Thursday, February 21, 2019

2019 Still Looking for that Blow-Away Movie


February starts with the letter F, and so does the word 'familiar.' A word that I used a lot on The Movie Breakdown when reviewing this month's theatrical releases. I am behind on the month's movies and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World could be an amazing, but so far while 2019 has lacked any flaming disasters, they've also not had a blow-away movie that is a sure thing to challenge for my best of the year (by this point last year we have Black Panther). To be honest, if anything I've seen so far makes my best of list then this will be a very disappointing and lackluster year. At least, I haven't had anything that is a reigning champion of the worst of the year either, which isn't always the case by this time.

I'm a little bummed by this point because there were movies that I genuinely had shout to the mountaintops excitement over in Glass and The Lego Movie: The Second Part. Both movies were good and I recommended, but they were follow-ups to movies that I loved and praised.

The animated sequel delivered on all the things that made the first one great like a gorgeous world that half the fun was exploring what was going on in the background, fun comical takes on iconic characters that use witty reference that appeal to fans and casuals, action sequences that challenge any big blockbuster for excitement and a healthy dose of heart with a message about the importance of being yourself and loving your family.

The biggest issue is that the first one felt innovative and breath-taking, while this time it was a meticulously crafted feature following the beats of what blew us away before. The ending really wants to have resonance and poignancy, but it just didn't pull those heart strings because of the overwhelming feeling of familiarity. But would I recommend it to every family and fans of the original? Of course, I still recommend it and it lands as one of the best movies I've seen in 2019, but unless all the movies I anticipate misfire, I don't see it in the conversation of one of the best even by the mid-year. My own high expectation don't take away from the fact this movie look stunning on the big screen and I had a blast for the entire run time.

Speaking of familiar, Cold Pursuit used that to their advantage with a dark comedy that deconstructed Liam Neeson revenge thrillers from the past decade. It is the North American remake of Norwegian film, In Order of Disappearance, which both ended up being directed by Hans Petter Moland. The original is available right now on Netflix Canada, and I do want to check it out, as the word is it is the better movie. I enjoyed this one playing on the fact Neeson did not have any special set of skills and was just a guy who drove a snow plow yet was stumbling his way around for revenge for the murder of his son. It is overstuffed and some characters turned out pointless, but as a fresher take on the Neeson formula it was a fun surprise. I also confess the very black comedy won't work for everyone, and you shouldn't go in expecting a typical action picture.

The worst movie that I've seen in theatres this year ended up being my last one so far, the creepy kid horror, The Prodigy. You don't want your child to be super intelligent and talented, because that also means he will likely murder you and all those you love. Or maybe not. Anyway, this movie established certain things right off the start on why the boy may be dangerous and acting strange, and then it essentially sticks to that all the way through without any twists or turns. It does have some decent scares and well-constructed scenes, but it just feels too much like every other movie about an evil possessed child. It also really drags with scenes that aren't believable and have useless plot points like the father's background that cause everything to drag before you get the next decent scare. It also has about three too many scenes at the end that not only feel intelligence insulting but also feel really forced in setting up a possible sequel. I'd say this is still better than last year's February stinkers Winchester and The 15:17 to Paris.

Maybe that blow away movie is still waiting for me this month, and the problem is I just haven't seen it yet. I'm a little behind this month due to various factors, but over the next two weeks I should have reviews for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Fighting with My Family, Alita: Battle Angel, Isn't It Romantic and Happy Death Day 2U.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

'The Movie Breakdown' Delayed Until Tuesday Next Week


I usually make The Movie Breakdown recording schedule at the end of the month (right when the Netflix Original movies for the upcoming month gets announced so I know what will be on each show). So, I've known for several weeks that the plan was to delay this upcoming show by a day so that we could discuss anything significant that came out of the Oscars rather than making such discussion a week old. But then the amount of theatre movies we were going to discuss tripled and I started thinking it might be better to avoid overstuffing the show and gamble that there wouldn't be anything interesting to talk about at the Academy Awards anyway. So, I purposefully neglected to mention the planned one day delay on the show.

Well, I've changed my mind again, and we will discuss something about the Oscar on the upcoming show, and in order for that to happen, we can't do our normal Sunday morning recording time. Instead, we will record Monday night, which means the show will be out Tuesday morning.

