Monday, January 30, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Hidden Figures', 'Resident Evil: The Final Chapter', 'iBoy', and Remembering Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt

The awards seasons is upon us and the Breakdown is on top of it with a review of Best Picture nominee Hidden Figures, and we also analyze the recent Oscar nominations. As well, we talk about two great actors that we just lost in Mary Tyler Moore and John Hurt. It is another loaded up show, and if you love it, then please 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.

Review Rundown:

Hidden Figures ***½ (CS)
iBoy ** (CS & SM)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter *½ (CS)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Some Reviews Can Be a Nightmare

If you remember way back to the summer of 2016, Scott and I had a box office contest where the winner got to choose three movies that the non-winner had to watch and write a review. Scott already fulfilled one of the three movies with his review of Sex and the City 2. For over a month, Scott has seen Smurfs 2 as he had been ordered, but that pesky review had escaped his grasps. Well, it seems the lack of review has haunted him to his very core and started mocking him in his dream. So, naturally Scott decided it made the most sense to write a review of that dream about writing a review for Smurfs 2. For the record, I consider this a fulfillment of the second part of the agreement. Now, we just have Superfast to look forward to reading about.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Split', 'XXX: Return of Xander Cage' and 'Take the 10'

It is a jam-packed episode of the Breakdown with reviews for three new releases including M. Night Shyamalan's latest thriller, Split and Vin Diesel's return to a franchise he abandoned in XXX: Return of Xander Cage. We also go deep into our thoughts of the new president, and discuss how Donald Trump's presidency will impact filmmaking over the next four years. As well, we look at the reputation of January being the month for awful movies and debate if it is a fair perception. As always if you love the show then please 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.

Breakdown Outline:

Take the 10 4:05
XXX: Return of Xander Cage  24:08
Split 44:23
Filmmaking in the Trump Era 1:06:13
Truth About January Movies 1:29:16
Review Rundown 1:39:47

Rating Rundown:

Take the 10  *½ (CS) & * (SM)
XXX: Return of Xander Cage ** (CS)
Split *** (CS)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

'Before I Fall" Hopes to be Part of New Teenage Movie Craze

Before I Fall
looks like Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls, except without any of that pesky humour. It is based off Lauren Oliver's bestseller about a popular girl who has to relive the day of her death for one week and starts to learn about how her actions effected those around her. I haven't read the novel, but my impression is that it incorporates spiritual elements along with the war of being a 17 year female dealing with teen angst and trying to survive the social order of high school. These type of coming-of-age battling the social order pictures have had a bit of a resurgence over the last few years with movies like The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Edge of Seventeen, The Duff, and a few others. Many of them are YA adaptations, which shows there has been attempt to move away from the dystopian actioners of Hunger Games and Divergent towards more grounded and personal stories. Most of them aren't destined to be big box office juggernauts, but could have some strong niche appeal especially among teen girls, but more importantly, diversity in the stories told is always a positive. I've always had a soft spot for the teenager surviving high school movie, though the genre's peak is still the mid-80s with John Hughes. But Edge of Seventeen proved it can still be done really well, though I'm less optimistic with this one.

Obamacare Haters May Be in for a Shock

Jimmy Kimmel recently did one of his "talk to the average American" type segments, which was used to expose that there is a portion of the population that is oblivious to the fact that Obamacare is the Affordable Care Act. This isn't me playing high and mighty Canadian poking fun at the ignorant American, because I'm pretty positive majority of Canadians weren't aware there was no difference. Instead, I think this video shows how effective the GOP was at getting right wingers and FOX News gobblers to irrationally hate anything connected with President Barack Obama. It reminds me of a comment by a Trump voter who was excited for the impending change but was really hopeful (and confident) she wouldn't lose her healthcare. She and likely a huge part of the pro-Trump clan are going to be blindsided when Donald Trump does what he promised in dismantling the Affordable Care Act (though he was careful to always refer to it as Obamacare). Obama did a lot of great things for the United States and it is unfortunate that a poison seeped into certain groups where they were blinded to what he has done and have irrationally decided that all his work must be burned down even though for most it will be to their detriment.

I don't find this video funny at all, as instead it shows why we are now in one big mess.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

You Decide Some Future Blog Content

At the end of last year, I was contemplating starting a monthly article where I spotlight all the major studio movies that will be released in the upcoming month. I would bestow my top pick for each week and give out some quick thoughts for the other movies. Since my blog leans heavy on movie writing, I thought it could be a helpful piece for movie fans and for those that trust me, get an idea of what may be worth checking out and why. But then I started fearing that it was less a worthwhile piece and more just free advertising for the movie studios. To be honest, they get that from almost every other movie news site so I didn't need to add to the problem.

But then I started thinking that even if I may have some reservations, it may be a feature that some people would be interested in reading. I definitely know that I am more aware of what is coming out each month than most casual fans. My insight may help elevate some movies that aren't getting as much advertising, and my goal would to be honest and also entertaining. But of course, on the other side, I am doing that same thing with movie reviews and in that case, I can really champion a movie since I'd have actually seen it.

