Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Midweek Breakdown Rocks Its Way Out of 2014

2014 is coming to a close, and it has admittedly not been a great year for this site or to be perfectly honest, my writing career. And even the Breakdown has suffered far too many sabbaticals. But 2014 is almost done, and we can start looking ahead to what I hope is one rocking 2015. First, we've got the final Midweek Breakdown, where to say goodbye to this year, Scott and I talk movies. I know, shocking stuff.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Breakdown of 2014 Podcast: Looking Back at the Highs and Lows of the Past 12 Months

For the next three weeks, Scott and I will be taking an extensive look back at this past year. It also means we'll be offering up year-end lists long after you've rung in the new year, but that is what happens when one is still scrambling to get in all the buzzworthy movies. Our first of the trilogy will be reviewing and discussing all the major news events of the past year and looking at both the highlights and more dreary moments.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Midweek Breakdown Wishes You Merry Christmas

What the title says. The best way to celebrate the holiday season and get you into the festive mood is over a half hour of good old fashion movie talk. That is exactly what we're serving up. It is the present you don't need a gift receipt.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Breakdown Goes Full Circle with "The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies" Plus Review of a Christmas Classic

We started the Breakdown way back in 2013 with a Breakdown of Django Unchained. But the first ever show we recorded was the Breakdown of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. There was a bit of nostalgia and sentimentality when we decided to review the final chapter in the latest Peter Jackson Middle-earth trilogy, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, as the first picture is where we started this show. As well, it is the holiday season so we've decided to review an established Christmas classic in the original Miracle on 34th Street. We spread the Christmas spirit the best way we know how: lots of movie discussions.

Breakdown Outline:

1:05 The Hobbit: the Battle of Five Armies review
20:45 Miracle on 34th Street (1947) review
32:43 Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011) review
44:02 Sony Drops The Interview from Cinemas
54:45 Was 2014 Box Office Failure a Sign for the Future?
1:23:13 Review Rundown

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Midweek Breakdown Explores the Sony Hacks

The biggest news of the week is obviously the recent Sony hacks, Along with that, a whole bunch of incriminating emails have been reported as well as many of the studio's long term movie plans. This week on the Midweek Breakdown, Scott and I discuss the implications of the Sony hacks along with all the usual joyous rabbit trails that are invited on the hump day show.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Breakdown Podcast Gets Biblical with "Exodus: Gods and Kings" Review

Scott and I review Ridley Scott's latest epic, Exodus: Gods and Kings. We also make the inevitable comparisons to Darren Aronofsky's Noah and see which picture nailed their stories more solidly. As well we review the 2013 remake of Oldboy and discuss how it stands up to the original. The Golden Globe nominations were announced this week and we give our thoughts. Finally, based off some recent headlines, we debate if it is okay to still watch a movie after a filmmaker or actor commits an atrocious crime.

Podcast Outline:

1:10 Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) review
24:56 Knights of Badassdom (2014) review
36:04 Oldboy (2013) review
46:30 Thoughts on Golden Globe Nominations
1:00:47 Can You Still Love Works After the Artist Commits an Atrocious Act
1:12:54 Review Rundown

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Midweek Breakdown Gets Giddy About "Spectre" and Less So About Two Robin Hoods

Scott and I return to offer up more entertainment and movie talk for ol' hump day. This week we're both pretty ecstatic about the news that the latest James Bond picture will be called Spectre. You don't know why that is exciting news? Then you need to catch up on your old Bond pictures to be reminded of one of the coolest empires of evil in movies. It is double the excitement as this is the follow-up to one of the best ever in the series. After that, we're less excited about the news that two studios now want to launch a Robin Hood franchise, because sometimes public domain is the enemy that will kill us all. That leads to some grumblings and discussions over studios franchise fever and how it is affecting their strategies for the long term. As always, if you love the show then please pass on the word.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Breakdown of the Darker Side of Humanity Podcast: Revenge, Cults, and Gangsters

This week Scott and I stayed away from the cinemas, and instead revelled in depravity and fanaticism through movies that explores the darker side of humanity. Surprise, surprise, we ended up with some pictures that are considered by many to be classics, as well as a modern 2014 picture that is already getting a strong following to eventually earn itself a spot as a cult favourite. This week we explore revenge with pictures like 2014's Blue Ruin and Park Chan-Wook's 2003 critically acclaimed Oldboy. We also dip into some crime-noir with the beloved and highly influential 1949 thriller, The Third Man.

A great selection of pictures to discover this week, and as always, if you love the show then please pass on the word.

Podcast Outline:

1:58 Blue Ruin (2014) review
19:30 The Sacrament (2014) review
33:22 Devil's Due (2014) review/rant
38:10 Oldboy (2003) review
54:08 The Third Man review
1:06:24 Review Rundown


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Who You Gonna Pick? The Midweek Breakdown Podcast Returns with Our Female Ghostbuster Casting Picks

 Shortly after we started adopting the several movie review format on the Breakdown, we've been going "warm-up" podcast shows to stimulate discussion and get us comfortable for the actual show. Over the last few weeks, we started noticing that even though it is far more informal, devoid of a format, and littered with rabbit trails, we've been able to scrounge up some interesting conversations and insights. To the point it has often been the launching point for several paid movie articles I've written. Also due to the lax structure, it has allowed our personalities to shine through and often has several more personal anecdotes tossed in. So, we've decide there is some value to actually posting these unpolished shows and labeling them the Midweek Breakdown.

This week we throw out picks for who we think would be the perfect female cast for the Paul Feig helmed Ghostbusters. There was also a little trailer by an obscure sci-fi space adventure that was recently released, and we decided to talk about it since no one else seems to have noticed it. Then that got us to once again talk about the chaos that will be 2015 with many movies hoping to rank in billions of dollars, and we predict what may be the hits and if 2014 is an omen for a continuously falling box office.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Breakdown of Mike Nichols' Career Podcast

This week Scott and I celebrate the career of one of the most acclaimed and respected directors of the past several decades, Mike Nichols. Several have recently paid tribute to the recently passed director, and we do our part by reviewing four of his pictures, including his first ever, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Podcast Outline:

00:47 Career Retrospective of Mike Nichols
10:12 Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? review
23:05 Working Girl review
36:49 Closer review
49:24 Regarding Henry review
1:01:31 Review Rundown

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Did the Source Material Really Demand Two Mockingjays?

