Sunday, March 31, 2019

March Delivered 'Us' a Great Movie and Some Good Movies Worth 'Marvel'ing Over Too


Can you believe it? March had movies. In the theatre! And I saw some of them! And for the most part, I'd say it was a pretty good month for flashing pictures on the big screen.

Captain Marvel was a fun movie and a solid introduction to a character who will play a huge part in the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. The problem is that I don't think the movie ended up being as big as the character and it lacked some of the distinct personality of recent movies like Black Panther and Thor Ragnarok. In my review for it, I said it reminded me more of Phase One Marvel with movies like the first Iron Man and Thor. It was a disappointment that such a socially relevant movie like the first lone female-led superhero movie came off as pretty good rather than ground-breaking and game-changing. It was still a movie with some smart humour, Brie Larson brought lots of personality to the lead, she had terrific chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson, and it was a great taste for how cool Captain Marvel as a hero can be. If I had to rank it, it'd settle somewhere in the middle of the 21 Marvel Studio movies along with the likes of Doctor Strange and Ant-Man.

Five Feet Apart was the weepy drama about two teenagers who were terminal cystic fibrosis patients that fell in love. I really believed the chemistry between Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse, and Richardson has all the skills to be a long-term lead. I cared about these characters and I think there are a lot of people who will enjoy this movie, but it missed a recommendation for me because it became a little too formulaic and melodramatic. It felt too manipulative in how it wanted to get your tears flowing, so it got none from me. Even thought it just missed my endorsement, I want more movies like this, because variety is a healthy thing for the future of movies.

Speaking of wanting the tears, Wonder Park was an imaginative animated kid's adventure that dealt with tough material like dealing with loss and childhood depression. It also showed the power of creativity and imagination, and I thought the magical amusement park looked majestic on the big screen. Part of the fun for me was watching it with my family, and Danika loved this movie because I think she saw a lot of herself in the female lead. Plus, it had cute talking animals. This one also missed getting a full recommendation from me, but I did like it daring to tackle some tough material and it was a great visual treat.

Then we have the movie that on its own has made March the contender for the best month of 2019 so far. Jordan Peele proved he is a master of horror with the very smart and creepy Us. It works as both a homage to classic horror, a scary social commentary and a twisty thrill ride. It also shows Peele growing as a filmmaker as every shot and use of music and prop has a purpose that enhance the story and adds layers to the messages. We all knew that Lupita Nyong'o was great, but this is award-worthy as she plays both the sympathetic hero and the very frightening villain. I love the Twilight Zone direction the story takes, and I think this is a very re-watchable movie that I hope to catch a few more times before year-end. I try not to use this word often so that it means something, but I am declaring this a horror masterpiece.

My review of Dumbo will be on The Movie Breakdown tomorrow morning, but I will reveal right now that I think this is a beautiful and feel-good adventure with a positive message for families. It doesn't quite reach the height of the best Disney live-action adaptations like Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast, but I'd say Tim Burton is back in form by creating a beautiful, imaginative, living world and a movie flowing with optimism at its core. I think the second half falls apart a bit, but I cared about the characters and for the most part was swept up in the adventure.

March was another win for the theatres and the first month where we got a best of the year contender. April is looking huge with a Stephen King adaptation, a DC movie, the biggest Marvel movie ever, a Laika animated adventure, more horror, a remake of a cult hit, and even a Christian drama. I hope to deliver on way more written reviews in April along with my usual podcast reviews. The way more should be an easy goal as I've completely failed on doing any this year so far.

Here are the links to episodes of The Movie Breakdown we posted in March (first episode of March, I linked in my last month wrap-up):

The Breakdown of Captain Marvel, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, Paris is Us and Remembering Luke Perry

The Breakdown of Wonder Park, Five Feet Apart, Juanita and Firebrand

The Breakdown of Us, Triple Frontier and The Photographer of Mauthausen

Friday, March 29, 2019

Scott Soars in with His Box Office Predictions for 'Dumbo' and 'Unplanned'


Scott is back with his analysis and predictions for this weekend's new releases. They are two very different movies, but both may have loyal audiences. My guess is Dumbo does about 10 million more than Scott's prediction and I'll keep just pretending Unplanned is a made-up movie (it doesn't look like it even got release in Ontario).

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With March winding down, two films are entering the cinema landscape to scoop up your theatre dollars. Last weekend’s big winner was Jordan Peele’s horror, Us, and neither of the new films will be direct competition. One film is a Disney live action remake of one of their classic films, something that we will see two more times this year. The other film will be looking to court faith-based audiences.

Dumbo

Disney has proven to be very successful with their 'live-action' adaptations of their classic animated features, and this is why they keep coming by the boatloads. Up until now, their live action remakes have proved to be financial hits as well as being well-told re-workings of the story. The big question that I have about Dumbo is if it has as much built in interest as films like The Jungle Book, Cinderella, and Beauty and the Beast.

Dumbo is certainly a well-known property, but is its legacy held with the same power as those other films? If it isn’t, (personally I don’t believe it is) then the marketing is going to have to win people over. Directed by Tim Burton, the trailers didn’t sell me on it being as energetic and fun as the previous remakes. For those on the fence, the Rotten Tomato rating of 55% (at the time of writing) may put them off. Still, this is a company that knows how to get eyeballs.

Ultimately, I believe this comes down to the Disney name. The brand didn’t get them a pass with films like John Carter, Tomorrowland, or A Wrinkle in Time, but those movies are a lot different than Disney classics. I think Dumbo will have itself a healthy opening. The last big title family film was How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and that works in Dumbo’s favour. Its long-term success is going to come down to how well it holds up, as it has a pretty heft budget of around $170 million. I don’t believe it will earn the same way the other live actions have, but it could still be a hit.

Dumbo opening weekend prediction - $55 million

Unplanned

This film is going to be a lot easier to predict. Dumbo came down to a calculated guess, but there is a clear history to work with here. The studio behind Unplanned is Pure Flix. They deal with faith-based movies, and those types of movies can break out and pull in good amounts of money. When it comes to Pure Flix, $4 million is the biggest opening they had for an original property. Their biggest opening came from God’s Not Dead 2, but they weren’t the ones that released the first film, which was a massive hit. The majority of their films open between $1.5 and $4 million with incredible consistency.

