Monday, April 29, 2013

The Spoiler Room of Oblivion Podcast: Marvel at Tom Cruise Running in a Post-Apocalyptic Earth

The entire podcast isn't about Tom Cruise running.  It is a spoiler heavy analysis of his latest sci-fi action picture, Oblivion.  If you heard last week's podcast or read my review, you'll know that I was a little disappointed in the film.  But this week, Scott and I go in detail about the scenes that worked and what caused the film to falter.  It is a great listen for those who have already seen the film but want some extra insight and discussion.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revenge Ep. 19 Recap: Every Good Prime Time Soap Needs a '90s Video Game Appearance

Did you ever think Revenge would be more awesome if the characters played Street Fighter?  If so, this was the episode for you.  Then some other stuff happened, but man, Street Fighter!  You can check out the review over at BuddyTV.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

I Was Away All Day, But to Make Up for That, Here is Everett Declaring his Favourite Food. . .


 "All my dreams are finally being realized."

 "This tastes different than my oatmeal."

 "But I could eat this for every breakfast!"

 "Who loves pizza?"

"Who wants more?"

Friday, April 26, 2013

Everett's Pictorial Demonstration of How to Properly Discover Eggs in Your Home

Because you never know when they may just start popping up around your furniture.

Though Easter is always a solid bet.

Yes, these pictures are a little late.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Help Me, Readers, You're My Only Hope

I don't think any of you are hermits who can effectively throw your voice to ward off Sand People, and I don't have two cinnamon buns stuck to the sides of my head.  But I need your help just the same.

Oh, and it is a little less urgent than my entire planet being blown to bits.

But just the same, I have a few questions for you.  I like to ask you questions because it makes it seem like I care what you think.  Though for the most part, it appears that deception hasn't been pulled off effectively, because I'm usually lucky if I get one response.  But maybe, just maybe, this is the time the comments come pouring in and my world is rocked, and I get the help I desperately need.  Oh please oh please, help me.

Okay, so 2012 was the all-time highest visited year for the blog.  It was magical.  I ate a cinnamon bun to celebrate -- that one never touched the side of my head either.  The numbers started to reach levels that had me talking to larger and popular sites about making a possible partnership.  As you can guess that fell through (my decision actually), but things were several levels above spiffy -- maybe even super spiffy.  But 2013 came along, and so did a few projects and other such things.  One massive "such thing" was that I now had to dedicate a huge part of my morning hanging out with one very, very, very cool little dude.  It has been grand and great, but it did mean certain things got cut out.  My focus on the blog was the biggest hack victim.

It was also the time that I started exploring adding podcasts to the blog.  I was also lucky enough to get a few rather big clients for sales copy and corporate writing.  My attention moved farther away from writing fresh content on here.  If my mind wasn't prone to wandering and I was a bit better organized (read: organized in any way at all), then I'd likely have been able to still consistently add original content on this blog that didn't consist of just links to my articles from other websites.  But I wasn't, and so you got what you got.  You can check out the archives for a refresher.  It got a little barren around here.

Anyway, people tend to not just pop over to a website to find links to other sites that they already know about.  2013 took a pretty massive hit.  At the end of March, I had over three times less traffic than I did at any point in 2012.  It was a ninja kick to the ego.  But I also understand things weren't really rocking here either with anything to read.

But there were a few moments that warranted a happy dance over the number of page views on the site.  For example, my Academy Awards live blog (and the Academy Awards week content as a whole) had my biggest traffic of all time.  2013 can't mope forever; it has had some pretty awesome moments.  I've also had a few other articles that attracted a lot of eyeballs, and rank high in views.  It usually is either content about Survivor or most things that are discussions on movies.  For example, yesterday's list of movies I'm eager to see is one of my highest viewed articles of the year and had one of the highest single day views ever.  You seem to like to read about my thoughts on motion pictures.  This is fine, because I like to talk about them.

But I don't just like to talk about film.  I've got a bunch of little ideas doing jumping jacks in my head.  They are working out hard to be fit and ready to showcase themselves to the world.  After all their sweaty jumping, I'd really like for them to strut their stuff.  But they also tend to cry in their milk when no one comes to see them.

For example, I wrote a piece on the Boston Marathon Bombing, and well, it kind of tanked in views.  This actually shocked me.  A few years ago, I wrote a lot more about real news and politics and social issues, and they almost always ranked very high on this blog.

So, my question is what do you want to be reading on here?  Has my recent work for Collective Publishing and my podcasts made you see me as a strictly pop culture guy and you're not interested in my other thoughts?  Would you prefer more podcasts?  More Everett? More Pop Tarts?  Hmmm, I could use more Pop Tarts, actually.  I could just use a Pop Tart, because I haven't ate one of those in too long of a time.  I vote for Strawberry.

Focus Christopher.  Focus.  You can't lose them now.

There is a strong chance I'll likely just ignore you if I don't like your answers.  At this point, I don't make money off this blog.  I use it as a way to help lead to actual paying work.  It is also my form of personal release where I can write what I want.  But I would really like to grow this site again.  I'm also curious if you only come here when I'm writing about a particular topic.

Do you like the fact this site has moved into being more about pop culture?  Or do you miss the days I ranted about major hot button issues and quite honestly, talked more about things that mattered in the world.  Or do you want the site to be more balanced with a variety of topics including some personal stuff and my adventures with Everett.

I also know I've got a percentage of fledgling writers frequenting this site, so do you want to hear more about my writing career?  Or possibly some advice on what has worked for me?

Or maybe you just want me to complain about whistling again?

Or for me to interview my teddy bear?

Or show off my dog?

Okay, I'm just listing past articles now.

But it is kind of fun.

So, maybe you want more completely inane and insane short stories?

Or poetic like pieces on important social issues?

Honestly, is the more creative writing type stuff interesting?

Now, let me stop this crazy stream of conscious rampage.  I'm going to really focus now.

I am aware that I have a few programs that actually tell me how many people (and for how long) view a specific page.  I just have to observe those stats to sort out what people want to read.  But I'm also aware my numbers from a year ago are different than today.  Plus I want to plan out how to take this blog forward.

Help me out.  What is it you like about this blog?  What don't you like?  What type of content causes you to come on here?  What type of stuff do you wish I'd write about?  Do you want creative writing?  More podcasts?  More articles where I ask you questions about what you want on the blog?

Help me, readers, you're my only hope.

Though, I'll likely just end up doing what I want anyway.

I have some plans for this blog.  I want to grow and expand it.  In order to do that, it works best if people actually come here to read stuff.

So once again. . .

Help me. . . okay, the Star Wars reference was cool the first time.  It is out of my system.


Now, it is your turn to blabber away.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Survivor Caramoan Ep. 11 Recap: Three Amigos Big Stand

Malcolm pulled off the biggest shocker ever.  Can he unleash another miracle to stay in this game?  Find out in my latest Survivor Caramoan recap for BuddyTV.

The Trailers to the Latest Batch of Films I'm Eager to See

At the start of the year, I listed a few films that I was pumped to see.  There were several other movies I was anticipating, but I wanted to hold back until I saw some trailers.  Well, I can officially add a new batch of pictures that give me hope 2013 will still turn out to be a pretty fun year at the movies.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Nov. 22)

I passed on last year's The Hunger Games because I wanted to catch up with the book series first.  This trailer is the final motivation to do some serious summer reading and then track down the original film.  This looks incredible with amazing special effects, top notch performers (Jennifer Lawrence, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland all in one freaking film!), a dark dystopian world with some political flavourings, a healthy dose of action with a purpose, and a lot of conflicted character drama.  This seems like a smart mainstream sci-fi picture that will be a great late birthday gift to myself.  I'm very geeked for this, and more than happy to contribute to the hundred millions and millions of dollars this film will haul in on dump trucks.

