Monday, January 14, 2019

'Santa Claws' Away at Scott's Sanity

As listeners of The Movie Breakdown know, we have an annual Summer Box Office Challenge where both Scott and I draft the ten summer movies each that we think will have the highest grossing opening weekend. The winner then gets to pick three movies that the loser will need to watch and write a review. Long-time listeners will also know that I always win. This year I selected for Scott to review Baby Geniuses, War Room and Rent. The reviews for the first two movies have been written and posted for a long time, but you may wonder where that Rent review has been?

It appears Scott has been pushing it off. Except he pushed too hard and it is now no longer on Netflix. I'm not sure if we ever officially mentioned it on the podcast but we did formally agree that if a movie is removed off Netflix after there being a suitable time (around a month) to watch it, then there will be a 'tardy tax' implemented where the winner now gets to choose three more movies to replace the one missed movie.

So, the pain for Scott continues with three more movies that need to be reviewed. He must secretly love all the pictures that I choose for him to watch.

The first of the new selection of movies is actually one that I've seen. Over the holidays, my kids wanted to watch a Christmas movie and I made a mistake of allowing them to choose something off Netflix. Thus I had to endure the never-ending flaming torture of the horrendous Santa Claws. As a parent of young kids, I've seen a lot of bad talking animal movies. This is the king of the very worst and inept.

So, I knew what was in front of Scott. He is a real hero for watching this movie to the very end. You can read all about his pain and sacrifice with his latest review right here.

Two more to go, Scott!

The Breakdown of 'The Upside', 'Escape Room', 'A Dog's Way Home', 'Lionheart' and 'And Breathe Normally'

It is the first movie review show of the year and we discuss five 2019 releases. It is January so that means we kick it off with a horror movie and this one is the high concept Escape Room. As well we have the feel-good dramatic buddy comedy in The Upside and a family adventure about a travelling dog in A Dog's Way Home. Plus we discuss two Netflix original movies in Nigerian comedy Lionheart and the Icelandic drama And Breathe Normally. As always we had a blast recording the show and we really hope you love it. If you do, then the best way to show your appreciation is share our show on social media and let other movie fans know about us.

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).

Movie Star Ratings

Escape Room *** (CS)
Lionheart *** (CS & SM)
The Upside *** (CS)
And Breathe Normally *** (CS & SM)
A Dog's Way Home **½ (CS)

Monday, January 07, 2019

The Breakdown of the Best of 2018

Our biggest show is here! It is The Breakdown of the Best of 2018. It is our final look back at the year that has just passed and we celebrate it by looking at the very best movies it offered. Both Scott and I will reveal our top ten best movies of 2018. This past year may not be one of the greatest for movies but it still delivered some outstanding pictures. Both our lists have a really nice variety ranging from family to horror to big blockbusters to small independent movies. There should be something for everyone and you'll have a great list of awesome recommendations to track down. This is the show that I look forward to all year and it was a blast to record. We really hope you love it, and if you do, please spread the word to other movie fans. Help make sure 2019 is the Breakdown's best year ever.

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).

Top Ten Best Movies of 2018


10. Searching
9. Revenge
8. Black Panther
7. A Quiet Place
6. The Rider
5. Blindspotting
4. Mandy
3. Eighth Grade
2. Roma
1. Paddington 2


10. Death of Stalin
9. Black Panther
8. First Man
7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
6. Hereditary
5. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
4. Eighth Grade
3. BlackkKlansman
2. A Quiet Place
1. A Star is Born

Sunday, January 06, 2019

It's That Times of Year Again, Some Motivation to Finally Write That Story

Do you keep telling yourself that you want to start writing but you're struggling to find the motivation? Well, if you're a resident of Ontario and you like the chance to win $5,000.00 then I've got your motivation. For the 41st year, Toronto Star is running their annual short story contest. You can find out about it on the link here. It is a great way to challenge yourself and have the chance to give your writing some major exposure. Plus I am entering and if you're the competitive type, you join to defeat me.

I'm not sure what I'm writing yet. As always, I have about a thousand different story ideas. The hardest thing I find about this particular contest is the maximum word limit is 2, 500 words, which for fiction is a really small amount. I often find I am still laying the foundation when I discover it is time to wrap it up.

My advice is pick a very specific act or event, and jump right into it. You can do all the background and character development while the small event unfolds. I know for me, that likely most of the time before the February 28th deadline is going to be devoted to chopping down the manuscript and make it more concise.

The genre and story can be anything. I am sure there are certain types that appeal more to the judges. I don't think your story leanings should scare you away from entering and at least putting your work out there. More importantly, actually writing something over the next two months. I'll try to do a few small updates over the next two months letting you know my own progress and the challenges that I encounter. If you live in Ontario, it would be great if you enter and I wish you the best.

If you don't live in Ontario, you can still read about my own process of trying to craft a story for the contest. I am very inclusive like that.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

20 Years Ago, 1999 Was Busy Being the Greatest Year for Movies

For you math geniuses out there, you may have figured out that 20 years ago, it was 1999. This is a famous year because this was the final year before planes fell out of the sky, bank accounts everywhere were wiped clean and computers became nothing more than the paperweights they are known as today. It was the year before civilization became extinct, and Y2K remained the greatest boogeyman ever known by the remaining humans still standing in this apocalyptic world.

The fact almost nothing remains today could be why so many respected film critics herald 1999 as one of the greatest movie years ever. Being the last year you could go outside without fear of being eaten by a mutated raccoon has elevated our perception of the movie going experience back then.

Of course, it also helps the year was filled with one of the most amazing movie slates ever known to humankind. This was the year that boasts such renowned classics as My Favorite Martian, The Other Sister, Baby Geniuses, Wing Commander, Life, The General's Daughter, Big Daddy, Wild Wild West, Inspector Gadget, Runaway Bride, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Dudley Do-Right, For the Love of the Game, Bats and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. No other year could compare to such embarrassment of riches.

The Academy Award's Best Picture winner from that year, American Beauty has now been unanimously declared as the one year that the organization not only got it indisputably correct but picked what it now universally recognized as the greatest thing ever made. The movie has clearly aged perfectly and isn't seen the least bit pretentious or overrated. No one has ever said this is something that doesn't hold up on rewatching or with some years of perspective. It isn't like the star of the film now has a soiled reputation or makes us now the least bit uncomfortable watching him ogling a teenager. Not even a little bit.

Of course, 1999 gave us the greatest of the Star Wars movies in The Phantom Menace, and the iconic comedic relief in Jar Jar Binks. George Lucas exactly delivered whatever fan dreamed for the Anakin Skywalker story and somehow hit everyone's high expectations for his road to Darth Vader. No one today looks at the high praise of this movie and thinks it may have come from the fact we had over a decade of anticipation for the next instalment in a beloved franchise. No, we all now recognize this was a movie that was near perfect and galaxies above the now accepted overrated original trilogy.

The more I think about it, the more I realize 1999 is objectively the greatest year of cinema ever and it is not even up for debate. It is scientifically irrefutable to be the greatest year ever to fart out film. The high praise of the year has nothing to do with the fact that many of the critics praising it may now have a strong sense of nostalgia or maybe even be the year some broke into the film criticism career so it is thought about fondly. Rather the high praise of the year is due to Skittles and gold literally flowing from the big screen and into the pockets of every person who went to the theatres that year. It was movie magic.

I didn't realize that 1999 was the great year of everything when I was living it, but that was mostly due to the fact I was in my early 20s, so obviously I was stupid. I also didn't recognize the genius of the Jamie Lee Curtis starring Virus back then and mistook it as a cheap Alien rip-off at the time, not knowing Ridley Scott actually used a DeLorean from 1985 to go into the future to see the movie then steal the idea so he can go back to 1979 to rip it off. Now, I do, so I appreciate it much more.

I also lived in both Brantford and Cambridge in 1999, so probably a good deal of the prestige pictures didn't make their way to me, plus I was a struggling student so I probably didn't go to as many movies then. I do know that I did see the following movies in the theatre in 1999: Analyze This, Wing Commander, The Matrix, Never Been Kissed, Lost and Found, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (at least three times in theatres), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, American Pie, The Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes, Bats, The Bone Collector, Sleepy Hollow, The World is Not Enough, Any Given Sunday, The Hurricane and Man on the Moon.

 And because Blockbuster was a cool thing back then, I rented the following movies shortly after they came out: Payback, Blast from the Past, Office Space, 8mm, 200 Cigarettes, Cruel Intentions, Ravenous, 10 Things I Hate About You, Go, Election, Idle Hands, Big Daddy, Arlington Road, The Blair Witch Project, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Double Jeopardy, Drive Me Crazy, Fight Club and Dogma.

The list of movies here probably say more to my age and tastes of the time, then a proper representation of the line-up of the year. Like I said, I foolishly did not know I was watching films that would be a part of the greatest year ever. I also did not know my house would burst into flames at 12:00am on January 1st, 2000. I've learned a lot since then.

Of course, I've seen many more 1999 movies as time has passed. Not sure how I didn't see Toy Story 2 right away when it came out, but I guess Pixar wasn't a phenomenon yet.  I don't think Mystery Men or Galaxy Quest had a lot of buzz at the time or maybe I am just forgetting when I eventually saw them (but I am pretty sure it was a few years later). I am sure stuff like Iron Giant, Eyes Wide Shut, Being John Malkovich, Magnolia, Boys Don't Cry, The Talent Mr. Ripley, Three Kings, The Insider, The Virgin Suicides, Bringing Out the Dead, and Girl Interrupted were not even on my radar and probably most of them came nowhere close to where I was living at the time. I sure was aware of Deep Blue Sea and Superstar at least.

20 years ago was the height of cinema. If anyone challenges you on what is the greatest year for movies then you just give them a peek at the 1999 line-up. They will learn that there is no subjectivity in cinema or it isn't true that every year can have great and bad movies. Oh no, 1999 is perfection.

You could wrongfully disagree with me. If you want to prove how wrong you truly are, then let me know in the comments what you think was the great year for movies.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Top Ten Great Things About Having a Lingering Several Week Long Flu

I got an early Christmas present in the form of a can't shake cold that has now been giving me low energy, a nagging cough, sore throat, Kleenex exercises and a pounding headache going on three weeks now. It doesn't really fit into my immediate plans, but 2019 is the year of the glass half full, so I am trying to be positive about everything. This include the flu that won't go away. I decided to bestow my loyal readers with the top ten reasons it is awesome to have a nasty flu.

1. It is something you can share with the whole family.

2. A deep, husky, throaty voice is considered super sexy according to a magazine article that I think I read one time.

3. You finally may win that Addams Family lookalike contest.

4. You keep saying that you need to go to bed earlier, now you have the energy to do it.

5. The Great Muta mist!

6. Way cheaper than buying your kid a slime kit for Christmas.

7. Finally, a way to avoid those close talkers.

8. If you feel like juggling parenting and work has become far too easy, you finally have the extra challenge you've been clamouring to enter your lie.

9. You are helping out the economy with the rise in tissue sales.

10. You have a built-in excuse for posting a lame top ten, as an attempt to meet your daily content promise on your blog.

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Indiana Jones, Dog Booties. Cake, and Joy: A Pictorial Tale of the Spicer Family Christmas Holidays

We are now getting into 2019, so that means the holiday season has come to a close. Or will officially wave good-bye after this weekend, when the kids will be shuffled back to school. Even if the holidays are done, it doesn't mean we can't look back fondly upon them. For the last seven years, they've been a rather big deal here at Spicer Manor, because not only do we now have excitable kids around to celebrate it but Everett's birthday is on Boxing Day. Here is a look at our holidays through the magic of pictures.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Remembering 'Mean' Gene Okerlund

Off the top of your head, name your top five favourite interviewers in wrestling?

Now, let's be honest, did you just name 'Mean' Gene Okerlund five times?

'Mean' Gene Okerlund was one of those unique wrestling characters that was funny and full of charisma but knew how to not overshadow the wrestlers and actually enhance their acts. He did some hilarious slapstick and witty banter with a comic legend like Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan (still miss him so much) and was a crucial part in making a Hulk Hogan interview something special and memorable. The all-time great promo guys like Ric Flair, 'The Million Dollar Man' Ted Dibiase, 'Macho Man' Randy Savage, 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper or Jake 'The Snake' Roberts were brought to the next level when they had Okerlund to play off.  He was even better for guiding interviews with the wrestlers who had much weaker mic skills or lacked charisma or almost helped save horrendous segments like the infamous Gobbledy Gooker debut.

The height of 'Mean' Gene Okerlund's career would be his WWF run from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, and this was a time when interviews and segments were not scripted out or even practiced like they are today. There wasn't a room of writers that was crafting the weekly television and had scripts to be handed out to each performer. Back then there was usually a booker, who was the guy who came up with the feuds and direction of the company and when it was time for the interview or angle, the wrestlers would be given bullet points of what needed to be hit but the rest was improv. It allowed for much more lively and organic interviews, and just compare today's product to 30 years ago to see what was the better approach. Back then they relied on the larger than life personality of the wrestlers to make stuff work.

This improv component shows how important 'Mean' Gene was to the show. He had to help wrestlers to nail all the important information and also make sure the viewer understood the storylines being told. He had to keep things entertaining while also making sure the wrestler shined. It isn't until seeing numerous other wrestling interviewers over the years that I realize how talented 'Mean' Gene really was and how hard his job had to be.

'Mean' Gene was balding and not what you'd call 'TV Handsome'. Anyone aware of WWF/WWE owner Vince McMahon, you'd know how much importance he put on looks. I didn't realize it as a kid, but I now realize how often he tried to replace 'Mean' Gene. There was Ken Resnick in 1986 and Craig DeGeorge in 1987 (both would be considered good-looking and TV friendly), who started doing a lot of the interviews during that time while 'Mean' Gene was moved to hosting 'WWF Update' segments. But none of them lasted too long and the company always turned back to 'Mean' Gene as the main interviewer. I'd say he was one of the major faces of the WWF until he finally left for WCW at the end of 1993.

Over a year ago, we lost my all-time favourite wrestling personality and manager in the legendary Bobby 'The Brain' Heenan. After Gorilla Monsoon, Okerlund was the best comedic partner playing off Heenan and acting exasperated with his behaviour. It is nice to think that the three of them are now reunited.

Thank you, 'Mean' Gene Okerlund, you will always be the greatest wrestling interviewer of all time.

RIP 'Mean' Gene Okerlund December 19, 1942 - January 2, 2019.