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Showing posts from 2015

Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

"Luke Skywalker has vanished." No mention of taxes or blockades to be found anywhere. While not a significant sentence, those four little words signal that the prequels are a thing of the past, and a wave of relief washes over the faces of spectators in the dark auditorium. It's been thirty years since the events of Return of the Jedi, but the Rebels haven't had much time to rest. While the Empire vanished with the death of the Emperor, power seeks a vacuum, and the void is filled by The First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

The only whereabouts of Luke's location are inside a BB-8 droid that ends up in the possession of young Rey (Daisy Ridley). Rey yearns for more but is trapped living as a scavenger on the unforgiving desert landscape of Jakku. This droid tasked with finding a reclusive Jedi offers her new purpose. Sound familiar? References to the original trilogy are sprinkled heavily throughout the film, and while the consistent call-backs restrict The F…

Review: Macbeth

There have been countless adaptations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet, but with the exception of Roman Polanski’s 1971 film, Macbeth has largely gone ignored by cinema. Justin Kurzel, fresh off the success of The Snowtown Murders, may have delivered the definitive take on the Scottish Thane. From the very beginning Kurzel marks that his vision will be different, as the film opens on the funeral of a small child, then transitions to bloody combat. Usually set on the stage, depictions of war in Macbeth are avoided because of budget constraints and available space–a shame considering how influential those scenes prove to be. The violence and trauma of the warring tribes and his child’s death sets the stage for Macbeth’s lust for power later in the film. Blood begets more blood.

In this beleaguered state of mind, a prophecy from three witches becomes the driving force behind his madness. Left with no heirs of his own and a fractured relationship with his own wife, the crown i…

Review: Black Mass

Watching Jack Nicholson in The Departed it would be easy to think "Wow, this guy can't be real" but that would be incorrect. Frank Costello was based in part on James "Whitey" Bulger, maybe the most notorious gangster in U.S. history. What viewers will also learn is the FBI and Bulger worked together for years before he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List. John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) and Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) grew up together in South Boston, but years later Connolly, now a FBI Agent, makes a deal with the devil. More accurately, he tries to place a rabid dog on a leash.

Reporting to the FBI is a hard sell for Connolly because Bulger takes personal offense to playing informant. Bulger killed men for giving up much less, but Connolly manages to convince the crime boss a partnership would be mutually beneficial. Both men see this as an opportunity to rid Boston of the Italian mafia, but only one of them is honest about how this will all play …

Review: The Man in the Machine

Real quick, does Alex Gibney ever take time off? Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and Sinatra: All or Nothing At All both made their premieres this year, but Gibney still has one more documentary up his sleeve. The myth around Steve Jobs is known by everyone. He took a company that started out of his garage and turned it into a global powerhouse with products that people go into a frenzy over. No one would define themselves by their pager, so why does an iPod or iPhone so often serve as an extension of its users?

Steve Jobs' death in 2011 was met with a massive outpour of public grief, but the emotion on display didn't fit the man who passed. Jobs, for his outsized personality while he was promoting Apple, was fiercely private. Taking an approach inspired by Citizen Kane, Gibney starts his film at the mogul's passing, and works backwards through interviews and archival footage to get a sense of the man behind the smokescreen.

The film jumps around chronolog…

Win The Vampire Diaries and The Originals!

Take the "Are you Fit for Vampire Life?" quiz to find out if you have what it takes to be a creature of the night. Post your score in the comment section below and you could win the sixth season of The Vampire Diaries and The Originals (The Complete Second Season). Tweet using hashtags #TVD #TheOriginals, and be sure to mention @WordsbyCBiggs on Twitter. Contest ends on September 15th. U.S. residents only.


Each household is only eligible to win (1) The Vampire Diaries Season 6 or The Originals Season 2 chosen at random via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Review: Southpaw

All boxing films come down to three storylines, or all three wrapped in one—get beaten, get angry, get back to the top. Eighty years have passed since Wallace Beery made The Champ, and Southpaw doesn't try to rewrite the formula. It's not a surprise, Barton Fink broke himself that way. Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the light heavyweight champion of the world, but it wasn't always the high life. Billy was raised dumped from one foster home to the next because of his mother's incarceration, but he eventually met his wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) in a Hell’s Kitchen orphanage and turned it all around.

