Friday, January 27, 2017

Movie Review - Most anticipated movies of 2017 By Dan Kilgallon

With 2016 behind us now, these are some of the films being released this year that I am looking forward to seeing the most - simply sorted in order of release date. Enjoy, and watch out for reviews on most of these movies over the course of the year!

Release Date: March 3, 2017
Director: James Mangold
This is a bit of a bittersweet start to my list, as this will be the last time that we see Hugh Jackman take on his signature role of the Wolverine (aka “Logan”). The movie is supposed to be largely inspired from the “Old Man Logan” comic book storyline and takes place in a post-apocalyptic future. Expected to receive an “R” rating, Logan will mark the tenth installment in the X-Men movie series as well as the third Wolverine solo film, following 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine.

Kong: Skull Island
Release Date: March 10, 2017
Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
While I certainly wouldn’t call myself a big King Kong fan in general, I am still pretty excited to see this movie. So far, the trailers have looked awesome and it seems as if they are going to do an exceptional job of capturing the sheer size of Kong in this film. A follow up of sorts to 2014’s Godzilla, this movie is building up to another live action adaption of a fight between cinema’s two most iconic monsters with Godzilla: King of Monsters set for release in 2019 and Godzilla vs. Kong slated for 2020. 

The Fate of the Furious
Release Date: April 14, 2017
Director: F. Gary Gray

To say the least, this franchise has changed a lot since the release of the 2001 original. The films have gone from stories centered on street racing to what have basically become full-fledged superhero movies. I think they really hit a peak, with a nice balance of those two elements in 2011’s Fast Five, one of my favorite action movies of all time. That being said, I am still looking forward to seeing what they do with this eighth installment, even though the last two movies have been a bit too over the top for me.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Director: James Gunn
This highly anticipated sequel is the first of three films coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year. I am a huge fan of the 2014 original and I think that it remains one of the best and most creative efforts of the franchise to date. Vol. 2’s marketing campaign has been just as good as the first so far and the trailers for this new movie have me really excited to see what Marvel will bring to the table this time around.

Alien: Covenant
Release Date: May 19, 2017
Director: Ridley Scott
Admittedly, I am not completely caught up on all of the Alien/Predator movies, but I am still going to give this new movie a shot, largely since it has legendary director Ridley Scott at the helm once again. The 1979 original Alien and its 1986 sequel Aliens stand out as two of my favorite science fiction films ever and I am really interested to see how they expand on this developing prequel storyline of the franchise.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Release Date: May 26, 2017
I grew up loving the Pirates films and Johnny Depp’s signature character of Jack Sparrow is definitely one of my favorite movie heroes ever. 2011’s On Stranger Tides was a letdown for me. However, I am optimistic that Disney has a chance to bring the franchise back to life this time around, with the fifth installment of the series. Hopefully Javier Bardem’s role as Captain Salazar will be enough to save this movie since he has historically played an excellent villain in movies such as No Country for Old Men and Skyfall.

Wonder Woman
Release Date: June 2, 2017
Director: Patty Jenkins
This movie follows Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad as the fourth installment in the DC Extended Universe. It is fair to say that I enjoyed each of those films more than the average critic - being a big fan of the source material. Anyway, I really liked the work that Gal Gadot did as Wonder Woman and the trailers so far have me really excited to see the first live action, stand- alone movie for the iconic character. I am hopeful that this will be one of the best comic book films of the year.

Transformers: The Last Knight
Release Date: June 23, 2017
Director: Michael Bay

To be completely honest, I may not even give this movie a shot unless I see some improved trailers and/or positive early reviews. The teaser did not impress me too much. In my opinion, the Transformers franchise has only gotten worse since the 2007 original, which was one of the films that really got me into movies in the first place. The Last Knight still deserves a spot on this list, simply because I am curious to see if director Michael Bay has a chance to finally save this deteriorating series.

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Release Date: July 7, 2017
Director: Jon Watts
With Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios now cooperating with creative control over Spider-Man, this movie will serve as a second reboot for the character following the relatively unsuccessful pair of Andrew Garfield films. We already got a sneak peek of the young Tom Holland’s take on Spidey in this year’s Captain America: Civil War and personally, I think that might just be my favorite adaption of the character. Because of that and an awesome first trailer, I am pretty pumped to go see this movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes
Release Date: July 14, 2017
Director: Matt Reeves
I am a huge fan of each of the first two Apes reboot movies (Rise in 2011 and Dawn in 2014), so I am pretty excited to see what this next film has in store for us. Andy Serkis is the king of capture and it looks like he is going to deliver another amazing performance as the lead monkey, Caesar. This movie will also feature Woody Harrelson in a villainous role, so I have a good feeling that this will end up being one of the best science fiction movies of the year.

