Home » Film Reviews » Recent Articles:

La La Land: A Study on Perseverance and Individuality

April 17, 2017 Film Reviews Comments Off on La La Land: A Study on Perseverance and Individuality

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)

 

La La Land is an invigorating and romantic love letter to Hollywood. Its casts’ performances are natural and relatable, and the film features one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film ever. It is a triumph, a colorful joy to witness, and is, in the opinion of this reviewer, an instant, genre-redefining classic.

The last great modern musical I saw was Baz Luhrman’s Moulin Rouge. After that film was released, droves of choir and theatre kids at my high school were singing songs and re-enacting scenes from that film. Now, I am sure there are a number of scenes from La La Land being re-enacted in the living rooms and high school stages everywhere by young would-be performers and, in the words of one of the film’s signature songs, “the dreamers.”

The thesis of La La Land is hard to define. On one hand, it is a study on perseverance, as it profiles two characters in LA who are pursing their dreams into their late 20s. On the other hand, it is about being true to yourself and using your unique qualities to carve your own path. The character’s journeys both remind me of the filmmakers who distribute on YouTube or the bands who self-release their own albums, forgoing the typical studio “systems.” Emma Stone’s character Mia wants to be a famous actress, while Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian wants to own his own Jazz club. Both characters pursue their goals in different ways and struggle with notions of ‘selling out’ and forgoing their dreams for what is stable.

This aspect of the film struck a chord with me, as I’m sure it did with many aspiring artists, about the balance between being true to yourself as an artist and being labeled as a ‘corporate sell out.’ But one aspect of the film that didn’t appeal to me was how it defined “success.” Being able to flex my God-given creative muscles and create is, yes, such an amazing gift and opportunity; but serving my wife and being a great father is so much more meaningful to me. That is my success, regardless of what I have contributed to the world creatively. If, at the end of my days, I’ve left behind caring and compassionate people who love God and others, and I haven’t directed five features, my life has still been a success.

The main characters both encourage each other to not give up in the face of constant rejection. Near the end of the film, Emma Stone’s character poignantly expresses the frustation felt by all undiscovered actors…“I can’t do this anymore…five years of going from audition to audition…they laugh at me while I’m crying, order a sandwich in the middle of my scene, and walk out to see a room full of girls that look just like me only prettier. I’m done.”

La La Land is an homage to those brave souls who go to Hollywood to pursue their dreams, and the film offers us that very rare point of view of what two optimistic idealists must do to maintain and survive the rigors of LA.

Logan: A Thought-Provoking, Conflicting Film Experience

March 27, 2017 Film Reviews Comments Off on Logan: A Thought-Provoking, Conflicting Film Experience

by Sarah Wickenhauser, The Filmstrip editor and graphic design student. (Published in The Filmstrip, March 2017 edition.)

 

Because of the explosion of popularity superhero films have seen in popular culture, it has become increasingly common for superhero films to “break the boundaries” of their genre in an attempt to stay fresh and relevant. “Deadpool” (2016) was an irreverent comedy; “Doctor Strange” (2016) was a mystical fantasy adventure; “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) was a sci-fi space story; so what is “Logan”, 2017’s superhero film from Marvel and 20th Century Fox?

Since “Logan” marks the end of Hugh Jackman’s contract for his recurring role as the character Logan/Wolverine, and this film is his character’s farewell to the franchise, the plot and tone of the story definitely reflects this fact. The film is set in the future (2029) and depicts Logan as aged, haggard, and continually weakening. All the other mutants have been killed except for Caliban (played by Stephen Merchant) and Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), who live in hiding in an abandoned smelting plant in Mexico. Logan spends his days caring for Xavier, who is suffering from an unspecified neurodegenerative disease that causes him to have dangerous telepathic seizures. While smuggling drugs to help keep Xavier’s seizures under control, Logan meets a woman who begs him to escort her and a young girl named Laura to a safe haven in North Dakota. Logan at first refuses; but when the woman is murdered by goons for the biotechnology corporation Transigen, and the girl Laura is revealed to be a mutant with the same powers as the Wolverine, Logan and Xavier begin their journey with Laura to the mutant safe haven in North Dakota.

