So here we are with Harrison Ford's last time out as the iconic cinematic character, Indiana Jones. Now I have to begin this review with a preface. Raiders of the Lost Ark is my number one movie and tops everything for me to watch again and again. Which means reviewing this was personal and also because I got to take my kids to see this movie in theaters for the first time. In fact, my daughter is the same age I was when I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in theaters when it came out. I know how impactful movie experiences like this can be.
Well, off the bat I'll say this is no Raiders of the Lost Ark but this movie is leaps and bounds better the our last adventure with Indy. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was widely panned and proven an unpopular entry into the franchise, and with valid reasons. It had goofy or annoying characters or gags that just fell flat. Again, for me being on the Central Coast, I loved seeing Morro Bay make a cameo in the iconic "map sequence." No Central Coast cameos here in this movie, but we do love the globe trotting they do.
I don't think I'm spoiling anything that hasn't been shown outside of the the trailers for this movie, but it does begin with Indy fighting the best villains of all: the Nazis. Disney has been keen on using this de-aging technology lately, from Tron Legacy to Rogue One and The Mandalorian. While there are moments you can get a sense of the CGI face, to be honest they really have gotten it down to the point where I wasn't staring at the face wondering how they did it. I was with Indy and on his adventure, not caring about the massive manpower it took to make Harrison Ford look like his did when he first dawned the fedora. Most of the effects in this movie seem to work as well, but Indiana Jones is supposed to be much more grounded, even though it does live in a fantasy world where supernatural elements exist.
On a story point you have to remember that. All of Indiana Jones' "MacGuffins" (or prop that drives the story), have a supernatural element to it. They all are part of myths, lore or fantasy and you have to remember to be ready to suspend your disbelief enough to get there. When you forget that, you might be scratching your head at the end of the movie thinking, "This got weird really fast." Just remember you are there with Indy to have fun.
One of the other things about Indiana Jones, much like Star Wars, there is a pattern to them. Like poetry they have similar elements that they hit. Each movie made is checking boxes from one to another. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny sure checks those boxes... and then some. Spoiler free of course, this movie echoes The Last Crusade more than any other entry. Which isn't a horrible thing either. Like The Last Crusade and (as much as it pains me to say) the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Dial of Destiny has an emphasis on family. Now they don't forget things that happened in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and honestly in a way retcon things that happen, and they make it better. It was a good writing choice to help build character for our old Indy. But I couldn't help feel some Star Wars: The Force Awakens echos as well here.
In short, this movie is fun. It's a good time with old friends. I would even say I loved this experience of seeing this movie in theaters. Are there things to nitpick and kinda whine about? Sure. I'll go into that later with my spoiler filled review. But the fun and adventure outweighs it all and you're having a great time. If you're wondering, my kids enjoyed all the previous movies and they enjoyed this one. Some of the other Indiana Jones movies are maybe a "hard" PG-13, but this one wasn't as intense for kids as the other ones. I actually can't wait to go back and see it in theaters again!
Well, here it is. James Gunn's final installment in the MCU before rebuilding the DCU himself. For those of you who don't know, the Guardians of the Galaxy have always been a group of outsiders in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the first film was announced, many wondered how these "b-list" Marvel characters would fit in with "a-lister" characters like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. Well, to put it simply, it was a smash hit with the fans.
Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 3 is the third installment of the franchise, but they have appeared in other Marvel movies such as Avengers: Endgame and Thor: Love and Thunder. They even have their own Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special on Disney+. So with all the back stories that flush out these characters, this film actually draws mostly on Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 more than any of the other source material. While these films have always tended to be the more "adult" or even "annoying teenagers" of the group with maturity and humor seeking that level, this film embraces that to a point and where we actually get our first "f-bomb" in the MCU. Captain America would be very disappointed, however the fans will not be.
