Sunday, April 8, 2018
A few hours ago, Disney aired a new preview for Ron Howard's upcoming Star Wars installment during American Idol on ABC TV. The preview—which should appear on the big screen in front of Avengers: Infinity War less than three weeks from now—finally gives us a hint about what the main story will be. Needless to say, it's a heist film, just like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is, but on a smaller, more comedic scale. And I'm diggin' it. The new trailer gave me more confidence that Alden Ehrenreich will do a commendable job impersonating the great Harrison Ford in his take as Han Solo. Donald Glover looks more and more awesome as Lando Calrissian, Emilia Clarke is gorgeous as Qi'Ra, Woody Harrelson will once again play a mentor figure (like he did to Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games franchise)...this time to Solo, and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) definitely looks like he'll get to shine in Solo: A Star Wars Story (compared to the amount of screentime he had in The Last Jedi). And of course, the Millennium Falcon will have its own origin story as well. Can't wait to see how badass Paul Bettany will be as Dryden Vos; ditto with the mysterious Enfys Nest (the actress who plays her hasn't yet been revealed).
There are so many cool images in the new Solo trailer that I couldn't fit most of them here. But why would you want screenshots anyway when I posted the trailer itself at the very bottom of this blog entry? I hope you're as excited for this new Star Wars flick as I am! If not—well, there's also the start of filming for Star Wars: Episode IX to look forward to this summer (in late July, to be exact). That is all.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
In honor of Guillermo del Toro's latest film winning the Academy Award for Best Picture (plus Best Director, Original Score and Production Design) tonight, just thought I'd share these pics that I took at a special screening for The Shape of Water on February 22. Guillermo del Toro and his co-writer Vanessa Taylor were on-hand after the movie ended to discuss the adventure-fantasy drama at Landmark Theatres in west Los Angeles. Needless to day, del Toro is a genius! He is absolutely inspirational... There are so many insightful things that he said during the Q&A last month, but this one comment stood out: "Cinema has been around for over a hundred years. All you have is your voice." So true.
It doesn't matter if a certain story has been retold over and over on the big screen since the dawn of the 20th century. All that matters is that you put your own personal spin on this tale—much like how George Lucas put a spin on old Flash Gordon sci-fi serials as well as western and Japanese samurai flicks by creating Star Wars, Ridley Scott brought back sword-and-sandal epics with Gladiator, horror films were re-defined by the Scream, Saw, and Paranormal Activity franchises, and James Cameron put a spin on Fern Gully and Dances with Wolves with Avatar. Though um, I think that last example isn't particularly flattering to Mr. Cameron... But the message still stands: Even if the story may not be completely original, write it anyway with the knowledge that you're hopefully adding a neat twist to it via your own unique idiosyncrasy. Carry on.
Oh, and congrats to retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant on winning an Oscar for his animated short film Dear Basketball tonight!
Sunday, February 11, 2018
So I finally watched Steven Spielberg's newest film The Post yesterday, and needless to say, it was very eye-opening. This movie deserves to win the Best Picture trophy at the Oscars next month for the sole fact it'll bring attention to the unfortunate reality that history is repeating itself again. But instead of a president trying to bar the media from reporting on a war in Southeast Asia that should never have taken place (and lying to the public about not being a crook, but this was never alluded to in Spielberg's film), we have a so-called leader in the White House who keeps attacking the American press for reporting on the fact that he's a traitor to our country by colluding with the Russians to win the election almost two years ago. And thinks that he's a "very stable genius."
And in case you're about to say that the Academy Awards don't bestow trophies on films for political reasons (and not just because they're well-made movies), look no further than to past Best Picture winners like Spotlight (sexual abuse in the Catholic Church) and The Hurt Locker (the Iraq War). Carry on.
Monday, February 5, 2018
After months of speculation as to when Disney would begin promoting its next Star Wars movie after The Last Jedi, the company finally got the ball rolling by showing a 45-second teaser in the first quarter of the Super Bowl yesterday...and the official trailer during ABC TV's Good Morning America this morning. All I can say is...I'm a die-hard Star Wars nut, so of course I would be stoked over the newly-revealed footage!