This also means we will have a super-sized episode with six movie reviews planned and the aforementioned discussion about all the excitement that happens at the Academy Awards. Maybe later this week, I'll give some awards predictions, so then on the show, I can either brag over my great picks or just completely ignore how horribly I did.

I can say that with the overhaul of the Academy voting members from the past few years that it has made the actually winners (especially Best Picture) a lot less obvious now. Apparently, some of the buzz is on Green Book, but I'm not quite ready to declare that as the victor. Partly, because it is just such a routine and safe biopic type picture, and I feel there are so many better nominees. Of course, what I actually think is great has nothing to do with what will win.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Crash and Burn: A Sad Update on the Progress of My 2019 Goals


At the start of the year, I made a grand declaration that I had ten goals that I hoped to achieve in 2019. We are over a month and a half, and for sake of honesty, I now want to declare I've really sucked at even getting close to actual achievements. I also can confess that month and a half isn't a great assessment point for year-long goals. Out of a hope to become more honest and transparent, I wanted to do a status update on all ten goals. I hope that the simple fact my progress is embarrassing that the shame will be enough at making some significant improvements.

I will list the 10 goals with a quick summation on how I've done at achieving them.

1. Make sure that my family and friends know without a doubt that I love them: I spend a lot of time with my kids. I also end up spending a fair amount of nights and weekends with just me and them. The fact they get excited when they know we will be spending a weekend or night together, I assume they are having a good time.  I do think I have done an okay job keeping up that part of the goal. Though my lingering depression and anxiety always makes me feel that I'm not giving my kids the 100% attention and love that I feel they deserve. That same depression means that by the time that my kids go to bed, I almost always crash, so this has meant that my relationship with my wife, Emily, is a flaming bag of poop. Of all my goals, this is the most important and I need to remind myself daily how even if I don't have the energy for grand gestures, that just small things like taking time to talk and show my interest is vital.

2. Live in the moment: There is this invisible ten ton wall that follows me everywhere and makes me feel disconnected from most things. I am at a point where I need to proactively force myself to give my full attention to a task and not let my mind wander. This goal is connected a lot with the above one, because if I can focus on what I'm doing with someone then they should also feel appreciated. This weekend I had a great time helping Everett learn to cross-country ski and I've been devoted some time each day finding games for Danika to learn the alphabet and numbers. In both cases, I made those events my sole focus and I appreciated that time with them, and this focus is huge for someone who is constantly worrying about things and allows his mind to juggle two thousand things at once.

3. Land a Literary Agent. I haven't touched the manuscripts this year. Bur I have been working on a few short stories for a few different contests, so I am writing fiction. I do need to get much better at making sure a little bit each day is devoted to my creative writing.

4. Become a member of the Online Film Critics Society. I do think my reviews on The Movie Breakdown are a solid mix of insight and entertainment, and I'm always actively finding ways to make them and the discussion with Scott more engaging. Where I have completely failed has been doing any written reviews. My ambitious plan had been to review every 2019 release that comes to Brantford and Netflix, while also doing some retro pieces like all the movie in Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and Star Wars. It hasn't happened. Most of the reason has been the previously mentioned depression and anxiety, I don't want that to be my year-long (decade-long?) crutch, but what happens is after looking after the kids and doing work for clients, I mentally crash in the evening and usually just sleep away the hours. Then the end of the week comes and I'm cramming in all the movies that I need to see for the podcast. There is rarely time left to write those reviews and definitely no chance of seeing a movie outside of the podcast (I see all my movies when the kids are in bed). My strategy needs to shift to being okay with the movie reviews coming in late and also allow several of the reviews to be much shorter than my usual (250 words instead of a thousand). I think, I can easily get this goal back on track.

5. Dramatically increase readers to the blog and listeners to The Movie Breakdown: My blog strategy was to at least have a post a day. This would mean the blog needs 365 pieces this year. I am currently 27 posts behind on that plan -- so almost the entire month of February worth. The problem is that I got way behind very early in the year. There was one day (whatever day was the first where nothing got posted) that was particularly busy and I just crashed at night. I had something I really wanted to write that night but my few minutes of rest turned into an entire night slumber. I woke up the next day with new ideas but didn't want to write another blog post until I took care of the nagging idea that was neglected. Then things got in the way and I spent too much time to trying to perfect a piece, then I started getting depressed about not sticking to my plans with the blog and well, here we are. I really think I can achieve this goal if I can just get back on track with offering something of substance every day even if it isn't something long or 'perfect.' The podcast growth will rely on me to continue find ways to making the show engaging but also increasing our marketing. Which leads to. . . 