The answer is no. But it wouldn't be much of an article if I left it there. So, instead I'm using my Collective Publishing article to explore the issue of splitting a movie into two parts. It is a trend that really started with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and now has become the tradition with all Young Adult novel series adaptations, even if the final book doesn't seem to warrant it. The splitting of movies has happened in the past with pictures like Kill Bill, but that was the case of a picture that ended up becoming sprawling in length. The current issue is pictures like Avengers 3 or Divergent: Allegiant are being split into two movies without even a script written or evidence it will be needed. Check out my latest article that explores the latest annoying trend that was created via movies studios latest obsession with franchises and stretching them out as long as possible.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Breakdown of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Podcast: Plus Movies That Encourage Reading

Scott and I have yet another really loaded podcast as we review the biggest movie of the year, Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1. On top of that, we look at two critically acclaimed pictures in a foreign animated feature and a classic from the silent era of cinema. Another great show for those interested in some film history and enjoy a wide array of movie discussion.

00:52 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (2014) review
16:31 Ernest & Celestine (2014) review
25:44 Metropolis (1927) review
38:30 Do plot holes matter?
51:47 What makes an antihero?
59:36 Review rundown

Edit: Duh, forgot to embed the actual podcast.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Plot Holes Don't Make a Bad Movie

When someone often explains to me why they didn't like a movie or sometimes when I'm reading a negative review, the reasons often cited for the picture's downfall are the plot holes. The issue is that plot holes exist in almost every work of fiction (even in largely accepted great movies like The Sixth Sense), especially if you spend enough time analyzing it. Sometimes a plot hole is even purposefully inserted into the story to enhance the message or move along the plot at a quicker pace. This means plot holes are rarely the actual reason for a bad movie. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I explain why plot holes don't really matter as much as most people think.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Breakdown of 'Big Hero 6' Podcast Plus Some Less Than Family Friendly Fare

This week Scott and I venture to the magical city of San Fransokyo as we unite to review the most anticipated animated features of the year, Big Hero 6. We also review three other movies including the disturbing and trippy 2014 independent sci-fi picture starring Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin. As well we look at VOD and debate if the practice of showing movies the same day as the theatrical release may result in eventually killing smaller movies being played in cinemas. It is a loaded show, and if you love it then please spread the word.

Breakdown Outline:

00:49 Big Hero 6 review
18:41 Under the Skin review
31:19 Hard Candy review
45:06 Battle Royale review
56:54 Rise of Video-on-Demand
1:14:16 Review Rundown

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Begging Hollywood to Put the "Death Fake-out" Trend Out of Its Misery

I really enjoy Disney animated features and Marvel Studio movies, along with Pixar, they seem to be the most reliable form of big studio movie entertainment. But both are plagued by following one of Hollywood's most agitating trends, the "death fake-out." It is the scenes that are supposed to be climatic and emotional because a major character just got killed, but then only a few scenes later (or sometimes in that very scene) it is revealed the character isn't dead. At one time it was used to be a major shocker, but now the surprise is if the character actually stays dead. The strategy has become so predictable that it has squeezed out any emotion and impact that is supposed to be present in a death scene. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I plea for Hollywood to finally kill the frustrating "death fake-out" trend.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Breakdown of Interstellar Podcast Plus We Review Some Recognized Classics

It is a loaded show this week as Scott and I review five pictures this week including one of the most anticipated movies of the year, Interstellar. On top of that, we review 3 pictures that are widely recognized as classics and reveal if we agree with that assessment. If you love this week's episode then please feel free to spread the word.

Breakdown Outline:

5:42 Interstellar review
23:49 Nightcrawler review
40:56 The Terminator review
56:41 The Bicycle Thief review
1:10:10 Don't Look Now review
1:24:47 Review Rundown

Edit: Once again, I initially had the wrong times for each review.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Even More Accurate but Very Misleading Descriptions of Popular Movies

A few years ago on this site, I had some fun providing completely accurate but very misleading descriptions to well-known movies. I've learned over the years that many people have missed out on classic pictures because the description didn't sound like it would appeal to them. I believe as a film writer that it is my civic duty to try to make as many movies seem to be as appealing as possible. So, it is time to freshen up some stale descriptions of popular movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial that has been sold as a heart-warming family adventure for long enough. It may not be the most honest approach of making one expect a different genre and set-up completely erroneous expectations, but it sure is fun. This week at Collective Publishing, I have a collection of movie descriptions that are accurate but will likely sound like an entirely new movie that you don't remember.

Monday, November 03, 2014

The Breakdown "Here Today, Forgotten Tomorrow: Life of Modern Movie Trends" Podcast

 Scott and I look at some of the popular genres and strategies amongst the big movie studios and analyze their actual success and predict their life span. We find a solid mix of modern movie trends (like the haunted house or item genre that can most recently be seen in Quija) that we love and also others we can't wait to become extinct. As always if you love the show then please pass it on to other movie buffs.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Capsule Reviews of October Wide Releases Including 'Gone Girl', 'Fury' and 'John Wick'

It started becoming very clear that 2012 and 2013 were going to be known as incredible movie years after the slate of great releases in October. In both years, the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner came out of those months (Argo and 12 Years a Slave). 2014 already has several fantastic movies in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Boyhood, and A Most Wanted Man. But a year is often remembered based on how strong their "awards season" turns out, and October has become the big kick-off. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I judge the quality of this month by providing several capsule reviews of major wide releases like Gone Girl, Fury, and John Wick.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Wonders of Horror: The Most Critically Battered Genre is Better Than it is Treated

 I know in the last few years I've given many negative reviews to modern horror movies. I was one of the few film reviewers that didn't enjoy The Conjuring. This is because I have a high standard for horror fiction. One of my all-time favourite novelists is Stephen King and as a kid I gobbled up the works of Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson. Some of my favourite movies are pictures like Halloween, The Exorcist, and Jaws. Many of the greatest stories ever told have been about dabbling into our darkest fears. I think there is great value in having visceral stories that delve into the disturbing recesses of our mind. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I defend horror against those that deem it a lesser genre.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Breakdown of 'Fury' Podcast: Plus We Give Out Four Stars Like It's Candy on Halloween

Scott and I trudged out to the cinemas again this week and witnessed Brad Pitt's return to the battlegrounds of World War 2 Germany in David Ayer's latest actioner, Fury. We also review four other pictures that include a Wes Anderson production and Robert Downey Jr's latest picture. It is definitely a must-watch show as two pictures earn a perfect score of four stars from both of us. As always if you love the show then please pass it on to other film fans.

Breakdown Outline:

00:56  Fury review
20:06  Gloria review
30:53  Moonrise Kingdom review
47:23  The Judge review
55:14  Forks Over Knives review
1:08: 40 Review Rundown

EDIT: The times were all off on the Outline, because apparently the player at Internet Archive lives in a different realm of time than my Windows Media Player.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Are We Approaching the Death of Reality TV?

