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Unless I happen to be in Los Angeles for a premiere, I tend to skip the advance screenings of upcoming films. In large part it's due to being 50 miles outside of Chicago proper, which makes attending the advances logistically difficult - but there are exceptions. Star Wars is the one franchise that I consciously avoid attending press screenings for, even though it's the series that most would expect that I'd absolutely want to see early. The reason for that is that the Star Wars films are something special for our family, and for the modern films that Lucasfilm has been releasing under Disney ownership, the tradition is that my wife and I see them at the Thursday night "preview" showings, and then take our daughters to see them over the weekend.  My personal connection to Star Wars runs deep, and I was there working with Disney to promote the launch of J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, on the ground at the Global Media Event to play a small part in ushering in a new era of Star Wars - a return to the saga that many felt would never happen. Now, with the release of Solo: A Star Wars Story, I think we've reached a point where all generations should be enjoying these films more than ever before... if they'd just let themselves have some fun.

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When The Emoji Movie arrived in theaters this past summer, most mainstream critics weren't exactly kind to it. In fact, there was already some negative buzz swirling around it since it was first announced - and even I questioned just how, exactly, Sony Pictures was planning to execute a feature film based on the characters than live within our phones. Thing is, that's exactly what they did - with filmmaker Tony Leondis crafting a tale of a world that literally exists inside of our devices, connecting everyone. Emojis have been everywhere these past few years, and The Emoji Movie gives them purpose, because even those who openly detest the creatures who evolved from emoticons, now harbor them within their purses or pockets every single day. Thing is, this isn't a movie for grownups, but very much a tale for tech-obsessed kids, which is always something of a double-edged sword here in our house.

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In Short: After five films, TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT closes the book on a decade on cinematic adventures from Michael Bay and Co., but blasts a door wide open for more Autobots & Decepticons yet to come...

It's been ten years since Michael Bay launched TRANSFORMERS into the live-action realm, his Steven Spielberg-produced 2007 epic arriving in theaters more than two decades after the animated classic, TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE hit theater screens back in 1986. As a kid who grew up on the original series and Hasbro toys that started with 1984's "Generation One," my excitement for Bay's film series was a given - and for the past decade I've been there, capping it off by attending the U.S. premiere of TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT, the fifth film in the series, and what's being touted as "The Final Chapter" for Bay's run on the franchise.

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It's been two years since Disneynature's last theatrical release hit screens, the fantastic Monkey Kingdom. Attached to that film was an early teaser for what would be the next film from the studio, Born in China. Due to taking a year off from the Earth Day schedule, another teaser followed in 2016, and now comes the anticipated release of a film that my daughters have been asking for since they saw that first teaser two Aprils ago. While in San Francisco for the #Cars3Event last month, I had a chance to check out an early screening of Born in China, a film that is about to take audiences to some of the world's most beautiful and remote locales. 

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Monday, September 26 2016 08:00

Review: Disney's QUEEN OF KATWE

A compelling family drama with the game of chess at its center, Disney’s QUEEN OF KATWE is this year’s “sports film” under their ESPN Films banner, eschewing physical sports for that of a psychological variety. Based on the true story of Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi (played here by newcomer Madina Nalwanga) and her quest to become a Grandmaster with goals to rise above her poverty-level upbringings in the slums of Katwe, the strength of director Mira Nair’s film lies firmly in the cast of mostly unknown young actors that effortlessly inhabit the true-life characters that lived the story not-so-long-ago. The youngsters are backed by Academy Award-Winner Lupita Nyong’o (STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, 12 YEARS A SLAVE) and Emmy nominee David Oyelowo (STAR WARS REBELS, SELMA) as grownups with adversarial views of what might be best for the children, particularly Phiona in general.

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Monday, July 18 2016 08:07

Review - GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL

Note: The formal conclusion of #GhostbustersWeek here on THE ROCK FATHER Magazine, this review comes in late thanks to an unscheduled server switch. This review does contain SPOILERS...

On Friday night, fresh back from a quick, yet eventful trip to New York City for Blogger Bash '16, I found myself back in Illinois for a long-scheduled date night with my wife. The entertainment - Paul Feig's GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL (which I'm told is actually the film's official, full title, despite simply "Ghostbusters" being just fine). We bought our tickets a good week in advance, complete with dinner delivered to our seats at the local Dolby Cinema at AMC Prime - a truly fantastic way to enjoy any film, though particularly one as special effects-heavy as this one. Like so many others, we settled in to find out for ourselves what the outcome would be of the much talked-about and debated relaunch of one of the most beloved franchises from our own youth. It's a touchy spot when you have a film that's not purely a remake, nor a sequel - but something that needs to honor the past while opening the doors wide for the future, and that's GHOSTBUSTERS.

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