R.I.P.D. (July 19)

I admit the first thing I think when I see this trailer is Men in Black, and I just got that craving fulfilled last summer.  But MIB doesn't have Jeff Bridges, and movie law is that Jeff Bridges is awesome thus causing all the films he is in to be awesome.  He looks to be having a blast with his crazy gunslinger from the dead character.  I also got a kick out of Mary-Louise Parker's monotone speaking recruiter with a dry wit, and I have hope she'll get a chance to steal a few scenes.  I laughed a few times, and even caught a bit of a Ghostbusters vibe (by the way Hollywood, please leave that franchise alone).  This looks like it could be bundles of fun and a surprise hit of the summer.

Man of Steel (June 14)

I know, I know, I included Man of Steel in my last list.  This new trailer has now convinced me that we are in store for the picture that will completely transform the super powered hero genre.  I haven't been a huge fan of Zach Snyder's previous works, but he has proven to be a massive comic book fan.  The series of trailers have shown he knows how to do Superman, and the memories of Superman Returns will officially be erased.  The special effects look phenomenal and there is promise of lots of great comic book action, plus General Zod -- the main villain of the previously best Superman film,  The part I'm especially excited about is the story of Superman struggling to find his place on Earth and wrestling over if he should reveal his superpowers or not.  There looks to be a lot of intriguing character relationships and a depth to the storytelling that is still pretty rare in many comic book films.  Christopher Nolan's name being attached as both a writer and producer heightens my expectations that this will be a genre defining film.

Only God Forgives (May 24) (NSFW)

Ryan Gosling is becoming the king of dark, gritty, independent films.  He already has me salivating with his other recent release The Place Beyond the Pines, which I literally danced in my office from jubilation when its limited release success increased its number of theatres to include Brantford.  A review of that movie will be showing up here in the next week, but now, I've got another limited release film starring Ryan Gosling that I must do a ritual sacrifice for, in order to ensure it releases near me.  This time around Gosling is reteaming with Director Nicolas Winding Refn who together amazed a lot of people with Drive. This has a very similar vibe and has a good chance of continuing to cement Gosling as one of the cooler players in modern cinema.  If it is in your area go see it, so that I don't need to travel far to track this down, please. 

Hangover Part III (May 24)

I skipped out on Hangover Part II, because it just looked like the original remade in a different location.  This time around I couldn't stop laughing through this entire trailer, and it looks like it is offering some new and very funny stuff.  Plus it is bringing back a lot of the characters from the original, which will provide some fun closure to the series.  There is also a strong chance that John Goodman will repeat in 2013 as the king of awesome supporting characters.  And there is Melissa McCarthy, and I love Melissa McCarthy.  I wanted to dismiss this film, but I'm now counting down the weeks until it is released -- can it be May 24 now?

How about now?

2 Guns (August 2)

You want to instantly sell me on a movie?  Denzel Washington.  It looks like a pretty typical "two agents fight each other but then uncover a conspiracy and must unite to put down the great evil" action picture that has made the rounds over the past decade or so.  Washington and Mark Wahlberg are a pretty appealing combo, and the picture seems to have the right mix of action, humour, and charisma.  This looks like the right kind of buddy shooter picture to get me through the typically slower August movie month.  This will be good, trust me.

This is the End (June 12) (NSFW)

The trailer is the answer to the question, "What will be the greatest and most profound cautionary tale about actors drinking far too close to a gigantic hole in the Earth?"  Now, I can't wait for June 12 -- hurry please.

Elysium (August 9)

Wait a second, did I earlier try to allude that August was a dull movie month?  It appears 2013 aims to make me a liar.  This film is obviously attempting to be an action oriented sci-fi allegory of the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Neill Blomkamp impressed many critics with his sci-fi allegory of the apartheid, District 9.  If this picture can properly balance the mind blowing action with the deeper drama then we've got the provocative sci-fi epic that I was hoping from Oblivion.  Matt Damon has proven to be an actor who can bring the action star cred along with deeper nuanced emotions.  Jodie Foster is the type of brilliant actor that can elevate any film just by being in it.  There is a lot of potential for this to be an exciting and thought provoking piece of great sci-fi.

Carrie (October 18)

I had absolutely no interest in re-entering the world of Carrie after seeing the initial teaser trailer.  Now we've been able to see some great performance by talented actors in Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.  The trailer makes it look like it'll be more a remake of the 1976 film rather than a closer adaption to the classic Stephen King novel.  I'm intrigued by this film based off the promise it is going to delve much deeper into the dark and disturbing relationship between Carrie and her mother.  I've always felt the real horror was the religious nut, Margaret White and her mistreatment of her daughter rather than Carrie's telekinetic powers.  We may finally have a film that understands what makes a horror great rather than overcompensating with gore or jump scares.

The Way, Way Back (July 5)

By the time July rolls around, most of us will be worn out from all the big budget special effects extravaganzas.  The Way, Way Back will be exactly what the movie doctors will be prescribing.  They rarely make sweet, coming of age wide release picture like this anymore, and this one looks like it could be in the running for modern classic.  It has a ridiculously amazing cast with great comedians and performers like Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Jim Rash, Rod Corddry, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Nat Faxon, and okay fine, I am revealing the entire closing credits here.  This movie is likely to be hilarious but also sweet, and I bet I'll also cry at least once.  It may even make me a little nostalgic for a period in life when summer actually meant free time and dreaming about that first kiss.  This may turn out to be far more memorable than most of the blockbusters this summer, and will be way more endearing.

A Single Shot (TBA)

Now, Sam Rockwell is in a drastically different role and film.  It shows his great talents and diversity to be able to pull each off believably.  Of course, I can only base this off the trailer, but this looks like a very captivating film.  It gives off a very A Simple Plan vibe, which is a massive compliment considering that film is one of my favourite of the '90s.  The trailer doesn't really give away the plot (though it is easy enough to find, since it is based off a 1996 novel by Matthew F. Jones), but it is packed with emotion and the cinematography expertly creates a mood.  The cast is really strong, and everyone seems ready to exude power and emotion based off the little snippet of scenes we get teased.  I really hope this ends up wide release, but I'd be shocked, though I wonder if we've got an Oscar contender brewing here.

The Kings of Summer (May 31)

Could it actually be true; do we really have two smartly written and well-acted coming of age films with heart in the same summer?  This feels like some classic novel from the '60s, but my very lazy research points to this being a completely original idea.  This film does seem really fresh, but seems packed with a lot of sly humour and oodles of sweetness.  This is yet another film that I hope ends up going wide at some point or released relatively close to my dwelling place.  It is another film with a pretty awesome cast too, and I'm looking forward to see Nick Offerman channel a Ron Swanson with a son.  The trailer has several quotable lines and I'm sure it will be even more wonderful in full length feature form.

Mud (April 26)

Matthew McConaughey has had a career renaissance in the last year.  He hit a bit of a speed bump with a bunch of forgettable romantic comedies for a stretch, but he has proven to be a heavyweight character actor with some really dark roles such as in last year's intriguing Killer JoeMud follows that dark and mysterious path with an almost Cape Fear meets Stand By Me type of vibe.  I think there is a lot more to this film than the trailer gives away, and McConaughey is going to deliver another very nuanced but disturbed individual.  Plus this is the third feature directed by Jeff Nichols who is becoming one to watch after his previously raved about and equally dark, psychological film, Take Shelter.

