Monday, November 12, 2018

The Breakdown of 'The Girl in the Spider's Web', 'The Grinch', 'The Other Side of the Wind', 'The Holiday Calendar', and 'Shirkers'

This week on The Movie Breakdown we've got reviews for some long awaited movies. If we're talking about long waits then how about a movie that was filmed before I was born and has finally been released now with legendary filmmaker Orson Welles' final movie, The Other Side of the Wind. We have a soft-reboot quasi sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo with the now Claire Foy starring The Girl in the Spider's Web. Who hasn't been saying that we need more remakes of holiday specials stretched out to feature length, and we have that in The Grinch. It is finally that time of the year when Netflix starts rolling out their Hallmark-esque purposefully (I think) cheesy romantic holiday movie in The Holiday Calendar. Then we have a documentary of a small indy film that went missing for over a decade in Shirkers. As always we really hope you love the show, and if you do then please spread the word to other new movie fans.

Reminder that you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

Four Star Rating:

The Other Side of the Wind ***½ (CS & SM)
The Girl in the Spider's Web **½ (CS)
The Holiday Calendar *½ (CS) & * (SM)
The Grinch **½ (CS)
Shirkers ***½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Breakdown of 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms', 'Hunter Killer', 'Apostle', 'The Night Comes For Us', and 'Gnome Alone'

It is jam-packed episode of The Movie Breakdown with reviews for six new releases. The biggest movie this week is the rock biopic of iconic frontman Freddie Mercury and his band Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody. We also look at two kid pictures including the retelling of a classic short story turned ballet in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and the animated adventure feature, Gnome Alone. We then discuss some thrillers in the violent Indonesian gangster picture The Nights Comes for Us, the submarine flick Hunter Killer, and the story of a man trying to save his sister from a cult in Apostle. As always, we had a blast recording this week's episode, and we hope you have just as much fun. If you enjoy the show then please help us out by spreading the word to other movie fans.

Reminder that you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

Star Ratings:

Bohemian Rhapsody **½ (CS)
Apostle *** (CS & SM)
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms *** (CS)
The Night Comes For Us **½ (CS) & ** (SM)
Hunter Killer ** (CS)
Gnome Alone ** (CS) & *½ (SM)

Scott Goes to War with His First Punishment Movie

As any long time listener of The Movie Breakdown knows, we have an annual Summer Box Office Challenge where Scott and I each draft ten summer movies that we think will have the highest grossing opening weekend. The winner of the contest then gets to pick three movies that the loser has to watch and write a review. Another thing long time listeners will know is that I've won every year.

Scott has written the review for his first 'punishment' movie in the faith based picture, War Room. Apparently, this is a Christian production that actually looks like a real movie. That is also about the only positive that Scott is able to come up with, as it appears he really hated this one. I've already been told that this is the worst movie that I've forced him to see. I say that is yet another win for me.

The review actually has some pretty good insight in why it doesn't work and the problem with most faith-based movies. Please check out Scott's pain in his latest review over at his site.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Best Movie vs. Favourite Movie: Is There a Difference?

It is the time of year that the studios start releasing their big Oscar hopefuls. It is also around this time that film reviewers and critics start reflecting on all the movies that they've seen in preparation for their annual top ten movies lists. Most of those movies are still to be seen, unless the critic hit most of the festivals. Many of the lists tend to skew heavy with movies released in the last two months, though they are some critics that prefer to scatter then with the big summer adventures. No matter who makes the lists, they tend to stir a lot of comments from readers complaining how wrong the critic was to leave off a certain movie or to rank another so high.

In a vain attempt to stop these comments, the list maker will often inform their reader or listener or viewer that the lists are subjective. Just like I've written a thousand times on here, all movie reviews or even any critiquing on art is subjective and just the view of the person who is declaring it. Often the reviewer will mention how star ratings don't matter for lists and sometimes a movie that got a lower score will rank higher than a movie that scored better in their initial reviews. The reason is often because the person rewatched the movies and their opinions were altered or one movie turned out to age better in the person's mind. A movie that didn't leave much of an impression at first can continue to haunt the reviewer for the remainder of the year. Opinions can change and sometimes a movie becomes gold on that second or third rewatching (Get Out got better and better each time that I revisited it, which is why it ended up ranking higher at the end of the year compared to the mid-year).

