Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Scott Guest Review: Is 'Cool as Ice' so Bad That You Must See It?

(CS: Some things in life are inevitable and Scott reviewing the Vanilla Ice star vehicle, Cool as Ice was one of those things)

Sometimes a celebrity turns into a joke. They may get cast in a film where they sit at a bar, and their cameo alone is the gag. That’s what has happened to the legacy of Vanilla Ice, but you can believe me that when I was in grade seven, I didn’t see him that way. His album, To the Extreme, had two big hits. He had a style. He was cool. How cool, you ask? Cool as ice, it would turn out.

Yep, I was a fan, and so were my friends. I had no clue at the time that there was going to be a film starring Vanilla Ice, and I don’t think my friends at the time knew. That film, Cool as Ice, started shooting in April of 1991 and was released in October of the same year. Apparently, the movie started getting developed after Vanilla Ice’s record label caught wind of Ice Cube getting into a film and decided to get their artist into a flick of his own. Ice Cube’s movie may have ended up having just a tiny bit more success, as Boyz n The Hood not only got nominated for Oscars, but also became a landmark film, as well as launching a successful acting career for the rapper. (CS: This is all true, but who is the one who can say that he has regular cameos in Happy Madison movies?)

It wasn't until my late teens when I found out that Vanilla Ice had been in a movie, more than a little late to the party. (CS: Having cable at the time, I was flooded with ads for Cool as Ice when it was released in theatres, but by that point, he had already lost some of his edge for me) At the time, I thought nothing of it. However, through the years I would hear from folks who had witnessed Cool as Ice, and its reputation as a bad movie grew. The world is full of bad movies, but there is something special about the ones that people say you have to see to believe, and Cool as Ice was repeatedly being described as such.

Last week I finally saw it. Last week I personally investigated to see if this was one of those movies that was so bad that you had to see it to believe it. Too many times a movie will get talked up and the experience of seeing it will be a let-down. That’s not what happened here. From the start of the film to the merciful end, I witnessed a nonstop barrage of cringe-worthy scenes.

What is most interesting about this film is the amount of embarrassment I felt while watching it. Sometimes you see something on the television or in a movie and it stirs in you this sense of vicarious shame for what someone else has done. Cool as Ice is like some sort of unethical human experiment devised by sociologists and psychologists to see just how discomforted viewers could become from witnessing what out of touch suits produce as an offering of cool to the youthful viewers.

Have you heard a parent in the mall (remember those things?) say something is radical or hip, only to have their offspring’s face turn red as they speed up their pace to distance themselves? This movie is that experience happening on repeat over ninety-one minutes.

Many people out there enjoy watching bad movies. I am one of those people. The problem is that I’d say the majority of ‘bad’ movies aren’t entertainingly bad. Many films just miss the mark with their execution or concept, and they don’t connect with the audience. Sometimes you get a Battlefield Earth, which is a rare example of the big budget movie of the modern era that is so awful you really have to see it. Others of its kind exist, but they aren’t plentiful. Sometimes I find the most alluring part about bad movies is the pursuit itself. Each time you tuck into something, you have a hope that this film will be one where your mind is blown by what you see. Often, the viewing experience isn’t something that will hit that sweet spot that you are craving.

Cool as Ice is that film that makes the hunt worthwhile. This is the experience you’re after that allows you to sit through so many dull films in search of the one that leaves you in awe. My jaw literally was wide open countless times throughout this film, as I was constantly stunned by the fact that actual adults made the decisions that became the reality I was watching. If I had known that this film was conceptualized and executed by seventh graders, it would still be fun to watch, but there would have been a cuteness to it. Adults did this. Humans with life experience and education were the brains that slapped this together and believed that this was a good idea. This was the unbelievable part of this film, as it felt more like it should have come from under-baked minds of prepubescent boys.

In the movie, Ice’s character Johnny ends up in a small town, and he seems to use the power of ‘cool’ to do whatever it is that he does. Ultimately, he has to help out the family of a cute small-town girl, as criminals from her father’s past suddenly show up to cause problems. Nobody saw this coming. Her father, who we find out was in witness protection, seems to have thought that appearing in an interview on television is a good idea. (CS: But without doing it, he'd never had got some cool in his life) Who will save this family from the idiocy of the father? Obviously, the person who is cool and has a motorcycle.