Lumpy (TBA)

Justin Long is one of those talented and diverse actors that I didn't give a chance when he broke on the scene.  It probably helps him greatly that he has moved away from mainstream fare and is taking chances on some independent pictures.  This one looks really sweet, but also should have an ample amount of quirk.  Quirk is rather helpful in stopping a work of fiction from getting too sentimental, just look at the brilliant sitcom, Suburgatory.  I'm expecting a really touching picture that will also cause dust to fly into my eyes a few times.

Stuck in Love (June 14)

This reminds of Crazy, Stupid, Love, which is a large part of the appeal for me.  Romantic comedies work best when the characters are broken and try to hide their pain through certain personality traits but then through a strong relationship start to heal and figure themselves out.  This appears to be following that path while also being stuffed with a really strong and appealing cast.  Kristen Bell has really proven to be a force in comedies especially as the other woman type, and I'm thinking may steal the film in her supporting role.  I may also cry in this movie, because as you have all guessed by now, I'm a bit of a sap.

Oblivion Film Review: It is the End of the World and it is Real Pretty

Oblivion reminds me of many Philip K. Dick stories and sci-fi pictures from the '70s with its post-apocalyptic setting and a protagonist questioning what is reality.  But it stands out as the prettiest and most visually stunning depiction of a desolated Earth.  If incredible special effects are what drives you out to the theatre then you're likely already sold.  But what if you want more out of your movie going experience?  Well, that is why you need to check out my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Breakdown of Oblivion Podcast: What is More Amazing? Tom Cruise Running or the Special Effects?

Scott and I discuss both Tom Cruise's great running ability and the amazing visual world found in Oblivion.  We also look at all the other major elements of the film, and decide if it is the next grand sci-fi epic adventure.  You can find all those answers in the latest podcast.

Human Spirit and Goodness Triumphs Over Evil: Thoughts Coming Out of the Boston Tragedy

The bombing in Boston was awful.  A day of celebration and athleticism was struck by an evil act.  It hits you in the gut every time the news reports one of these tragedies.

Sadly, history is full of these atrocities where innocent people are harmed for a few sickos' misguided agenda.  You have stomach turning events that will always be seared into our mind like the 1920 Wall Street Bombing, the Holocaust, 1966 Texas Clock Tower Shooting, 1974 Ma'alot massacre, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, and 9/11.  I could compose a giant slaying tome with the numerous tragedies caused by evil humans.  Every single mention of these events makes me feel uneasy and crushed over all those innocent people who died far too soon.

The sad reality is that atrocious attacks on innocent people have existed as long as humans have been on Earth.  It won't take very long to discover attacks on schools and the attempted genocide of an entire race or other brutalities have occurred in almost every decade.  The evil side of humanity has always been plaguing us, and it is enough to just make you breakdown and cry.

Those events up there have something else in common.  They all had actions that were the exact opposite of evil and brutality.  There were people running towards the carnage and fire so that they could possibly save a few more lives.  You had brave souls stepping in front of the gun to sacrifice themselves so others could live.  There were people risking their lives by hiding a group of humans that an evil government has tried to destroy.  There are the real life super heroes known as the first responders, police officers, and firefighters who die because they put it all on the line to protect and save lives.  The crushing events of tragedy almost always have remarkable acts of heroics, bravery, and most importantly, goodness.

In a lot of these tragic events, it is only a handful (or sometimes even just one) depraved monsters committing the pure evil.  It is counteracted with hundreds or even thousands of compassionate and selfless acts.  Evil events cause the human spirit to rise.  It stirs something in the common and good person where they find bravery they did not know possible and stand up to be a noble warrior focusing on saving, helping, and protecting.

You can't forget the evil of all these actions.  It is disrespectful to discount the many lives that were lost.  But we also need to remember that every single time the true human spirit has soared in these situations.  It has been proven that for the majority of humankind, we're good people who choose to help and protect our fellow human.  There are so many willing to sacrifice and die so that others can be safe.  We want this world to be a better place.  If we can remember how strong the human spirit and goodness can be then it will be.  It has to be.

I still get butterflies when I see pictures of the firefighters covered in ash and dirt while trying to locate survivors around the World Trade Centre buildings.  I'm moved to tears when I hear the stories of the police officers and firefighters who died because they went back one more time to try to save one more life.  I was moved the exact same way when reading about the Boston Marathon Bombings.  The stories about the runners who were going towards the fire and disaster because they were trying to save their fellow competitors.  The first responders who were quick on the scene and only focusing on trying to help as many people as possible.  There were countless photos of people lifting up their fallen fellow humans or trying to rush someone to safety.  Deep down there was something in each of these people's souls that screamed "I must put these people first and must save them."  Great acts of heroics and selfless goodness overcame the evilness.  There were more heroes than villains during each of these tragedies.

I'd rather the evil stops.  I wish I didn't have to read about a bombing and massacre every other day.  It beats down on my soul and wears out my heart.  But I'm also not naive and know the sick and depraved will still linger.  They will continue to attack.

But the human spirit won't die.  It will remain too.  It is stronger.  Every time there will be more stories about bravery and nations uniting after a tragedy than there will be about evil attacks.  I know most of us are truly good.  It is the tragedies that prove this.  We must remember that during the darker times, but also let it continue during the brighter times too.

I choose hope.  I believe in the human spirit and goodness.  It is what transforms barbaric acts into truly remarkable acts of courage, compassion, and selflessness.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Notice That This Week's Podcast May Be Delayed and a Blog Status Report

As I alerted you on Friday, I got hit with a rather nasty little bug.  Since you haven't heard from me since, I'm sure you properly guessed it played havoc on me through the weekend.  On Saturday, I opted to stay in bed rather than review Oblivion.  The problem is that the plan was to record the Breakdown of Oblivion podcast Sunday morning.  It wouldn't be much of a show if one of the hosts had not even seen the picture yet.

I plan to remedy that by watching Oblivion this afternoon.  This means a later recording, and possibly a later posting of the podcast.  It likely won't be up first thing Monday morning like usual, but hopefully, it will still make an appearance on Monday.

Now that I have your attention, I also wanted to mention that I'm aiming to focus a lot more energy on the blog going forward.  I admit 2013 for the blog has largely been "throw up links to my other work" posts or just podcasts.  I'm hoping to make the blog a much more varied and entertaining place with original content again.  As I organize my work schedule and start spending more time working with higher paying clients, this will optimistically lead to more time to put up engaging and original articles on here.

I haven't written much on politics, my day-to-day life, crazy musing, social issues, or whatever other random things that have popped into my head and once were the major content output on here in the past.  It is obvious this is the type of stuff you guys want.  Since I stopped writing original content on here, the blog numbers have dropped a significant amount.  It is my goal to gain back those readers and make this a fun place again.

Anyway, that is the status of things for the blog.  How has your weekend been?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Under the Weather

I'll likely be staying off here until I get back on top.  Hope your Friday is a pleasant one.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Preshow "Oblivion" Predictions

Scott and I will be doing a Breakdown of Oblivion this weekend. But since life is a mean mistress, we won't be able to see it together or do our typical preshow portion of the podcast.  We decided to write out our thoughts of what we expect from this movie going in, and then we can either brag or eat crow about those predictions during the podcast.

