Monday, January 16, 2017

Singin' In The Rain: A Timeless Classic

In the annals of history, people will always try to argue what was the best film of a particular year, at a particular point in time. But with a film like Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen's Singin' In The Rain, there is no contest, quite simply none. Yesterday I had the joy of seeing it on the big screen with my girlfriend, as the first of Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events Big Screen Classics for 2017.

Gene Kelly, a name that will never be forgotten, even 100 years from now. He was the quintessential song and dance man, attacking each role he'd taken on over the years and making it his own. His voice and the songs he sung are legend, and in Singin' in the Rain, songs like Moses Supposes, Broadway Melody, Good Mornin', and of course the titular song of the film, are in my opinion, staples of his overall career in movies. There will quite literally never be another actor like Gene Kelly, his shoes are just too big to fill, and I doubt that anyone will ever attempt to fill them.

Debbie Reynolds, for whom the screening is dedicated, once again does a fabulous job as Kathy Selden, singing and dancing her way into hearts again, and showing Gene Kelly's character of Don Lockwood, that being an actor is so much more then just ham-acting, and that being a person is so much more too. When she and Gene sing together, their voices match so beautifully and their dancing

Donald O'Connor, well there's not much to be said about dear Donald. He makes us laugh, he helps push Gene and Debbie's characters together, he keeps Gene's spirits up and does what he does best, show us all what a little laughter, a little joy and a little merriment can do to brighten a person's day.

Gene Kelly movies are always must see's, if its a picture he is in tis' worth one's time to watch it. Singin' In The Rain is worth it because this lavish classic Hollywood musical extravaganza is a film that is timeless, 100% timeless, and it should be seen and enjoyed by all. Like the poster says, "What a glorious feeling". 

Rogue One: Filling A Gap in Star Wars History

Star Wars is a major cornerstone of pop culture and pop culture fandom. The movie market may be dominated by superhero films, but one of the most enduring and beloved film franchises (and its other various offshoots), is George Lucas's epic space opera brainchild.

Since first hitting movie theaters in 1977, Star Wars has become a international phenomena, spawning offshoots in books, comic books, animation, video games, and merchandising galore. With J.J. Abrams telling the next chapters of the Star Wars story with Episodes VII, VIII and IX, Gareth Edwards (director of the 2014 Godzilla reboot) steps up to the plate by helming this, the first movie of the Star Wars Anthology Films (movies that according to Rogue One producer Kathleen Kennedy "exist within that vast universe that he (George Lucas) created").

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, tells a story that had never been actually told before, the story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans to the Death Star, setting in motion the events of A New Hope.

The cast of Rogue One is chock full of characters for Star Wars fans and movie goers to love and cheer on. Whether its Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, fighting alongside the Rebellion to start ending the Empire's hold of terror over the galaxy, or Diego Luna as Rebellion Intelligence Officer Cassian Andor, Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a blind Force-sensitive warrior, Alan Tudyk as the sarcastic reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO, or any of the other numerous new characters that are introduced throughout the movie, there are characters for everyone to love and latch on to.

And for people who have been Star Wars fans their entire lives, there are many cameos by well known characters, including the return of James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader!

As far as stand-alone movies that are a part of a bigger whole go, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a bold and brilliant first step in further expanding the overall Star Wars universe. It tells a story that fans young and old have not seen before, and fills in gaps that were never fully explained or extrapolated on in previous spin-off media. Tis' a grand addition to the Star Wars legacy, and a movie that should be seen by all.

La La Land Review: A Love Letter Film to Classic Hollywood

Hey there ho there readers, a new year is upon us! That means new movies, new TV shows, new books, new music, new everything! So I thought I'd kick 2017 off with a review of a film I saw with my girlfriend, and will most definitely be watching with her again and again and again.

Los Angeles is a city of life, a city of constant activity, a city where people are constantly trying to pursue their dreams and make them a reality, while bumping into other dreamers along the way.

That is the setting and basic plot for this marvelous musical film, the city of dreams, and the central characters are two dreamers who meet and fall in love while working to become what they most want in the world.

For this review, I want to focus on two key things that make this movie what it is, a throwback love letter to the musical genre films of classic Hollywood (think Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Betty Hutton, Shirley Temple etc.).

Key Thing #1: The music/songs, oh what music and songs this movie has! Songs that are fast paced and full of life, songs of romance and love, songs of dreams and dreamers, music (mainly jazz and orchestral), that lifts your spirits up and just makes you soar way up high. This soundtrack is one that must be listened to over and over again, until you can hear even just one note from a song from it and know exactly what song it is and what scene its from.

