Most-Anticipated Summer Blockbusters of 2017

The Summer Blockbuster season isn't as big as it once was. Star Wars has laid claim to December, while Marvel and DC are going head-to-head in November with Thor vs Justice League. Next Spring will pack a huge punch as well. But despite more and more major pictures being released year-round, there's still a special nostalgia about summer movies. The kids don't have school the next morning, the drive-in theaters are open, there's still warmth and daylight when you walk out of the theater. Here's our selection of some of the biggest movies to hit the screens in the next few months. It should be no surprise that most are franchise films.

Three-time Academy Award-nominated director Ridley Scott kicks off the Summer Blockbuster season with the sixth installment in his iconic sci-fi horror franchise. A sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to the original Alien, Covenant has earned a 76% approval rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes from advance screenings. 

Opens Friday, May 19.
Alien Series Gross: $1.111 billion
Average Approval Rating: 73%

The summer's favorite swashbuckling swindler returns to the big screen for a fifth installment, but behind the scenes he has a whole new crew. New directors, new screenwriters, and a new cinematographer will hope to breathe new life into a franchise that has seen remarkable commercial success despite continued decline in critical approval. Orlando Bloom and Kierra Knightly resume the roles that were left out of the last installment, with the addition of a son who is expected to play a pivotal role in the future of the saga. 

Opens Friday, May 26.
Pirates Series Gross: $3.729 billion
Average Approval Rating: 53%

The fourth chapter in the DC Extended Universe, Wonder Woman will be the star of her own live-action film for the first time in a franchise that has seen growing commercial success, but is still struggling to earn the approval of the critics. Gal Gadot reprises the role she began in Batman v Superman, accompanied by Chris Pine in a World War I-era war film.

Opens Friday, June 2.
DCEU Series Gross: $2.286 billion
Average Approval Rating: 36%

After a commercially successful but critically-panned sequel in 2011, Lightning McQueen ditches the world of espionage and returns to his origins on the track against a new generation of high-tech racers. Owen Wilson and Larry the Cable Guy reprise their beloved roles as they look to enrapture the next generation of young people.

Opens Friday, June 16.
Cars Series Gross: $1.024 billion
Average Approval Rating: 57%

While Disney's Cars captures the hearts of the young people, Michael Bay will targeting a slightly more mature (or maybe immature?) audience with his gun-toting, transforming cars of the Hasbro family. The Last Knight will also be the last Transformers film for the disaster-film director, but the franchise will live on with two more installments already on the books. Mark Wahlberg returns as the human lead alongside fan-favorites Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Grimlock, and Megatron

Opens Wednesday, June 21.
Transformers Series Gross: $3.773 billion
Average Approval Rating: 32%

Tom Holland will reprise his role as Spider-Man that he began in Captain America: Civil War in the first Spider-Man film co-produced between Sony and Marvel Studios. This third attempt at a Spider-Man film series will focus on a younger high-school aged Peter Parker, with Robert Downey Jr. co-starring as Tony Stark.

Opens Friday, July 7.
Spiderman Series Gross: $5.116 billion
Average Approval Rating: 77%
MCU Series Gross: $11.546 billion
Average Approval Rating: 82%

The third installment in the Planet of the Apes reboot series continues to build on the gritty militant tones set in its Academy Award-nominated predecessor. Andy Serkis reprises his role as Caesar, with Woody Harrelson as his human adversary. The resurrected franchise has been well received both commercially and critically, with the latest installment attaining the highest approval rating since the 1968 film that started it all.

Opens Friday, July 14.
POTA Series Gross: $1.712 billion

Average Approval Rating: 63%
Reboot Series Gross: $1.191 billion
Average Approval Rating: 86%

Christopher Nolan's latest epic, the evacuation and "miracle" at Dunkirk, France as told from three perspectives: land, air, and sea. After large numbers of Allied troops are cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France, their rescue was described by Winston Churchill as a "miracle of deliverance." Starring Tom Hardy in a story written, directed, and produced by the three-time Academy Award nominee behind Inception, Interstellar, and the Dark Knight Trilogy

Opens Friday, July 21.
Nolan Films Gross: $4.227 billion
Average Approval Rating: 84%

One of the more peculiar films to emerge this summer is Stephen King's The Dark Tower. No, the movie is not based on his seven-book fantasy series, but rather, it serves as a sequel to the books. Starring Idris Elba as The Gunslinger, opposite Matthew McConaughey, the science-fantasy western film will take place partly in modern-day New York City and partly in Mid-World, a parallel universe resembling the American Old West. With a $60 million budget, Dark Tower is the most expensive Stephen King adaptation since Dreamcatcher in 2003.

Opens Friday, August 4.
King Adaptation Gross: $1.475 billion
Average Approval Rating: 47%

Nocturnal Animals is brilliant, but not for the faint of heart

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

Last week I rented Nocturnal Animals at Redbox, primarily due to my fondness for Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams. 

The film contained a number of adult themes that may turn off some viewers, but for those who can stomach it, it also contains some of the best storytelling and acting performances of 2016.  

Susan Morrow (Adams) owns an art gallery in Los Angeles and struggles with a failing marriage and distant husband. She receives a book written by her ex-husband Edward Sheffield (Gyllenhaal), which is soon to be published.

The film switches between present, past, and the fictitious world in Sheffield's novel. Engrossed in his text, Morrow envisions herself and Sheffield as the story's protagonists. The couple embark on a cross-country road trip and find themselves harassed by a gang of rural West Texans.

The film is dark and violent, and may lie outside of many viewers' comfort zones. The film opens with extensive nudity, is riddled with profanities, and features numerous scenes that may be traumatic for some viewers.

That warning aside, the film is one of the best of 2016 for those who are comfortable with R-rated movies. The neo-noir thriller is thoroughly engrossing and hard to look away from, even for a moment. The direction and cinematography are superb, the acting is Oscar-worthy, and the story is as original as it is mesmerizing. 

