The Rise of Skywalker and the Limits of J.J. Abrams

For as long as I’ve known him as a moviegoer, J.J. Abrams has done the impossible. He made me a fan of franchises like Mission: Impossible and Star Trek. That may sound hyperbolic considering De Palma’s Mission: Impossible is as iconic as its centerpiece CIA heist sequence, and that Star Trek is as immediately recognizable in geek iconography as the mere parting of your fingers. But I was never a fan of either until Abrams put his stamp on both properties.

J.J. Abrams became THE go-to guy to resuscitate any dormant film franchise, and he’s since gone on to shape the modern blockbuster as we know it like a valiant successor to Spielberg. As a result, Hollywood has entrusted him with the reins of not one but two of its most sacred franchises in Star Trek and Star Wars. Needless to say, it’s been very easy to hop on the J.J. Abrams train. Continue reading

Best Films of 2015

2015 was yet another fascinating year for film, which made composing this year-end list that much harder. It hurts to select ten movies; it’s even more agonizing to go about ranking them. For me, it’s a factor of two things: emotion and staying power. Any film can impact you in the moment. But the truly great ones stay with you long after you’ve left the theater. That is how I define great cinema. Here are the most memorable cinematic experiences I had in 2015.

  1. The Big Short the-big-short

Adam McKay’s first foray into drama is as irreverent and wonderfully madcap as any of his feature comedies, but with a much sharper focus. The Big Short isn’t just a scathing indictment of the system, it’s a critique on our own indifference. We got so comfortable in our collective disgust towards Wall Street that we failed to see the doomsday clock ticking right in front of us. We disarmed ourselves by obsessing over YouTube, smartphones, and the next reality TV star. With a bit of irony, McKay pokes fun at our fixation on celebrities by bringing in surprise cameos like Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez to break the fourth wall and deliver the blood-boiling truth behind the collapse. You can almost feel McKay’s serrated comedy edge cutting into your skin as you’re bellying over with laughter. Christian Bale disappears into yet another dynamic role; Ryan Gosling matches McKay’s satiric bite; and Steve Carrell gives a soulful performance. The Big Short is as entertaining as it is infuriating. You almost forget that these characters profited from the nation’s financial meltdown. Almost.  Continue reading