Movie review: Does Academy Awards front-runner ‘La La Land’ live up to all the hype?

While technically any of the films nominated for “best picture” could take home that coveted statuette during the Academy Awards on Sunday night, the front-runner has long been viewed as “La La Land” (though don’t count out “Moonlight” just yet — it could very well pull off an upset). It’s easy to see why Academy voters have fallen head over heels for “La La Land” — it’s an old-fashioned musical with singing and dancing that hearkens back to the days of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. In many ways, the film is a love letter to the mythos of Hollywood, the magical land where you can follow your dreams and fall in love.

At least, that’s what the film looks like on its surface. Yet even as it celebrates the magic of Hollywood with grand song and dance numbers, it also offers a surprisingly realistic (and poignant) look at how Tinseltown isn’t always full of perfect “happily ever afters.” The film’s ultimate message is that while you shouldn’t give up on your dreams, you should also realize that sometimes life doesn’t work out exactly as we plan. Continue reading “Movie review: Does Academy Awards front-runner ‘La La Land’ live up to all the hype?” »

Movie review: ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ offers plenty of colorful, entertaining mayhem

We’ve seen many incarnations of Batman since he first made the jump from the comic book page to the screen. He’s been both campy and gritty, animated and live action, and occasionally cringe-inducing (yes, I’m referring to you, “Batman and Robin”). He also ended up stealing the show in tiny brick form in 2014’s unexpected hit “The Lego Movie.” Will Arnett’s Lego caped crusader quickly emerged as a fan favorite from that movie, and he’s now been given his own standalone feature, out in theaters this past weekend. Although it can’t quite top the original “Lego Movie,” it’s a fun, colorful adventure with plenty to keep both adults and children entertained. Continue reading “Movie review: ‘The Lego Batman Movie’ offers plenty of colorful, entertaining mayhem” »

Trailer touchdown: Best movie teasers from the Super Bowl

Super Bowl commercials have become a competitive sport in their own right, and for movie buffs, it’s always fun to watch the big game to see what film teasers Hollywood releases. While we didn’t get a trailer for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” we did see teasers for a number of highly-anticipated films. Find all the trailers here, or read about some of the highlights below.  Continue reading “Trailer touchdown: Best movie teasers from the Super Bowl” »

2017 movie preview

With the return of the Guardians, the rise of the Justice League, and (hopefully!) some answers about why Luke Skywalker has been hiding all alone on a deserted island, 2017 looks to be an epic year at the movies. We’ll see the next chapters in many well-loved film franchises and also some potential comebacks and breakout hits. Here are the top movies I’m keeping an eye on for this coming year. Continue reading “2017 movie preview” »

Movie review: ‘Arrival’ offers thought-provoking, insightful sci-fi

By Ashley Pauls/Box Office Buzz

One day without warning, 12 strangely-shaped alien ships appear on the Earth’s surface, landing at various sites around the globe. Humanity’s natural reaction to these vessels is to panic, especially since the aliens’ purpose remains unclear. Are they here to investigate or invade? Do they actually want to communicate with the humans or do they merely want to gather information to use later on in an attack?

The U.S. government recruits linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to help them attempt to communicate with the aliens. Although Louise has done difficult translation work before, this will be the greatest challenge of her career. The aliens speak in a series of unintelligible sounds no one can seem to understand. However, Louise has a breakthrough when she convinces the aliens to start writing down their language — although their version of “writing down” is actually squirting circular inky shapes into the air. As Louise begins to decipher their language and communicate in return, the aliens send her what could be a threatening message…or perhaps she’s just misinterpreting it. She’ll need to decipher it quickly before other countries around the world respond with violence to the mysterious aliens and perhaps trigger a doomsday event. Continue reading “Movie review: ‘Arrival’ offers thought-provoking, insightful sci-fi” »

Movie review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (spoiler free!)

By Ashley Pauls/Box Office Buzz

The destruction of the first Death Star was the beginning of the end for the Empire. Not only was it a huge tactical setback, it was also a major morale booster for the Rebellion. Without that key moment, the Death Star would have kept terrorizing and destroying worlds, and the Rebellion likely would have been crushed.

