About 400 days out from its theatrical premiere, the next Star Wars movie now has a full title.

Predictably, there are more opinions about Star Wars: The Force Awakens being caps-lock shouted online than there are womp rats in Beggar's Canyon.  Emotions run high.  That's just how it is with Star Wars, and J.J. Abrams's patented Mystery Box secrecy only amplifies the immediate, intense scrutiny of every single official scrap from Lucasfilm's table.

The most obvious criticism of The Force Awakens as a title is that it's vague, a little generic, and pretty meaningless.  Those very qualities allow Abrams to maintain a sense of mystery that will last until a few weeks before December 18, 2015.  By then, in the middle of Disney's all-out global promotional clusterbomb, you'll have to actively avoid spoilers or big story beats.

It's not really any more vanilla than A New Hope or The Phantom Menace, which kicked off their respective trilogies.  These monikers aren't really about dynamism, they're about a mood.  If nothing else, this new one is more active than those two forerunners: at least here, the title gives the impression that something (the Force) is doing something (awakening).

But The Force Awakens isn't just keeping a secret, nor is it making a bombastic declaration.  The title is all about implication, all about so, so quietly whispering sweet, sweet promises into your ear. 

What are J.J. and company whispering to us with Star Wars: The Force Awakens? In a sly way, they're promising a return to first principles for the franchise, bringing back that uncut magic and launching a future in which Star Wars is somehow more loyal to what George Lucas created now that Lucas himself is only peripherally involved.

In short, they're promising to make you forget about the prequels.


Wednesday, 05 November 2014 11:59

With Interstellar, Christopher Nolan and his phenomenal cast are boldly taking audiences where no one has gone before.

As a writer-director, Nolan has already explored unusual places, from the labyrinth of an amnesiac's mind (Memento) to levels of dreams (Inception) to the urban battleground of Gotham City (the Dark Knight trilogy).

Interstellar presents a far bigger canvas than any of those films, as the blockbuster auteur uses trippy astrophysics to take mankind to the farthest reaches of space.

The film takes place in a near future in which Earth is on the brink of being unable to support human life.  In an effort to find a new home for our species, NASA mounts a mission sending a team of explorers through a wormhole, a cosmic shortcut allowing the intrepid crew to conquer seemingly insurmountable distances.

Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club Oscar winner) stars as Cooper, a widowed pilot and engineer called upon to lead the mission, which includes Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables Oscar winner) as Amelia, a scientist with her own deeply personal reasons for exploring space.  Jessica Chastain (Oscar nominee for Zero Dark Thirty), meanwhile, stays Earthbound as Murph, Cooper's grown-up daughter.

Thanks to Managing Editor Jami Philbrick, IAR was on hand for the Interstellar Los Angeles press day, where Nolan, McConaughey, Hathaway, and Chastain enthusiastically discussed the origins of Interstellar, its aspirational qualities, the thematic focus on family, their own recollections of NASA, acting in spacesuits, and what, ultimately, Interstellar is all about.

The unexpected journey to the Lonely Mountain gets even longer today, but you don't have to face a dragon spitting hot fire to get at this HD treasure.

Instead, you can simply pick up The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug now that the middle chapter in Peter Jackson's massive trilogy is available in a fully loaded Extended Edition Blu-ray.

IAR Blu-ray Preview: 'Maleficent'

Monday, 03 November 2014 10:13

In Maleficent, one of Disney's most beloved and notorious animated villains finally gets her due in live action.

With one of the year's biggest hits arriving on Blu-ray this Tuesday, Angelina Jolie's bravura performance as the iconic, misunderstood fairy can be yours to own in high definition.


Tuesday, 14 October 2014 11:09

Fury is a World War II movie through and through, but it's not quite like any World War II movie you've ever seen.

The latest from writer-director David Ayer (End of Watch, Sabotage), Fury presents the greatest armed conflict in the history of the human race from a vantage point that's rare in war films.

That vantage point is Fury, a Sherman Tank manned by five soldiers for whom it is their home, their workplace, their burden, and perhaps their salvation.  The titular tank has seen some of the harshest fighting in the war, and as the curtains go down on the European Theater in 1945, its battle-scarred crew must roll into the fray once more, striking at the heart of Germany in the waning days of the war.

Brad Pitt (World War Z) stars as Sergeant Wardaddy, while the rest of Fury's crew is played by Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Jon Bernthal (AMC's The Walking Dead), Michael Pena (End of Watch), and Shia LaBeouf (Nymhomaniac).

IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand for the Los Angeles Fury press conference, where he was able to discuss the making of this brutal and uncompromising WWII film with David Ayer and stars Lerman, Pena, and Bernthal.

Apparently there are at least a million ways to die in the west.

Thanks to Blu-ray, there are two different ways to watch A Million Ways to Die in the West: the R-rated theatrical version and an unrated extended edition. 

And since it's Blu-ray, both versions of Seth MacFarlane's western comedy are in pristine high definition.

The cost of freedom, according to no less a source than Captain America, is high.

The cost of one of the year's best reviewed and most loved blockbusters on Blu-ray, however, is much more affordable. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier hits the high definition format this Tuesday, September 9th, and while there are no shortage of ways to view Cap's latest adventure, Blu-ray is undoubtedly the way to go.

The Walt Disney Animation Studios have been on an unprecedented roll, a hot streak that propelled Frozen to historical status as the biggest animated film of all time.Anyone worried that the legendary studio is attempting to recreate that fairy tale with its next film can rest easy. 

In fact, fans can expect the thrill of the new this November, because Big Hero 6 is something without precedent from the animation experts at Disney.

The studio's next animated event, Big Hero 6, is a loving riff on superhero comics, manga, and blockbuster adventure, all nestled snugly in an affecting story that belongs to the finest Disney tradition, a boy-and-his-buddy tale that in some ways evokes classic Disney relationships like the one between Mowgli and Baloo.

Set in a high-tech city that is a stunning funhouse mirror of our own high-tech culture, the studios' 54th animated feature follows Hiro Hamada, a teenage robotics prodigy who, with his trusty robo-sidekick Baymax, assembles an unconventional team of superheroes to protect their home.

IAR was recently lucky enough to be invited to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, where we, along with select other entertainment journalists, were lucky enough to see a substantial slice of Big Hero 6, as well as a unique look behind the scenes at the making of the film, talking with the filmmakers tackling the unfathomably complex process of creating a whole world from scratch.

IAR Blu-ray Preview: 'Draft Day'

Monday, 01 September 2014 21:06

The 2014 NFL football season kicks off this Thursday.

What better way to pregame than to catch Draft Day on Blu-ray?

Jarhead was a film about he long stretches of war where nothing actually happens, a meditation on a sniper's experience in a war that didn't require his skills.  It was focused on the anticipation of battles that never erupted.

In Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, the dogs of war are howling and the battle is joined in full-blown combat.

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