Monday, November 28, 2016

The Breakdown of 'Moana', 'Allied', 'Mercy' and 'Sexy Beast'

The Breakdown has three piping hot reviews of new releases that include the feature introducing the latest Disney Princess in Moana and a romantic spy thriller set during World War II, Allied. After a 2016 that has been pretty lacklustre, November is pulling its weight and there is a lot to praise on this show. We're also very happy with the past as we dial back to 2000 and look at Jonathan Glazer's crime movie, Sexy Beast. As always we really hope you enjoy the show and if that turns out to be true, please spread to the word to other movie fans (as it is the best way we can grow and keep up doing this every week).

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.

Ratings Rundown:

Moana ***½ (CS & SM)
Allied **** (CS)
Mercy ** (CS & SM)
Sexy Beast **** (CS & SM)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

1966's 'Batman' Reminds Us Every Creative Work is a Homage and Tribute to the Past

As some likely already know, Scott and I discussed 1966's Batman during our in-depth spoiler filled analysis segment on the Breakdown yesterday morning (recorded Sunday morning). During the discussion, I argued that the campy movie is less a parody of the Batman comic books and more a satire of 1960s pop culture. The movie and series is crammed with references and tropes that were popular from the time, as well as works from the past that were still well known.

What I failed to mention in the podcast but discussed with Scott in detail after the recording ended (a far too regular occurrence) that the 1960s Batman series (and to an extent the movie) was a clear homage/tribute/slight-parody of popular serials of the 1930s and 1940s. A serial was a single story that was divided into "chapters" that would air on a weekly basis (a child's Saturday at the movies consisted of one serial, an animated short or two, a newsreel, and two feature films). There were a wide variety of stories but some of the most popular were Flash Gordon, The Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers, Batman, Dick Tracy, Captain Marvel and The Shadow (and many Westerns were also popular because they were cheap to film and studios could reuse sets, costumes, and props). By the time the Batman TV series came, the serial was long gone but there would still be significant nostalgia for it.

Many of the elements that made Batman endearing was coming from those past serials such as most episodes ending on a cliffhanger, the hero about to be killed is saved by luck rather than skill, the over-the-top tongue in cheek dialogue, the made from home looking costumes, and the heroes stating a positive message directly to the audience. Back during the series' first run, almost everyone watching the Batman TV series was well aware that it was deeply indebted to the serials of the past, but 50 years later, Batman is now seen as its own oddball original that some younger audiences believe invented things like the narrated cliffhanger and the straight delivery of cheesy lines.

This isn't a criticism against the Batman series, because it wasn't hiding its influences at the time and was openingly mimicking that formula. It is more a sign how quickly the past of the pop culture can be forgotten and replaced. It is similar to how if someone is criticizing a sci-fi motion picture for being derivative than it is often accused of ripping off Star Wars, which is a film series praised for its originality and creativity. The fact is George Lucas did not hide the heavy influences of Flash Gordon, Akira Kurosawa films, the works of Joseph Campbell, and Lawrence of Arabia (to name a very few). On top of the storytelling aspects, things like the droids' look were heavily influenced from movies like Silent Running and Metropolis. Actually, early conceptual drawings show that C-3PO was almost identical to Maschinenmench (Metropolis), except for being golden and male.

I love Star Wars, and it shows an incredible imagination and an exemplar example of world building. But what gets forgotten in today's whining over lack of originality is that almost every great work is influenced by something before it. Stephen King is one of the great creative minds and novelist, but he admits his canon has been shaped by his love for H.P. Lovecraft and E.C. horror comics as a boy. The fact inspiration is evident in King's stories or Star Wars or especially '60s Batman series is not a negative, but rather just a reality that their existence relies on many classic (and not-so classic) works. The finger prints of past works are smudged over every creative endeavour. Allowing the past to help shape a present work doesn't make it unoriginal or lacking creativity, but I do think it is crucial for creators to know their influences so they can purposefully shape and craft the new work into something new. This is one of the reasons to respect the works of King or Star Wars or Batman, because in all three cases, there is clear acknowledgement that the rich history of literature and cinema and various other forms of entertainment aided in their creation.

It is sort of unfortunate how out of tune and disconnected modern audience can be with the history of pop culture. Most people today would watch the old Batman series and view it as a quirky, oddball campfest without even being aware of the existence 1930s and 1940s serials that shaped that series, just like many young Stephen King fans read his stuff without knowing the name H.P. Lovecraft. Of course, it is futile to whine how much modern audiences are unaware of past novels or movies or TV series, because that isn't a new thing but just the nature of society in every generation. One is always more interested in the now than the past, and only a few chosen works really stay embedded in the evolving zeitgeist.

