Pick Up the Pieces: Leonardo DiCaprio is The Revenant

Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.
Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) seeks vengeance.

Alejandro González Iñarritu is the most versatile director of our time. After the highly complex Birdman, which reflects on media and show business in a self-referential way, he surprises the public with a movie which couldn’t be baser. It reminds me of the famous quote by Auguste Rodin, ‘I choose a block of marble and chop off whatever I don’t need.’ Because the director has gotten rid of anything in the movie that could be considered superfluous.

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Attack of the Nerds: Fanboys Makes a Joyride out of Looking Forward to Star Wars

The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The Fanboys eagerly await the opening of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Remember when, back in 1999, the Star Wars hype was almost as huge, if not even bigger, than this year? After an absence of more than a decade and a half, the saga was about to return with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and expectations were through the roof. Fanboys, a 2009 comedy by director Kyle Newman, feeds to the frenzy of that time. As the title suggests, you might be in for a wild ride if you belong to the eponymous group. Does the film satisfy in that regard, however, and – on top of that – is it also a movie that’s fun to watch for non-Fanboys?

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A New Chapter: J.J. Abrams Introduces the Next Generation to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford, from left to right) are in the hands of the Stormtroopers once again.
Finn (John Boyega), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford, from left to right) are in the hands of the Stormtroopers once again.

‘Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away…’ Every part of the Star Wars franchise begins with that fairy tale opening and John Williams’s trademark fanfare, and each time, the diehard fans have been passionate about it. A decade after George Lucas’s final film in the series, the latest installment, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, has smashed all previous box-office records with J.J. Abrams, Hollywood’s current favorite wunderkind to be handed over the reins for classic franchises, at the controls for the first time.

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Fight the Good Fight: Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, or the End of an Era

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, front), Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen, center), and the Dwarves await the Orcs.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman, front), Gandalf the Gray (Ian McKellen, center), and the Dwarves await the Orcs.

Although fans and critics alike haven’t been completely satisfied with the results, the first two parts of Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy have been among the biggest-grossing movies in recent years. One of the chief criticisms about the film series has always been that the director made a 300-page children’s book by J.R.R. Tolkien stretch out over three (longish) movies, while including other material not found in the original story. Despite the controversy about The Hobbit, expectations for the last part of the trilogy have remained high. The finale The Return Of The King was probably the high point of Jackson’s previous The Lord Of The Rings series based on Tolkien’s works. Will The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies be able to the same?

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Shock the Monkey: Matt Reeves Brings Us the Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

Caesar (Andy Serkis) doesn’t like what he sees.

French novelist Pierre Boulle’s alternative universe in which apes rule the planet has long fascinated Hollywood. It spawned five movies between 1968 and 1974, a TV series, plus a remake in the early 2000s. Those releases have been a mixed bag. The original Planet Of The Apes starring Charlton Heston is universally considered a classic, while everything that followed fell far short of the bar it had set. Even the reimagining by Tim Burton didn’t really live up to the lofty expectations. Rupert Wyatt’s 2011 reboot Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes with James Franco, Freida Pinto, and Andy Serkis finally managed to reestablish the standard of the first film – but is its sequel, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, up to par?

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Journey Into Space: Reawakening the Giant in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness

Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine, right) and his First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto, left) meet their archenemy Khan Noonian Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch, center).
Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, right) and his First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto, left) meet their archenemy Khan Noonian Singh (Benedict Cumberbatch, center).

In 2009, the Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams clearly divided the devout ‘trekkies.’ The picture shed a different light on several beloved characters from the original television and movie series – including a new version of Spock who actually showed some emotions and an older ego of the same Vulcan contributing to the creation of an alternate universe. Some loved the new angle; others despised it. The film became a smashing box-office success regardless, so there was never much of debate about the sequel. Star Trek: Into Darkness comes with major expectations, especially by those fans who found the first reboot movie too big a deviation from Gene Roddenberry’s creation.

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Fun in Space: Robert Rodriguez’s Machete Kills Not Only in This World

Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) shoots his way through Mexico, Texas - and even into outer space.
Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo) shoots his way through Mexico, Texas – and even into outer space.

There were times when Machete was but a bloodthirsty creature from one of the many fake trailers for the Grindhouse double-dip of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Planet Terror by his old friend Robert Rodriguez. Yet a full-blown effort by fans eventually forced the hands of the two filmmaking buddies, and the character re-emerged as the hero of a trilogy of full-length features much in the same manner as the previous Grindhouse entries. Now the knife-throwing Mexican scarface is back for more with Machete Kills, but will he be deliver?

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Flash For Fantasy: Returning to Middle-Earth in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is scored of the prospects.
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) is scared of the prospects.