Scott's Prediction:

Oblivion is the second feature film by director Joseph Kosinski, the man responsible for directing Tron Legacy.  Because there is little research I can do on Kosinski (and because this time around he is also a writer and director) I am going to base all of my predictions on what I gleaned from Tron, which is possibly one of the best looking and most light-hearted movies about genocide.

Oblivion will be a movie that is absolutely fantastic in both the visuals and the audio.  Kosinski showed in Tron that he does not stand for a sub-par theatre experience of the senses.  However and unfortunately, he also showed that story and originality are aspects that are not as much of a concern.  Kosinski seemed to be quite influenced in a few scenes by Chrisopher Nolan's version of batman, The Matrix, and Star Wars.  I think there will be some scenes in Oblivion that feel really borrowed from other movies, but not flat out thievery.  Perhaps I should amend that last statement... there were lightsabres in Tron, so highway robbery is not something that should be taken off of the table.

I think the theatre experience of Oblivion will be well worth the money spent on the ticket, but there will be moments of confusion with what the characters do and the script will most likely break under any scrutiny.  There will probably be some slo-mo 'epic scenes' and I am predicting we will get our fair share of characters staring out over the expanse (something that he liked to do in Tron).
Cruise will act in a way that leaves nothing behind, as is his style.  Regardless of anything thoughts people may have of him as person, he is an actor that earns every cent of his paycheck and gives it all.  Opposite him, Morgan Freeman will look captivating, talk captivating, and walk in a captivating style... as is his style.  The visuals and the performances will keep the movie spectacular on the surface, and, if one is bold enough to look underneath the surface, it will most likely be a disappointment.

Christopher's Prediction:

Oblivion is going to be a visually epic film with some jaw dropping special effects.  The cinematography and sets will be captivating and stunning.  It is this visual element that will create the tone for the film.  I'll get fully immersed into this world and believe it is a real place.  The compelling atmosphere will hook me and at least make the first half of the film engaging.

After I've surrendered myself to this new world, there is going to be a mystery that will keep me transfixed on the narrative.  There appears to be an intriguing -- almost Phillip K. Dick style sci-fi story -- about the "government" hiding secret survivors.  The performances by Tom Cruise and Morgan Freeman will help elevate this narrative and keep my intrigue strong.  I'm expecting a first hour that is going to plunge me into the conspiracy and have me invested in the characters.

There will be a twist.  The quality and execution of the twist will determine how much I stay engaged in the second half of the picture.  If the film tries to make some bold moves then I'll be willing to forgive a lot.  If the film resorts to just being loud and explosive then I'll probably mentally check out.  This wants to be a smart piece of sci-fi.

The best sci-fi typically has a message about current social and political issues.  It also is usually one of the best ways to explore humanity.  This is a film that will aim to be like other modern sci-fi masterpieces like Minority Report and Looper.  I'm not sure if it will have the depth or the smarts of those films.  But Tom Cruise has been raving about this picture, and I think it will have a few of the elements that made those films great.

It will likely be a film that will try to distract you with the great special effects and sometimes require you to turn off your brain.  The plot may have holes and it may not be the tightest script, but great performances, mind blowing visuals and a fantastic atmosphere may be enough to distract and make me ignore the flaws.  I'm expecting a fun experience with a few memorable scenes.

Plus Tom Cruise will run.  He must run.  All will be forgiven if he runs to save the world.

"Survivor Caramoan" Episode 10 Recap: The Most Shocking Tribal Council Ever

A job of a writer is to be a master of hyperbole.  This may be one of the few times I'm being completely straight.  The Tribal Council on Survivor Caramoan this week was one of the most unpredictable ever.  If you called it then you probably read spoilers.  I don't see how anyone could have guessed the final result.  It also turned out to be a pretty fun episode.  You can catch my recap over at BuddyTV.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Addendum to My "42" Review

By now, you may have checked out my latest film review for Collective Publishing.  If you did then you know I have many glowing things to say about 42.  But I actually had several more that I had written in the review, but when I was proofreading it, I came to the conclusion that the review was a little too long.  So, I sliced out large chunks of the review, especially the parts that focused on what made it a solid nostalgic baseball film.  It ended up making my review sound like I felt the film's main value was a look at the struggles Jackie Robinson had in breaking the colour barrier in professional baseball and a social commentary on race relations of the time.  You may have started to think 42 wasn't a sports picture.

After I sent 42 to my editor, I wrote the Evil Dead review, which was a review that you may have noticed was several miles away from glowing.  Yet the review turned out to be about 300 words longer than what is currently my favourite 2013 released film.  It seems rage fuels me to quickly throw together a review and trick me into thinking it is short and sweet.  Now, the length of a review doesn't actually define the quality of the content.  I'm still happy with my 42 review.  It does seem that my cutting down of the review probably wasn't justified considering writing long reviews seem to be what I do.

Okay fine, I write everything long.  It's why people typically make sure they've gone to the bathroom and turned off the oven before opening an email from me.  And 42 wasn't a short review.  But I did leave out a few things that I feel are worth bringing up.

This is still a baseball movie.  A film that is a loving tribute to old school baseball.  The priority of the film is about Jackie Robinson's battle to break through the colour barrier and a deep criticism of racial beliefs of the time (and even currently).  But Robinson loved baseball, and even though he wanted to fight for civil rights, he even more really wanted to play ball at the highest level.  In order to make this film properly, it had to make baseball seem like something worthy of that love and a sport that can capture the imagination of a nation.  Baseball had to enthrall the modern audience even if the film was being viewed by non-sport fans.  We needed to see why joining a baseball team mattered or why baseball could push towards some element of social change.  We had to believe it could turn Jackie Robinson into a hero and an idol for all little children.

42 made baseball seem magical.  Some people still have a great love of baseball.  But back in the 1940s, baseball was the Great American Pastime and a cherished treasure of the entire nation.  Baseball back then was viewed differently, but it also had a unique feel and language that doesn't exist anymore.

 The choreography was spectacular and Robinson's athletic feats provided the right dose of action.  It was one of the better framed sport films that successfully made the scenes feel authentic and provided true sporting event excitement.  I mentioned in the review that I was ready to stand up and cheer at the end, and this was partly because the film resonated with me but also it felt like I was at the ball park rooting on my team.  The realism of the scenes make you want to start a wave or fire up a chant to cheer on Robinson.  There aren't many sport films that have been able to create action scenes that get you so fully immersed.

The part that really got me feeling like I found a flux capacitor and transported back to the late '40s to watch authentic old-timey baseball was John C. McGinley's performance as Dodger's radio baseball announcer, Red Barber.  I don't really listen to old baseball broadcasts, but McGinley captured the feel of the old school baseball language and the style I envision from the legendary baseball announcers.  It was phrases and exclamations that aren't common today, which help transport me back to another era.  His commentary helped enhance the baseball scenes.  It showed the care and love that was put into trying to craft a film depicting classic baseball.

There were many small little things that helped make it feel like an authentic look at the sport.  The comradery and joking in the locker room provided entertaining scenes, and helped show that Robinson's star athleticism now made him one of the boys.  You defend your boys.  I believed every scene where the team fought for Robinson because he couldn't ruin his reputation by battling back.  There was also a good dose of humour with the teammates joking around.  I especially liked the scene where Robinson poked fun at an uncomfortable teammate trying to ask why he wouldn't shower with him, because it felt like the sort of thing that happens in locker rooms.  Of course, this is coming from an unathletic writer whose sports experience is from watching TSN.  The key is for it to be able to throw you into the scene and feel like you're witnessing a snippet of reality.