This is why modern artist like JK Rowling or David Robert Mitchell or Quentin Tarantino or yes Stephen King (he has been around long enough I get to use him in both situation) are so important because they are aware of past and often pay tribute in creative and fresh ways. Someone like Tarantino actively champions the past and will point his biggest fans to what he sees as defining works.

Their originality comes from taking those homages and past ideas while incorporating their own life experiences, their fears, their varied interests, and daily observations. A creator is able to be aware of everything around them and formulate every tidbit they encounter into something entirely new and exciting.

But now, I've got carried away, because this was meant as a short addendum to the 1966 Batman podcast. My point in all this is that something can be its own thing and be green leafy fresh, but still be reliant on the past before it. In creative circles, originality is making something exciting and innovative out of old and well-worn but still sturdy parts.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Breakdown of 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them', 'The Edge of Seventeen', 'Divines' and 'Batman' (1966)

The Breakdown has reviews for three brand new releases including a trip to the world of wizards in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and a coming of age dramedy, The Edge of Seventeen. From there we go all the way back to 1966 with an in-depth look at the original Batman feature. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

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.

Rating Rundown:

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them *** (CS)
The Edge of Seventeen ***½ (CS & SM)
Divines ***½ (CS & SM)
Batman (1966) *** (CS) & **** (SM)

Monday, November 14, 2016

'Patriot's Day' Trailer Shows What You'd Expect from Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg

Director Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg have become a team over the last few years in making movies that appeal to the sensibilities of Middle America and glorify the hard working middle class and their ideals. While I can tire of Berg's tendency to slide into "rah rah America", he has proven to have a distinct filmmaking style that immerses you into his action pictures. Wahlberg does well playing the meat and potatoes type lead. Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon were both pictures that follow all the instincts of a Michael Bay movie but have a sense of style and the use of effects that give the movies a higher pedigree. For that reason, Patriots Day is probably worth a look even if my feeling is that David Gordon Green's Stronger will be the more thoughtful and dramatic movie about the Boston Marathon bombing. The cast is solid and even if Berg is never the director I get excited about. I keep finding myself recommending his movies.

My biggest hope is that especially in Trump's America that this movie has a delicate touch and amongst the pro-America, it stays away from demonizing an entire demographic. You can make heroes without creating an army of villains.

'Beauty and the Beast' Vying to be the Latest of Disney Remake Hits

As much as my natural instinct is to groan over Hollywood's obsession with remakes and reboots, I have to align myself with Team Live Action Remake of Disney's Entire Animated Library. The initiative has paid off with good to great movies with Maleficent, Cinderella and The Jungle Book. Those movies have all done a good job of balancing nostalgia for the originals while reworking the movies to make them relevant for modern time. The new Cinderella was not only a gorgeous and visually sumptuous spectacle but this time it played the classic fairy tale with a strong feminist take. The Jungle Book had many of the classic scenes but did some major tweaks to the plot and story so that it was now about inclusion and how a family can take many forms (rather than the original problematic message of one being better suited to their own kind). Before those movies I'd have seen no point in doing a CGI-heavy live action adaptation of the Disney animated classic, Beauty and the Beast, but this trailer not only shows a beautiful production with a top rate cast (and Luke Evans), the past hits give me hope to believe that there will be enough twists and additions to the story to make the picture feel fresh while also playing to many fan's childhood nostalgia. The first trailer largely seems full of memorable scenes from the original and following the same plot, but it is also trying to appeal to a crowd with fond memories of the first. Disney has built up enough goodwill with their live-action remakes to be excited for a fresh and exciting take on a classic.

Even if it ends up being the same movie but live action and CGI, Emma Watson is a superstar. She looks absolutely marvelous in the little peaks shown here. I couldn't think of a better Belle.

The Breakdown of 'Arrival', 'True Memoirs of an International Assassin', and 'District 9'

This week the Breakdown has two reviews for 2016 releases as we look at Denis Villeneuve's entry into sci-fi, Arrival and Kevin James latest comedy, True Memoirs of an International Assassin. We also open up the vault and have an in-depth spoiler filled analysis of the sci-fi movie and 2009 Best Picture nominee, District 9. We also go on a slew of tangents that include birthdays, Donald Trump, and rude movie goers. As always if you enjoy the show then spread the love to other movie fans.

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.