6.  Figure out social media: This has been a complete flop. Over the next few weeks, I hope to take a few free workshops and consult a few people. Even before that, I can fix things by just posting something every day rather than keeping all my accounts ghost towns.

7. Cook a dish that blows away the taste buds: I am cooking almost every week day. I haven't had the energy or time to really make something gourmet and spectacular. My kids happily eat most of everything I cook, so that is a good first step.

8. Read at least 12 books this year: So far at zero, Again, I apologize but part of the blame is the crash and burning out I feel every night. Even just a few pages a day will get me closer to this goal. The big thing for all these goals is I need to get better at accepting 'small victories' rather than my current 'all or nothing' approach.

9. Lose weight: I may have gained weight. I haven't checked, because I haven't yet done anything to change my daily habits. I'd blame the lack of energy again, but I am sure you're already worn out on that excuse.

10. Be friendly: I have tried much harder at saying 'Hi' to people I pass and striking up conversations while waiting for Everett to get out of school. I'd also say I have a far way to go on being known as friendly. I also admit that this is the one goal that I can't really determine on my own. I'd have to ask people if they think I've become friendlier, and that is awkward and the response wouldn't be very honest. This one will be harder to determine achieve but instead, I just need to remind myself every day to smile and be kind.

Monday, February 18, 2019

The Breakdown of 'High Flying Bird', 'The Favourite', 'Soni', 'The Prodigy' and 'Animas


It is another big episode of The Movie Breakdown as we have reviews for five motion pictures. The big one is the Best Picture nominee The Favourite, which also now means the show has reviews for every contender for the top prize at this year's Academy Awards. We reveal where this one stacks up against the other nominees. Speaking of awards-worthy, Steven Soderbergh is back with his first of two Netflix Original movies coming out this year, and this one is the drama based on a sports agent in High Flying Bird. We also have a little horror movie released under the Orion label in the evil children feature, The Prodigy. We also have two foreign films in the Indian drama Soni and the Spanish horror flick, Animas. As always, we had a great time recording the show and we hope you really love it. If you do, 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)



Movie's Rating Our of Four Stars

High Flying Bird ** (CS & SM)
The Favourite **** (CS)
Soni ***½ (CS & SM)
The Prodigy *½ (CS)
Animas ** (CS) & *** (SM)

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Even if a Movie isn't Great, At Least the Creative Process is Almost Always Riveting


I get that it isn't cool to like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. To be honest, I remember almost nothing about the movie since I only saw it once right after it came out on video. I remember not loving it but also already being aware of the hate for it, it turned out better than my expectations. Everett on the other hand has seen it recently and adores it, but you should also understand he is seven and loves everything Indiana Jones. I think this one has a soft spot for him, because he got to see it with his grandparents.

Even if it isn't the most beloved of the series, I found Adam Chitwood's piece on Collider about the long development process of the movie to be fascinating. The movie was in the planning stages since the early '90s and for whatever reasons, George Lucas was obsessed with the idea that Indiana had to battle aliens. I get that the original three movies was a homage to the 1930s and 1940s adventure serials, but not really sure why they needed this iconic character to be in a homage to the 1950s creature features and alien invasion B-movies. It seems like Lucas' attachment to that concept may be part of the reason it took so long for the movie to start being filmed, because Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford were less than thrilled with it.

Despite what we ended up getting, I'd say at least it wasn't our whip-cracking hero up against Martians like the original concept seemed to promise. Though to be fair, the series has always been heavily influenced by pulp with plots revolving around magic rocks and spirits that can melt your face. It was never intended to be grounded in reality.

The most fascinating thing to me is seeing how long it took to develop the film and how it evolved over almost two decades before it was released. It went through several different screenwriters and each one seemed to contribute since parts of their scripts made it to the final production, but there was only one screenwriter credit in the end. I also find it fascinating that since Spielberg is the lone director of this series that we always see it as his baby, but it becomes clear from this article that Lucas may have had a stronger hand in all the actual stories in the series. It is a reminder that when we heap blame or praise on a filmmaker or writer that there may be several uncredited factors and individuals

The piece really demonstrate how much work it takes and how it is miracle for any movies to finally get released. It is easy to be critical of a plot or disparage a movie for its budget or find numerous issues, but the reality is, there are so any moving parts that make it near impossible for any movie to come together. It happens all the time so we take it for granted, but I really love reading or hearing about these peaks behind the curtain to learn about how the process unfolds.

