Friday, January 29, 2016

'The Secret Life of Pets' Reveals There Indeed is a Plot. . . Even if We've Seen It Before

My interest level in The Secret Life of Pets has been a bouncy neon ball thrown in an enclosed four corner room. Back before there was even a synopsis, the voice cast of very funny people like Louis C.K., Kevin Hart, Jenny Slate, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Hannibal Buress, Albert Brooks, and Steve Coogan made the feature very enticing. Then the first teaser trailer was cute but played as a collection of slight grinning inducing sketches rather reveal any kind of movie. A focused and appealing plot is crucial for an animated feature, because the lesser works can often devolve into a collage of pop culture infused gags. The latest trailer gives us a plot, even if it isn't the most original family adventure with the loyal dogs needing to find a way home. There will be a wide collection of colourful characters and an attempt of a subplot with Kevin Hart's Snowball having some rejected pet army and Max's friends rushing across the city to rescue him. Again not ground breaking stuff but I smiled a lot more with this trailer. You add this with Zootopia, Finding Dory, Kubo and the Two String, and Moana and it could be a pretty fantastic year for animation (this is ignoring smaller studio movies like The Little Prince and I'm sure many that aren't even on my radar yet).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

This is Why We Shouldn't Get Excited About a Movie Until the First Trailer

I was under the impression that Barry Sonnenfeld's Nine Lives was going to be a dark and quirky comedy that had some political satire and a fierce bite. Now I am wondering why I was expecting such a thing from the director of Men in Black. This went from a potential eccentric and creepy comedy about a man getting dealt a nasty hand from the fates to Disney's The Shaggy Dog, Speaking of nostalgia, this whole movies feels dated and something that would have been a crowd pleaser 30 years ago. Was anyone demanding Look Who's Talking meets Homeward Bound? Scratch one off the anticipation list.

Just Because I Remember It, Doesn't Mean I'll Like It

Hollywood's insanity of "hey, I once heard about that, so clearly we'll make millions" strategy continues with an animated feature about some of the ugliest dolls in toy history, Trolls. You'd think Dreamworks would have already learned that nostalgia isn't the same as families willing to pay to see a movie after it got burnt on Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Except that movie was pretty fun even if its brand didn't have the strength the studios hoped but this seems to be selling itself on being as obnoxious as possible. Or maybe I'm just bitter because this trailer introduced me to "Whip Nae Nae" and Everett forced me to listen to its entirety.

Remember When I Promised to Rebrand the Blog?

For over two years now, I've been threatening the launch of a movie news and reviews website. Though over the last year I've chilled my ambition and decided to start moving this blog towards that vision. Eventually, I'll do a full-blown rebranding with a new title, appearance, and likely web address. For now, my goal is to just do a slow transformation of the site and focus more on the content end of things. The biggest thing is to make sure reviews of the new releases get posted as close to their release data as possible (you can see I did a great job with that written review for The Boy) and to try to get several posts up on a daily basis. Though based off my track record over the last two years, just getting one thing up a day is a win (which makes yesterday's three posts a trophy worthy event).

My vision for the movie site has bounced all over the place from when I first conceived it when I was still the pop culture columnist for Collective Publishing. I recognized right away that there was already fifty billion movie news, analysis, and review sites cluttering up the internet. My hope was a reflection of my own personality and movie tastes would help for a lighthouse amongst the fog. I don't salivate over every little nugget tossed out about the upcoming Marvel movies, but I did put Star Wars: The Force Awakens as my best movie of 2015. I love tracking down and spotlighting independent and foreign pictures, but also feel movies like Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation deserve in-depth analysis and discussion as well. Film history is important and spans way past the 1990s, 1980s, and 1970s, and I believe it is crucial to keep Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, and Fritz Lang in the conversation. I like to see myself as an alternative both to the slobbering "fanboy" but also the "elitist."

As the months passed, I also became well aware that trying to be a straight movie news site was drinking cyanide as a profitable writing career. The bigger selling point would be my personality and authenticity that I can bring to each piece. It also means that I'd save a whole lot on needing to pay writers if I maintained a personal blog feel with a movie flavouring.

I've wrestled with this place going full blown movie focused, and in the end, I don't think it ever will. My hope is to get better at being concise and batting out several shot riffs on a daily basis. Pieces that quickly analysis some of the hot movie news items and hopefully, offer a fresh perspective to what is already being reported. It will always be more column-oriented, considering it will likely be 2045 before I break any news. The goal is to have the shorter articles surround at least one heftier piece every day or two along with the movie reviews.

My writing career has always been more than this blog or writing about movies. Though it has been a two year rut and my fingers still reek of sewage, there now is work seeping out again and I'm currently juggling several exciting projects. This will be a place where links to my paid articles will start showing up again, but I also hope to share and be more honest about my writer's journey. Every writer's experience is different but I think there is value in honesty and revealing the personal creative process.

Honesty is the biggest goal that I have on here. The site will have a strong movie focus, but in the end this is a place where I can be creative and work through my own thoughts. I do plan to tackle major news items or politics when it feels appropriate and also share some of the emotional warfare that I've been waging over the last several years (I've let it sabotage my career, essentially).

The other major piece here will be my biggest pleasure and treasure -- being a work-from-home dad with my two marvelous kids. Those pieces have definitely been sparse lately, but they are not only the most popular things that I post here but my favourite to write. Hopefully, over the next several weeks I can dig around the vault and share some classic stories about experiences that I had back when Everett stayed home with me. Though I have a feeling Danika will be creating some fresh tales too.

