Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Moment of Self-Doubt


I posted this on Facebook earlier today:

I hope this comes off as transparent and honest rather than pandering for sympathy and encouragement. But yesterday, I posted questions about 'The Movie Breakdown' all over social media and got the hefty number of zero responses. It was the latest victory for the dark voices of self doubt whispering that my career ambitions are futile for someone of my talent level. 

I've been meaning for weeks to start up a Facebook page for 'The Movie Breakdown' but I'm terrified the responses will be the latest reaffirmation that I am writing, blogging and podcasting into the wind. I've always struggled with comparing my own success with others, but the last few years my writing career has been hampered over crushing fear that I'm being delusional that there is an audience out there for my work.

Despite that overbearing doubt, I will be launching 'The Movie Breakdown' Facebook page today, not for any kind of validation, but rather that I think it is a great way to increase interaction and connection with the podcast's listeners. My hope is that this new outlet for communication will allow the show to be even better. If you enjoy the show then please consider joining the Facebook page when it launches later today and as always, it is greatly appreciated if you spread the word to other movie fans. Thanks.

This was a tough one to write. I debated for far too many hours if I would post it. It isn't that I haven't been honest and open about my self-doubt and mental health before but most of that has been stowed away on this blog for those who actively want to read my stuff rather on Facebook where anyone could take a gander at the emotional cripple.

It is also just makes me feel very vulnerable to admit that I deeply care if people read my work or listen to my podcast. In the last little bit, I've seen the numbers for my writing and the podcast begin to take some significant dips. I think that I can justify the sag and with a little hard work and promotion correct the direction, but there is that nagging voice that no one care what I have to say or think that I am not very good at saying it. I fear all my hopes and ambitions for writing are delusional and foolish. There is something frightening about the thought that I may be at my peak right now and that I've reached my limit for an audience that I can achieve. I often feel like all this podcasting and writing is just me shouting at a white wall.

Of course, over my years of professionally writing, I have achieve great success. There was a time that I was flowing with optimism and I looked to be right about hitting the proverbial "big break." Then the big contract that I was about to sign became vapour, some of my more profitable sites went out of business, and of course, that was all around the time that I left the lesser paying but consistent jobs. While I am still doing okay and there always seems to be a certain level work, the last few weeks I've been feeling very low about the lack of popularity for my blog or podcast, especially since both at one time were growing.

But like my Facebook post said, I'm going to take a big step forward. A Facebook page for The Movie Breakdown will launch today, I'm going to make a harder marketing push, and get back to this blog being a very active and prolific place. I've got some big plans in place, and hopefully, I will remain busy enough that I won't have time to listen to those nagging voices.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Breakdown of Milos Forman: 'Amadeus', 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', 'The People vs. Larry Flynt', 'Man on the Moon', and 'Hair'


It is a special episode this week that we are calling The Breakdown of Milos Forman where we celebrate the renowned director by reviewing five of his biggest movies. It doesn't get much bigger than winning a Best Picture and a Best Director, which he did with two movies. We will review the Best Picture winner that got him established in Hollywood with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and then his other Best Picture winner is the ambitious and epic fictionalized account of the life of Mozart in Amadeus. We also review two more biopics in the story of Hustler founder who finds himself the face of free speech in The People vs. Larry Flynt and then the story about the life of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Then it is time to cap off the show with a little song and dance in the rock musical Hair. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

NOTE: Apologies for some technical issues on the show as Skype was out for vengeance this weekend.

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.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:

2:26 Amadeus review
22:09 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest review
43:34 The People vs. Larry Flynt review
58:59 Man on the Moon review
1:13:00 Hair review
1:32:44 Review rundown

Movie Ratings:

Amadeus **** (CS & SM)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest **** (CS & SM)
The People vs. Larry Flynt **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Man on the Moon ***½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Hair **** (CS) & *** (SM)

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Breakdown of 'Truth or Dare', '6 Balloons', 'Orbiter 9', 'The 4th Company' and Remembering Milos Forman


The Movie Breakdown loves reviewing movies, and we have four of them this week. The big theatrical release is a horror targeted at the teenage market in Truth or Dare. We also have reviews for three Netflix originals including the Dave Franco starring drama, 6 Balloons, the sci-fi romance Orbiter 9, and the sport movie mashed with crime drama in The 4th Company. Netflix sure loves their numbers. Then we remember the great director Milos Forman who gave us such classics as One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus. As always if you enjoy 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.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:

01:14 I forgot to mention a stinger for Blockers 
02:33 6 Balloons review
15:33 Truth or Dare review
31:02 The 4th Company review
39:22 Orbiter 9 review
51:06 Remembering Milos Forman
1:10:46 Review Rundown

Movie Ratings:

6 Balloons **½ (CS) & *** (SM)
Truth or Dare * (CS)
The 4th Company **½ (CS & SM)
Orbiter 9 ** (CS & SM)

There Is Lots of Good in Watching Bad Movies


A few days ago my The Movie Breakdown podcast co-host Scott wrote a piece on his blog where he explored the good things contained in the box office and critical disaster, Gods of Egypt. I've seen Gods of Egypt and would never use the word 'good' to describe what I saw unfold on the screen. But I also agree with Scott that I wouldn't ever use the word 'boring' and I appreciated that it was a big screen campy B-movie throwback adventure that most big studios abandoned over thirty years ago.

