Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Filled Edition)

by Brian Surber

When discussing a movie spoiler-free it’s difficult to actually get into the meat and potatoes of what was good and what was bad. You try to summarize the pros and cons of the choices the filmmakers have made without letting the reader in on what those choices actually were. Yesterday I posted a spoiler-free review and while it was challenging to write, I’m glad it’s there for those audience members who haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens. For those of us who have, well, here we go.

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Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler-Free Edition)

by Brian Surber

In the coming days there will be hundreds if not thousands of articles written about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is a different kind of review for a couple of reasons: one, there will be no spoilers of any kind (I’ll post a review/recap with spoilers later), two, I am not an enormous Star Wars fan (I have an appreciation for the franchise more than anything), and three, we have never had a film event of this nature (at least not in my lifetime). The journey to this film has been a wild ride. And luckily the ride itself takes you on an incredibly journey.

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Film Review – Creed

By Brian Surber

Creed hits hard. One of the most emotionally charged films of the year, it packs a punch. Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler has crafted a powerful experience while reinvigorating a franchise the right way, through natural character progression. With devastatingly powerful performances and the best boxing sequences since Raging BullCreed is a sure-fire knockout. My apologies for all the boxing puns, it was too tempting. But damn is this movie good!

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Film Review – Spectre

By Brian Surber

Follow-ups are hard. Making The Dark Knight Rises, The Matrix Reloaded, Jaws 2, Weekend at Bernie’s II, The Hobbit, and countless others was probably very hard. What is timeless about the James Bond franchise is that there really aren’t any follow-ups. Each sequel is, more or less, its own story. Spectre, the 24th film in the franchise, is a direct follow-up to the 2012 global sensation Skyfall and, while the film’s problems don’t completely rest on the continuation of Skyfall’s storyline, it does appear the film is so damn concerned with making that film, and Daniel Craig’s two previous appearances as Bond, connect, that Spectre forgets to be a movie all its own. “You are a kite dancing in a hurricane, Mr. Bond.” Unfortunately for the audience, Spectre is too.

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Film Review – Bridge of Spies

by Brian Surber

It is a difficult and interesting task to critique a Steven Spielberg film. He is arguably our country’s greatest cinematic storyteller; whose wide-ranging and history-defining filmography is among the most impressive ever seen. It’s only natural at some point to judge his new film among his past works and therefore there tend to be a few challenges. First of which being that his best works (E.T.Raiders of the Lost ArkSchindler’s ListMunich, etc.) rank with the best films of all time. The second being that his weaker films (AmistadThe TerminalWar of the Worlds, etc.) are still pretty damn good. Putting a film lower on his list may seem like a mark against it, but it usually means it’s just really really good. And so we come to Bridge of Spies, Spielberg’s fourth film with Tom Hanks (and 3rd best, again not a bad thing), a film so good and so well made it merely counts a mid-level Spielberg. It’s really a shame more movies aren’t simply average Spielberg.

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Film Review – Trainwreck

by Brian Surber

Something magical happens when an entire audience connects on a film, when the experience is being shared by everyone in the theater to the fullest extent. It happens when everyone gasps and screams during a horror film or when everyone claps during an action film when the good guy escapes from the exploding building by parasailing from the roof. But, for me at least, the most magical experience of all comes during a perfect comedy. The laughs are so loud, so in sync, and last so long that you miss the next lines of dialogue. When you can look around the theater and see a sea of smiles and watery eyes – that is the best movie-going experience. And not since Bridesmaids have I been a part of such an experience. Trainwreck is not only the best comedy of the year and one of the best films of the year, but it’s without a doubt, in a crowded theater, the best experience you are sure to have this summer.

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Film Review – San Andreas

by Brian Surber

The Rock vs. Rocks! That brilliant tagline I created for San Andreas, that Warner Bros. inexplicably did not use, is pretty much the selling point of this film. Sure there is a plot (but not really), but what people are coming to see is Dwayne Johnson fly (and drive and boat and parachute and run) around California while seemingly the entire population is killed by earthquakes and such. And I’m here to tell you that for better or worse (worse) that is what you are getting. San Andreas is a huge epic film that will satisfy your eyes and nothing else.

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Film Review – Tomorrowland

by Brian Surber

Good intentions cannot make a film. Tomorrowland is a big, ambitious, and grand sci-fi spectacle. It has a big movie star, the most famous studio in the world behind it, a talented filmmaker, and an admirable idea. However, it is with a heavy heart that I report that Tomorrowland is also a clouded, weak, and empty disappointment. It’s rare to find a film with so much optimism end up feeling so barren. Tomorrowland was a polarizing journey.

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Film Review – Clouds of Sils Maria

by Brian Surber

Clouds of Sils Maria. Where can I begin? When I walked out of Clouds of Sils Maria last night my head was spinning. I am not sure what this film is trying to say. I am not sure why this film exists. It is just over two hours but feels like three. It is constructed in a way where multiple viewings are not suggested but might be required. I do not know much about Clouds of Sils Maria. And yet I have so much to say about it. First: It is the best film of the year.

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Film Review – Unfriended

by Brian Surber

Unfriended is an unusual type of horror film. It’s unusual because it’s a mainstream horror film, being given a wide release, which feels so very independent (and it is, being made for $1 million).  It’s a specific premise that, on premise alone, doesn’t cater to conventions of its genre. It’s different. And in the midst of the supernatural ghosts/exorcism tenure of horror films that we are currently in, Unfriended feels like something that isn’t released in every theater. What that says about our current cinematic state is something I won’t get into but it is surprising. And it’s refreshing that this type of horror film exists and is playing nationwide. It also helps that Unfriended is pretty damn good.

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