It’s been five years since Hong Kong’s action superstar Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip brought us the first installment of the Ip Man franchise, a story based on the creator of the Wing Chun style of martial arts and made famous by the legendary Bruce Lee (one of Ip Man’s students in real life). The newest installment has some stand outs: the addition of Zhang Jin (who stared in another Ip Man biopic called The Grandmaster) and the rather strange addition of Mike Tyson (yes, that Mike Tyson). This was probably the weakest entry into the series, but it was still a solid flick.
The holiday season not only brought the return of Star Wars, but also the return of Quentin Tarantino for film buffs. The director’s latest – and his greatest film to date – The Hateful Eight is an experience unlike anything you’re likely to have in movie theaters this year or anytime soon.
Beautifully filmed in 70-millimeter, the move engages audiences from the very beginning of this three-hour spaghetti western. Watching Tarantino’s latest film is like watching a master at work. He uses beautiful cinematography in the mountains of Wyoming, but also dishes out more fake blood than I’ve ever seen before.
Clocking in at just over three hours with an overture and an intermission, The Hateful Eight is a western “who done it,” featuring top notch acting. With standout performances from Samuel L. Jackson as Maj. Marquis Warren, and Kurt Russell (doing his best John Wayne imitation as John Ruth), the audience gets their moneys worth.
Fair or not, generations are often remembered by events that coincide with their lives. Stories are told to younger generations about what it was like to be alive during these events. Sometimes, these are dramatic, world-altering events, such as World War II, the JFK assassination, or the 9/11 attacks. Other times, these events are much more light-hearted, revolving around famous athletes or concerts like Woodstock.
For a generation of filmgoers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Star Wars franchise was their defining moment. The original release of A New Hope far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and launched one of the biggest entertainment franchise in the world. Adjusted for inflation, the three films that make up the original trilogy rank in the top-20 grossing films of all time. Sadly, these were all released before I was even born.
I was around, however, for the release of the prequels, and remember the passion and excitement surrounding the release of the first prequel The Phantom Menace. Finally, I would be able to experience the energy and fun of the theatrical launch of a Star Wars film! A wee lad of 15, I remember trying to buy tickets to opening weekend, only for the theater near my house to be sold out.
Maybe the film gods did me a favor there.
It’s well-documented now that the prequel trilogy, while incredibly successful financially, couldn’t come close to replicating the critical and emotional success of Episodes IV, V, and VI. When you combine that with George Lucas’s constant tinkering with the original trilogy, adding needless CGI and altering the timeline of events, it’s certainly understandable that people have become skeptical of the forthcoming new films.
And it’s to you jaded skeptics that I say this:
Allay your fears. Go see The Force Awakens. Right meow.
Star Wars is back.
Not back like it was in 1999. But really, back. I remember the hype and anticipation surrounding a new Star Wars film being released for the first time since 1983. I was much younger than, and had a lot less film criticism under my belt. But I still knew something was amiss. Yes, there were fantastic pod races. And yes – that fight scene between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul was simply fantastic (the first lightsaber scene that was truly exciting by modern standards). But those aforementioned moments have become the only reason worth putting the Phantom Menace Blu-ray into a player, and that is dependent on whether or not you can get past the thought of terrible writing, horrendous acting, and last but not least – Jar Jar Binks. The prequels, were quite honestly, pretty terrible. And the fact that Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was the best says a lot.
Fast forward to 2015. A decade has passed since any disappointment we may have had with a Star Wars film in theater. And our beautiful, coveted baby has new parents. While we will always appreciate George as dad, Disney is the new kick-ass step parent that let’s us really have fun with our toys. And we get to play without getting all our homework done on the taxation of trade routes and treaty negotiations. This isn’t your father’s Star Wars. This is your grandfather’s Star Wars. And I mean it in the best possible way. Thank you J.J. (who will be able to sleep at night, knowing that he will never be referred to as “Jar Jar” Abrams).
The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. This makes it extremely easy to explain our returning characters aging 30 years, without stumbling over clumsy CG or prosthetics. Their names may have changed, but the good guys and the bad guys have pretty much stayed the same. The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire, and The Resistance is still fighting the good fight that the Rebel Alliance took up decades earlier.
For a film that is being billed as a horror movie, Crimson Peak comes off more as a tragic love story – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for movie fans.
Del Toro is at his best in telling the story of a young woman who is swept off her feet by a seductive stranger. Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is romanced by Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Sharpe’s sister, Lucille, played wonderfully by Jessica Chastain, seems to lurk near wherever the pair are around each other.
While all the performances are stellar, the stars of the film are the sets and costume design.
The house, Allerdale Hall, is filled with all kind of things that go bump in the night, but scares are at a minimum. While a few gruesome deaths happen on screen, there aren’t many actual scares in the film, yet I felt like the film had a creepy presence about it. It might have been the blood-red snow, for which there was no logical explanation given in the film.
While del Toro has always been known for his beautiful films, this is right up there among his best, as the dresses that Lucille wears in the film seem to almost come alive. While the ghosts play a prominent role in the film, I felt they were seen a bit too much. For all the positive things I’ve said about the set and costumes, the ghosts come off a bit lame. I would rather them have not even been on camera, as tricks the mind can play can be even scarier than seeing the real thing.
All in all, “Crimson Peak” is an enjoyable film. It’s beautifully made and skillfully acted.
Crimson Peak gets a B+.