Release Date: July 21, 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
While Christopher Nolan has only directed eight full length movies, I have seen them all, from 2000’s Memento to 2014’s Interstellar. Each film is a masterpiece in my opinion. I strongly believe that he is the best director in Hollywood right now and I cannot wait to see what he does with this next movie. Dunkirk stars Tom Hardy (one of the best actors in the business right now) and depicts the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II. I really think that this movie has the potential to win multiple Oscars this year.
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Release Date: October 6, 2017
Director: Matthew Vaughn
I think that 2014’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was one of the best movies of that year and is honestly one of my favorite action films of all time as well. It seemed like a Quentin Tarantino/James Bond movie and I have an absolute blast every time I re-watch it. With Matthew Vaughn directing again and a handful of big name actors and actresses added to what was already a strong cast, I expect a lot of the same great things from this sequel. I really can’t wait for it to hit theaters in the fall.

Thor: Ragnarok
Release Date: November 3, 2017
Director: Taika Waititi

While 2011’s Thor and 2013’s The Dark World were each pretty decent, I would not categorize either of them as great Marvel movies. But, I think that Ragnarok has the potential to be one of the franchise's best films yet. Not only will we see the God of Thunder in his third standalone movie, but this film will also have the characters of Doctor Strange and Hulk in it as well. What I am most excited for is the likelihood of scenes featuring Planet Hulk, a comic storyline in which Hulk fights in a gladiator arena in space.

Justice League
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Director: Zack Snyder

As I mentioned before, I am a huge fan of the DC Extended Universe thus far, so needless to say, I am absolutely ecstatic for the first live action adaption of this iconic superhero team. I think that they have done an excellent job setting the groundwork for Justice League and the first trailer looks promising. While I do love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I have always preferred DC characters and I think it is the perfect time for them to start competing with their own movie franchise.

Star Wars: Episode VIII
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
Ironically enough, the last movie on my list is also my most anticipated film of 2017. While we do not even have a full title yet, the ending of my favorite movie of 2015, The Force Awakens, clearly set up what should be an incredible sequel. Episode 8 will answer a lot of questions brought to attention by its predecessor and also really progress the epic storyline of this amazing saga. However, the bottom line is that Star Wars is back and each film that comes out has become a worldwide event at this point.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie review - Patriots Day by Daniel Kilgallon

Patriots Day (R)
Run Time: 133 mins

Patriots Day is a new film that accounts the tragic events of the Boston Marathon bombing in April of 2013. The movie is directed by Peter Berg and features native Bostonian Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. This is Berg and Wahlberg’s third collaboration as director and actor, following Lone Survivor (2013) and Deepwater Horizon (2016). The rest of the Patriots Day cast is very impressive: Featuring Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Michelle Monaghan and Academy Award winning J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, 2014), as some of the strong supporting characters. 

When I first heard about this movie, I thought it was a bit too early to be making a film about such a recent tragedy. Nevertheless, I just had to see if the people involved in this production could successfully pull off a quality movie that, most importantly, pays tremendous respect to the incredibly emotional source material that is still fresh in the minds of many. Luckily, in a way that is comparable to the heroic response of Bostonians, some of Hollywood’s finest pulled together and produced a movie that I consider to be a triumphant, touching tribute to Massachusetts’ capitol city.

I will keep my summary brief, as I don’t want to spoil too much about this movie. It is a film experienced best with an open mind. However, I will say that Patriots Day begins the night just before the devastating events of April 15, 2013. It goes on to depict the buildup, as well as show the actual bombings, through a blend of new footage and previous documentary and news videos. A large portion of the film then depicts all of the aftermath from this event, concluding with the arrest of the second terrorist.