Nocturnal Animals is written and directed by Tom Ford, based on the novel "Tony and Susan" by Austin Wright. It currently holds a 73% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and received nominations for 78 awards. Ford received nominations for both Best Director and Best Screenplay at the Golden Globes. Michael Shannon received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Aaron Taylor-Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

Countdown to the Best Movie of 2015: #30-21

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

2015 has seen a lot of great movies, and while I didn't make it to the theater as much as I usually do, I've seen enough great movies that I want to share them with you. These movies are ranked according to my personal preference, so you may see some movies with 4 stars ranked higher than movies with 5 stars, for example. The primary factor I judged these movies by in my rankings was how likely I am to want to revisit them.

#30 The Age of Adaline (4 stars)

  • Released April 24.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 55%
  • Audience Score: 67%
  • Budget: $25 million
  • Gross: $57.7 million
  • Everything about this movie was remarkably human. It falls short in presenting a compelling story of mortality, but the characters themselves are quite enjoyable--especially Harrison Ford's performance.

#29 Minions (4 stars)

  • Released July 10.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 55%
  • Audience Score: 50%
  • Budget: $74 million
  • Gross: $1.159 billion
  • I went into this movie with little expectation of enjoying it. I have yet to see the Despicable Me movies from which these characters are drawn, and my only experience with the little yellow buggers is commercials, toys, and marketing campaigns. I expected to find them annoying as hell. Instead, I fell in love with their gleeful (innocence?). They're evil, but they make it look fun.

#28 The Divergent Series: Insurgent (4 stars)

  • Released March 20
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%
  • Audience Score: 60%
  • Budget: $110 million
  • Gross: $297.3 million
  • Lately it seems like there's been an assembly line for dystopian YA book-adaptions. Love them or hate them, they're not all created equal. In a loaded genre that ranges from the critical/commercial bomb that was City of Bones to the behemoth that is the Hunger Games franchise, Insurgent fails to set itself apart as the next big deal, but it does mark a noticeable improvement from its predecessor. It's sleeker, less archetypal, better acted. It's worth your buck twenty-five at redbox.

#27 Cinderella (5 stars)

  • Released March 13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 84%
  • Audience Score: 78%
  • Budget: $95 million
  • Gross: $542.7 million
  • I'm not a big fan of fairy tales, hence why this appears so low on my list. But I don't have to be a fan of the genre to recognize when it puts forth one of its best. In a Hollywood besieged by reboots, this Cinderella is a breath of fresh air in an environment becoming increasingly stale. Cinderella brings forth all the best pieces of the animated classic into a live action format more fit for wider audiences. Your Disney collection will not be complete without it.

#26 Taken 3 (3 stars)

  • Released January 21
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 10%
  • Audience Score: 45%
  • Budget: $55 million
  • Gross: $326.5 million
  • Easily the worst of the series, but still the best action series and character in recent years. Taken 3 plays more like a "Grand Theft Auto" game than a legitimate plot. It's a mess, but a fun one. The one thing the movie did right? Star Liam Neeson. For whatever reason, this generation relates to him, and he can make any movie work. 

#25 San Andreas (3.5 stars)

  • Released May 29
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
  • Audience Score: 53%
  • Budget: $110 million
  • Gross: $473.8 million
  • It's far from the visual masterpiece that was 2012, but it succeeds in the humanity department establishing far more likable characters who gave far better performances. 

#24 Fifty Shades of Grey (4 stars)

  • Released February 13.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 25%
  • Audience Score: 41%
  • Budget: $40 million
  • Gross: $571 million
  • A cinematic delight, the visual sheen and musical score of this film save it from its substandard story. The adult situations that make this series famous are far from the grotesque horrors that I expected, and are actually far more tasteful than most of what Hollywood's putting out these days. Furthermore the heroin actually stands apart as the true driving personality, not the weak insult to women that "feminists" claim she is. It is the titular character who is the true victim, as, SPOILERS AHEAD, he was subjected to the dom/sub lifestyle as a child and had no choice in the abuse he was subjected to by a grown adult. It is our protagonist who decides exactly what she is for and against and stands up for herself quite readily. 

#23 Focus (4 stars)

  • Released February 13.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 56%
  • Audience Score: 53%
  • Budget: $50.1 million
  • Gross: $159.1 million
  • The same situation as Taken, it is the actor who sells the plot. Will Smith's star power continues to bring average movies into the spotlight by adding his uniquely lovable personality to roles that would otherwise play somewhat flat. Not that there's anything wrong with Focus. It would be worth seeing regardless of who plays the lead. But there's no doubt that Will Smith adds an extra notch to any movie he graces.

#22 The Duff (4 stars)

  • Released February 20.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 71%
  • Audience Score: 67%
  • Budget: $8.5 million
  • Gross: $43.5 million
  • The Duff will never achieve teen movie greatness on the level of Mean Girls or Breakfast Club, but it's better than the bulk of coming-of-age movies to come out in recent years. Mae Whitman is delightful as ever and the movie is humorous, realistic, and relatable. 

#21 Serena (4 stars)

  • Released March 27.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 18%
  • Audience Score: 24%
  • Budget: $30 million
  • Gross: $3.9 million
  • The storytelling in this had a myriad of inconsistencies, and wasn't exactly a tale that needed to be told. But Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have a proven chemistry that could work its way through anything. 

Check back tomorrow for the next ten best movies of 2015!

View #38-31 here >

Countdown to the best movie of 2015: #47-

By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief

2015 has seen a lot of great movies, and while I didn't made it to the theater as much as I usually do, I've seen enough great movies that I want to share them with you. These movies are ranked according to my personal preference, so you may see some movies with 4 stars ranked higher than movies with 5 stars, for example. The primary factor I judged these movies by in my rankings was how likely I am to want to revisit them.