Maybe this is all to say that I'm revamping the site but the biggest change will less be on context and more on it just becoming regular again. As I start posting more and more stuff on here, I'll also get a better idea on what is popular and the direction my readers want me to go. It will be a movie site with a healthy dose of life and all the thing that happen when the big screen is blank.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Laika Looks to Prove Once Again to be the Animated Studio to Check Out

When people talk about the challenger to Pixar and Disney's throne as top animated studio, people will often throw the very hit or miss Dreamworks Animated Studios in the mix. I think that is due to the misguided habit of lumping everything not Pixar/Disney under the Dreamworks label (even though there are several not-Pixar mainstream animation companies). Even worse, there are many who would give me a glazed over look if I mention Laika. This is a shame because they are one of the most ambitious and creative companies doing mainstream animation. They've brought us gems like ParaNorman, Coraline, and The Boxtrolls.

They stand out from the pack due to their pain-staking and meticulously crafted stop motion mixed with CG animation style that has made for some of the most wondrous cinematic experiences of the past decade. Their movie are also imaginative and vivid in their storytelling as well. They often feel like legends that got passed down the ages with some modern reworkings to connect with today's children audience.

The legend style storytelling is prevalent in Laika's latest to be release this August movie in Kubo and the Two Strings. The feature looks gorgeous and the visual world is different than any other animated universe. The story itself seems to be daring for an epic adventure with an interesting mystic take on the young boy going on a quest to become a chosen hero. Kubo grows from a small villager entertaining the citizens to a powerful warrior who uses his humble instrument to fight back spirits. I'm not sure if there is actually inspiration from Japanese legend but it is based in the country and clearly has heavy fantasy leanings. This won't come anywhere close to grossing what Moana or Finding Dory earn but this is the most exciting original animated feature of the year. I have high hopes it will prove once again that Laika is the best unknown animated studio.

Strike One Against Dreams for a Quality Video Game Movie Adaptation

2016 is supposed to be the "great video game movie turnaround", which means that for the first time a movie based on a video game isn't awful. I'm sure someone can yell at me about the one video gamed adapted classic that I'm clearly missing, but we do live in a world where Doom and Super Mario Bros. movies exist and we need masterpieces to erase those stains. There seems to be a whole lot of anticipation and unwavering hope for Warcraft and Assassin's Creed. I do have some interest for the former because Duncan Jones is one of the most exciting and creative directors around with great original sci-fi pictures like Moon and Source Code. Though the trailer for it left me a little flat. As for Creed, I'm vaguely aware of the video game and will leave my excitement to when I have a clue of what it is about.

The real kick-off to the video game movie frenzy starts in May with the adaptation of the iPhone time waster, Angry Birds. I think there is a reason why most video game movie advocates have decided to leave this one off the anticipation list. If you love your animated features stuffed with juvenile and lazy humour complete with an extended pee drinking gag then this is the movie for you. I think this doesn't bode well as a sign that Hollywood has figured out the whole turning popular games into worthwhile movies. Though I've played this game for an entirety of 20 minutes in my whole life, so I'm guessing I'm not the target demo. I'm also not eight years old.

Everett's First Adventure to the Movie Theatre

I talked about Everett's first adventure at the cinemas to see The Good Dinosaur during the Breakdown of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoiler Edition podcast, but I'm well aware not everyone listens to the show (though you should). I've been meaning to do a quick write-up of the monumental event, so a month later seems like the perfect time.

It was back in the spring that I promised Everett his first visit to the cinema would be The Good Dinosaur, which meant every other week he'd ask me if it was November. He would cheer and dance every time a trailer played on TV. The excitement was partly because he got to see the place his daddy goes to every week but also I promised him popcorn. We didn't end up seeing it in November because I didn't trust he could take the long wait that would be inevitable on opening weekend if we wanted good seats. I also knew if we waited for an emptier screening, I wouldn't have to worry as much about him being a disturbance.

Then I took a gamble that The Good Dinosaur would be a big enough hit to make it out of the Christmas holidays and discovered the last time we'd be able to screen it was Christmas Eve. So, it was a scramble to squeeze in the movie that I promised and then join in on my side of the family's Christmas festivities (and track down a few last minute gifts in-between that).

We arrived to the cinema with Everett's little mouth creating smoke with his rapid creation of dialogue. This is the sign that my little boy is thrilled about an upcoming event. I'm still not sure if he was more excited about seeing the movie or buying popcorn. Though he demonstrated great joy in exclaiming to the ticket taker that he was about to see his first movie in the theatre.

Then we entered the auditorium, and Everett's life changed just a bit. I told him it was a bigger screen then the TV at home, but I don't think he truly understood how much bigger. The moment we reached view of the screen, Everett suddenly froze. His mouth formed an 'O' and his eyes widened to dinner plates (or at least the type that could be used by an elf couple). He declared in a voice the whole building could hear, "Woah! It is so big!"

It was a very empty theatre, with just a few families scattered about. Of course, since I let Everett pick out the seats, he chose the very back where we had to shuffle past a few people to get to our spot. Why choose the countless empty rows when you can inconvenience a family buried in snacks and popcorn? Once we got seated, I had to go against something I've promised him on a daily basis. This was the one time that "I can always pause it, Everett" didn't apply for potty emergencies and so he had to head off to the bathroom now. He reassured me this was fine, because all that was on the screen right now was boring commercials.

If you listen to Everett's podcast, you'll know that The Good Dinosaur was a hit, since it made his best of the year list two times. This was after he had seen a few more movies at home, so it wasn't even a case of it being the freshest in his mind. While watching him enjoy the movie, I felt the magic of a young child being able to see the story unfold on a giant screen and the sounds swirl all around him. As a person who believes the best way to experience a movie is always at the cinema (and the worst is always on a phone), I loved seeing Everett entranced by the magnificent images on the big screen.