I don’t harbor hatred towards Robert Van Winkle (Vanilla Ice’s real name). He’s got a show about home renovations and seems to be very skilled at what he does. Good for him, sincerely. However, I think the warning signs about his abilities (or limitations) were present from the start. If you are a rapper or singer, and the images of you dancing in your music videos are always silhouettes, it lets us know pretty quickly you can’t dance. There’s nothing wrong with someone who can’t dance, but it is kind of embarrassing when people try in such an obvious manner to present themselves as something they aren’t. Perhaps all of Ice’s scenes should have only shown his silhouette. That decision may have been better for the integrity of the project, but we wouldn’t have this gem of an awful movie. This is a perfect drinking game movie, but if you’re taking a shot every time you are in disbelief at what you see, you may end up in the hospital.

Monday, May 25, 2020

The Breakdown of 'The Wrong Missy', 'Selah and the Spades', 'Spy Game' and 'Tucker: The Man and His Dream'

It is another big episode of The Movie Breakdown as we have four movie reviews for you. You just know you've been begging to hear about the latest David Spade comedy, and we have it in The Wrong Missy. We also have a spy-thriller when director Tony Scott and actors Robert Redford and Brad Pitt team-up in Spy Game. Did you know that Francis Ford Coppola directed a biopic starring Jeff Bridges in 1988? The box office says you did but we talk all about Tucker: The Man and His Dream. We also have a high school drama with adult themes in Selah and the Spades. There was also a big piece of news this week as the infamous Snyder Cut is going to become a real thing as the director's cut of Justice League is coming to HBO Max and we walk all about the repercussions and fall-out from this event.

As always, we had a great time recording this episode and we really hope you love the episode. If you do, please spread the word on social media, so other movie fans can find us.

Reminder that you can 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 Movies' Rating Out of Four Stars

The Wrong Missy ½*(CS) & *½ (SM)
Selah and the Spades ** ½ (CS & SM)
Spy Game ***½ (CS & SM)
Tucker: A Man and His Dream **½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Scott Martin Guest Review: Is Pauly Shore's 'In the Army Now' Better Than Its Reputation?

(CS: Today Scott decide to dip into the world of Paul Shore. He comes out alive but maybe not without scars)

My quest since the start of the pandemic has been simple. I shall hunt down movies with reputations of being bad and check them out to see if they are perhaps not really that bad. My list of films was already near unmanageable when I noticed I had a large blind spot. Not one film on the list was a 90s Pauly Shore vehicle. Should I want to feel as though I had done my best, I would need to include at least one of his films. (CS: If the goal was to find a potentially good one, I'd have gravitated towards Son in Law)

The big question was, which one? For the four years after Encino Man, the world was given four films starring Pauly Shore and his persona, The Weasel. (CS: For those thinking that I should have went for Encino Man, Pauly Shore didn't star in it, but it appears, it may not be as good as I thought as a dumb teen) We were blessed, some may say. We had it so good. Sadly, each film would make less than the one before it, with Bio-Dome bringing in only $13.4 million dollars. (CS: Ugh, Bio-Dome) That was the end of our dose of Shore. The magic had left the multiplexes.

To be honest and without sarcasm, I kind of liked Encino Man. The reasons I enjoyed it had nothing to do with Mr. Shore. Not one point in my misguided teen years did I ever find him funny, or anything short of annoying. There were people out there who enjoyed him, but the box office showed us that his shtick wasn’t one that the world would tolerate forever. Thank goodness for that.

Choosing which Shore movie to look at was easy. I picked the one that I thought would irritate me the least, and that was In the Army Now. It really says something that while looking into some of the worst films out there, I would intentionally try to pick one of the lesser evils. No matter what my intentions, I do not want to watch Bio-Dome.

Really, whichever Shore movie I selected; the conclusion would be the exact same. If you think Pauly Shore is funny, then you will find the film tolerable. That’s all. Should you not be one of those people, then any of the Pauly Shore films of the 90s will be torturous and demoralizing. This is easily the shortest piece I have written about any of these bad movies that I’m looking into, and the reason is simply ‘Pauly Shore.’ The only way any of his films will be anything other than dreadful is if you find him hilarious and whimsical. Otherwise, yes, any of those films is really that bad and must be avoided at all costs. (CS: I say, you need to watch them all before you can assume that they are dreadful. Though, of all the irritating 90s 'comedians' he does seem most likely to be consistently awful).

