Thursday, September 27, 2018

'X-Men: Dark Phoenix' Trailer Shows a Series on Course Correction

Hey, does everyone remember X-Men: The Last Stand?

X-Men: Dark Phoenix is doing that story but with the twist of being good. Or at least, the trailer seems to promise a much darker, dramatic and character-driven take on what may be one of the best ever comic book story arcs.

I was a big fan of X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past, but X-Men: Apocalypse was a big mess. We have fresh blood in the director's chair with long-time producer turning filmmaker, Simon Kinberg. The trailer gives off the vibe that this may be the final chapter of this version of the series, which makes sense considering when Disney gets it, it will get rebooted.

There are the big special effects and action sequences teased here, but the real meat seems to be the character interactions and the internal conflicts based off decision made. I like that there doesn't seem to be clear villains and heroes in this trailer with Professor Xavier possibly making a mess despite his intentions being in the right place and thus losing some trust from people like Mystique. A relationship that they've built as both very close but having some serious challenges over the span of movies.

Magneto looks to capitalize on Jean Grey being stunk in a dark place, but there isn't anything that screams that he will be a cackling villain. They have been effective at making him nuanced and this looks to be the direction they will keep. He may do some nasty things, but he has always been able to justify them. Even Grey is going to be a complicated character with her torn between her relations with people like Cyclops and being overcome by her own powers.

This won't be a full on faithful adaption of the comic book storyline, because there is no way to cram that all into one movie and my impression is that they are going for just one movie here. I will be interested to see what direction this goes into and if they even dare to end this thing on a dark note.

Lots of great teases in the trailer too, with stuff like the team being at a funeral, which gives off the vibe that maybe a few characters will be knocked off. One interesting thing, is if this movie is supposed to be sharing the Logan timeline, and if it does, how that will all pan out. My impression is that the movie is set in the 1980s, which is long before Logan, but the trailer shows no sign of Wolverine. Hugh Jackman was pretty clear that he was done, but he seems to be a pretty massive character to not at least address why he is missing.

I like that in the last few years, we've had big special effect tentpoles that have dared to have complicated characters and go in some bold storyline directions like Black Panther, Logan and Star Wars: Last Jedi. This trailer seems to promise that we got another meaty and deep big event movie in X-Men: Dark Phoenix.

Plus Jessica Chastain!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Answering the Never Asked Question: How Many Theme Episodes a Year Does 'The Movie Breakdown' Have?

I announced on this week's episode of The Movie Breakdown that my intention going forward is to review every new release that makes it way to the Brantford Galaxy Cinemas. One of the things that I mentioned on the show was my hope that we could still maintain the occasional theme episode even though we could have around 30 extra theatrical movies a year that would be reviewed on the show.

As it is, a typical episode goes about 90 minutes with five movie reviews (and an occasional topic discussion replacing a review) and I really wouldn't want to increase that length (I'd rather get it down to be a tad shorter). This means that I would want only a few episodes a year where we have to review more than five movies. We would also need to get much better at rushing through those movies that don't warrant a lengthy discussion (I confess that I can go long on most of my reviews before the discussion starts).

The other issue is that our current situation of Scott living with the moose is that he isn't catching the latest theatrical movies most weeks. I really don't want to be doing more than three 'solo reviews' an episode, and I would prefer just two when we can get away with it. The show is much better when most of the movies we are discussing have been seen by both of us. This is why we try to review so many Netflix Original movies, so we are debating current releases even if they aren't theatrical. This also means that it doesn't really work to review five new theatrical releases in one episode, and cramming in a Netflix Original movie will cause some backlog during the busy movie months.

My point that I'm trying to make is that "theme' episodes may start becoming a rare breed and only be able to be done during those rare times when a weekend is barren of new theatrical releases or out of necessity because one of us is away for the weekend/week/month.

Before I started to mourn that the theme episodes where going to become extinct, I was curious to see how many of those episodes a year that we actually do.