A movie is still a long time for him to sit, even if he is a big age of four (or at this point, two days away from it). There was one point after an hour and ten minutes in, he asked what he could do now, but the option of sitting on my lap was enough to keep him happy right to the end.

He definitely was engaged for the most part, even when there was no more popcorn to shovel (which he told grandma was the best part). In one scene there are t-rex ranchers that tell the hero, Arlo, to roar at the evil pterodactyls, and since the invitation was given, Everett let out a huge roar too. A little later Arlo's pal, Spot, was stolen, and Everett whispered in my ear, "It is okay daddy, Arlo will save the day."

I think the best sign that the afternoon was a success was when we were leaving and Everett asked when we were coming back to see Zootopia. And that will be the next theatre movie in the young film critic's career.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Everett Breakdown of 'The Rescuers'

Everett returns to gives his deep insights on the Disney classic, The Rescuers. This was actually the third time we talked about the movie on Sunday (the day we record the show). The first time, Everett wanted me to remain in the bathroom while he gabbed away in the "podcast room" to prove that everything we talk about on the show could be heard through the vents. When I went down to congratulate him on being correct, he wanted me to plug in the mic so we could do a podcast. So, I 'plugged' it in despite not having the laptop or recording software present and did a "podcast." It actually was quite cute getting his interpretation of what happened in The Rescuers, and he also had impressive recall considering we watched it before Christmas. This was also a "show" were I didn't need to lead him to any of his answers. Eventually, his recollections of the movie detoured to the inevitable appearance of a hippo. For the most part, he talked about the actual movie with some four year old child interpretations of why the kidnappers took the girl (they don't like kids and wanted to make her dress dirty).

I believed that was that and we wouldn't need to record an actual show, though I now wish we just held off until we could record it. Once Scott arrived, it became clear that Everett was aware the original was a charade and he wanted to do the podcast again. Though halfway through Scott realized he was going the fresh and innovative route of "recording" without hitting the record button.

The third take is what you have below. Everett essentially skips actually trying to discuss the movie he saw and jumps into full fantasy. It's still cute, but this time he is rather eager to forget the mice or delve into kidnapper motivations and get right into the (non-existent in the actual movie) jungle animals.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Took a Wrong Turn in the Maze

On this week's Breakdown, it was a joy to revisit a beloved childhood picture (and to discover that it still holds up) with the fantasy adventure, Labyrinth. I suddenly realized that we forgot to mention a rather significant thing about the picture. It came out in 1986, which may not seem like a big deal. You just need to use some simple math to realize it was 30 years ago that Jim Henson graced the world with this imaginative feature. I'm sure you're still scratching your head on why this is important. Well, it means we were not only paying tribute to the passing of iconic David Bowie but we were also having a 30th anniversary celebration. As I've learned from my few years as a movie writer, you always must acknowledge the important anniversary when reviewing a movie or the Earth will cease to exist. So for the safety of humanity, I will acknowledge that Labyrinth is going to be 30 years old this August. Now all is right with the world.

The Breakdown of 'The Boy' and David Bowie

The Breakdown finally jumps into 2016 with our first review of a movie released this year with the creepy doll horror, The Boy. We also review three David Bowie pictures including his break-out acting role in the Nicola Roeg quirky sci-fi arthouse picture, The Man Who Fell from Earth, and the fantasy adventure that made him cool with the kids of the 1980s, Labyrinth. After that, we discuss the recent changes that have been put in place by the Academy in attempt to fix their diversity problem. As always if you  enjoy the show then please spread the word.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Star Ratings:

The Boy *½ (CS) & * (SM)
The Man Who Fell from Earth ***½ (CS & SM)
Labyrinth *** (CS & SM)
Zoolander **½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Calling Out for Help Over a Breakdown Podcast Issue

Over two years ago, a listener of the Breakdown podcast suggested we post an outline of the segments with the time each begins. It was a great idea considering our shows run for over an hour and at times one just wants to listen to a review for a particular movie. I discovered over a year ago that my times were off by several minutes. This doesn't make any sense, since nothing from the recorded show gets cut out and you'd think a minute is a minute no matter what program you use to listen to the podcast. I've discovered that if I listen on Media Player or iTunes that the time of the show runs longer than if I listen to the show straight from the server site or on the blog. I'm not sure if times are a different length on the blogfeed or other audio players.

My point is it doesn't make a lick of sense to me. It has unfortunately meant that my podcast timed outlines are useless because there is a strong chance where it tells you a review starts is off by a few minutes on the player you're using.

I'm wondering if there are any tech savvy readers out there that can offer some insight and let me know how to fix it. My unwavering love if you solve this glitch.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ranking Every 2015 Picture That I've Seen

I saw 101 movies released in 2015, which for a small independent film reviewer without any press screening credentials is pretty good. It definitely was enough movies for me to declare last year to be a pretty great and diverse year at the cinemas. Every year there are always great independent and foreign pictures, but 2015 was a year where the quality and creativity even shined in many big studio pictures.

