Category Archives: Movies

STAR WARS IX | JJ Abrams Wraps Filming

Principal photography on JJ Abrams next Star Wars adventure has ended, and now fans can’t wait to return to the epic space opera that is promising to tie up many of its predecessor’s loose ends!

With a single image filmmaker, JJ Abrams set imaginations and pulses racing announcing via his Twitter feed that principal photography on Star Wars Episode IX had wrapped. The new trilogy’s premiere cast including Daisy RidleyOscar Isaacs, and John Boyega were featured in the shot which had the trio clasped in a warm embrace, behind a desert landscape that will undoubtedly serve as the backdrop for a scene in the next, and final installment of what Abrams has deemed is the third act in longer “Skywalker” adventure.

Star Wars, of course, debuted to theatrical audiences in 1977, the brainchild of George Lucas has gone on to become one of the cinema’s most successful and lucrative franchises. In 2015, Disney bought Lucasfilms and directed Abrams to resuscitate the adventures in a galaxy, far, far awayStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens reunited many of the original cast, their first time back in more than 30 years. Though Abrams did not direct The Last Jedi the most recent installment, the director had remained close to the story and decided to take the helm for the finale.

Few details about the Episode IX have escaped into the realm of public consumption, fans are hopeful that it will be a gratifying end especially given that the passing of one of the franchise’s stars Carrie Fisher has left a significant void. The film’s most centrifugal figure Luke Skywalker, played by actor Mark Hamill returned in The Last Jedi and although had apparently met an end by the final act, the actor had been seen on set and even hinted through social networking posts that he will be returning for the next feature which has yet to reveal its official title.

The caption read… “It feels impossible, but today wrapped photography on Episode IX.”
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iReview | JUSTICE LEAGUE: Throne Of Atlantis (Commemorative Edition)

The original animated DC Universe Movie is rereleased in 4K Ultra HD just in time to coincide with the blockbuster big screen adventure featuring the King of the Seven Seas! 

Soon the legend of Aquaman will be known the world over, when the feature length film starring Jason Momoa reprising his role as Arthur Curry, the water-breathing, tough brawling Aquaman that won all of our hearts in Justice League is internationally released. The action flick is the next in line marking the expansion of the “DC Cinematic Universe” — or is it? After the lukewarm reception the aforementioned JL received (though it made a modest box office dent) the future of the film franchises has appeared to hang in the balance.

Arthur Curry takes his place among the world’s greatest heroes as the Justice League defends the earth to save the seat of Atlantis from falling into the hands of a tyrant.

That hasn’t prevented the continuing growth of the animated films. With Aquaman’s star rising, it appeared a prime opportunity to reissue the DC Universe Movie JUSTICE LEAGUE: Throne of Atlantis Commemorative Edition the feature-length animated feature is an adaptation of the ground-breaking graphic novel of the same name.

When DC radically altered its publishing line-up in 2011 with “The New 52”, Geoff Johns took it upon himself to reboot the origins of Aquaman and elevated him to a more formidable level worthy of the seat of Atlantis, after all three-fourth of the planet are covered in water. If that doesn’t make Arthur Curry perhaps the most powerful person on the planet — then you’re a man of steel. The feature places a despondent Arthur Curry (Matt Lanter) mourning the loss of his father, not understanding these strange super powers he is possessed with, or the secret of his royal blood.

Hidden in the darkest depths of the sea is a magical and fable city! A coup of Atlantis’ queen Atlanna is in the works, lead by Arthur’s treacherous half-brother Orm, the Ocean Master (voiced by Sam Witwer) and his henchman Black Manta. The pair are plotting to bring the full force of Atlantis’ army to the surface world! Unless the assembled might of the Justice League and their new allies Aquaman and Mera can stop them, the oceans will engulf the coastal cities! Will Arthur accept his rightful place as Atlantis’ rightful leader and bridge the two worlds?

Sibling rivalry! Aquaman battles the Ocean Master for control of the power of the Seven Seas themselves.

Leagues Under the Sea

The animated film ambitiously captures the heart of the multi-issue adventure that crossed over issues of the published Justice League and Aquaman comic books, and not only elevated Aquaman’s profile but brought the hero into his proper place among the greatest DC heroes as one of the more powerful among the pantheon. At the conclusion of the film, Arthur takes his place among the peacekeeping force and becomes a member of the Justice League, balancing his duties as a leaguer with ruling Atlantis.

The reissue features the 4K Ultra HD transfer of the film with a more high dynamic range for an incredible picture full of detail and amazing color. It also features a new bonus featurette spotlighting Aquaman: The New King which includes a histrionic look at the character from his first appearance in the Golden Age of comics, up to his current reinterpretation and appearance as portrayed by Momoa on the big screen. 