#47 Mortdecai (2 stars)

  • Released January 23. 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 13%
  • Audience Score: 30%
  • Budget: $60 million
  • Gross: $47 million
  • Extreme celebrity-crazed fans of Johnny Depp may enjoy this movie, but not many else will. It's not awful, and if your significant other wants to rent it, let them. It won't bore you. Just try not to think too much. The film's primary redeeming quality is Paul Bettany's humorous performance as Jock Strapp.

#46 Tomorrowland (3 stars)

  • Released May 22.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 49%
  • Audience Score: 51%
  • Budget: $190 million
  • Gross: $209 million
  • Had this movie come from any studio by Disney, and had it been made by anyone else besides Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof, it would probably have been better received. Unfortunately for its producers, the star studded cast was unable to redeem probably the worst film of Brad Bird's career. This movie was like a sexy new Porsche that won't go more than 30 MPH. It's great to look at, but not a very fun ride.

#45 Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse (1.5 stars)

  • Released October 30.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 43%
  • Audience Score:50%
  • Budget: $15 million
  • Gross: $15 million
  • Your inner teenager may enjoy some parts of it, but even so, some of the worst 80's zombie movies still come in miles ahead of this failed attempt at an undead Scott Pilgrim.

#44 Unfriended (3.5 stars)

  • Released April 17.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
  • Audience Score: 38%
  • Budget: $1 million 
  • Gross: $62.9 million
  • It's creative, and original, but hard to like for anyone who wants more than jump scares. I'll admit, the acting isn't bad for a low budget film full of unknowns. But what is the protagonist? A hacker? A ghost? A demon? A zombie? It's too irrational, it's like they couldn't figure out what the movie was even about. And the ending was a major letdown. The one redeeming quality was the acting, though the more you get to know the characters, the more you're rooting for them to die.

#43 Chappie (4 stars)

  • Released March 6.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 31%
  • Audience Score: 57%
  • Budget: $49 million
  • Gross: $102.1 million
  • This was a fantastic movie, with some intolerable characters. Some of the protagonists were so painful to watch and listen to that I have little interest in revisiting the film. However, the story was told eloquently, despite non-stop blatant advertising for a trash rap-group, and the titular character is quite endearing. Neill Blomkamp never fails to intrigue the mind and entertain the senses.

#42 Max (2.5 Stars)

  • Released June 26.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 35%
  • Audience Score: 72%
  • Budget: $20 million
  • Gross: $44 million
  • This is one of those polarizing pieces that offends filmmakers while drawing high praise from fans of family values. I find myself torn between the two camps. The campiness was too much for me to want to revisit it any time in the forseeable future, but I still highly recommend watching it at least once. There's not much out there anymore that is so fun and clean and innocent. 

#41 Pixels (3.5 stars)

  • Released July 24.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 17%
  • Audience Score: 47%
  • Budget: $88 million
  • Gross: $243.6 million
  • Adam Sandler movies tend to get a bad rap these days, even when they aren't half bad. It won't go down as one of his classics, like Waterboy, 50 First Dates, or Anger Management, but it was still fun and enjoyable for my whole family and worth the rental. 

#40 Trainwreck (2.5 stars)

  • Released July 17.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%
  • Audience Score: 68%
  • Budget: $35 million
  • Gross: $140.8 million
  • In direct opposition to "Max", Trainwreck offends the eyes and ears of those who rarely stray from TV-Land, while achieving high praise from the cinematic community. I personally am unsure of what all the hype is about. Maybe it's because I'm from a younger generation, but the shock factor of films like this don't do it for me anymore. The "edgy" jokes that make Amy Schumer so popular had already made their rounds through my generation by the end of 8th grade. This movie could practically be titled "In the back of the Clyde Boyd buses." If you're into the inappropriate, you'll laugh, but there's not much more to say about it than that. 

#37 The Cobbler (4 stars)

  • Released March 13.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 8%
  • Audience Score: 36%
  • Budget: $10 million
  • Gross: $852,464
  • This movie is far from your typical Adam Sandler crass tasteless comedy. It's ploddingly simply, and the pessimistic protagonist is surprisingly relatable. The fortuitousness of his discovery and the amusing situations he finds himself in make for an enjoyable journey with a sunny ending.

Check back tomorrow for the next ten best movies of 2015!

Jurassic World 2: Raptors on the mainland?!

     Unless you've been living under a rock the past three weeks, you've probably heard about this franchise's Jurassic return to the screen. The Michael Crichton inspired series has made its first appearance in theaters in nearly fifteen years, and it did so with a bang. Before I get into the gist of this movie, let's just take a moment to be awed at the numbers it's racking up. With three consecutive weekends at the #1 spot, Jurassic World has grossed $1.25 BILLION, with a B. That's more than the last two movies combined. While most of its gross has already been acquired, it's far from over. I've predicted it to sputter out somewhere around $1.452, which would make it the fifth highest grossing movie of all time, a spot currently occupied by Avengers: Age of Ultron. To get there, it needs to beat Frozen, which it's guaranteed to do this upcoming weekend, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part Two, and Age of Ultron itself. 

     What Jurassic World has already accomplished speaks for itself. Jurassic World won the highest grossing opening weekend of all time, dethroning The Avengers with over $500 million worldwide, and the highest grossing second weekend of all time as well. It also claimed the titles of fastest movie to reach $500 million, fastest movie to reach $1 billion (a spot just claimed by Furious 7 a few months ago), and is currently the 8th highest grossing movie of all time. 