This weekend will be the kick off of my reviews for 2016 pictures. To signal a new year of movies and a year of weekly reviews of theatrical releases, I am listing every 2015 movie that I saw along with their star rating. I've also attempted to rank them from best to worst, but as I confessed in the Stinkers of the 2015 and Best of 2015 Breakdowns that lists have a tendency to shuffle and shift on a daily basis.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens ****
2. The Revenant ****
3. Inside Out ****
4. Spotlight ****
5. Girlhood ****
6. Tangerine ***
7. Mad Max: Fury Road ****
8. Creed ****
9. Steve Jobs ****
10. Phoenix ****
11. Ex Machina ****
12. Straight Outta Compton ****
13. It Follows ****
14. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation ****
15. About Elly ****
16. Wild Tales ****
17. Clouds of Sils Maria ***½ 
18. Beasts of No Nation ***½
19. While We’re Young ***½
20. Danny Collins ***½
21. Bridge of Spies ***½
22. Finders Keepers ***½
23. Spy ***½
24. The Good Dinosaur ***½
25. Crimson Peak ***½
26. Trainwreck ***½
27. Faults ***½
28. The Martian ***½
29. Everest ***½
30. Ant-Man ***½
31. The Hunting Ground ***½
32. The Big Short ***
33. Focus ***
34. Cinderella ***
35. The DUFF ***
36. Welcome to Me ***
37. The Visit ***
38. Sicario ***
39. Concussion ***
40. Joy ***
41. Goosebumps ***
42. The Gift ***
43. Insidious Chapter 3 ***
44. Paper Towns ***
45. The Intern ***
46. Shaun the Sheep Movie ***
47. Tomorrowland ***
48. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water ***
49. The Avengers: Age of Ultron ***
50. Paddington ***
51. Sister ***
52. Creep ***  
53. The Search for General Tso ***
54. Southpaw ***
55. Run All Night ***
56. San Andreas ***
57. Jurassic World ***
58.  Kingsman: The Secret Service ***
59. Minions ***  
60. The Last Witch Hunter ***  
61. Monkey Kingdom ***  
62. Pitch Perfect 2 ***  
63. Terminator Genisys ***  
64. A Walk in the Woods ***
65. Insurgent ***  
66. The Night Before **½
67. These Final Hours **½
68. The Age of Adaline **1/2
69. Krampus **½  
70. Good Kill **½  
71. Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 **½  
72. American Ultra **1/2  
73. Champs **½  
74. Black Mass **  
75. In the Heart of the Sea **  
76. Magic Mike XXL **  
77. Spectre **  
78. Furious 7 **  
79. Wild Card **  
80. Point Break **  
81. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel **  
82. Project Almanac **  
83. The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death **
84. Song One **  
85. Get Hard **  
86. Home **  
87. The Gunman **  
88. Strange Magic **
89. Circle *½  
90. Unfinished Business *½  
91. The Man from U.N.C.L.E *½  
92. The Harvest *½  
93. The Lazarus Effect *½  
94. Hot Pursuit *½
95. Aloha *
96. The Cobbler *
97. The Ridiculous Six *
98. Chappie *
99. The Loft * 
100. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 ½*
101. Taken 3 ½* 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Everett Breakdown of Veggie Tales' Dave and the Giant Pickle: Special Edition Podcast

Everett returns this week with another "movie" review (everything he watches on TV is a movie just some are really short) for us. This time around it is an episode of Veggie Tales called 'Dave and the Giant Pickle.' Except don't expect the version you may have seen or the one all the kids were raving about back in the early 2000s. This seems to be an exclusive Special Edition with characters that I don't remember and additional subplots. I'm assuming it will be released for the public shortly after the hotly anticipated Park.

Monday, January 18, 2016

'Blackstar' Proves Once Again the Inspiration of David Bowie

On this week's Breakdown podcast, we did a tribute to the iconic musician and sometimes actor David Bowie. I confessed on the show that I'd never had a David Bowie phase but I did recognize he likely his very own genre of music. His fans stayed loyal to him even when his styles changed and evolved over the years, which isn't something many artists can claim. He was above any specific form or style and often amalgamated many to make something new.

I also mentioned on the show that he was an inspiration. He was someone that the awkward kid or person who felt left out in the cold could look up to. He was a successful artist that was always himself and not afraid or rather embraced being different. His Ziggy Stardust persona was major proof of that but his entire life played out like an eccentric work of art.

I know there was a strong chance that his coming out as gay in the 1970s was a publicity stunt, but I also don't think it mattered what his actual sexual orientation was at the time. This was before the major rise of disco and at a time that persecution of homosexuality was still pretty rampant in popular culture. He became a symbol for a group that was ostracized. He was one of the first that showed it was brave and courageous to be who you are and be willing to come out of the closet. His most prominent relationships were with woman, but I still think he was a proper champion for the gay community. He definitely was a supporter of the community his entire career.

One of his other big moments of championing rights and diversity was in the early 1980s when he criticized MTV during an interview on the channel for the lack of playing videos by African American artists. He knew there were many talented black musicians with great videos but at the time, they weren't being played or only early in the morning. He believed it was MTV's job to showcase all talents and allow the black artists to get their chance to find an audience. It is crazy to think there was a time that even Michael Jackson didn't get a lot of air time, but it was the mind set of MTV when it first started that they had to pander to a white audience. Bowie was one of the first prominent figures that demanded change in what media presents.

I mentioned all the above on the podcast. You may have already heard my thoughts, but there was something that I forgot to mention yesterday. It is another example of how David Bowie is a great inspiration and one who encourages us to thrive for excellence.

David Bowie released his final album. Blackstar, two days before he passed away. This means he recorded the majority of the album while he was battling cancer and very sick. The man worked hard and created great music even when life was clearly tough for him. It has a happy ending because his final album has hit number one on the Billboard charts.

Bowie's entire career reminds me that I can write and continue to create even when I'm emotionally in the dumps (a place that I frequented too much the past two years) or when I fear my thoughts will alienate me. His life work pushes my writing to embrace individuality and not shy away from honesty. I must let my true heart and soul pour out in my prose and remember the truly great works are when an artist allows pieces of them to be left behind. An artist and writer must expect real honesty and revelation of self to rustle up the hive and cause some fires, but trust it is for greatness and truth.