Anyway, I'm going to leave this one to you, my dear readers, and let me know in the comments if you would read and enjoy monthly previews of the upcoming movies.

My other idea that I've played around with is doing a daily "movie news round-up" where I have a collection of quick thoughts on the major news of that day be it trailers, casting announcements, movies greenlit, or major gossip. Now, for the really big news, I would probably still try to do a "hot off the presses" stand alone piece during the day, but this weekly piece would be a catch-up for everything else that I would post in the evening and allow me to share my thoughts on stuff that still triggered something in me. This would also help prep things for when/if I make an official shift to the full-on movie site.

My biggest concern with this one is knowing my writing tendencies that trying to share my thoughts on four or five pieces of news will mean I'm composing this massive several thousand word opus. It is better to reserve my energy for the stuff I am really passionate for and write more focused pieces. Again, if there is a strong interest in something like this, then I will still give it a shot.

Now, my final bit of comment baiting is more broad, in just trying to figure out what people actually want to read on here. Do you prefer more personal life stories and my experiences as a parent? More stuff on my writing journey along with the occasional sample pieces of fiction? Continue a strong focus on movie news and reviews? Or would you prefer I started doing more TV reviews? Or would my readers prefer a return to when I had more opinion pieces on major news events?

I do think I am going to try to be more diverse and experimental in my writing over the next few weeks and try to gauge what stuff draws the biggest audience (my Trump piece was huge, as was my small piece on the Cubs). I also really want to try that weekly serialized fiction that I alluded to at the start of the year, but I still need to choose a story and would like a few chapters in the can before I start posting.

Anyway, I am really excited about getting this blog rolling again. I look forward to what 2017 will bring. I look forward to your feedback and seeing what you, my dear readers, would love to see and what you have enjoyed in the past. Thanks in advance for the help.

High Hopes for 2017 in Movies

January right now is off to a 50% hit rate for theatrical movies that I'd recommend. Though like most Januarys where I am reviewing movies in a city not called Toronto, New York or Los Angeles, three of the four movies that I've seen this year are technically from last year, because they got limited screening in those three big cities for award consideration purposes at the end of 2016. Is a movie really a 2016 movie if most of the world will see it in 2017? It seems unfair that a marvelous cinematic masterpiece like La La Land can't be on my best of the year list, just because studios decided to hold off on it going wide until the calendars change.

That is how the game is played, and I know for the Breakdown of the Best of the Year, Scott and I only include movies that are officially released in that chosen year. Though it all seems arbitrary considering there will be some officially mandated 2017 movies that were already screened at festivals in 2016 (but due to not being eligible for Oscar considerations seems to be enough to allow them to be deemed 2017).

Semantics aside, La La Land will likely stand strong as one of the best movies I'll see at the cinemas in 2017. It is a tale of heartbreak uplifted by majestic set pieces and dance numbers that show that optimism and hope can reign in many circumstances. It takes a really ambitious and amazing director like Damien Chazelle to try and succeed at a homage to 1940s and 1950s big musicals that feels authentic yet sets it in modern times with deep dramatic performances. A lot of the credit goes to top caliber performances from Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, as well.

Patriots Day was a masterfully crafted based on a true story thriller that used explosions and action to nail you with an emotional punch where you can feel the pain of that tragic day rather than thrill. It was a top-shelf surprise from Peter Berg, who seems to be the type of director that I never get too excited about but always delivers.

Even the two misses this month weren't complete disasters or at least, not what one is led to believe you're expected to shovel up in January (though January as a dumping ground for studio's trash is something Scott and I will debate this coming weekend on the Breakdown).

Live by Night is a gorgeous to look at and well-directed Prohibition Era gangster picture, but is a disappointment due to the fact Ben Affleck's previous directorial efforts (Argo, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone) are fantastic movies that belong near the top of best of the year lists. I've been a huge fan of his work, and his latest struggled to find a proper tone and at times failed due to reminding us of much better gangster movies. I actually enjoyed most of the movie even though the ending soured things a bit, but it was more a case of me expecting greatness for director Affleck rather than just fine.

Underworld: Blood Wars on the other hand will never be mistaken for a good movie, but I found it more entertaining than a large amount of the big studio tentpoles that I had to sit through last summer. The movie took some chances and wasn't afraid to be in your face; how many other big studio movies have a scene where the female baddie gets her slab-of-meat underling to slide his head under her dress and pleasure her? The movie did end up being more a collection of crazy scenes rather than something coherent, and its schlocky entertainment was betrayed by really flat acting. But it sure was way better than last year's The Boy or The 5th Wave.

We're off to what I'd say is a good start to the year. We are now entering a weekend that is the first one to really be loaded up with 2017 flicks with the two big ones being XXX: Return of Xander Cage and Split. Both of those could represent the quintessential January movie, but in a good way.