Thursday, May 21, 2020

The Midweek Breakdown: Will We Be Tweaking This Episode 40 Years Later?

We've got a bonus episode of The Movie Breakdown this week with piping hot movie talk and other randomness that we just need to discuss. I've been having issues with my computers, so we talk about all kinds of technology and somehow go on for quite a bit about different Microsoft products. That doesn't sound riveting, you say? Well we also talk about George Lucas' long history of tweaking, Spike Lee's foray into the Vietnam war movie and the next potential Get Out type horror/thriller. We had a blast recording the latest episode and we really hope you love it. If you do, then please spread the word to movie lovers.

Reminder that you can 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).

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Breakdown of 'Top Gun', 'The Half of It', 'Blow the Man Down' and Remembering Jerry Stiller and Fred Willard

The Movie Breakdown is ready to launch another week with three movie reviews, including the massive 1980s box-office hit and cultural phenomenon, Top Gun. We also discuss two streaming originals in the dark comedic thriller Blow the Man Down and the teen romantic comedy, The Half of It. After the reviews, we pay tribute to two comedy legends in Jerry Stiller and Fred Willard. We had a blast recording this week's episode and if you do love it, please spread the word on social media.

We also want to thank great artist and even better friend David Wierzbicki who did the incredible Jerry Stiller illustration. You can see more of his amazing artwork on his Instagram and Facebook pages.

Reminder that you can 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 Movies' Rating Out of Four Stars

The Half of It *** (CS & SM)
Top Gun ** (CS) & **½ (SM)
Blow the Man Down ***½ (CS & SM)

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Bonus Breakdown: Our Amazing Stunts Come at a Cost

Another week, another bonus episode of The Movie Breakdown. We discuss all sorts of things such as our own creative challenges during the pandemic, if movie studios are being naive thinking that they can release movies this summer, the best stingers of all-time and the challenges that came with filming a movie like Mad Max Fury Road. It wasn't a challenge having a great time recording this episode and we really hope you love it.

Reminder that you can 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).

Friday, May 15, 2020

Scott Martin Guest Review: Did 'The Adventures of Pluto Nash' Deserve to Be an All-Time Box Office Bomb?

(CS: I have proudly lived a life where I can say that I've never watched a second of The Adventure of Pluto Nash. This is not a thing that my The Movie Breakdown co-host, Scott Martin, can say anymore. In his quest to see if universally panned movies really deserve their reputations, he has now stumbled upon this Eddie Murphy box-office bomb.)

When The Adventures of Pluto Nash came into theatres in 2002, it was already in a bad position. Reshoots were needed to increase the quality after it did poorly in test screenings, and the cost of the film jumped from $80 million to $100 million. At least they had the star power of Eddie Murphy to help it get across the financial finish line, right? Well, Dr. Dolittle 2 came out the year previous, and showed pretty large diminishing returns from the first film. Still, I honestly would think that the name of Murphy alone should have at least given it a solid opening weekend.

When it hit theatres on August 16, 2002, it set a new record for the worst opening weekend for a film debuting in over 2,000 theatres. Pluto Nash only managed to scrape up $2.1 million in the domestic box office. Its second weekend saw a massive plunge in dollars, causing it to be bumped from most of theatres. After adding in the international tally, Pluto Nash brought in $7.1 million. I’m not sure what the budget was for marketing, but I know this is considered to be one of the biggest box office bombs in history.

When I was young, Eddie Murphy was superhuman to me. My bootlegged cassettes of Raw and Delirious pretty much got worn to oblivion. Beverly Hills Cop seemed a masterpiece to my youthful eyes (no surprise here, it is still one of the best action comedies out there), and he could do no wrong. And then The Nutty Professor had me checking out a bit. And then Dr. Dolittle pushed me a bit more to the sidelines. When I saw Bowfinger in theatres, I was so pumped by the return of Murphy. More than anything, I always want to see him nail it in movies to reinforce my memories of him as a child. That makes looking at something like Pluto Nash a dangerous endeavour. I want no ill memories of Murphy. And sure, it was a bomb, but could it be actually that bad?

