My website it currently undergoing a pretty major design overhaul. Please bear with me as progress continues. All of the links should still work, but you may find yourself on a page that still has the old design.
Coming soon to Joel on Film: Joel on Oscars! I'm making changes, some cosmetic and others a bit more necessary, to the front page of this website and various others throughout (Pardon my dust as I clean up around here), and that includes tackling the awards season. Yes, this will be a permanent fixture at the site now, updated every two weeks from October to broadcast. Just keep an eye on the top of the page for that soon!
There is a solid start, as well as a firm foundation in its characters, to Power Rangers. That is a surprise for this adaptation of the goofy television series that has just recently entered its 24th season and is primarily known for the over-the-top brand of karate-infused acrobatics employed by the titular superheroes to defeat various, fantastical villains and monsters. In fact, director Dean Israelite and screenwriter John Gatins barely seem interested in introducing the Rangers of the title until the point at which its climax begins, and that ends up being a good decision. I'm getting ahead of myself, though, because for a long time, it's easy to rally behind these misfits-turned-heroes, thanks to genuine chemistry between the actors and a screenplay that considers how they must end up being Rangers.
Stewing in nostalgia is no way to go through life, but it's the only way the characters in T2 Trainspotting know how to live. The film, catching us up on the lives of characters to whom we were introduced in 1996's rambunctiously enjoyable Trainspotting, also stews in that sense of nostalgia, much of it empty, because while the ending of the first film certainly hinted at an enormous amount of interpersonal conflict between its characters through the self-preservative actions of one of them, this film only deals with that conflict when the machinations of John Hodge's screenplay allow it to do so. Instead of dealing honestly with its wounded characters, director Danny Boyle inserts each of them into separate plots, then shifts randomly between them. The sense of focus and rhythm has been replaced by routine.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The 1991 animated masterpiece, a Disney production that was the first of its kind to be nominated for Best Motion Picture at the Academy Awards, receives a live-action reimagining with Beauty and the Beast, which spends a lot of time reminding us of its originator and ends up doing it too well. There have been some cosmetic tweaks in the storytelling, some of them appreciated and others mostly innocuous, but one spends the duration wondering what the point to the whole enterprise is. It's not a cynical thought, either, or at least it isn't once one moves past the question to look at the creation that sparks it. Director Bill Condon and screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos are so enamored with the earlier feature that they've gone and essentially created a facsimile of the thing. Comparisons, pesky as they can be, are impossible to avoid in this case.
The Best 10 Movies of 2016
Taking inventory of a year in film is always a difficult prospect, but with 2016, I saw a very specific thematic constant forming: empathetic storytelling. Many among my top ten -- and, indeed, beyond -- were marvels of empathy, much needed in the year with that Presidential outcome and the political trash fire that proceeded and has succeeded it. I did not see everything, of course. That seems increasingly impossible as the number of high-profile gems rises. But I did see some stuff, and what follows was the best of it.
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope
Even today, "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" is relentless in its pacing and highly effective in its relaying of the hero's journey, told through the prism of an oddball space western never expected to succeed by writer/director George Lucas. It's amusing now, seeing the film as a fairly straightforward study of good vs. evil, to consider that it was mocked by those contemporary filmmakers who thought Lucas foolish to take on such fringe genre material. This is a story of light and dark, of a force that binds the galaxy together, and of three ragtag antiheroes forced into a conflict that seems to have spanned decades.
There is the young man whose past dictates his future and his fate and who dreams of better things off in the space outside his planet that includes two suns to the west. There is the young woman, a member of her planet's royal family but far more headstrong and willful than that implies, who simply wants peace for her people. There is the scoundrel, whose gruffness is as lovable as his ruthlessness is disarming (He kills another smuggler out of both self-defense and self-preservation). There is the main heavy, a villain of real menace whose connection to the hero is the fuel for a classic revenge story and who has the physical presence necessary for the job of villain.