     So why is this such a huge movie??? It's not rocket science, just a bit of gene splicing. The dinosaur wasn't the only hybrid in this film. The film itself was a hybrid of all the best parts of the original three movies. Indominus Rex plays the part of the original film's T-Rex, while the slaughter and terror induced by the pterodactyls tries (and fails) to fill the part of the raptors. The film loses itself with the actual raptors though. Throughout the original trilogy, the raptors were the most terrifyingly intense antagonists imaginable. They hunt in packs, for every one that you do see, there's another sneaking up behind your back, they're smart and crafty, and vicious, and there was never any getting away from them. **SPOILER** Transforming them into a pack of hunting dogs (in my humble opinion) took away from their mystic and awesomeness. Try as Pratt might to demonstrate respect for them as predators, it's hard not to look down on them more as dogs than as equals. However, **SPOILER ALERT** the battle royale between the T-Rex and Indominus was reminiscent of the clash of titans that JP3 gave us between T-Rex and Spinosaurus.  

     Moving on from the dinosaurs to the humans, I will say I enjoyed the new cast, but not nearly so much as the original protagonists. I'm a huge Chris Pratt fan, and I'd treat Bryce Dallas Howard to a snowcone any day of the week. But neither them, nor the kids, nor anyone else on that island measured up to the original cast. Or maybe that's just me? After all, I grew up with the originals, and these are the new kids on the block. Only time will tell if they'll live on the way that Alan, Ellie, Ian, and Hammond did. While there was a fair bit of character development in the case of the brothers and of Claire, I still feel like I didn't get to know them nearly as well (or maybe I just didn't like them nearly as well) as the original gang. 

     Script aside, the actors themselves performed brilliantly, and I felt they were all cast quite well. The score was considered by most to be a strong suite of the film, but I felt it was a little lackluster compared to the classic soundtrack. The overall plot was a rehash of the first film with a few more subplots, but nowhere near the dazzling originality. It had its "Sea World on Steroids" moments, but ultimately failed to live up to its predecessors on the wow-factor. While the writers passive-aggressively blamed this on the audience's need for bigger and cooler, I blame it on the writers' need for bigger and cooler. I think bigger and cooler may have been the wrong direction to go. Clearly it worked for this film, but if they try and bring out an even larger dinosaur for the fifth film, then I think viewers will finally grow tired of it. I say go smaller. The world has had enough Cloverfields and Godzillas. 

     Ultimately, I loved the movie. I give it a solid four stars. While the original was of course the best, and I personally liked number three more, I place it ahead of The Lost World, and consider it to be a worthy addition to the series. I do, however, believe that they failed in their goal to make the series "less arbitrary and episodic," as Trevorrow put it. It felt every bit as episodic as its predecessors. Is that a bad thing? I'm not so sure. There's plenty of sagas out there. The good thing about "episodes" is that they stand alone and can attract the attention of newer generations as well as the classic fans. 

     Where do I see the next movie going? Hopefully mainland. The whole "get the hell off the island" routine is growing old. Ditch the amusement park, forget the lost world. I would like to see InGen setting up camp somewhere in Central or South America, and continuing with their weaponization of the raptors. Make them smarter and more vicious than ever before. Make a lot of them. I'm thinking dozens. Let them slaughter everyone in the lab, including that devilish Dr. Frankenstein (Wu) and escape into the jungle, migrating closer and closer to urban areas. InGen calls in Owen for help because of his background with velociraptors. Claire, his now-wife, refuses to let him go without her. Sometime in the past four years since the incident at the theme park, Zach and Gray's parents have died in a tragic car accident and the boys have been left to the Grady couple. Zach is grown up and off to college now, but Gray is still young and foolish enough to stow away and join in the foray. And there the fun begins.

     What do you think of Jurassic World? Where would you like to see the sequels go? Let me know in the comments down below!

*This article was originally published on 6/30/2015 at


  • 5 Stars
  • Released 11/9/2012
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%
  • Budget: $200 million
  • Gross: $1.108 billion

By: Scott Emigh, Sandite Pride Editor

Three straight Bond films with a rooftop chase in the opening sequence. I'd say it was getting old, but this was the best one yet. Naomie Harris's character may be new, but she's so convincing in her role that she immediately feels like more of a protagonist than Jeffrey Wright ever did in the first two films. 

Daniel Craig's Bond has been one of the best since the very beginning, but in Skyfall he takes it to a new depth and really establishes the character as his own. The third installment in the current arc is easily the best of its series, and arguably the best Bond ever. Skyfall explores the darker places of Bond's past and brings him into reality as more than just a legend, but a real human being.

In many ways, this is as much a film about M as it is about 007. Judi Dench's performance was outstanding and a worthy final chapter to her time in the Bond franchise.

It has its flaws and lapses in narrative flow, but as a whole, Skyfall blends the best of modern gritty action with some of the more memorable antiquities of the earlier Bond films, to create a tapestry of brilliant cinematography and story. 

85th Academy Awards

  • Best Original Score; Thomas Newman--Nominated
  • Best Sound Mixing; Stuart Wilson, Scott Millan, Greg P. Russell--Nominated
  • Best Cinematography; Roger Deakins--Nominated
  • Best Original Song; "Skyfall" (Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth)--WON
  • Best Sound Editing; Per Hallberg, Karen Baker Landers--WON

Skyfall was nominated for a total of 59 awards--wining 18, including 2 Oscars, 2 Grammy's, and 2 BAFTAs.