42 was a great story about a great man, and plunged you into the dark side of the 1940s.  I felt Robinson's trials and pain.  It also was just a fantastic sports film that celebrates baseball.  It was one of the all-time great sports movies, but it also succeeded in being something so much deeper and profound.           

42 Film Review: An Emotional Cinematic Home Run

It is sad to realize an American legend and a pioneer like Jackie Robinson has only had one film about his career put up on the big screen before 42.  It is a story that everyone needs to hear.  Robinson was not only an amazing athlete but he was a brave man trying to break down the institution of racism.  It is a heroic story, and 42 looks at the really hard first year in the Major Leagues.  You can find out about how well 42 captures this story in my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Evil Dead Review: Deserted Cabins Are Awful Vacation Spots

There's something about abandoned cabins isolated in dark scary woods that really appeals to teenagers and young adults.  You'd think they'd prefer camping out at a National Park or going to a resort where there are typically fewer decapitations and severed arms.  I'm aging, so maybe I've lost touch with what the cool kids are into now.

Each group that ventures off to a rundown cabin in the creepy woods must be aware what has happened before.  There has been close to 30 years of "kids getting killed in the middle of nowhere" movies.  Even when The Evil Dead was released in 1981, the concept of a group of teens being terrorized in a cabin wasn't an original.  It had existed in campfire tales for generations.  The idea of possession or a haunted building or battling demons was definitely pretty tired by the film's release, because that was essentially the majority of the horror genre in the '70s.  The Evil Dead stood out because it had camp and charm pumping through its veins and was very aware it was a glorious B-film and embraced that fact.

Someone has decided to take a hatchet to The Evil Dead and expose a giant wound so all the camp and charm is drained out.  Now, we're left with the 2013 remake Evil Dead.  It is a film that takes itself dead seriously, and shows what happens when you want to make a legitimate horror picture with this franchise.

A group of five teenagers come to an abandoned and decrepit cabin in the creepiest woods I've ever seen.  They're clearly unaware that this is a horror movie, so I'll let this oversight on their part go.  We quickly discover that the girl named Mia (Jane Levy from the sitcom Suburgatory) is trying to kick her heroin addiction and this isolated location has been deemed the best spot to fight it.  I was actually really intrigued when this was revealed, because it was a fresh concept in the demon possession genre.  It would be cool to see her battling her personal demons while also having to save herself from real life demons.  I started thinking the film would turn out to be a smart analogy of a person's battle with drug addiction and reveal the horror that such a war can be.  I was wrong.  Instead, Evil Dead is a cautionary tale of why stupid people should not be allowed near power tools.

Jane Levy is an incredibly talented and beautiful actor.  Her Mia character is the most appealing and interesting in the film, because she has real stakes.  So of course, this means she needs to get possessed and spend the majority of the film locked up in the cellar where she taunts the rest of the characters.

What a group of winners the rest of them turn out to be in this film.  They're so one dimensional and dimwitted that they should have all worn t-shirts that said "Fresh Meat" on them.  I'm pretty sure the slab of steak in my fridge could beat them all in a game of Trivial Pursuit.  David (Shiloh Fernandez) is Mia's brother, and he seems to have "running away from trouble" issues and is guilty for abandoning his mother when she went insane.  This may actually sound like depth, but we're only told these things.  What we see is a guy easily manipulated by the rest of the group, and continues to fail to understand something is wrong even after seeing gallons of blood projectile vomited and a friend carving her face.  Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) is a real gem who is apparently a teacher, but after taking so much effort to free a cursed book from wire and wrappings, and then spending time sketching out words and speaking them out loud for no apparent reason even after warning signs like "Do Not Read This Book" or the fact the book came from a room of charred cats, well, I'm worried about the public school system now.  Olivia (Jessica Lucas) claims to be a nurse, but I'm pretty sure she confused dressing up as one at a Halloween party for being a real profession.  Then we finally have Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore) who is. . . um. .. blond, I think.

I realize the horror genre doesn't rely on smart characters or even those that are well written.  If I'm to spend an hour and half watching them try to survive terror then I need to care about them a little bit.  When Mia is freaking out about possession, a car has been crashed into the lake, she clearly has wounds all over her body (not to mention damage elsewhere), then maybe it is time to think this intervention has failed.  Of course, this is after they came to the cabin that was clearly broken into and has that creepy room with dead cats that were part of some nasty ritual.  Then again, what should I have expected?  Mia and David apparently grew up coming to this creepy cabin isolated in the dark woods every summer as kids, and even worse, they have fond memories of the place.  Did the parents not hear about cottages on the lake?  What do kids do in a rundown cabin surrounded by rape trees?  This is a childhood that was in desperate need of a Nintendo to realize what actually is fun.

This is where some of you are screaming at the screen, and hoping I clue in that I'm missing the point of this picture.  What you really want to know is if it is littered with terrifying scares and has amazing special effects.  Let me start with the special effects.  They are actually pretty incredible.  As long as incredible also means an afternoon collecting road kill followed by staring at photos of real life murder scenes.  There is tons of gore and the amputations, nails puncturing skin and bone, needle going through an eye and other violent acts that look realistic and will likely make you cringe or possibly cheer with delight if you just finished digging up a corpse before seeing the film.

I'm not a prude or someone adverse to horror.  I love Stephen King and some of my favourite films are things like 1978's Halloween, Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, and other scary works.  I love Quentin Tarantino, so it isn't like blood is a turn off either.  But I like a scary movie to actually be. . . you know. .. scary.  I want the blood and guts to actually have a point.

If you want buckets upon buckets of blood and carnage then you'll likely be happy.  I got the sense this film was using it all to distract you.  It reminds me of a magic show where the magician doesn't have any new tricks or any real talent, so he tries to distract the audience by hiring four new big breasted assistants.  I personally would rather get a ticket to that magic show.

There is about 40 minutes where faces get sliced and bodies torn apart while the screen becomes more and more red.  It is just hiding the fact that the plot is generic, the charm is absent, you couldn't care less about the characters, none of the scares are fresh or original, and most of the scenes are just ripped out of the initial Evil Dead franchise.  If the characters scream loud enough and the blood squirts far enough then the hope is the audience misses the fact there isn't any substance here or any scares.

The problem is that the 40 minutes of carnage dulled and numbed me, and I was bored with what was being presented on the screen.  This is when they did the "fake ending" (come on, this isn't a spoiler, anyone who knows the word movie will know it is a swerve), and tried to end off with a thrilling and bone chilling finale.  Except I'd already mentally called it quits, and even if I could appreciate the attempt, it just felt like every other final survivor against the big baddie.  The moments of carnage and scares meant nothing because I'd already seen it for far too long, and I was just hoping those final credits would be creeping up real soon.

Fede Alvarez proves to be a talented director.  He showed moments of being able to set the mood, has some great cinematography and is excellent at framing the shots.  There are many signs of talented technical skill.  He was hampered by wanting to make his own movie while also servicing all the Deadites.  We got left with a schlock film that had a surprising lack of originality.  Hopefully, this is out of his system now, and his next film can be something that shows his real gifts.

Evil Dead is a horrifying film.  It just isn't in the way the producers and crew intended.

Star Rating: *

Monday, April 15, 2013

Today Needs an Extra Shot of Cuteness

Because sometimes you just need a cute picture of an almost 16 month old to make you smile again.