Some reviewers and critics will start their lists by saying that the movie may not necessarily be the best movies but rather their favourite movies. I have also seen some critics and reviewers rebrand their list to Favourite Movies of the Year rather than Best of the Year.

I call shenanigans.

When looking at something subjective like art and in this case specifically movies, I don't believe there is any difference between best and favourite. The best movies for a specific person happens to also be their favourite movies. When I list my Best Movies of 2018, I will also be listing my favourite movies, and I am well aware that my list will be different than every other critic. If that wasn't the case and the best movies of 2018 was objective and provable then there would be no point of Scott and I having separate lists for our end of the year shows.

Now, you can determine what is great cinematography or a great acting performance or even a well-written script, but as a whole a package, it is much harder deciding what is the best movie. You can even admit a movie is well-directed or have amazing acting, but it still did not resonate with you. If a well-made movie falls flat or doesn't connect, then you're not going to call it one of the best of the year. The best movies for a person is one that emotionally connects with them and affects them in a deep way that they are still thinking about it days later. One person's best can be another person's slog.

This also comes with star ratings. If I give four stars to a movie, I am not saying it has perfect cinematography or the best acting but rather the movie that left an unshakeable impact on me. It was movie that I loved and is one of the best. The criteria can and does change from movie to movie. There is no formula that makes a movie get four stars and land on a best of the year. It just does, and as a reviewer, it is my job to try to communicate the journey to how it got there for me personally.

This is also why I hate labels like 'guilty pleasure' or 'so bad that it is good', because they just come off as someone embarrassed that they liked something that others have deemed garbage. For me, if you like it then you like it. If you want to rewatch it, then it has some type of value. It is the job of the critic to figure out why a movie worked. I stand by liking The Lone Ranger or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets even when no one else seemed to agree. I am not feeling guilty about it though.

Now, favourite does not have to mean fun or enjoyable. I have connected with movies that are dark or even depressing, but they've spoke to me in some way and have made a deep connection. Usually movies like that have challenged me or given me new perspective, and for those reasons, I feel they are one of the best movies. Movies like mother!, 13th, The Revenant, Under the Skin, or 12 Years a Slave were not feel-good movies, but they were powerful movies that left a mark on me and I thought were important. I am glad I have seen each of them and still think about them often, which is why all of them made my Best of the Year lists from their respective years.

When my best of the year list arrive for 2018, realize that what I am saying is that these are my favourite movies, but also, that they are favourites because I think they are the best for what I want out of a movie.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Pictorial Tale of the 2018 Spicer Halloween

You may have heard, there was this thing called Halloween yesterday. It made its way to the Spicer Compound. This is how we handled it.

I take great joy in knowing Danika is channeling young Christopher who loved digging into pumpkin guts. She is also about as messy too.

Everett wanted 'his jack-o'-lantern to be Groot. Emily drew the face and Everett carved it out. I would say it was a mighty fine job by my ambitious six year old (turning seven).

I asked Danika what she wanted her pumpkin to be carved into. She said 'make it an ugly monster that will scare the people and eat them all up.' This is what I settled on. This particular pumpkin was really bumpy and looked like melted wax, and it was really hard to carve. I ended up not using the typical pumpkin carver and had to resort to a steak knife.

Up until the Halloween, Everett was being a dragon. He then decided that day that he wanted to be a creature riding a dragon. We didn't have time to find additions to his costume, but he decided to take his treat bucket and turn it into the head of his 'Pumpkin Knight.' So, this was his creation and surprisingly he didn't walk into too many walls or trees.

Danika was dressed up as Disney Junior character Fancy Nancy. But if you asked her, she was Fancy Dancy, then would give you a short dance to accompany that announcement.

