WARNING – SPOILERS!!! Pac Man, Back to the Future, and Blade Runner are only a few titles that make up the 1980s cinematic nostalgia trip in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, now playing in theaters. Based on the novel by Ernest Cline, Ready Player One follows a young man named Wade Watts who lives in a dystopian United States in 2045. Humanity, as Wade knows it, is plagued by a failing economic system, an ominous corporate-governing body, and a tainted outdoor environment, all the result of an energy crisis caused by global warming, corporate greed, and the depletion of Earth’s fossil fuels. Since the real-world is no longer a pleasant place to spend your time, Wade, like most people, spends his days in the OASIS, an interactive virtual reality comprised of games and puzzles from every video game, movie, book, or television show made primarily between 1980 and 1990, although there are a few exceptions. The OASIS is the mind-child of James Halliday (obviously Cline’s own doppelganger) who, prior to his death, left a hidden Easter Egg inside the OASIS that, if found, provides the winner with his massive fortune and control of the corporation running the OASIS, and that’s where Wade’s (or Parzival as he is named in the OASIS) story begins. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
For those die hard fans of the Star Wars film series, May 4th is always a special occasion. It was on May 25th, 1977 that A New Hope, the first ever Star Wars film from writer/director George Lucas made its theatrical debut. The event marked the beginning of a new phenomenon in modern cinema, and changed the way movies were made and even thought of from then on. Drawing from inspiration from early space adventure serials, George Lucas envisioned a modern space epic using classic themes and archetypes that would forever change the movie-going experience. His company, Industrial Lights and Magic, which would go on to create Pixar Animation in the 1990s, created new methods for special effects that gave movie-goers an experience never before seen on film. To celebrate this special fan day, here is the latest trailer for the next installation in the film series, The Last Jedi, which will feature original actors Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher as Luke and Leia Skywalker, along with new vets Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Adam Driver, and Domhnall Gleeson. Enjoy, and May the Fourth Be With You!
*Update – this article originally stated that A New Hope was released on May 4th, 1977, hence part of the reasoning behind “May-the-Fourth Day.” A New Hope actually hit theaters on May 25th of that year, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. My apologies for the inaccuracy!
A new documentary centered around the youngest actor to portray British agent James Bond 007 (and for only one film) is coming to Hulu this May 20th. George Lazenby, a car salesman from Australia, famously conned his way into the role by going to meet with producer Albert R. Broccoli, securing an audition by claiming he had acting experience in his native Australia, which wasn’t true. He was, however, able to pull off an audition that was good enough to convince fellow producer Harry Saltzman of his worthiness for the part, and thus On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) became the first Bond film without original actor Sean Connery appearing in the title role. Although audiences and critics had mixed reviews upon its release, OHMSS has, over the years, became one of the more favored entries in the Bond franchise. Incidentally, Lazenby is also the only actor to have received major recognition for his portrayal of the character, earning a Golden Globe nomination in 1970 for Most Promising Newcomer/Best New Star. Continue reading →
There are few interesting indie releases opening in local theaters this weekend, alongside Jordan Peele’s directorial horror debut Get Out. The first is a war-drama titled Bitter Harvest, starring Max Irons (The Host, Woman in Gold) and Samantha Barks (Les Miserables, The Christmas Candle) as lovers facing the oncoming Ukraine Genocide of 1932-1933 under Joseph Stalin. The film comes from director George Mendeluk and follows a young artists (Irons) as he works to save his love, Natalka (Barks), from being rounded up and executed as part of the death-by-starvation camps that would be made all the more famous during Hitler’s time in Nazi Germany during World War II. The script comes from writer Richard Bachynsky Hoover and co-stars Terence Stamp (Superman, Young Guns) and Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile). Continue reading →
Martin Scorsese agreed to serve as producer for an official Grateful Dead documentary back in October 2014. The Dead’s 50th anniversary was coming up the following year, and filmmakers wanted to have the project ready for the celebration. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and the landmark event was ultimately celebrated with a massive 3-day concert over the 4th of July weekend in Chicago’s Soldier Field. Original members Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, and Phil Lesh reunited on-stage for the event, which proved a huge success, despite the absence of Jerry Garcia, who died in 1995. Now, however, the 6-part documentary, appropriately titled Long Strange Trip from director Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story, Happy Valley), is set to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival before being released on Amazon Prime this May. Continue reading →
Happy Halloween! October is traditionally known for the fall season and for hosting Halloween on the last day of the month. Likewise film distributors tend to look at October as a good time to release horror and slasher films for Halloween on fight-seeking audiences across the country, and around the world. October, however, has a long history of major motion picture releases that is not strictly limited to the horror genre. Read on to see our list of impressive October releases, and enjoy your Halloween Weekend! Continue reading →