Not surprisingly is the fact that there have been apparently a lot of group ticket sales, which happens with faith-based films. While the movie’s topic of abortion is something that will get their target audience’s attention, the movie has an R rating. My speculation is that this will affect their success, as that does not necessarily bode well for a film aimed at Christians. Personally, I am extremely impressed with this and encouraged. Faith based films I have seen in the past portray themselves as dealing with gritty or darker issues, only to have it completely scrubbed and held in unrealistic ways. Perhaps this rating is an indicator that this film is really aiming to dig into its subject matter. The problem is that if perspective audiences aren’t scared off by the rating, the content that caused that rating may be the deal breaker.

Unplanned opening weekend prediction - $2 million

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Scott Breaks Down Why 'Us' Shocked Analysts and Experts


The box office analysts were wrong on Us, and it ended up being a way bigger hit than expected. Scott is willing to admit he was off too but was a lot closer with his $60 million prediction. Today, he looks at why Us was such a big breakout hit, analyze how it may do going forward and why this huge box office is a great thing for movies.

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Heading into the weekend, I was feeling like the full-on dullard that I sometimes see myself as. My opening weekend prediction for Jordan Peele’s sophomore horror, Us, was rather bold. Higher than any of the predictions I had seen, my $60 million guess had me believing that my return to box office predictions was off. At the last minute, I wanted it changed down to $50, but the voice in my gut said to hang on. As it turns out, my adventurous guess was still ten million short of the $70 million it pulled in. Brad Brevet, over on Box Office Mojo, points out that this is the second largest weekend ever for an original, live-action movie. The only better opening was for Avatar in 2009, which walked away with $77 million. The big difference is that Avatar’s opening weekend only ended up accounting for around ten percent of its total domestic gross. Peele’s Get Out held on extremely well after the opening weekend, with the opening being 19% of the total domestic gross, but I think it will be difficult for Us to have the same kind of legs going forward.

I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but I can’t help but feel that the anticipation for the film and the fan base that Jordan Peele has tapped into may have had people rushing out to see this movie, making its run front loaded. There is no science behind why I feel this way, but movies with really big opening weekends have a hard time keeping the momentum going. I hope that I’m wrong about it, but my prediction is that the opening weekend may end up being a third of its domestic run. With a CinemaScore of ‘B’ and a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 69%, both below Get Out’s CinemaScore of ‘A-‘ and RT audience score of 86%. Theatre goers seem to be enjoying this less, which may affect its legs. On the other hand, audience rating can prove to mean absolutely nothing.

Part of why it had such a stellar opening could be because it is the first big, true horror film of the year, as my podcast co-host, Christopher Spicer, pointed out. While there have already been Glass and Happy Death Day 2U, Chris said neither were straight horrors, with Glass being more of a thriller, and Happy Death Day 2U being much less of a typical horror than the first film was. Horrors have always been able to do well in the box office, but the last few years have had a number bringing in massive amounts of cash. It’s been just shy of half a year since Halloween blasted through theatres, and genre fans have had time to get excited about the next big thing.

The last thing that I want to say is that I honestly don’t want to hear ever again filmmakers (directors or producers) talking about needing white males central to a cast because it is the safe thing to do financially. Aquaman, staring native Hawaiian Jason Mamoa, was the first DC Extended Universe film to break a billion worldwide, and Wonder Woman is still their highest grossing film domestically by a large margin. Last year the highest grossing domestic film was Black Panther, even beating out the Goliath Avengers: Infinity War. In 2017, the three highest grossing domestic films focused on a female protagonist, and the fourth highest, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, had a diverse cast. The fifth highest was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, which has definite sci-fi diversity. Us, which centres around a black cast, is just another movie in the last few years that prove audiences accept diversity. Yes, there are vocal groups of man-children that make the internet believe it’s an issue, but the financials don’t lie. The audiences, for the most part, want good stories, and don’t care about colour or gender. I know I sound like a broken record when talking about this, but the ignorance seriously needs to end.

Monday, March 25, 2019

The Breakdown of 'Us, 'Triple Frontier' and 'The Photographer of Mauthausen'


Before the plot was even known. horror and movie fans were salivating over the release of Jordan Peele's follow-up to Get Out in his sophomore movie, Us. It is finally here, and we review it this week. We also discuss J.C. Chandor's latest in the heist thriller starring Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac in Triple Frontier. Then we review a historical drama about real life hero Francesc Boix who saved thousands from concentration camps during World War II in The Photographer of Mauthausen. We also look at the official Disney purchase of Fox and analyze at all the implications that will have on the movie industry. From there, we talk Netflix again as we decide if the streamer really is good for independent filmmakers. As always, we had a great time recording the show and we really hope you love it. As always, you can show your appreciation 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).



Four Star Rating:

Us **** (CS)
Triple Frontier **½ (CS) & *** (SM)
The Photographer of Mauthausen **½ (CS & SM)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

'Us' Has a Huge Box Office Weekend and This Is Good News for Movie Fans


In pretty big news, Us exceeded box office expectations by earning around 70 million this weekend. Most experts had it earning around 50 million and Scott had it at 60 million, but it turned out to be a much stronger draw for audiences. It now has the third highest grossing opening weekend for a horror movie (behind It and 2018's Halloween).

This huge win at the box office proves a few things. Horror is really hot right now and though not any horror can draw out a big audience, if it has an interesting concept and solid critical buzz than it will likely exceed expectations. It helped that we haven't had very many horror movies getting a major release this year, so there was a hunger.

The thing that really helped is that this was Jordan Peele's follow-up to the very successful and popular Get Out. After only one movie. Peele's name means something, and audience were eager to see what he'd do next. I think it is safe to say that at least for horror movies, Peele has become one of those elite directors where his movies generate buzz and anticipation on his name alone without even knowing the plot or premise (great company along with Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg).

Another big thing to take away from this is that all the main leads were black. Once again, the myth that a movie with a largely non-white cast can harm the box office has been disproven. Us gets to join hits like Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians and Aquaman. Diversity is proving to only help box office rather than harm it.

One of the cool things about Us is that the movie could have had a family of any racial background be in the lead. It could have been white or Asian or Hispanic, so it was great to see a movie that could resonate with any group but not go with the default white family. It is made cooler because Lupita Nyong'o was incredible and is one of the best actors going right now.

The other significant news coming out of the weekend box office is that Five Feet Apart in its second weekend grossed around 8.7 million for fourth place. This is a big win for those who want a variety of movies and genres to make it to the multiplexes and not just big event movies. This doesn't seem like a lot of money, but it was only a 30% drop from its opening. This is significant to mention because most movies experience a second weekend drop by 50 to 60%. In the current environment of social media making movies become old news after one weekend, the drops are often even larger.