Monday, October 29, 2018

'Sixteen Candles' Not Enough? How About 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom'?

I'm not sure if I should be pimping 80s All Over so hard, because I am risking you replacing The Movie Breakdown in your podcast listening diet. But the latest episode not only had an insightful argument over Sixteen Candles, but there is an even hotter disagreement over another major movie from May 1984, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

I think both hosts do a great job in arguing their sides. One being it is an ugly and racist movie that has its thrilling moments but a major step down for the series compared to the perfect Raiders of the Lost Ark. The other one being that it is a homage to classic pulp and a great insight into the personal lives of the filmmakers and producers of the time, and aghast, better than Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. They even get a guest to appear and articulate the merits of the movie. It is all really fascinating, and to me shows the value in film criticism is getting different perspectives rather than being convinced one is right.

I recently rewatched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with Everett, and I have to say that I appreciate it a lot more as something that attempted to be very different from the previous movie. It is best seen as a dark fantasy rather than anything grounded in reality. Though the depiction of India is problematic, no matter how you want to frame it.

Since we are talking about Indiana Jones, I must ask: 'What ever happened to Short Round by the time Raider of the Lost Ark happens?" This bothered as a kid ever since I discovered it was a prequel.

'The Movie Breakdown' Podcast Is Not Enough? Check Out the '80's All Over' Podcast

The latest episode of The Movie Breakdown released this morning and I hope you loved or will love it. If you have listened to every episode of our movie review podcast, then you now have many hours that could be filled with another movie review podcast. That is right, as shocking as this may be, Scott and I appear to not be the only two people in the world that talk about movies. One of the very best movie review podcasts is 80s All Over. It is hosted by long-time movie critics and lifetime movie fanatics, Drew McWeeny and Scott Weinberg, They really know their movie history and have some really great insight, plus they have a pretty fun sense of humour.

The series aims to review every major release of the decade that is the 1980s, and their first episode is January 1980, then they go in chronological order from there. I've listened to every episode, and it is great as a nostalgia kick for someone who saw many of these movies as a kid but also great as a pop culture history lesson. Please check out the show, because it is a must-listen for any movie buff.

I would definitely say this works best for the person who loves movies. If you are more of a casual fan or not as aware of film history, you may want to keep Google handle as they assume you know some of the big names of the era. But they are entertaining enough that you'd still get a lot from the show even if you haven't seen too many movies from the 1980s/

The most recent episode is May 1984 and contains a hot debate and argument over the controversial but still beloved Sixteen Candles. The discussion gives a lot of great perspective and allows for two different views of a movie many consider a classic. Check it out and support yet another great podcast. But you know, don't forget us every Monday either.

The Breakdown of Halloween - 'The Grudge', 'Coraline', 'Mom & Dad', 'Train to Busan', and 'Creep 2'

It is almost time for 'Trick or Treating', so that must mean it is our annual special episode The Breakdown of Halloween. Every October we've had a spotlight on a variety of different horror movies, and this year is no different. We have a massive hit from 2004 in the Sarah Michelle Gellar starring The Grudge. We also have a spooky movie for brave kids in the animated feature Coraline. Then we have a Korean zombie flick in Train to Busan. We also review two 2018 indy horror features in Mom & Dad and Creep 2. We also answer a listener's question on what would be good introductory horror movies for someone who hasn't really seen anything from the genre. It was a lot of fun to record and we hope it is a great show for horror fans or even those a little hesitant about the genre. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie buffs.

Reminder that you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

No outline. For some reason, the audio player used on our host site changes the length (so the time stamps changes as well) each time it plays. I have no idea how a recorded audio file can suddenly be longer or shorter, yet that is the issue. If you have any idea how to resolve this several year problem then please let us know.