It was a bit of a shocking announcement from AMC last week when they declared they were abandoning almost all of their unscripted shows (including Kiss's latest attempt to get their name on everything, 4th and Loud). It wasn't that long ago they seemed to be amassing a small army of reality TV, but now the goal is to completely focus on finding scripted series. This is only one cable channel, but this fall also saw networks bring in far less unscripted new shows. It has been awhile since there has been a major reality show hit, with Duck Dynasty being the last and its ratings are now plummeting. What does this all say about the future of reality TV? In my latest Collective Publishing entertainment column, I analyze the future of reality TV and why things have changed so drastically in the last year.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Breakdown of the State of Women in Movies Podcast: It Isn't Just a Man's World

Scott and I tackle an issue that has come up in many past podcasts, which is the depiction of women on the big screen and the opportunities given women in the film industry. It has been an interesting year with stars like Scarlett Johansson joining the ranks with women like Jennifer Lawrence as both independent darlings (Under the Skin) and big box office attractions (Johansson has two hits this year with Captain American: The Winter Soldier and Lucy). We take an in-depth look at the typical roles for woman along with what genres have best represented women while also discussing if the best talent is getting a chance to really shine. It is both a criticism and a praise. We look at some major flaws but also things that give us much hope.

In the future, I hope to have another podcast where we can spotlight some of the rising and incredibly talented female filmmakers that were mentioned on this show as well as those we neglected. Hopefully, this is an episode that makes you think, and we both really look forward to your feedback and thoughts.

As always if you enjoy this show then please spread to the word to other film fans.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Return of Twin Peaks and the Jettisoning of 'Say Anything'

It was a crazy week in the world of reboots and resurrections as several past works have been announced as returning. It seemed like everybody was celebrating about the hyped return of Twin Peaks, while the announcements of Say Anything and a giant Robin Hood relaunch had much less anticipation. Actually, looks like Lloyd Dobbler's return may have been blocked for now. If anyone wanted to argue the original idea was dead, then this may be the week. I think there is reason to be excited, while in some other cases an audible groan is justified too. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I look the major announcements of Twin Peaks returning along with things like Netflix joining in with Adam Sandler. I offer my analysis of why I think some of these things happened along with what is worth getting excited about.

Monday, October 06, 2014

The Breakdown of 'Gone Girl' Podcast: Plus Proof Some of the Best Stories Come from Documentaries

Scott and I finally return to reviewing movies, and we've got a loaded show with five pictures. The big one is David Fincher's highly anticipated adaptation of the Gillian Flynn bestseller, Gone Girl. We also look at two documentaries from the master of the form, Steve James (including one of my most anticipated 2014 releases, Life Itself). On top of that, we've got your animated and Young Adult fix covered with two September releases. It was a lot of fun reviewing and debating movies again and we aimed to entertain with our battles against each other to prove one's film criticism superiority while also incorporating some history and reflections upon the bigger impact some of these pictures have in pop culture. As always, if you love the show then please spread the word.

Breakdown Outline:

00:49  Gone Girl review
22:54  Life Itself review
34:56  Hoop Dreams review
45:52  The Boxtrolls review
58:00  The Maze Runner review
01:10:27  Review Rundown

Note: Despite going really long on Gone Girl, I still failed to bring up a crucial aspect of the picture. Most thrillers, even ones that delve into the ludicrous plots and twists (which admittedly this flick does as well) tend to take themselves painfully serious and are devoid of humour. Fincher always tends to have a great deal of wit, snappy dialogue, and black humour sprinkled throughout his pictures,  but this one is jammed with it and is a sick and twisted yet very funny movie. It is aware it is absurd, but also remembers to tone down the macabre and morbid moments with truly gutbusting laughs. The presentation of how the media jumps on the missing person case and the interplay between many of the characters delivers some really clever and biting humour. Okay, I think I covered the movie enough.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Capsule Reviews of September Releases: Did a Bad-Ass Denzel Washington and Boxtrolls Rock the Month?

I've been awful on here. I don't know how many times I can say that. To really condense the struggle, almost a year ago a huge career breakthrough evaporated from my hands and it has left more lingering self-doubt than I had ordered so the leftovers keep haunting me. I really want to start rocking the words on a regular basis on here. One of the things I really want to do is provide more full-length reviews. Since I've once again become backlogged, I decided to provide capsule reviews of the September releases I've seen. So over at Collective Publishing, see how the state of cinema is looking as we head into what many consider the prestige months.

Oh, I actually first provide some thoughts on the current state of 2014. To be honest, it was supposed to be a short introduction paragraph, but I turned out to have more to say than I planned. After the really long lead-in piece, I provide reviews for pictures like The Boxtrolls, The Equalizer, This is Where I Leave You, and more (really check out that more).

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Breakdown of Emotional Connecting with Movies Podcast: We've Got Feelings!

Scott and I have once against been swerved by fates and won't be reviewing the pictures we promised for this week. Instead we're going to dig deep inside ourselves and look at our very souls that over the years have had many movies latch on to them. These are movies that not only have stuck with us for decades, but also have impacted how we live our days. We'll be looking at classics that we love (we mention Raiders of the Lost Ark several times), but also discuss some not very good movies that still found a way to bury deep into our memories and emotions. As always, if you love what you hear then please pass it along to another lover of movies.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Ways Netflix is Reshaping the Creative Aspect of Television

 As the years go on and if I continue to cover pop culture, I'll likely find myself writing about Netflix more and more (eventually, I may even get around to reviewing House of Cards). It is not only becoming an entertainment powerhouse that is creating exclusive series that garner awards buzz and critical acclaim, but now their creative decisions are being emulated by the major networks. At one time, the networks would have completely dismissed Netflix as real competition, but now it is a major part of shaping the television industry. In my latest Collective Publishing pop culture column, I look at how Netflix is becoming a major influence on the big networks' creative decisions.

EDIT: Added a pretty picture, and then referenced the series it is depicting in my write-up.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Breakdown of Cinema's Forgotten Podcast: Genres and Cinematic Elements We Dearly Miss

I know, I know, the end of last week's podcast promised this week's Breakdown would contain five movie reviews, including several 2014 comedies. Well, circumstances turned me into a dirty rotten liar and maybe even a scoundrel (minus the eye patch and being Steve Martin). It also caused for what I think ended up being a pretty intriguing podcast. Scott and I look at once popular genres (including the romantic comedy genre that gave us major hits like When Harry Met Sally) and several old cinematic elements that have now become either extremely rare or extinct in mainstream movies. It is a bit of nostalgia, but also evidence of why the current mainstream motion picture scene can often feel homogenized and barren of variety.