What I mean by a theme episode is any show that isn't our typical four or five movies that include new releases headlining the episode. These episodes have a 'theme' that links all the discussions together. These are shows like when we discuss topics around a specific theme like "The Breakdown of the State of Woman" or "The Breakdown of Things We Miss"; or where do a spotlight of specific things like "The Breakdown of Rising Stars"; or it could be movie reviews that follow a theme like "The Breakdown of Milos Forman: or "The Breakdown of the Totally 80s" or our mid or year-end shows where we list our favourites or worst of the year.

Here is a year to year look at the number of theme episodes we have had each year:

2014: 14
2015: 9
2017: 11
2018: 10

A few things that need to be noted here. First off all, our year-end shows (Worst of and Best Of) have always ended up being at the start of the proceeding year, so 2018 already has three of those shows (Best of 2017, Worst of 2017, and The Best of 2018 So Far).

Some of those numbers are pretty misleading. Let me explain why each year had the number of theme episodes that they did.

We didn't start the review several movies an episode format until June of 2013. Prior to that, we did entire episodes devoted to analyzing one specific movie. The idea of theme episodes did not come about until the format change in June. We also went on a hiatus in November and December. If you look at all those factors, within the time period we were recording our now traditional five to four movie review format, there was a really high level of theme episodes in 2013.We were doing more than a theme episode a month, so it is very likely we would have had a few more in the last two months.

2014 was our first year where we did the traditional several movie reviews an episode format from the start of the year to the end of the year. We also did a very extensive amount of those theme episodes at the start of the year and in the fall. I think, both Scott and I had some extenuating circumstances at the time that stopped us from being able to review current movies regularly during that time, so we did a lot of theme episodes to keep the show going. Even then, we still had a hiatus from March to the start of May, and a brief one at the end of August, so again there is potential there could have been even more theme episodes then we had.

2015 is really misleading with its number as well, because from January to mid-September, we changed the format of the show to where it was more freestyling on topics and we sometimes reviewed movies too. Since it was just a talk about whatever format during that time, we didn't have any formal theme episodes, so I didn't count anything during that time except the Best of the Mid-Year show. Yet somehow, we still got 5 theme episodes in from mid- September to the end of the year, so again, a pretty high volume considering the time span.

2016 is a year with no significant hiatuses (a brief one at the end of the year when Scott moved) and we kept the traditional several movie review format going the entire year. It is clear at this point we were going to the movie theatre a lot more, because we could consider this the first full year of the format with no breaks, and we only had room for 10 theme episodes. I also think this was the first year we started having a host review a movie that the other did not see, so a lot more theatrical movies were covered and there was less room to do the theme shows.

2017 was another year with no significant hiatus (I think a technical issue meant we may have missed one or two weeks) and we maintained the traditional format. We had one more theme episode than the previous year, and that is likely due to the fact that we had to do four theme shows during the summer because I took a big trip out east with the family, and couldn't record episodes for almost a month (so we did four pre-recorded shows, which meant they had to be theme shows since we couldn't review new theatrical releases).

2018 already has 10 theme episodes with still a little over three months to go. I was actually shocked by that, because typically the start of December is barren at the theatres, so we do two of our theme episodes during that time. Though with me now reviewing every new theatrical release coming to my fair city, it is less likely we would ever do back to back theme shows again (outside of the year end) unless out of necessity because one of us is away.

If the Sinemia plan lasts and I am able to review every theatrical release that comes to Brantford in 2019, it will be interesting to see if there will be a huge dip in theme episodes. I would like it if 10 or so theme episodes remains the average. Partly because it changes things up once in a while to have a show that digs deep into a specific theme, but it also gives us a bit of a break to not be under pressure to get fives movies watched and reviewed for a week.

Anyway, I am well away that these stats are likely only interesting to me, but it gives a little insight into how the show has been run for those that get giggles from that.

I really look forward to seeing how The Movie Breakdown and my movie reviews evolve over the next few months and years. I really appreciate all those that listen to the show and read my writings. I look forward to being able to offer even more reviews in the coming months.