Rating Rundown:

Arrival **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
True Memoirs of an International Assassin ** (CS & SM)
District 9 ***½ (CS) & **** (SM)

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Today Needs a Large Dose of Cuteness

I've already stated my heartbreak over last night's results. I read something this morning that lifted my spirits a bit, which is that the election does not stop how I decide to live and more importantly, change my love for friends and family. So, as a pick me up here are some pictures over the years of my life and loves.


Don't underestimate anger. Definitely don't ignore those who capitalize on that anger and hate and bitterness. Every media outlet was shocked when Rob Ford was elected mayor but there was a restless and hurting population that saw the opportunity for drastic overhaul. It seemed everyone outside of Toronto were scratching their heads and in shock; sort of like the same feeling many are experiencing right now. Ford was elected because there was enough that needed their voice heard and they needed to see change and they needed to feel like they had power again.

When there is a significant population that feels forgotten or beaten or neglected or hurt it has been shown in history that is when the shocking new power rises. It usually isn't the sane choice or the right choice or even the choice that fixes the problems, but it demonstrates a population that is hurting and desperate. Many angry Americans have elected a misogynist, a bigot, a racist, and a con man as the ruler of the free world. It is hard to shake feelings that the worst president in history has just been elected. It is hard to shake feelings that we are in for some toxic and poisonous times. But just like everything else in life, we have to wait and see how this will all really turn out.  Even more importantly, we need to cling on to hope.

This election proves a lot of things. It prove Hillary Clinton's campaign was over confident and underestimating the tide in America. They weren't aware the damage done by those emails or how much Trump was able to dig his thumb into the wounds of America to stir up rage. The biggest thing this proves is that America is more damaged and more divided than most believed. This also means that this revelation opens the chance for American to try to come together and start the healing. I have no confidence the new president has any ability or interest in doing this, but maybe Americans can rise above the person they put in charge.

I've got a lot of negativity, confusion and nausea swirling around my body. All I can do is cling to hope that that these next four years won't be the apocalypse being predicted on all social media.  Maybe Trump will wake up realizing he is unfit for his position and ensure his charade continues by hiring personnel and aligning himself with smart and decent people. He can at least give himself a competent speechwriter and listen to advice of those that actually care about their country. Hopefully, his advisors notify him that this isn't a reality TV show or a publicity stunt. He is more than the leader of the angry white males who haven't connected to the fact the world and their country is progressing and changing. He is going to be president and I sure hope he figures that out soon and acts like one.

I have been trying real hard to not reference Adolf Hitler. There are enough memes scattered throughout the internet making that point. Trump has been vile, despicable, and sickening for the majority of his campaign and I am still waiting for the point he proves to even be mildly competent. But he is also now going to be president so the only thing that can be done is wait and really hope he shocks us again. Right now it feels like one of the worst things that has ever happened to America yet its own people chose this. Maybe this narrative still has a few twists and something wonderful can rise out of the wreckage.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Breakdown of "Trolls", "Doctor Strange", "Hacksaw Ridge", "The Ivory Game" and "MASH"

The Breakdown has reviews for four new releases including the latest Marvel spectacle Doctor Strange and the latest animated feature, Trolls. As well we have an in-depth analysis of the Robert Altman black satire, MASH. As always if you love the show then spread the word to other movie fans.

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.

Rating Rundown:

Trolls *** (CS)
Doctor Strange ***½ (CS & SM)
Hacksaw Ridge *** (CS)
The Ivory Game *** (CS & SM)

Thursday, November 03, 2016

108 Years

The longest running gag in all of sports is no longer relevant. One of the jokes that has showed up in time travel or other science fiction stories can no longer be used without feeling dated. The 108 year curse was shattered in one of the best and most twist-filled World Series Game 7 10 inning baseball battles ever. The Chicago Cubs are finally world series champions, which is a thing that no one currently alive has seen or the very least no person would have first hand memory about it. This also means that now the Cleveland Indians not only have to lick their wounds after blowing a three games to one lead but they now are bestowed as the team in the Major Leagues with the longest championship drought. But they also get to be part of one of the most iconic games I've ever seen and the reason that I'm going to be accidentally spreading yogurt on Everett's sandwich. It was worth staying up, though of course, I'd rather Blue Jays be in this thrilling win. Once they went to the golf courses, I knew I'd be rooting for the Chicago Cubs to finally win that elusive championship. For the last two decades Cub fans got to see Boston Red Sox, San Fransisco Giants, and even their neighbours the Chicago White Sox end several decade long droughts. Now, it is their time. History has been made and now science fictions writers will need to find a new sports joke to slip into their prose.