XXX is part of a franchise, but one that never really claimed to be a powerhouse or ready to launch an empire. It is goofy and doesn't take itself too seriously, and the quirky type of action picture that does better during a time when the box office isn't too competitive and studios are more comfortable taking a small risk. It hasn't been screened for critics yet, and it could turn out to be just as numbing as big budget slogs like Transformers: Age of Extinction or Warcraft, but there is something refreshing about a movie that doesn't shy away from being goofy.

Split is a horror picture, and you always need one or two of those in January. We had already got Bye Bye Man, but that didn't screen near me and every review points to that being a movie best not ever mentioned again (though I'm sure I'll torture myself with it on Netflix). Split is also M. Night Shyamalan's follow-up to The Visit, which was a return to form for him and proof that he probably should have stuck with low-budget character driven thrillers after the great The Sixth Sense. The early reviews are making it look like he is a director worth getting excited about again and that is enough to look forward to this weekend.

You can't judge a year by its first months. I hold up 2014 and 2015 as great movie years, but they respectively rung in the year with Devil's Due and Woman in Black: Angel of Death. But not only am I still soaring high with hope after two weekends, but this year is jammed with movies that I am highly anticipating. The most anticipated list I revealed on the Breakdown is one that I'm more confident will produce greatness that any similar list that I did in past years. It left out exciting movies like John Wick: Chapter Two, A Cure for Wellness, Get Out, Logan, Beauty and the Beast, Life, The Circle, Dunkirk, The Dark Tower, It, and  God Particle. Who knows what other movies will become more known after Sundance? This is the most excited I've been for a movie year in a while, and I can't wait to write reviews and discuss stuff on the podcast.

Based off how things will look politically and in world news, this is a year more than ever that we need the movies to bring the goods.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Breakdown of 'Live by Night', 'Clinical', and 'Patriots Day'

The Breakdown has three movie reviews this week including two Oscar hopefuls in Ben Affleck's latest directorial effort, Live by Night, and Peter Berg thriller based on the Boston Marathon Bombing, Patriots Day. After that, we look at the Golden Globes and analyze what this means for potential Oscar winners. We also discuss the recent passing of author/screenwriter/director William Peter Blatty. As always, if you enjoy the show then please let other movie lovers know about the show.

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.

Breakdown Outline: (things seemed properly synced this week so going to try this again):

Live By Night 1:27
Clinical 24:35
Patriots Day 39:25
Analyzing Golden Globes 55:55
Remembering William Peter Blatty 1:15:34
Rating Rundown 1:25:02

Ratings Rundown:

Live by Night **½ (CS)
Clinical * (CS) & *½ (SM)
Patriots Day ***½ (CS)

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Remembering William Peter Blatty and How He Shaped Supernatural Horror

William Peter Blatty started his career as a writer of comedies including some novels and as well screenplays for movies like the Pink Panther sequel A Shot in the Dark and the Zero Mostel vehicle The Great Bank Robbery, but his legacy was the 1971 bestselling novel The Exorcist that two years later was adapted into the iconic horror movie (which he also wrote the screenplay). After The Exorcist, his cinematic contributions were sequels to his hit but he also wrote several novels that mostly were in the horror genre (more specifically, about spiritually both light and dark).

It makes me curious about if Blatty started in comedy because he thought that was an easy entrance but always wanted to explore Catholicism, the dark side of religion, and horror or if the massive success of The Exorcist dictated what he wrote afterwards. Or maybe it was neither, he just followed his muse that happened to darken after that fateful moment where he read an article about a demonic possession that he claims influenced his huge bestseller (number one on the New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks and sold over 13 million copies).

The Exorcist is not only considered one of the greatest horror movies of all time but also one that makes many all-time great movies lists for any genre. It is one of the few real horror movies to be nominated for best picture, but it is also one of the most influential pieces of horror fiction ever. It probably wasn't the first story about a Catholic priest who struggled with his faith but then through dark circumstances is forced to embrace his beliefs again, but any time you see that type of character, it is impossible to not think about Father Damien Karras. It definitely wasn't the first about demons and the devil, as the very popular and successful Rosemary's Baby has already been a bestselling novel and hit movie, but along with that movie, it created the tropes and recurring story aspects of the supernatural horror genre. The Exorcist also has many iconic scenes like the head that fully spins around or the sinister voice coming from a young girls that have either been parodied or "borrowed" from countless movies. It is a movie embedded deep into our culture.

Blatty crafted the novel and adapted it into film at exactly the perfect time. The 1970s was obsessed with the occult and fearful of things like Satanism and demonic possessions. There are several cases over that decade about homes that were haunted and people being terrorized by ghosts or demons. There were also those who made a living fighting those poltergeists or nasty demons. The Exorcist explored something that people were fascinated about but also terrified because many felt it was real. Horror has its greatest strength when it makes us believe and connect with us on an emotional level.

Just looking at the type of modern horror movies that are big hits proves the enduring influence of The Exorcist. The majority of mainstream horror in the past decade has been supernatural hauntings or possessions of children. After all this time, people are still fascinated with the darkness of the other realm and how it will affect our world.