The Grudge *** (CS & SM)
Coraline **** (CS & SM)
Train to Busan *** (CS & SM)
Mom & Dad *** (CS & SM)
Creep 2 *** (CS & SM)

Saturday, October 27, 2018

The Official Death of the Boba Fett Movie Shows Studios are Starting to Realize the Art of Anticipation

It looks like those Star Wars spin-off may be dead after all. Shortly, after Solo: A Star Wars Story underperformed it was reported they were scrapping all the non-episode movies. Disney denied it being true and said they were still focused on all the projects they greenlit. The word on the street is that Kathleen Kennedy is declaring the Boba Fett movie is dead, and if a big name like that isn't getting a movie then I think it is safe to say A Star Wars Story experiment is done or at least, going on a long hiatus.

As I said back in June, this is a great thing. Episode 9 has a year and half to build anticipation and feel like a big deal and be the primary movie focus of Lucasfilm. This mean whatever follow-up they have for that movie, be it an Episode 10 or a new trilogy set in that world, there should be at least two years for Star Wars fans to build excitement. There are a reasons that Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Incredibles 2 and maybe even Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle were massive smash hits, because there was a long wait since the previous movie and it helped make them into big events.

The studio strategy is to try to strike when the iron is hot and try to get the next instalment out as quickly as possible. It has worked for the Marvel Cinematic Extended Universe, but they also have the advantage of each movie containing different characters and often even have a different style. You may have three Marvel movies in a year but one is about Guardians of the Galaxy and another may have Thor and then another will be Spider-Man, so the feeling of freshness remains. If you get a Jurassic World movie every year or non-stop assembly line of Terminators than audience excitement for them will plummet.

It seems like studios may be catching up on that a bit. Wonder Woman 1984 got moved out of its schedule spot in 2019 and is now a 2020 summer release. That now means that it will be a three year wait before the follow-up to the original Wonder Woman. That is the same amount of time that the original Star Wars trilogy had, and seems like enough time for people to start salivating for the next story again.

Except for the very successful MCEU, it looks like the other studios have got cinematic universes out of their system and no longer have aspiration of two or more interlocking movies a year that will eventually lead to a money-raining-down-from-the-heavens team-up event. One studio has had success with it and evidence points to audiences not really being excited about that happening with anyone else. After the disappointment of Justice League (which to be fair, they really rushed their team-up movie and botched the build  to it), DC now just seems to be focusing on each individual movie and as Wonder Woman proves, even willing to take their time to get it right.

Even if Dark Universe or a Hasbro Shared Universe is still a thing that studios want, it is clear that they are no longer over-confident in the formula being an automatic gold factory and are now taking their time on releasing their movie. We are more likely to see a Bride of Frankenstein or Transformers reboot that is focused on that specific story rather than building towards fifty five spin-offs and a sequel. There likely will be a wait and see approach before production starts on the other movies. We may see actual constraint from studios and a focus on making each movie something their audience wants to see rather than feature-length ads and set ups for the next year.

This doesn't mean a flood of greatness is going to consume us. This model still brings stuff like Venom and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and I haven't liked many Fast and Furious movies despite all of them have a few years space between them. A few year break between sequels doesn't automatically make magic, but it at least should give filmmakers a chance to focus on that specific movie.

Of course, the movie industry is always shifting and every studio is trying to find the best strategy to maximize profits and bring an army of movie-goers to see their latest. Maybe in two weeks, every studio will unveil their latest cinematic universe or we will learn about a series of films that will accumulate with the Terminator, Robocop and Rambo battling the Goonies.

For now, I have some hope that studios are at least learning the value of having a little bit of anticipation.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Hey Ontario, Go Do Some Informed Voting!

If you are residing from Ontario and reading this on October 22, 2018, then I hope you plan or have already done informed voting. I realize the municipal elections are the least glamorous and under reported, but they are actually the most important. These are the elections that directly affect your community and will impact your day to day life. This is also the one you have the most voice for change as it involves your actual city. Sadly, it is also the one with the worst voter turnout and many people seem to miss its relevance and worth.

You may also notice that I have used the word 'informed' a few times. If you don't want to take the time to learn about the candidates and form an actual opinion then you're missing the value and point of voting. Please take some time to watch a debate or quickly look at the platforms to learn about your candidates. Use that knowledge to decide who you support to lead your city forward.