Bowie has left behind a great legacy and I know he has given more than just great music. It has been a great time learning more about him lately.

RIP David Bowie.

In the next two weeks we'll be celebrating him and Alan Rickman more in-depth with podcast that are devoted to works from each man.

The Breakdown of 'The Revenant', 'The Big Short', David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Oscar Nominations, and 'One Cloverfield Lane'

It is a seeping out of the edges loaded show this week as we kick things off with reviews for two big Best Picture nominees in The Revenant and The Big Short. From there we pay tribute to two major stars we lost this past week in David Bowie and Alan Rickman. We also discuss the latest Oscar nominations, and finally discuss J.J. Abrams pulling off a huge surprise in 10 Cloverfield Lane. If you enjoy the show then please spread the love by letting more know about it.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.


1:08 The Revenant review
25:15 The Big Short review
35:26 RIP Alan Rickman
44:09 RIP David Bowie
53:05 Oscar Nominations thoughts
1:06:22 Rotten Tomatoes Analysis & One Cloverfield Lane thoughts
1:13:23 Box Office Analysis
1:15:52 Review Rundown

Rating Rundowns:

The Revenant **** (CS & SM)
The Big Short *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)

Friday, January 15, 2016

In Unsurprising New, J.J. Abrams Surprises Us

Here are some seemingly unrelated facts.

A little thriller called Valencia, which is directed by newcomer Dan Trachtenberg and stars John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, is set to be released on March 11th, 2016.

There have been promises for several years now that there would be a follow-up to the 2008 found-footage monster feature, Cloverfield.

J.J. Abrams really loves his surprises.

Are you ready for the big honking twist ending that wraps these three statements together?

Last night a teaser trailer for what has been called Valencia for the last several months dropped before the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi screening. Except this Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams' production company) and Paramount Picture produced picture wasn't called Valencia at the end of the trailer but rather 10 Cloverfield Lane. This little thriller about a woman who wakes up in a stranger's basement and is told she was saved from a chemical attack that left the outside world inhabitable, and a movie that didn't really make anyone's most anticipated of 2016, turns out to be the next Cloverfield feature that many have been salivating over.

Well played, J.J. Abrams.

It is really hard to keep any kind of secret in today's spoiler obsessed culture and with the ability for things to get leaked instantly on the internet. I can't remember the last time a trailer actually debuted on the big screen rather than get leaked online first. It is pretty impressive that the "blood relative" of Cloverfield was able to remain disguised as an abduction thriller this whole time and we're now less than two months away from a hotly anticipated movie that no one knew they were getting this year.

This was a great strategy for more than just the fact people love a good surprise. Now that there are only two months remaining, there isn't really much time for the hype to get to silly degrees and people get burned out before it gets here. The fever will hit right at its peak at the time of release. This also has the added benefit of there not being enough time for 25 different trailers that reveal every bit of plot

We really don't know much about the plot other than three people play with puzzles in a basement and there is clearly something nasty outside. I love that we're stuck to just three actors and also that they steered away from found-footage this time. John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead are both fantastic and I look forward to seeing them play off each other. I'm sure John Gallagher Jr. will be all snuggles and wonders too, but I don't have HBO so I've never seen his biggest credit, Newsroom. Other great news is that the man who brought us Whiplash, Damien Chazelle, is a writer on this picture and it will be really intriguing to see what he does with a sci-fi story.

This is now my most anticipated movie in March and yes, I'm aware of the two guys in capes being grumpy at each other movie. 

Thoughts on Oscar 2016 Nominations

Today seems like a fantastic time to get the site rolling with oodles of content again, so consider this my relaunch post.


I missed the live stream of the 2016 Oscar nomination announcements and all the hubbub with John Krasinski, Guillermo del Toro and Ang Lee presenting, because the Academy were inconsiderate by running it while I was hiking with Everett in the jungle (or what people who aren't four years old would call walking to school). I don't know if there were any funny mispronounced names this year or if Krasinski had a scandalous nip slip, but I do know the official Oscar nominees for 2016.

This was an interesting year, because usually before Christmas we have a solid idea of who will be all the major nominees in the key categories. There was plenty of shuffling and debating as the weeks went by with some movies being really hot then losing all steam to another suddenly sizzling contender. The biggest example is how almost non-entity The Big Short (initially not even slated to be released this year) went from decent little comedic drama to full-blown legit Best Picture heavyweight that is now shoving its way into a lead contender spot (which baffles me because yes, it is Adam McKay's most ambitious picture and it has great performances, but it doesn't captivate emotionally at the level of a Spotlight or The Revenant).

You can get the full list of nominees here. You can get my thoughts on specific nominations by continuing to read.

Best Picture: Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, Room, Spotlight, The Big Short, The Martian, The Revenant

In 2009, the Academy increased its potential nominees for Best Picture from five to ten, with the idea it would increase exposure to a variety of pictures and to allow some genre fare to get recognized. Outside of 2009 and 2010, where movies like Avatar, District 9, Up, Inception, and Toy Story 3 got nominated, genre movies have largely been shunned unless they have a traditional Oscar sheen on them like Gravity or have director heavyweight like Django Unchained with Quentin Tarantino.

At first glance, the nominations of The Martian, Bridge of Spies and Mad Max: Fury Road would demonstrate the Academy taking a "risk" and actually giving genre fare some spotlight. Except I'd argue it was just another year of them playing it safe, even if it is pretty cool to see the feverish dream of an action movie in Mad Max getting a nod.