This film gives each of the colorful characters their moment to shine, but it is hands down Rocket Raccoon's movie. We finally get the look into his horrifying past and his origin stories. Filled with horror, pain and hope all at the same time. Each flashback is a welcomed one with some great pay-offs in the end. However, the ending did feel rushed with the writing. Perhaps it was because we truly don't know where some of the characters will be in the future and some (in a non-spoiler way) are set on their course and we know what will (or has) become of them. However it's the family like relationships that make the character enduring, but the ending has some characters making uncharacteristic choices. Some may call this a character-arc while others may make it feel like it's a shock to end it that way.
The film is fun, and the music always helps deliver on the fun. I will admit this movie, that clocks in nearly at two and a half hours long, did have me check my watch once or twice as it did drag in the second act. The number of cameos and Easter Eggs are a plenty for all die-hard Marvel fans and it's a solid entry to the MCU. While the stakes they face may not be as impactful to the rest of the MCU (that we know of at this time), the state of the Guardians at the end will be.
If you have little ones, this may be the "franchise" in the MCU to wait until they're older. Teenagers will enjoy this and will be right up their alley. Other Marvel fans are sure to enjoy the final ride of our motley crew of Guardians of the Galaxy.
It may be a compulsion of mine, but usually when I see a director's name in front of a title, I roll my eyes a little. To me, it brings a heightened display of ego on part of the filmmaker that is almost unnecessary and makes it appear that audiences are going because of the filmmaker itself. If the movie does its job and represents your vision, people will know it's yours. For some, however, they do go see a movie simply because they love the filmmaker and don't care what they make. I think of Tarintino movies, that also always advertise on each poster, "A New Film By Quentin Tarintino." Which is stating the obvious, but Tartintino does it as part of his tongue-and-cheek schtick with his old Hollywood infatuation that comes off in his movies. You would always see movies with filmmakers names on it like with DeMille, Hitchcock or Ford. More modern film's turn away from that, even in true auteur movies. You don't see George Lucas' Star Wars, or Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. But you do see it here with The Covenant, and I think that's because Guy Ritchie wants you to know this is his movie, his idea and his message. So my eyes rolled going into this, but by the end of the movie I was okay with it.
The film is all about the waning days of the US military involvement in Afghanistan and pushes hard on the role that Afghan interpreters played with the US. For starters, we need to remember this is NOT a true story, but rather a symbol of what is happening in Afghanistan, and maybe a message about what we should be doing to support these interpreters. The film has an interesting opening act where we make a big deal about Jake Gyllenhaal's character, John Kinley's squad. Needless to say, without too many spoilers, it's not long before we don't have to worry about them anymore. The majority of the film centers around Kinley and his squad's new interpreter, Ahmed, who was played beautifully by Dar Salim. The two of them find themselves stuck way behind enemy lines and they need to find their way back.
There were times I was worried this movie was going to go full Rambo, but it always pulls back just in time. The Taliban soldiers were always present and they provided plenty of kills for our stars to rack up. Seriously, the body count was much higher than I was expecting. However, with the over the top action at times, the movie does remain grounded in the tension of them trying to get back. The situations are fun creative and well thought out, I just wish some of the dialogue had been polished up a little bit more. Sometimes, the things Kinley says is a bit wooden and something you wouldn't expect to hear come from a master sergeant to a colonel. I feel like they tried to make him more like Maverick, but more badass.
Again, Salim's Ahmend was the star performance and character. His acting and character was believable and real, which was key to getting us to care about the film's true message about interpreters, and thus making us as viewers invested in the movie. There was some beautiful and occasionally distracting drone shots, clunky dialogue, and surprisingly great score that helped hide all the blemishes. I honestly can't remember the last time I was in a movie and thought about how nice it was to have a score really go well with this film. Well done.
In short, this was a good time to be had. Do you need to see it in the theaters? Don't really need to. However, it's a great one to pull up on a streaming service after the kids are asleep and you and your partner look at each other and ask, "What do you want to watch tonight?" You will probably enjoy it. Then once you watch it, you'll understand why it's Guy Ritchies's The Covenant. Because the title was taken by a half dozen other movies, mostly horror films. This naming convention will help you remember which one we're talking about... that Afghan Rambo movie.
