Monday, January 29, 2018

The Breakdown of 'A Futile and Stupid Gesture', 'Maze Runner: The Death Cure', 'Den of Thieves', 'Blockbuster' and the Oscar Nominations

The Movie Breakdown has reviews for four 2018 movies this week. The big theatrical release is the latest YA post-apocalyptic actioner, Maze Runner: The Death Cure. We also have a review for an action film for adults in the bloody heist picture, Den of Thieves. Then we discuss two new Netflix originals with one being about the rise of the 1970s pop culture icon National Lampoon in A Stupid and Futile Gesture and then the French romantic comedy, Blockbuster. After the review, we look at the recently announced Oscar nominations and analyze the picks and snubs, and look at how this means a drastic change in Academy voting and opinion. As always if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie fans.

Reminder that 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.

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

1:08 A Futile and Stupid Gesture review
21:04 Maze Runner: The Death Cure review
36:08 Blockbuster review
48:07 Den of Thieves review
1:00:00 Stinger Reveals
1:02:15 Oscar Nomination Discussion
1:37:57 Rating Rundown

Star Ratings:

A Futile and Stupid Gesture ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Maze Runner: The Death Cure **½ (CS)
Blockbuster ** (CS) & *** (SM)
Den of Thieves **½ (CS)

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Breakdown of '12 Strong', 'Paddington 2', 'The Commuter', 'The Open House', and 'Step Sisters'

The Movie Breakdown has reviews for five 2018 releases, The big theatrical release this week is the war action-drama set in 2001 Afghanistan in 12 Strong. If that doesn't solve your explosion fix, we also discuss the latest Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson collaboration in the thriller on a train, The Commuter. All that gun firing and face punching may make you want something more uplifting, so we talk about the first big family movie of the year in Paddington 2. Then it is on to Netflix Originals where we look at the horror picture, The Open House, as well as the comedy about step dancing, Step Sisters. As always we really appreciate you listening to the show, and if you enjoy it then please tell other movie fans.

Reminder that 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.

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

 1:39 12 Strong review
20:02 The Open House review
27:18 Paddington 2 review
44:10 Step Sisters review
57:31 The Commuter review
1:10:54 Movies we are excited about in upcoming months
1:19:51 Review Rundown

Movie Ratings:

12 Strong *** (CS)
The Open House ½* (CS & SM)
Paddington 2 ***½ (CS)
Step Sisters **½ (CS) & *½ (SM)
The Commuter **½ (CS)

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Breakdown of 'Insidious: The Last Key', 'Molly's Game', 'The Polka King', 'The Climb', and 'Happy Hunting'

It is the first regular movie review episode of 2018. If it is a new year, then that means it must be kicked off with a horror movie. We have our review of the fourth instalment of a popular horror franchise in Insidious: The Last Key. We also have another fairly new release in Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, Molly's Game. Then we have two Netflix originals including a comedic biopic starring Jack Black in The Polka King and a French romantic comedy in The Climb. Then we discuss an independent thriller in Happy Hunting. We have five big reviews to kick off the new year, and even some solid recommendations. As always if you enjoy the show then please spread the word, and thank you so much for being a listener.

Reminder that 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.

The Move Breakdown Outline:

1:34 The Polka King review
16:08 Insidious: The Last Key review
32:15 The Climb review
49:28 Molly's Game review
1:05:40 Happy Hunting review
1:23:28 Review Rundown

Movie Ratings:

The Polka King ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Insidious: The Last Key **½ (CS)
The Climb *** (CS & SM) (Breakdown Stamp of Approval)
Molly's Game *** (CS)
Happy Hunting ** (CS) & **½ (SM)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Breakdown of the Fifth Anniversary

It was five years ago that a little podcast called The Movie Breakdown was posted on this blog. The movie review show has been going strong ever since (as long as you ignore all the hiatuses), and a lot of great movies have been released over those five years. To celebrate our anniversary, both Scott and I have revealed our top ten movies that have been released over the past five years. Our lists turned out very different, which means there are a lot of great movies for you to track down. We also want to thank you for listening to us over these past five years and look forward to many, many, many more.

Reminder that 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.

