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Ryan Coogler’s ‘Black Panther’ Is A Cultural Phenomenon Because We Made It So

A week after its release in theaters across America, director Ryan Coogler’s new Marvel comic-adaptation, Black Panther, is still setting box office records. The film is the 5th highest domestic debut of all time, and the highest grossing February release in history, with a staggering $202,003,951. It earned more in just 3-days in theaters than any other film featuring a black director and predominantly black cast with an impressive worldwide opening weekend gross of $350 million. The success of the film has not only shattered age-old myths surrounding the “unpopularity” of all-black ensemble movies in Hollywood. It is also changing the way Hollywood, and America at large, view films that deal primarily with black and African American culture. But why is Black Panther such a big deal for America and not simply just another superhero movie with a hero who happens to be black? Continue reading

Will Disney’s Bid For Fox Properties Mean Another Monopoly For The Cable Industry?

disney fox merger

Walt Disney Pictures has come a long way from making full-length animated features like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Peter Pan. In the 21st century, the company has reinvented itself with live-action blockbusters like Pirates of the Caribbean, state-of-the-art computer animated films like Cars and Frozen, and adaptations of children’s literary classics like Roald Dahl’s The BFG and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time (out in theaters this March). In recent years, Disney has expanded into more lucrative markets like comic book blockbusters (ie. Marvel comics) and, of course, the Star Wars franchise. The latest Star Wars entry, The Last Jedi, hit the $1 billion mark in worldwide box office sales barely three weeks after its US theatrical release. With a plethora of material to work with, and plenty of money coming in, one would think Disney is far passed its tipping point, but that might not be the case at all. Continue reading

Annual Spoken-Word Poetry Competition, Louder Than A Bomb, Gives A Voice To Young Poets

In 2001, shortly after the World Trade Center attacks on September 11th, two Chicago-based educators, Kevin Coval and Anna West, decided to create an outlet for young high school students to express themselves through spoken-word poetry. Nearly 20 years later, Louder Than A Bomb has grown from a small number of local high school teams to a full-scale competition made up of 120 teams from high schools all over Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. The success of the program has inspired educators to form spoken-word poetry competitions in 13 cities across the country, and even in Canada. Today, Louder Than A Bomb (LTAB) prides itself on being the largest youth poetry festival in the world. The success of the program, as well as the students and educators involved with organizing it every year, was the subject of a 2011 documentary, Louder Than A Bomb, by filmmakers Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel.

Jacobs and Siskel followed four individuals competing in the 2011 competition to paint a portrait of youth outlook on world events, social climate, politics, and their own personal stories. The film not only received praise at the Chicago International Film Festival, but also at film festivals all over the country, including Milwaukee, Cleveland, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Portland. Prelims for the upcoming 2018 festival are being held at Columbia College starting on February 21st-22nd. You can check eligibility rules and sign your team up on the Young Chicago Authors website. Louder Than A Bomb is available on Amazon Prime, and if you have an account I would definitely add it to your Watchlist.

New World War II Drama ‘Darkest Hour’ Brings Churchill’s Perseverance and Leadership To Modern Audiences

Despite the new World War II drama Darkest Hour now playing in theaters nationwide, “Who was Winston Churchill?” still sounds like a question you’re likely to find on one of those ‘the dumbing down of America has happened’ videos. While Churchill may not have been American, himself, his influence and importance in the events of the mid-20th Century cannot be overstated. Winston Churchill was elected Britain’s Prime Minister in 1940, a position he held throughout the remainder of World War II and again from 1951 to 1955. Before his career in politics he had worked as a writer and served as a member of the British Army. His election in 1940 came at a time when Britain’s, and indeed the future of the whole of Western Europe was uncertain. Hitler had been elected Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and, by the time of Churchill’s election, was already marching across France, pushing British forces to the shores of the English Channel, where the famous evacuation at Dunkirk took place (if you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, I highly recommend it!).

With the United States still hesitant to enter the war effort in either Europe or the Pacific, the newly appointed Prime Minister was faced with the choice of either regrouping and rallying national support to continue the war effort against Nazi Germany, or agreeing to sign a peace accord with Hitler and the Axis Powers. As the United Kingdom stood at the brink of invasion, it was up to Churchill to persuade Parliament, King George VI, and the people of Britain that the war could be won and that it was worth fighting, an extremely difficult prospect considering the ever-growing influence of Nazi Germany and the reluctance of the United States to enter the war. Continue reading

Watch The Star Wars Saga In “Machete Order” Before ‘The Last Jedi’ Opens This Friday

As you are no doubt aware, the next installment in the latest Star Wars trilogy, The Last Jedi (Episode VIII), is opening in theaters nationwide this Thursday, December 14th at midnight. Whether or not it will be a frame-by-frame remake of The Empire Strikes Back (1980), like The Force Awakens and A New Hope (1977), has yet to be seen, but fans will undoubtedly be packing theaters to capacity from Friday until well into the New Year. If you already have a ticket for opening weekend, then let us know what you think. If not, however, you can still get your Star Wars fix by taking a brief (and by brief, I mean roughly 12-14 hours) refresher course with watching the series in “Machete Order.” Let me explain.