Taken 3

  • 3.5 Stars
  • Released 1/21/2015
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 9%
  • Budget: $48 Million
  • Gross: $325.8 Million

By: Scott Emigh, Sandite Pride Editor

     Okay, let's be real here. This was nowhere near as good as the first two. Not even close. If the first two were Mission: Impossible, then this one was the N64 video game adaptation. But who didn't love Mission: Impossible N64? An original trilogy is a VERY difficult thing to pull off. Very few movie series have ever been able to bring forth the same level of magic from one installment to the next. There are always exceptions: Star Wars, Rocky, etc. But when you look at the action movies that the Taken trilogy has the most in common with, they mostly follow the pattern of Death Wish. 67%...29%...6%... So it's not all that surprising to see the Taken trilogy follow the same path. What matters more, though? Critics' reviews or moviegoers' money? Because while the certified "freshness" rating is falling, the attendance is not. Taken 3 grossed 143% of the initial installment. 
     Taken 3 suffers from typical franchise fatigue and a redundant story line. It plays more like a Grand Theft Auto video game than a legitimate plot. Somehow, despite having nearly twice the budget of the first installment, the graphics are hokey at times and less than impressive. The protagonist wreaks havoc not simply on those responsible for his rampage, but also on anyone and everyone who gets in his way. As he leads the police in chase scenes that leave numerous vehicles strewn half-hazardously about the streets, one can't help but wonder why this man who has so recently experienced a loss is so seemingly okay with causing other people to experience the same turmoil. The kinds of wrecks he causes and carnage he leaves in his wake would be impossible to inflict without some casualties. Isn't the protagonist supposed to be someone you can root for? Not someone who is no doubt a cop killer by this point? How many innocent civilians left the streets on stretchers? Am I overthinking this or did the producers underthink it? No director is perfect, but come's kind of hard to miss that the protagonist is supposed to be a good guy....
    The whole movie carries on with so little plot and so much nonsense, and I'm sitting here trying to justify a 3.5 star rating. Regardless of its plethora of flaws, this movie did one thing right. It starred Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson is without a doubt THE action hero of our generation. He is in the league of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his weird name fits perfectly with theirs too. He's been a Knight of both the Round Table, and the Jedi Order. He not only trained Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, but he trained Batman as well. He's been a god in multiple pantheons. The man kills wolves with his bare hands. You cannot cast Liam Neeson in a bad role, because he will turn it into a good role. No matter how many brain cells I lost while watching this movie, I enjoyed it thoroughly and would be surprised if I never watched it again.

*This article was originally published at

Insurgent Review

  • 4 Stars
  • Released 3/20/2015
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 30%
  • Budget: $110 million
  • Gross: $295.2 million

By: Scott Emigh, Sandite Pride Editor

I enjoyed Insurgent slightly more than its predecessor, but it’s still nothing too special. It was an enjoyable movie that I’m sure I’ll watch again, but it’ll never make its way onto my list of favorites.

The story was good but was far too parallel to other YA dystopian movies to come out recently to really stand apart. What stands out most about this movie is the primary character, Tris. While I personally am more a fan of Hunger Games than Divergent, I will definitely say that I like Tris far more than Katniss.

Shailene Woodley executed fantastically and gave a performance that definitely helped to solidify herself as an actress with a very promising future. I look forward to seeing her break through the YA adventure genre and getting into some serious roles. Not to say that this isn’t a serious role, but we all know the Academy loves to disrespect anything in a franchise. Heaven forbid they show some recognition to an amazing movie that has a “2” or “series” in the title. But I would recommend this movie not so much for the storyline as for the performance of Woodley. The overall film had its moments of stupidity but it also has some really good scenes that balance it out in my opinion.

*This article was originally published at

2014's Greatest Films Countdown

By: Scott Emigh, Sandite Pride Editor

*Note, this article has been edited as of 6/29/15 to reflect updated grosses, and the addition of 10 films I didn't manage to see till after the article went up.

*Note, this article was initially published on 3/20/2015 at

This is going up quite a bit later than normal but things have been hectic. I always like to post my own opinions of who the best movies are in each year. As you can tell, I didn't get around to seeing a whole lot of movies last year, but below I've listed the 34 movies I did see in order of worst to best, and given them all a 1-5 star rating. Let me know your opinions in the comment section and let me know what your favorite movies were in 2014!

44. A Haunted House 2. 1/2 star.

  • Released 4/18
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 8%
  • Budget: $4 million, Gross, $24 million
  • Terrible. Just. Terrible.

43. Endless Love. 1/2 star.

  • Released 2/14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 15%
  • Budget: $20 million, Gross: $34,077,920
  • I don't have a whole lot to say about this movie, because this movie didn't have a whole lot to say about itself. Maybe I'm just missing the days when romcoms still had to be original to be a success, but in this case they decided to take a mediocre movie and make a somehow even worse remake. I wouldn't recommend ever watching this.

42. The Boxtrolls. 1/2 star.

  • Released 9/26
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 75%
  • Budget: $60 million, Gross: $108.3 million
  • I expected better than this. I'm not sure what I expected after seeing the trailer, but I definitely didn't get it. This whole movie just left me feeling empty and wishing I had rented literally ANYTHING else.

41. If I Stay. 1 star.

  • Released 8/22
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 36%
  • Budget: $11 million, Gross: $78.3 million
  • This was upsetting mainly because of the potential it had. The concept was fantastic, but the execution was abysmal. Then again, I probably can't blame the movie for this because it ultimately relied on its source material which was probably equally bad. 

40. Godzilla. 3 stars.

  • Released 5/16
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 74%
  • Budget: $160 million, Gross: $528.7 million
  • I feel bad leaving this movie so close to the bottom of the list. It wasn't a bad movie by any means, I really enjoyed it. It returned to the good old days of monster movies and was one that I will probably revisit with my kids one day. But ultimately I look for magic in a movie and there just wasn't any there. As movies go, this one was better than several that I'm about to list above it on my list, but it's just not one that I expect to watch again anytime soon. I need characters that I can love and the kind of cinematography that I can feel nostalgic about. 

39. The Monuments Men. 2 1/2 stars.

  • Released 2/7
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 31%
  • Budget: $70 million, Gross: $155 million
  • This ties in perfectly with what I was saying about Godzilla. I consider Godzilla to be a better movie than Monuments Men, but Monuments Men had better relatable characters. When I revisit a movie, it's not usually for the story, it's for the characters. I already know the story. I want to visit the people I formed a bond with.