The Exorcist was about a 12 year old girl being possessed and how that shook her mother and changed how a priest saw his faith. Since that movie, an innocent child being taken over by something evil has become a horror staple. And if it isn't possession, then there is still a young child threatened by an evil spirit or being influenced by the evil. Just to name a few movies, there is Poltergeist, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Insidious, Sinister, Paranormal Activity series, The Conjuring, The Others, The Sixth Sense, The Babadook, and The Ring, One of the scariest things for a parent is that inability to protect your child, and it was something that The Exorcist tapped into and then many writers continued to exploit after.

Blatty never claimed The Exorcist to be based on a true story account, but he did stick to the idea it was heavily influence by a real life exorcism that he had read about. Of course, this added a new level of fright for the readers and viewers as there was this insinuation that all this could happen. This was not some complete work of fiction but grounded in truth.  Even though Rosemary's Baby came before it, it never claimed to be dipped into truth. The Exorcist's success led most writers and filmmakers to add another whole layer of terror by claiming their story was based on facts.

Now, it seems like 90% of supernatural horror is "based on true events." I'm not sure if anyone even believes that anymore or at least. I hope most realize things like The Conjuring are based on proven hoaxes and frauds A horror movie claiming we are about to witness something real has become pretty standard but  still has an unnerving element, as it threatens that it can happen to us. It really can't, but for two hours we suspend that part of our brain and allow possessions to take us over.

Blatty has passed away but he has a legacy. A legacy that will last with the horror genre always having his fingerprints all over it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Minor Set Back

By the time 2017 trots out the door and 2018 tags in, I hope that this blog will have at least 365 posts, and that will be enough for me to feel like I have reached my goal of posting something on here every single day of this year. Because if anyone who was pumped for my New Year's Resolution and came on here expecting something every day, they'd have been bummed from Wednesday until today. I was even hitting a pretty good clip those first few days of 2017 with often posting more than one thing in a single day. I actually had a decent amount of stuff planned for the remainder of that week with an article I got halfway done consisting of the 30 movies I was most anticipating, plans for reviews on The Good Place, Underworld: Blood Wars, La La Land, Coin Heist and Growing Up Coy.

Then I just smacked hard against an emotional wall where things like my son's upcoming birthday party and going out in the public seems like unbearable propositions. I felt burnt out and overwhelmed, and I used most of my reserves to spend time with my family and get pay copy done. But most things just seemed like Everest and I suddenly noticed my climbing gear was made by Fisher Price, so I crashed. When I feel defeated those voices of negativity that harp on my inadequacies are at their loudest and strongest.

I podcasted Sunday night and preparing for that seemed to be a nice kick start back on the productivity train. Unfortunately, my Monday turned out to be a whirlwind and I got the recording for this week's podcast late, so I couldn't get to it until late in the day. Then as it happens once and awhile, the upload decided to be pest and it wasn't able to get embedded until this morning (it literally wasn't able to upload until this morning).

So, the podcast is finally up. I now have to decide if I am going to post my very late and still unfinished anticipated list and still try to get the reviews done. At this point, I think it is best to give it an effort, because then my goal of reviewing as much as I can this year can be off to a rocking start (even if it is delayed). If I fail, it should be more an issue of too much other things to write rather than that nasty wall propping up again.

My goal is to remain honest this year. If I am willing to open up about my emotional state on here then hopefully it will give me the confidence to write even when I'm lost in the muck. On top of that, maybe I'll be more willing to write quick and to the point pieces just for the sake of keeping stuff going rather than listening to the "it isn't good enough" voice that tends to put me into several weeks hiding.

More to come, Promise.

The Breakdown of 'La La Land', 'Underworld: Blood Wars', 'Coin Heist', 'Growing Up Coy' and Most Anticipated of 2017.

The Breakdown offers up reviews of the first two Netflix originals of the year in teen drama, Coin Heist and the documentary, Growing up Coy. Plus we go all the way back to 2016, as review heavy early Best Picture favourite, La La Land. Is all the the hype for Damien Chazelle's musical justified? Plus Scott and I look ahead with our lists of the most anticipated movies of 2017. As always if you love the show then please 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:

Coin Heist ** (CS & SM)
La La Land **** (CS)
Growing Up Coy *** (CS & SM)
Underworld: Blood Wars ** (CS)

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Breakdown Needs More Woody Allen According to Stats

I was glancing over at the different stats packages that show the amount of listeners for each specific The Breakdown episodes, so that I could get an idea of what is popular and what type of content that I should plan to provide in future shows.  I came across a few interesting things. For all time downloaded/listened episodes, The Spoiler Room of The Force Awakens is far and above the most listened to show, so Scott and I definitely dropped the ball not doing something similar with Rogue One this year. After that it is most of our year end shows (Best of and Worst of shows) that own a strong all-time second place, then the original The Force Awakens review show and some of the other big hit movies like Zootopia, Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and most Marvel movies owning high spots. Besides the year end list shows, the most popular non-review shows are the Oscar predictions and our spotlight of rising stars shows.