The Machete Order was first suggested by a fan of the series named Rob Hilton in preparation for the release of 2015’s The Force Awakens. According to Hilton, the machete order is a more effective way of watching the previous films, particularly for young viewers who are not familiar with the series. Obviously, with seven feature-length films and an eighth coming out this week, knowing where to start to get the full experience can be an overwhelming ordeal. Should you begin with the original trilogy and work your way up, or should you start with 1999’s The Phantom Menace and proceed chronologically? Continue reading

Sofia Coppola And Others Win Top Prizes As 70th Cannes Film Festival Wraps

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The 70th Cannes Film Festival wrapped up this year with several big surprises. The Killing of a Sacred Deer and You Were Never Really Here both tied for the best screenplay award. Sofia Coppola became the first female director to win the Best Director award at Cannes in 56 years for The Beguiled, an adaptation of Thomas Cullinan’s Civil War novel about a wounded soldier who takes refuge among the inhabitants of a girls’ school in Virginia. Joaquin Phoenix and Diane Kruger were awarded best actor awards for their respective roles in You Were Never Really Here and In The Fade, the latter of which featured Kruger speaking in her native German. Additionally, Nicole Kidman received a special award for her appearances in four of this year’s festival entries, including The Beguiled, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, and Top of the Lake. Other noteworthy entries include BPM (Beats Per Minute), a drama focused around the French gay-rights movement in the early 90s that earned this year’s Grand Prix, and Ruben Östlund’s The Square, about a high-class museum curator who is forced to mingle with lower class members when he is pick-pocketed on the street. A full list of this year’s winners is provided below…. Continue reading

Today Marks 50th Anniversary of Beatle’s ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’

sgt peppers lonely hearts club band

Today (May 26th) marks the 50th anniversary celebration of The Beatle’s revolutionary album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The LP was the first released by the band following their retirement from touring after their final performance at Candlestick Park in 1966. Although The Beatles had already begun a steady transition from being a more traditional pop-rock group with albums like Rubber Soul and Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s has been hailed as their ultimate creative masterpiece, followed closely perhaps by 1969’s Abbey Road. Released at the beginning of the Summer of Love, it set a new precedent for what a rock and roll record could be. The concept behind the album began following the exhaustion the group experienced after the whirlwind of Beatlemania. Paul McCartney came to Lennon, Starr, and Harrison with an idea that they would record an all new album under an alternative persona, which would free them from the weight of being the Beatles and usher in a fresh wave of musical creativity. Sgt. Pepper’s not only ushered in a new era for the Beatles; it also marked the beginning of the psychedelic rock movement that would see new groups like The Doors, Pink Floyd, and Jefferson Airplane begin to climb the pop music charts. Now, 50 years later, Sgt. Pepper’s is known not only for its conception and importance to 60s rock (and music in general), but also for the history of its production. Continue reading

Third Actor To Portray James Bond, Roger Moore, Passes Away at 89

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Earlier this week, Sir Roger Moore, the third actor to portray Ian Fleming’s British Secret Service Agent, James Bond, passed away at the age of 89. Moore died after a brief battle with cancer at his home in Switzerland, according to his family members. The actor first achieved fame with lead television roles in series like Maverick and The Saint in the 1950s and 60s. His first outing as James Bond came with 1973’s Live and Let Die, the second Bond novel by author Ian Fleming. Moore’s appointment to the role came after Sean Connery returned for one additional film (Diamonds Are Forever) following actor George Lazenby’s dismissal from the the part. He would then go on to star as Bond in an additional six films throughout the remainder of the 1970s and up until 1985’s A View To A Kill. Continue reading

Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien: Covenant’ Now Playing In Theaters


Fans of director Ridley Scott‘s original sci-fi thriller Alien (1979) were less than disappointed by his 2012 prequel Prometheus. Not only did it lack suspense, but it seemed that most movie-goers failed to even realize that the film was related to the famous flick. But today Scott is making amends to appease fans of the series. Alien: Covenant not only brings back the series title, but reviews say movie-goers can expect a truly horrifying thriller that lives up to the original. Taking place 20 years before Alien, the film follows the crew of the colony ship Covenant as they embark on a mission to a supposedly uncharted planet. There they encounter David, the android survivor of the Prometheus expedition, who unleashes a terrifying threat upon the crew and forces them to attempt a daring escape from otherwise certain doom. Michael Fassbender (Inglorious Basterds, 12 Years A Slave) reprises his role as David (now called Walter), along with an all-new cast that includes Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice, Steve Jobs) and Billy Crudup (Almost Famous, Big Fish). This is definitely one to see on the big screen, so if you’re planning on a movie this weekend, I’d keep this one in mind!

70th Annual Cannes Film Festival Celebration Begins Today Through May 28th

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Today kicks off the 70th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival in France. A number of anticipated entries are included in this year’s competition. Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled with Colin Farrell, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, and Kirsten Dunst is her first indie film since 2013’s The Bling Ring. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s new drama Loveless has high expectations after the director’s last film, Leviathan, earned he and his co-writer Oleg Negin the Best Screenplay award in 2014. Director Hong Sang-soo has two films premiering at this year’s festival, The Day After and Clair’s Camera, but both have been kept well under the radar until their upcoming debut.

Director Lynne Ramsay is also looking to impress with her latest project You Were Never Really Here, a drama about a veteran who attempts to help a young girl involved in a sex trafficking ring. Other anticipated projects being tossed around the web are Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Michael Haneke’s Happy End. The festival will open tonight with director Arnaud Desplechin’s Les fantômes d’Ismaël (Ismael’s Ghosts). Another big event at this year’s festival will be a Virtual Reality (VR) film called Carne Y Arena from acclaimed writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Birdman, The Revenant). The film runs a full hour and twenty minutes and is the first Virtual Reality film to ever appear at Cannes. The festival will run from the 17th to the 28th in Cannes, France. You can see a full list of this year’s entries below. Continue reading