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Winter Movie Preview

In the infamous words of the House of Stark; winter is coming. Despite this unavoidable truth, there is still reason to be excited. Though you may have enjoyed many of the blockbusters that blasted their way through theaters during the dogdays of summer, there are a number of upcoming productions that are just as enticing, if not more, than their sunny-seasoned brethren. Here are just a few of the films I am looking forward to seeing the most in the ensuing months.




When Sony found itself as the centerpiece of one of the largest and most egregious hacking attacks ever unleashed upon an American corporation, a multitude of secrets were spilled. While there was plenty of embarrassment and concern to go around, the latest James Bond film, SPECTRE found itself in the thick of the scandal.

While there are undoubtedly a number of productions that find themselves in various forms of peril, more often than not, these concerns are kept close to the cuff. Unfortunately for Sony, all of the worrisome proclamations surrounding SPECTRE were consumed by the masses. Not only was an early, lackluster, and spoiler-centric draft of the script released, but there was already internal concern that the budget of the film had already exceeded $300 million. This was before shooting had even wrapped.

Despite these concerns, there is still plenty of reason to be excited by the latest 007 installment. While there are still those who prefer their Bond a little more lighthearted and quippy, I, for one, have been really impressed and entertained by the trio of films starring Daniel Craig. His turns have resulted in three of the best films that the franchise has seen. Less McGuyver and more Bourne, the intensity projected in CASINO ROYALE, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, and SKYFALL have revitalized the series that seemed to be fading fast. With speculation that this will be the last time that Craig will fire up the Aston Martin, combined with the fact that Sam Mendes (who directed the thrilling SKYFALL) is back for his second stab at Bond, I find it hard to believe that the film will be the disaster that many expect it to be.


A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this winter’s biggest films.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-millennium-falcon-imax-1940x1356STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

When it was announced that George Lucas had relinquished the rights to the STAR WARS franchise, and sold it for roughly a kajillion bucks to Walt Disney Studios, there were certainly some die-hard Force fans who bristled with contempt. Would the Mickey Mouse-driven juggernaut Disney-ize the beloved STAR WARS franchise? Would their productions sully the series that means so much to so many?

With the announcement that J.J. Abrams was to helm the first film entitled THE FORCE AWAKENS, and that original STAR WARS cast members Harrison Ford, Mark Hammill, and Carrie Fisher were to set to reprise their iconic roles, it was virtually impossible not to grow giddy at the possibilities. Abrams, who resurrected the STAR TREK franchise with (arguably) two of the best films in the entire cannon, has kept many plot details and characters close to the vest. By releasing snippets of information through social media in the form of cryptic messages and photos, interest in the project has been raging from the moment he jumped on board. From glimpses of the Millennium Falcon to a teaser trailer that almost broke the internet, he has consistently given fans reason to celebrate, one morsel at a time.

In the end, when FORCE is released on December 18, it will garner constant comparisons to the original trilogy, but there is little doubt that it will be stacked up against Episodes 1-3 even more. As time has gone on, the vitriol tossed at PHANTOM MENACE, THE CLONE WARS, and RISE OF THE SITH has been unrelenting. Despite the fact that they were all colossal hits, time has not been kind to the modern trilogy. It seems as if only a select few look back lovingly on the films, and more often than not, it receives punchlines rather than praise. With the promise of a cavalcade of spin-offs and sequels poised to take flight over the course of the next decade, Abrams’ film will serve as a catalyst for everything else that is to come.

I, for one, am ready to nerd-out just as much as anybody, and mid-December can’t come soon enough. Exciting, it is!



It would have been easy for director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu to follow-up his Academy Award winning production of BIRDMAN with an easier project. BIRDMAN was a complex, entertaining, and original film that played out as if it were one long, unbroken shot. It was daring and inventive, and done on a scale that had never been seen. Rather than simply heading to a studio and churning out a simple studio film, his next feature THE REVENANT looks to be even more ambitious.

The film, inspired by true events, stars Leonardo DiCaprio (who will undoubtedly be in the Best Actor discussion this year) as a frontiersman in the 1820’s, who is attacked by a bear, and then abandoned by his travelling companion (Tom Hardy). Miraculously, he survives his attack, and then makes it his mission to seek revenge for the unexpected desertion.

What seems like your typical survival action film is anything but. Iñárritu made the baffling decision to not only shoot the film in sequential order, but to do so using only natural lighting. Considering that much of the film takes place in the dismal winter, and therefor makes snow and grim skies a necessity, the task seems all but impossible to complete. For these reasons, the production has been veiled in speculation and controversy, with some members of the crew stating that the director is expecting unfeasible perfection (and possibly putting them in harms way), while others are praising him for his desire to revolutionize the industry.

The trailer that has been released is undeniably sprawling, beautiful, and intense, and on the surface, it appears that Iñárritut and his team may already have a number of seats reserved at this year’s Academy Award Ceremony.



When the script for Quentin Tarantino’s HATEFUL EIGHT was leaked in January of 2014, the writer/director announced that the film had been scrapped. Tarantino produced a live reading of the leaked manuscript shortly thereafter, and then had a sudden change of heart. Filming began earlier this year, and on Christmas Day, EIGHT will receive a limited release in 70 mm format. After this release, it will be seen on screens across the country in January.

As has been the case for his entire career, if Tarantino is at the helm of a production, it instantly becomes one of the most anticipated films of that particular year. To this point, he has failed to disappoint. By now you know that his movies are definitely not for everyone, with the fusion of over-the-top violence and humor revolting some and elating others. More often than not, his seemingly outlandish and gratuitous productions boast ingenious observations on human nature, and his snappy, quick-witted dialogue makes him one of the most elite screenwriters the medium of cinema has ever seen.

HATEFUL EIGHT is a western set in post-Civil War Wyoming, and centers around a group who come together unexpectedly as they take refuge during a blizzard. In true Tarantino form, many of the members have plenty to hide, and chances are, not everyone is going to make it out alive. The ensemble cast is large an impressive, including the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Walton Goggins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Madson, Tim Roth, and Demian Bircher.

If early screenings are any indication on how the reception for the final product will be, it appears that Tarantino has once again found a way to thrill his audiences, and may very well result in a few more statues for his mantelpiece.


Brian Miller