Also, just because I don't feel like making another "sorry I've rendered this blog into a ghost town but now things will be different" post, I wanted to just sneak that into this post. So, sorry I've rendered this blog a ghost town, but now things will be different. Hopefully, the blog resurrection starts later tonight with some reviews of new Fall TV premieres. Later this week, I'd also like to make a glorious return to writing about life as a stay-at-home dad, which I always intended to keep up after my Pregnancy & Newborn column ended but gloriously failed to accomplish.

Anyway, for now there is a podcast up there for you to listen to.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The State of Modern Movies is in Better Shape than Most Critics Claim

 The movie industry is a drastically different creature than it was a few decades ago, or even ten years ago. There are certain movies that almost never get made at the mainstream level anymore, and thus aren't seen at cinemas outside of major cities. This has led to a lot of complaints about the current state of cinema, and many of the criticisms are warranted. There are a few constant whinings that I see on social media that are growing tiresome, because they aren't actually true. In my latest Collective Publishing, I refute three very common criticisms of modern movies.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Return of the Breakdown Podcast: Analyzing the Summer Blockbuster Season and Beyond

After a short break, Scott and I return to debating and discussing cinema. This week we look back at what was an intriguing blockbuster season and prognosticate over what to expect during the awards-bait season that is about to start. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Winners and Losers of the 2014 Fall Network TV Season

The Fall Network TV season is finally here, and as always, there is an army of new shows ready to battle for your eyeballs. But those are rather important organs, so you have to be picky over who gets them. And each year there are many shows that end up leaving the war empty handed and disappear forever before Christmas. This week at Collective Publishing, I look at the series destined to be breakout hits and also the ones cursed with early cancellations.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Misguided Self-Entitlement Doesn't Stop Jennifer Lawrence from Being the Victim

I don't really love dipping into the celebrity lives part of pop culture too often. But the stealing and leaking of nude female celebrity pictures was a major news item this past weekend. More importantly, some on social media showcased an embarrassing display of self-entitlement and misogyny that reminded me how awful a place the internet can be sometimes. In this week's Collective Publishing, I explain why female celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence didn't do anything wrong and that they're the victims here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Preview of the 2014 Fall Network TV Season

Fall is almost here, and as always, that means a whole slew of new TV shows hoping to become massive hits but more likely destined for a quick cancellation. This week over at Collective Publishing, I pick five new network shows that could be worth checking out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

List of 2014 Movies I've Seen and Reviewed So Far

For no real reason other than to have a public record of the movies with North American releases in 2014 that I've watched and in some form made reviews for. Some of these movies I'll hopefully try to watch again so I can provide in-depth reviews (some I don't want to re-watch and others already have a full-length written review). See if you can guess the reasoning behind the order (psst. . . it isn't order of release).

1. Boyhood
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel
3. A Most Wanted Man
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
6. Chef
7. Edge of Tomorrow
8. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
9. The LEGO Movie
10. How to Train Your Dragon 2
11. X-Men: Days of Future Past
12. Snowpiercer
13. Stranger by the Lake
14. Godzilla
15. 22 Jump Street
16. Noah
17. The Fault in Our Stars
18.  Neighbors
19. Begin Again
20. Lucy
21. The Giver
22. Maleficent
23. About Last Night
24. The Grand Seduction
25. Run & Jump
26. Particle Fever
27. Oculus
28. Divergent
29. Muppets Most Wanted
30. Cheap Thrills
31. Sex Tape
32.. Bad Words
33. Mr. Peabody & Sherman
34. Bears
35. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones
37. Get On Up
38. Veronica Mars
39. In Fear
40. If I Stay
41. Hercules
42. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
43. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
44. The Hundred-Foot Journey
45. Jersey Boys
46. 300: Rise of an Empire
47. On My Way
48. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
49. The Banshee Chapter
50. Pompeii
51. The Other Woman
52. Transcendence
53. Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark

Edit: Oops, I missed a movie. Now we live in a world where I acknowledge I've seen Snowpiercer.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Breakdown Hiatus

It seems like I do this every other week. I've currently got several writing projects that need my attention along with a few personal matters, so I've decided it is in my best interest to take a brief break from the Breakdown. Hopefully, it will be back shortly and better than ever after the creative juices get some time to flow.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Searching for the Mature Adult Movie

At one time, the movie cinema was a house full of diverse motion picture options that ranged from romantic comedy to period piece drama to experimental sci-fi to tearjerker to supernatural horror to epic adventure. There was almost always a big, easy to consume mainstream action picture but you could usually find something more eclectic as well. In the modern multiplexes, it feels like everything is focused on explosions with just the cause of the disaster changing (thus the current definition of variety). The key word here may be "feels." Now, I'll immediately admit that the current cinemas lack the variety of even 20 years ago, and there definitely isn't the wide selection of subversive and challenging movies of the 1970s nor are there the mature and personal character-driven movies that acted as counter-programming to the blockbusters. If you're willing to look and be a bit patient for it to come to your area, filmmakers are still creating some fantastic, imaginative, original, and innovative motion pictures. In my latest Collective Publishing, I explain why the state of mature adult cinema may not be as dire as we're being lead to believe.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Breakdown of 'The Giver' Podcast and a Tribute to Robin Williams

Scott and I review four pictures this weeks including the latest YA dystopian adaption in The Giver. After that, we look back at the career of Robin Williams and pay tribute to his legacy.

Breakdown Outline:

00:57  The Giver review
14:37  On My Way review
28:01  8 Mile review
39:04  Fish Tank review
52:43  Hot Coffee mini-review
57:03  Robin Williams tribute
1:09:15 Review Rundown

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Movie is More Than Marketing and Hype: This Week's Collective Publishing Article

In this week's Collective Publishing, I look at today's modern fascination with trailers, on-set stills, and release dates. It has become so extreme that all the talk seems to be pre-release chatter, and once the movie comes out, there is a review and opening weekend box office discussion but then it is forgotten. Movies may be product, but more importantly, they're art. This week I remind us the most important part and the most worthy of discussion is the actual movie.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Breakdown of 'The Hundred-Foot Journey' Podcast: Plus Some Lesser Known 2014 Pictures

Scott and I review four pictures this week including the latest culinary adventure, The Hundred-Foot Journey. We also review two lesser known pictures from 2014 as well as dig into the vault to discuss a Tim Burton and Johnny Depp picture. After all that, we tackle the modern culture that has become insanely spoiler adverse despite also wanting to know as much information as possible.

We really hope you love the show, and if you do, please spread the word.