What is kind of interesting is that all those shows rank really high for the most recently listened/downloaded shows too. As for other most listened to shows for the week, the recently recorded shows rank the highest, which isn't that surprising (besides the new year end shows, Bridesmaids, Moana, and Arrival shows being the highest for this week).

I was initially really surprised to see The Boy podcast another highly listened to show this week, because it wasn't a very good movie and surprised anyone would remember it. Then closer inspection shows we also paid tribute to David Bowie that episode and that probably has more to do with its staying power. Less surprising but shows the value in Scott and I revisiting classic movies is that the Die Hard, Nightmare on Elm Street and Blade Runner shows also ranked high this week (and I assume most weeks).

The most baffling show that has wooed a huge amount of ears this week is the podcast where we review Blue Jasmine, You're Next, Dear Zachary, and Moon. Most of them are good movies, but the podcast was recorded back in the fall of 2013 and not really the older show I'd have predicted would attract hundreds of listeners this specific week. It isn't like Blue Jasmine is one of the most remembered of Woody Allen's movies (though it was a Best Picture nominee). There is some fans of You're Next, but I would have assumed interest in it would have been around when Blair Witch (also directed by Adam Wingard) was released. Moon is a definite cult classic, but we've reviewed other similarly beloved movies that aren't as popular this first week of January.

At first, I started thinking I was missing some big piece of news that drew people to a move directed by Woody Allen or Duncan Jones. I'm thinking it is something less significant than that. It probably is just a case that this is the podcast that has four movies that would appeal to the type of movie fans that like to listen to movie review podcasts. The casual fans will listen to the show when there is a big movie they want to find out about (reason why Batman v. Superman podcast was huge when it came out but insignificant now), but the more hardcore fan is more interested in the cult hits or getting insight on older movies from directors or actors they respect.

I always find it fascinating what shows turn out to be hits or have surprising staying power. I have learned that it is really hard to predict what will attract a big audience. It has reminded me that I just need to just keep trying to make high quality shows and the type of podcast that I would want to listen to each week.

WWE Monday Night Raw Review: WWE Has a Star Making Problem

While watching WWE Monday Night Raw's first episode of the year, it became clear that despite still considering myself a wrestling fan that there is a reason I only watch an episode a few times a year and when I do, I make heavy use of the fast forward button on my trusty PVR. It was a decent show, but it couldn't escape the feel of staleness or that its wheels are spinning in thick mud.

The set has had some alterations, there are new wrestlers, and the matches are much longer but the format and feel of the show is still stuck in how Raw was presented during the late 90s. Mick Foley is always a treat to see, and the team of Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho is immensely entertaining together, but the 20 minute opening talkfest between them had no reason other than it is what they've done for the last (almost) 20 years to set up the matches for the show. In this case it set matches up  that we've seen in some combinations for months upon months, so as good as Kevin Owens is against Seth Rollins it is hard to get too excited when it feel like match number 98 in a thousand match series.

Chris Jericho challenging Roman Reigns for the United States title had a bit more drama with the stip that the title could change even by disqualification or count out, and there was some fun sequences to play up on that like Jericho trying to trick the ref into thinking Roman hit him with the belt. But Jericho tomfoolery can only take you so far when you know the rocket is strapped to Roman and WWE is obsessed with him being the future of the company, so there was no way he was losing tonight.

The other problem is that almost nobody on the show really feels like superstars. This is why when wrestlers from the hottest period in the industry's history (but also one that is 20 years ago) return to ovations that drown any of the current stars that they always feel like they're in their very own league. Goldberg was one of the biggest stars in the last 90s but the fact he is without a doubt the hottest current act on the show, proves WWE has struggled at the star making formula.

I am not really sure how hot the Goldberg comet will remain anyway if he doesn't really start doing anything other than coming out for an interview segment and occasionally spearing a heel. The current story is Goldberg wants one more run as World champion and needs to win the Rumble for that shot, I am pretty sure my 20 month old daughter who has never watched wrestling has even figured out that the Rumble is just a set-up for a Goldberg and Brock Lesnar rematch. This makes all his appearances just feel like placeholder until we get to the Rumble and can start the real build towards the big WrestleMania match. Goldberg needs to eventually actually do something or be involved in an intriguing story for his appearances to mean something. I am sure at some point in March will finally get Goldberg and Lesnar scuffling on Raw again.

Kevin Owens and Chris Jericho are a hot act, and I like them as top heels, but it seems pretty likely they will be split for a WrestleMania match and Owens' title run will be done at the Rumble. Seth Rollins is really talented but as is the new WWE way, their booking of him over this year has taken him from a guy who returned as a super-hot babyface to now being really cooled off. Roman Reigns is the guys shoved down the throats, seems set for his latest coronation at the Rumble, but the fans are still not buying as a top star. The guy does work hard and had the best match of the night, but I see another championship flop in his future.