While Five Feet Apart isn't a box office smash hit, it has proven to have some legs and maintained a decent audience. This means this movie will likely make a nice bit of change off what I assume is a modest production budget. Hopefully, this helps studios realize that smaller, character driven stories have value. I didn't recommend Five Feet Apart, but I do like there being a variety of movies available and I also know there were people who had a great time with it. Tear jerking dramas used to be regular theatrical releases and having a few a year allows for there to be a more diverse slate to appeal to different audiences.

Definitely a great box office weekend for those that want the studios to see that you just don't need super heroes or well-known brand names to get out audience out to the theatres. Hopefully, studios pay attentions to what succeeded this weekend.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Scott is Back to Give 'Us' Box Office Predictions


After a few years' hiatus, Scott Martin (my amazing The Movie Breakdown co-host) has returned to offer his weekly box office predictions for opening movies. It is an exciting week to return with Jordan Peele's sophomore effort, Us, the follow-up to his massive hit, Get Out.

I think there are a few directors that have gained such a golden reputation or a devoted following that their being attached to helm is the major selling point for a movie rather than plot or if it is part of an established name or series. You've got filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan and Stephen Spielberg who have a devoted audience excited about anything they helm. After only one movie, I think Jordan Peele has now earned that reputation.

To illustrate why I think Scott's prediction today may be correct, I want to mention that I went to the Thursday preview screening of Us last night. The late-night Thursday preview screening is often quiet even for MCU and big event movies, because most people have work the next day and just wait for the traditional Friday opening night. It was to my shock that when I waltzed in right before showtime, the auditorium was almost 80% full, something I have only seen for Star Wars movies.

Enough about me, here is Scott's prediction for this weekend.

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It sure has been a while since I have sat in the chair of prognostication and written my thoughts on the upcoming weekend in cinema. If I were to say that there just hasn’t been anything worth writing about in the last three years, it is possible that shenanigans could be called. Regardless of whatever poor reason I could give for my prolonged absence, this weekend is a solid one to dig into. There is only one film opening in wide release, but there are many possible talking points around it.

Us

An argument could be made that big names on the marquee don’t pull an audience the way they used to. There are several constant earners such as Dwayne Johnson, Will Smith, and Tom Cruise, but they can still have box office stumbles. In the horror realm, the name James Wan is pretty much a cash guarantee. He hasn’t helmed a film (horror or otherwise) that has opened to less than $40 million since 2011 and is one of the most influential horror directors of the modern age. A new face has come onto the scene that I think has a credible chance of overtaking him as the premiere director of the genre.

Comedian Jordan Peele knocked critics and audiences off their feet with his wildly profitable and acclaimed, Get Out. While I believe Wan is the one of the two people who opened the door for story driven horrors, Peele is one of a recent wave that have kicked it down. His debut film was remembered at awards time, being nominated for four and grabbing a win for Peele with Best Original Screenplay. Having his name talked and written about during awards season was a gigantic megaphone that increased his exposure, something that I think will have at least a bit of an effect this weekend.

While Get Out opened to $33 million, one million more than the 2010 remake of the hugely popular A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, audience reaction led to it making $176 million compared to Nightmare’s $63 million. The reason for this comparison? Horror movies can suffer a massive drop off after opening weekend, and Get Out’s opening weekend only ended up accounting for 20% of its total. Off the top of my head, I can only think of horrors The Others and The Sixth Sense that have outperformed in having long legs in the box office (I’m thinking I have forgotten other examples).

When you combine the name that Peele has made for himself after just one movie with the momentum that Get Out managed, it is safe to guess that Us is going to fair better. The big question, though, is by how much? Horror is a much more sophisticated genre than it was ten years ago, and breakout hits are not uncommon. I think Us has the chance to be one of highest grossing horrors of the past few decades, although I can’t see it beating The Sixth Sense ($293 million domestic, $672 million world wide) and It ($327 million domestic, $700 million world wide). Regardless of where it ends up accumulating, I think it is in for an opening weekend that may end up getting even more horrors green lit in the near future.

Us - Opening Weekend Prediction - $60 million

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Follow-Up on the Lack of Director in 'Wonder Park' Talk on 'The Movie Breakdown'


I noted on yesterday's episode of The Movie Breakdown that there was no credited director for Wonder Park. The original director, Dylan Brown was fired a year ago after several sexual harassment claims. Despite my attempted joke on the show, obviously the movie then didn't magically make itself, but instead, three other people came in to make sure the movie was finished. It would be a similar situation to Bohemian Rhapsody where Bryan Singer was fired and Dexter Fletcher came in to finish the movie.

The big difference between the two is that Singer was still given the director credit, despite probably being as much an awful human being as Brown and he clearly didn't helm large portions of the movie (he was let go almost a whole year before the release).

The fascinating thing is that animated features don't fall under the Director's Guild of America, so they don't need to follow DGA rules about credits. For live action movies, there must be a director's credit, and unless it is a director duo where they are helming side by side, there can only be one credited director. If there is an issue where a director is replaced or a revolving door of directors, the DGA chooses who gets the director credit. In the case of Bohemian Rhapsody, they decided it should go to Singer, which led to the odd experience at the Oscars where everyone who accepted an award for the movie never acknowledged the film's director (something I don't think has ever happened).

Since animated movies aren't supported by the DGA, Wonder Park goes down in history as the rare movie where no director is credited. This would never happen in a live-action movie; therefore, we have occasions like the infamous pseudonym Alan Smithee for director's that disown their pictures. Or cases like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Suicide Squad and Justice League where we're left wondering how much the director credited was responsible for what was released (as they were replaced in reshoots).

It should also be mentioned that animated movies are not covered by the Writer's Guild of America. This is why an animated feature can have seven writers credited. In the case of a live-action movie, which is covered by the WGA, only three screenwriters can get an official credit (though the Story By: credit is different and a way to get another writer's name on the big screen). This is why we had a situation like Indian Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where the movie went through an army of different writers over several years and much of that what they wrote made it to final movie, but there is only one screenwriter officially credited.

We shouldn't blame numerous writers credited for an animated feature for its story issues, because likely that many writers were involved in most live-action movie too, but they just can't receive the credit. As always, there is much more to a movie's creative process then we see in the closing crawl.

Anyway, I forgot to mention this on the podcast, and I find this kind of stuff fascinating. It is another reminder of the crazy politics and behind the scene craziness that exists with every movie. The more I learn about movies, the more I'm fascinated so many ever end up working with so many different people being involved.