When I praised Mad Max: Fury Road as a year best way back in May, I did add a caveat that its genre label would likely stop it from any Academy consideration outside of technical awards. That all changed in what turned out to be a pretty crazy December where Mad Max landed on the top of many major critics' best of the year lists and got several nominations from other award organizations. By January, it was clear Mad Max had a strong shot in getting nominated and movies like Carol were suffering from losing a lot of momentum. Mad Max got in due to the major critical praise and hype, and if it didn't get declared best of the year by so many then it would have suffered the same genre fare fate of being swept under the rug (even if it was the exact same movie). This was Academy following the crowd and if it really wanted to try something new it would have nominated a movie like Star Wars: Force Awakens or Ex Machina.

The Martian and Bridge of Spies are really good movies for popcorn munchers, but likely the fact they have two big name directors and got strong box office runs is how they earned nominations. Though I don't think any of the three have a shot at winning the actual award this year, I do think it will help the ratings to have Best Picture nominees that people actually watched and enjoyed.

I'm bummed that Creed got the pass, and from what I've heard, this is largely due to Warner Brothers completely being caught off guard by the critical reception this movie garnered and how it ranked high on most best of the year lists. They didn't have a proper promotional campaign in place to get members thinking about it. This means that studio executives don't watch their own movies or they're just oblivious to quality.

This was also the year that Academy really should have taken advantage of their ten slots rather than just nominate eight movies. There were many great movies that deserved those final spots including Straight Outta Compton (which along with Creed would have significantly helped the Academy's diversity problem) Inside Out (why has the Academy just stopped putting animated fare in the Best Picture spot since 2010?) and Carol.

Carol, Brooklyn, and Room all had a significant amount of momentum and hype back in November, and then things started getting derailed right along with the different award show nominations being announced in December. All three seemed to start suffering by being labelled "performance movies" rather than getting praise for the whole package.

The nominations weren't a surprise once the new year hit and it was clear what the favourites were, but this turned out to be a very different crop then I was expecting back in the summer. This initially looked like it would be a great year for diversity or at least a great win for woman and the LGBTQ community, but then Suffragette didn't capture the imagination like I expected and The Danish Girl was a critical disappointment. I haven't seen Carol, but this is the snub that may catch the most fire among many critics that were championing it.

This isn't a total groin kick for diversity. Yes, we're stuck with eight movies about white people again, but at least three have females in significant roles, and two of those would be aimed towards a female audience.

I've seen six of the Best Picture nominees (Room and Brooklyn haven't made it out here), and if I had any voting power, The Revenant and Spotlight would be the two I'd consider Best Picture worthy, though Mad Max: Fury Road is so different and ambitious that I have no problem with it owning a slot. For the last few weeks I've been predicting Spotlight as the likely winner, though recent buzz has been increasing for The Big Short to the point it may be squeaking ahead (plus you can't discount The Revenant winning at the Golden Globes and landing 12 Oscar nominations as a huge boost for its chances as well).

Best Directing: George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight), Adam McKay (The Big Short), Alejandro G. Inarritu (The Revenant)

Ryan Coogler should be on here. I know, he wasn't really ever in the running, but he made a dramatic and emotional and fresh movie from what was a part seven from a franchise people passed off years ago. Creed was intimate and touching while also having some of the best action and thrills of the year; he made an excellent prestige picture and a delightful popcorn muncher at the same time. I'm glad that George Miller made it and his vision was audacious and imaginative and very worthy, but Coogler did a lot of the same things just with less special effects and eye-popping set pieces. A best director isn't about creating spectacle but driving the story right into the heart of the viewer where they eagerly follow the characters to the very end, and Coogler did that (yes, Miller did that too).

This is kind of the problem with the best directing voting. It typically awards grand visual extravaganzas where the challenges of directing are overt and obvious. I definitely think both Miller and Inarritu deserve their slot, but at the same time, the directing in that type of movie is indisputable. Often the more subtle and nuanced directing in intimate and quiet pictures often gets ignored even though at times that requires even more skill. I haven't seen Carol, but I know its fans were arguing Todd Haynes did a masterful job but due to the fact it was done in warm and cozy settings that his work would be ignored.

Adam McKay's The Big Short is the director of Anchorman trying to do Martin Scorsese. That isn't a negative but the stylish story breaks and talking to the audience disconnected me from the narrative rather than enhance the story like it always does in a Scorsese picture. It was McKay's best work, but I'm not really convinced it was awards worthy.

I'm shocked that both Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg got shunned here, especially when their movies got nominated. I'd say that hurts both movies from getting the Best Picture. I thought The Martian was some of Scott's best work in a long time and did a great job balancing tones, but his absence from the nominees list allowed a black horse in Lenny Abrahamson to sneak in, which I'm totally happy about.

Tom McCarthy's work in Spotlight is magnificent as he crafted a riveting thriller with amazing performances without leaning on the typical thriller tropes or having that token melodramatic "Oscar scene." This was an understated picture that was more powerful and engrossing due to dialing things down and trusting the material. I'd like for him to win here, but his major challengers at this point are Alejandro G. Inarritu (though I don't know if they'd let him win back to back) or McKay.

Actor in Leading Role: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Matt Damon (The Martian), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)

Leo is winning, so everyone else is just here to fill up the five spots. Leo would be winning even if it wasn't one of the best performances of the year because he has missed out so many times now and Academy gives out awards for actors who are due (see Denzel Washington for Training Day and Al Pacino for Scent of a Woman as past examples).