Spoiler Room of Evil Dead: Let the Slaughtering Continue

Scott and I already offered up the Breakdown of Evil Dead.  You may remember that I was a few miles away from loving it, while poor Scott was smitten by the bloody ending.  We still have a lot to discuss about the film, but this time it is no-holds-barred.  We have no problem spoiling the ending, and talking in-depth about several scenes.  Being a week removed hasn't softened me on the film, and if anything, we've grown a bit darker.  Evil Dead hid its lack of substance with blood and gore, and so we pay tribute by going a bit more NSFW than usual.  Sometimes the rage is just too much.

We don't just keep heaping bile towards Fede Alvarez's debut film.  We also get distracted by discussing the weekend's box office and reminiscing about our favorite pastry snacks.  Because that is what an overrated horror picture can do to two film buffs.

Hope you have fun with our latest podcast, and as always, we'd love your feedback.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Just Saw '42' and. . .

I'll have the review up on Wednesday over at Collective Publishing.  Yes, I'm a tease.  But I will give you this little nugget.  As you know from my recent podcast, my current favourite film from 2013 releases is Warm Bodies and my current least favourite film is Dark Skies.  Or at least this was the case before I finished watching 42.  One of these films were toppled off their perch and in quite an authoritative manner.  I went with the extreme star rating on this picture, so either a crushing 1/2 * or the king of praise in ****. 

And I'll let you guess on which way I went until the review is up on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

You Can Decide the Future Content of Our Film Podcasts

Scott and I have been doing the podcast since December of last year.  It has turned out to be a small hit on the blog.  Our goal is for it to grow and become a great way to increase our brands.  And more importantly, our goal is for it to be entertaining.

It is also time consuming.  This means that I've currently decided to put the Midweek Breakdown on hiatus.  I've got my usual pay copy, my own personal writing projects, and of course, a family that likes spending time with me that all need my attention.  At this stage, I've decided one podcast a week is all that I can handle, especially since there is always the chance to record a few shows ahead of time.  If my career starts going in a positive direction and the podcasts grow an audience then I'll likely bring back the Midweek Breakdown.

This now leaves me with questions that I'd love to have answers from you.  What do you want out of our weekly podcast on film?  Do you enjoy the breaking down of a new release film where we offer some history, look at the reception, and then discuss our reactions to the picture?  What are your thoughts on our special editions such as the Mockbuster vs. Blockbuster or the revisiting of classic films?  Essentially, what is it you enjoy from our podcasts or what do you not enjoy? 

I'm trying to figure out what to do with the podcasts going forward.  Do you feel the Breakdown and Spoiler Room are different enough shows or would you rather just a Breakdown offer more depth of discussion (minus major spoilers)?  Oh okay, I'm asking questions again.  I'll stop.

Now, it is your time to give me your thoughts.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Introducing My New Star Rating for Film Reviews

Actually, I announced it in a recent podcast, but I realize not everyone listens to those shows.  I've decided to alter my star rating that I include in my film reviews.  I wrote a piece a few months ago explaining that I went with a 5 star rating system because I felt it was the best way to create an easy to view value to a film.  My belief was that a 4 star system was far too short of a rating range and would cause several films of varying quality get attributed with the same value.  It also put me in the spot of giving more films 4 stars than at the time, I felt I should.  I also realized doing a percentage or a rating out of 10 was far too wide a range, and I'd start to lose track of where I ranked each film.  I was comfortable choosing a 5 star system because it seemed the right amount of length to give me some breathing room but also not lose track of the value rankings.

Well, I'm moving over to 4.  I tried it before, and I felt it too hard.  I also decided that one of the best purposes for a star rating is being able to compare it with other reviews. My main reason for switching is that most of the major mainstream critics use the four star system.  It'll give you an idea how I perceived a film compared to some of the more respected critics if I use the exact same system.  Plus it was Roger Ebert's rating system, and so this would be another way to honour him during my film criticism career.

Of course, the review is the most important part, and my star rating won't have any purpose without an explanation of how I arrived with my rating.  There are a lot of factors that could earn a movie 2 stars, and obviously, most readers would get enraged if such a rating would be bestowed upon their favourite film.  My written review will explain why the rating was low, as well as how I actually perceive the film.  A low star rated film could still have things I appreciate, but it just failed to resonate with me.

To help clarify my new system, here is how I view the value of each rating.

* A poor film that likely will only be enjoyable by those who crave lousy cinema and want something to chuckle about with buddies late at night.

** This is likely a film that has a few redeeming points, but the picture usually ends up either being overly generic or hindered by a few huge flaws.

*** A really good film that I'd happily recommend to any fan of movies.  It also will have great repeat viewing quality, even if it isn't redefining its genre.

**** An unforgettable picture that becomes an instant classic and either transforms or births a genre.  This is the film you want to watch yearly and will think about months after seeing it. 

1/2 This is added to any rating when it is a step above a rating but not quite ready to reach the next level, such as a **1/2.

This is one of the harder rating systems to use.  But its frequent use makes it the best one if comparing ratings is deemed important.  I think it is, or you wouldn't have things like Rotten Tomatoes in existence.  It is probably going to be a bit of a process for me to master, but I also like the fact it will force me to commit to how much I value a film.  The prior system gave me a lot of different options, but this time I'm forced to decide if a film is a classic or not.

It also means I'll be giving out way more 4 stars than I'd have given 5 stars in my previous system.  As Ebert believed, the star system isn't sacred.  A great film deserves four stars even if slightly flawed.  In the end, this whole process is about embracing the magic of cinema.

I'm open to any feedback and comments, and would love to hear what you think.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Few More Thoughts About Last Night's Survivor Caramoan

By now, you've obviously read my Survivor Caramoan recap for BuddyTV.  Right?

But that article has a tight deadline, and it is expected to be done in recounting the episode format.  This means that sometimes I don't get all my thoughts and analysis in that I'd like.  I did neglect to really focus on how intriguing the Tribal Council ended up being last night.

I'm under the belief that Phillip and Andrea put on a bit of show to lure out any possible idols floating about.  This may be one of the first times ever that I actually am impressed with a move pulled off by Phillip.  Though I'm going to assume it was an Andrea mastermind.  It could also be possible that Phillip was just being Phillip, but then it wouldn't explain why they voted out Michael and not cast votes at Malcolm.  Then again, I'm being a fool for trying to put in logic for the things that the secret agent of nick name creation does.

What I really failed to mention last night was the brilliant move by Malcolm.  He actually convinced Reynold to give up his idol, when this makes Reynold a huge target going forward. It not only allows Malcolm to keep his own idol, but absolutely everyone will assume Malcolm can't have an idol, because why would he ask Reynold?  This now gives Malcolm at least 6 more days to try to persuade the lower tier of the big alliance like Brenda and Erik to flip sides.  Though he so far hasn't proven to really be able to weed out the people that are on the outs, considering he keeps going to Dawn and Sherri.

There is a good chance they'll try to take Malcolm out next round.  He can play his idol and send someone home.  This is where it gets trickier.  He will have to be pretty smooth to convince Reynold it was okay that he used his idol when he already had his own.  Though it isn't like Reynold has proven be an intellectual giant.  Plus it isn't like Reynold has many other options other than aligning with Malcolm at this point, because his only other ally is Eddie.

Malcolm is a smart player, even though confiding in Dawn was a brain fart.  He doesn't seem like a player who gives up, and so we will likely have a fight next week.  He does have time to strategize and try to find cracks in the major alliance.  It would definitely be cool if he could pull a Russell from Survivor Samoa, where he went to the end despite being in the minority alliance.  We haven't seen a comeback season like that since then.