Monday, March 18, 2019

[Fixed] The Breakdown of 'Wonder Park', 'Five Feet Apart', 'Juanita', and 'Firebrand'


EDIT: We got out of the well! The sound has now been fixed and one may even say the show is near bearable now. Almost.You're still stuck with Scott and I rambling.

Monday means movies. Or at least talking about movies, as we've got another episode of The Movie Breakdown. This week we have four movie reviews, and each one has a female lead, an interesting fact that we completely failed to mention on the show. There are two theatrical releases this week including the terminal teen romance, Five Feet Apart and the animated feature about a magical theme park, Wonder Park. Then it is reviews for this week's Netflix Originals, which are the Alfre Woodard starring dramedy Juanita and the Indian drama about a female divorce lawyer, Firebrand. That isn't all the movie talk; in major news, Disney has rehired James Gunn to direct Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3, and we reveal why this is a huge deal. As always, we had a blast recording the show even if we continue to sabotage our segues and can't nail the closing to save our lives (and for some reason, sounds like we recorded it in a cave this week). If you love the show, then we'd really appreciate you helping us out by promoting us on social media or just telling other movie fans about us.

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).



Four Star Rating:

Juanita ** (CS) & *** (SM)
Five Feet Apart **½ (CS)
Firebrand ** (CS) & *½ (SM)
Wonder Park **½ (CS)

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Declaring the Death of the Cinematic Universe and I Hope the Cliffhanger is On Its Last Breath


Over on Hollywood Reporter, there was a piece about how cinematic universes did not end up being the magic genie in a bottle that kept granting billions of dollars for a movie series and the article predicts that the MCU concept may change drastically with Avengers: Endgame. Scott and I have frequently talked about how Marvel Studios were one of the only ones able to master the cinematic universe. They were so successful at it with huge box office hits and people hotly anticipating almost anything that comes from the studio that every other major studio wanted a piece of the action.

I think Warner Brothers and DC Comics had a shot at it working but they got impatient and jumped to Justice League way too soon. It took Marvel four years of groundwork before unleashing the massive hit that was the original Avengers. Half the heroes in Justice League had only been seen in a brief advertisement-like clip in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. It also doesn't help that the only good movie before their big team-up was Wonder Woman.

Dark Universe will go down in history as one of the funniest big studio misfires. It also is the only universe to get its own trailer and the studio had a lot of faith it would be a massive box office juggernaut. Then The Mummy flopped and now, they are rebranding their monster movies with Blumhouse and going in an entire new direction (going back to horror rather than action adventures). I also hope you screen grabbed the logo, because references to that universe are done

Remember Sony's attempts in The Amazing Spider-Man 2? A blatant attempt at creating spin-offs and sequels that did so much damage they ended up selling Spider-Man back to Marvel Studios to try to rehab things. Venom was awful but at least it shows they were more focused on a standalone movie rather than a major tie-in.

There has been a Hasbro-verse threatened for the last several years that I think was supposed to include Transformers, GI Joe, Visionaries, Micronauts and other toys from the 1980s that I barely remember. It now works better as a running joke. I am pretty sure the Paramount studios is now less confident that connecting all these movies will mean anything in the box office.

Actually, the last few years proves connecting several properties into a shared universe means nothing in the box office unless your Marvel Studios. The thing that most studios have missed is that most Marvel movies have been mostly standalone with the connection usually saved to the stinger.

It looks like most studios have figured out that audiences don't care about shared universes. Warner Brothers and DC look to mostly be focused on doing standalone movies now and given up the big Justice League dream. The attention is now on just making a really good Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Suicide Squad sequel, and doing interesting movies like Joker and Shazam! rather than putting a focus on how they all connect.

Even Marvel seems to have slowed down a bit on connecting a bigger world, and movies like Thor Ragnarok, Black Panther and Guardian of Galaxy mostly work as their own things. I do wonder if after the big pay off in Endgame, if Marvel will focus even more on the movies being standalone. I know there will be another big team up movies, so there will need to be an overarching story (and a big bad) again, but I wonder if it will be even more subtle this time.

Subtle is the best way to put together a cinematic universe anyway. The only other really successful shared universe that I can think of is from the horror series The Conjuring. I don't think this shared universe was planned from the start like most of the other ones, but rather they stumbled into it. The Conjuring turned out to be a huge summer movie hit, and the Annabelle doll at the start of the movie freaked out the audience, so they decided to make a spin-off. The Nun spin-off was more purposefully set up, but the point is that this entire movie universe felt organic rather than mandated by a studio executive. Maybe it was mandated by a studio executive after they saw all that money, but the important part, it never felt that way. This isn't to say this route has produced all hits from a quality standpoint, because I didn't enjoy the first Annabelle or The Nun, but their issues have nothing to do with forced world-building.

Making a movie feel organic is the important lesson here. As studios move away from the cinematic universe dream, they are still obsessed with creating sequels. While a few years ago, the sequel laying happened within the movie and made for incoherent narratives like Terminator: Genysis, it is now mostly saved for either the stinger or a 'To Be Continued' like finale. I am fine with the stinger approach because you can just leave the theatre without even knowing about it. The cliffhanger end is becoming a real annoyance and leaves you unsatisfied. I probably would have ended up recommending Alita: Battle Angel except the finale is such a blatant set-up to a sequel and means I spent two hours on a story that had no ending. That is frustrating and is going to start being a franchise killer. Marvel is probably the only ones that can get away with cliffhangers, because they are so big you know you'll get that follow-up movie, but even when they have done it, I feel like I got a full story and a follow-up isn't mandatory.

My hope is that what all studios have learned from the great shared universe failure is that audiences don't want teases and unfulfilled story points that force them to have to return in a year. What they want is fully told stories that have a start and an ending that are all satisfied in the movie they are watching. You can have your stingers or your teases for something more, but a movie isn't a TV series. It isn't weekly storytelling. It has been and always should be standalone that gets wrapped up in one sitting. Even Empire Strikes Back with its clear set-up for Return of the Jedi is a movie that works fine if you only watch it and none of the others. I'd argue Avengers: Infinity War has a real ending and told its whole story, even though we know there will be more to come in April.

I said it on the podcast and I'll reiterate here. Every movie that fails to have an actual ending and instead feels like a giant ad for the sequel that may never come (that is the other problem, we almost never get the conclusion since these movies don't make enough money), I will automatically deduct half a star. I realize this threat is making filmmakers, screenwriters and executives shake in their boots. I really do hope the focus returns to just making great movies, and then with that success, they can make more if there is a clear audience.