Yet there are still some major disappointments here, especially considering every actor category is filled up with white folks. There were definitely some very worthy performances that could have taken a spot here like Michael B. Jordan for Creed, Benicio del Toro for Sicario, Will Smith for Concussion, and in other categories, Idris Elba was hands down one of the best in a supporting role for Beasts of No Nation and Gugu Mbatha-Raw showed her superstar potential in an actress supporting role in Concussion. We got stuck with a second year of a white wash.

Michael B. Jordan's performance was integral in Creed emotionally connecting with the audience and feeling a conflicted fighter battling with self-doubt, accepting his past, and a need to prove his worthiness. This was further evidence that he is a future superstar. Benicio del Toro delivered one of the most haunting performances of the year with a character you didn't know if you wanted to cheer or dread, and his master work elevated a movie that was visually engaging but had a rather formulaic plot. Will Smith is one of the biggest stars in the world, which means it can be hard for us to not see "Will Smith" on the screen, yet within minutes he transformed into his character, Dr. Bennet Omalu and delivered one of the best performances of his career. Elba was both intimidating and fragile as the leader of child soldiers and was someone who was both commanding authority but deep down rather pathetic and insecure. Elba is one of the few great talents that was able to pull off the complicated character so expertly. Mbatha-Raw has an amazing screen presence but in Concussion she was understated and quiet but still projected strength. Yet Academy decided to not acknowledge any of these actors.

I haven't seen Trumbo or The Danish Girl. Eddie Redmayne was a big favourite until the movie was screened. He still got a nod, because he physically transforms himself again this year and the Academy loves that kind of thing. Bryan Cranston was top pick to win at one point, but I don't see him outshining DiCaprio this year.

Michael Fassbender was fantastic, because even though he looked nothing like Steve Jobs, you stopped noticing once the movie started rolling. He totally embodied the role and stopped acting but rather immersed himself into the character. I loved Steve Jobs and glad it is at least getting some recognition in the acting categories even though I thought the script, directing, and story were top notch. It likely suffered by not trying to soften the Jobs character and for over two hours being about a rather abrasive and polarizing figure.

I am little bummed about Steve Carell not getting a nod here, since this was probably his best performance yet and my favourite part of The Big Short. I'm sure some may sharpen the pitch forks over Johnny Depp getting passed over for his job in Black Mass, but compared to the showings on this list that I've seen, it definitely wasn't as good.

Actor in Supporting Role: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed), Tom Hardy (The Revenant)

Back in December, most award pundits predicted this was Mark Rylance's to win. After the Golden Globes, it appears the momentum has gone entirely with Sylvester Stallone. Stallone winning is also the feel-good story, and Rylance is talented enough to take away the prize any other year. This is likely Stallone's only chance, and it is fun for an action star that many gave up on years ago to strike back with a performance of a lifetime. Stallone brought so much empathy and authenticity to his character (a lot of credit to Coogler), and I sense he put a lot of himself into that role. Out of all the nominees, my favourite was likely Tom Hardy who was one of the best villains of the year, and he may have a chance if The Revenant is poised for a ruling of the Oscars.

Actress in a Leading Role: Brie Larson (Room), Cate Blanchett (Carol), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Sadly, I've only seen Joy. I think that speaks volumes about the state of roles for woman in Hollywood. It is real easy being in a small city and seeing the majority of movies with the top male performances but the woman are stuck in limited release pictures. From everything I've heard, Saoirse Ronan is a heavy favourite here and it was a career making performance, though she has proven her skill in the past with great movies like The Grand Budapest Hotel. Since Meryl Streep's movies all fizzled this year (though both Ricki and the Flash and Suffragette have their champions), Cate Blanchett gets the established veteran slot this year. Since Academy also likes their lifetime achievement type awards, Charlotte Rampling may give Ronan a challenge. Brie Larson will always have another shot in future years because she is a clear acting powerhouse. Of course, Lawrence will continue to be a regular in this spot as well. I should add that Lawrence by far is the best thing about Joy, and she delivers all the nuance and emotion of the movie, but she won recently so Academy will probably think she got her moment for now. Even though I didn't see it, I really hoped that this would be the year Carey Mulligan gets recognized, but Suffragette unfortunately disappointed and didn't turn out to be the launching pad that I expected.

Actress in a Support Role: Alicia Vikander (Danish Girl), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Rooney Mara (Carol)

Kate Winslet is just as crucial as Fassbender in making Steve Jobs work. Her character Joanna Hoffman's relationship is the constant in Jobs' life and their connection and friendship is believable. She has a great wit and energy and allows Fassbender to play off her as well. She has been a stand-out for years, but she proves her immense talents here.

Rachel McAdams has a low key performance and doesn't have character with noticeable tics and quirks that she can latch on to like Mark Ruffalo's in Spotlight, but it is just as good in a different way. It isn't showy or extravagant, but she brings a calm and professionalism that makes it feel real rather than acting. She is also someone who has been great for years but often gets ignored.

I haven't seen any of the other movies due to the curse of living in Brantford and not driving. Many are calling this the year of Alicia Vikander, but I'd guess she doesn't win here, even though Hollywood is eager for her to be the next "it girl." Winslet got the Golden Globe so that  makes her a strong candidate, but I think Rooney Mara also still has a good shot to win here. She is another that deserves way more recognition and opportunities. To be honest, all these woman deserve many more chances to showcase their talents.

Animated Feature: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie was There

I really need to try to catch the very intriguing non-mainstream animated features on this list, because this has a much more diverse and eclectic selection than the Best Pictures. Inside Out will likely win and I have no problem with that since it was one of the best movies of the year. Shaun the Sheep Movie was cute and maybe the second best animated feature that I saw this year, but then again, I really enjoyed The Good Dinosaur for the kid-friendly adventure it was aspiring to be.