The Breakdown of 'The House with a Clock in Its Walls', 'Life Itself', 'The Land of Steady Hands', 'Next Gen' and 'City of Joy'

It is another huge show this week with reviews for five new 2018 releases. Before we even dig into the movie reviews, I do a brief explanation of the Ontario (though I keep accidentally calling it Canadian) rating system and as well announce that I'll be reviewing all theatrical movies that come to Brantford going forward. But you come for the movie reviews, and the big one is the Eli Roth directed dark fantasy family adventure called The House with a Clock in Its Walls. The other theatrical release is a romantic drama that explores how three families are connected in a film directed by the creator of the hit TV show This is Us in Life Itself. A few years back we heaped praise on the romantic comedy Enough Said and now the director Nicole Holofcener is back with her latest dramedy, The Land of Steady Habits. We then have as animated sci-fi adventure in Next Gen and a documentary about a centre for Congolese women who are victims of rape in City of Joy. As always we had a great time recording and we really hope you love the show as well, if you do, 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 (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

The time stamps are still changing every time I use the player, so it makes a timed outline pointless. Once again, if someone can assist in fixing this issue that would be greatly appreciated.

Question of the Week: What seemingly mundane job would make for a great comedy movie premise and why?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

The House with a Clock in Its Walls *** (CS)
The Land of Steady Habits *** (CS & SM)
Life Itself ** (CS)
Next Gen *** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
City of Joy *** (CS & SM)

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'Captain Marvel' Trailer Reveals One of the Biggest Hits of 2019

Captain Marvel is a big deal. It is the first Marvel Studios movie to have a female in an unshared title role. As Black Panther proved last year, Marvel movies can be a major box office success even when the lead is not a white male.

On top of that, the mid-credit stinger during Avengers: Infinity War heavily hinted that Captain Marvel will play a major role in the next Avengers and likely, Captain Marvel should directly lead us right into Avengers: Dust in the Wind. Kevin Feige has promised that this isn't an origin story, so even though it is set mostly in 1990, my guess is some events will impact what happens in Avenger: Finger Snap of Doom.

Even if this turns out to be an elaborate origin story and any ties to Avengers: Thanos Needs a Happy Meal is saved for the stinger, there looks to be a lot of fun to be had here.

It is awesome to see Brie Larson getting a major role like this and she instantly looks like a superstar. The special effects look spectacular from the big flashy stuff to smaller things like de-aging Samuel L. Jackson. I'm always a sucker for pop culture artifacts, so I love that she landed in a Blockbuster as a way to establish it is the 1990s. I'm always a sucker for some time travelling or time looping or any kind of playing with time, which I think is happening in this movie. I also like the little hints of mystery with Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) trying to figure out what her past life on earth was like. It looks like this will deliver on the action but also have a complex story too.

My guess is that Jude Law is the villain. I realize he played the villain in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but my guess is he will be a hundred time more awesome here. We also look to be getting Lee Pace returning as Ronan so we may get a Guardians of the Galaxy connection. Ben Mendelsohn is in the cast where he will likely be slimy and evil as well.

The trailer isn't much more than a special effects reel with a little teasing of the plot. I can't really tell much on what happens in this movie other than Nick Fury tries to recruit Danvers and she tries to figure out her past life. And she punches an old woman. I know that too.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Was 'Hot Shots! Part Deux' the Beginning of the End?

My The Movie Breakdown co-host was down this weekend, so we could watch his most anticipated movie of the year, The Predators, together and record this week's episode in-person. In what I am assuming isn't too surprising to anyone who reads this site or listens to our podcast, the conversations inevitably came back to movies. What may be a little more unexpected, we for some reason got talking about 1991 slapstick and parody movie, Hot Shots! and as someone who has grown to have a lot of disdain for the movie parody subgenre of comedy, I questioned if it would still hold up today. Scott wanted to believe that it would, and I conceded that my memory was telling me that both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert liked it. Scott then retorted that he doesn't think they were as fond of the sequel and I agreed with him.