Jake Gyllenhaal doesn't look like your typical boxing star like say Robert DeNiro, Mark Wahlberg or Will Smith, but doubts about his ability to perform disappear immediately as the film opens. Madison Square Garden roars as Billy, bloodied and bruised, batters his opponent to the ground, winning the title. After the fight Maureen looks on as Billy's eye has to be …

Review: Trainwreck

trAmy Schumer already cemented her place on my year's favorite entertainment list when she managed to loosely remake 12 Angry Men for the fourth episode of Inside Amy Schumer, but not satisfied wth owning television, Schumer decides to revive the romantic comedy for 2015. Lazy writing has cursed the genre for much of the last few decades and studios have responded in kind by not pursuing that market with the gusto they used to. A film this funny and engaging might change minds at some studios, because Trainwreck is a very good romantic comedy.

As soon as the film opens it's clear that the story will not be hitting the same beats that audiences are used to. Schumer eschews tradtional romantic comedy dynamics by opening with Gordon (Colin Quinn) trying to instill a paralytic fear against monogamy in his young daughters. Years later, it appears he was only half successful. Youngest daughter Kim (Brie Larson) is happily married, mother to a step-son, and expecting another child. Am…

From Ahnuld to Actor: The Transition of a Former Action Star

Maggie pits Arnold Schwarzenegger against zombies, but not in the way you’d expect. The titular character (Abigail Breslin) is infected, but Wade (Schwarzenegger) isn’t driving into the city to put down the zombie threat, he’s bringing his daughter home before the disease reaches its inhumane conclusion. Protocols are implemented to keep the virus contained to the small midwestern town, but doctors set aside regulations to let Wade spend time with his daughter before she is sent away to the quarantine zone. The stage of Maggie’s infection is still in its infancy, but any sign of worsening symptoms will get her sent straight to a quarantine area. Wade’s second-wife (Joely Richardson) has sent her children to stay with family outside of town, so it’s just the three of them in a makeshift farmhouse as they wait for inevitable to come. Zombie films often rely on global catastrophe for stakes, but a family awaiting is the kind of tension that all viewers can relate to. Fans hoping to see Ar…

'Noble' Trailer

When Irish woman Christina Noble flies into Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) in 1989, 14 years after the end of the war, she leaves behind an extraordinary life story. But the best is yet to come. Christina lands in a country "that she wouldn't be able to show you on a map". With a few dollars, a dream and her own hard-won courage, she is about to make life better for thousands of people. Noble tells the inspirational true story of a woman who believes that it only takes one person to make a difference, and how she proved right.

Noble hits theatres May 8th

Jared Leto's Joker Has His Grand Debut

Fan speculation about what Batman's archnemesis might look like can cease today because Suicide Squad director David Ayer has dropped the first official look at Jared Leto's interpretation of The Joker on Twitter. It's certainly unique, although tattooing "Damaged" on his forehead is a touch on the nose.

The famous feature are all present: the green hair, pale skin, and crazy eyes, but they are tweaked to look a little more unwholesome than in the past. The tattoos are a different touch, as are the replacement teeth that Batman (Ben Affleck) has likely knocked out in their interactions, so fans worrying that this next Joker would be a rehash of Heath Ledger's have little to worry about.

Well fans, you have finally seen Leto’s Joker. What do you think?

(Per David Ayer's Twitter)

Win 'The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies' on Blu-ray

PartnersHub and Warner Bros. are giving away a blu-ray of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, all you have to do to win the copy is play the app below to find out if you're Brave like Bilbo. Once you have that, reply the answer  to @WordsByCBiggs with #TheHobbit. Leaving a comment below can't hurt your chances either.



Contest ends April 6th, so have all entries in before then.

Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-ray The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Win 'The Battle of the Five Armies' on Digital

PartnersHub and Warner Bros. are giving away a digital copy of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, all you have to do to win the copy is play the app below to uncover your Middle-Earth Weapon of choice. Once you have that, reply the answer  to @WordsByCBiggs with #TheHobbit. Leaving a comment below can't hurt your chances either.



Contest ends April 1st, so have all entries in before then.

Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Digital Download Coupon for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Review: Cymbeline

Cymbeline is director Michael Almereyda’s second Shakespeare adaptation set in modern day, his last being 2000’s Hamlet, also starring Ethan Hawke. The Bard’s late work tragedy, previously set in the Royal Court of Olde England, receives a face-lift, updated to a war between the Roman police force and the Briton Motorcycle Club ran by Cymbeline (Ed Harris). The King trades in a crown for an Uzi and a leather jacket as a drug kingpin troubled by familial strife. His second wife (the serpentine Milla Jovovich) despises Cymbeline’s daughter, Imogen (Dakota Johnson, proving she has acting chops not found in Fifty Shades of Grey), for not marrying her son, Cloten (Anton Yelchin).

In secret, Imogen has pledged herself to Posthumus (Penn Badgley), much to Cymbeline’s displeasure. Posthumus, like all men freshly betrothed, proceeds to make a bet that his friend Iachimo (Hawke) cannot steal his love’s chastity; Hawke is evidently having a ball with the part of a man of very little moral fiber,…

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…

The Theory of the Tortured Genius

There was a time when geniuses were professionals who were not only good at their jobs, but pleasant to others as well. The entrenched stereotype of geniuses once labeled them as shy outsiders or tongue-tied geeks, not arrogant narcissists. Somewhere down the line, Hollywood stopped telling stories of gifted individuals who were mild-mannered and jump-started the difficult genius routine.

Take television’s long-running tortured genius, Dr. Gregory House. House, starring Hugh Laurie as the highly critical medical genius, started a trend of anti-social geniuses and audiences ate it up. For all of the highly unusual medical cases and House’s wizardry in solving them, the reason viewers tuned in was to see what exactly the caustic doctor would say next. With all of his intellect and glee in exposing hypocrisy in others, House indulged his own demons early and often. A man so talented at saving others despite his own grand self-destruction made for unique television, the industry took noti…

When 'Star Wars' Changed

I could barely contain my excitement. Star Wars, a film I had probably watched maybe 20 or 30 times was going to be re-released theatrically. My parents weren’t big movie fans, but my uncle had offered to take me and my best friend to see it. A fitting choice considering it had been my uncle who introduced me to the Star Wars universe. He gave me the trilogy box-set after I had watched his copy of Batman (1989) so many times that I could quote lines by heart. As much as I loved Batman, Star Wars completely overwhelmed my five year old self. I loved movies already at a young age, but this was a phenomenon that the entire world could tap into.

A New Hope was now dubbed the “The Special Edition” and the picture was rumored to have millions of dollars in special effects added following it’s 20th anniversary. The inspiration to re-release the trilogy came after George Lucas saw what Industrial Lights & Magic had done with computer-generated effects for Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park.…

Lego Justice League Giveaway

Lego Justice League vs. Bizarro League hits shelves on DVD/Blu-ray soon andWarner Brothers is promoting the film with a giveaway. Never Mind Pop Film has been given a prize pack (Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack + a Batzarro LEGO minifigure) to award to one lucky reader! To win, tweet use the #JusticeLeague and #BizarroLeague hashtags and follow/mention @WordsByCBiggs on Twitter. Contest ends February 23rd.


Each household is only eligible to win LEGO: DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League (Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD UltraViolet Combo Pack) Blu-ray via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Review: The Voices

Jerry (Ryan Reynolds) spends his days working the nine-to-five shift at his new job at the Milton Bathtub Factory. Jerry is chipper to the point that he may turn some people off, but he never stops trying to make friends. Friends are something that Jerry could use because the only other conversation he has is with his dog Bosco and his cat Mr. Whiskers. Things are looking up though, Jerry has been tasked with planning the company picnic and he’s asked a girl (Gemma Arterton) out on a date. Jerry is so excited to share the news he rushes home to tell his pets about Fiona. Oddly enough, both Bosco and Mr. Whiskers start talking back.