Speaking of cooling off, Bayley and Sami Zayn both debuted as way hotter acts then they are now after appearing on TV each week due to how they're been mishandled. New Day was set to be the next Edge and Christian, but not only have they started to become irritating, they're now stuck in pointless time filler stuff like rejecting Titus O'Neill from becoming a new member. O'Neill may have charisma but you never want to see him in the ring and being paired with him is like being strapped to an anchor.

I still am a really big fan of Bayley and Zayn, and both are extremely talented. Zayn put on a one man show last night where he flew himself all over the arena making Braun Strowman appear to be an unbeatable monster in their last man standing match. Sadly, I get the feeling Zayn is now getting relegated to the midcard now and we can look forward to an endless series of matches between him and Bo Dallas. It is pretty clear Zayn was the guy fans wanted to see in major matches but WWE is stuck in the 1980s with the idea they need a massive monster heel to challenge their top babyface. Even though Zayn made Strowman look good last night, Strowman really isn't ready for the main event and in 2016 fans care more about wrestling quality than appearance. Strowman seems destined to be the next Great Khali rather than Andre the Giant.

This show seems to give credence to rumours of Reigns vs. Strowman being a WrestleMania title match, which means we are set for the two to stumble around to a dead silent stadium crowd. They have time to change their mind, but they've been on the Reigns train for over two years now and spent the last year building up Strowman to quiet crowds. They've been dodging the memo this long and are too stubborn to try something else. I get their thinking here that Strowman is hated so Reigns will finally get cheered, but they are ignoring fans ability to leave to buy nachos.

Speaking of dead silence, WWE's cruiserweight division has been a flop at this point with crowds just not caring. Part of the problem is they have selected cruiserweights that do the same stuff that the heavyweights do and the other part is just not enough time has been given for fans to know their personalities. This is why the heel Adrian Neville is their top babyface in the eyes of the fans. I do appreciate they haven't given up on the division and I want it to work. I do like that they keep the guys away from the heavyweights, and they try to convey that this is an entirely separate division in the company (different ring ropes, mandatory handshake before match). They just need to allow the personalities to shine and get some compelling storylines. There are apparently some hot international stars that are yet to debut, and so hopefully they can add a spark to the division.

The WWE's women division is the opposite of the cruiserweights with every wrestler having a distinct personality and the division has gained a lot of legitimacy and soared past the days of bra and panties matches. Bayley and Charlotte is a big title match that fans want to see, and often the women's matches are the highlights of the show. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks is easily the best series of matches I've seen last year and despite wrestling several times, I never got tired of them. Though tonight the division got dragged down by WWE's shoddy booking where they are currently obsessed with "protecting" people by having distraction finishes in almost every match. The Bayley and Nia Jax match was a great littler fighter needing to overcome the monster story, but Sasha Banks coming out to distract Jax just made it yet another tired WWE match. Distraction finishes are fine if they aren't used several times on the same show and become something we expect to see every week. On tonight's show, five matches used the distraction finish. In the case of the women's match, it also did not really help Bayley as a top challenger if she can't win on her own.

The over-use of distraction finishes is one of the many issues that have caused wins to not matter, and without wins meaning something, the matches don't have much purpose or reason for fans to care. The other big issue is the WWE obsession with trading wins where a wrestlers wins one week and then takes the loss the next week. It is why Zayn or Cesaro aren't superstars when they should be, they never escape fifty fifty booking.

Speaking of Cesaro, he had a really good match with Karl Anderson and was given a lot of time. I am glad he is one half of the World Tag Team champions, and hope this may mean they are finally going to try to elevate him this year. WWE needs fresh guys on top and Cesaro gets cheers despite being misused for years and now that he is a champ again. It is the time to start working on making him a star again.

Next week has Shawn Michaels and Undertake appearing, and which again shows WWE's problem, Current stars aren't draws so they have to keep on trotting out past ones. It probably will work and I'll give WWE another shot next week. It may be too much to hope that either guy actually has something to do and will have an actual interesting storyline. Though there is talks of Undertaker vs. John Cena at WrestleMania, so we may get some hints there next week. Michaels likely will be stuck in "hilarious" skits.

Seth Rollins beat Kevin Owens by DQ when Owens hit Rollins with the ring bell
Karl Anderson defeated Cesaro with a top tope leaping neckbreaker
Braun Strowman beat Sami Zayn in a last man standing match when Zayn couldn't answer the count of ten
Xavier Woods pinned Titus O'Neil with a sunset flip
Drew Gulak pinned Cedric Alexander with a roll-up
Roman Reigns defended the United States title by pinning Chris Jericho with a spear
TJ Perkins beat The Brian Kendrick by submission with a knee bar
Rusev and Jinder Mahal defeated Big Cass when Rusev pinned him after a thrust kick
Bayley pinned Nia Jax after a top tope Bayley to Belly

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Breakdown of the Best of 2016

I actually revealed my Top 20 Movies of 2016 on Saturday, so it may be easy for you to figure out my top ten on The Breakdown of the Best of 2016. But you don't know Scott's pick and we also had some fun discussion on each of our big picks. 2016 may not have been a great year overall for movies (or politics or celebrities or happy news), there were still some really great movies. Many of these great movies didn't do great at the box office, so this week we let you know of some of the amazing underseen movies that really deserve to be seen. Every movie on the list gets the big Breakdown Stamp of Approval and so you have a nice list of movies that you need to catch up on this month.