Top Ten Movies Released Over the Past Five Years:


10. Before Midnight
9. Django Unchained
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Blade Runner 2049
5. Arrival
4. Her
3. Inside Out
2. La La Land
1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens


10. The Way Way Back
9. Edge of Tomorrow
8. Get Out
7. The Lego Movie
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
5. The Babadook
4. The Revenant
3. The Nice Guys
2. Ex Machina
1. Mad Max: Fury Road

Monday, January 08, 2018

The Breakdown of the Best Movies of 2017

Last week, we revelled in the worst movies of 2017. But 2017 was actually a great year for movies, and it was one of the hardest years to just pick the ten best. That is exactly what must be done in The Breakdown of the Best of 2017, where both Scott and I reveal our individual top ten best movies of the year. We've both seen close to 200 movies released over the past year, so we can definitely pick out the must-see movies. It was a great year and these are some amazing movies. If you enjoy the show then please spread the word to other movie lovers.

Reminder that 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.

Top 10 Movies of 2017:


10. The Survivalist
9, It
8. The Big Sick
7. Logan
6. Baby Driver
5. Mudbound
4. My Life as a Zucchini
3. Get Out
2. Wind River
1. Dunkirk


10. Wind River
9. Coco
8. War for the Planet of the Apes
7. Logan
6. mother!
5. Get Out
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
3. It
2. The Big Sick
1. Blade Runner 2049

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Consulting Roger Ebert on Star Ratings Being Different Based on Genre Film

I mentioned yesterday that when it comes to reviewing that I do not judge all movies against each other. I have criteria and expectations depending the genre and style of movie, and to be honest, my expectations from particular filmmakers. When I gave two and a half stars to Blue Caprice then I wasn't saying that it was not as good as Sex Tapewhich I gave three stars. What I was saying is that in the low bar of raunchy R-Rated comedies that Sex Tape made a recommendation, but that Blue Caprice in the world of much more competitive dark dramas exploring killers it just did not measure up to similar movies. This philosophy is something that I borrow from Roger Ebert, and he explains it well during a rant on this Siskel & Ebert episodes where he tries defending why he gave thumbs up to Benji the Hunted and not Full Metal Jacket.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Follow-up to My Star Rating Post

A few days ago, I wrote a piece on what each of my star ratings for a movies means. While I think it was accurate to how I feel about a movie when I award a particular rating, I missed out a huge part of how I rate movies. My star rating are not judged in a way where four stars means the perfect movie. I don't think any movie can be really perfect. Nor do I think all four star movies are equal. The crucial part of understanding my star rating is to recognize that I am analyzing it based off its genre and how effective the movie was at achieving its goals with connecting to the audience (does a comedy make me laugh and does a horror movie scare me). I gave four stars to both Big Trouble in Little China and Taxi Driver. Does this mean that I think the campy Kurt Russell actioner is just as good as one of Martin Scorsese's masterpieces?

No, because I'm not comparing them against each other. They are totally different movies trying to elicit completely different responses and emotions. One is an over the top homage to late night b-movies and 1970s kung-u pictures that is heavily leaning on humour and does not take itself seriously. The other is a gritty, dark drama about a very disturbed individual with heavy political examinations of the 1970s while also being almost a redemptive story mixed with tragedy. One is a very goofy popcorn muncher and the other is a prestige picture.

It isn't fair to compare those two movies. Same reason it isn't fair to compare 12 Years a Slave to The Big Sick or Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets to Dunkirk. So, I don't. I go into those movies with different expectations and they all hit me in different ways.

If it connects to me in that special way, no matter if it is a horror or a romantic comedy or a family movie or a prestige drama, then it receives a higher star rating. I never have tried making a case that all four star movies are equal. I think that is an important thing to recognize when looking at my star ratings for a particular movie. It is all about being successful at achieving its goals and what is desired from that genre. Of course, the really great movies break the mold of the genre and achieve greatness by entertaining but doing something revolutionary and fresh.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Questions to Make 'The Movie Breakdown' Podcast Better

The Movie Breakdown is old enough now to be registered for Kindergarten in the fall. It seems like a good enough time to see if the movie review podcast has been delivering what the listeners want.