I now have video evidence that we were both wrong and Hot Shots! Part Deux did get the 'Two Thumbs Up!' treatment.

I will always love the reviews where Siskel and Ebert rage on each other for conflicting views but there is value in the ones where they are on the same page as well. I think this review is rather interesting because it tears down the notion of the high-minded and nose in the air critic who only recommends the high-brow. No matter where you stand on this sequel, it is quite silly and will go for some 'easy gags', yet both respected critics recommend it because they admit to laughing at it.

I've always loved both these critics because they have never been ashamed of what they like and then articulating why they like it. They will praise movies even if every other critic derided it (they are the only two critics on Rotten Tomatoes to recommend Speed 2: Cruise Control).In this case, Hot Shots Part Deux just falls into the rotten category, but these two critics could care less.

I also find it interesting that Ebert recommends the movie but also predicts that the movie parody genre may be coming to an end in regards of producing enjoyable and funny movies. As a teenager that had to endure his groups of friends renting every new Leslie Nielsen comedy at the time, I will confirm Ebert was right. The subgenre lost its way and just became a series of redoing famous scenes with some low-brow humour thrown in. The joke was often you were seeing an iconic scene being done or referenced. I can accept that the first Scary Movie has its merit, but after that, was there any movie parody picture that is even watchable?

Despite the two glowing thumbs, I am still nervous about revisiting this movie that I remember enjoying in the theatres as a teenager. Of all genres, I feel comedy and especially, this type of comedy ages the worst.

The Breakdown of 'The Predator', 'A Simple Favor', 'Searching', 'Sierra Burgess is a Loser' and 'Revenge'

This week's episode of The Movie Breakdown is really special, because it is one of those rare times were we record the show together in-person (just like we did all the time from 2013 to 2016). To celebrate such a big event, we are reviewing the latest big event movie in a hotly anticipate sequel in the sci-fi actioner, The Predator. We also have another picture geared towards adults in the thriller directed by Paul Feig in A Simple Plan. If you want discussion on more thrillers then we got you covered with two more in the mystery that unfolds on a computer screen in Searching and the bloody picture about a women hunting down some nasty men in Revenge. It was a blast to record the show this week and we really hope you love it. If you do, then helps us out by spreading 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 (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

The Movie Breakdown Outline (Please let us know if these times are incorrect):

0:00 Introduction, reveal past opening butcherings, correction that Taissa Farmiga is not Vera Farmiga's daughter
3:05 The Predator review
20:40 A Simple Favor review
36:48 More caramel promises, for some reason we go on a tangent about The Open House, Scott explains why he doesn't feel bad putting any Netflix movie on his worst of the year list
39:42 Sierra Burgess is a Loser review
52:44 Searching review
1:06:39 Revenge review
1:24:20 Question of the Week & Contact information & Blog hype & Get nostalgic about Everett & Scott's days with my kids
1:31:35 Review Rundown
1:35:07 Hype for next week & little Eli Roth talk & Christopher reminds Scott who Nicole Holofcener is & hype for Netflix's fall movies

Question of the Week: What children’s movie that you loved from your childhood would not be released as a family movie today?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

The Predator ** (CS) & *** (SM)
A Simple Favor *** (CS & SM)
Sierra Burgess is a Loser *** (CS & SM)
Searching ***½ (CS)
Revenge ***½ (CS) & **** (SM)

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Breakdown of 'The Nun', 'Peppermint', 'The After Party', 'The Motive' and Remembering Burt Reynolds

The big summer movie season is over and now is the time when some more adult-geared movies start coming our way. Sometimes that means really high quality movies and other times it means gut-punching disappointments. It also means that this week on The Movie Breakdown that we have four 2018 movie reviews for you. The big one is a horror movie set in the Conjure-verse with the latest spin-off from that major franchise in The Nun. We also have a revenge action picture starring Jennifer Garner in Peppermint. Do you want some rap in your life? Fine, we've got an alleged comedy about an aspiring rapper in The After Party. We also head to Spain with that country's latest offering on Netflix in The Motive. After the reviews, we pay tribute to one of the biggest movie stars of the 1970s and a true icon in Burt Reynolds. As always if you enjoy the show then please help us out by spreading 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 (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