38. Sex Tape. 1 1/2 stars.

  • Released 7/18
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 17%
  • Budget: $40 million, Gross: $126.1 million
  • This movie was far from the upper echelon of enjoyable comedies. However, I have to put it ahead of MM and Godzilla solely because it IS a comedy. It's a matter of personal preference, but if I'm going to revisit a mediocre movie, I'd rather revisit a mediocre comedy than a mediocre drama. It falls on cliched drug and sex jokes and ultimately offers nothing new to the genre. Cameron Diaz should be doing better than this. 

37. Gone Girl. 2 1/2 stars.

  • Released 10/3
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 88%
  • Budget: $61 million, Gross: $368.1 million
  • I wish I could get behind all the hype on this. I believe that Ben Affleck's acting was commendable. And the cinematography and musical score were excellent. But the story just kills me. Once again, (I'm assuming because I haven't actually read it) it probably falls on the shoulders of the source material rather than the actual movie. But this just wan't anything special to me. It was entirely predictable. Nearly everything that happened I could have told you was going to happen ahead of time. And too much of it is littered with holes that would never fly in reality. It was long and dull and left me feeling bored and wishing I had just watched Walker, Texas Ranger reruns instead.

36. Into the Woods. 3 Stars.

  • Released 12/25.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 71%
  • Budget: $50 million, Gross: $212.9 million

35. Lucy. 3 Stars.

  • Released 7/25.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 66%
  • Budget: $40 million, Gross: $458.9 million

34. Noah. 4 stars.

  • Released 3/28
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 77%
  • Budget: $125 million, Gross: $362,637,473
  • Once again, the ranking comes down to a matter of personal preference. The actors' performances were convincing, the directing and cinematography were awesome, and (a rarity) we actually had a biblical movie that didn't rehash the same old song and dance as all the adaptations before it. The director brought something new to the table and treated the source material like source material should be treated. When you're making a movie based on a piece of literature, ultimately you're still making your own piece of art. You owe some respect to the original material, but the movie is yours. Do with it what you want. Take it in a new direction. Sure you'll piss off some fans of the original, but at least you're doing something that's your own and is unique. That being said, I am a Christian, I do believe the Bible, and while the artist in me commends the movie, the scholar in me condemns it. I see both sides of the coin, and while I have to recommend it based on artistry, I personally will not be revisiting it because I'm one of the pissed off fans of the original. 

33. Heaven Is For Real. 3 stars.

  • Released 4/16
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 46%
  • Budget: $12 million, Gross: $101.3 million
  • This movie lacked any real conflict. There was no antagonist. It was heart warming, well directed, well acted, very enjoyable, but ultimately lacked any real plot. 

32. Son of God. 2 1/2 stars. 

  • Released 2/21
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 21%
  • Budget: $22 million, Gross $67,800,064
  • A well intentioned movie for sure. The greatest story ever told. But not told as well as it should have been. It was good, just unnecessary. It's just a PG version of the Passion and it still failed to connect you to any of the characters on a personal level. I doubt I'll be revisiting it any time soon.

31. 22 Jump Street. 3 stars. 

  • Released 6/13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 85%
  • Budget: $65 million, Gross: $331.3 million
  • As comedy sequels go, few are this good. It's not the most original contribution to the genre, but it sure was fun! I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first, possibly even more.

30. A Million Ways to Die in the West 3 stars

  • Released 5/30
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 33%
  • Budget: $40 million, Gross: $86.4 million
  • I feel a little hypocritical for ranking this so far ahead of Sex Tape. They're both equally reliant on exhausted drug and sex based humor. However this story was at least semi-original, at least by comparison, and it was expected. When I see Cameron Diaz, Rob Lowe, and Jason Segel, I expect more than I expect from Seth McFarlane. And no one can out-Seth-McFarlane Seth McFarlane. When it comes to stupid middle school humor, he's the best.

29. Left Behind. 3 1/2 stars.

  • Released 10/3.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 2%
  • Budget: $16 million, Gross $19.7 million
  • I never read the book so I don't have that to compare it to. And I haven't seen the first adaptation since I was a child, so I don't really remember it either. In a way, this was kind of my first introduction to a story I had only heard about. It wasn't the 2012 of Christian movies, but it was good. This movie had a $16 million budget. One of the lowest on this list, and yet, it's an apocalyptic disaster movie. They didn't exactly have a lot to work with. But the actors all did wonderful jobs. The story was gripping and convincing. It may not be Oscar worthy but it's still a solid movie all around, and one I intend to add to my DVD collection one day.

28. Deliver Us From Evil. 4 stars. 

  • Released 7/2.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 28%
  • Budget: $30 million, Gross: $87.9 million
  • This was a refreshing large budget horror movie that finds high ground in a genre overly saturated with microbudget jumpscare movies that I can't even tell apart in hindsight. Solid acting, solid premise, excellent execution. It may not be the exorcist, but nothing is these days.

27. The Longest Week. 3.5 Stars.

  • Released 9/5.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 11%
  • Budget: $2.5 million

26. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. 4 stars.

  • Released 10/10.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 62%
  • Budget: $28 million, Gross: $100.7 million
  • This was the perfect family movie, in every way shape and form. It was a total riot. It was completely innocent, light hearted, fun, and accomplished all of that without feeling unintelligent. 

25. Divergent. 3 1/2 stars.

  • Released 3/21
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 41%
  • Budget: $85 million, Gross: $288.7 million
  • The YA novel adaptation is a far cry from the Harry Potter movies that started the genre and the Hunger Games movies that are currently ruling it, but it beats the heck out of the Twilight Saga. The concept is interesting, if unoriginal, and the story is well told. It was by no means a great piece of art, but I will probably revisit it several times in my life.