I unfortunately don't see it happening.  I do think he'll send someone home from the majority alliance next week thanks to his idol.  After that, his run will likely be over.  His only hope is that Reynold and Eddie get targeted first.  The fact is that all three are challenge threats, and Malcolm is the only one that also is a threat due to having a functioning brain.

Plus Eddie is Andrea's little play thing.  Eddie may be kept around as the rat that divulges any potential blindsides to Andrea.  Reynold appears to tell Eddie everything, so Andrea can get a lot of info for at least two or three more episodes.  I could see Eddie possibly even outlasting Erik, since Erik is a huge challenge threat and also someone who appears to be pretty likable thus a Final Tribal Council threat.  He also is basically the outlier of his tribe, and not even sure if he ever became an official "Stealth R Us" member.

Who are the favourites to win this thing?  Here is my quick thoughts on each player.

Dawn:  She is in an amazing spot at the moment.  Everyone seems to think she is a non-threat, despite being one of the castaways playing the hardest.  She is in the strong core alliance with Andrea, Phillip and Cochran.  She doesn't ever seem to be a target from Malcolm and company, despite ratting them out twice.  The only negative is she seems to have a breakdown next week, but then again, she did that all the time her first season too.  Facts of Life Lisa had several breakdowns, and she made it to the final three.  I'm thinking the teaser is a red herring, and Dawn will be around for a long time.

Cochran:  He gets tons of air time, which is great because his observations are funny, but it also likely means he is around for a long while.  He also seems pretty alert to what is going on, and is one of the more strategic players.  I could see him and Dawn making a big move to take control of the game over Andrea and Phillip at some point.

Sherri:  She is a wild card.  There has been moments this season that proved she is a smart player.  She is also the biggest outlier in the majority alliance.  But she is also the ultimate swing vote for anyone in the Favorite alliance that wants to take over the game.  I could see Cochran and Dawn taking her in if they want to make a big power play.  She'll need to make her own big move if she has a chance to win this game.

Erik:  He sometimes only seems vaguely aware he is playing Survivor.  His one strategic move this entire season was aligning with the person who left the game first.  He is amazing at the physical challenges, and could go on a huge immunity run.  He has potential to be in the final three, but his lack of TV time makes me think he will just fall short.

Brenda:  She was a great player her first season.  This entire season she has been invisible.  I can only assume she hasn't been playing much yet.  I think her strongest alliance is with Erik, who isn't a mental powerhouse.  There is a chance she could become the swing vote if I'm right about a Cochran and Dawn power play, but I'd think Sherri is the better option for Cochrawn since she'd have less friends on the jury.

Andrea:  She is controlling the game, but unfortunately for her, she is obviously controlling the game.  Usually someone who is this strong and obvious this early in the game is ripe for a blindside.  I'd assume she would be Malcolm's target when he plays his idol.  Then again, her original season had the most blatant and controlling player ever in Boston Rob, and he won his season.  If she can have strong alliances with Dawn and Cochran (two smart players) she has a strong chance to win this thing.  The key will be to avoid the Malcolm idol blindside.

Eddie:  He isn't winning.  He will only be in the final three if he goes on a huge immunity run or if Andrea makes a massive brainfart.  His strategy currently is spewing all his secrets to Andrea and charming her by begging to stay in the game.  I can see him outliving Reynold and maybe even Malcolm, but there would need to be a massive shift in the game for him to go much farther than sixth.

Malcolm:  A really smart player that pulled a "Corinne" to put him in a bad spot.  He still has his idol, but he would need to be the ultimate smooth schemer to create another alliance to get him back in this game.  He could do it, and it would be awesome if he did.  I'm thinking he has about two or three episodes left unless he finds another idol and gets a huge immunity run.

Reynold:  He may be one of the cockiest stupid players of all time.  He just makes naïve and mind numbing moves on a weekly basis.  I could see him be the next gone if the main alliance does a split vote and Malcolm plays his idol.  His survival will be based off the group entirely targeting Malcolm, and not remembering a second idol could be in play.  His best chance of going far is to not hold a grudge against Malcolm, and for him to create a new alliance to take over the game.

Phillip:  He's delusional, and likely very annoying for everyone still in the game.  I want him to go far, because he still makes me laugh and gives me great material to write about.  He does have the power alliance of Andrea, Cochran, and Dawn.  If there is a shift in power, he'll likely be one of the first casualties.  I do know that there is no way he is winning this game, even if he makes it to final three.

What are your thoughts and predictions from this season?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Survivor Caramoan Ep. 9" Recap: Battle of the Double Agents

Survivor Caramoan is full of double agents and moles.  It is just like the movie The Departed, except everyone is in their underwear and they use cruel words instead of gun.  I recap all the fun over at BuddyTV.

Everett has Discovered Why Daddy Spends so Much Time in the Bathroom

It is where all the best reading happens, obviously.

Midweek Breakdown Podcast: Tribute to Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert has been a huge influence on my writing career.  He was also just someone I really enjoyed reading, and I looked forward to each of his reviews and blog posts.  I'm going to miss reading his new content, but he definitely left a great legacy.  I probably wouldn't have thought to have tried writing film reviews if it wasn't for the amazing work done by Ebert.

Scott and I wanted to pay tribute to Roger Ebert with a special edition of the Midweek Breakdown.  We devote a large portion of the podcast discussing the impact Ebert had on film journalism but also talk about why he was significant to us.  It is a touching podcast that is dedicated to an amazing man.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Seven Ways Roger Ebert's Legacy Will Endure

I'm really going to miss Roger Ebert.  I also know his legacy will last for generations.  He was prolific enough that I'll have a fleet of material to read for years.  His impact really reaches the entire film industry.  In my latest Collective Publishing Pop Culture column, I look at 7 things that will ensure that Ebert's impact will be felt for decades.

Your Daily Dose of Cuteness

Because what else are you going to get on a Tuesday?

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Breakdown of Evil Dead Podcast: Is a Blood Soaked Cabin the Future of Horror?

Evil Dead is a reimagining of a cult classic, and a film that has a good amount of buzz.  If there is film buzz then there is a need for Breakdown podcast.  So, that is exactly what Scott and I serve up for you this fine Monday.  We do the usual of looking at the trailers and critical reception, and then offer up our own reviews of the film.  It is a film that we both have a lot to talk and occasionally rant about.  Is Evil Dead the horror movie we've all been begging for?  Well, we let you know quite thoroughly in the podcast.

If you enjoy our thoughts then pass it on to a friend.  As always, we love to have your comments and feedback, especially if you disagree with us.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sunday is a Great Day to Listen to The Sheepdogs

The band.  It might be a fine day to listen to the animals too, but their howls aren't great for head bopping.  "The Way It Is" is one of The Sheepdogs more recognizable songs, but also a fine piece of ear candy.  The video also answers the question of who would win in a baseball game between a men's beer league team and a Little League team.  These are the kind of things we really need to find out about.  Thank you, Sheepdogs.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

It's a Perfect Day to Lay Your Head on a Gigantic Lady Bug

If you don't know how, Everett will show you.

Though you can do it while wearing pants and without a dog sniffing your crotch, for the record.

Friday, April 05, 2013

RIP Roger Ebert 1942 - 2013

Almost every writer has major influences that inspire and shape their style.  I have writers that I can say were major in transforming me into the writer that I am today.  I'd even have a few that I'd say I actually look up to and have a significant amount of respect for them.  Roger Ebert was one of those writers.