The Movie Breakdown Outline (Please let us know if these times are incorrect):

The Nun review
15:11 The After Party review
29:06 Scott Makes a promise of buying a caramel
29:32 Peppermint review
45:35 The Motive review
54:56 Tribute to Burt Reynolds
1:08:13 Question of the Week & Contact information & Blog hype
1:20:49 Hype for next week & Scott explains why The Predator is now sex offender free & a closing is messed up again

Question of the Week: What director would you like to see tackle a genre that is different than their usual and what genre would that be?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

The Nun *½ (CS)
The After Party *½ (CS & SM)
Peppermint *½ (CS)
The Motive **½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Friday, September 07, 2018

'The After Party' Review: Good Music Undone By Bad Comedy

Starring: Kyle Harvey, Harrison Holzer, Shelley Hennig, Teyana Taylor, Jamie Choi, Jordan Rock, Amin Joseph, Andy Buckley, Blair Underwood
Director: Ian Edelman
Screenplay: Ian Edelman
Producers: Russell Simmons, Jake Stein, Jamie Patricof, Heather Parry, Trevor Engelson, Doug Banker, Lee 'Q' O'Denat
Music by: Raphael Saadiq
Cinematographer: Damián Acevedo, Dagmar Weaver-Madsen 
Editor: Carole Kravetz Aykanian
Production Company: Def Pictures, Live Nation Productions, WorldStarHipHop, Hunting Lane Films
Distributed by: Netflix
Genre: Comedy
Rated: TV-MA - Not Suitable for Children Under 17, Mature Themes, Excessive Coarse Language, Nudity, Sexual Content, Drug Use
Release Date: August 24 2018
Run Time: 89 minute

It has been a busy few weeks and there is a lot that I could write about. On a personal front, I could talk about some of the fun family adventures that we had this past summer or talk about how I am learning that I am often more anxious than my kids about obstacle put in front of them. There are some significant events like the closing of cultural landmark The Village Voice or all the daily chaos erupting in the political news that are worth a few words. This year I could and should have posted reviews for Black Panther, A Quiet Place or Crazy Rich Asians. Yet here I am devoting words and time to one of the latest Netflix original movies in The After Party (a very unfunny and annoying attempt at a comedy picture).


Because I've promised a hundred times plus a hundred that I would start writing several movie reviews a week, and now happens to be the perfect time to start coming through. Sadly The After Party happens to be the latest movie that I've seen.

For a movie about an aspiring rapper trying to realize his dream of landing a big recording contract, this lacks a significant amount of cheer, inspiration and optimism instead replacing it with dourness, cynicism and negativity. It also sprains itself trying to be edgy and cool by littering the movie with swearing, bare-breasts and meanness. What it forgets is jokes, a compelling story and believable characters that could be enhanced by those "edgy" elements (elements that I should add have been in almost every R-Rated comedy ever).

Kyle Harvey (real life rapper with the stage name KYLE) plays Owen who is a rapper that has been struggling for three years to get discovered and land a record contract. He then gets his big break at a show that is attended by rap star Wiz Khlifa, but he can't handle the weed that was offered, so he vomits on the rapper and several audience members before going into a seizure. This is played for comedy, but it sort of makes me want to stay away from pot.

This turns him into an online mockery known as 'Seizure Boy' and none of the record companies want to be associated with him. His persistent manager and best friend, Jeff (played by Harrison Holzer) is able to arrange for him to attend a VIP after party for a big rap show, where he will have the chance to impress one major record executive.

The story ends up being the pair running around to different typical raunchy standby locations like strip clubs and seedy backstages while meeting unlikeable and generic characters who teach our leads supposed life lessons. Of course, just to make sure we know they are borrowing much of the plot of comedies of the 1980s and 1990s, we have a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure situation where Owen must land the contract tonight or he is being shipped off to the army the next day (just like poor Ted with his school project). This is a pure going through the motions picture where everything from the stripper with a heart of gold or the psycho boyfriend have been done over and over before.