The destruction of the Death Star wouldn’t have been possible without a brave band of rebels stealing the plans, and until now that particular event has been a mere footnote in the Star Wars franchise. “Rogue One” finally tells that story, giving us a glimpse into the birth of the Rebellion and the brave sacrifices that were made to end the tyranny of the Empire. Continue reading “Movie review: ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (spoiler free!)” »

Movie review: ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ returns to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world

fantastic-beasts-cast-xlargeBy Ashley Pauls/Box Office Buzz

Harry Potter fans assumed we had seen the last of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world on the big screen after the release of “The Deathly Hallows: Part 2” in 2011. Harry Potter finally defeated the dark wizard Voldemort and found his happy ending. However, while Harry’s cinematic journey was done, Rowling still had wizarding stories to tell. She wrote a screenplay inspired by her fictional guide to the magical creatures of the Harry Potter universe, called “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” The new movie serves as a prequel of sorts to the Harry Potter stories, taking place in 1920s New York instead of the modern-day United Kingdom.

Former Hogwarts student Newt Scamander lands in New York City with a case of magical creatures that he can’t quite keep contained. Of course, several of these creatures get loose, and he has to enlist the help of two sisters who also have wizarding powers, as well as a somewhat overwhelmed No-Maj (the American word for “Muggle”). Four friends chasing magical creatures around the city would be a rather thin plot for a movie, so of course there’s more going on behind the scenes. As they search for the creatures, Newt and his friends stumble across a darker threat to the wizarding community. An “Obscurus,” a dark force that is created when magical children try to hide their powers, has been committing terrible acts, destroying buildings and even killing No-Majs. A key figure within the Magical Congress of the United States may also be trying to use the child’s powers for their own purpose. Continue reading “Movie review: ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ returns to J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world” »

Stranger things: ‘Doctor Strange’ adds a trippy new dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

doctor-strange-movie-composer-cumberbatchBy Ashley Pauls/Box Office Buzz

The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Iron Man” — is actually fairly grounded (well, at least as far as superhero films go). Tony Stark is an ordinary guy with no superpowers who builds himself a special mechanical suit he uses to defeat a guy with a bigger suit who wants to take over his company. Even in “Thor,” which features superpowers and a mythical hammer, most of the action takes place on Earth. However, Marvel has slowly been pushing the boundaries of reality, introducing the Infinity Stones and going full cosmic in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Now, Marvel is delving into a magical dimension with “Doctor Strange.”

Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is an arrogant but talented surgeon known for his cutting-edge techniques. Unfortunately, a devastating car accident damages the nerves in his hands and derails his career. When modern medicine fails him, desperation forces him to try something more mystical. Despite his initial skepticism, he learns reality as he perceives it is only a small slice of a much more complicated, mysterious universe. He learns how to use magic and travel to new dimensions, finding a greater purpose beyond just himself. Continue reading “Stranger things: ‘Doctor Strange’ adds a trippy new dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe” »

Wizards, westerns, and the return of an iconic Star Wars weapon (hint: it’s the Death Star!): Fall/winter 2016 movie preview

AN1-148562r_0By Ashley Pauls
Box Office Buzz

If you found the summer blockbuster season to be a little lackluster this year, never fear! Hollywood’s line-up of fall/winter movies is almost here, and it’s packed full of must-see movies and some potential breakout hits. Although it was tough to narrow down the list, here are the seven movies I’m most looking forward to later this year. Continue reading “Wizards, westerns, and the return of an iconic Star Wars weapon (hint: it’s the Death Star!): Fall/winter 2016 movie preview” »

Movie review: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ a beautifully animated, charming film for all ages

kubo-and-monkeyBy Ashley Pauls
Box Office Buzz

Mid to late August is sometimes seen as a dumping ground for movies Hollywood doesn’t have a lot of confidence in. Either the quality is mediocre or the studio fears it will become a flop. These movies just can’t compete with the big-ticket summer blockbusters. However, every once in a while you’ll find a hidden, late-summer gem, and one of those movies is “Kubo and the Two Strings,” out in theaters this past weekend. Although “Kubo” debuted at the box office in fourth place with just $12.6 million, this imaginative, beautifully-animated film is worth seeking out.

Currently sitting at 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, “Kubo and the Two Strings” is a product of animation studio Laika Entertainment, which also created “Coraline” and “ParaNorman.” The studio is known for its stop motion computer animated visuals. Kubo follows a young boy with a magical Japanese instrument called a “shamisen” who lives with his mother in a cave on the outskirts of a small village. Every day Kubo travels to the village to earn money by telling stories, using his magical instrument to bring origami creations to life. His mother has warned Kubo not to venture outside after dark, because his evil aunts and grandfather, the Moon King, will come for him. Continue reading “Movie review: ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ a beautifully animated, charming film for all ages” »