As always, we really appreciate you listening to the show every week. As a way to thank us for all the entertainment we hopefully provided you, please let other movie lovers know about the show so we can grow our audience and keep 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.

Christopher's Best of 2016:

10. The Jungle Book
9.  13th
8.  Deadpool
7.  The Witch
6.  Sing Street
5.  The Nice Guys
4.  Zootopia
3.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
2.  Kubo and the Two String
1.  Arrival

Scott's Best of 2016:

10. 7 Anos
9.   Eye in the Sky
8.   The Little Prince
7.   Arrival
6.   The Nice Guys
5.   Moana
4.   13th
3.   King Jack 
2.   Zootopia
1.   Victoria

The Breakdown of the Worst of the Year Plus Remembering Carrie Fisher

I know, I know, I said I wasn't going to dwell in the negatives of 2016 this time. This year just had so many stinkers that Scott and I felt it needed to be addressed. So, the return of the Breakdown is marked with both of us delivering our Top Ten Worst Movies of 2016. This is a year where I actually had to leave some movies out that I despised just because there were so many that left me with my head held down and my soul crushed to smithereens.

This was a year that really showed there is a major quality issue at the big budget movie level and the studios need to address their current franchise and sequel strategy. You can't continue a series if you don't have a good story and many of the movies on the list have that problem. Scott and I also analyze each movie to see where these pictures failed and hopefully, provide some lessons to avoid it being repeated for the future. The show definitely left me hoping for a much better 2017.

Speaking of bummers in 2016, Carrie Fisher passed away at the end of the year. She was an iconic figure who was a major celebrity for both Scott and my own childhood. We pay tribute to this amazing woman as well.

As always if you love the show then please pass the word on to other movie fans so that the podcast can grow and get even bigger in 2017. We always appreciate you taking the time to listen to the show.

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 Ten Worst of the Year:

10. Independence Day: Resurgence
9. Mojave
8. Rebirth
6. Estranged
5. The Boy
4. Punk's Dead: SLC Punk 2
3. The Veil
2. The Do-Over
1. Zoolander 2

Christopher's Top Ten Worst of the Year:

10. The Huntsman: Winter's War
9. Warcraft
8. The 5th Wave
7. Free State of Jones
6. Dirty Grandpa
5. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back
4. Zoolander 2
3. The Do-Over
2. Ben-Hur
1. Independence Day: Resurgence

Sunday, January 01, 2017

About that Breakdown Hiatus

After a three week absence of The Breakdown, it has been voted that a hiatus on top of that would be foolishness. So The Breakdown returns right in time for the new year, and it has been finished recording to ensure you get your movie talk goodness this week. Actually, it is a big double episode week as tomorrow we will have The Worst of the Year show and the Best of the Year show. It was a lot fun and it provides some nice insight into what 2016 was like for movies.

My Ten Writing Goals for 2017

I already declared my New Year's resolution for 2017, which is having at least one article up on the blog every day this year. My hope is to have it usually posted in the morning but the needs to write pay copy and look after adventurous daughter may mean it will often to be an evening post. It will likely take many forms such as a review, a long form think pieces on major news, an attempt at something funny, cute picture of my kids and dog, or a link to work that is published elsewhere (there will be a lot more of that this year). My hope is that this is the one stop shop for anything I write online and though there likely will be a major focus on movies, I still want to have pieces on parenting, news, politics, and some occasional fiction.

I have some big goals for my writing career in 2017. Now that the year has officially kicked off, I thought I'd reveal the ten things that I hope to accomplish as 2017 unfolds.

1. Spend more time with family and friends. Yes, I am aware nothing in that statement has anything to do with actual writing. But being successful at this will mean everything for having a rewarding writing career in 2017. My family is my lifeblood, and though I think I am a pretty decent father. I know I could have spent way more time with my family in 2016 and definitely been more proactive in planning events for us to do. As for friends, my wife bestows the curmudgeon label on me for a reason and I hope to get it permanently annexed from her vocabulary this year. But the reason that I have it as a writing goal is because getting the energy and giving the love to my family will pile on more happiness in my life and give me the motivation to continue hunting down the muse for daily word creation. Also the more adventures with family and friends leads to more inspiration for future stories and articles.

2. Connect with more writers. Once again, not actual writing but vital to my writing success. I already have arranged a meeting to talk to a multiple times published novelist, contacted a writer's group in my city about attending their meetings, and been enrolled (thanks to my lovely and patient wife) in a creative writing course. I hope to build relationships and be able to learn from other writers but also become a support for them as well. Community is a crucial ingredient for happiness and fulfillment, and it is very important to be able to spend time with those that share some similar passions and loves. I also want to be far more active on social media in interacting with various writers from novelist, movie writers, journalists, screenwriters, and various other writers. I have much to learn but even more, just need to grow my circle of friends and colleagues in order to help improve and grow my own writing. This is the year that I humble myself and realize I still have so much more to be learn about writing.