Key Thing #2: Cast. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling are wonderful together on screen! Their characters have such a beautiful chemistry, that where their love and lives go direction wise will have you rooting for them every step of the way. Both of their characters have these amazing dreams of what they want to do with their life and their gifts, and watching them pursue those dreams while is beautiful.

Its no wonder La La Land won 7 Golden Globes including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Motion Picture for Musical/Comedy. best Original Score etc. It won all those categories, because it nailed each one perfectly!

La La Land is as I said before, a throwback love letter to the musical film genre of classic Hollywood, making it a real treasure to see again and again and for people who have never seen musical films before, its a wonderful introduction to the genre and will have them craving to see other films like it. It will make you laugh, cry, smile, and tug on your heart strings. In short, it is absolutely a must-see film!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Disney's Moana Review: A Film About Discovering Your True Self

Films released Walt Disney Pictures always have a message that inspires movie goers both young and old. And after seeing Moana yesterday with my girlfriend, I can proudly state that this latest animated epic stands head and shoulders above current Disney animated movies.

It's the story of Moana, a princess of a tribe on an island in the Polynesian who takes to sea so that she can save her island home, and while doing so, discovers more about herself then she thought she knew (or rather, what she was told according to her father and her people). With the help of an arrogant demi-god and her connection to the sea, Moana not only saves her island, but saves the whole world.

Like all Disney films, Moana has a soundtrack that people will never stop listening too. But what this soundtrack has, is songs that also can speak to anyone on any level. Songs of longing, songs of love/family, songs of pursuing one's dreams despite all odds and obstacles.

There is so much I want to write about this film, but I don't feel like my words can do it credit. All I will in summation is this: Moana is a story everyone, especially young girls who are Disney fans will love, because not only does it have a protagonist who can inspire everyone to push on and defy the odds of life no matter what they are, it has a message that we can all take to heart. That message is: Be true to yourself, and never let anyone tell you that what you do, who you are, and what you want to make your life is wrong. Be the best you that you can possibly be, and never be afraid of standing up for what you know in your heart is right and true.

Walt Disney Pictures will never stop making movies that inspire, entertain and delight both young and old. But with a film like Moana, its going to be difficult to produce anything that can top it (although this being Disney, I may eat those words in the years to come). Regardless, Moana is for sure a film for families, kids, Disney lovers and movie goers will want to see.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them Review

The world of Harry Potter is a (pardon the pun) magical place. From the amazing book series to the film adaptations of said books, to the stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that premiered during the summer, each new item released only further's to widen the scope of what fans already have. And this new film certainly widen's the scope in a major way.

So far, all media related to Harry Potter has taken place in England, but this film takes place in 1920's New York City, and brings a member of the British magical community across the sea to the swinging Big Apple.

Eddie Redmayne plays Newt Scamander, British wizard and magizoologist who is on a mission in New York, to find magical creatures and chronicle them for his book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. He gets more then what he has bargained for when he is drawn into an adventure of epic proportions.

Throughout the film, audiences are introduced to new aspects of the magical world, specifically, how things are done over here in the USA with regards to how things are done in terms of magical governance and law, the American version of the Statute of Secrecy, and even a brief mention of the top school of witchcraft and wizardry for American witches and wizards.

But the best part (for me at least) was the different magical creatures that are brought to life on the big screen. Nifflers, Bowtruckles, an Erumpent etc. Creatures fans of J. K. Rowling had only ever read about and now, they get to see them come to life.

This film, is a wonderful story adding more layers to the world the Harry Potter films built, and whatever films come after it, will only serve to add more depth, give us more wonderful characters for us to love and be excited about, and above all, it gives us more story to cherish. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge Review: Holding Fast to God During War

World War II, one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the modern world, was a time of testing for many men, young and old, who felt the urge to take up arms and defend the ideals of freedom and democracy.

Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson's latest movie, and while I love all of his projects, this one stands out because of the fact that it is a film being made by such a big name Hollywood director, with a all-star cast to boot (with Spider-Man actor Andrew Garfield playing Desmond Doss, Hugo Weaving as his father and Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington as Doss's commanding officers (and his greatest detractors because of his faith in God being Doss's reason for not picking up a weapon).