Harvey has a big screen charisma and you believe him as a rapping prodigy and he has a few catchy songs. Unfortunately, his friend fails as comic relief and instead is a nagging irritation with his derogatory comments towards women and his constant whining to get his way. There is also a romance that flops between Owen and Alicia (played by Shelley Hennig) because there is no believable chemistry, which is largely due to the fact the movie can't decide if Owen wants a real intimate relationship or is just looking to get laid (so, he jumps between both stances throughout the movie).

The movie does have a few really catchy rap songs and the music is by far the strongest part. It also has special appearances by big stars like Dinah Jane, DJ Khaled, Jadakiss, DMX, and Young M.A. Unfortunately, the movie fails to really immerse you into the rap world or make the journey to get a record contract feel authentic. You don't learn anything new about the music industry but rather just a generic one night party movie that uses rap as flavouring. This has nothing to say except lots of curses and posturing about sex.

Kyle Harvey shows a real star presence and proves he can definitely rap, but this time he has failed at choosing a strong script to showcase his real talents.

Happy Birthday to My Marvelous Wife and Love of My Life

It is the yearly tradition of declaring my amazing and wonderful wife, Emily, is once again turning 21 years old. The funny thing is that there still are folks that meet her and think that she is literally 21 years old. Despite her only being two years younger than me, having two children who are 3 and 6 respectively, been a professional teacher for 15 years now, and being married for over 10 years. It would be quite the feat to have accomplished all that at the age of 21, and even though my wife is super-human and amazes me on a daily basis, she couldn't even (nor would she want to) pull all that off at just 21 years old. But she can still pass for that age among some people and she remains very young in spirit.

We've already done some birthday celebrating at home and I've said my words of love in private, but it isn't official until you do it on social media. Emily, you amaze me on a daily basis with your love, compassion, hard work and self-sacrifice that you demonstrate to our family. We love you very much and are so blessed that you have been a part of our lives.

Happy birthday and I love you, Emily.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Back to School: Grade 2 Edition

In earth-shattering news, for the fourth year in a row, Everett is off to school. This time around, he is joining the prestigious ranks of Grade 2. As an emotion-laden and over thinking father, this is always a time that I get nostalgic and fight the bewilderment over how fast my children are growing up on me.

Four years ago at this time, Everett was still three and filled with equal amounts of nervousness and excitement over this newfangled thing called school. He had never done daycare and I work from home, so spending a day away from me and meeting a gang of new kids was adventurous yet terrifying. I am just not sure if it was more for him or me. He would come home from school filled with stories about new games in Phys.Ed or exciting treasures in the playground toy shed or what he discovered in that afternoon's science experiment, so it was obvious he was loving school (telling me anything about school turned out to be a JK novelty). I also for the first two months got almost daily notes about how Everett was sad and missing his parents, and almost every morning, we crossed an invisible line where he started crying and pushing to get away from school.

I'm glad the days of tears and missing daddy are over. Over the last four years, I have seen Everett's confidence in his ability and in himself really grow. He has become a hungry reader, who now hunts down chapter books. He has proven to really think and analyze the things that he has read. His imagination has blossomed and apparently creates adventures with his friends during recess (much like someone else I know). Math has become one of his favourite subjects and he has demonstrated an incredible skill at patterning and analytical thinking. He has some really close friends now and has a strong idea of the type of people he wants as friends. He took a lot of pride last year in becoming the class computer expert where he often helped out other kids if there was computer issues to the point that the teacher often asked student to go find him. Now, when we go to school he'll give me a quick 'bye daddy' and run off to find his friends. I'm proud of him, but there is a small part of me that misses those moments when he clung close to me.