3. Complete a manuscript. I have three novels that currently rest on my laptop that are incomplete. Before 2018, I want to have all three completed and have been shopped around to publishers (and possibly before that agents). This month I will be picking one of the three, going through what I have written, and then deciding the direction to take to complete it and make it something I would want to read. The biggest challenge is that in all three manuscripts, I  have probably two or three potential novels in each one, so I need to cut out what isn't necessary for these specific novels completion, focus on the main story, finish these novels and then start crafting these new stories. The positive is that I not only have the potential for three completed novels this year but the start for several more. Or I end up realizing a few of these ideas aren't salvageable, but I will only know that from digging it in and getting them done.

4. Review every wide release movie. This is will be one of the hardest goal to accomplish this year and if it happens, won't come to fruition until much later into the year. It is also one that is in some ways out of my direct control in it being able to happen. At this point, I am reviewing at least one theatrical movie a week and during some really busy weeks two or three, but then there are a few stretches where the only new release is something on Netflix. In order to make sure I can review everything that comes through my local theatre, I need to substantially grow my movie review reading audience by several tens of thousands so that I can either monetize this site or use it as leverage to get a regular gig as a critic for a Collective Publishing-like site that is fine with reviews posted a little later than most critics. Or of course, getting credentials that allow me into press screenings so I can write reviews before the movie is released. The thing that I can control is write reviews for every 2017 movie that I see along with my regular podcast reviews.

5. Write a weekly column. I miss my pop culture column for Collective Publishing and my "Dad's Eye View" for Pregnancy & Newborn. I am currently actively looking to fill that void with a few different publications, because there is something exhilarating about having a weekly deadline where I need to come up with a fresh idea to explore on a specific topic. I would love for it to be movies or parenting again, but at this point, I just want my own paid column again.

6. Try out new forms of media. My other outlet for the last few years has been the weekly Breakdown podcast. It has been a great creative avenue to flex my other skills plus has given me a place to work on writing outlines, scripts, and planning out show ideas. We live in an age that there is more to writing than just an article or book. To continue expanding, I want to break into doing weekly videos and if my audience increases, I'd also like trying out some public speaking. The latter is probably a year or more away from being viable, but videos just need a video camera, which I have. At this point, I just need to sort out what type of videos that I want to make, because I am not sure if I need a third format to do movie reviews.

7. Write more fiction. Obviously, there are the must-be-completed novels that I will be working on during the first half of the year. I also have several short stories that I want to shop around to different outlets and enter into contests like the yearly one at the Toronto Star. I also want to start trying to write a short story a month that I can either add to an anthology or sell to different periodicals and magazines. I've also been playing with the idea of writhing a serialized story that I would post on a set day every week (I'm thinking Wednesday) that would continue for several months. The plan would be I'd offer up this free fictional series as a different way of building an audience and see if I can build up a fanbase for my other fiction writing. The biggest issue at this point is finding a story that I am willing to offer up for free and more importantly, would work properly in serialized form. Right now, I just want to get the blog back as a place where there is something new to read every day and once that is established, I'll get this serialized story started (ideally, it begins before January comes to an end, but I don't even have a story picked yet let alone written).

8. Journalism. I miss doing interviews with major figures or doing some investigative journalism. I did a little bit of it back in 2012 when I started for Collective Publishing, and it was a different kind of writing that offered a type of challenge than most other forms. It also forces me out of my comfort zone and allows for stories that have a significant importance for society and community. I would also really like to cover a major event this year like a film festival or sporting event. I'm currently pitching some ideas to newspapers that I've had relationships with in the past, and yes, print may not be what it was but it is still the best place for writing respectable news articles.

9. Diversify writing on blog. Movie reviews, thoughts on major movie news, and the adventures of parenting will likely be the dominate content on this site, but I really want to start returning to writing on a variety of topics and forms again. There is the plan for a weekly serialized fiction story that I mentioned, but I would also like to return to my random humour pieces that I did in the past like my Terrific Thursday Top Ten, Letter to Katie Holmes, Advice for Customer Service, interview with my teddy bear, Mary Christmas, and various others. I also just want to be a lot better at throwing up my gut reaction to major news pieces or just writing quick thoughts on pop culture that I consume. Movies are the only entertainment I plan to do weekly in-depth reviews, but I hope to still do some quick weekly thoughts on TV, sports, and books when there is something worth analyzing or discussing. It will also give me an idea if there is a larger readership for covering things like TV and if that is the direction I should move towards.

10. Take chances. I just need to keep on writing every day. Some days it will be heaping garbage and some days I hope I can connect with a few readers. I can't conjure up the magic if I just spend most days thinking about it. I want to write more and more things that scare me and force me to be honest. This challenge should help me stand out and force me to be a better writer.