SPECIAL: The Best Movies of 2015

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Chris Luckett

Last year, in my Best Movies of 2014 article, I commented on how weak a year we’d had. If only I’d known what 2015 would be like!

For the first time since I launched The Apple Box in 2011, I don’t have 25 movies to strongly recommend. I’ve always said the only movies that deserve to be on a “Best of the Year” list are 4½- and 5-star films, and standing by that, that leaves me with 17. Just 17 movies last year, out of the nearly 150 that I saw, were good enough to write home about.

There were far more average or mediocre movies compared to great ones last year, but that doesn’t mean 2015 was a wash, by any means. These 17 movies, in fact, feel all the more special by being surrounded by weaker fare than usual. These films reminded us all that no matter how bad a year’s cinematic crop, there will always be brilliant movies. Continue reading

REVIEW: Mockingjay, Part 2

Photo: Lionsgate

Photo: Lionsgate

Chris Luckett

Any time a popular book series is adapted to film, changes are always necessary. Such changes, though, do invariably yield a different experience for the movies than their literary sources.

For Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy, the single change that’s had the most effect on the movie franchise has been shifting the focus from the first-person point-of-view of the books — in the novels, the reader never sees anything Katniss Everdeen herself doesn’t — to the multiple perspectives that allow for cross-cutting to Seneca Crane’s control room or President Snow’s office or the barracks of District 13.

That alteration, however seemingly unimportant, has created a different animal than Collins depicted, for better and for worse. The stories have been more spectacular on screen, but never as intimate as the books, for that very reason. Continue reading

REVIEW: Mockingjay, Part 1

Photo: Lionsgate

Photo: Lionsgate

Chris Luckett

When it was announced in 2008 that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows would be split into two movies, such an idea for a franchise’s climax seemed odd and alien. While many cynical moviegoers cried studio greed, it was seen by many as a strong creative decision, considering how much material was in J.K. Rowling’s ultimate book.

In the wake of Harry’s two-parter ending, though, more and more movie series have decided to follow suit, from the Twilight saga’s Breaking Dawn to the recent announcements that the Divergent and Avengers trilogies would become 4-parters. Moves like these feel more studio-driven and motivated by dollars rather than fan satisfaction, and it the very thing that hurts Mockingjay, Part 1 the most.

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REVIEW: Catching Fire

Photo: Lionsgate

Photo: Lionsgate

Chris Luckett

Twenty or 30 years ago, film adaptations usually didn’t have to worry about aping their source books exactly. The recent influx of book series with rabid fan bases being adapted into films, though, has led to filmmakers being afraid to cut scenes that worked in the book but don’t in the movie. Catching Fire is a better movie than The Hunger Games was, but it still ultimately falls into the same traps by treating its source novel as gospel.

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