One of the problem in this Rotten Tomatoes era where movie goers check out the percentage of a movie to see if it worth the time, there is a quick dismissal of any movie that doesn't reach a "fresh rating" or get bestowed with the "Certified Fresh" logo. It is puts movies into two categories where they are either "worth seeing" or "not worth seeing." It creates a culture where a low percentage movie does not have any value and should be dismissed without being given a chance. The plus side is that this mentality forces big studios to put a higher standard on quality and you have studios like Marvel that have created an enjoyable and entertaining template for big event movies. The downside is that taking risks and chances for wide release big screen movies is becoming rare.

It makes me miss the 1990s and the days of Blockbuster where you'd go to the store not quite sure what you will watch and be willing to take a chance on a movie based off its cover or trusting the video store employer who promises it has some pretty cool scenes. It was a time when you'd take the recommendation and word of a friend or acquaintance rather than the score on a web site. The thing about an individual is they are unique and have their own tastes and ideas of what constitutes "good." Those recommendations often would come weeks or maybe even months later where those memorable scenes or that unexpected twist is what marinated and blossomed in the mind rather than a complete critique of the actual movie, especially if that person is not paid to analyze and dissect a movie.

In a big shocking reveal, I have watched a lot of movies in my lifetime. I remember many nights in high school and college where after the picture ends, my friends would confess that the movie wasn't great but we sure loved a particular scene or thought the concept was really cool or would find ourselves still debating one of the themes explored. Comedies like Zoolander or Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story aren't what I would call great or even good movies, but they both had many lines and scenes that my group of friends would quote or laugh about long after seeing. Any time I have returned to those two movies, I am reminded that as a whole they do not entirely work, but I do not regret that those films are in my pop culture storage box. I also have seen far too many not-so-great horror movies in my lifetime including several heavily inspired by the success of Scream like The Faculty, Urban Legends, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, none of which will never be called classics but had moments that are still burned into my brain.

Now time to hit the rewind button even further to the 1980s, where the VHS was the hottest thing and you got thrilled when the movie channels (HBO in the United States and First Choice in Canada) had a free preview weekend. Of course, there were film critics like Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel that had national attention and the local paper's film critic may have had some weight, but there wasn't some universal consensus on what was good. The decision to view something was based on how cool that trailer looked or what the kids were raving about at school (I was in elementary school, so their opinions meant more). Let's be honest, movies that are considered "classic' or beloved today like The Goonies or Tron or The Monster Squad wouldn't been remembered after two weeks if Rotten Tomatoes existed and declared it wasn't good enough for our attention. None of those movies are classics from a quality standpoint, but they have a special part of my heart due to nostalgia and each offered something unique to their specific genre. Tron was imaginative and added something to the special effects world even if the acting is wooden and the plot resembles Swiss cheese. There just aren't enough children on an epic adventure movies anymore like The Goonies or The Monster Squad.

Well remembered movies today like Conan the Barbarian and Flash Gordon were influential for their genre and have their loyal fans, but neither would come out with glowing Rotten Tomatoes scores if released today (nostalgia and their place in cinema is what gives them positive scores today). Both are considered cult classics, because they came out in a time when the movie goer was more willing to take risks and could enjoy a movie despite it being messy and flawed. Today, the clunky dialogue and wacky ideas would garner mix reviews and most people would take a pass. If Gods of Egypt came out in 1984 with a similar plot and style it would be a cherished cult classic today, but in the current climate, the majority of you have probably already forgotten this was even a movie that came out in theatres.

Movies like Beetlejuice, Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner and They Live are critically well-received today but took a beating when they were released. In each case, if one reads the reviews and engages with the critic's prose then that is how the movie fan can decipher if a lesser acclaimed movie is worth their time. The reality is even movies that are reviled today can be appreciated by someone and almost any film with its flaws has gold hidden within. Many genre pictures with Rotten Tomatoes scores that are deemed rotten have had ambitious and original premises that for that reason are at least worthy to check out like the major misfires Jupiter Ascending or A Cure for Wellness. In the article by Scott that I references, he mentioned box office flops like A Wrinkle in Time and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as movies that failed, while I admit both are very messy and disjointed movies with glaring flaws, but I recommended both because the ambition and creativity made for an immersive and rewarding experience.