Popularity is Subjective


One of my favourite pop culture writers, Nathan Rabin recently wrote an article entitled The Generation Gap: Apparently a Thing over on his website Nathan Rabin's Happy Place. In the very well-written and insightful piece, Rabin mentions how he was shocked when listening to one of his favourite podcasts that the hosts were only vaguely familiar with Beastie Boys' sophomore album, Paul's Boutique. This was shocking to him because he always saw the album as an iconic masterpiece that is a landmark piece of pop culture. He is right, because it is, to him and many people like him. But it also is clearly a little-known album to many others. He learned that things he deems as universally popular, actually are not as significant or even known to other demographics

The idea of popularity is something that I wanted to discuss for awhile. The longer that I've written about pop culture, done a weekly movie podcast and been married to a lovely wife that has significant pop culture blindspots, I've learned that what one person feels is popular or famous is obscure to the next one. What one deems popular or famous has less to do with the actual relevance and cultural footprint of an item and more about one's own background, experience, social circle and interests. For me, significant bands from the 1990s include I Mother Earth, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam, Our Lady Peace and Nirvana, and while my wife knows the names of those bands, there is a strong chance I could play one of those bands' hits and she wouldn't know who was playing, I also realize that there is a strong chance that one of my American readers yelled out 'Who?' when they read I Mother Earth or Our Lady Peace. Popular music can also change from country to country, and the best example of that would be The Tragically Hip, probably is one of the most popular bands ever in Canada but relatively unknown almost anywhere else.

I've talked many, many, many, many times that the criticism of art is subjective, and that one person's beloved masterpiece can be another person's stinky burning trash heap. While I think many people will agree with me on that (though the internet proves daily that isn't universally accepted fact as people war over opinion), but some may not believe popularity is just as subjective. A lot of popularity has to do with how one decides to consume pop culture. There are certain groups that see personalities on YouTube to be big stars and others that can list all the contestants on The Bachelor and others that can list almost every NFL football player and others that know every movie release this year with who is starring in each. Depending if watching YouTube on the iPhone or you'd rather consume all the latest sci-fi novels, what you perceive as hot, trendy and popular is formulated by the pop culture world you construct.

Generation is a huge factor. I remember being absolutely shocked when I talked to someone who had never heard of Stephen King. He had been declared the rock star of the literary world and one of the all-time bestsellers, but this person who was at least 15 years younger than me, had never had him float into her radar. This is a person who likes to read, and there were many novels that we both liked, but King with his works leaning towards horror were never something she bothered to pay attention. For most people King is immensely popular even if you don't like him, but there are those living and breathing that get through the days barely knowing about him. The same way there can be huge fans of sci-fi novels that love modern writers like John Scalzi but be unaware of the very authors that influenced him like Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and Robert A. Heinlein.

The interesting thing about popularity is that two people can enjoy the same thing, but still have a different perception of what is popular or well-known. I remember talking to a friend a few years ago who considers himself a movie buff and goes to the theatre several times a year. While he knows way more movies than my wife or my mom, I was still shocked by his blindspots. During our conversation, I was floored that he was unaware of the latest Wes Anderson movie that had just come out, which at the time was The Grand Budapest Hotel. He was equally oblivious to what was my most anticipated movie of that year in Richard Linklater's ambitious Boyhood. It floored me that one could identify as a fan of movies and somehow not even be aware of the latest works of important filmmakers like Anderson and Linklater. All this meant, was we looked and cared about movies differently. What I deemed important and the movie sites that I frequented and the things I immersed myself into was very different than my friend despite both loving cinema.

Wrestling is another great example of this. Wrestling has never been very great an honouring or remembering its history. It shouldn't be shocking to me that there are wrestling fans who have been watching as long as I have been (1987) but barely know wrestling icons like Pedro Morales and Bruno Sammartino. I think, most long-time wrestling fans who are at least over 30 years old are aware that both were wrestlers and were important but may not know their significance.

Sammartino is one of the biggest draws in WWE history (then WWWF and later WWF) and in the 1960s and 1970s carried the company on his back to make it one of the biggest wrestling promotions around. He had two WWF World Title reigns and they were over 11 years combined (no one else comes close to that combine length of a World title reign). He is the biggest star in WWF history comparable to Hulk Hogan and Stone Cold Steve Austin (even if he probably doesn't get that recognition due to it being decades ago).

Morales may even have less recognition today despite being a huge draw as WWF World Champion in the 1970s with a two-year reign that saw him a hero among Puerto Rican wrestling fans. He also was the first man to achieve the triple crown, which means he was the first to win the WWF World championship, WWF Intercontinental championship and WWF World Tag Team championship. He won those belts during a time that titles didn't change hands often and only a few people on the roster would actually win titles. These are indisputable WWF legends, but I can think of several wrestling fans that wouldn't mention them if they were told to list the ten most popular and important WWF wrestlers of all-time.

As a man who writes and talks about movies, I've also got a kick out of click-baity websites that try to compose lists of stuff like 'The 20 Best 2018 Movies You've Never Heard About' or '10 Great Obscure Horror Movies' and often being able to not only recognize most of the movies but have already seen them. I also get the strategy is to draw attention with titles like that but when writing a piece for movie fans, it can be a bit presumptuous that you can create a list of several movies that can be considered unknown to fans who spend time reading sites devoted to movies. My experience is that often the same movies keep on ending up on 'unknown lists' with a frequency that makes me question how unknown they really can be (Game Night made almost every underrated list that I saw last year so I question if it is underrated).

This is why when my co-host of The Movie Breakdown, Scott, bemoans a star not being more recognizable or how a specific movie is unknown, that I largely stay quiet. Often those movies or stars are talked about frequently on social media and websites by other movie fans and writers. Since our podcast should largely be targeted towards movie fans, I assume the apparent obscure actor or movie could be one of a listener's favourites. At the same time, stuff I talk about as if it is common knowledge may be something a listener has little idea what I am talking about. Every listener and reader have different experiences and perspective, which in turn means different idea of what is popular or unknown.

All popular really means is that within your social circle this thing is frequently talked about. The people you know are aware and excited about this person or work of art. I confess as a person who writes about and watches a lot of movies, there are pictures or stars that I think are bigger deals and more well-known than the reality.