I discovered Roger Ebert when I was fairly young.  It was one Saturday afternoon when I stumbled upon the Siskel and Ebert and The Movies show and saw these two men discussing films that I loved.  They were talking in terms that I could understand and were willing to discuss special effects or how cool the monsters looked.  It was also incredibly engaging to watch the two men debate over their different opinions on a specific film.  My experience with film criticism before this moment was some stuffy older gentleman on what I believe was TVO (PBS style channel in Ontario) who used big words and only talked about movies I never heard about.  It was the discovery of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert where I learned criticisms and reviews can actually be entertaining.

Living outside of the United States meant I didn't get a lot exposure to Ebert's reviews in the '80s or '90s other than his TV show.  I wasn't aware of his written work until the internet exploded on the scene.  I then started tracking down several off his older reviews and made him my go to source for any new movies.  Sure, I checked Rotten Tomatoes like everyone else, but I knew it was Ebert's opinion that mattered most.  Even if I disagreed with him, I'd be entertained by his reviews and be able to understand his point of view.

Roger Ebert loved cinema.  I think this is what really made him stand out as a film critic.  I know every critic should be a fan of the medium they review.  I am sure most are.  But you could really feel the passion and love Ebert had for movies.  When he saw a great film he would rave about the magic and the art of the movie and sometimes sound like a giddy child who went to Disney World for the first time.  If he just sat through a horrid film then it felt like he was bashing the film for not truly reaching its potential of the great medium.  Ebert truly believed film was one of the great art forms, and felt it was a powerful tool for storytelling and spreading profound messages.  You just needed to read a few of his reviews to also fall in love with cinema.

He was also an amazing writer.    His prose of praise created vivid pictures that could transport you right into the film.  His negative reviews full of snark and wit were always more entertaining than the bad films he was panning.  His reviews were more than just a write-up letting you know if you should see a picture, but rather providing their own form of entertainment and pleasure.  His work was an outstanding balance of insight, history, sweetness and humour.

Roger Ebert was an expert on cinema, but he was the farthest thing from a film snob.  His knowledge of cinema history had an expansive scope that very few other film critics or even film historians could boast.  Ebert knew what made films great and understood all the elements that created emotions in the viewer, but he also knew all the clichés and what had been used countless times before in film.  His reviews would be littered with these insights, but it never felt like boasting.  He never rubbed it in your nose how much he knew or understood.  Instead it always came off an enthusiastic fan, and just someone who has watched so much cinema because he was a lover.  I often would smile when he would be able to rattle off scenes and films that made him laugh or cry or scream.

The thing that really made him a true movie lover and the critic I enjoyed as kid was that he loved all genres.  He wasn't an uptight film critic that only gave four stars to independent or art films or only had time for "serious" cinema.  He loved genre movies like scifi, westerns or film noir.  I've always felt that some critics just parrot what the consensus says, and pan a movie because they think it should be ridiculed.  Ebert never cared about the consensus.  He is famous for being the rare critic who gave positive reviews for films like Speed 2 and Cop and a Half.  While most critics would try to prove their smarts by including obscure films in their top ten films of the year, in 2002 Ebert picked a wonderful scifi flick to be his top pick of the year, Minority Report.  He really didn't care about following other critics or worry about how a review would affect his reputation.  He stood by the films he enjoyed no matter the genre or if others thought it was trash.  The biggest proof of his skill was that he could always write reviews that justified his choice and you could always understand why he was loving or hating it.  I disagreed with him on both Prometheus and Snow White and the Huntsmen, but his reasons and justifications for his praise were hard to dispute.

It is his lack of pretension that I wanted to bring to my film reviews.  He never tried to compare Total Recall to Citizen Kane.  He always asked if the film he was watching was a success in its own genre and if it would meet the needs of its fans.  He wasn't sacred about the four star review.  A film earned it if it delivered the best for scifi or a romcom or a comic book action or a political thriller or a period drama.  Plus the star rating never meant anything if you didn't read his reviews that analyzed the film and explained why it worked.  It was a huge relief for me as an aspiring film critic to realize it wasn't about looking at if a film works at some deep intellectual level, but rather if the filmmaker just succeeded at what he was trying to achieve. 

This isn't to say Ebert didn't look at that intellectual level.  I felt he was probably the best at uncovering golden nuggets or analyzing metaphors or being able look at social impact in almost any kind of film.  You could expect a smart commentary even for an action film or a raunchy comedy.  He didn't just reserve his smart thoughts for the highly acclaimed films.  As I said before, his reviews weren't about how smart he was or how much he knew.  It was just about his love of cinema.  I really believe he wanted to love every single film.  He came in with a joy and expectations to have fun.  He gushed every time he witnessed a film with great directing, an innovative story and unforgettable acting.

Roger Ebert was the mentor that I never met.  Much like with Ray Bradbury, reading his works taught me how to write.  He showed me how to capture an audience's attention.  Ebert showed me that it wasn't just telling a reader about a film, but the need to entertain and enrich.  I write reviews that are heavily influenced by Ebert's style.  I try to approach films the same way as him, where I look at the genre and try to give each film a chance to be excellent.  If my reviews are entertaining and insightful then it means I succeeded at following an icon.  I owe any of my great writing moments to an amazing teacher like Ebert.  His words are something I'll always hold dear.

I am not just talking about Ebert's film reviews.  In the past five years, I've discovered Ebert's Twitter account and his blog.  This is where he wrote about so much more than movies.  He wrote about what it meant to be a child in the '50s, he discussed the debate between evolution and creation, he had several insightful essays on politics, several beautiful pieces about historical moments, and almost any topic you could possibly think about.  His writing style was so beautiful and poetic that I found myself engaged even if I didn't agree with his thesis.  He was a man that knew a lot about history and religion and social politics.  He wasn't just a movie buff.  He knew so much more.  It was this knowledge that made him such a strong film critic.  It was his wonderful blog that opened my eyes to him being a truly great writer.  He was someone I read as much as possible, and I craved reading about his newest thoughts.

In some ways the existence of his blog was sad.  His major presence on social media was largely in existence due to the cancer that caused him to no longer be able to speak.  He wrote often, because it was his new way to communicate.  It also revealed to the world how much was going on in his head and how many insightful thoughts he had.  He wrote essays about his struggle with cancer, and they were always inspirational.  His pieces actually were uplifting and a great consolation while my family was going through my father-in-law's own battle with brain cancer.  They were sad, but also were written by a man with great courage.  He was a man who always seemed optimistic and was able to see the bright side of life.  He had a lot of hope and even more cheer.  He embraced life even when it was hard.  When you read those essays you realize it was written by a man who refused to be a victim, but a man who was spiritual and charitable even if his own life had major hardships.  His essays made me think this was someone I knew.  It definitely made me wish that one day I'd be able to talk to him and meet him in person. 

If I'm going to be totally selfish for a moment, I'm bummed that I'll never be able to read any more new words from him.  His work was a weekly highlight.  I loved to compare my film reviews against his, and I loved reading about his various insights on the world.  Luckily, he was prolific writer, and his works will last a long time.  He has several books and articles that I still will read and be inspired by.  His impact is going to continue for decades and decades.  I know countless writers that say Ebert was an influence and an inspiration.  I know he will be one writer I will continue to think about for the rest of my career.  I'll miss him.  Of course, not as much as his family and his wife, Chaz.

Thank you, Roger Ebert.  You showed me what it takes to make a great film review.  You showed me how to use wit and humour to enhance a work, but still be kind and gracious.  You were one of my teachers on how to write, and you will continue to inspire and guide me.

RIP Roger Ebert.  You'll always be one of the truly great critics and writers.  I give you two thumbs up.