Pluto Nash was a massive bomb theatrically, that can’t be denied, but there’s no way it could deserve one of the most embarrassing openings of the time. That’s what I had told myself before watching it. And now I can say, yes, it is that bad.

If you’ve read my stuff or heard the podcast, you will know that I am drawn to ‘bad’ movies. A bad movie is one that misses the mark, and sometimes missing the mark is rather engaging. People out there are trying really hard (usually), but not everything is golden. Chris and I enjoy when a film is being ambitious or not being afraid of being out there, and while we criticize, we honestly do appreciate the effort. Other films, however, are an insult to the audience, come across as mean, and promote some horrendous things. I don’t believe the worst movies to watch fall into either category, as both the ambitious or monstrous give lots to talk about. The worst kind of film to watch is what Pluto Nash is, and that is the downright boring.

A movie like Butterfly may be more difficult to push through until the end, but there is substance to that experience. We can look at the film and hit a great number of ethical or sociological talking points. When you see a boring film, you just hate your decision. There is pretty much very little that it leaves you with, because more than likely you end up doing some solid daydreaming during it.

Twenty minutes in was the first time I realized that I had stopped paying attention. I know I had checked out earlier in the film, but this was when I was aware of it. There was moment in the movie when I thought, “Crap heck! When did Luiz Guzman arrive? Has he been there for just mere moments, or have I lost actual minutes of this film?” The truth was I had lost probably about ten minutes. My phone wasn’t a distraction. I wasn’t multitasking. The film was just such that my mind wandering off in circles was easier to do than keep paying attention.

The movie is set in the future, and people live on the moon. Pluto Nash gets a nightclub, but then a bad guy wants to buy it from him because of gambling something or other. Rosario Dawson is in it as a young woman who needs a job. (CS: Probably also the reason she took this role) Probably the only semi-interesting character, but still not that engaging. Randy Quaid plays Nash’s robot bodyguard, Bruno. This, I must admit, is horrendous. The concept is not executed well, and Quaid’s performance is… without proper words. (CS: Kind of like how you could describe the real-life Quaid now)

When I came into the present at the twenty-minute mark, I started asking myself if this was a comedy. At this point, I had to hit pause and check out IMDB. Yes, it is a comedy, and there was one point when I smiled. One of the characters (don’t ask me who, I’m just happy enough that I remember a detail of the film) is handling cash monies, and Hillary Clinton’s face is on the bills. Remember, this was released back in 2002, so I got a kick out of it.

The most productive thing to come from the viewing experience is that I have decided on my next movie to check out. I’m planning on digging into Paul Shore in In the Army Now, (CS: I for some reason keep getting this movie confused with Jury Duty, but they also may be interchangeable) which wasn’t already on my list. Because of this, something productive came from Pluto Nash. If all I get from a movie is an idea of what other bad films are out there, it is sad. This isn’t the most horrible film out there, but it is one that falls into the worst category of movie, and that’s the one that offers nothing but boredom. (CS: Confession time, I got this movie confused with The Meteor Man)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Revisiting the Collective: Wrestlemania XXVIII: Rock vs. John Cena Battling to Make Wrestling Cool Again

(CS: I am not going to repost all of my past pop culture columns from The Collective Publishing site, because a significant amount were previews for upcoming TV or movie seasons in 2012-2014 that don't really have much value in 2020. Even though this is basically just a preview for a show that has long passed, I am kind of proud of the fact that I was able to write about wrestling when my editor couldn't have been less interested in the pseudo-sport.  Plus, I do discuss wrestling history on here, and I get a kick out of pointing out all the things that I got wrong because mocking 2012 Christopher is fun. What a goof.)