No need to go back and re-read that last sentence, yes, Ryan Reynolds has pets who talk back to him. His dog, Bosco, is quite affable, however, his cat, Mr. Whiskers, would feel right at home curled in the lap of Blofeld. Unfortunately for everyone around him, it’s the advice of the evil cat that Jerry heeds more often than not. For all of Jerry’s pleasant…

The Obsessive World of Michael Mann

Michael Mann is fascinated by obsessives who work on opposite sides of the law. In fact, when you go over his filmography, it’s filled with them: loners who are hardened by choice and keep others at a constant arm’s-length, indulging in their skills instead. Starting in 1981, Mann made his first feature, Thief, about a professional safe-cracker who finds his way under the thumb of the mob. Frank (James Caan) wants what everyone else has, but can’t have it because his profession effectively keeps him on the outskirts of society.

Mann’s works always tend to lend a sympathetic eye to those perceived as criminals. Sure they break the law, yet they possess a strong value system and always abide by their respective codes. These men don’t waver, circumstances merely fail them and they adapt. It’s what makes them consummate professionals. Sure there is a thrill in watching these protagonists hone their craft, but there is more compulsion than pleasure in these acts.

Read the rest at Sound on…

Review: Vice

At this point of his career, Bruce Willis’ choices in parts are a crap shoot. While 50% of the films he makes are legitimately great (Looper and Moonrise Kingdom), the other half go straight to video and die. This latest project is a reminder that along with half-baked horror, the death knell of January is filled to the brim with bad actioners seeking a home.

With a decent cast in Willis and Thomas Jane, Vice might have been able to salvage something worth watching out of this mess, but there is no effort on the screen at all. The blame lays entirely at the feet of writers Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore and director Brian A. Miller, who worked with Willis previously on The Prince and shouldn’t have been given the chance to work again. The premise is the only interesting prospect of the film, but even that is copy and pasted from other works. Vice is two parts Westworld, one part Blade Runner and all parts awful.

Read the rest at Sound on Sight!

'Edge of Tomorrow' Entertains Like a Video Game, but Doesn't Hesitate to Eviscerate the Genre

The premise seems familiar enough: it’s the not-too-distant future and Earth is under attack by aliens. The “Mimics” arrived by an errant asteroid and now they have taken over half of continental Europe. To help combat these hyper-intelligent aliens, humans wear armored combat suits fitted with rocket launchers and side-guns. One might even confuse the whole thing for a video game, if it didn’t have Tom Cruise’s face slapped on the poster.

Edge of Tomorrow replicates the experience of jumping into a video game through the eyes of untested combatant Major William Cage (Tom Cruise). Like most video game rookies, Cage is unfamiliar with his weaponry and panicked by the rushing hordes of attackers, he dies within minutes. And when he dies next he wakes up to the shouts of master sergeants (Bill Paxton in R. Lee Ermey mode). With each new life, Cage, mirrors other trepidatious gamers gathering their bearings in a new level, testing weapons in hopes of getting a feel before close quarters c…

Review: Predestination

Walking into Predestination clean is perhaps the best advice to offer any cinephile willing to hunt down this likely future cult classic. It would be easy to just describe Predestination as Looper tossed in a blender with Minority Report, but the Spierig Brothers are going in a very different direction here. A direction that may lose a few viewers along the way.

Ethan Hawke plays a temporal agent, a time-traveling arm of the law that travels all through the ages to prevent killers from committing crimes. His next assignment, should it prove successful, will be the agent’s last. Problem with that is the criminal he is tasked with chasing is the one who has eluded him time after time. In his last tangle with the Fizzle Bomber (yes, the name sounds absurd, but roll with it), the agent momentarily apprehended his man, but the resulting blast left the agent disfigured. Now tasked with recruiting some help (played by Sarah Snook), the agent will be sent to 1975 to prevent the deaths of tho…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.