My experience is that we shouldn't assume anything. I shouldn't assume that a reader or listener hasn't ever heard about Dead Man's Shoes just like I shouldn't assume every listener or reader has seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi. What this means as a writer or podcaster is that I shouldn't insult intelligence by detailing every movie reference, because a listener or reader may know as much or more than me. I should also be careful in things like spoilers or using references that I assume everyone will get. Though personally I think it is always better to assume my audience knows more than I think, because there is a reason Google exists and it is always better to not slow down an article or conversation with over-explaining.

Since popularity is all subjective and about social circles, maybe somewhere there are two people that I think I'm more famous that Roger Ebert and JK Rowling combined. If only that then meant I can objectively make half as much money as them.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Breakdown of 'Captain Marvel', 'The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind', 'Paris is Us' and Remembering Luke Perry


It is another huge episode of The Movie Breakdown. We have a review for one of the biggest movie events of the year and one that has been hotly anticipated for a long time with the latest MCU picture, Captain Marvel. We also have a Netflix movie that did the festival circuit and is the directorial debut of the talented Chiwetel Ejiofor with a based on true story feel-good drama called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. Do you feel like it is time for us to review another foreign arthouse drama? Well, we will with the French picture, Paris is Us.

We also pay tribute to a man who was a huge '90s star in Luke Perry. We also discuss two topics that we've looked at in the past but have once again started making headlines. We discuss if Netflix Originals should be able to be nominated for Oscars. Then we look at the toxic side of movie fandom and explore the dangers of too much 'loyalty'. It is almost 90 minutes of movie talk and we had a blast recording it. We really hope you love it, and if you do, please spread the word about us on social media 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).



Four Star Rating:

Captain Marvel *** (CS)
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind *** (CS & SM)
Paris is Us *½ (CS) & * (SM)

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Time to Get the Blog Back on Track to be the Best


I keep promising daily articles. I keep promising written reviews. I keep promising pieces that deliver my quick responses on major pop culture events. I keep promising a window into the life of being a father to busy little Spicers. I keep promising this is the place you need to be every day for bubbling, writery goodness. Yet I keep breaking that promise?

The reason?

I never backed up those promises with a theme song.



For those who have been long-time listeners of The Movie Breakdown, you know that I love The Karate Kid. It was right up there with Star Wars and Indiana Jones as a childhood cinematic influencer. There is a lot of reasons to love the movie, but I think it may have one of the best 1980s music montages around. And the 1980s knew how to do the music montage.

I dare you to try to avoid getting pumped while listening to Joe Esposito rock out 'You're the Best' as Daniel LaRusso makes his way through the tournament until the eventual big showdown with Johnny Lawrence. Yes, my dear reader, this is truly the only way to relaunch a blog properly.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Looking Back at February 2019 Theatrical Release: The Year Keeps on Being Okay

Image result for how to train your dragon: the hidden world

Hey look! We are already in the third month of 2019, which means February is in the history. This past month did not end up being the army of articles and reviews that I had hope, dreamed and yearned for it to be. It wasn't due to lack of ideas or news to pontificate about, but rather the old standby reasons that I've already bored millions with in the past. I've never struggled with finding topics to discuss, and I have every intention to nail 365 posts/articles this year, so I will catch up on discussing many things that I've left withering away in the corner.

Speaking of catch-up. February had movies. Most of them can at least earn the title of 'decent.'. I'd say 2019 remains a movie year that hasn't blown me away but has provided a fine time at the ol' picture show auditorium. I've already shared my written thoughts on the February releases in Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Cold Pursuit and The Prodigy. I'd say the second half kept the month solid but didn't end up feeling as strong as February last year..

There was one great movie and the easy best of the year so far (I know, two months out of twelve -- probably not time to hand out the trophy) with the terrific trilogy capper called How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. It was a great conclusion to a gripping story that crafted characters I truly cared about, and now puts it as a great trilogy alongside classics like GodfatherToy Story, Before series, Captain America, original Star Wars, Planet of the Apes and Lord of the Rings. I'd say that it was not quite as strong as the previous two movies, but it still has breathtaking animation, some of the best big movie action sequences, emotional moments that hit hard and a willingness to tackle deeper themes that most other family animated movies avoid. This one may be a little more predictable than the others, but I was still hooked with the touching relationship between Hiccup and Toothless, which is the heart of the series. This is also one that I plan to revisit before year end. because I feel that I'll love it more on a revisit, especially if I see it with my kids. I'd like to review the trilogy at some point this year (which now puts it as the 3 billionth movie series I've promised to review in 2019).

Happy Death Day 2U follows the pattern of most of the sequels from this year by not being as good as the previous but still delivering an entertaining story. This one earns points for not just being a redo of the original and is more of a sci-fi comedy rather than the horror comedy of the first. Though that also ends up being one of the small negatives, as the killer gets forgotten for a huge chunk of the story and feels tacked on at the end. It really has some strong heartfelt moments and I liked Tree's inner battle over if she chooses the dimension where she is with her boyfriend or the new one where her mom is alive, and the conclusion that that is satisfying. Plus, Jessica Rothe is once again amazing and holds the whole movie together with her energy and layered performance. She is bound to be a big star.

I ended up a little disappointed in Alita: Battle Angel, even though it has stunning special effects, some amazing action sequences and a great lead performance by the CGIed Rosa Salazar. It was infectious when she demonstrated her child-like wonder of this new to her world, but she also was just as believable as a kick-ass killing machine. She also had a great daughter and father like chemistry with Christoph Waltz and it was one of the sweeter elements of the picture. Unfortunately, every other character was underwritten, motivations were a mess, lots of things were left unexplained, and it had an awful ending that was pure set-up for the sequels that will never come. For the most part, I was having fun despite the clunky narrative, and if they stuck the landing (gave us a stand-alone story) then I'd probably have given it my full recommendation (three stars opposed to the more on the fence two and a half).

On the podcast, both Scott and I discussed how it was interesting how a genre being gone for a long time can be enough for you to really get excited about it again. In 2005, both of us would have been happy to see the romantic comedy die with all the generic and intelligent insulting tripe that was stinking up the cinemas. But now that romantic comedies have been almost completely absent for the last several years, we have had excitement with their renaissance with movies like Set It Up, Crazy Rich Asians, Love, Simon and now Isn't It Romantic. I really love the high concept of a hater of romantic comedies now finding her self stuck in one and the movie has lots of fun playing with all the genre's tropes. Rebel Wilson is an amazing comic lead who plays off everyone great and makes you care about her fate. Even Adam DeVine does well, which is nice to say after his previous movies made me want to boycott all his stuff. This is a feel-good picture that doesn't really break any new ground but leaves with you with a giant smile on your face.