Breakdown Podcast Outline:

00:00:50  The Hundred-Foot Journey review
00:12:43  Particle Fever review
00:23:21  Run & Jump review
00:34:24  Dark Shadows review
00:44:35  The Modern Obsession with Spoiler-Free
00:54:10  Review Rundown

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Sony's 'Ghostbusters' and Female 'Spider-Man' Superhero May Ignite the Rise of the Female Driven Blockbusters

Blockbusters have almost always been geared towards male teenagers. We may start feeling the rumblings of change in the movie industry. Some of the biggest box office successes this summer came from female starring pictures like The Fault in Our Stars, Maleficent, and Lucy. Sony Pictures has taken notice and in an attempt to really land a major hit, they're going to make two of their next tentpoles into female starring projects in Ghostbusters and a female superhero movie in the Spider-Man universe. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I analyze why these moves by Sony are important and how this could affect the film industry.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Breakdown of "Guardians of the Galaxy" Podcast and Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman and Dwayne Johnson Join in for the Fun

Scott and I review four 2014 (relatively) new releases this week, including Marvel Studio's take on the sweeping space opera in Guardians of the Galaxy. We will also discuss the success rate of outside celebrities trying to become big movie stars as we analyze Ronda Rousey's upcoming cinematic debut.

Breakdown Outline:

0:00:56  Guardians of the Galaxy review
00:16:30 Get On Up review
00:30:56 Hercules review
00:40:39 Lucy review
00:50:39 Ronda Rousey and Celebrities Becoming Movie Stars
01:03:20 Review Rundown

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This May Not Be the Movie You Expected

Movie trailers are designed to get people excited about a picture and be willing to toss out their hard-earned money for some entertainment. Some people even go to the movies believing they'll see the movie they were sold in the trailers. Such fools. In my recent Collective Publishing article, I look at how both Lucy and Hercules are very different movies than have been marketed and how studios have a rather nasty habit of churning out deceptive trailers.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Breakdown of Why We Love Cinema Podcast

Scott and I explore all the things that make movies the greatest art form, but also what made us fall deeply in love with it. We will journey back to our childhood to recall some of our earliest movie memories, while also looking at the major events that defined our passions and also discuss the many things that forever hooked us. It is essentially a podcast that reveals the things that motivated us to start this show and find ways to constantly discuss movies.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Remembering the Summer Movie Season of 1989

In my latest Collective Publishing pop culture column, I head back to the year 1989 to analyze its summer blockbuster season. Then I challenge the notion that pictures were better and more original then by comparing them to the modern summer season.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Breakdown of "Sex Tape" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes": Primates and Love-making Always Cause Great Dissension

This week on the Breakdown we have some dissenting reviews and a great deal of spirited debate. Scott and I don't agree on a few of the four 2014 released pictures being discussed. After the reviews, we take a look at Rotten Tomatoes impact on film criticism.

Podcast Outline:

00:55 Sex Tape review
19:16 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes review
37:53 Begin Again review
46:38 The Banshee Chapter review
56:39 The Rotten Tomatoes Effect
01:08:35 Review Rundown

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Film Criticism Isn't Science, and Why a Critic's Opinion Can't Ever Actually be Wrong

I've had Rotten Tomatoes bookmarked on my web browser ever since I discovered it over a decade ago. It is a film site that has a collection of great writers and provides easy access to the top critics in North America. It is also provides a barometer for where a particular picture stands amongst the public and professional conscious. The site does have its issues, and the major one is how it has altered or at least encouraged a faulty perception of the actual purpose of film criticism. It has also been used to fuel many rage worthy comments in reviews when one critic dared to have a different view than the majority (or just the very vocal minority). I explore this issues in my latest Collective Publishing pop culture column, and I also try to explain the real purpose of film criticism (one major hint: it is very far from ever being objective).

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Breakdown of the 50th Episode: 10 Movies You Must See

We hit our 50th episodes of the Breakdown. To celebrate, Scott and I are picking10 movies we've previously reviewed on the podcast that we think you may not have yet watched, but really, really, really should. We select a wide collection of pictures ranging from foreign films to older classics to even some modern tentpoles. We serve up some great weekend viewing suggestions.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

In Defense of Michael Bay

If there is one way to make me dread a movie viewing experience, it is usually a title card letting me know the picture has been directed or produced by Michael Bay. If there is a bashing party for any of his pictures, I'm normally grabbing the bag of chips and ready to jump in. Recently, there has been a backlash against Bay over some of his recent comments and accusations that he doesn't respect his craft or see his movies as anything more than cash dispensers. Over at Collective Publishing, I jump to the defense of one of my least favourite directors.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Breakdown of 'Fantastic Voyage' & 'Stranger by the Lake': It is a Cinematic Exploration of the Human Body

Scott and I stayed away from the cinemas this week as none of the new releases could entice use to lumber out of our caves and into the fresh air. Instead, we have one of our most diverse podcasts as we'll be reviewing and discussing a sci-fi classic, a French erotic thriller, giant shark schlock, and Sofia Coppola's debut feature. We've got lots to debate and discuss on each picture along with the historical contexts and reflections on the impact of cinema that gives our show the added depth for the movie buff. We also look at the recent comments by Michael Bay that set Twitter ablaze.

Breakdown Outline:

01:12  Fantastic Voyage review
23:14  Stranger by the Lake review
39:06  Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark review
52:12 The Virgin Suicides review
1:05:14 Michael Bay's Controversial Comments
1:20:38 Review rundown

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

'Community' Lives Again and Why this Changes TV

Remember when a cancellation meant the only way you'd ever get to see your TV show again is dragging out your dusty VHS tapes? Okay, I dated myself. The times have definitely changed in the last decade. Now, a cancellation of a cult hit just means the show may end up continuing new episodes on another channel or service. Community has been given the largely sought after sixth season after Yahoo Screen picked it up this week. While this is worthy of grand celebration, this event is a sign of a drastically changing TV landscape. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I analyze the future of television and how entertainment will be enjoyed over the next decade.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Breakdown of the First Half of 2014 Podcast: Proving Some Years That Great Movies Arrive Before the Fall

2014 has been a pretty strong year for movies so far. But the one downside of living in a smaller city and being over an hour away from Toronto (and even farther from TIFF Lightbox) I wasn't able to catch a lot of the high quality independent pictures that arrived in cinemas this year. Despite that, I still caught some smaller movies but also there was a surprisingly strong selection of mainstream fare. This week on the podcast, Scott and I both list our top five pictures of the year, also hand out some awards, and then look ahead to what is worth getting excited for in the second half of the year.