JUSTICE LEAGUE: Throne of Atlantis Commemorative Edition an animated DC Universe Movie available now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and Digital (reissue; originally released in 2015 with all-new additionally produced bonus features).

iReview | FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Steeped deeply in mythology the Wizarding World of Harry Potter continues to evolve and expand with the latest chapter of the prequel series unraveling much of what we thought we knew about one fo the greatest wizards of all time!

Appropriately enough FANTASTIC BEASTS: The Crimes of Grindelwald begins in the shadow confines of Gellert Grindelwald’s cell! The villain who was revealed in only the final moments of the previous film as played by Johnny Depp is about to make one of the most daring prison breaks in cinematic history! High over the New York Cit skyline of the 1920s, the magic-wielder (with some help from his devotees) escapes his captors, alerting the Wizarding World that the largely menacing Grindelwald is on the loose.

Back in London the Ministry of Magic (along with the rest of the world’s leading magical agencies) are aware the if Grindelwald isn’t immediately captured, their very existence may be revealed throwing the delicate balance between non-magical beings and wizards into chaos. Everyone has agreed, Grindelwald is chasing after one thing — Credence Barebone (Ezra Miller). The mystery surrounding Credence, exactly who or what he is, has fallen on the purview of one man, Newt Scamander played by Eddie Redmayne.

Newt is recruited by his one-time teacher Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) to locate Grindelwald and intercept the dark wizard, before he can set in motion a plan, but what is Grindelwald really after? As Credence follows the trail of his origins to France, through a series of flashbacks and introduction of new characters, including Zoe Kravitz as Leta Lestrange, a former classmate of Newt’s, who as the name would imply has some skeletons in her closet — the name of Lestrange will become darkly connected to followers of He Who Cannot Be Named.

Rowling’s World

The stakes have certainly been raised in Crimes of Grindelwald and the film’s screenwriter J.K. Rowling the creator of this entire mythology, has delivered onto the film’s fandom a story that will far more than sedate this deeper dive into the legends and “lead-up” to the contemporary timeline of the Potter franchise. Director David Yates has become the most visionary filmmaker and most capable mind to elaborate on the vision Rowling has placed on the page. The pair have pushed the envelope in this new chapter, revealing a far more “beautiful” magical habitat.

Even familiar locations, Hogwarts gets revisited in this feature as do some of its more illuminating faculty members, as the story continues to develop and more is explored about the connection between Dumbledore and Grindelwald. Fans of the books have known all along that the pair had a far more intimate relationship as paramours before finding themselves adversaries. Now Credence stands between them, a powerful player that holds a secret and may tip the outcome of the pending war in favor of Grindelwald.

In Grindelwald’s defense, he only wants to ensure a future where both magical and non-magical beings can live side by side, but with muggles constantly in a power struggle and threatening to plunge the world into another World War, Grindelwald and his followers may have no other choice but to seat control over mankind, putting witches and wizards at the top of the food chain. Politics have always played into the drama of the Wizarding World, and Crimes of Grindelwald is able to extrapolate those complex themes and give its audience far more than the previous film.

In The End

By the time our heroes confront Grindelwald and finally track down Credence, it appears that everyone has fallen under the spell of the charismatic wizard who is promising a new world order. Demanding his followers spread the gospel, Grindelwald takes on his world be captors on his own, and convinces Credence in the end to follow him! Grindelwald reveals to Credence that he is not a Lestrange as we are lead to believe, switched at birth by a shameful act that has haunted Leta all her life, but is actually the brother of Albus Dumbledore, Aurelius.

Though we’ve never heard of this Dumbledore sibling before, at least not until this moment and what becomes of him in the future, his identity is all but confirmed as he unleashes his miraculous power under the watchful eye of a phoenix — the mystical birds have always been known to present themselves to a Dumbledore especially in their most desperate moment of need — and one has chosen to stand with Credence, even as Grindelwald plans his next steps. The revelation may have come as a shock to the diehard purists, but is very much inline with Rowling’s style.

The author popularized tricking her readership, who had become accustomed to pursuing all sorts of theories all of their own, but if Rowling had down anything especially well during the run of the original release of Potter books and films, it was pulling the rug out from under her fans. This film is far more encouraging than its predecessor proved and in every way promotes what the audience has been hoping all along, a perpetuation of the Harry Potter franchise and revisits into the Wizarding World full of magic and intrigue. 

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is in theatres now and directed by David Yates and stars Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law and John Depp. This film is Rated PG-13

iReview | HALLOWEEN (2018)

Set 40 years after the events of the original, the masked serial killer returns on the fateful night to the scene of the crime, in search of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode, the lone survivor of the Halloween massacre of 1978.