Everyone who joined up with the knowledge that they would be taking up arms and have to take human life in order to make the world a safer place. But for Desmond Doss, the urge was to join up as a medic and to save lives, not take them. Doss was a Christian, specifically a Seventh-Day Adventist, and while I could go into reams of detail about his choosing to be an Adventist, what matters more then anything, was that he held fast to the 6th Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill", despite receiving massive negativity from not only his fellow soldiers, but his commanding officers, as shown in the movie. And in holding fast to his tenant of not taking life, he persevered and went on to save 75 soldiers during The Battle of Okinawa, earning the respect of many members of his company, his commanding officers and being the first conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor for his military service.

I urge everyone who see's this film, be prepared for violence and intensity in a way that will not glorify war as most films about the subject do. Movie-goers, Christians especially, should be prepared for the joy that I felt at seeing (even a fictional portrayal of real events) a story about how faith in God should not be ridiculed or looked down on, even in a time of war.

However, with this urging to see the film, there is also caution, because while many films glorify war and combat, Mel Gibson does not hold back in depicting how bloody and violent the conflict on Hacksaw Ridge was for both the American's and Japanese soldiers.

Hacksaw Ridge has been praised by critics and movie-goers, and I am adding my praise to those voices, and I am awarding this movie four out of four stars, for its story, casting, and above all, for showing that having faith in God and holding fast to one's beliefs and values no matter what, can make a huge difference in a person's life, and in the lives of those who interact with said person. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Doctor Strange Review

A few days ago, I saw "Doctor Strange" with my girlfriend, brother and a dear friend of ours for my birthday. We had all been waiting for this movie to come out for a while now, and as we all sat there for almost two hours, watching Benedict Cumberbatch go from being an arrogant jerk of a man to a humbled and wholly enlightened man, one word (as cliche as it may be) ran through my brain "magic".

I could spend time doing my usual thing about talking about how each member of the cast did a spectacular job (which they all did), but I want to write about a major theme in this movie. And I will be using a quote from the film to help me talk about said theme.

The Ancient One: Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?
The Ancient One: It's not about you.

That bit of dialogue, right there, blew my mind. It summed up so much about the character of Doctor Strange in his time before he chooses to actively learn the mystic arts and become Earth's Sorcerer Supreme (though in the film universe attaining this title will take time it seems). Stephen Strange is an arrogant, brilliant and utterly self-absorbed neurosurgeon, a man whose medical skills have made him very wealthy and successful, but also inflated his ego to titanic proportions.

So when he wrecks his car, and his hands suffer the most severe nerve damage possible, his career is over, and his life seems to become utterly meaningless to him. All he cares about is finding some way to heal his hands so he can get back to his old life, a life of saving lives and receiving money and accolades. In many ways, humanity is so much like Stephen Strange at the film's start. People go throughout their lives, sometimes almost mechanically in nature, thinking that everything they do is important and everything in their life is more important then everyone else's and that their world, the tiny planet they live on, is the only thing that matters.

But then something comes along, something big or small, that is utterly unexpected and can throw one's lives into sheer and utter chaos. How people react to it, is the defining factor of how we move forward. People can be like Stephen Strange, and blindly cling to faint hopes that if they try every solution available, they can go back to that old life, not even aware that the rest of the world has just kept on going, and they are the one's stuck.

This is a major turning point in the movie for Stephen Strange, when he realizes that it truly ISN'T about him, and that he must accept this sad but real truth and move forward. And so he does, working hard to learn the mystic arts and take his place as one of the many sorcerer's who are tasked with protecting the world from threats of the mystical kind (this is hardly spoiler's for those who have no seen the film yet, I'm sorry but the plot is somewhat obvious from the trailers at time).

When people open their minds, hearts and souls to the fact that they are a part of something bigger, and can choose to be more active in serving that bigger purpose (for me, as a Christian, it is serving God each day through my work, no matter what I do, big or small at my job, I do it not for my glory, but for his glory).

There is a verse in the New Testament that applies to this theme, of accepting that we are not the most singular thing in the universe and that we are people who are called to be a part of something bigger; 1 Peter 4:10 reads "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in it's various forms."

To apply this verse to the theme in "Doctor Strange" that I've written about, I'll sum it up. We as people before finding the truth of God go through our lives like Stephen Strange, absorbed, and focused only on ourselves. It is only when we stop staring blindly ahead and look around and see the world and see what we can do to help make it a better place by serving God using our gifts and abilities, that we can begin to do work that will truly make a difference.

In closing, "Doctor Strange" hit the mark very highly as the latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I am giving it four out of four stars for its stellar casting, a superb plot that introduced non-comic book fans to Marvel's Sorcerer Supreme, and for a special effects that will make any comic fan weep tears of joy.