I'm going to skip the documentary and foreign pictures, because all it proves is that I really need to see more 2015 foreign pictures and documentaries. Though I have no excuse for not seeing Cartel Land and What Happened, Miss Simone? yet. It is rather interesting that the critically acclaimed Going Clear documentary that teared down Scientology didn't get the expected nomination, and I think it entirely has to do with material that likely bothered a significant number of voters for an obvious reason. Though as a quick prediction to make me seem smart, Son of Saul is a sure thing for best foreign picture, even though its material is pretty crushing and tough.

Writing Adapted Screenplay: Brooklyn, Carol, Room, The Big Short, The Martian

Interesting that Carol nails screenplay and acting nominations, but still misses the Best Picture. It really does seem the low-key directing style of Todd Haynes did it in. My sense right now is The Big Short will win this, but I can see The Martian having a strong chance too due to it being so breezy and likable. And likable is exactly the reason that Steve Jobs and Aaron Sorkin were robbed of the nomination that they deserved. I absolutely adored the wit and sharpness of the Steve Jobs script and the dialogue was like poetry even if it was abrasive and prickly. It was such a complex and deep movie with a strong character arc without it being overt or didactic. I'm not shocked it got snubbed because I have to admit that during my screening Scott and I seemed to be the only ones in the theatre feeling its groove. I really hope to see Brooklyn and Carol before Oscar time (nudge nudge, Brantford Cineplex).

Writing Original Screenplay: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

Three of the best original screenplays are based on real events that you'd think would have source material for the screenwriter, but apparently, they just came up with it all on their own. I'm really glad that Straight Outta Compton got some props, even if I'm not entirely convinced it was actually the screenplay that made it a great movie but rather the solid directing and spot-on performances.

Quentin Tarantino had a rough go this time around, as the rule is almost always he loses out on Best Director (but gets nominated) but wins for screenplay, but this time he missed out on both. The Hateful Eight got a much chillier reception than most of his other movies, but I can't speak into it because well you know, Brantford.

On the genre front, it is great to see Ex Machina breakthrough for a nomination and clearly the Academy was able to look past it being sci-fi. The Academy tends to be a little less stuffy when it comes to the screenplay categories as long as there seems to be whiffs of complexity. This is a deep and compelling script that makes it a movie that you can get a new experience with each viewing. Which reminds me, I still need my second, third, and fourth.

I want Inside Out to win here, but Spotlight could win it too. Inside Out is one of the most complex and richest stories of the year that abound with symbolism and emotion. I had a spiritual experience with my viewing both times and this proved that animated fare can be more powerful and rewarding than most live-action pictures. Right now I'll vote it wins, because that is where my heart is at.  I'm a pretty big champion for Spotlight as well, but I still have strong hopes it is taking home a Best Picture.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Breakdown of Everett's Favourite Movies of 2015

Scott and Christopher already revealed their best movies of 2015, but we know deep down there is only one film critic's opinion that matters. This is why in this special extra episode of the Breakdown, we've called upon four year-old Everett to reveal his favourite movies of 2015. He delivers an insight into film analysis that has never been seen before and may also have revolutionized how you make a list for your top movies.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Breakdown of the Best of 2015 Podcast

2015 was a great year at the cinema with quality coming from big blockbuster epics to the lesser known gems from a variety of genres. To celebrate, both Scott and Christopher will be revealing their top ten best movies of the year. You're guaranteed to get lots of recommendations for movies to track down and maybe even get introduced to a few pictures you haven't heard about yet. As always if you enjoy the podcast then please spread the love by telling others to check it out.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Christopher's Top Ten of 2015:

10. Phoenix
9. Steve Jobs
8. Tangerine
7. Creed
6. Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Girlhood
4. Spotlight 
3. Inside Out
2. The Revenant
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Scott's Top Ten of 2015:

10. The Big Short 
9. Creed 
8. Steve Jobs 
7.  Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
6. Call Me Lucky
5. It Follows
4. Spotlight
3. Inside Out
2. Ex Machina
1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

The Breakdown of the Stinkers of 2015 Podcast

2015 was an incredible year for movies with a few even destined to be classics. But you can't appreciate the good without suffering through the bad, and we definitely had our share of putrid garbage. This week both Scott and Christopher list our top ten worst movies so you know what to steer clear of or what to see if you delight in ruining your evening. We end things on a positive note as we each list the top ten most anticipated movies of 2016. We hope you love the show, and if you do, then support us by spreading the word.

Remember you can now subscribe either to The Movie Breakdown feed (a subscription link is at the top right hand of this site) or on iTunes.

Scott's Top 10 Stinkers of 2015:

10. Song One
9. Taken 3
8. Unfinished Business
7. Circle
6. Devil's Backbone Texas
5. Chappie
4. Outcast
3. Hot Time Machine 2
2. Ridiculous 6
1. United Passions

Christopher's Top Ten Stinkers of 2015:

10. The Man from U.N.C.L.E
9. The Gunman
8. Aloha
7. The Cobbler
6. Hot Pursuit
5. Ridiculous 6
4. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
3. The Loft
2. Chappie
1. Taken 3

Scott's Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2016 

10. Gods of Egypt 
9. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice 
8. Deadpool
7. Hail, Caesar!
6.  Ghostbusters
5. The Witch
4. Deepwater Horizon (redacted)
3. Snowden
2. Girl on a Train (redacted) Silence (replace)
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Christopher's Top Ten Most Anticipated Movies of 2016 

10. Everybody Wants Some 
9. Stronger
8. The Nice Guys
7. Ghostbusters
6. BFG
5. Kubo and the Two Strings
4. Silence
3. Hail, Caesar!
2. Money Monster
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story