The only note I have about Solo is Alden Ehrenreich's voice as Han Solo. Definitely not as gruff as that of Harrison Ford... Then again, if you're a fan of the CW TV show Supernatural like I am, you'd notice that the voices of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (who play Dean and Sam Winchester on the show, respectively) weren't as deep during Season 1 in 2005 as they are this year (in Season 13 of Supernatural). Of course, I'm pretty sure that this comparison probably flew over the heads of most of you reading this entry! It's all good. Just check out these screenshots of Solo's main cast and then the two trailers below. Happy Monday!
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Just thought I'd share these pics giving us our first look at Brie Larson as Captain Marvel. In the images above and below, Larson is wearing a green suit that is speculated to have been taken from a Kree warrior named Mar-Vell, who will be played by Jude Law in the movie. (You'll know who the Kree are if you're a regular viewer of the Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on ABC TV) And in the last two photos of this entry is the Oscar-winning actress wearing a flight suit as she boards an F-15 Eagle fighter jet at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Awesome stuff.
Lookin' forward to Captain Marvel when it hits theaters nationwide on March 8, 2019. And of course, I can't wait to see Carol Danvers join Captain America and Co. in the fourth, currently-untitled Avengers film that arrives in cinemas less than two months later...on May 3. I hope Brie Larson will be as bad-ass a heroine as Gal Gadot was in Wonder Woman! That is all.
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Earlier today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled the list of nominees who will be up for Oscars during the 90th annual Academy Awards on March 4 (airing on ABC TV at 5 PM, PST). Out of all the Best Picture nominees for 2017, I saw Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Jordan Peele's Get Out. I think that Three Billboards will be the Best Picture winner (it was a great film; I'm glad that Frances McDormand is nominated for Best Actress, and Sam Rockwell as Best Supporting Actor), though I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed if Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water won instead. Much props to Peele for earning a Best Director nod for his horror-comedy flick Get Out—which received a total of four nominations [which also includes Best Picture, Actor (for Daniel Kaluuya, below) and Original Screenplay]. I hope Peele's comedy sketch buddy Keegan-Michael Key isn't too envious!
In regards to the technical categories, Blade Runner 2049 (which I watched twice at the theater) is up for five awards: Best Cinematography, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Production Design. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is up for four Oscars: Best Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Original Score. Considering that these first three nominations are up against Blade Runner 2049, I reckon The Last Jedi will come up empty in those categories. And I'm surprised that John Williams has been nominated for the two Disney Star Wars films that he worked on... His work on The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were well-done (I like the themes for Rey, Kylo Ren and the Resistance), but the Star Wars prequels had more memorable tunes in The Phantom Menace's "Duel of the Fates," Attack of the Clones' "Across the Stars" and Revenge of the Sith's "Battle of the Heroes." But enough dwelling on the past. I hope that Williams will close out his third Star Wars trilogy when it comes time to composing the score for Episode IX next year. And he gets an Oscar nomination for that as well!
And lastly, it's unfortunate that Wonder Woman came up completely empty-handed this morning. Wonder Woman was a watershed in being a movie directed by a woman, starring a woman, and telling the story of a superhero that empowered women. Sorry, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. But hey— As a Los Angeles Lakers fan, I'm glad that 5-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant got an Oscar nomination for a film that he worked on last year! Go to this Blog entry to read more about it. Happy Tuesday!
Monday, January 22, 2018
Today marks 10 years since Heath Ledger sadly passed away at the age of 28 in New York City. If only he was here to enjoy the accolades he would receive for his Oscar-winning performance in a cinematic masterpiece that was unveiled to the world less than 6 months later... You all know what I'm talking about.
May he rest in peace.