Feel-good is the best way to describe the Stephen Merchant directed wrestling biopic, Fighting with My Family. It is about former WWE wrestler Paige who came from a poor, wrestling obsessed family and ended up making it to the WWE. On the podcast, I mentioned the silliness of non-wrestling fan movie critics assuming if you liked wrestling that you'd love this movie. Maybe some wrestling fans really dug this. But as a fan, my big struggle was knowing how many things were inaccurate or altered to not really improve the story but make it a more generic and formulaic underdog sports story. The writing is very funny, and Florence Pugh is incredible in the lead and really creates a fully, fleshed out and relatable character. I enjoyed huge portions of this movie, but it ended up just feeling like something I've seen a thousand time before but this time with wrestling. I think most will have a decent time, but I couldn't fully endorse it.

While the first two months were okay, March looks to be delivering some heavy hitters and movies I have every intention of loving. The big guns are the first female led MCU movie in Captain Marvel and Jordan Peele's second feature movie in the creepy looking horror about doppelgangers in Us. I also intend to have reviews for theatrical releases Wonder Park, Five Feet Apart and Dumbo. There are also some Netflix movies that I'm really pumped to see and plan to write reviews including J.C. Chandor's latest picture in the thriller, Triple Frontier, Motley Crew biopic Dirt, and the Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson starring The Highwaymen.

Do you want my deeper thoughts on February movies including the Netflix originals? Here are the episodes of The Movie Breakdown from last month.

The Breakdown of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, \Velvet Buzzsaw, Cold Pursuit, Green Book and Polar

The Breakdown of High Flying Bird, The Favourite, Soni, The Prodigy and Animas

The Breakdown of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Alita: Battle Angel, Isn't It Romantic, Happy Death Day 2U, The Breaker Upperers, Dear Ex and the 2019 Academy Awards

The Breakdown of Fighting with My Family, Paddleton, The Drug King, The Tree of Blood and Yucatan

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Now It Is Time to Brag About My Incredibly Talented Wife: Showing Off Danika's Birthday Cake

For those actively following the blog, you know the hot news that Danika has turned four. For those who know tradition, you may have guessed we celebrated the occasion with a birthday party. It isn't a proper celebration of age turning without a cake. And my lovely wife, Emily, has proven to be a master of cake creating the last several years. To the point, the first thing the kids do when they know their birthday approaching is not asking for a gift but rather put an order in for the theme of the cake. Danika requested a Frozen cake, and I'd say Emily proved once again why she is one of the most talented people that I know. More importantly, it made one little girl very thrilled.













Monday, March 04, 2019

The Breakdown of 'Fighting with My Family', 'Paddleton', 'The Drug King', 'The Tree of Blood' and 'Yucatan'


It is a quiet week for new releases at the movie theatre, but that doesn't mean there aren't lots of movies to talk about. This week we've got reviews for five new releases including a few that have done the festival circuit. We have a dramedy starring Mark Duplass and Ray Romano in Paddleton. Speaking of funny, Stephen Merchant directs a biopic about former WWE wrestler Paige in Fighting with My Family. We are also reviewing three foreign films that are the art house picture The Tree of Blood, the gangster flick The Drug King and the heist comedy Yucatan. As always, we go down some rabbit trails and try to not derail the closing. We had a great time this week and we really hope you love the show. If you do enjoy it, please spread the word on social media and let other movie fans know about us.

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).



Four Star Rating:

Paddleton ***½ (CS & SM)
Fighting with My Family **½ (CS)
The Tree of Blood ** (CS & SM)
The Drug King ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Yucatan ** (CS) & **½ (SM)

The Way Too Early 2020 Best Picture Nominee Predictions


The 91st Academy Awards are done and so now our lives have a big giant glaring hole. How do we go on without endless awards chatter and prognosticating? What else is there in life other than arbitrarily choosing who might take home a gold statuette? How do we spend our days if we can't angrily declare how overrated a Best Picture nominee is or deride people on social media that don't share the exact same thoughts on nominees? Fear not, I got word that there is going to be a 92nd Academy Awards in 2020 and so right now is the perfect time to start making picks on who will be nominated for the coveted Best Picture.

The Oscar nominees won't be announced for another 10 months. Most of the movies that will be nominated have not been screened by anyone, and most cases, haven't even been finished yet. Something that looks like a sure thing now, could end up being this year's version of Welcome to Marwen or The Monuments Men. There could always be the big surprises, for example this time last year I would have never guessed a buddy comedy directed by one of the guys who helmed Dumb and Dumber and There's Something About Mary would win the Best Picture or I'd never have thought Yorgos Lanthimos would make something that would get nominated by the Academy.

It may be a little reckless to make Best Picture nominations this far out, but it is also a little fun trying to be fortune teller. Here are my predictions for the ten movies that will be nominated for Best Picture next January. Of course, I'd pick ten, because the Academy would never do something silly like leave two spots empty. If I do well (hit at least 50%), I'm sure I'll reference this article next year, and if I don't, this never happened.

Just for sake of ease, movies are listed alphabetically.

1. Fair and Balanced: Two things that the Academy gobbles up are movies that are socially relevant, and movies based on true events. You combine the two and you get Oscar magic. This movie is about the still discussed about discovery of former FOX News CEO Roger Ailes' sexual harassment of several female staff members. It was one of the major events that triggered the #MeToo movement, so if this is of any substantial quality, you know the Academy wants to shine a spotlight on it and show how progressive they are becoming. It has a powerhouse cast that includes Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman and John Lithgow (playing Ailes). The only question mark is Jay Roach's filmography mostly consists of broad comedies of varying quality, but my bet is that he is about to pull an Adam McKay with a story he is passionate about.

2. The Farewell: Most years there is one or two Sundance hits that find themselves in the Best Picture race. This movie was not only a huge hit with critics at the festival, but it also will push forward Academy's attempts at being more inclusive and diverse. It is a story about a Chinese American woman who returns to China because her grandma has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, but this is being kept secret from the matriarch, instead the visit is under the guise of attending a wedding. This is a great look into another culture, while also representing a group that still doesn't get enough American movies on the big screen. If this ends up having a strong audience then along with the great critical reception, this seems like the type of movie that will garner big attention by year end. Awkwafina who was a break-out in comedy roles last year with Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians has already been praised by adeptly blending in some serious dramatic depth., It also has the added advantage of acknowledging a film from a Chinese-American female director in Lulu Wang.

