Released this week in August 1988, Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ is, by its very design, a challenging work of art. It’s a film that engendered considerable controversy three decades ago and even now when people talk about it, there’s a tendency to apply conventional Western thinking and set up a false — or at least greatly oversimplified — dichotomy between the film’s detractors and its supporters.

It doesn’t really give a full or fair picture to have someone who self-identifies as non-religious defend the film as a grand artistic achievement while summing up the controversy with fiery old stories of picket lines that formed outside movie theaters and death threats Scorsese received. What gets dismissed there is the whole spectrum of moderate responses from a wide contingent of people who wouldn’t necessarily fall into one of two camps whereby you either love the film as a passionate cinephile or hate it as an overzealous fundamentalist.

Like Scorsese’s other, more recent religious film, the quietly devastating Silence, The Last Temptation of Christ is a movie that stirs profound ambivalence (going by the Google definition of “ambivalence” as “the state of having mixed feelings or contradictory ideas about something.”) Over the years, my struggle with the film has been one of biblical proportions, like the Old Testament figure of Jacob wrestling the angel.

Read More »

In 1971, a young director named George Lucas was coming off the commercial failure of his first feature-length motion picture, THX 1138. While that film has since gone on to achieve cult classic status as a preStar Wars curio, it was, at the time, a financial flop that earned mixed reviews. During the film’s production, producer Francis Ford Coppola — who was on the cusp of his own mainstream directorial breakthrough with The Godfather — had issued a challenge to Lucas. The challenge was to write a screenplay with more mainstream appeal, something audiences would enjoy, a crowd-pleaser.

The result was American Graffiti. Released in August of 1973, American Graffiti remains the most down-to-earth, human movie Lucas ever made. There are no space battles here, just a group of kids cruising around town on the last night before two of them are supposed to go off to college. That relatable, coming-of-age aspect gives the film a timeless quality. Yet being four and a half decades removed from its debut in theaters and several generations removed from the time period it evokes also means that its setting might look as alien as a Star Wars planet to some viewers. The movie presents a vision of an America long gone, one where carhops roller-skate through the parking lot of drive-in restaurants and teenagers drag race through the streets in hot rods.

Let’s take a look back at American Graffiti in honor of its 45th anniversary.

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • How is Universal Orlando’s heavily rumored fourth park affecting ride plans at its other parks?
  • Go behind-the-scenes at Halloween Horror Nights to see how the annual scare-fest comes together.
  • Get some cool new details on the Cars attraction coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • A new moving floor technology in the works at Disney might soon make VR treadmills a viable thing.
  • That revamped Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup ride you’ve been waiting for is finally here.
  • And more!

Read More »

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks for Godzilla fans. Though it got a bit lost in the shuffle thanks to all the news coming out of San Diego Comic-Con, the second installment in Netflix’s anime Godzilla trilogy is now available to stream. Godzilla: City on the Edge of Battle continues the story — and the thread of Planet of the Apes homages — from Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, as protagonist Haruo Sakaki and the remnants of humanity encounter a tribe of telepathic, underground-dwelling humanoids, who worship a glowing egg instead of a nuclear bomb like the mutants in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. The movie also features the King of the Monsters squaring off against the “autonomous smart metal” of Mechagodzilla City.

Then, of course, there is the epic trailer for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which introduced Rodan, Mothra, and the three-headed King Ghidorah into Legendary Entertainment’s MonsterVerse. Casual fans and viewers who are new to the mythos may have some questions about all these new allies and adversaries entering Godzilla’s world. Let’s crack open the case files on Mechagodzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah. Here’s everything you need to know.

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Find out about the newest haunted house coming to Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights.
  • Is a Halloween-themed version of World of Color on the way at Disney California Adventure?
  • Sucking down drinks from a disposable plastic straw at Disney will soon be a thing of the past.
  • Which doors at Walt Disney World will that nifty new “Digital Key” for hotel guests unlock now?
  • See Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly announce the name of Hong Kong’s Ant-Man and the Wasp ride.
  • And more!

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

dark knight wreckage

(Welcome to The Dark Knight Legacy, a series of articles that explore Christopher Nolan’s superhero masterpiece in celebration of its 10th anniversary.)