24. Non-Stop. 4 stars.

  • Released 2/28
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 60%
  • Budget: $50 million, Gross: $222.8 million
  • Liam Neeson has established himself as the premier action actor of our generation. From Phantom Menace to The Grey and everything in between, whatever he puts his hand to prospers. The story wasn't anything exceptional. I will likely forget all about it up until I stumble upon it on Spike TV years down the line, but something about our old Jedi Master still registers with his fans.

23. As Above, So Below. 4 stars.

  • Released 8/29
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 27%
  • Budget: $5 million, Gross $40.2 million
  • Ignore the fact that I was just complaining about microbudget horror films for a minute. Because this one is actually good. It's really good, in fact. It's terrifying, it's original, it's mind-altering. It's one of the top five horror movies I've seen in the last ten years.

22. Birdman. 4.5 Stars.

  • Released 8/27. 
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 92%
  • Budget: $18 million, Gross: $103.2 million

21. The Rewrite. 4 Stars.

  • Released 10/8.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 64%

20. The Maze Runner. 3 1/2 stars.

  • Released 9/19.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 63%
  • Budget: $34 million, Gross: $344.3 million
  • Basically, I could just copy and paste my review of Divergent, although I thought it was slightly better than the former.

19. Let's Be Cops. 5 Stars.

  • Released 8/13.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 18%
  • Budget: $17 million, Gross: $137.6 million

18. Guardians of the Galaxy. 4 stars.

  • Released 8/1.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 91%
  • Budget: $195.9 million, Gross: $774.2 million
  • Marvel took a big risk with this movie. And just like all the Marvel risks before it, it paid off. Guardians has received a LOT of hype. Many are even calling it the best Marvel movie to date. It was good. It was really good. But it wasn't THAT good. Chris Pratt was phenomenal, as always. Everyone in it was phenomenal. They were some of the best characters introduced to Hollywood in years. They just weren't MY characters. I loved them, but I associate better with humans, personally. It may not be my favorite franchise in the MCU, but I still look forward to the sequels very eagerly. 

17. Transformers: Age of Extinction. 4 stars.

  • Released 6/27.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 18%
  • Budget: $210 million, Gross: $1.104 billion.
  • Okay, now pretend I didn't just say I relate to humans more. Because I love Transformers. So much. They're my childhood. This movie was better than Revenge of the Fallen, not quite as good as Dark of the Moon or the original. But it was still fantastic. I just hope they let us connect with the Tranformers more than the original series did and doesn't just keep killing them all off and flooding us with new ones. That got old real quick. I loved the addition of MarkyMark and I can't wait for the next installment.

16. X-Men: Days of Future Past. 4 stars.

  • Released 5/23.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 91%
  • Budget: $200 million, Gross: $748.1 million.
  • I've never been a huge X-Men fan. They're incredible films, for sure. And I enjoy them, I've seen them many times, and I own most of them. But they're so dark and serious. They're not as fun as the MCU, and not as good as the Dark Knight Trilogy, so they hang awkwardly in the balance. So I love them, but I'm not in love with them, you know? It's not you, it's me. I just need to work on myself for a while. Oh wait, I forgot what I was doing here. Whew, it's just a movie review. As movies go, this was one of the best X-Men movies yet. The return of Brian Singer was a necessity for the survival of the franchise, and he came back with a bang, and did something that no one else has ever managed to do before. Reboot an established superhero franchise without pissing everyone off and returning to the same old source material. This is everything that the story needed and then some. I'm ecstatic for the future of our mutant friends.

15. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay: Part One. 3 1/2 stars.

  • Released 11/21.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 65%
  • Budget: $125 million, Gross: $752.1 million.
  • Some movies need to be split up. Harry Potter 7 was one of them. Breaking Dawn was not. This falls somewhere in the middle. It was good, but was it necessary? I'm still not sure. This movie won't win the series any fans. But no one starts a series with the third installment. All I know is, the next one will be fantastic.

14. Transcendence. 4 stars.

  • Released 4/18.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 19%
  • Budget: $100 million, Gross: $103 million.
  • I'm not sure what happened here. I thought it was everything that a good sci-fi movie strives to be; but I guess that's not enough for some people. Forget the critics, go watch this. I'm serious. It might not be your favorite movie ever, but you won't regret it. 

13. This Is Where I Leave You. 3 1/2 stars. 

  • Released 9/19.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 41%
  • Budget: $19.8 million, Gross: $41 million
  • It fits an old mold that's not quite exhausted but is definitely getting there. The dysfunctional family reunion has been done a million times, but it's still a good one. This is a long shot better than that depressing, suicidal-tendency-inducing, nightmare August: Osage County that the critics seemed to love so much. It doesn't quite measure up to Jayne Mansfield's Car, but it's worth watching once or twice.

12. Boyhood. 3 1/2 stars.

  •  Released 7/11.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 98%
  • Budget: $4 million, Gross: $44.5 million
  • It's not the best coming-of-age film to come out. Not even this decade. It was really the only one that even came out in 2014 so I guess it sealed in that genre. The concept was incredibly original. Shooting the same actors over a decade rather than simply getting new ones or donning tons of makeup was a genius experiment. The only problem is, I don't want to see 10 years of a characters life. Then there's no true story. There was no climax, no rising or falling action, no antagonistic character or force. It was just a series of moments that impressed upon the protagonist's growth. A truly great coming-of-age film doesn't need a ton of these moments, it only needs one. Just one day. One event. Look at 16 Candles, The Breakfast Club, Napolean Dynamite. You get my point. Go watch it, it's good. Just don't expect to fall in love.