One person that is really worth mentioning is Scout Tafoya, who for the last few years has been making the wonderful video series The Unloved, which is about analyzing and celebrating movies that were either critically panned or underseen by audiences. Unlike many other video series that look at critically panned films, he is not poking fun at them but rather looking at why they are good movies and worthy of a viewer's consideration. He does not argue that these are perfect movies and I am sure in some cases acknowledges their glaring flaws, but he is a champion of what many have labelled "bad cinema" and instead breaks out the glowing green gemstone from the porcelain rabbit. I am totally on his team when defending movies like The Lone Ranger, Speed Racer, and The Hudsucker Proxy, but he has just as many movies that I gave horrible reviews to like Transcendence and The Village. The point isn't about our personal tastes, but rather Scout is creating a positive minded conversation about creative works that most modern writers and media outlets are either ignoring or bashing.

The point of things like The Unloved or even this article, is argue that there isn't a very clear good or bad when it comes to art. Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe a movie is either fresh or rotten, but a lot of those rotten movies bring something valuable to the conversation of film and often have elements like a unique story or well-crafted scene or an atmosphere or stand-out performance that still makes the movies worthy to be seen. I also strongly believe that almost every movie that has been declared awful by a certain person is a favourite movie for someone else. I am even sure there is someone out there that loves The Emoji Movie and Independence Day: Resurgence.

This is the reason why that when I first started professionally writing film reviews for The Collective Publishing website (now sadly defunct) that I did not want to give star ratings, despite that being very popular. I wanted to create a conversation and take the reader on a journey with my views and opinions, and through my experience let them decide if the movie was worth their time. A work of art is a very subjective things that can resonate in various ways to various people. I wanted my words and analysis of a movie to mean more than some arbitrary rating (the dirty secret of all critics is that star ratings are very arbitrary and can drastically change on rewatchings). But my readers disagreed with me, on a weekly basis because I got emails and tweets asking if I would incorporate a star rating so that they have a quick gauge of where a movie landed for me. Since I was writing for the readers, I decided to finally give in, and now after doing that for five years, a four star rating system has become a regular for me.

I was already using the four star rating system when Scott and I started The Movie Breakdown podcast, so it made sense to bring it over to the show for all the movies we reviewed. On the show, we followed the Roger Ebert philosophy that three stars and up was a recommendation, so at the end of the show we listed each movie with either a recommendation or a pass. Sometimes it bothers me to pass on something that I feel is unique or may have some value, but I also realize people only have so much time to watch movies each week. It is better to champion the things that I enjoyed and think have the most value to offer. My hope is despite the show and my reviews having ratings and clear recommendations, that people really listen to our conversations and read my words to fully grasp the impact and value of a movie.

Definitely make sure to watch critically acclaimed and powerful movies like 12 Years a Slave or Shape of the Water, but don't forget to once and a while take a chance on something like The Great Wall or Gringo, because even if I didn't like it doesn't mean it won't be your own personal classic.

Monday, April 09, 2018

The Breakdown of 'A Quiet Place', 'Blockers', 'Happy Anniversary', 'First Match' & 'The Titan'


It's Monday morning and you are itching for some movie reviews, and we have five of them. The big one is the latest horror picture, this time about parents trying to protect their children from blind creatures that hunt by sound in A Quiet Place. The parents protecting their kids theme continues with the teen sex comedy about three adults trying to stop their daughters from completing a sex pact in Blockers. We also have a dark family drama mixed with a sports picture in First Match. From there, we discuss the romantic comedy about a couple deciding if they should break up in Happy Anniversary. Finally, we have a sci-fi thriller inspired by movies like The Fly in the Sam Worthington starring The Titan. As you can see, it is a loaded show and we also have some big recommendations for you. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

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.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:21 Scott promises something we never follow through on
1:06 Reveal Benji stinger & Happy Wrestlemania
03:14 Happy Anniversary review
14:47 Conversation about penis in movies
17:33 First Match review
32:04 A Quiet Place review
43:40 The Titan review
57:13 Blockers review
1:21:08 Review Rundown & Scott's belief in what Sam Worthington can do & quick Gods of Egypt chatter & Blumhouse chatter & Christopher likes a Dune Platinum movie & Avatar falling

Rating Rundown:

Happy Anniversary ** (CS) & * (SM)
First Match ***½ (CS & SM)
A Quiet Place **** (CS)
The Titan * (CS & SM)
Blockers ***½ (CS)





Monday, April 02, 2018

The Breakdown of 'Ready Player One', 'Game Over, Man', 'Benji', 'Roxanne, Roxanne' and 'Take Your Pills'