Podcast Outline: 

1:03  Most Memorable Cameo
5:50  Best Scene 
10:57 Biggest Delightful Surprise
18:47 Stand-out Leading Performance
32:06 Best Underrated/Little Known Picture
43:10 Most Disappointing/Worst Picture
50:27 Top Five Pictures of the First Half of the Year
1:20:42 Most Anticipated Pictures

Correction: When talking about Boyhood, I mention Robin Wright when she isn't even in the movie. I should have mentioned and would have mentioned if not for the embarrassing brainfart that Patricia Arquette plays the mother.  While I have you here, Ellar Coltrane stars as the boy whose name is Mason.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Isn't the "Into the Woods" You're Looking For, But Enjoy It Anyway

One of the motion pictures I've been most anticipating this year is the Christmas release of the popular Broadway musical, Into the Woods. Or at least, I was until it was reported last weeks that some major alterations have been made. After some reflection, I've realized that change can sometimes be good, and even though I'm no longer as excited about the picture, it still has a chance to be great. In this week's Collective Publishing article, I look at several great pictures that haven't been loyal to their source material and explain why it is okay Into the Woods may not be faithful to the stage musical.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Breakdown of 'Jersey Boys' Podcast: We Decide Against Singing the Entire Show

Scott and I review four pictures this week including the Clint Eastwood directed musical, Jersey Boys. We also look at a documentary from last year, a critically acclaimed graphic novel adaption almost everyone ignored, and a cult classic from the 1980s. On top of that, we also analyze how the blockbuster season had panned out this summer so far.

Podcast Outline:

00:42  Jersey Boys review
14:40  We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks review
29:11  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World review
42:50  Blue Velvet review
55:00  Analyzing 2014 Summer Blockbuster Season
1:10:28 Review Rundown

'Halt and Catch Fire' Ep. 4 Review: Donna is In Charge

Halt and Catch Fire so far doesn't have the most complex and intricate characters. The drama this week has helped push some out of their archetypes. Donna is definitely becoming the most compelling. I analyze why in latest review for BuddyTV.

Friday, June 20, 2014

'Gotham' Villain Trailer: All the Brooding with None of the Bat

Gotham is one of the most anticipated new series for the Fall TV Season. FOX is really hoping it causes the comic book fans to come out in droves. But do people really want to see a show set in the Batman world without Batman? I offer up my thoughts on the latest trailer over at BuddyTV.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Future of Female Roles in Blockbusters Given Some Hope by 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'

It feels like Hollywood completely forgets about an entire gender when making major studio tentpoles. Or at least, forgets to make them feel like real and critical characters to the movies. Women characters are almost always either the object to be fought for, the arm-candy to be kissed after a long battle, or the loyal housewife waiting at home for the hero to return. There are exceptions, but it mostly feels like big budget pictures don't have a place for real and authentic female characters. This summer there has been a glimmer of hope. The picture that has provided the most is the animated family feature, How to Train Your Dragon 2. I analyze the strong female characters from the picture in my latest Collective Publishing article.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Breakdown of '22 Jump Street' and 'How to Train a Dragon 2': A Good Case of Sequelitis

Scott and I review five pictures this week that include two hot sequels in the animated fantasy adventure, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and the buddy cop action comedy, 22 Jump Street. We also have some movies that we absolutely gush over and really want you to check out. But also for those that think we always agree on pictures, we have a major disagreement this week that will be up for you to decide who is right (psst. . . it is me).

Breakdown Outline:

00:46  22 Jump Street review
13:48  Chef review
30:15  How to Train a Dragon 2 review
44:02  Dead Man Down review
56:16  Frances Ha review
1:06:12 Review rundown

'Halt & Catch Fire" Ep. 3 Review: Dead as a Bird

Halt & Catch Fire has been working hard to make the three genius protagonists into underdogs again after they outsmarted IBM in the series premiere. The latest episode has done that by giving them some challenges that they may not be able to overcome as they try to design the first ever laptop. I discuss how successful the show was with its characters in my latest review for BuddyTV.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The 'Fargo" Series Hitting What Hollywood is Often Missing

Many movie critics will lament the passing of subversive, challenging, and complicated cinema that was prevalent in the 1970s. I don't think things are as bad as they got in the 1980s and early 1990s, but it is safe to say most mainstream pictures have a formula they like to follow. The cable TV landscape is now where the through-provoking dramas take place, and one of the very best is FX's Fargo. I look at what Hollywood can learn from the series in my latest Collective Publishing pop culture column.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Breakdown of 'Edge of Tomorrow' and 'The Fault in Our Stars' Podcast: Some Things are Worth Dying For Over and Over Again

Scott and I review five pictures this week that include news releases in Tom Cruise's latest sci-fi actioner, Edge of Tomorrow and Shailene Woodley's teenage romance, The Fault in Our Stars. We have lots of pictures to recommend this week and maybe will even introduce you to some intriguing pictures you've never heard about.

Breakdown Outline:

00:47  Edge of Tomorrow review
18:43  The Fault in Our Stars review
30:55  God Loves Uganda review
44:12  The Grand Seduction review
52:32  84 Charlie MoPic review
1:02:42 Rundown of Reviews

Saturday, June 07, 2014

6 Years. . .

It was six years ago on this date and this day of the week where I said the words "I Do." Without a doubt, the two most important words of life that have led to my biggest moments. But the reality is that any schmuck can blurt out those two words and agree to committing their life to someone, because as a human race, we're not always the best at thinking through the consequences. I think as the years go by and the wedding date become more distant, one tends to start elevating that day a bit more and putting more weight into it, because while it is the very important start to the most important relationship, its only value is essentially nostalgia and possible fondly remembering when one was thinner (and had more hair).

"I Do" are just words. Words that are your declaration to those in attendance that you are committing your life to the person you were staring at that moment (unless out of nervousness you were staring at your shoe or your great aunt Hilda). It is the work you do after that really matters. It is the daily reaffirmation that those two words actually had some meaning and not just something one said because it felt like the right thing.

There is no denying marriage is work. Love isn't some magical elixir that drives your through every day and makes it all gum drops and unicorns. Because sometimes that unicorn rams his horn in the most uncomfortable of places. Love exists. I really believe that. It is the feeling and drive that makes you push through to do the work that makes a marriage flourish.

Marriage isn't just work, but it is hard work. Maybe even gruelling and uncomfortable sometimes. It would be a lot easier to just get a single apartment and share it with a pet hamster (because if work isn't your thing then don't get a dog either -- besides, people seem to get less upset about a dead hamster). Marriage may be one of the toughest things a person will have to do in their life, because in the ideal, it never ends after you sign the papers.