The film earns its R rating from being filled with violence and language, but between the hard-core action scenes is the tender story of a weary old man who discovers one last thing to protect and live for: his new progeny Laura. The entire story is tinged with a bittersweet tone of sentiment, especially for fans of the X-Men series and Hugh Jackman’s character Wolverine. The film’s juxtaposition of violence and tenderness impressed many critics; one reviewer, Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly, said the film was “both the most violent film in the series and the most sentimental one; When it’s not showering you in blood, it’s trying to make you spill tears.”

As a casual fan of the X-Men series and superhero movies in general, I have mixed feelings about this film. Though I agree with the majority of the positive critical consensus, I feel like the film was missing the element that made superhero films popular in the first place: the fact that the world of superhero stories didn’t have to be dark, grim, and realistic. I know realism has a place in cinema, but the world is already dark enough in reality without the world of entertainment having to be dark as well. The tone in “Logan” wasn’t entirely devoid of hope, but I’m just not a fan of stories that are so depressing that they make you walk out of the theater feeling empty and despondent.

Of course, the film’s R-rated content makes the movie confusing as well, because in my mind, the kind of people who enjoy sitting through hours of gore and f-words are not same as the kind of people who enjoy a sentimental, tear-jerker story about family, old age, and death. Especially since the movie is apparently attempting to also appeal to the Deadpool crowd, since a dark-humored Deadpool short film plays before Logan starts.

In short, “Logan” is a thought-provoking film with fascinatingly conflicting elements…but I can only recommend it to viewers who are already used to R-rated content, because it is not exactly wholesome entertainment.

Marvel Studios Takes a Trip Into the World of Magic in Doctor Strange

December 1, 2016 Film Reviews Comments Off on Marvel Studios Takes a Trip Into the World of Magic in Doctor Strange

by Sarah Wickenhauser, graphic design student. (Published in The Filmstrip, December 2016 edition.)

 

Since Marvel Studios has made some of the highest-grossing movies in recent history, changing the formula that made them a success is a risky move. Did it pay off in this strange new addition to their movie anthology?

 
“Doctor Strange” tells the story of the Marvel character Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), a brilliant but cocky neurosurgeon whose life falls apart after he is in a horrendous car accident that crushes both of his hands. Unable to return to his medical profession, he spends all of his money on procedures that all fail to give him back the use of his hands – and eventually, destitute and alone, he ends up at the door of a strange Tibetan monastery, his last resort. There, he is introduced to the mystic arts by the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), a mysterious sorceress who claims to be responsible for holding all dark magic in check and protecting the Earth from it. However, a rebel sorcerer works in the background to unleash a ravenous demon on the world in exchange for eternal life – and eventually, it’s up to Steven to use his newly discovered magical powers to defend the Earth from darkness.

 
The many movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have scarcely diverted from their established pattern – most of them are set on Earth and feature superheroes who got their powers from science. Delving into the mystic side of Marvel lore was breaking new territory. Of course, some of the familiar elements of other MCU movies are present – such as Stan Lee’s cameo, and the frequent moments of humor to lighten the mood. However, I personally felt like some of these elements detracted from the story instead of adding to it. The story was already so different from any of the other Marvel movies that trying to tie it in with the others seemed ineffectual.

 
On the technical side, the movie was excellent. The acting was superb, a fact that saved some moments in the script that would have been dry or even painful to watch if less talented actors had been hired. The effects, though impressive, were almost dizzying to watch – even though I am a fan of the 3D trend in modern movies, I don’t think I would have been able to stomach seeing this movie thrown at me in three dimensions. The way magic was portrayed in the story relied on these special effects – with streets bending into cubes and gravity folding in on itself Inception-style – but if the primary purpose of these over-the-top effects was to be jarring to the eyes, then their creator succeeded.

 
Overall, this movie is definitely worth a watch, perhaps even several if you are sucked in by the story as I was. Stop by the theater to see it while it is still playing, or rent it when it comes out on Blu-ray and DVD around February 2017.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Fan’s Perspective

December 1, 2016 Film Reviews Comments Off on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Fan’s Perspective

by Patricia Santiago, film student. (Published in The Filmstrip, December 2016 edition.)

