in the Star Wars Anthology series. It is also the first live action "Star Wars" spin-off film to appear in U.S. theaters. 
In this installment, Mon Mothma of the Rebel Alliance recruits Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) a rebellion soldier and criminal to work with a rogue team of resistance fighters that includes Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and non-allied forces to steal the design schematics of the Empire's new super weapon, the Death Star. What ensues is epic. 

Alan Dudyk (Zootopia), who is no stranger to lending his voice for a myriad of characters, provides the reprogrammed Imperial droid K2SO with a very dry sense of humor, remarkable wit and spot-on sarcasm. With the aid of Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla 2014) his presence is a welcomed addition to the overall scheme of things.

Director of photography Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher) and Special Effects Supervisor Neil Corbould (Gladiator) went above and beyond to present a lived-in realistic feel while writers Chris Weitz (2015s Cinderella) and Tony Gilroy (2012s Bourne Legacy) teamed up with George Lucas to provide the drama. The numerous impressive battle scenes staged within orbit and upon the surface of Outer Ring planet Scarif is visually striking.  

This is not your stereo typical Star Wars flick. What it lacks with light sabers and appearances by the characters we come to love is replaced by the unknown. For die-hard fans there are cameo appearances by C-3PO, R2-D2 and one other that I won’t mention. 

I will say, the force is definitely here to stay.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Movie Review - Office Christmas Party (PG-13) - By Stephen Signor

Running Time: 1:45

I was pleasantly surprised after being hesitant seeing this film, thinking it would be just another silly, brainless 105 minutes. From moment one, the antics of an office full of misfit, deviant and miscreant employees warns that any kind of party would be one for the ages. The catalyst for the “party” is delivered with clear imagination and the flow of the proceeding circumstances is more than plausible. I definitely could relate. Perhaps this is because the title of the movie was inspired by an SNL skit called "Office Christmas Party" and appropriately, is just as crazy. 

When conservative CEO Carol Vanstone (Jennifer Aniston) attempts to shut down her hard-partying brother's (T.J. Miller) branch, he and his chief technical officer (Jason Bateman) must rally their co-workers and host an epic office Christmas party in a last ditch effort to impress a potential client thereby closing a sale to secure their employment. That client, Walt Davis, is delivered by Courtney B. Vance (2015s Terminator Genesis). Although a seemingly small role Vance gives it his all, especially when the Christmas party obviously gets out of control.

Co-stars Kate McKinnon and Vanessa Bayer both cast members of Saturday Night Live, round out a unique group of talent adding to never ending hilarious situations. Of course it doesn’t hurt that the casting choices were well thought out to bring home the humor and precise delivery of dialog; that being the fifth collaboration between Bateman and Aniston, who previously starred together in The Break-Up (2006), The Switch (2010), Horrible Bosses (2011), and Horrible Bosses 2 (2014).

Writers, Timothy Dowling (This Means War), Jon Lucas (Bad Moms) and Scott Moore, who was credited for writing and directing (Bad Moms), create and bring together a myriad of personalities and numerous sub-plots that lends to the entertaining premise and conclusion of this film, while both directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck team up again, this time to provide a whole new meaning to the Christmas spirit that will leave audiences rolling in the aisles. 

There is one caveat however, beware that the R rating is for language, so take that seriously. I found it well placed for emphasis but some may feel a certain four letter word overused. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy a different kind of holiday flick.

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Harry Potter movies ranked - By Daniel Kilgallon

Are you a Harry Potter fan? Harry Potter Movies Ranked
By Dan Kilgallon

As I have grown older, my interests in the fantasy genre have swayed towards the Middle Earth franchise and HBO’s Game of Thrones. That being said, Harry Potter will always hold a truly special place in my heart largely because my generation pretty much had the privilege of growing up with these now iconic characters. I have read each of the books multiple times and watched all of the movies even more than that. Grossing nearly $8 billion at the worldwide box office, I strongly believe that this stands as one of the greatest film franchises ever made. With the spinoff/prequel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them being released later this month, I figured I would take a chance to share how the first eight Harry Potter movies stack up for me personally in order of least favorite to favorite.

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (PG)

Run Time: 152 mins
Director: Chris Columbus (2001)

Being my least favorite Potter movie is not an insult by any means, but I think this one has held up the least over time for me. While Sorcerer’s Stone is extremely accurate to the original book, it tends to drag a bit in parts when you go back and rewatch it. All of that being said, this movie accomplished the crucial task of establishing the setting and characters of this truly magical cinematic universe.

7. Harry Potter and Chamber of Secrets (PG)
Run Time: 161 mins
Director: Chris Columbus (2002)

With the benefit of having the exposition taken care of by its predecessor, Chamber of Secrets feels a lot more action packed for sure. We are introduced to some fun new characters and there is a lot more humor too. But like Sorcerer’s Stone, this sequel is incredibly true to the book, which admittedly slows it down in parts. All in all, it still managed to improve on the first one and did a nice job of progressing the overall storyline of the series.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (PG-13)
Run Time: 146 mins
Director: David Yates (2010)

Unfortunately, this movie bears the burden of laying the groundwork and exposition for the epic finale in its follow up, Deathly Hallows: Part 2. For that reason alone, this is widely considered one of the slowest movies of the series. Personally, I feel as if Part 1 is a bit underrated, as there are a handful of exciting action sequences, some great character moments and in my opinion, a few of the most frightening scenes of the franchise.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (PG-13)
Run Time: 138 mins
Director: David Yates (2007)

For a long time, this was my least favorite of the Potter films. Based on the lengthiest book in the series, I thought that they took out way too many plot points. That being said, Order of the Phoenix has grown on me a lot as I look at its importance in moving along the epic story of the franchise. This is one of the most action packed out of all the movies for sure. I would add that Dumbledore vs. Voldemort is one of the best scenes of the series.

4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (PG)
Run Time: 153 mins
Director: David Yates (2009)

Based on one of my favorite books of the series, I think this is an equally strong installment for the movie franchise as well. The last film to take place almost entirely at Hogwarts, Half Blood Prince really does a great job of setting the stage for Deathly Hallows. We learn a lot more about Voldemort’s past in this movie and there are some of the most emotional character moments of the series along the way. Additionally, some clever humor is mixed in there, too.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (PG-13)
Run Time: 130 mins
Director: David Yates (2011)

Released ten years after Sorcerer’s Stone started it all, Deathly Hallows Part 2 remains a top 10 movie of all time in terms of worldwide box office gross. This is easily one of the most popular movies in the series and some would put it even higher on this list. There is no denying that this is truly an epic conclusion to the phenomenal franchise with tons and tons of mind blowing action. My one complaint is that it moves a bit too fast to capture some potentially deep character moments, but this is still a great finale.
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13)
Run Time: 157 mins
Director: Mike Newell (2005)

Goblet was my favorite of the books growing up, plus this movie came out during the peak of my Potter obsession, so I’ve always had a soft spot for it. That being said, I think this really is one of the finest installments of the series as it really brings the franchise in a more mature direction. The three tasks of the Triwizard Tournament are amongst the best scenes of the series and we are finally introduced to Voldemort in the epic graveyard finale.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)
Run Time: 142 mins
Director: Alfonso Cuarón (2004)

While Chris Columbus did a great job of staying true to the source material with the first two movies, director Alfonso Cuarón did an ever better job of setting up everything to come since in his single contribution to the series. I think that Azkaban is a perfect combination of youthful adventure and magic combined with more dramatic storytelling. This movie has some of the greatest moments in the series and is in my opinion, the best Potter film.