Wrestlemania XXVIII (that’s 28 for the roman numerically challenged) is this Sunday night. Wrestlemania is the biggest event for wrestling fans, and is the one night in the year that many become wrestling fans.(CS: I got my wrestling-hating wife to even watch the last three matches on this show -- though she'd never admit it, I think that she had fun)  It attracts hardcore wrestling fans, casual fans, and even some “non-fans”. It has become a huge extravaganza that several cities bid for the right to host the event (there were 14 cities that threw in a bid to host this year’s mega event). It is a weekend of festivities that is capped off with a 4 hour (CS: Now, it has ballooned to a ridiculous five and half hour main show with a two hour pre-show) Sunday night wrestling event that fills a stadium with often over 65 000 fans (CS: Unless it is 2020 where it is in the empty Performance Centre and is a two night event) and attracts close to (and sometimes even over) million more globally on Pay Per View (PPV) television. (CS: WWE killed their PPV model when they launched their own WWE Network in 2014, where fans went from paying $60 an event to $10 a month for the library of past events/shows and new monthly events)  You add in the revenue from tickets for the wrestling event, the countless merchandise sold, the buys from PPV , and the other events over the weekend (including a Saturday night Hall of Fame), then you’re looking at the most lucrative weekend of the year for the wrestling giant, WWE. (CS: WWE now makes most of their money from lucrative TV deals they have in place with USA Network and FOX)

This year WWE is hoping for its most profitable Wrestlemania ever as it presents its event from Miami. (CS: To this day, it was the most profitable wrestling show ever on PPV) Wrestlemania often attracts former wrestling fans that have drifted away from the pseudo sport and garners enough media attention to lure several curious viewers. This year it is banking on grabbing the horde of fans it once had back when wrestling was still considered cool in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. (CS: It was the first event I ordered on PPV since around 2003, and my second last ever)

Wrestlemania is being headlined by what WWE is billing the biggest main event off all time, when its current biggest star John Cena does battle with one of the biggest stars of the “cool period of wrestling” and current box office juggernaut film star, Dwayne Johnson or in wrestling known as The Rock.

The Sunday main event presents a very interesting dynamic and will attract two very different generation of fans. John Cena is the current mega star in the WWE and is a massive merchandise seller among the younger wrestling fans, and he has helped make the company a ridiculous amount of money even if wrestling isn’t as “hot” or “trendy” as it was ten years ago. Cena is despised by the older wrestling fans who consider him one of the reasons they’ve moved away from wrestling and replaced it with things like UFC (a company that attracted countless past wrestling fans who have become frustrated with the current direction of wrestling). They see Cena as a cartoon character who panders to the audience and the epitome of the new “family friendly” style WWE. The WWE realizes they’ve lost these fans, but also hope they can get them back for at least one night by appealing to nostalgia. (CS: The record PPV buyrate would say that they succeeded for that one night). They will bring back not only one of the most popular wrestlers during the hottest period in WWE (then known as WWF), but one of the most profitable wrestlers ever. The old fans see the Rock as a charismatic, cool and edgy wrestler who was a major part of when they actually loved wrestling, or more importantly, everything that they believe Cena isn’t.

All signs point to WWE being successful in garnering interest and getting some of these old fans to return to watch Wrestlemania. Wrestlemania is always an event that attracts tons of attention, but with the addition of the Rock, WWE is likely to get one of its highest buy rates ever on PPV (CS: Highest grossing, at least) and rake in a mountainous amount of cash. Obviously, the WWE hopes to get some of these old fans to stick around and create yet another golden era for wrestling (and snag back some of those fans that UFC “stole” away from them). (CS: In what had to be considered a heroic effort, the next night after Wrestlemania they had the return of UFC star and former WWE Champion, Brock Lesner who beat-up Cena to set up the next program)  Is Rock vs. Cena the match and event that will create new fans and bring back old ones? (CS: Nope. Even Brock wasn't enough to get me to stick around as a weekly viewer) The best way to figure that out is look at two past Wrestlemanias that played a big part in creating “boom periods” in wrestling.

The first Wrestlemania was in 1985 and emanated from the historic Madison Square Gardens in New York (at the time considered the main base of operations for the then WWF). The main event was a tag team match that saw the evil Rowdy Roddy Piper (CS: RIP) and his partner “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orndorff battle with WWF World Champion Hulk Hogan and TV star Mr. T. Now, Mr. T is considered a bit of a punch line to a joke about the ‘80s, but in 1985, he was a legitimate mainstream superstar. He was the star of a smash hit TV show (The A-Team), he was making countless cameos, had his own action figure, and even had his own breakfast cereal. (CS: Plus a Saturday morning cartoon, motivational videotapes and music album)  His involvement in the first Wrestlemania made the event a true pop culture extravaganza that attracted tons of media and made it the must attend event (even if you were a non wrestling fan). (CS: I shortchanged poor Cyndi Lauper who was responsible for kicking off the Rock and Wrestling Connection and got the momentum going before this and would have been a draw as the manager in the Women's title match) 