 

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a film about magic zoologist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who finds himself in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards in 1962. He befriends a muggle (non-magical person) played by Dan Fogler, an ex-auror (hunter of rogue wizards) played by Katherine Waterson, and a witch (played by Alison Sudol) who works a desk job in the Magic Permit Office. After losing his fantastic beasts, Newt and his friends run around New York City trying to find them.

 
If you are a fan of the Harry Potter film and/or book series, it’s definitely a must-watch. The music and spells will bring you back to the wizarding world you’ve missed for so long. New animals and characters are introduced, but you do hear some familiar names thrown in there, like Dumbledore, Grindelwald, and Lestrange.
Although these new characters are introduced to the wizarding world we all know, the movie is a set-up for the next four sequels. The characters are there, but there wasn’t very much character development happening, which I hope will take care of itself as the movies go along. It seemed as if the characters were very awkward in each other’s presence and did not want to speak. I say this because there were a lot of reaction shots. It’s understandable for a muggle to be speechless and shocked when introduced to magic, but witches and wizards should be friendly with each other.

 
One thing that did surprise me was how much effort was put into the fantastic beasts. Each was unique and different, and held its own specific trait. While some were funny and curious, others were scary and deadly. One creature that is familiar to the muggle world as the dodo bird, made an appearance in the film. It is known to wizards and witches as the Diricrawl. They possess the ability to vanish and reappear elsewhere in a puff of feathers, which is what led muggles to think that they were extinct. Such creativeness can be expected when J.K. Rowling was the creator.

 
As mentioned before, if you are a fan of the world of magic, you must  go watch it. It will engulf you in cloud of nostalgia and make you wish that you had never left the wizarding world. Now, to those who were never involved in this magical world, you might want to go watch the Harry Potter films. Because “Fantastic Beasts” is directed towards an audience that knows a lot about the wizarding world, the movie leaves a lot of explaining out of it. Although they pause for a while to explain magic to the only muggle character in the film, it would be best to inform yourself about the world of magic before watching the film.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

November 2, 2016 Film Reviews Comments Off on Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

by Dexter Van Horn, film student. (Published in The Filmstrip, November 2016 edition.)

 

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back stars Tom Cruise in his second time as the titular character, as well as Cobie Smulders as Major Susan Turner (love interest?) and Danika Yarosh as Samantha (his daughter??).

In a quick synopsis; Reacher goes to DC to meet Susan, but she’s caught up in a conspiratory plot and has been falsely arrested. Reacher, as an ex-major, gets screwed up in the plot with Susan and it’s up to them as well as Samantha, a girl who might be his daughter to stop it and clear their names.

There’s action, adventure, comedy, intimacy and most importantly… fighting/car chase/ shooting/explosion scenes!

But will they clear their names before they are killed by the plot planners or the police?!

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back debuted in theaters on October 21, 2016. See it in a theater near you!

Subscribe to the Filmstrip

Archives

Film Reviews

La La Land: A Study on Perseverance and Individuality

17 Apr 2017

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   La La Land is an invigorating and romantic love letter to Hollywood. Its casts’ performances are natural and relatable, and the film features one of the most memorable opening sequences of any film …

Logan: A Thought-Provoking, Conflicting Film Experience

27 Mar 2017

by Sarah Wickenhauser, The Filmstrip editor and graphic design student. (Published in The Filmstrip, March 2017 edition.)   Because of the explosion of popularity superhero films have seen in popular culture, it has become increasingly common for superhero films to “break the boundaries” of their genre in an attempt to …

Marvel Studios Takes a Trip Into the World of Magic in Doctor Strange

1 Dec 2016

by Sarah Wickenhauser, graphic design student. (Published in The Filmstrip, December 2016 edition.)   Since Marvel Studios has made some of the highest-grossing movies in recent history, changing the formula that made them a success is a risky move. Did it pay off in this strange new addition to their …

