Many would agree that on a fundamental level, any film worth watching should be one of the following: a well-made film, or fun to watch – though preferably it should be both. Jigsaw (2017) is the sequel to Saw VII, aka Saw 3D, aka Saw: The Final Chapter (2010), and despite it being a continuation of a series even fans wanted to stay dead and buried, the film is both a significant improvement over the later entries of the series, and it’s such a laughably dumb movie that I honestly didn’t want the film to end.
A crime-mystery thriller based on a bestselling novel about a detective hunting down Norway’s first serial killer sounds like an excellent film on paper. Adapting a novel that acts as an entry in a long-standing series of stories that’ve been described as “page-turning narratives featuring Norway’s own Sherlock Holmes” should be simple and straightforward. You’d think it’d be easy for a talented cast and crew featuring Martin Scorsese, Tomas Alfredson, and Michael Fassbender, among many others, to subvert the clichés of the crime-mystery genre and produce a competent and enjoyable film at the very least.
But they didn’t.
There are times you see a trailer for a film like Martin Cambell’s The Foreigner (2017), and feel you’ve seen it once before. However, seeing such a film being produced feels like a return to normalcy in a cinematic market that attempts to pump out more blockbusters than low-budget films. Some of us here at the Film Studies Program, myself included, were lucky enough to watch The Foreigner a day in advance, and with the film’s star Jackie Chan making an appearance to discuss the film. After confirming Rush Hour 4, Jackie Chan discussed how he produced the film after watching the Taken series with Liam Neeson, wishing he could’ve been in those movies. Jackie Chan also discussed his hope that the role he plays in this film would show that he’s more than just a great martial artist and stuntman, but also a good actor.
Jim Henson is one of the great creative visionaries of the past century. From the long-standing, highly praised educational program Sesame Street, to the wonderful Labyrinth starring the late David Bowie, to the charming cast of The Muppets, who blur the line between fictitious character and real-world celebrity, Jim Henson’s career is truly underappreciated. Though among his body of work, few of his projects are as unique as his 1982 fantasy film, The Dark Crystal, which Jim Henson himself has called the hardest project he ever worked on. Despite being among the least well-known of the Jim Henson properties, the world of The Dark Crystal has inspired a huge cult following, spawning spin-off novels, comic books, and soon a Netflix prequel series. With this much buzz around the film, and a 35th anniversary screening coming to the O Cinema theater in Wynwood later this month, it’s difficult not to be intrigued by an 80s family film deemed ‘too scary for kids’.
Thirty-five years. That’s how long fans of Ridley Scott’s 1982 neo-noir classic Blade Runner have mulled over the question of whether or not Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a replicant. Today, they might finally get their answer — or simply find themselves further entrenched in the long debate for another few decades, despite Ridley Scott having voiced his own authoritative opinions on the matter. Regardless, for fans of the ’82 film, Blade Runner 2049 is going to be something special. A trip down memory lane with some intriguing new twists and turns that delve deeper into the original’s themes of human consciousness and identity. For the uninitiated, however, things might get a little ugly.
Few films ‘based on true events’ feel as ridiculously over the top as Doug Liman’s American Made (2017). Based on the life of pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise), the film follows Barry as he becomes a CIA informant taking photographs of communist rebellion groups in Central America, starts smuggling cocaine for Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel, and subsequently smuggles Russian guns to the Nicaraguan Contras on behalf of the United States Government. Let’s not forget that most of Barry’s bizarre smuggling career took place during then-President Ronald Reagan’s infamous “War on Drugs”. It sounds too comical to be true, and yet the story told by the film is closer to fact than it is to fiction.
When one decides to remake or re-adapt a narrative for the screen, there’s always a question of whether or not the new product will match or surpass the story many hold dear. In the case of Andy Muschietti’s It (2017), not only is the film a worthy successor to the 1990 TV miniseries adaptation of the eponymous Stephen King novel, but it’s an exceptionally good horror film overall. Muschietti, whose only other major film release was 2013’s Mama, manages to distill the primary themes of the first half of Stephen King’s monstrously long narrative on childhood trauma, and present it as a movie which manages to deliver some genuine scares.