3. Ford v. Ferrari: Director James Mangold has history of delivering critical and audience favourites with movies like Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, and Logan. This is another movie looking like a contender due to an exciting cast with Christian Bale, Matt Damon and Jon Bernthal. Remember how I said Academy loves their true stories, well they like them even better when they're period pieces, so we have a real contender with it set in the 1960s. The story about the two iconic car companies battling it out at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans should be a mix of powerhouse drama along with some breathtaking action sequences. This has a strong chance of being the double punch power of being a box office hit and a critical darling.

4. The Goldfinch: If a movie isn't based on a true story, then the Academy will embrace adaptations of award-winning literary fiction. I was torn between choosing this movie and the Greta Gerwig directed Little Women, but there have already been several adaptations of Louisa May Alcott's classic, so I went with the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winner by Donna Tartt. Director John Crowley has endeared himself to the Academy with the magnificent Brooklyn, and he is now challenging himself with a darker and more sweeping story. It's about a boy who survives a terrorist attack that kills his mother and then is taken in by a rich socialite family, which leads to a complicated life where he becomes a forger. It will be great to see Ansel Elgort back in a hefty lead role and it is always awesome to see Nicole Kidman showing why she is an acting treasure.

5. Harriet: This may be my second biggest long-shot (later in this piece, I really take a risk by picking a big, giant, popcorn blockbuster franchise movie), but if this ends up being of substantial quality then I sense a home run. It is a biopic about famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman who escaped slavery and then played a huge part in the Underground Railroad that led hundreds of slaves to freedom. I can't believe it is 2019 and this is one of the first movies about the life of such an iconic figure (the second is an HBO movie also coming out this year). The Academy loves their biopics, and if this one is crafted carefully, it can still carry a lot of social importance for today. Cynthia Erivo, who I loved last year in Bad Time at the El Royale, get the title role and I am confident she will blow us away. It will also be a significant movie because it is directed by a black female filmmaker in Kasi Lemmons (whose previous work I'm not familiar, so therefore I'm not as confident). I'm excited about this one, and I hope Focus Features pushes for a wider release and backs this one strong.

6. The Irishman: Netflix finally was allowed at the big person table this year with the nomination for Roma and even ended up being a heavy favourite to the point Green Book winning was considered an upset. They already have a new strong contender by backing Martin Scorsese's hotly anticipated return to gangster pictures with a story about an alleged hitman who played a part in killing Jimmy Hoffa. It has an exciting cast of gangster movie veterans including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Al Pacino and a coming out of retirement Joe Pesci. Scorsese has one of the best percentages for crafting high quality pictures, and I have huge confidence that he wouldn't return to his most famous genre unless he had an amazing story to tell. This may not only be a huge Oscar favourite, but it could even land high on the much more highly coveted Christopher Spicer Best of the Year list.

7. It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: A huge portion of the Academy is probably very nostalgic for the iconic children's show, Mister Roger's Neighborhood. The Academy in their warped logic may also see a nomination for this movie as an apology for missing the boat on last year's critically revered documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? Tom Hanks gets the coveted lead role, and when he is in a great movie, his name usually does a lot for the movie's recognition and awards consideration. Also, if I am correct on these picks, a lot of the nominees next year are going to be emotionally heavy, so it will be good to balance it out with a feel-good picture. Director Marielle Heller has already helmed two critically praised movies in The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Can You Ever Forgive Me? so part of me thinks she is due for the big recognition. This will by far be her widest released film and my guess is it will be a decent box office hit for the fall.

8. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood: Quentin Tarantino helmed movies aren't nomination sure-things like a Scorsese picture, but he is such a high-profile filmmaker that if his movie is great then there is no way it can fly under the radar. This picture has already gained some controversy with its story about an actor and his stunt double trying to break into Hollywood during the time of the infamous Manson Family murders. The actual story beats are still unknown, but if Tarantino weaves his magic in taking edgy material but swirling it into something unique and entertaining then it can be a huge hit. It has an all-star cast in Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie who make anything riveting. No matter what, it should at least be one of the most memorable movies of 2019

9. The Report: This is the second Sundance darling on my list, and my second movie to be distributed by a streaming giant (this time Amazon Studios). Though Amazon announced some of their movies will go directly to the streaming service, my guess is a strong contender like this one will still get the tradition release model like their previous movies. As I've said many times, Academy loves based on true stories, and if it has political relevance to today's climate then that is just a sprinkle of more Skittles on nomination cake. The story here is a Senate staffer who uncovers findings about brutal interrogation technique implement after 9/11 and how the CIA and White House try to silence the truth from getting out. This has already got heavy critical praise, and this subject matter has been a hit in the past with the Academy (Zero Dark Thirty), so this seems like a sure-fire contender. It also is said to have amazing performances from usual powerhouses like Adam Driver and Annette Bening.

10. Star Wars Episode 9: Big popcorn blockbusters are not obvious Best Picture picks most years, but after the 'Most Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film' fiasco of last year, it is obvious that the Academy wants more big box office hits to be involved in the conversation. Black Panther made history by being the first Marvel movie to be nominated, so I think Disney will now push hard for another of their big franchises to be recognized in the top category. This also can be a way to reward what has been a great trilogy, and I feel like J.J. Abrams will want to end strong and tackle some of the deeper social themes that have been hinted at in the previous movies. If this has the depth that I expect, then this could slip into the 'won't win but being acknowledged is enough' slot.

I'll be happy if I get two or three of these right. It is almost impossible to know what will be hot and buzzy by the end of the year.  It is still unknown if most of these will even be good and some may even end up getting pushed to 2020. It is still fun to take a chance. What 2019 movies do you think will get nominated for Best Picture?

Edit March 6: Somehow, I accidentally deleted my original entry for The Goldfinch. It is now the ten predictions as advertised.

Friday, March 01, 2019

4 Years of Pictures of my Wonderful High-Energy Sweetheart

I can't believe it has been 4 years that my little princess Danika came into the world. Most days it feels like she is growing up way too fast, but other days, I can't even imagine there were years that she wasn't a part of my life. Danika is precocious, kind-hearted, mischievous, goofy, out-going, but most of all, she is a joy of my life. It has been great pleasure seeing her grow up and become a wonderful little woman.















































Happy Birthday and I love you, Danika.