The week leading to Wrestlemania, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan were on several talk shows and all over various forms of media. Now, obviously Mr. T wasn’t going to stick around after the wrestling match because he had his popular TV show, and so the goal was to create a new star to get those new fans hooked on the product. Hulk Hogan being associated with Mr. T made him a household name, and to this day, many non-wrestling fans still know the name Hulk Hogan. Hogan became a larger than life superhero and led the WWF to their most profitable period at the time between 1985 to about 1990.

In the mid to late ‘80s, wrestling was a major part of Saturday morning television, (CS: It was more Saturday afternoon) the wrestling figures were all over places like Walmart and Toys R Us, and it was the cool thing to talk about at school. (CS: It was actually the wrestling figures that turned me into a wrestling fan as I got several for my birthday in 1987 and asked my mom if I could watch one episode so I can could see my toys on TV, and well, the rest is history)  The kids eventually grew up and the adults tired of the wrestling product and Hogan started to become stale. (CS: More like grew to be teenagers than adults since we're talking about early 90s and my age group).  But for a good part of the ‘80s, wrestling was incredibly popular, and Hulk Hogan was a mainstream superstar.

The WWF ended up making even more money and becoming more popular in 1998 thanks to the success of Wrestlemania XIV. The WWF once again gained tons of media exposure thanks to the announcement that Mike Tyson (who was a huge PPV draw and the biggest star in boxing) would be the special referee/enforcer during the WWF World Championship main event between Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The company got tons of exposure before the event with a scripted altercation where “Stone Cold” Steve Austin confronted Mike Tyson in the ring and they both got into a shoving match. The entire thing was planned, but it still ended up being reported by several different major national and international media outlets. (CS: It is an angle that WWE and many other companies tried to replicate again but nothing ever really got the mainstream attention like that angle again)  

Wrestlemania once again attracted attention from casual or even non-wrestling fans. The day after Wrestlemania, several fans tuned into the Monday Night Raw telecast to watch the new WWF World Champion “Stone Cold” Steve Austin stand up to the evil boss Vince McMahon and kick off a huge storyline that pushed WWF into the most profitable and popular period ever. A new superstar was created in Stone Cold Steve Austin who was seen as the blue-collar hero standing up to his corrupt boss, and he fit perfectly into an era that glorified the anti-hero.

These two Wrestlemanias have something in common with this year’s event. All three headlined a popular mainstream superstar and used his popularity to garner attention and attract outside fans. Wrestlemania 1 and 14 were able to turn that attention into several years of major success. The big difference is that there was also a wrestler ready to be made into a new star. Once the celebrities like Mr. T and Mike Tyson left, they left behind the creation of new superstars like Hulk Hogan and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The WWE doesn’t have that this time. Once the Rock returns to making movies, there isn’t that new star to be created.(CS: To be fair, Hulk Hogan had already been established as top draw before Wrestlemania and Stone Cold was clearly the guy at that point, but the Wrestlemanias were used to push them ever farther and attract that elusive casual audience)  John Cena has been around for years, and the fans they want to bring back have already decided they despise him. (CS: To be fair yet again, Cena may not have Hogan, Austin or Rock appeal, but his name was a draw and having him on top did increase ratings, buyrates and ticket sales. WWE would kill for someone of Cena's drawing power today).  In the past, the celebrities were able to give the rub of success to a wrestler and help propel him into stardom. This time, these fans want to see the celebrity (The Rock) vanquish the wrestler. But if that happens, you have the celebrity disappearing and nothing left to make new fans. (CS: What I didn't know at the time was the 'Once in Lifetime' slogan for this match was a lie and they already had planned a two-match series with a rematch to take place at the next Wrestlemania)