Yesterday, before the broadcast of the Golden Globes, Kevin Costner posted a video on his Twitter explaining he was unable to attend the award show because he was stuck at his home in Santa Barbara due to the recent rain storms and flooding seen all up and down the Central Coast. Costner's nomination this year was the first and only Golden Globe nomination for the incredibly popular show, Yellowstone.
The US-101 freeway was shutdown in both north and south directions going in and out of Santa Barbara. As Costner notes in the video, this is the second time in five years this has happened to the residents in the coastal Santa Barbara County communities. Crews had reopened the roads earlier today, but all eyes are on another storm coming this weekend!
Take a look at Costner's video message below.
Costner would go on that evening to win "Best Performance by Actor in Television Series (Drama)." He would take to Twitter again thanking his fans and cast and crew. Another member of the cast, Cole Hauser, who plays "Rip" in the show, was born in Santa Barbara, however currently lives in Los Angeles.
For a complete list of winners from the Golden Globes, click here.
Submitted by Allan Hancock College
Allan Hancock College will present a 14-week film course taught by award-winning filmmaker and retired Hancock film professor Jeanine Moret at the Santa Ynez Valley Center from Sept. 7 - Dec. 7.
The class, “Film as Art and Communication,” will run on Wednesday evenings from 5 to 9:45 p.m. The course covers a variety of international film styles, themes and directors with an emphasis on the ways film communicates through acting, photography, sound and editing.
“It’s great to be able to bring a filmmaker’s perspective to a film studies class,” said Moret. “I’ve found that many students are curious about the production process, and I love discussing what goes into making a film and how students can chart a path into film production work if that is their goal.”
Moret’s career includes serving as the camera assistant for the Washington, DC, time-lapse sequences featured in Oliver Stone’s biopic, Nixon. During her tenure as a full-time faculty member at Allan Hancock College, she coordinated the college’s multimedia and animation programs. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles with an emphasis in documentary film. At UCLA, Moret served as a teaching assistant for sound classes and crewed sound on such culturally diverse films as Arlene Bowman’s Navajo Talking Picture, Charles Burnett’s My Brother’s Wedding, Alex Cox’s Repo Man, Billy Woodberry’s Bless Their Little Hearts, and Alicia Rodriquez’s La Bicicleta.
Early in Moret’s career, she produced, shot and edited Banderani, filmed in a remote village in the Bolivian Andes. Following the success of Banderani, Moret was recruited as location manager and assistant to the producer on the experimental film, Powaqqatsi, a six-month production that took her to Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, England and other international locations. She also shot, co-produced and co-edited the one-hour PBS documentary, Song Journey, which followed female drummers on the powwow circuit across the American Plains.
Following retirement as a professor at Hancock, Moret continues to teach part-time and currently works for Monty Roberts Productions.
“The magic and power of a good movie never cease to move me. As a teacher I get to hunt continuously for great films to show and discuss in class,” Moret said. “I enjoy showing movies that engage the students, especially when they have a lot to say about it afterwards.”
To register for this class and other fall courses at Hancock, visit www.hancockcollege.edu/fall.
The popular television show, PAWN STARS official YouTube Channel shared a clip from Season 13, Episode 9 entitled "Cowboys and Cannons," which aired on the History Channel on September 7th, 2016.
In this clip, a potential client walks in with an obscure object purchased at the "Allan Hancock Estate" in Santa Maria, California.
Rick and Chumlee are amused by the object but still need to "call in the expert" to find out more about it. Is it worth big bucks or just a lot of "yucks?"
You can watch the clip for free, via YouTube right now, right below!
Out of My Mind
by Colin Dowse of Carmel High School, winner of Best Film
Wow! This was a phenomenal film. There is so much to unpack and so much to say that I really can't It's a great and gripping short film from start to finish. You have great coverage of your scenes with amazing lighting, performances and editing. Your dream sequences are well done with the visual and practical effects. I really am blown away by your craft here and see only amazing things in your future. Well done!!