11. The Theory of Everything. 4.5 Stars.

  • Released 9/27.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 79%
  • Budget: $15 million, Gross: $121.2 million

10. American Sniper. 4 stars. 

  • Released 12/25
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 72%
  • Budget: $58.8 million, Gross: $547.1 million
  • Forget the politics. Forget your opinion of the man this story is about. Forget what you think about the war itself. Consider this movie to be a total work of fiction if that's what it takes. Focus on just the story. Just the acting. Just the character. This story was beautiful. The directing was excellent. Bradley Cooper was utterly convincing in every way. The character is lovable. The only thing that detracts from this movie is the end-game. The resolution that they're shooting for. Lone Survivors was about trying to get extracted. Green Zone was about exposing the truth. Hurt Locker was counting down the days left till he could return. This was just a man who repeatedly returned when he didn't have to. He could have gone home. His reasons for staying were commendable for sure. But they weren't do or die. Without that driving force, the movie fell just a tad bit short. But it was still a masterpiece. One I intend to purchase soon and watch many more times.

9. Horrible Bosses 2. 4 Stars.

  • Released 11/26
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 35%
  • Budget: $42 million, Gross: $106.6 million

8. The Amazing Spider-Man. 4 stars.

  • Released 5/2.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 53%
  • Budget: $255 million, Gross: $709 million
  • I'm a big Spiderman fan. I always have been. That alone means this is going to rank among my favorite movies of the year. I prefer the original trilogy to the remakes, but I prefer this one to both Spiderman 1 and Amazing Spider-Man 1. Mainly because of Gwen. I like Raimi storyline more than the Webb storyline. I like Toby McGuire more than I like Andrew Garfield. But I love Gwen far more than I like MJ. This movie had some cheesy moments, and it felt overcrowded with villains, but it was still really good. I won't give any spoilers, but it's a sobfest for sure.

7. Big Hero 6. 5 Stars.

  • Released 10/23
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 89%
  • Budget: $165 million, Gross: $652.1 million.

6. Exodus: Gods and Kings. 5 stars.

  • Released 12/12
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 28%
  • Budget: $140 million, Gross: $268 million
  • This is one of those movies where I just have to ask, "What were the critics smoking?" This movie was nearly perfect in every way. It was the biblical movie I've been dying for. It was so unbelievably convincing in every way. I can't even find words to do this story justice. Everything Christian Bale does is going to be great. Ridley Scott has proven himself time and time again. Go ahead and buy this movie. Don't rent it, don't borrow it, buy it. 

5. The Judge. 5 stars.

  • Released 10/10.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 47%
  • Budget: $50 million, Gross: $83.7 million.
  • This movie was as perfect as possible in every way shape and form. Duvall and Downey gave riveting performances and each deserved to be nominated for Best Actor in my opinion. The fact that the whole movie only received one Oscar nomination is a slap in the face. It was expertly directed, well written, evenly paced, and had an exceptional cast. The fact that this is a story that's already been told a thousand times and yet still manages to feel refreshing, interesting, and fails to feel even the tiniest bit cliched says a lot about the people who invested so much hard work and dedication to this film. I look forward to adding this to my collection and revisiting it many times over the years. 

5. The Judge. 5 stars.

  • Released 10/10.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 47%
  • Budget: $50 million, Gross: $83.7 million.
  • This movie was as perfect as possible in every way shape and form. Duvall and Downey gave riveting performances and each deserved to be nominated for Best Actor in my opinion. The fact that the whole movie only received one Oscar nomination is a slap in the face. It was expertly directed, well written, evenly paced, and had an exceptional cast. The fact that this is a story that's already been told a thousand times and yet still manages to feel refreshing, interesting, and fails to feel even the tiniest bit cliched says a lot about the people who invested so much hard work and dedication to this film. I look forward to adding this to my collection and revisiting it many times over the years. 

3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. 5 stars.

  • Released 7/11.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 90%
  • Budget $170 million, Gross: $708.8 million
  • Yes. Yes. So much Yes. This is what movie making is all about. This is a return to the Hollywood Sci-Fi classics of old. This movie can stand shoulder to shoulder with Empire Strikes Back, Dune, and even the original Planet of the Apes. I have been in love with the POTA saga for as long as I can remember, and this is everything I dreamed it would be. Gary Oldman is a legend. Jason Clarke is perfect. Andy Serkis is magic. Matt Reeves spins his web with expert skill and brings together a story that will last through the ages. And Michael Giacchino's contribution should not be overlooked either. This deserves a spot in your library if anything does. If you haven't seen it yet, run, don't walk, to Redbox and speed home immediately. 

2. Interstellar. 5 stars. 

  • Released 11/4.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 72%
  • Budget: $165 million, Gross: $672.7 million
  • Much of what I just said about Dawn applies here as well. While the characters aren't the kind to last through the ages, the visuals will without a doubt. It may lack the magical cast of Star Wars and Avatar, but it is just as groundbreaking in its visual scope. Christopher Nolan is my favorite director ever. Period. He is legendary. Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, and Michael Caine fill out this all-star cast and perfectly compliment one of the most gripping and haunting storylines ever told. This is 2001. This is Clockwork Orange. This is Inception. This is a story that will forever be listed with the greats.

1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. 5 stars.

  • Released 4/4
  • Rotten Tomatoes Rating 89%
  • Budget: $170 million, Gross: $714.8 million
  • Captain America is my favorite hero of all time. Chris Evans is the greatest fit for a character since Hugh Jackman was cast as Wolverine. The Winter Soldier is the greatest second installment to a series since Empire Strikes Back. Big words, and I stand by them. I can't even come up with words to describe the level of perfection that this film achieves. I can say that it is the greatest Marvel film to date, and the only thing that I see coming close to it in the foreseeable future is the next Captain America installment, Civil War, which will also be directed by the Russo brothers. I can also say that this movie was the greatest comic-book adaptation of all time.

So there you have it! Let me know what you think in the comments down below and let me know some other 2014 movies you think I need to see!

*Note, this article has been edited as of 6/29/15 to reflect updated grosses, and the addition of 10 films I didn't manage to see till after the article went up.

*Note, this article was initially published on