In 1978 filmmakers John Carpenter and Debra Hill didn’t plan to redefine the horror genre, but set an unprecedented standard with the original Halloween. Produced on a shoestring budget and under a tight 21-day shoot, the story about a serial killer loose on the small town population of Haddonfield, Illinois terrorizing a group of teenagers on the night of All Hallows Eve, turned its aspiring ingenue Jamie Lee Curtis into an instant screen queen and ignited a genre phenomenon that captivates audiences even still today.

In fact Halloween has just been revived — again! The horror franchise that turned its masked murderer Michael Myers into an icon, has actually continuously tracked with 8 sequels since the 1978 film’s release, and a 20th anniversary iteration H20 that reunited Curtis with the mythology she hadn’t revisited since Halloween II (1981) supposedly concluded Laurie Strode’s story. The latest version of Halloween is less a reboot and more a retconning of much of the serialized canon that has followed the franchise (not including the Rob Zombie re-envisions).

Directed by David Gordon Green and co-written by Danny McBribe, the filmmakers pursued Carpenter’s consent before going forward with their project to resuscitate Halloween and let Michael Myers loose once again. Director David Gordon Green also pulled out all the stops to make sure that Jamie Lee Curtis read the script and even asked a mutual friend, actor Jake Gyllenhaal, to persuade Curtis to seriously consider taking one more trip back to Haddonfield, Illinois on the most precarious night of the season. Getting John Carpenter onboard proved much easier.

The original film’s director and co-creator also provided an updated take on the soundtrack, in particular the movie’s theme that became instantly identified with Michael Myers march.

Halloween Takes Shape

On this night in 2018 Michael Myers (Nick Castle reprises his role as “The Shape”) returns to his old stomping grounds, after escaping from a prison transfer. Myers had been captured and incarcerated for 40 years ever since his first rampage on Halloween that claimed the lives of five teenagers and left Laurie Strode scarred from the experience. Obliterated from canon is the assault on the Emergency Room hospital that is tending to Strode (Curtis) after The Shape’s spree, thus erasing the backstory that suggested Strode was related to the boogeyman.

Myers returns to Haddonfield, and it isn’t long before he takes up some old habits. Laurie, who has become estranged from her family, though her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) has made considerable efforts to bring Laurie out from her self-imposed isolation. Laurie’s grown-up daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer, has given up on her mother’s psychosis and survivalist tactics, but inevitably Laurie’s worst fears are realized and Michael Myers returns! With the help of Officer Hawkins (Will Patton) Laurie begins the hunt to end Myers reign once and for all.

There are several interesting parallels between this version and it’s predecessor(s). The teenagers themselves with the exception of Allyson (the Laurie Strode archetype) are largely unimpressive or underdeveloped. This was a similarly exploited trope of the first Halloween. Both Carpenter and Curtis added a depth and layer to Laurie that guaranteed her survival and made her the film’s heroine. With the auxiliary assortment of mostly annoying characters on the peripherals, it’s easy to watch the body count add up, and not care as Myers goes on his merry way.

The interesting decisions to also cover or otherwise not exploit the kills is also a factor borrowed from Carpenter’s original, which used no blood in the depiction of its murders. It doesn’t make the act any less frightening or shocking, and not all of them are dismissed to the imagination, but in some cases not seeing the dismemberment of a victim is more than compensated by the eventual reveal. Among the most troubling murders though, involves the reporters we meet early in the film, who are physically assaulted by Myers in the confines of a rest stop’s toilet stall!

SPOILER ALERT! We all know how this is going to end, and Halloween (2018) follows the beats per minute of its genre, with little deviation, as is expected, though the doctor played by Haluk Bilginer, (the “new” Loomis) does throw audiences a curve. The film’s final shot is perhaps the most puzzling, as it focuses on the events of the perilous night’s survivors making haste their escape of a burning compound. The family, reunited, huddles closely, looking mostly exasperated and spent, Allyson still appearing in shock clutches tightly to the large kitchen knife still in her grip.

If this is some kind of foreshadowing of events to come, it would be terribly not well thought out, as one might expect Laurie to interject herself (given her experience) to assist with rehabilitating Allyson. If it might predict that Allyson will now become the target of Myers mercilessly primal instinct, then she’d better hold on tight! She might need that knife, if The Shape escapes (once again) the villain’s fate. Without a doubt, Curtis’ return to form as Strobe is spectacular and is just proof at how diverse her skills are, especially to revisit this character and reveal another layer.