But here is the thing about hard, gruelling, tough, and sometimes uncomfortable work, it isn't bad. Sometimes work that makes you strain and rise way above your comfort zone can be magnificent, rewarding, fulfilling, and amazing. Let me clarify right now that being married to Emily is most definitely magnificent, rewarding, fulfilling, and amazing.

It is just that where we are now and where we hopefully will be in 6 years has less to do with those two words and more about the work we're willing to put into our marriage. Work that intensifies when you decide to throw that lovely child into the mix. The work also creates the passion and reminds you why you said those words way back. The work is what makes the marriage real.

Work is saying, "I love you" when you don't totally believe it at the moment. Work is cleaning the house when you don't think it is dirty. Work is intricately planning a special weekend for your spouse when you'd rather catch-up on your House of Cards binging. Work is not buying the new toy so that you can afford that special weekend. Work is asking your spouse about her day and actually caring and listening. Work is telling the person how you actually feel, even when those feelings scare you. Work is the cogs of marriage.

Anything that can be considered a treasure and of priceless value demands one put forward dedication, focus, and here is that word again, work. If it really matters and if you're doing it right, not only is the end game rewarding but the actual work can be pretty spectacular too.

My marriage with Emily has resulted in almost everything that currently matters to me. Emily has taken sacrifices and kicked my ass so that I have something that resembles a writing career. As that career grows, I know she will continue to support (i.e. the ass kicking) my writing endeavors. I have a dog that I love and has been an incredible source of emotional support because Emily pushed that we had a dog (I was ambivalent at the time). Anyone who knows me, is well aware I'm a gushing father and that I love Everett dearly, and I can't imagine my life without him, and well, Emily is pretty responsible for that too. While I wouldn't necessarily call my house one of the most important things ever, I really dig living in a large home that feels like it is in cottage country and Emily deserves most of the credit for that too.

She is far more than my motivator and the one who gave me whole lots of amazing things. She is my wife. This means she is my best friend. My inspiration. My muse. In order to make sure she remains the most important person in my life and in order for her to be willing to be that person, I have to work hard to keep the passion, energy, and love going strong.

But our marriage is worth more than I could ever truly explain in words. I hope my work for the next several decades proves that.

I love you, Emily.   

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Hollywood Loves Those Remakes: Was the World Clamouring for Another 'Cliffhanger'?

In Hollywood's eternal search for the franchise, remakes of relatively popular but largely forgotten movies from the '80s and'90s have become one of the hottest trends. It will be bringing us movies like Cliffhanger and Stargate, and I'm sure someone who just got freed from a 20 year old time capsule is excited about that news. For everyone else? Well, just go read my latest Collective Publishing article for my own thoughts on this latest studio strategy.

Monday, June 02, 2014

'Halt and Catch Fire' Premiere Review: Can't Beat That 1980s Feeling

I have a soft spot for period piece pictures and series. I even admit that some are just aesthetic rather than a necessary part of the story. 'Halt and Catch Fire' justifies its setting by being a fictional insider's look at the 1983 home computer boom. I have my review up at BuddyTV.

Breakdown of Maleficent Podcast: Wronged Women and How They Roar

Or fly. Or weave spells. Or wield a bat. Or start a cult. Or get really drunk. Or various other ways that women deal with serious and traumatic issues. Or in the case of all the actors who are playing these women, put together some incredible performances that are worth checking out. It is a podcast loaded with movies worthy of some in-depth discussion and that is exactly what Scott and I serve up.

Breakdown Outline:

00:53  Maleficent review
19:52  Short Term 12 review
35:15  A Single Man review
44:01  Sound of My Voice
52:27  Will the rise of cable dramas replace wide-release character driven pictures?
1:07:20 Rundown of Reviews

Friday, May 30, 2014

Maleficent Review: Angelina Jolie Casts a Dark Spell

Four Star Rating: ***

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Juno Temple, Sharlto Copley
Director: Robert Stromberg
Screenplay: Linda Woolverton
Genre: Action, Adventure, Family, Fantasy 
Rated: PG - fantasy action and violence, frightening scenes
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Run Time: 97 minutes

In recent years there have been a crop of cinematic releases that some have labelled as "dark retellings" of classic fairy tales. It has never entirely been accurate to label the pictures this way considering many of the original stories were closer to unshakeable nightmares rather than something candy coated and sweet. For example, the earliest versions of Sleeping Beauty contained rape, infanticide, and being eaten alive. The stories were designed to be morality tales and often scare children into following what was deemed the correct path. They were also thoroughly conservative in their message and almost all the female characters were either naive young damsels in need of a man or manipulative and nasty woman who dared to try to take charge and have authority.

The depiction of woman is where most of the re-imagined fairy tales veer away from their source material. An independent woman is no longer to be scorned and a girl daring to think for herself isn't something to be punished. Maleficent is about female empowerment and the strength found in unsuspected motherhood, which is a far deviation from most fairy tales where the stepmother is heartless and vile.

Since the picture is called Maleficent rather than The Ogre Mother (the villain from the earliest versions), it is better viewed as a reworking of Disney's 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty feature. Angelina Jolie as a strong, fierce, and independent woman who is both allowed to make mistakes but also revered almost as a goddess while King Stefan (Sharlto Copley) is a greedy and conniving dictator that creates a juxtapostion that drastically shakes the mythology and message of any previous story based on Sleeping Beauty.

The marketing sold this picture as an origin story of what lead to Maleficent into becoming one of Disney's most famous villains. It looked to be following the path of Gregory Maguire's Wicked, where it tells the tale of how a once good witch became the famous green hag from The Wizard of Oz, but this time far less tongue-in-cheek and more geared towards children. The promise of Angelina Jolie playing a villain was tantalizing and I was intrigued of the challenge of turning one of the most beloved and respected actors in Hollywood into an evil witch. Except Jolie is never really a villain but rather someone who makes a grave mistake that she then spends the rest of the narrative seeking redemption. This isn't a prequel or an origin story, but rather a drastic re-imagining that challenges ideologies embedded in classic fairy tales and elevates the stature of bold and authoritative women (okay fine, woman because the strength is entirely Jolie here).

The picture opens up in traditional fairy tale style by declaring there are two lands at odds. There is a human kingdom oppressed by an obsessed and rapacious king and the magical moors occupied by a collection of fantastical creatures that don't have a defined ruler though a young Maleficent seems to hold a distinct power position. First time director Robert Stromberg shows his strong special effects and set design leanings by accentuating the major differences through visuals by making the moors bright, colourful, fruitful, and vibrant with a wide collection of cute creatures eager to become plush dolls while the human kingdom is dark, drab, and bleak with most of the personality coming from ornate architecture. One place is about growth and nurturing while the other lusts for power and riches -- not so surprisingly, one has woman in power positions and other is ruled entirely by males.

