Life Itself

Editor’s Note: The following review was originally published on January 20th 2014 after a screening at the Sundance Film Festival. The review is being republished as the movie is hitting theaters.

A movie about the life of a film critic might sound a tad indulgent, but there’s never been another film critic with the influence and character of Roger Ebert. Almost anyone who’s ever seen a movie in the US (and many other countries) has heard his name or taken one of he and partner Gene Siskel’s patented “Two Thumbs Up” recommendations to the box office. As a young film fan, I remember scouring the TV Guide searching for the Sunday morning broadcasts of Siskel & Ebert, and devouring every episode. In particular, I’ll never forget an episode where Ebert dissected Quentin Tarantino’s camerawork in Pulp Fiction. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of film language. Ebert had that effect on a lot of people.

If Ebert opened up that world to people then Steve James‘ latest documentary Life Itself opens Ebert to the world. Based on Ebert’s autobiography of the same name, the film tells Ebert’s life story, yes, but it does so via the framework of our own love of the movies. Great care is taken to specifically illustrate not only how Ebert changed the face of film criticism, but how he helped us all discover our own passion for the movies.

Make no mistake though, this isn’t some simple love letter. Life Itself is a warts and all dissection as well as a beautiful tribute. Issues such as alcoholism, struggles with weight, ego and sex are all part of his story. This is a vast, entertaining and thought-provoking look at Ebert the man and Ebert the icon.

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Boyhood

Richard Linklater‘s Boyhood is one of my favorite movies of the year so far. The film tells the story of a young boy’s childhood from age 5 to age 18. You’ve probably also heard that the movie was filmed over the course of 12 years using the same actors. But it is an independent film which I understand is a hard sell for some of you. Easier to get your friends together to see a bunch of big transforming robots and explosions… The movie begins to rollout in major cities on July 11th, so I have listed 107 reasons why you need to Boyhood when it comes to your town.

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Gringotts Bank

Today I bring to you part 3 of our 4-part  in-depth tour of Universal Orlando’s new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion. I’m sorry its been split over 4 parts, but its taken some time to put all this info and photos together. Part one took a look at the London Waterfront, Diagon Alley Entrance and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Part two went into The Leaky Cauldron, Knockturn Alley and Borgin and Burkes.  Today we walk further down Diagon Alley and explore Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour, Ollivanders Wand Shop, Magical Menagerie and Gringotts Bank.

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4dx

The first 4DX movie theater in the United States opened in Los Angeles last weekend. Located in theater 6 at the Regal Cinemas LA Live in Downtown LA, the 104-seat theater books one first-run 3D movie at a time, and augments the showing with real-world physical effects. Those effects are the fourth dimension.

So, timed with the movie, you basically experience a theme park ride. Your seat rumbles and moves around, water squirts, there’s smoke, flashing lights, lumbar effects, gusting wind, even scents. The presentation admirably tries to bring the viewer into the movie.

Michael Bay‘s Transformers: Age of Extinction was the first film to play in the format here, so Peter Sciretta and myself were given a nearly three hour 4DX experience. This was great in that we were privy to the full slate of 4DX effects, but the film also became a tasking mental and physical exercise. Below, we present a video blog about the experience, along with a bunch of photos and a brief rundown of how Transformers: Age of Extinction translates into 4DX. Read More »

Knockturn Alley

Yesterday we published part one of our indepth tour of Universal Orlando’s new Wizarding World of Harry Potter Diagon Alley expansion, giving you a preview of the London Waterfront, Diagon Alley Entrance and Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes. Today we walk further down the street, eating in The Leaky Cauldron, taking a dark arts turn down Knockturn Alley where we visited Borgin and Burkes. Hit the jump to continue our Diagon Alley tour.
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Bong Snowpiercer

After some protracted disagreements with the Weinstein Company, Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer will finally hit theaters this weekend in the form that Bong intended. I’ve been a huge fan of Bong Joon-Ho since I saw Memories of Murder on DVD years ago. I find that he’s able to deftly balance wildly divergent tones in his films, from the zany to the serious, from the fantastical to the relatable.

While I had a few issues with Snowpiercer’s script (particularly some of its third-act exposition), it’s a singular film that’s like nothing else out in theaters right now. If you are lucky enough to have this film playing in a theater near you, definitely check it out.

I had the chance to chat with Bong Joon-Ho when he was here in Seattle hosting a Q&A for the film. We spoke through a translator and discussed the use of violence in Snowpiercer, his script-writing process with Kelly Masterson, and his struggles to get final cut. This interview has been edited for length and clarity, and to eliminate spoilers.
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‘Pacific Rim 2′ Set for 2017

Pacific Rim 2

It’s official: a Pacific Rim sequel is coming. Pacific Rim 2 has been set for a 2017 release, which Universal will bring to theaters. Additionally Guillermo del Toro says he’s also developing an animated Pacific Rim show that will debut before the film sequel. Read More »

IMG_0359

The following is a more personal blog that I wanted to share with you readers, some of whom who have followed me over the past nine years. While it involves Harry Potter and theme parks, its not really about either of those things (besides, you can find more about those things elsewhere on the site). The story is not an easy one for me to share, so if you decide to read the following, I ask that you be respectful in your responses.
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