I sort of asked this a few weeks ago, but I got no response so I'll try it again. What is the ideal length for the podcast? Do you like an hour long show? Do you prefer when we run closer to 90 minutes? Or would you want us to beef it up to two hours plus?

Our mid-year and year end shows run over two hours, and that probably will never change. For sake of my own time, I think I prefer recording an hour to 90 minutes show depending the importance of movies we are discussing. But as a listener, do you feel our shows could be tighter, or go even more in-depth or is the length and pace perfect now?

As for content, do you like having five movie reviews a show? Or do you feel that four is a better amount? Do you want there to be a news segment where we discuss the big events of the week? Would you like us to bring back the box office segment? Or the trailer reviews? If we add any content, we will likely cut out a movie review.

Would you be willing to support us if I set up a Patreon? If I did this, we would add a second show if we hit our goal. The money would also help us potentially cover things like festivals or have more special edition shows on top of the regular show. Do those things interest you? Do they interest you enough to pay a little bit of money each month to improve our shows?

As we enter our fifth year of The Movie Breakdown, how can we improve the show? I really hope to expand and grow listenership this year, but the best way to do that is make sure that we are offering what our current listeners want.

I would really appreciate feedback. I would also really like to thank you for listening to us over these last five years.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Explaining My Four Star Rating System

I've never been a huge fan of rating movies by stars or percentages. For me, the written review is where the value lies and allows a reader to explore the complexities of a movie. In an ideal word, a review should be enough for a reader to understand the critic's views and opinions on a movie. Apparently, my words are not enough because after a few months of professionally writing movie reviews back in 2012, several readers asked that I include star ratings so they had a reference point.

I've now been doing star ratings for over five years, and there really isn't any turning back now. As we enter into another year of movies where I will be reviewing over a hundred flicks in written form and on the podcast, it seemed like a good time to explain the values of my star ratings.

While I really hope you read or listen to my reviews to really understand where I stand on a movie, I want to explain what each star means when it comes to being rewarded to a movie. This will give you a quick guide on my feelings of a movie based on the star rating that I give it.

0 stars: All movies take a lot of hard work to make, but a movie with this rating has no sign of effort and is completely irredeemable. The movie is likely morally reprehensible to not earn any stars. This is my rarest rating.

½*: A very bad movie earns this because it accomplishes not being morally offensive. It still remains a powerful weapon for your worst enemies.

*: Basic storytelling and competent film making are lacking, but it might at least have an unintentionally funny scene you can laugh about with a friend after the movie.

*½: Derivative, unoriginal, and formulaic but has a few glimmers of entertainment, but mostly just ends up disappointing.

**: Scott a few times on The Movie Breakdown mentions that two stars is the level where he declares a movie didn't insult his intelligence. I agree with that. It is likely a predictable, bland, and formulaic movie, but at least was decently made. Most years, this also means the movie will avoid my worst of the year list.

**½: This is either an unoriginal but well-made generic picture or an ambitious movie that failed to meet its aims. Three stars is my barometer for an outright recommendation, but usually this level means a decent rental for fans of whatever genre this movie is in.

***: This is a really good movie that offers a few different things to its genre and has some great memorable scenes. Most good movies will land on this star rating and is worth going out to the cinemas to experience.

***½: A great movies that elevates its genre and is a fantastic viewing experience. It succeeds at everything it aims and the type of movie that I gush about for days.

****: This movie has everything achieved by a three and a half movie, but this one haunts and sticks in my mind for months and even years. It is a total spiritual experience. There is never any debate after watching where the star rating lands for a movie like this, I always go out knowing I just experienced a four star classic.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Pictorial Look at the Spicers' Holidays

Christmas is done, and time for work and school again. But the Spicers like to do the holidays right. Here is the pictorial evidence.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

2018: The Year I Leave the House

2018 has arrived. Like every time a new year arrives at my door, I get a sense of excitement and anticipation for a fresh start and the opportunities for new and exciting things. Ever since I started writing about movies in 2012, I find myself unreasonably giddy for the January slate of movie even though it is a month notorious for disappointing. I also find myself super charged up for writing again and filled with a bunch of projects that I want to accomplish in this year. In the weeks leading up to 2018. I have written a bit on my ambitious plans for writing, especially when it comes to film reviews.