King Henry (Kenneth Cranham) craves the riches within the Moor but the powerful winged Maleficent along with her moss-man army overpowers his attempted invasions. The battle scene along with every violent engagement between Maleficent and man is done in dark and grainy visual with CGI creatures that are jagged and craggy that is visually unappealing and contrasting to the vivid and beautiful looking moor. Rather than blame this on budgetary constraints, it feels purposeful in juxtaposing the peaceful with ravages of selfish ambition and hatred.

The ailing king promises his throne to whoever can get into the moors and he believes the slaying of Maleficent is the key to this goal. Stefan, a meager palace worker that overhears this declaration, has ambitions of wearing the crown and uses his past romantic relationship with Maleficent to betray her. This is where the picture has a surprising amount of cynicism towards the notion of romantic true love as the first act spent some time developing a close and passionate romance between Stefan and Maleficent that gets sealed with "true love's first kiss." In almost any other family picture, this would be a story about how the power of their true love would unite the two nations and any wrongdoings would be overcome by their deep connection. Stefan's cravings to be king overcome any real feelings he has that leads to him seducing and drugging Maleficent, so that he can literally cut off her wings. In fairy tale land, such an act is a real deal breaker for any reconciliation.

The narrative that unfolds becomes a revenge tale of a once pure and good woman who is defiled by a treacherous lover. This will likely be the closest a Disney approved picture ever gets to being about rape. Maleficent is betrayed by someone she implicitly trusted, but also in the act she loses something that defines her and gave her strength. She is consumed with rage and heartbreak, and also no longer deems the world a place of hope and optimism. The moor becomes a place she rules over and her obsession is to destroy the man that devastated her.

It is dark and heavy material that we never expect a Disney picture to explore. Jolie carries the material on her de-winged shoulders by presenting a grieving and disillusioned woman who masks the pain through a cold exterior and forceful disposition. We stay attached to Jolie due to her charm and charisma, and her facials tease at someone inherently good. She also represents a powerful image of womanhood that demonstrates why the male characters fear her and felt she needed to be destroyed. Even though the actual story is fairly basic and every other character never rises above their archetypes, it is Jolie that entrances use and gives nuance to this story. Her pain feels real and her journey for her soul and redemption is one we want to follow.

Maleficent does an almost loyal remake of the famous scene from the animated feature where gifts are bestowed upon an infant Aurora and the three brightly coloured fairies give magical gifts of good luck to the baby. Just like we remember from the original, Maleficent comes storming in right before the final fairy gets a chance to deliver her good fortune upon Aurora. The interplay between Maleficent and the king remains close to what happened in the animated version, but this time there is a different subtext as each word has a hidden meaning as we're now aware of the history between the two. The king no longer is good or seen as the victim in this situation by the viewer (though, he does among the characters present). The curse of eternal sleep is laid upon Aurora just as we suspect and it is just as disturbing and dark even if Maleficent is our protagonist this time. The major difference is that she is no longer the embodiment of evil, and the act is against the king rather than pure malevolence towards an innocent child. The final moments of the scene plays against what we know about the story as we await the final fairy to stand up and change the fate of the baby by invoking the "true love's kiss" clause. Instead, the scene veers against our expectations by having Maleficent add in this requirement as partly a way to soften the malicious act but also to demonstrate her own disdain towards the notion that romantic love actually exists.

Unlike recent fairy tale "re-imaginings" like Jack the Giant Slayer and Snow White and the Huntsman, this picture actually plays with the tropes, clich├ęs, and expectations that have come out of years of being weaned on these stories. The other pictures were essentially the same tale we knew but with amped battle scenes and scenery inspired by The Lord of the Rings franchise. This time around we get a very altered Sleeping Beauty that retains the tradition of fairy tales having a message, but now about feminine strength rising above male abuse perpetuated by blind ambition and insecurity. Many moments in history and different cultures there has been male leadership and institutions finding ways to devalue and subjugate woman, and this is the major them running through Linda Woolverton's screenplay.

The screenplay also is one that is bound to leave one with far too many questions if they dare to ponder upon it too long. If Maleficent has the powers to turn a raven into a man (Sam Riley) or create things from seemingly nothing than why can't she give herself new wings? If the real goal was to enter the moor than why did Stefan earn kingship by just cutting off the wings of the protector but still failing to gain entrance? If the two lands are divided and seen as separate domains, why would the three fairies have any loyalty to the king? What is the point of hiding Aurora away at a cottage for 16 years if it was so easy for Maleficent to find and stalk her?

The answer is that this picture aspires to be a fairy tale rather than a provocative drama, which means the storytelling is simple and often more allegorical than realistic. The majority of the characters and even the situations are nothing more than set pieces, plot devices and sometimes even contrivances to push forward the Maleficent story. It is the Jolie show, which mostly works because she radiates from the screen more than the special effects and set designs.

This mostly means everyone else populated in the world either seems like a plot device or a way to amplify the message about Maleficent trying to recapture her strength and redeem her vengeful and regretful act. Elle Fanning brings a precociousness and charm to Aurora, but the script doesn't make her much more than the trigger that warms Maleficent to send her on a new path. There never is that defining scene that makes their relationship organic and more than just a crucial plot point. Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple are incredibly talented character actors, but their purpose here is to be bickering and inept fairies who falter as caregivers in order to be both the comic relief and the impetus for the protagonist to rise up as the true mother figure. It is noble that the script takes Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) in an unexpected and very un-fairy tale direction, but he ends up being nothing more than a metaphor and further deviation against the traditional messages of true love. Stefan is a one-dimensional ruthless king that seems to betray what was set-up in the first act, but a single focused villain isn't any different than most other Disney features. Each of the other characters' contributions to the bigger story mostly works because we believe in Jolie but it still does feel contrived, disjointed, and forced at times.

Shaking up the traditional structure of the fairy tale is noble and the picture would have stood out more if Frozen didn't do a similar thing last year. The strongest moments are when it allows us peeks into the soul of the wronged protagonist and Jolie weaves her magic by doing the hard work by creating a complicated yet endearing character. The best parts is the picture daring to go into darker territory and show a strong female protagonist overcome male abuse and find a priceless treasure from the tragedy (motherhood).

My prediction is that this picture will be remembered fondly by adults who saw this as children. It won't be the best picture they've seen but the dark story about a powerful female protagonist who was allowed to go darker than most big studio heroines will stick with them. Hopefully, it ends up inspiring even more ambitious fantasy tales about female empowerment and hope.