I look back at pictures of his first school year, and realize how much he has really grown up. The baby cheeks of the three year old are long gone. He has become far more independent and is happy to give his opinions on anything. Half the time he seems more interested in teaching me things or letting me know how I am wrong. 

Today he ran ahead before we even got to the school property. I had to track him down and he was already deep in play with his best friends. I am not sure if he would have even said good-bye to me if I didn't initiate it. At least, he allowed me to hug and kiss him in public, and I am not confident I will still get that by the end of the year. I am glad and proud he is growing up to be such a confident boy that enjoy school, but sometimes I wouldn't mind it if he slowed down a bit too.

Danika has already told me about five hundred times that she is ready for school. She really is completely ready, except for that little issue of not being old enough. Unlike Everett, who went into school at three years old because his birthday is on Boxing Day (December 26), Danika will end up being one of the older kids in her class next year. I assume the quick good-bye and runaway will come much faster with her.

We ended up getting these large cards from Zehrs for kids returning to school. They are holding them in the above photos, but not sure if you can read them.

Everett's says: My name is Everett. This is my first day of Grade Two. I am 6 years old. My favourite food is lobster. This year my #1 goal is to go on adventures. /

Danika's says: My name is Danika. This is my first day of Daddy School. I am 3 years old. My favourite food is bread. This year my #1 goal is to find treasure.

From the goals, you can get a good idea of the type of kids that I have. I must say as much as they are growing up on me, I love to see they become so imaginative and creative as they get older. Now, if only if one of them can invent a machine that stops time . . . just for a bit.

Monday, September 03, 2018

The Breakdown of 'To All the Boys I've Loved Before', 'The Happytime Murders', 'The Package', 'Little Italy' and Remembering Neil Simon

School is barging its way back into many lives this week and The Movie Breakdown celebrates that with reviews for four 2018 movies. We have a romantic comedy set in high school with a movie heavily inspired by 1980s John Hughes pictures in To All the Boys I've Loved Before. We have another teen comedy but this time it is a feature length dick joke in The Package. Do you want more dirty jokes in your life? We've got you covered as we discuss the raunchy crime noir comedy about humans co-existing with puppets in The Happytime Murders. We even have another romantic comedy for you in Little Italy. After the movie review, we pay tribute to critically acclaimed and award-winning playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon. As always, if you enjoy the show then please help us out by spreading 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 (if you enjoy the show, please help us by giving us a five star review).

I also have a written review here for Little Italy.

The Movie Breakdown Outline (Please let us know if these times are incorrect):

1:09 Debate over if we will nail our closing and reveal we had a pre-show Home Alone discussion
2:42 To All the Boys I've Loved Before review
15:51 The Happytime Murders review
26:23 Mention To All the Boys I've Loved Before stinger
27:34 The Package review
38:12 Little Italy review
48:07 Tribute to Neil Simon
56:40 Question of the Week & Contact information & Blog hype
1:04:29 Review Rundown

Question of the Week: What is your favourite wronged person becomes vigilante movie?

Send us your answers via email (, on Facebook, or Twitter (@MovieBreakdown1)

Movie Ratings:

To All the Boys I've Loved Before *** (CS & SM)
The Happytime Murders ** (CS)
The Package *½ (CS) & * (SM)
Little Italy *½ (CS)

Saturday, September 01, 2018

'Little Italy' Review: A Romantic Comedy Spoiled by Stale and Cheesy Ingredients

Starring: Emma Roberts, Hayden Christensen, Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello, Andrea Martin, Jane Seymour, Linda Kash, Adam Ferrara, Gary Basaraba, Andrew Phung
Director: Donald Petrie
Screenplay: Steve Galluccio & Vinay Virmani
Producers: Vinay Virmani, Pauline Dhillon, Ajay Virmani
Music by: Mateo Messina
Cinematographer: Thom Best
Editor: Michele Conroy
Production Company: Firsttake Entertainment, Telefilm Canada, Voltage Pictures, GEM Entertainment, Grindstone Entertainment Group
Distributed by: Entertainment One (Canada), Lionsgate (United States)
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Rated: PG (Ontario) - Mature Themes, Coarse Language, Sexual Content, Tobacco & Drug Use
Release Date: August 24 2018 (Canada)/September 21 2018 (United States)
Run Time: 102 minutes

While watching Little Italy, I couldn't shake the feeling that director Donald Petrie (Miss Congeniality, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days) and screenwriters Steve Galluccio and Vinay Virmani (Breakaway) had binge watched all the significant romantic comedies of the past 40 years, and then challenged themselves to make a movie that contained as many scenes, tropes, and clichés as possible from the genre.

