Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

The Martian
Castaway on a Deserted Planet

Author Andy Weir first self-published his novel The Martian as a free online blog, before creating an Amazon Kindle version at the request of his fans. The Kindle version instantly became a best-seller and before long, Hollywood came calling. The book has been described as something of a cross between Apollo 13 and Castaway and that comparison is even more readily apparent when it comes to the film version. Don’t mistake that for meaning that the movie feels like a retread, because it doesn’t; far from it, actually. The Martian definitely stands out as an exhilarating experience on its own and is easily one of the best movies of 2015.


Given the hundreds of films I’ve reviewed, I am absolutely flummoxed that I have never before covered 1998’s IMAX film Everest. To start with, I’m a mountaineering literature junkie. Further, the film stars Ed Viesturs, who is to mountaineering what Aaron Rodgers is to football. And to top it off, it’s pure documentary footage of the most absorbing high-altitude tragedy in the history of mountaineering. What couldn’t have been planned, and what no one expected, was that the IMAX team would be on the mountain during the catastrophic events that claimed the lives of eight climbers from three other expeditions on their summit day.

The Intern
Experience Pays Off

After a long and storied career made up mostly of dramatic roles, Robert De Niro has found some success in his later career with comedic roles. He played on his history of playing gangster roles with the big hit Analyze This and then followed that up with the even more successful Meet the Parents series, but The Intern might be his best work in a comedy since Midnight Run came out in the eighties. And De Niro is the star of the show. The actor is perfect as the retired businessman with a lifetime of experience he can share with his new younger co-workers.

An IMAX Experience

A lot of blockbusters recently have built themselves up as “an IMAX experience,” but they are not necessarily the cinematic experiences for which the IMAX format was originally designed. In fact, it was not that long ago when IMAX theaters played host mostly to documentary and travelogue films that took the viewer to amazing places around the world. Perhaps the new film Everest is the best of both worlds as it takes viewers to the highest place on Earth and showcases some incredible visuals, all while telling a dramatic narrative story based on real-life events. In fact, the movie briefly references the IMAX film crew that was creating a documentary film of the same story (and same name) when the events portrayed actually happened… a film that we were told prior to our screening was the one that opened the very IMAX cinema where we sat.

No Escape
Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Actor Owen Wilson is mostly known for his comedies, but over the years he has shown some quality dramatic chops in movies such as Midnight in Paris and Marley & Me. In the new movie No Escape, Wilson has his most intense and dramatic role since 2001’s Behind Enemy Lines. Both movies are stories of survival, with No Escape pushing the actor’s character to the very limits of humanity.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Cruise Takes to the Skies

Ever since Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt ran away from a crashing fish tank in 1996, the Mission: Impossible movie series has been all about the big stunts. The same is true of the latest film in the franchise, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which even goes so far as to hang its star outside of an airplane while it takes off. Those crazy practical stunts are refreshing in a summer that to this point has been mostly dominated by computer-aided science-fiction and fantasy movies. For what is really the first time in the series, the new movie picks up right where the last movie left off. In fact, this is the first movie in the franchise in which every member of Ethan Hunt’s core team was in at least one of the previous movies.

Boxing is Life

Director Walter Hill is famously quoted as saying that “most Hollywood boxing movies are metaphors” and it is no wonder. A boxer stands there and takes the punches his opponent throws at him and his success is determined by how well he can take these punches while continuing to fight back. We all face our challenges in life and our success is largely determined by how well we fight back against or through those challenges. Fortunately for the rest of us, those challenges usually don’t involve getting punched in the face. The new movie Southpaw follows the boxing-movie-as-metaphor template laid down by the many great boxing films that have come before it. It succeeds, for sure, but it follows that template a little too closely to truly break any new ground in the genre.

Tiny Hero, Giant Results

Avengers: Age of Ultron was more of the same for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the new chapter in the expanded universe franchise offers something new. A new superhero, Ant-Man, is introduced to the same world that is already occupied by heroes like Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. His superpower—the ability to shrink down to the size of an insect—takes the franchise to new heights, quite literally. It’s as if Marvel crossed over with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and it is just as fun as that high-concept idea sounds.

Terminator Genisys
He Said He’d Be Back

Whether or not you were ready for more Terminator movies, you are getting them. The franchise rights revert back to its creator James Cameron in 2019 and current rights owner Paramount intends to release a full trilogy before that happens. The first is this summer’s Terminator Genisys, a movie that is both a sequel to the original films and a reboot of sorts. If you thought the Terminator timeline was confusing already, this movie’s time-traveling plot is really going to drive you crazy.

The Desolation of Smaug

What was that I was saying about An Unexpected Journey not feeling rushed? About the inclusion of songs, in all their silliness and pomposity? About belly laughs and witty homages? Naw. Peter Jackson opens The Desolation of Smaug with a flash-back sequence of Gandalf’s initial encounter with Thorin at the Prancing Pony in Bree. And as the scene opens, just as with the Bree scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson emerges from the darkness munching on an oversized carrot. That’s a fitting metaphor, methinks.

Next Page »