My writing career doesn't mean much if I still allow my self-doubt and lingering sadness to crush my emotions into a fine mustardy paste. I have become quite aware that one of the most effective forms of therapy for me is doing the thing that I love, which is to write. Sometimes this means writing about my honest inner feelings or other times it is crafting fictional stories Writing isn't enough. The most important thing for my emotional health is my family. In 2018, I vow to not neglect them.

I love my wife and children, even though on a daily basis I feel like my emotional anxiety and down in the gutter sadness stops me from properly showing that love to them. While I am pretty good at saying the words, 'I love you' and I spend a good amount of time with my kids and I am not stingy on physical affection, I do fail at planning family outings or showing much excitement for going out to social gatherings.

I have been labelled a curmudgeon, because in the last few years, I've done a great impersonation of a hermit. I not only do not initiate too many family events, but I've become skilled at finding ways to avoid them at times too. This isn't to say that I never go out, and actually, I would say I go out with the family a great deal (I've been trying harder to push myself in the last few months), but I am well aware it isn't as much as Emily would like. It also is often done with panic streaked across my face or a few days of grumbling.

I don't want to be this way. A few years ago, I would have called myself an extrovert and someone who was very social. I do have a great time at parties and enjoy having good conversations and playing games. I definitely love the excitement my kids conjure up when we go to special events or fun places like Canada's Wonderland or the fair. Often when we arrive to those places, I do have a fun time and I think I convey enough energy to make things fun for those around me.

The way I see social gatherings has changed drastically over the last few years. Especially over this last year where anxiety, sadness and self-doubt seem to have become a regular companion. As much as I really do not want it to be the reality, every time I know we are going to social gatherings, despite how much I love the people, I start to panic and dread it. I feel anxiety filling up my every pore, muscles begin to tighten up, breathing starts to accelerate, and my chest begins to feel like that scene from Alien. I am not even sure what it is that fills me with so much fear, because rarely do any of these gatherings end with a dragon attacks or a gremlin popping out of a couch cushion.

I usually end up enjoying myself. I also find that once we return home, I am completely exhausted. It usually means that even if we come home early, I end up crashing in bed rather than spending time with my wife after we put the kids to bed. I do not think it is an introvert things, but rather that my body is wiped out after the week long panic that I'll need to be friendly with people. A panic that I still believe is less to do with actual people but that the last year or more I just get overwhelmed by almost anything. 

It has been tough on Emily, which is the hardest thing for me. I haven't spent the time that I should with her. The bigger point is it is hard for almost anyone to not take it personal when someone close to you doesn't want to go out or spend time with your family.  I love my wife's family, and I love my friends, but the fiery demons inside me tries to convince me otherwise. It has been hard to convince her that it has nothing to do with the people and all about the dark voices that rile up toxic feelings inside me.

Christmas this year was emotionally exhausting even though it wasn't that jam packed. We had two family Christmas gatherings, someone staying at our house for a few days, and Everett's birthday party, but my mind kept trying to convince me that I'd need the energy to construct a workable rocket ship from Popsicle sticks that I would then need to fly to the moon. A few good times with family was an insurmountable task. 

Except it wasn't because here I am to tell the tale.

In the very near future, we will be sleeping over for two nights, and currently my inside feels like a bomb has been dropped over the prospect. Then we have a lunch with some relatives, and now I've been hit by a tsunami. The idea of being two days away from my house is terrifying and the prospect of spending a few hours with people that I rarely see is straight out of The Nightmare on Elm Street. On top of that, I've convinced myself that someone staying over is as horrible as allowing a Sasquatch to come to devour our children. 

Except none of those things are scary or horrible.

I realize these are things all people do. Considering how much I end up backing out of things, it is probably much less than most people with families. We were initially supposed to be travelling for most of the Christmas holidays, but of course, I am now the reason that we are not.

Now, that 2018 has arrived, I really want this to be the year my wife and two children are well aware that I love them. I also want to spend more time with other family members and build up relationships with dear friends. I was once a person who would be considered very social, and I am convinced having healthy relationships again will make for a more successful writing career in 2018. The thing I fear is likely also the cure.