Wrestlemania 28 will be successful, and it is going to draw in an army of fans who haven’t watched wrestling in ages. But it isn’t going to be the next boom period of wrestling and most likely, many of the fans will then go on to forget about wrestling for another 364 days. (CS: Because of the surprise Lesner return the next night, I'd say many stuck around for a few more weeks until they killed that goodwill by having Lesner lose to Cena in his first match back)  I’m sure there may be some inclination to make these fans happy by scripting the Rock to be victorious (especially since he is wrestling in his adopted hometown of Miami), and I know that is even the finish I want to see. The reality is, the Rock will be gone after Wrestlemania, and Cena will be left trying to sell tickets and be the top star. He has to win, and yes, it will mean everything will just return back to normal. The old fans will leave in disgust, and the attention will fade away from the WWE. (CS: Rock ended up winning, but what I didn't know was he was signed for three more matches over the next year that included him winning the WWE World title and then losing it to Cena at the next Wrestlemania. Though the rematch did significantly less business since people were burnt after being promised this was a 'Once in a Lifetime' match. But who is the fool for believing wrestling marketing?)

Wrestling may become the cool and popular thing again one day. (CS: It still hasn't but it has become immensely profitable due to some smart TV deals) It won’t be this year and may not be any time soon. There will be periods where the old fans will come back to check out a Wrestlemania or watch an occasional show, but they likely won’t stick around for long. (CS: I think Ronda Rousey brought in some fans for a short bit too, but they didn't stick around either. I know I haven't consistently watch WWE since about 2002. Though before Covid-19, I was getting into a new rival promotion, AEW) One day, there might be another star who is ready to be the next Hulk Hogan or “Stone Cold” Steve Austin who will sell tons of merchandise and create legions of new fans. John Cena likely won’t be that man. (CS: I was unfair to Cena here. He is easily one of the biggest WWE draws after Hogan, Austin, Rock and Bruno Sammartino, and a much longer draw on top than Austin or Rock, though never near as big. And again, WWE would kill today to get anyone even as half as over as Cena today) But he still has played an important part in bringing back the old fans for one night, and making many people interested in wrestling for a short period of time. He is the man that many fans hope will be defeated by their returning hero, The Rock. It likely won’t happen, and it shouldn’t happen. (CS: It did) The match has made wrestling cool again for just one night, and I’m sure the profits will be enough to make WWE very happy. (CS: Highest grossing PPV ever, so yes. I remember someone in the comments of this original article telling me how I was overestimating the appeal of this match)

Monday, May 11, 2020

No Buts About It

I like compliments.

My assumption is that you like compliments too.

While I try not to fish around for compliments or try to manipulate a conversation in a way that I'm forcing praise or adoration, there are times that I hope to get positive recognition for an accomplishment. As someone that often wrestles with self-doubt that can lead to depression or as someone that on a daily basis is putting his work out there into the public for anyone to see or read or listen, it is uplifting when someone expresses sincere appreciation for my work. 

I am going forward with the assumption that you also like your hard work acknowledged and sometimes just need a boost that comes from appreciation or genuine gratitude. If I'm wrong about your stance on receiving compliments then this may go down as the most useless post I've written since my ode to sweatpants,

Most of us, except the people who just grumbled 'those stinking dang compliments' and left this article in a huff, can agree that it is good to bestow compliments, praise and encouragement on others. We don't necessarily encourage just to get it back, but we realize the boost that it gives us, so we try to pay forward to others that deserve or may just need a pick-me-up that day. I believe that sincere and earned compliments build a person up and give them a stronger drive for more success.

I also recognize that sometimes I can appreciate something but see there is room for improvement. I am glad Everett cleaned his room but maybe it would have been better if he didn't stuff all the trucks into his closet. I really appreciate the shirt that was bought for me, but did it have to be in pink? I love the performance Danika did for me, but did I need to hear 'Let It Go' for the hundredth time? The garden the person has been working on all day looks great, but they missed a whole bunch of weeds in the left corner.

As much as it is nice to compliment, most of us like to offer constructive criticism even more. Because everyone wants to improve right? We can build someone up but also let them know that they can be better. It is just so much more efficient to squeeze in some constructive feedback along with that praise.

But. . . 

What if your attempt to lift someone's spirit or show your appreciation is completely lost when you also attempt to shine a light on areas for improvement? It is like giving someone an elegant cake but then right after slapping them in the face. They probably are in less of a mood to thank you for the cake, especially since it has now splattered all over the ground.