I already voted online this morning. That is right, at least in Brantford you don't even have to leave the house and you can use this thing called the Internet to cast your vote. Your excuse for not voting has diminished even further.

My vote was cast for change. I voted for a new mayor and two new members of council. You may think your city is great as it is, and go for the re-election route. Either way, please take some time to learn about your candidates and then cast your vote.

I also want to add that I did watch both the my ward's council debate and the mayoral debate, and it was nice to see that almost every candidate talked about the importance of diversity and acceptance, and put a big focus on how arts and culture are the life blood of a city. It gave me a whiff of hope that I can have some faith in politics again, and at least in Brantford, we aren't being driven by bigotry and a fear of the 'other.' While taxes was talked about a lot, each one focused more on proper use of taxes rather than just cutting them. The municipal level seems more progressive and open-minded then some of bile we've had to endure at the other recent elections.

Enough of my soapbox, you have some voting to do. Or if you already voted, have yourself an "I voted' congratulatory drink.

When Did You Go Against the Crowd?

Yesterday, I wrote about how heartbreaking it can be for a reviewer to dislike a movie that the consensus is raving about. My point was to show that rarely is the dissenter someone that is trying to stand-out or be a contrarian but rather a crushed movie fan. On the other hand, I take great joy in discovering a shiny gem of a movie when everyone else declared it was trash. I love being able to champion something to a point where someone may take a gamble on it or be willing to give it a second chance.

Roger Ebert is one of my favourite critics that often went against the crowd. He always came from an honest place and was able to eloquently articulate why he saw a movie differently than everyone else. I completely disagree with his thumbs down on classic movies like Full Metal Jacket or Blue Velvet or his praise of stuff like Cop and a Half and Zookeeper, but I respect he dared to give his honest opinion. He liked what he liked.

I mentioned yesterday how I've not been a fan of Academy Award Winning Best Picture, Gladiator. Other major examples of movies that the majority loved that I could not connect with were Smallfoot, Prisoners, American Made, Kong: Skull Island, Blue Caprice, Fury, Eddie the Eagle, Black Mass, and plenty more. Though the biggest bummer was this weekend's Halloween that I am holding to the hope that it just needs a rewatching to shift my mind.

The more fun stuff is loving something that other people don't. The stuff you can champion to give a second or third chance. The significant movies that I enjoyed that others panned have been Hangover Part III, The Lone Ranger, Sex Tape, Annie, The Giver, A Wrinkle in Time, Red Sparrow, Passengers, Snatched, Speed Racer, The Hitman's Bodyguard, and many others.

But enough about my views. You can listen to tons of podcasts and read many reviews to see where I go against the grain.

I want to know what movies did you have a totally different opinion than the majority. What movie did you hate that everyone else seems to love? What movie do you love that everyone else hates? I know there are a few. Everyone has them.

The Breakdown of 'Halloween', 'Bad Times at El Royale', '22 July' and 'The Kindergarten Teacher'

We are reviewing one of the most anticipated movies of the year and maybe even of the last several years in the John Carpenter endorsed sequel in Halloween. We also got some movies that have festival buzz in Paul Greengrass's latest film based on a horrific tragedy in 22 July and as well, a movie about a very disturbed women obsessed with the poetic skills of her 5 year old student in The Kindergarten Teacher. We also review Drew Goddard's latest in stylish thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. After the movie reviews, we discuss if the perception of horror has changed with its recent box office and critical success over the past few years. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to other big movie fans.

Reminder that you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

No outline. For some reason, the audio player used on our host site changes the length (so the time stamps changes as well) each time it plays. I have no idea how a recorded audio file can suddenly be longer or shorter, yet that is the issue. If you have any idea how to resolve this several year problem then please let us know.

Halloween ** (CS)
22 July *** (CS & SM)
Bad Times at El Royale *** (CS)
The Kindergarten Teacher *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)