The Original Turns 40

In September the original John Carpenter classic was up-converted to 4K Ultra HD, presenting the film in an incomparable high dynamic ranger (HDR) with a wider color spectrum and an immersive audio experience that goes beyond the theatrical Halloween experience. Reportedly the film’s redux was overseen by the film’s cinematographer who carefully took into account the depths of the dark shadows and colors of the fall foliage, making certain the audience has far more to fear as The Shape emerges from the darkness.

With an opening weekend of over 77 million at the box office and breaking records for an October opening for a horror film with a female headliner, it bodes well for the franchise that audience interest is still at a peak, but is Halloween 2.0 in the cards especially given the fate of its psychopathic killer? Is this really the last theater goers have seen of the boogeyman? 

Halloween (2018) starring Jamie Lee Curtis is directed by David Gordon Green and playing in theaters nationwide now.

iReview | VENOM

Street journalist Eddie Brock has just stumbled upon an alien invasion of epic proportions in Sony Pictures VENOM based on the Marvel Comics anti-hero, though don’t expect an ever-loving web-slinger to make any appearances!

The year was 2007 and although there weren’t very many superhero franchise films saturating the summer blockbuster season, genre-films were starting to make significant strides winning audiences and luring fans into the multiplex. Though clearly there were signs that fatigue was starting to set in — no where was that more evident than in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise and especially when it entered into its third installment. Spider-Man 3 didn’t enjoy the same critical appeal as its predecessors, neither did it ooze with charm.

In fact it oozed into obscurity and the critics pretty much tore it to shreds, inspiring Sony to immediately demand a “reboot”. Many cited that the film was particularly dense, having added too many extraneous characters — one in particular came at the demand of the studio. Hoping to send a more contemporary message, Sony requested that a modern villain be added to the line-up; particularly the studio requested that Venom be added into the mix. The black-clad alter-ego of Eddie Brock represented the antithesis of everything our hero stood for.

Unfortunately the character was largely lost in the melee that climaxed the film, but Sony held on to the property hopeful that one day they could resurrect the villain; holding most of the Spider-Man properties even as the web-slinger slipped through their grip (even after a pair of largely unpopular reboot attempts with a new Spidey under the hood). Now making good on their promise to steal some of Marvel Studio thunder, Sony unleashes Venon starring Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock, and the unwitting host of the titular anti-hero.

Enough Superheroes

The idea of Venom as a stand-alone franchise is obscure enough, and the fact that Sony plowed ahead with the feature without incorporating Spider-Man into the origin story is simply arrogant. The studio, of course, is banking on the conceit that audiences are willing to accept “alternate facts” when it comes to their genre fandom and comic book favorites. It’s worked for HBO and their hit series Game Of Thrones which has gotten tired of waiting for fantasy novelist George R. R. Martin to complete his saga and decidedly spun the narrative in its own direction.

The entire CW primetime line-up has been switching up, enhancing and taking major liberties with its adaptation of DC Comics properties for upwards of a decade now, so theater goers shouldn’t be too traumatized with the creative directions that screenwriters have taken with director Ruben Fleischer’s vision of the slick black insidiously predatory goo from space that instead of piggy-banking on Peter Parker ends up latching onto Brock (Hardy) who is still a street reporter chasing down political scandals and civil injustices on the streets of San Fransisco.

When Brock gets assigned to profile visionary industrialist Carlton Drake played by Riz Ahmed at his hyper-secret lab complex, he takes the opportunity to grill Drake on the accusations surrounding his firm — accusations that Drake’s team of scientist are exposing innocent people to dangerously unstable antigenes and using them as lab rats. Drake doesn’t take it kindly to the possible exposure and instead goes about shattering Brock’s credibility and firing his lawyer girlfriend, Anne Weying played by Michelle Williams, effectively ending his relationship!

Two Is Company!

Down and out, Brock has become a mere reflection of himself until another opportunity to expose Carlton Drake as a threat presents itself. Sneaking into his lab, Brock is exposed to an alien symbiote that attaches itself to him; most of Drake’s attempts to merge with the alien have proven unsuccessful, but in Brock’s case “Venom” takes to Brock very easily. The two soon form an uneasy alliance, as Venom begins to comfortably set into his new surroundings (Brock) and reveals to Eddie that Drake intends on bringing a symbiote invasion force to Earth!

Drake bonds with the murderously fowl “Riot” and exerts a plan to launch a shuttle into space to intercept that asteroid home of the symbiotes. If Riot is successful, the human race will effectively be wiped out and replaced by the predatorily merciless creatures. It’s up to Brock and Venom, with the help of Anne, to thwart Drake/Riot’s plan and save the planet! Venom nearly sacrifices itself to save his human host, and Eddie returns the favor. The two enter into a bargain to protect the innocent and only eat the bad guys, but only the really, really bad guys.