May he rest in peace.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Just thought I'd share these funny pics from Star Wars: The Last Jedi that I saw online. Both of these are actual screenshots from the movie (in case you haven't yet contributed to the film's $517 million domestic box office gross by seeing it at the theater), but the image below is obviously altered. For the record, I like Porgs! Have a safe and memorable 2018.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
So I just found out online this morning that the 2015 action crime drama Sicario was given a sequel! Sicario 2: Soldado is set to hit theaters nationwide on June 29 of next year...with Benicio Del Toro reprising his role as the hired assassin named Alejandro, Josh Brolin as CIA operative Matt Graver and Jeffrey Donovan as fellow CIA associate Steve Forsing. While Emily Blunt won't be back as FBI agent Kate Macer, Catherine Keener (Get Out), Isabela Moner (Transformers: The Last Knight) and Matthew Modine (The Dark Knight Rises) have joined the cast. Awesome. Oh, and Stefano Sollima follows in Denis Villeneuve's (who helmed the first Sicario movie and this year's Blade Runner 2049) footsteps as Soldado's director. Check out the new trailer at the bottom of this entry.
Friday, December 15, 2017
Last night, I attended an advance screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi...and needless to say, it was an absolutely amazing film! Just by watching this eighth installment in the Skywalker saga (and ninth live-action movie in the Star Wars franchise), you can see why Rian Johnson would get Disney and Lucasfilm's blessing to produce his very own Star Wars trilogy—the first episode of which Johnson himself will write and direct next decade. While obviously paying homage to the Original Trilogy and prequels before it, as well as expanding upon the events depicted in 2015's The Force Awakens, Episode VIII also veers into uncharted territory as we see the power of the Force as never before, and the war between the Resistance and First Order taken to new levels. Rian Johnson created a Star Wars movie that puts the franchise on course for new and more exciting directions.
In terms of the characters, The Last Jedi nicely develops the majority of folks previously seen in The Force Awakens. Of course, we finally get to hear Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) speak...and when he does speak, he has some memorable and funny one-liners. From telling Rey (Daisy Ridley) that there's a reason why he traveled "to the most unfindable place in the galaxy" (the planet Ahch-To) to chastising her and even Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) by mentioning that "everything (they) said (about the Force) is wrong," Luke still has that spunk he first showed when he was a Tatooine farm boy in 1977's A New Hope. In regards to Rey and Kylo Ren themselves, these two have the most interesting relationship in The Last Jedi. I won't spoil how this occurred, but something happens with the Force that causes the aspiring Jedi and would-be Sith Lord to communicate with each other (and briefly touch hands) even though they are literally light-years apart in the galaxy. It is this connection that prompts Rey to leave Ahch-To—home of Luke and the first Jedi temple (as well as some very adorable Porgs)—and confront Kylo in the final act of the movie. It is when they're together that the most memorable events and action scenes take place in The Last Jedi...and the sequel trilogy for that matter.
Also getting a bigger role in The Last Jedi is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)...who started off as a "trigger-happy flyboy" before becoming a potential leader of the Resistance by the end of the film. He clearly has to be the Han Solo of the new trilogy—since he's apparently the first character in the Star Wars franchise (unless I misheard the line) to say "ass" in a movie. (The actual term he used was "big-ass door;" I won't elaborate on which door he's talking about). Rey, General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) or Kylo Ren wouldn't have gotten away with uttering a real-world swear word like that. But maybe Finn (John Boyega) would. (He does say "bastard" in the film.) Speaking of Finn, John Boyega once again did a nice job portraying the stormtrooper-turned-freedom fighter. Even though he's separated from his best friend Rey for much of the movie, Finn gets to team up with Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran)...a Resistance mechanic who, in the words of Finn back in The Force Awakens, thinks the ex-stormtrooper is a "big deal." As a fellow Asian-American, it was cool to see an Asian actress have such a huge role in a Star Wars film. And I'm proud to say that, spoilers ahead, Rose will be back to help the Resistance continue battling the First Order in 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX.