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: A Fan’s Perspective

1 Dec 2016

by Patricia Santiago, film student. (Published in The Filmstrip, December 2016 edition.)   “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” is a film about magic zoologist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), who finds himself in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards in 1962. He befriends a muggle (non-magical person) …

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

2 Nov 2016

by Dexter Van Horn, film student. (Published in The Filmstrip, November 2016 edition.)   Jack Reacher: Never Go Back stars Tom Cruise in his second time as the titular character, as well as Cobie Smulders as Major Susan Turner (love interest?) and Danika Yarosh as Samantha (his daughter??). In a …

Student Exhibit

Digital Painting Class Caricaturizes Huntington Crew

27 Mar 2017

by Sarah Wickenhauser, graphic design student. (Published in The Filmstrip, March 2017 edition.)   For the eight weeks since the spring 2017 semester started, Huntington University Arizona’s graphic design students have been studying a variety of subjects, from 3D sculpture to vector art to photo compositing…and in Daniel Sidler’s Digital …

Latest Graphic Design Student Projects Strike an Emotional Chord

6 Oct 2016 | Posted By: Sarah Wickenhauser

Since starting class the end of August, Professor Daniel Sidler’s graphic design students have been applying themselves to learning how to communicate clear messages with their art. Their latest project, to express an emotion in a piece of art, was evidence of what they have learned so far this semester! …

General

Production 2 Final Film Project Combines Forces of Entire Class

17 Apr 2017

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   Rule: teaching a group of creative young people requires you yourself to be… well, creative. One of the things I love about teaching is that it continually forces you to dream, invent, and design …

Social Media Madness at HUAZ!

17 Apr 2017

by Jamie SanFilippo, Coordinator of Student Services. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   After March Madness left Phoenix, HUAZ got into Social Media Madness! We made a goal with our students to boost our outreach efforts and raise more awareness across all social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and …

Schoolwide Events Enjoyed Amongst Students

17 Apr 2017

by Jamie SanFilippo, Coordinator of Student Services. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   What a fun-filled month we’ve had at Huntington so far! It has been jam-packed with activities for our students, giving them an opportunity to hang out outside of the classroom. The first week, our ladies’ …

News

Production 2 Final Film Project Combines Forces of Entire Class

17 Apr 2017

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   Rule: teaching a group of creative young people requires you yourself to be… well, creative. One of the things I love about teaching is that it continually forces you to dream, invent, and design …

HUAZ Helps Host Special Visual Effects Symposium

27 Mar 2017

by Jeff Berggren, HU Director of Arizona Operations. (Published in The Filmstrip, March 2017 edition.)   What could be better than appreciating the details of the excellent visual effects in movies such as Night at the Museum, Captain America, The Avenger films, The Great Wall, and Harry Potter? How about …

Experimental Short Film Project Brings January Term Class Together

16 Jan 2017

by Phil Wilson, Program Director and Lead Film Faculty. (Published in The Filmstrip, January 2017 edition.) A group of students tote cameras and film gear along a hillside as the sun approaches golden hour. They frame up their actor, who is contemplative, thoughtful, and enamored with the beauty that surrounds …

Events

Social Media Madness at HUAZ!

17 Apr 2017

by Jamie SanFilippo, Coordinator of Student Services. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   After March Madness left Phoenix, HUAZ got into Social Media Madness! We made a goal with our students to boost our outreach efforts and raise more awareness across all social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and …

Schoolwide Events Enjoyed Amongst Students

17 Apr 2017

by Jamie SanFilippo, Coordinator of Student Services. (Published in The Filmstrip, April 2017 edition.)   What a fun-filled month we’ve had at Huntington so far! It has been jam-packed with activities for our students, giving them an opportunity to hang out outside of the classroom. The first week, our ladies’ …

HUAZ Helps Host Special Visual Effects Symposium

27 Mar 2017

by Jeff Berggren, HU Director of Arizona Operations. (Published in The Filmstrip, March 2017 edition.)   What could be better than appreciating the details of the excellent visual effects in movies such as Night at the Museum, Captain America, The Avenger films, The Great Wall, and Harry Potter? How about …