~ Daniel Lahr, Executive Director Central Coast Film Society
Students from many Central Coast high school’s had the opportunity to share their work and be awarded with scholarships at the 3rd annual Student Film & Digital Media Arts Competition on April 6, at San Luis Obispo High School.
“We are thrilled to be able to bring this fun student showcase and to give local creators a platform to show their creative works, and reward them for their talents,” said Sarah Risley, newly elected board president of the film society.
All students who submitted their films or creative works received constructive feedback from the Central Coast Film Society (CCFS) board members and finalists had their work reviewed by a panel of judges from the industry and academia to earn awards for excellence and available $250 scholarships for each category from film, photography, cinematography, editing and ‘Central Coast Spirit’.
All the creative submissions were from high school students living on the Central Coast, specifically Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Ventura and Monterey counties. There were more than 175 submissions that were narrowed down to a handful of finalists.
The finalists were then invited to the Showcase at SLO High School, where people had the opportunity to see all the films and photography and look through the screenplays.
“A huge thank you to the teachers, mentors, and judges. Your hard work and insights are building the next generation of filmmakers, screenwriters, and photographers,” said Daniel Lahr, executive director for the film society.
Judges for the showcase were Chris Hite, award winning filmmaker and professor of film at Allan Hancock College; Alan Fraser, co-founder of the Cambria Film Festival and Chachi Ramirez, film producer and owner of the Guadalupe Royal Theater.
Winners of the showcase are:
Sweet on You
Rhys Eleanor Demarest, Morro Bay High School
(Click on title to read)
Ashley Robinson, Central Coast New Tech High School
Highlight Reel (Editing/Animation/FX)
Light to My Path
Abigail Reinstedt, Calvary Christian School
Out of My Mind
Colin Dowse, Carmel High School
Central Coast Spirit Award
Lost- A Backyard Adventure
Coleman Howe, San Luis Obispo High School
We will be posting the winners films shortly!
Two of the most iconic photographers of the 20th Century are Ansel Adams and Alan Ross. Their photographs are recognizable and they happen to have been close friends and colleagues.
Their work is on exhibit starting Sept. 25 through March 20, 2022 at the Wildling Museum of Art and Nature in Solvang.
This incredible exhibition explores the American West through their lenses.
This exhibition also has a connection to local award winning photographer and photojournalist George Rose.
George Rose took several classes from Ansel Adams in the 1970's, before his own successful career started working for the Los Angeles Times and other news publications, photographing Hollywood legends.
You can find our interview with George Rose HERE.
Photo of Ansel Adams and George Rose (1974) Courtesy of George Rose
Universal Studios and Dreamworks Animation released their new feature, Spirit: Untamed this past weekend. It offered a great option for those with smaller children to return to the movies and not see one of the three horror films that are out. Even Disney's Cruella dabbles in the dark side of things and this is the perfect alternative.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean this movie is very good. I will, however, admit that my five and three year olds loved the movie, but this was also their first time back in a theater in a long time, so the experience of going maybe a factor. So I'll give two scores, one for kids and one for adults.
Now the wild horse named "Spirit" has been around for a while and has its own franchise since the first movie came out in 2002. The animators actually used a real horse to model for the character, and the real "Spirit" now resides in the Return to Freedom horse sanctuary located here on the Central Coast. You can read all about his journey to the Santa Ynez Valley here. But this story goes away from that.
This movie is about a young girl whose mother dies tragically riding horses in a show. In his grief, the father sends the young girl off to live with her grandfather and aunt for the next ten years only to have them come back when the girl becomes a liability for the grandfather's gubernatorial campaign and then she is sent back out to her father in the frontier. Yep, that's the opening of the movie. Then the typical tropes begin to set in and things are predictable to the letter. The film is nicely animated and has some nice shots to look at, but it couldn't help the writing... even for a kids movie.
For my score, I'll give this a 2/5 stars and was very "ho-hum" for me. My kids really liked it and would probably give it a 3.5/5 stars for them. As a parent, it is not all bad to be back in a theater and in the air conditioning during the summer. Just don't pay more than matinee prices for it. Or just wait... it's bound to be streaming soon.