I am sure I am going to miss a few here but this latest romantic comedy contains pointless voice-over narration to bookend the movie, starts with the romantic leads as children with one clueless that the other has a crush on them, their fathers now hate each other after some mysterious disagreement, one lead leaves home but as circumstances would have it must return where they find their former crush still lives there, a side-plot of the two single grandparents of the warring families falling in love, a few wacky minority sidekicks, an easy to solve misunderstanding that causes conflict in the main romance, a final contest between the two leads where one allows the other to win, a lead must chase down the other in an airport to confess their true feelings, and of course, the female's established lifelong dream doesn't matter compared to finding true love.

Emma Roberts (Nerve, We're the Millers) and Hayden Christensen (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith) are the childhood friends turned romantic leads. Roberts is Nikki who is a recent culinary graduate with an offer of a lifetime to create the menu for a new gourmet restaurant being opened by her teacher Corrine (played by Jane Seymour - Dr. Quinn Medicine Women), but has to head back to Canada to get a work visa sorted out. Despite the offer to be the head chef of a gourmet restaurant if her menu is chosen (she is competing with another), this major task is only referenced a few times after the movie's opening, as if it was all just a thrown together excuse so she could reunite with the grown-up version of her childhood crush, Leo (Christensen). What could have been an interesting side story that enhances the Nikki character gets shoved aside to focus on worn-out "will they or won't they" contrivances.

It is unfortunate because Roberts and Christensen have a comfortable chemistry together where they play off each naturally and feel like long-time friends with some simmering romantic feelings. It is gets undone with clunk-off-the-head dialogue, cheesier than a stuffed crust jokes, and constant forced obstacles to complicate the would-be romance (a women appears for one scene at Leo's apartment right when Nikki is going to confess her feelings, the pair get thrown into their family squabble after both already agreed it was foolish, blow-ups over misspoken words). The leads have enough charm so that you do convince yourself that you want to see them together, but they have a monumental struggle trying to overcome a stale script.

A standard formula romantic comedy isn't a death blow during a time where they've become rare on the big screen, but this fails to take advantage of the elements that would help elevate the movie. It is set in Toronto's Little Italy but very little is done with the location to feel distinct besides characters occasionally yelling in Italian at each other or their being two competing pizzerias (so tired stereotypes). Even though Nikki is a gourmet chef and most of the movie takes place at the pizza joints, there is no scene to immerse you into the cooking or feeling the supposed passion these characters have for making food. Instead, we get some extended scenes of two characters raving about Starbucks' flavoured coffees to the point that I suspect the franchise may have covered some significant costs in the production. When it comes to immersing you into the culture and character's passions, this isn't in the league of a Crazy Rich Asians or Chef.

The positive is that the cast does seem to be having fun, and sometimes that can be enough to make a movie enjoyable. It is great to see Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing, The Professional) and Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) together and they have a few charming moments. Alyssa Milano (Charmed, Who's the Boss) getting work is a great thing and she brings her usual strong screen presence, but it would be even greater if she had something to do. Roberts and Christensen are a strong enough pairing that I'd love to see them in a better movie.

Romantic comedies have been making a comeback in 2018 with cheerful and energetic movies like Love, Simon, Set It Up, and Crazy Rich Asians. All those films proved you can follow the usual romance movie beats but still deliver something fun and lively if you have believable characters and settings that are engaging. Little Italy ends up being a misfire because it failed to add any fresh ingredient to the genre's recipe.