2018 is a year that I plan to push myself much more often. It is a year that I hope to listen to the sweet voices of loved ones and ignore the dark internal mutters. I know there will be days that I am overcome with anxiety and dragged down by sadness. I know there will be weekends I need to opt out and stay home. There will be nights that I to go to bed early. I also hope this is a year that I can say I reconnected with friends. It is a year where I will have memorable social gatherings and enjoyed time with those that I cherish. It is a year where I plan events and surprise those who I love. It is a year that I push myself to be better and happier.

Most of all, I want 2018 to be the year that Emily, Everett and Danika know without a doubt that I love them. 

Monday, January 01, 2018

The Breakdown the Worst of 2017 and the Most Anticipated Movies of 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018. Before we can jump into the excitement of a new movie year, we need to reflect upon 2017. The next two weeks, we are going to celebrate the movies of this past year. This week we are digging through the trash with our episode called The Breakdown of the Worst of 2017. Both Scott and I will be revealing our top ten worst movies of 2017, and it gets pretty stinky. Because we like to end things on a positive note, we then list our ten most anticipated movies of 2018. We always have a great time with our year end shows, and hope you really enjoy them as well. Feel free to post comments or fire us an email about your own worst movies of 2017 or what you can't wait to see in 2018. As always, if you love the show then please spread the word to other movie fans.

Reminder that 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 10 Worst:

10. Bright
9. The Circle
8. Baywatch
7. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
6. Going in Style
5. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
4. The Bye Bye Man
3. Daddy's Home 2
2. The Snowman
1. The Emoji Movie

Scott's Top 10 Worst:

10. Small Crimes
9. #realityhigh
8. Rings
7. Take the 10
6. Christmas Inheritance
5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
4. The Bye Bye Man
3. The Emoji Movie
2. Sandy Wexler
1. A Christmas Prince

Scott's Top 10 Most Anticipated:

10. Halloween
9. Insidious: The Last Key
8. Early Man
7. Black Panther
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
5. The New Mutants
4. Annihilation
3. Deadpool 2
2. Incredibles 2
1 The Predator

Christopher's Top 10 Most Anticipated:

10. Aquaman
9. A Wrinkle in Time
8. The New Mutants
7. The Predator
6. Deadpool 2
5. Halloween
4. Black Panther
3. First Man
2. Incredibles 2
1. Avengers: Infinity War

Fresh Start

I've been seeing the January 1, 2018 date as the reboot for the blog, which is why I've slowed down on posting content. The plan was to recharge for a new year where I then post every day and gold rains from the heavens.

I've already posted a piece on my plans and goals for the site this year. One of my big goals for the year is to expand the exposure of The Movie Breakdown podcast and increase my level of written reviews so I can apply to the Online Film Critics Society. There will be a renewed focus on writing about movies, but a huge increase on the level of reviews that will include weekly theatrical releases but also many revisit or retro reviews.

In the previous post, I mentioned I want to be far more honest and open, but I also want to be a lot better in doing quick little in the moment hot takes on the latest news or events. In the past year, I have had some strong feelings on a topic but decided to hold off on until I can write something in-depth, but then fail to ever get to it. This year, I aim to be more comfortable with not every piece being a gourmet meal and having more tasty little snacks. My goal is to just write and trust the words will provide entertainment. Not everything will be great, but I've learned I need to keep writing because it works as my therapy and hopefully, it will have value for others as well.

This is the year were I plan to push myself far more with my writing. I want to keep trying new things on the blog with more humour pieces, serialized fiction, and tackling a wider variety of topics. I also really want to get back to writing weekly columns for other sites, completing my manuscript for an unfinished novel, and pushing some non-fiction books. I will aim to be much better at detailing my writing journey with my various projects on here.

Outside of writing, this is the year that I really hope to constantly make my love clear to my family and friends. I am entering my tenth year of marriage with Emily, and she is an amazing and fun person. I hope this is a year I can show her how much I appreciate being married to her for these past ten years. I have the most awesome kids in the world, and I will focus on trying to spend even more time with them.

Here is to having a much better year in 2018 and I wish you all a very happy 2018.