The Movie Breakdown knows you're stuffed with chocolate Easter eggs and you just want to lay down and hear some movie reviews. This week right out in the open we have left you five of them. The big one is discussion over one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the year in Steven Spielberg's latest foray in fantasy adventure in Ready Player One. We also have four Netflix originals including the action comedy, Game Over, Man!, the remake about a cute dog in Benji, a biopic about a mid-1980s female rap star in Roxanne, Roxanne, and a documentary about Adderall addiction in Take Your Pills. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to all big (and small) 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.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:35 Netflix banned at Cannes
07:47 More Pacific Rim Uprising talks
9:46 Game Over, Man! review
30:14 Ready Player One review
46:15 Roxanne, Roxanne review
59:58 Benji review
1:10:41 Take Your Pills review
1:19:58 Review Rundown & Scott reveals number of movies he gave zero stars

Movie Ratings:

Game Over, Man! * (CS) & 0 stars (SM)
Ready Player One ***½ (CS)
Roxanne, Roxanne *** (CS & SM)
Benji **½ (CS) & ** (SM)
Take Your Pills ** (CS & SM)


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Breakdown of 'Pacific Rim Uprising', 'Steel Rain', and 'The Outsider'


The Movie Breakdown has packed its bags and is heading towards Asia with three movies not set in North America. The first is a sequel of a really fun robot battling monsters flick from 2013 called Pacific Rim Uprising. Then we discuss a Korean movie that is a political thriller with some big action sequences in a feature that feels like a 1970s Cold War era throwback in Steel Rain. Our last review is for the 'Jared Leto joins the Yakuza' picture in The Outsider. The movie discussion doesn't end there as we have two topics to explore. First we talk about Steven Spielberg's recent comments about how Netflix movies should not be eligible for Academy Award consideration and analyze if Netflix's "day and date release" strategy harms the perception and maybe even quality of their movies. Rian Johnson also made some comments this week, this time mentioning that he will not alter his plans for the new Star Wars trilogy despite backlash from some fans regarding his The Last Jedi, so we discuss if filmmakers should alter their artistic vision in order to please fans of beloved major properties. As always, if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie fans, and thank you so much for listening.

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.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

1:17 Pacific Rim Uprising review
13:50 Steel Rain review
27:58 The Outsider review
38:21 Does Netflix's 'day and date release' strategy harm the perception of their original movies?
53:06 Should a filmmaker alter his artistic plan to please fans of major and beloved franchises?
1:06:57 Review Rundown

Movie Ratings:
Pacific Rim Uprising ** (CS)
Steel Rain *** (CS & SM)
The Outsider *½ (CS & SM)

Monday, March 19, 2018

They Can't All Be Disasters


Scott has finally completed his punishment for losing last year's Summer Box Office Challenge. For those that listen to The Movie Breakdown podcast, you know we have an annual competition where both Scott and I both pick ten summer movies that we think will get the biggest opening weekend and the person with the biggest total amount wins. The winner then gets to choose three movies that the loser has to watch and write a review. As is the annual tradition, I won, so Scott had to write reviews for Courageous and The Perfect ManThe pick that I was proudest was the Tyler Perry directed The Single Moms Club, because while I have avoided all his directorial efforts, the trailers seem to promise the most excruciating kind of pain. It seems that it didn't make Scott question his existence or make him detest the fact that he has eyes. He also didn't like it, even if I was expecting more torture and anguish. You can still check out his latest review and the final one for his punishment over at his blog, A Movie a Day Blog.

The Breakdown of 'Tomb Raider', 'Love, Simon', 'Fullmetal Alchemist' and 'Forgotten'


This week on The Movie Breakdown we are loading up on reviews on movie adaptations. The big one is the Alicia Vikander starring action-adventure based on a popular video game series in Tomb Raider, which also has the distinction of being a remake. We also have an adaptation of a popular novel in a movie that is a coming of age and coming out of the closet teenage romantic comedy in Love, Simon (based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda). We also have a live-action adaptation of what I assume is a very popular manga and anime series in the Fullmetal Alchemist. Then we have an original Korean movie though it reminded me of some classic thrillers in Forgotten. After we review movies, we discuss the box office success of movies like The Greatest Showman and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. 

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.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:46 Fullmetal Alchemist review
16:47 Fun fact about Roman Holiday
18:46 Tomb Raider review
32:50 Forgotten review
43:51 Love, Simon review
57:23 What can studios learn from the box office
1:10:53 Rating Rundown

Star Ratings:

Fullmetal Alchemist ** (CS & SM)
Tomb Raider ** (CS)
Forgotten **½ (CS & SM)
Love, Simon ***½ (CS)