Obviously, it is hard to say that I enjoyed watching this particular movie since it is such a fragile subject. However, I will still say that Patriots Day is a great film that is worth seeing for anyone that is comfortable with watching it. Everyone in the movie pays a high level of respect and professionalism to all of the people who had to experience this tragedy less than four years ago. The entire cast delivered excellent performances, especially lead actor Mark Wahlberg, in his role as Boston Police Department’s Sergeant Tommy Saunders. Overall, anyone who can handle this tearjerker should check out Patriots Day; it is a truly touching film.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie Review - Star Wars movies ranked By Dan Kilgallon

The recent release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story marks the first spinoff movie for the most popular science fiction film franchise of all time, as well as its eighth live action installment. While it seems as if we will be getting a Star Wars movie almost every year in the near future, I figured it would be good to share how the movies stack up for me at this point in time, in order, from least favorite to favorite. Since this is a pretty debatable subject among fans especially, I am going to emphasize that this is not a definitive list of the quality of the films, but simply a ranking of my personal preference. With Episode 8 being released in December of next year, an untitled Han Solo spinoff set for 2018, Episode 9 plus another anthology film in 2019 and 2020 respectively, this is certainly an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan. Watch out for updated releases of this list in the future!

8. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (PG)
Run Time: 136 mins
Director: George Lucas (1999)
My Rating: 2/10

As much as I hate to start off a list like this on such a negative note, I have to say that The Phantom Menace is in a very distinct group of the absolute worst films that I have ever seen. Even as a relatively moderate Star Wars fan, I feel as if this film is an insult to the franchise. Just to point out a few flaws: Not only does Menace diminish the magic of the Force through the painful “Midi-chlorian” explanation, but it also gives us one of the most annoying characters in the history of cinema in the form of Jar-Jar Binks. Another big issue is that while it seems to be targeted towards a much younger audience, due to the overall tone, Episode I  is still incredibly bogged down by boring, cringe-worthy dialogue throughout an excessive amount of “space politics” scenes. The only redeeming quality of this movie for me is the epic lightsaber duel in which Qui-Gon Jinn (what a waste of Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) take on the incredibly underused character of Darth Maul to the tune of John Williams’ flawless Duel of the Fates.  With that being said, the first of the prequel trilogy has to be the saga’s worst effort.

7. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (PG)
Run Time: 142 mins
Director: George Lucas (2002)
My Rating: 5/10

Taking place ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace, I think that Attack of the Clones offers some pretty significant improvements over its lackluster predecessor. While it is far more exciting for sure, this installment still suffers from some flat-out horrible dialogue, especially in the uncomfortable, cringe-worthy attempt of a love story between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amilda (Natalie Portman). Luckily, Ewan McGregor bails those two out with a pretty solid performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi; hopefully the rumors of his return to the role in his own anthology films will become a reality sometime in the near future. Anyway, Attack of Clones features a handful of pretty decent action sequences that keep the movie going, including our first time seeing Yoda wield a lightsaber in his duel against Count Dooku (the late Christopher Lee) as well as the massive arena fight scene featuring the Jedi knights. Even if seems like a video game in parts like this, thanks to extremely over the top action, this aspect at least makes Episode II  a bearable and somewhat entertaining film for the Star Wars franchise, even though it really didn’t have that much to improve on in the first place.

 6. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)
Run Time: 140 mins
Director: George Lucas (2005)
My Rating: 7/10

In my opinion, this is hands down the best effort put forth by George Lucas with his work on prequel movies. Simply put, this film actually accomplished what the entire trilogy should have done collectively: Illustrate how Anakin Skywalker transformed from an extremely powerful and gifted Jedi into the most iconic Sith lord of all time. While there are still a handful of terrible lines and some pretty mediocre acting, Revenge of the Sith really improved upon the other two prequel films in each of those aspects. I would also add that this is definitely one of the most exciting Star Wars films, even though the fight scenes are still a bit over the top, the choreography was far better this time around. With a stacked lineup of epic lightsaber duel matchups throughout the film, Revenge of the Sith is quite honestly a sort of guilty pleasure movie for me in that sense. While I still can’t say many positive things about the prequel trilogy, this particular installment has that sheer entertainment value, making it worth a re-watch on occasion.