For most of Venom the audience gets to know Eddie Brock. The largely unlikable character from the comic has been reimagined to suit the star quality of Tom Hardy, who is largely charming in the role. It’s unfortunate though that Venom is anything but charming. The creature is crude and unappealing to look at; a CGI monstrosity that once it takes over the film becomes a monster movie, and that’s perhaps where it loses its thrust. With a new superhero adaptation taking to the big screen almost every season, these films have had to evolve to meet audience expectations.

An example of which is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy which is a modern space opera, and a complete flip to the more grounded world of the Avengers. When Marvel continued to expand its brand it introduced the multiverses of the Marvel Comics with Doctor Strange and Ant-Man both features dramatically different in tone, one skewed toward the metaphysical, the other more science-fiction, but each providing a different tone and pushing the boundaries of the genre into all-new, all-different arenas — thereby bringing in new audiences.

With Venom Sony had an opportunity to make a significant departure and deliver something that would have been completely unexpected — taking advantage of the anti-hero’s darker tone and violent nature to make a genuine horror-monster movie. Venom eats most of his victims when it isn’t impaling them on its prehensile spikes, but most of that happens off screen during the action scenes. Drake’s ultra-secret science lab where he conducts his experiments of the symbiotes had most of the trappings of a chamber of horrors, but just suggest how lethal his intentions are.

Venom instead sticks to the tropes of its genre, doesn’t really change the beats established by its predecessors and ends with the CGI slugfest that has permeated most of the other superhero movies of late. With the exception of the credit stinger (which leaves some glimmer hope), Venom doesn’t really get as dangerous as you’d hoped it would be, and is simply as adaptive as the symbiote it portrays. Perhaps if Fleischer is inspired by the recent comments Tom Hardy made while promoting the film, he’ll re-edit a “director’s cut” and put some R-Rated content in!

Venom starring Tom Hardy and Michelle Williams; directed by Ruben Fleischer | Rated PG-13

Trailer | Marvel’s DARK PHOENIX

Reborn from the ashes! The next film in the X-Men franchise will be revisiting one of the most popular arcs in the mythology while reigniting the series. Here is X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX…

The good news this week came when Disney Studios finally announced it had won its long-running bid to absorb 20th Century Fox which would reunite the Marvel Comics properties that have long been a box office boon for the studio. This will bring the various X-Men film franchises including Deadpool (starring Ryan Reynolds) and Fantastic Four back into the fold and into the realm of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which after the reacquisition of Spider-Man from Sony helped to bring the web-slinger into the Avengers: Infinity War.

When director Bryan Singer introduced the mighty mutants onto the big screen X-Men released in 2000 was practically unchallenged in the blockbuster arena and quickly helped to ramp up the interest in the superhero genre as a viable effort. The film also made overnight stars of its cast including Hugh Jackman who would immediately spin-off his portrayal of Wolverine into a separate franchise that recently concluded with the critically acclaimed Logan. Since 2000 there have been 2 additional sequel films and three “prequel” films expanding on the mythology.

The X-Men franchise has proven a money-maker for FOX and expanded the franchise narrative beyond the theatrical realm to television with the hit FX series Legion and the family drama The Gifted which are also suggested to take place within the “X-Men” cinematic experience. Although the last big-screen venture 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse did not draw in audiences as eagerly as its predecessors (though the films returned Singer to the director’s seat), FOX immediately recommended that a follow-up be green-lit.

Sophie Turner as Jean Grey in the last feature film “X-Men: Apocalypse” exhibits all new abilities foreshadowing the events to come in “Dark Phoenix”.

Reborn

The next installment in the film series will be X-Men: Dark Phoenix and is promising to realize one of the comic book’s more enduring and popular storylines that is centered on Jean Grey (played by Game Of Thrones star Sophie Turner) and her ascent to near-omnipotence! The film will reunite the “reboot” cast which includes Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender and will also co-star Jessica Chastain. “The Dark Phoenix Saga” written for the comics by Chris Claremont and John Byrne and published in 1980 was a best-seller for Marvel.

In the last feature, Turner’s Jean Grey exhibited an astonishing new level of power when the heroes faced the long-lived tyrannical Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) and his four horsemen. The “Dark Phoenix” story was also touched upon as a supplemental narrative of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Directed by Brett Ratner it proved the most unpopular of the first series of films, and an unlikely conclusion to the trilogy. Most of the events from that film appeared to have been retcon at the conclusion of 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Here is the trailer to X-Men: Dark Phoenix: