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)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

It's More Joyful to Champion Everyone's Trash Than Pan the Crowd Favourite

As I've said for the last five years, there is nothing objective about reviewing movies. The movie review is always and has always been the sole opinion of the person writing or saying it. A movie critic who watches over 200 movies a year and is watching each of those movie with an analytical eyes, should be able to articulate and delve into what makes a particular movie work. A movie review has value when expressed by someone who explains the craft and themes and techniques used that elevated or derailed a picture. As a person who writes reviews and co-hosts a movie review podcast, I obviously think there is a lot worth in critiquing and analyzing art (in this case movies). Movie reviews are important.

But they are still just one person's opinion. This is why I think the Siskel & Ebert format works well (which is why Scott and I borrowed it for The Movie Breakdown podcast), because it is two informed and smart critics putting their two views on a film together for debate and analysis.

If you listen to The Movie Breakdown podcast, you will see that more often than not, Scott and I largely agree on a movie. We have our disagreements like The Predator or Lucy, but often we agree on what works or doesn't. If you look at Rotten Tomatoes, it is clear that for a large portion of the movies, the majority of critics come together with similar opinions on each movie, which is why you'll often see most new releases either have a really high or really low score.

But it is all just opinions. Opinions that can shift depending on the reviewer's mood or the environment the person saw the movie in or who the viewer saw the movie with or how the movie may relate to the viewer's current life. Here is the big kicker, even with professional critics the views of a movie can change over time. Roger Ebert initially gave Unforgiven a two and half star rating, which by his criteria means that he didn't even recommend it. Several years later, he put it in his Great Movie series and bestowed it four stars. The movie was the same both times that he would have watched it, because something in Ebert shifted on his next viewing. Though I would argue that both his reviews have value even if there is a drastic change in how he saw it.

One of the reasons that I love Roger Ebert was that he wasn't afraid to have different views than the consensus. He like Paul Blart Mall Cop and hated Kick-Ass. He also was open to changing his opinions on movies like Blade Runner.

It is with the knowledge that views can shift on a second or third or tenth viewing that I take as solace, I've recently found myself going against the consensus. A movie that has garnered great praise from most critics is one that I cannot recommend and found myself greatly disappointed. It was good enough that I am open to revisit it and feel like my views could drastically improve. Maybe this time my opinion was soured by the people behind me that thought their conversational voices were a whisper and kept them up the entire run time.

Every critic ever has had their moment when they disliked a movie that almost everyone else praised and loved. It comes with being people with their own opinions and views. Sometimes, they revisit the movie and realise that they like it more and other times they never can see what everyone else does.

One thing that I know for sure, is that every review has value and insight. If a critic pans a movie but then several years later writes glowing review for the same movie, both those reviews have worth. They are both a capsule of that moment in time. If the critic is being honest, then both reviews have a worth in dissecting and analyzing that film. Each hold an unshakable truth even with different conclusions.

This is why I don't like the contrarian label. For the most part, I think critics are honest in how they view a film and aren't trying to go against the crowd. It is just inevitable that it will happen sometimes.

In my case, I was utterly bummed that a movie that I was hotly anticipating and had great buzz did not work for me. I hate it when I am not a fan of a film that everyone else is praising. There isn't any joy in panning movies, especially a movie that most feel has great artistic value. A writer is at their best when they are honest, and a review has no worth if the reviewer isn't sharing their true experience.

This is why I get much more joy from when I recommend a movie that the crowd pans. A film that I can challenge isn't as bad as believed and does have worth. I have had much more joy this year going against the grain in recommending A Wrinkle in Time  and Red Sparrow than I do not recommending Halloween. I liked last year being able to declare that Valerian and the City with a Thousand Planets is actually a really fun science fiction adventure. Both Scott and I had a lot of joy admitting we laughed and had a good time with Hangover Part 3.

I can't speak for other critics, but I assume most get a lot more pleasure championing the underdog movie than trashing a highly regarded picture. I have never really seen why people really liked Gladiator, but I'm happier to admit that I have a soft spot for Last Action Hero.

A great movie review is one that is honest and the true views of the reviewers, even if it is one that is incredibly different than almost every other reviewer. But the real fun is when you can champion a movie that is on someone else's worst of the year, and you can say, 'no, this movie deserves another chance.' Maybe one day that other critic will revisit and see that they do like it just a little bit more.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Good Thing That I Don't Charge You For This!

Several months ago, I pitched the idea of starting up a Patreon for the blog and podcast. It was greeted as if I promised a lasagne but farted instead. Actually, that probably would have triggered a response. It was closer to when I expressed interest in a girl in high school: complete silence.

The girls were justified then and my output on this blog proves my readers' apathy for monetizing was right there as well. The Movie Breakdown has been hiatus free for over a year and I am pretty sure we avoided even missing a week for over almost a year now (even the last few times, it was due to the fact my internet was completely down for several days, so we couldn't record the show over Skype). As good as I have been at consistent podcasting, I've been just as dreadful with posting reviews and other articles on here.

I would like to blame it on Danika rampaging during the day and paid client work occupying the quiet moments. While those would be true, I really want to grow my readership here to the point that I can get it to the 'next level' -- whatever that actually means. In order to do that, this site really needs to be a focus again.

My goal going forward is to view this blog as if it does have a Patreon attached, and that there are paying readers expecting daily stuff to read. Hopefully, that will be the motivations to create the consistency that attracts new readers.

I didn't mention that the reader numbers have taken a massive dip the last several months. All the increase in readership and at one time loyal followers seems to have been fireballed. I like to think that this is not the end, and just getting the word groove on again will bring them back or at least bring on some new readers.

What do I want to do on here? Well, the plan is to write a lot more movie reviews (at least everything that I see in theatres). Pop culture is something that has always been a significant topic here, and since I watched so many movies, it will likely be mostly in that area, but I would like to occasionally write about books that I've read and some TV like the terrific A Good Place. A lot more writing about parenting again, because that is a rather major part of my life, so it triggers many topics that I can passionately write about. After that, I'd like to dabble in things that used to be much more common on here a few years ago like politics and social issues, but I also would really like to create more creative writing and humour pieces. The podcast means that it is inevitable that I will most often write about movies with the perspective of being a dad, or at least, that is what I assume.

The big thing is just being more honest. Using the blog as a window to the soul, and allowing myself to be vulnerable on here. I really think that is the key to the very best writing. This allows me to be open when I'm feeling a deep sadness or bouncing around with some uncontrollable anxiety. It also will just be my real thought on the screen in everything like my movie reviews or a daily anecdote about adventures with kids.

Most of all, it just means lots and lots more delicious words in all the forms that takes on here.

Yes, I am aware I've written a piece like this about 40 billion times on here now. Impressive, because I haven't even written that many posts on here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Breakdown of 'First Man', 'Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween', 'Operation Finale', 'Private Life' and 'Malevolent'

We are halfway through October and we are getting deep into the quality movie season. We've got some great movies to praise this week and maybe more than one could make our 'Best of the 2018' show. This week we review five movies with the big one being the major Oscar contender in the Damien Chazelle directed and Ryan Gosling starring story about Neil Armstrong landing on the moon in First Man. Halloween is almost here, so we've got another horror movie for kids in Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween. We also have a horror movie for the older crowd in the paranormal picture Malevolent. The ghosts from the past surface in the thriller of the real life capturing of Adolf Eichmann in Operation Finale. We also have a comedic drama about an older couple trying to get a child in Private Life. As always we had a great time recording the show and we really hope you love it as well. If you do 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).

The time stamps are still changing every time that I use the player, so it makes a timed outline pointless. Once again, if someone can assist in fixing this issue that would be greatly appreciated.

Question of the Week: What is the scariest moment in a movie you’ve seen?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

Operation Finale **½ (CS & SM)
First Man **** (CS)
Private Life **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween *** (CS)
Malevolent ** (CS & SM)

Thursday, October 11, 2018

'The Soultangler' Review: Home-made Horror Version of 'Re-Animator'

Four Rating: **
Starring: Kim Kinser, Pierre Deveaux, Louise Millman, Bob Cederberg
Director: Pat Bishow
Screenplay: Pat Bishow, John Bishow, Lance Laurie
Producers: Paula Vlodkowsky
Music by: Hypnolovewheel
Cinematographer: Pat Bishow
Editor: Pat Bishow
Production Company: Amusement Films
Distributed by: AGFA & Bleeding Skull (2018 DVD release)
Genre: Horror
Rated: Unrated - Graphic Violence, Coarse Language, Scary Scenes, Mature Themes, Smoking
Release Date: 1987/ DVD re-release March 13 2018
Run Time: 90 minutes (Director's Cut 62 minutes)

The Soultangler is a 'do it yourself'' style gory horror picture drawing inspiration from stories by H. P. Lovecraft as well as movies about zombies, mad scientists and possessions. It was shot in 1985 by mostly family and friends in Long Island, New York on a meagre budget of $8,000. It's a homemade production by an unseasoned cast and crew driven by passions for splatter and supernatural movies that were very popular at the underground level in the 1980s.

It took until 1987 for the movie to land a home video distributor, an Italian company, that liked the 62 minute cut but felt it needed to be 90 minutes to make it sellable.  Director Pat Bishow ended up adding 30 minutes of 'padding' with expository dialogue explaining the mythology and long scenes of people walking or driving or smoking (it also works as a cigarette ad).. The company then ended up never giving it an official American release, but it was distributed in several other countries including Canada (which is how my podcast co-host, Scott Martin, was able to obtain a VHS copy in the early 2000s).

It has mostly sat in obscurity until this year when the American Genre Film Archive along with restored the film for a special DVD release. Both organizations focus on the restoration, collection, conservation and distribution of genre cinema, and no matter your opinion on a specific movie, each is a piece of art and history that should be preserved. The DVD also marked the first time Bishow could release his original 62 minute cut.

Bishow freely admits on his commentary track that The Soultangler is not a very good movie. The main story is rather derivative to the point that some have accused it of being heavily inspired by Stuart Gordon's cult classic, Re-Animators, but Director Pat Bishow claims this was just a coincidence as filming happened before that movie's release. It also clearly is made by non-professionals with barely community theatre acting, borderline incoherent plotting, clunky attempts at humour, hastily edited sequences, and a plodding pace (especially if you watch the version released in 1987).

What it lacks in polish, it soars with tons of charm and is clearly crafted by people who love horror and cinema. Bishow makes some bold decisions that dip the movie into the bizarre like a dinner scene where the dialogue floats around while non-talking actors have dinner and several hallucination sequences that must resemble a LSD trip.

The real stand-out of the movie is the fun practical gore effects made by George Higham that are not realistic but fit with the zany atmosphere and tone of the picture. The blood actually looks authentic even though squirts out like an overstuffed jelly doughnut. Fans of 1980s gorefests will see some great stuff including a crazy decapitation that looks as good as any other surreal and zany schlock from the time period.

The story follows reporter Kim Castle (Julie Kinser) who starts investigating an eccentric scientist, Dr. Anton Lupesky (Pierre Deveaux who was Bishow's brother-in-law).after a series of women have gone missing (and a few boyfriends left lying around with hammered in heads). We learn Lupesky is a madman who has created a serum called Anphorium that allows the user to transcend reality and inhabit the body of a corpse by entering through the eyes (the windows to our souls, of course). Instead of grave robbing, he decides for much fresher dead bodies.

One doesn't watch a movie like this for the story or characters. The Soultangler's best moments are when it goes completely wacky with stuff like a zombie using his own intestine to choke a guy and a slithering brain with eyeballs. The movie lacks traditional horror staples like scares or tension, but it delivers a few gloriously gory moments.

Unfortunately, the best stuff is spaced out with long stretches of verbal diarrhea and supposed character development. It has a few improvised scenes that give off a school play feel (part of its charm), but adds to the meandering nature of the narrative. I can see this being fun for lovers of the extremely campy and cheap schlock horror, but it is best saved for watching in groups who can joke around until the good bits.

I am glad that I got to experience this movie and the DVD commentary really shows how much affection and love Bishow has for the genre. I am happy this movie has been discovered and restored, but I will be just as happy to never watch it again.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Yet Another Follow-up to an Episode of 'The Movie Breakdown'

This week on The Movie Breakdown we discussed why horror has replaced comedy as the consistent big box office genre hit. I talked about how both have the strength of being communal experiences where you feed off the energy of the crowd that is with you. In the 1980s and 1990s, Airplane and Dumb and Dumber were huge hits because there were joke-a-minutes that you got to share with an audience and part of the fun was hearing that laughter around you. Now, horror has replaced it with people feeding off the tension and enjoy hearing the audience yelp and squeak around you. There is something to being in a room of a tense and scared movie goers.

I had said part of the reason horrors have thrived is that the quality has really increased the last few years with top notch movies like It and Get Out (both made my best of 2017). Meanwhile, comedy quality has taken a dip and you can get much better stuff on TV like superior series The Good Place and Atlanta. There are horror series but most of them still don't offer the chills and wide range of emotions like the best horror movies. I do think comedy has improved rapidly this year with really good movies like Game Night, Blockers, Love, Simon, and Crazy Rich Asians, but some of those movies suffered from the sins of the past.

I forgot to mention on the podcast another thing that I think has hurt comedies. The big things is community and now that aspect has been replaced by people sharing quick YouTube videos by either showing it on their cell to a friend or sharing it on a social media site. Quick clips have become the new form of community comedy, and that is something that isn't as effective with horror.

The movie comedy is nowhere near as popular as it was in the 1980s or 1990s or even the 2000s. But I don't think it is dead. Crazy Rich Asians, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Ocean's Eight were legit hits and shows that diversifying may be the way for comedies to revitalize. I also think that many of the comedies actually being funny this year will help in starting to see some growth in the genre's popularity again. Of course, we also still have to put up with the upcoming Johnny English Strikes Again and Holmes and Watson so it won't be a quick revival.

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Breakdown of 'A Star is Born', 'Hold the Dark', 'Venom' and 'The Third Eye'

The season of Oscar contenders has arrived, and we are reviewing one of the big contenders this week with Bradley Cooper's directorial debut as he stars alongside Lady Gaga in the classic tale, A Star is Born. We've also got the latest big comic book action picture in Venom. Then we have two Netflix originals in the haunted house horror The Third Eye and Jeremy Saulnier's latest thriller in Hold the Dark. After the movie reviews, we look at the rise of horror in the box office and the fall of comedies, and analyze what may have caused the shift. 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).

The time stamps are still changing every time that I use the player, so it makes a timed outline pointless. Once again, if someone can assist in fixing this issue that would be greatly appreciated.

Question of the Week: What historical figure or event should get its own movie?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

A Star is Born **** (CS)
Hold the Dark ***½ (CS) & **** (SM)
Venom *½ (CS)
The Third Eye *½ (CS) & ** (SM)