Going back to General Leia Organa herself, it was bittersweet to watch Carrie Fisher give her last performance as the iconic figure. On the plus side, we get to watch her exhibit some amazing Force powers over the course of the movie. And yes, we get to see a nice reunion between her and her brother Luke (somewhat) towards the climax of the film. Like Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight, Leia will live on following the events of The Last Jedi. The sad thing is, we'll never get to see what's next for this beloved character in the sequel trilogy. But at least the princess of Alderaan had a happy ending in Episode VIII.
To prevent this review from getting too long, I'll mention all the other characters in this paragraph: Domhnall Gleeson once again gave a great (and very funny) performance as the sniveling General Hux. Gwendoline Christie was awesome as the forever-underused Captain Phasma (but at least Christie finally got to reveal her face, somewhat, in The Last Jedi). Laura Dern was commendable as heroic Vice Admiral Holdo. Billie Lourd (Fisher's daughter) was cool as Lieutenant Connix, who was first seen in The Force Awakens. Benicio Del Toro was the Lando Calrissian/Boba Fett of Episode VIII...delightfully stuttering as he "helped" Finn and Rose in their mission to infiltrate a First Order Star Destroyer. And lastly, Andy Serkis once again did a fantastic job performing the motion capture for Supreme Leader Snoke...who was both funny and terrifying while it lasted.
In regards to the action scenes of The Last Jedi, they were nicely executed in the movie—particularly during the final act. The opening space battle was fantastic, even though it was sad to see the Resistance bombers quickly get picked off by the First Order as if this was an outer space equivalent of the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. The scenes on the casino world of Canto Bight looked gorgeous, even though the time spent on this planet could've been shortened a bit. The Battle of Crait—where we see Resistance ground forces take on towering AT-M6 walkers—was almost as intense as the one on Hoth over three decades earlier. But the action scene that definitely takes the cake is (big spoiler ahead) the multi-person duel between Rey, Kylo Ren and Snoke's Elite Praetorian Guards. As a sign that The Last Jedi isn't a blatant remake of The Empire Strikes Back, Rey and Kylo Ren briefly team up to engage in a lightsaber duel with the red-clad warriors. However, this alliance is short-lived as Kylo Ren goes back to his villainous ways and, like his grandfather Darth Vader before him in The Empire Strikes Back, wants Rey to join him and the Dark Side after the duel is won. But hey, at least neither of them lost a hand during the fight!
Musically, John Williams created more memorable tunes for The Last Jedi than he did with The Force Awakens. We obviously hear motifs from the previous episode such as the Resistance, Kylo Ren and Jedi Step themes from the end of Episode VII. We also hear Leia's theme, the Rebel fanfare from the Original Trilogy and even Yoda's theme...for a very good reason. (I can't wait to get my Last Jedi soundtrack CD in the mail after Amazon ships it today. Hopefully today.) Visual effects-wise, The Last Jedi looked stupendous! Not a surprise though... Episode VIII was originally set to be released on May 26 (in celebration of A New Hope's 40th anniversary this year) before it was pushed back to this weekend. So Johnson—who completed the movie for a targeted Memorial Day debut—had lots of extra time to work with Industrial Light & Magic to make The Last Jedi's visual effects as spiffy-looking as possible. This film definitely needs to be one of the five contenders for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars next year.
All-in-all, The Last Jedi was an awesome film. Fittingly, Luke Skywalker resembled Chuck Norris in his most badass moment towards the end of the movie. Kylo Ren evolved from a Darth Vader wannabe in Episode VII to a legitimate threat, akin to Count Dooku of the prequels, to the entire galaxy. Rey is truly on the path to becoming the newest Jedi hero like Luke, Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi before her. And Leia will live on in Star Wars lore as the Resistance leader who survived to fight another day; even though sadly, we'll never get to see her fight on the big screen again. And it remains to be seen how Finn, Poe and Rose will rise up to take on Kylo Ren, General Hux and their evil forces once more in Episode IX. But in the meantime, go to the theater and watch The Last Jedi right away to see how Rian Johson expanded on the Star Wars saga...while saying farewell to much of what came before it. May the Force be with you.
4.5 out of 5 stars. ****1/2