The movie may not be great but the development history is gripping and a nice lesson in the challenges of movie making magic.

I'm Destined to See the 'Frozen 2' Trailer One Billion Times


Before I saw the original Frozen in theatres, I knew it was inspired by Han Christian Andersen's fairy tale, The Snow Queen and that it was a Disney musical, What I didn't know was that I'd be entering into a packed movie theatre on opening night and it would turn into a phenomenon to the point of easily being one of the most popular movies of the past decade (at least among young girls). Danika had not been born yet, so I couldn't know that I was in store for a future where she would want to dress up as Elsa every single day, get me to wear an Anna wig, have to sing 'Let It Got' several times a week and have Frozen be the movie that I've probably watched the most in the past two years. Judging by how important Frozen has become in this house, it was inevitable that a sequel would arrive. I've already been informed by Danika that she will be going with me to see it.

She has already got me to see the new trailer three times, and that only stopped because she has run off to play out some of the scenes. She also has got e to help her put on and take off her Elsa dress so she can properly re-enact the wave running scene. As well, I've had to answer 'I don't know' 20 times to her question about who Anna is slashing the sword towards. Danika was also thrilled to see an army of 'Sven's and has decided that they are either chasing Hans or saving Anna from the cliff. My impression is my daughter is a little bit excited about the trailer and can't wait for the movie to come out tomorrow (or you know the actual release date at the end of November).

It might be due to the fact that I've watched the original more times than I can remember or have played the character of Anna or Kristoff even more, but this trailer actually got the 41 year old grown up me a little excited too. This is the epitome of a teaser trailer as it tells us nothing about the plot, but as anyone who has read my stuff will know, I prefer my trailers to be tantalizing and vague rather than delivering major plot points. It is fun going into a movie knowing as little as possible, and that is hard when I see about two billion trailers a month. 

What we know is our favourite animated five-some is on some kind of adventure and journey, and there are times when all of them are separated. Elsa does some ice surfing, Kristoff has a reindeer army, Anna goes cliff jumping, and there appears to be a new character hanging out in a forest. I can't forget that Anna wields a sword, but I feel that scene may have just been created for the trailer, but Danika will be infuriated if Anna doesn't do some sword swinging as that is a major talking point over here. My guess, is some type of curse or evil takes over Arendelle and our heroes must go on a grand adventure to fix it. They sure to look worried for most of the trailer, so I assume it isn't just summer vacation. It looks like they are trying to do a different story with the popular characters rather than recycling the original movie plot, which is always the best way to do a follow-up. 

I also really trust Disney's animated studio when it comes to sequels. They tend to not greenlight a theatrical run for a follow-up movies unless they have a really strong idea and feel it will match the previous. Disney is all about making the franchises, but when it comes to animated features they will go to straight-to-video unless they have something golden due to the amount of years it takes to make theatrical worthy animated feature (there is a reason it has taken this long for a sequel to a massive 2013 hit).

Consider me all in on this one, and even if I wasn't, Danika would demand us to go see it anyway. 

'Yesterday' Trailer Shows a World Without the Beatles but Hope for More Big Studio Romantic Comedies


For the last several months, Scott and I have been declaring on The Movie Breakdown that romantic comedies are heading into a creative renaissance. Last year, you had popular and more importantly very good romantic comedies in Love, Simon, Set It Up, Crazy Rich Asians and To All the Boys I've Loved Before. It looks like studios and filmmakers have been paying attention as a few more romantic comedies are set for big studio releases. One of the most interesting upcoming movies is the high concept Yesterday with a plot where a struggling musician (Himish Patel) get into an accident during a worldwide blackout and wakes up the next day where he is the only person who knows about the Beatles and their iconic music.

It is a very intriguing idea where the movie could explore the challenges of sacrificing one's own creative voice for the fame that can be found in using another's work. Though the trailer seems to hint that the bigger focus will be on the relationship between the characters played by Patel and the wonderful Lily James. The trailer seems to have a fun and uplifting energy and you know the soundtrack will be amazing.  I am always a fan when a big studio tackles an often neglected genre. This should be a much needed palate cleanser amongst all the big special effects adventures during the summer movie season.