Seeing Heath Ledger in real life on a Manhattan talk show stage. Dressing up as the Joker for Halloween. Receiving a text from a friend in a parked car the night news of Ledger’s death broke. Dressing up as the Joker again for the movie’s midnight premiere. Seeing the movie eight times in the theater. Driving to Austin that summer and witnessing the world’s largest urban bat colony fly out from under a bridge at dusk.

These are among my own personal experiences with The Dark Knight. I can’t speak for everyone but I’d venture to say there are a lot of other movie news nerds out there with memories related to the film’s development and how it intersected with their own lives from 2007 to 2008. Outside the movie theater, the real-world experience of The Dark Knight was its own kind of adventure: a juggernaut of hype that delivered dark drama and became a billion-dollar cultural phenomenon. This is what it was like to be part of the fan culture at that time, at least for one Batman fanboy who went from being a college dropout to a graduate who now moonlights as a movie blogger.

Read More »

At the very beginning of Akira, Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark anime feature, the date “1988.7.16” appears on screen as the camera traces a long metropolitan expressway up through a vast urban sprawl to where a cluster of Tokyo skyscrapers is visible with Mount Fuji in the distance. Suddenly, everything is enveloped in an all-consuming white blast.

That’s the effect the movie itself would have on pop culture. 30 years ago today, Akira helped introduce the Western world to anime and beyond the oft-cited laundry list of film and television properties it influenced in Hollywood — The Matrix, the Star Wars prequels, Chronicle, Looper, and Stranger Things being among the more notable examples — the movie also predicted the real-world site of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Saddle up on your futuristic red motorcycles and let’s take a look back at Akira on its 30th anniversary. Spoilers follow for one of the greatest science fiction and animated films of all time.

Read More »

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • The paralyzed yeti in Disney’s Expedition Everest ride may finally be on track to move again.
  • Some misattributed photos have led to false reports of an animatronic Lion King movie model.
  • Florida parkgoers, you’ll definitely want to see what your new Mickey Mouse beignets look like.
  • A man in his eighties has settled his lawsuit against Disneyland for kicking him out of Club 33.
  • Will gamers one day be gaming at Univeral Studios in direct synergy with Super Nintendo World?
  • And more!

Read More »

The 9 Best and Worst ‘Die Hard’ Knock-Offs

die hard

(This week marks the 30th anniversary of Die Hard, arguably the greatest action movie of all time. To celebrate, /Film is exploring the film from every angle with a series of articles. Today: examining the film’s legacy through the numerous rip-offs and knock-offs it inspired in the ’90s.)

If you’ve ever seen the Honest Trailer for Die Hard, then you may recall the lightning round of references at the end riffing on how it was “the original masterpiece that inspired countless knockoffs.” Director John McTiernan’s 1988 film redefined Bruce Willis as an action star and gave rise to a pervasive action-movie formula in which the proverbial one man *epic movie trailer voice* is trapped in a single setting with a bunch of bad guys.

Owing to this, the movie’s title has become a metonym used to refer to other flicks with similar plots. “Die Hard on a plane, Die Hard on a train,” etc. If you grew up during the heyday of ‘90s action movies like I did, then it’s possible you may have been snapping open Blockbuster Video cases to watch some of these flicks at home in your living room before you ever even saw Die Hard or realized that it had influenced them.

As we celebrate its 30th anniversary here on /Film, let’s take a look back at nine key instances from the ‘90s where Hollywood movies recapitulated the Die Hard formula and in some cases launched or reinvented the careers of other notable action movie stars and franchises. Viewed with an appreciation for genre history, these nine derivative actioners (coupled with some honorable mentions from the ’90s and beyond) still hold rewatch value, while illuminating special aspects of Die Hard and showing how it was the gift that kept on giving.

Spoilers for all of these movies lie ahead.

Read More »

Universal Orlando's Cinematic Celebration

In this edition of Theme Park Bits:

  • Are you ready to commune with real live Force ghosts at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
  • Check out the expanded model for Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
  • See new concept art for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios.
  • A motorcade of Cars characters will be zooming into Walt Disney World next year.
  • Watch a full video of the new Jurassic World show at Universal Studios Singapore.
  • Which Universal resort hosted a star-studded, in-park movie premiere this week?
  • And more!

Read More »