5. Return of the Jedi (PG)
Run Time: 131 mins
Director: Richard Marquand (1983)
My Rating: 8/10

Some might find this to be a bit of a low spot for one of the more iconic Star Wars movies, but hear me out on this one. Return of the Jedi is a great movie and everything involving Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor is an absolutely perfect conclusion to the storyline of the original trilogy. However, there are a handful of issues that I have with other aspects of the film that earns it this placement on the list. First of all, I felt as if the whole idea of a second Death Star was just too much of a rehash of the original. I would also add that Han Solo honestly seemed a bit out of it throughout the whole film (Harrison Ford actually wanted him killed off in this movie).  Also, the death scene of Boba Fett was just far too underwhelming for one of my favorite characters in the series. Lastly, I am personally not a fan of the use of the teddy bear-like Ewoks in an epic finale like this. With all of that being said, I really do think that Return of Jedi has a lot going for it. Despite my gripes, this is still a respectable finale to one of the greatest trilogies in the history of cinema.

4. Star Wars (PG)
Run Time: 121 mins
Director: George Lucas (1977)
My Rating: 9/10

If I was putting together a list of the Star Wars films ranked in definitive order of pure quality, this beyond groundbreaking movie would almost certainly be higher up; but like I said, this is personal preference. If I was alive when this first came out, perhaps that would also change my opinion, but I simply enjoy the next three movies on the list a little bit more than this one. Anyway, as a film buff, it is needless to say that I highly respect the original Star Wars movie as one of the singular greatest science fiction films ever made. Every scene, character and line in this movie is iconic on one level or another. You could nit-pick some small aspects of the film, but the reality is that nobody involved in this monumental production expected this movie to be anything close to what it has become today. The classic space opera story has cemented itself in pop culture forever and I think that it is on a short list of films that will be distinctly remembered 100 years from now. There are only a handful of movies that everybody needs to see in their lifetime and Star Wars simply has to be one of them.

3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (PG-13)
Run Time: 133 mins
Director: Gareth Edwards (2016)
My Rating: 9/10

To be totally honestly, this first Star Wars anthology film probably would have slipped down a spot or two in these rankings if I hadn’t recently gone back for a second viewing. Initially, it took me a little while to get attached to the new characters in this movie and I also thought the build-up was a little bit slow. However, seeing it again, I really appreciated the manner in which they chose to tell this story and it genuinely fleshed out a darker, grittier side to the rebellion that we really hadn’t seen before. Even though Rogue One strays from the Skywalker-based story that fans have become accustomed to in the episodes, I give this movie a lot of credit for making it work in their own unique way and for not relying on lightsaber duels as much as the other movies do. I also must add that the CGI technology used to bring Grand Moff Tarkin back to life on the screen was stunning and it was amazing to have James Earl Jones return as the voice of the Darth Vader in two of the film’s best scenes. Finally, in my opinion, Rogue One has the best last act of a Star Wars movie and overall, should be appreciated by fans more as time goes on.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (PG)
Run Time: 124 mins
Director: Irvin Kershner (1980)
My Rating: 10/10

Honestly, if I were to put together a definitive list of the best films ever made, The Empire Strikes Back would be right up at the top of that too. This is widely regarded as the greatest Star Wars movie and I truly went back and forth between this and my personal favorite. However, I will say that I believe this stands alone as the best movie sequel ever; as it actually managed to improve upon its predecessor, which is perhaps the most iconic film ever made. It defined what every sequel strives to do by adding layers to the story, holding a darker tone, and introducing new characters which in this example, included cultural icons like Yoda, Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian. With all of that being said, my biggest praise for Empire is that there isn’t a single second in this film where the story loses steam at all. There are plenty of incredible action sequences but it is perfectly paced and has plenty of emotion blended into it. The end fight scene between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker is flawless and of course, features the greatest and most well-known plot twist of all time. All in all, The Empire Strikes is the perfect middle piece of the incredible original Star Wars trilogy.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (PG-13)
Run Time: 136 mins
Director: J.J. Abrams (2015)
My Rating: 10/10

While it may not be a perfect film, The Force Awakens is one of the best experiences that I have ever had seeing a movie for the first time in the theater and it seems to get even better each time I watch it. I understand the criticism it has received for modeling itself after the 1977 original, but that honestly did not bother me and I don’t think that this new beginning would have worked nearly as well if they had altered that classic Star Wars formula. Blending a fresh new start with nostalgia, this movie is something that very few films really are to me: An experience of true, genuine, cinematic magic. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver led the way in this through their incredible portrayals of the characters of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren, respectively. I latched on to each of those three, right from the start, which made every scene in the movie just that much more special. The fact that I had so much fun with Force Awakens and fell in love with the universe because of it solidifies this movie as my personal favorite Star Wars movie.