Upon its late 2012 release, the first The Hobbit movie by Peter Jackson, An Unexpected Journey, was greeted by rather mixed reviews. Still, fans of the Kiwi director and of Middle Earth creator J.R.R. Tolkien alike have been desperately waiting for the second part of the trilogy, The Desolation Of Smaug, for a year. While we’ve come to expect epic filmmaking from Peter Jackson, the beginning of the saga was fairly disappointing in many ways. For that reason, there’s one big question surrounding the sequel. Is The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug able to correct some of the flaws of An Unexpected Journey?

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School’s Out: John Hughes’s Cool Way to Skip Classes in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Sloane Peterson (Mia Sara, left), Cameron Fry (Alan Ruck, center), and Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick, right) enjoy their day off.

When John Hughes died of a heart attack at age 59 in 2009, the filmmaking world lost one of its true greats in the comedy realm. His biggest box-office smashes as a writer have been family movies in the 1990s, such as Home Alone and 101 Dalmatians. Earlier, however, John Hughes had already pulled off a string of beloved comedies as a director in the 1980s. The Breakfast Club comes to mind. So do Plains, Trains & Automobiles and Uncle Buck with another late great, John Candy. John Hughes is also known for coming up with the scripts for the popular National Lampoon’s series starring Chevy Chase. Yet the finest moment of his career is arguably Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

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Man on a Mission: The Post-Apocalyptic Tom Cruise of Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) saves the day.

There once was a time when science-fiction films were innovative and ahead of their time. Back then, even B-movies could attract audiences because they had something to say, despite their overall trashy appearance. Nowadays, it sometimes feels as if major studios seem to be more interested in shelling out large sums for rather pedestrian works in terms of storytelling that desperately attempt to make up for their deficiencies in that area by means of impressive visual and aural effects. TRON: Legacy by Joseph Kosinski was a prime example for that recent phenomenon in 2010. Three years later, the director returns with his sophomore movie, Oblivion and Tom Cruise on his coattails as the star du jour.

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Danger Zone: Science-Fiction and Metaphysics in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker

This room is only one of the many enigmas that the Stalker and his companions encounter in the mysterious zone.

Apart from legendary Battleship Potemkin genius Sergei Eisenstein, Andrei Tarkovsky is arguably Russia’s most renowned movie director from the Soviet era. The son of famous poet Arseni Tarkovsky polarizes, however. Opinions on him are divided. Some can’t really get into his films and only consider them to be dead boring. Others regard these works as masterpieces of cinematic history – Stalker among them. Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 science-fiction epic is unlike anything from the same genre we’ve ever encountered from Hollywood.

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Children of the Revolution: Slapstick, Soviet-style in Leonid Gaidai’s Operation ‘Y’ & Shurik’s Other Adventures

Shurik (Alexander Demyanenko, right) and his crush Lida (Natalya Seleznyova, left) in the second segment, "Delusion."

Operation ‘Y’ And Shurik’s Other Adventures (1965) is one of the cult comedies from that time virtually every Russian knows. Other than having a fun time, what can we can learn about life in the Soviet Union of the 1960s from watching the film?

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Misty Mountain Hop: Middle-earth Revisited in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The returning Gollum (Andy Serkis) isn’t too sure yet what to make of The Hobbit.

Fans have been clamoring for it for almost a decade, through numerous delays, changes in the director’s chair, and alterations in the general concept. Pan’s Labyrinth mastermind Guillermo del Toro wanted to shoot it, but eventually The Lord Of The Rings veteran Peter Jackson gave in and decided to travel to J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastic Middle-earth once again. Now it’s finally here – An Unexpected Journey, the first part of his long-awaited The Hobbit trilogy and the first ever 3D movie with a higher frame rate. Expectations have been gigantic, but can the blockbuster really deliver?

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Falling into Infinity: The Bottom Line on the Indie Epic Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis

Zachry (Tom Hanks) and Meronym (Halle Berry) in the post-apocalyptic section of Cloud Atlas.

A big-budget independent movie based on a novel considered to be ‘unfilmable’ – that sounds like a recipe for disaster, doesn’t it? Three renowned directors still made the daring choice to tackle David Mitchell’s 2004 book Cloud Atlas. They hired an international all-star cast consisting of the likes of Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, David Gyasi, Keith David, and Hugh Grant and went to work. Has their expensive experiment been a success or a big-time failure?

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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold: James Bond’s Impressive Comeback in Sam Mendes’s Skyfall

Skyfall
James Bond (Daniel Craig) and his legendary Aston Martin DB5

To the sounds of energetic percussive music, James Bond tracks down a villain on the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. All of a sudden, a Jeep manned by a female British agent picks him up. Mere moments later, 007 has already become involved in a motorbike chase over the rooftops along the marketplace. He lands on top of a train and tries to retrieve a very important stolen list from the baddie. ‘M,’ listening in over the radio, has qualms that her super spy might fail her. While he is in a fistfight with the enemy, she orders the female agent to shoot at Bond from a distance. The woman hits 007. He falls off a bridge and down a waterfall.

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