I have a lot of faith the movie will live up to the enjoyable trailer as it is being helmed by Danny Boyle who is one of the most diverse directors around who has proven he can do almost any genre with everything from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later to The Beach to 127 Hours to Slumdog Millionaire to Steve Jobs. I trust his ability to pull off an energetic, sincere and funny rom-com. He is working off a screenplay by Richard Curtis who has made his name by writing romantic comedies with a twist in stuff like Love, Actually, About Time and Notting Hill. I'm rooting for this one as maybe the multiplexes will continue to start offering some variety and prove all types of genres can lure people out.

Monday, February 11, 2019

The Breakdown of 'The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part', 'Velvet Buzzsaw', 'Cold Pursuit', 'Green Book' and 'Polar'


It is another big week on The Movie Breakdown with reviews for fives 2019 movies. The big one is a sequel to a 2014 animated phenomenon and one of the most anticipated movies of the year in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. Speaking of anticipated, Dan Gilroy has returned by writing and directing the art world thriller, Velvet Buzzsaw. We also have a Liam Nesson flick in the black comedic revenge actioner, Cold Pursuit. Do you want Oscar content talk? Well, we finally have the review for Green Book. If that isn't enough, we have an action movie based on a web comic series called Polar. As always the show was a blast to record and we really hope you love it. If you enjoyed the show then please help us out by sharing us on social media and telling 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)



Movie's Four Star Rating

The Lego Movie: The Second Part *** (CS)
Velvet Buzzsaw *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Cold Pursuit *** (CS)
Polar ** (CS & SM)
Green Book *** (CS)

Friday, February 08, 2019

It is Cool to Care


Nathan Rabin recently wrote a piece called 'Not Caring About Popular Things Does Not Make You Special' that really resonated with me. There seems to be a thing that has sprung up on social media where not liking something popular or not being interested in something is a badge of honour. It becomes some major defining trait that like Rabin mentions, is something the person thinks should be celebrated.

Not liking or caring about something shouldn't be a defining trait and is a weird direction that part of the cultural zeitgeist has headed. Especially since almost everything in the world has people who don't like it or care about it or aren't even aware that it exists. In the last several years, I've seen and heard many people gleefully declare they don't like Christmas and every time, they tout it like this is some controversial and edgy opinion. I've heard it enough times that not liking Christmas isn't unique or revelatory. Christmas is commercial, tiring and hectic, not liking it or just kind of going with it is very common. It is just that many people don't think they should get a trophy for holding that opinion.

I haven't watched an episode of Game of Thrones. I haven't read too much by the current bestselling author, James Patterson. I have never played Minecraft nor do I really know what Fortnite is other than an immensely popular online game. Not seeing any of those things isn't special and my lack of being invested in them has nothing to do with them being popular. For the most part, it just comes down to time. Almost everything that I watch or read is for the purpose to either review it or research for other work. I don't hold any pride in my neglect of anything in popular culture, and maybe one day (especially if someone is willing to pay me to review it), I'll happily binge all of Game of Thrones or read works of a hot new author.

The whole pride in not caring also comes from a culture that takes pride in deeming things overrated or gleefully panning certain works. There are popular things that I haven't enjoyed. I never really got into any novel by Dan Brown. I got sick of The Walking Dead after the third season, which just happened to be around the time that I stopped getting paid to write about it. I didn't understand why Theory of Everything got nominated for a Best Picture and I wasn't a big fan of last year's Halloween. None of these things makes me special and it doesn't diminish the opinions of those that love those works. It just shows that everyone has different views and that is part of the fun of art. We all can have different perspectives and get something unique from a work of art. The word 'overrated' means nothing more than one person didn't like it as much as several others; it doesn't take away the value of the work nor what others feel about it. 

The older I get, the more I appreciate those who champion things. People who love a scruffy film or book that others have discarded as trash. There is more value in vocalizing and declaring the things we love and care about. It is cooler to enjoy something that may not be as beloved but articulate why it has value. It is the things that resonate with us that really define us. As I get older, I may passionately care about less things, but it still the things that connect that are worth spending time writing about and championing.