In the documentary Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, Robbins is running one of his self-improvement retreats. At one point, Robbins asks a wife if she has seen noticeable improvements in her husband's confidence and behaviour after doing the week-long activities and exercises. She responds that she appreciates all the progress he has made but she hopes he can keep it up when they get home. At this moment, Robbins cringes. He argues that she built up her husband to just knock him back down all in one sentence. She appreciated him while also doubting he could be that person all at the same time. She raised him up to smash him with a but.

I saw this movie several years ago for The Movie Breakdown podcast and I can't even remember if it actually was a couples retreat or if the movie was about one specific retreat or several different ones. I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of movies since that one, so I am not surprised that I don't remember a lot of it (did I even recommend it?). But I vividly remember that scene and it has been embedded in my brain.

How many times have I built someone up to only unintentionally crush their self-esteem and confidence in the exact same sentence? How many times did I allow that pesky but to creep into the compliment or praise?

I think about my kids and they both have their things that they struggle with on a regular basis. They also have good days where they conquer those challenges and they impress me with their effort. I praise them. But I also want them to get better and to rid that struggle from their life. I am coming from a sincere and compassionate place. On those days that they are little champions and they've been doing exactly what I've been hoping, the last thing they need is to be reminded of their flaws and of the very things they made such a strong effort to eradicate that day. Will they fall short tomorrow? Will those bad habits surface again? Probably. My kids appear to be humans. But reminding them of those mistakes by saying something like, 'You were really great today, but I hope you can do it again tomorrow' deflates all the energy and encouragement that I just pumped into them. They probably remember the issues they've struggled with for the last few years and the day of victory is the worst moment to remind them of it. 

Yes, their flaws may return. Yes, I really wish they wouldn't. Yes, as a parent I need to help teach and guide my kids. But pointing out where they need to improve in what is supposed to be a moment of encouragement and building them up isn't the time for constructive criticism that reminds them of a weakness. Compliment should be a celebration with no buts attached to it.

I know someone who had an unhappy marriage. I am the first to agree that a marriage is a thing that must be built and nurtured by both people. If it wasn't working, then both spouses need to take some responsibility. In this case, the reason the one person was unhappy was due to the other spouse not showing much affection and often doing things that were deemed foolish. I know that the other spouse could have been way more affectionate and had their own issues that they should have been more willing to work through. But I also often saw the unhappy person openly complain about their spouse to others and rarely show any appreciation for the effort or work that their spouse had made. When that other spouse did do something kind or helpful or smart and if I pointed it out, the unhappy spouse would usually conceded it was good thing but they add that the other spouse almost never did this and they probably couldn't keep it up or they found some flaws in the action. You could see the other person start to crumble and you probably can figure out why they rarely wanted to show affection or have the strength to rise to the moment. It is hard to be a hero if the people you're trying to protect and love can't fully embrace your actions.

I get constructive criticism. It has a lot of value. We do need to tell those that we love and trust how they can improve. If no one tells me where I can improve as a writer and podcaster than I'm likely to continue to wallow in mediocrity or be unaware of my weaknesses in that field. I do tell my kids what they need to work on or point out when they are being natural disasters. but if someone is just told constantly how they need to improve and where they are failing then they are going to be buried and overwhelmed by their shortcomings. The spouse may start seeing any effort as pointless because no matter what they do comes with a criticism attached. A child may start believing that they are hopeless because even on good days they are reminded about what they do wrong. A friend may move because a relationship is burying them in negativity.

People need to be told how they can improve but they also need to be told when they are amazing and awesome and wonderful. They need to be built up so that they have the confidence and self-esteem to aspire to be better, stronger and smarter. Sometimes they need praise and encouragement with no buts.

I get that it can be hard. For the first time the spouse actually cooks dinner or finally fixes that loose plank on the deck, you want to thank them but you'd also like them to know it'd be nice it if it happened more often. Or you're glad they swept the floor after woodworking, but it'd be nice if they wiped the workspace too. You're glad they made the pasta bake but if they'd added this seasoning or cooked it this way then it would have been so much better. If you present your kids a long list of how they could have cleaned the family room better or let your spouse know how much better it would have been if they did this weeks ago or provide detailed critiques to the friend who is doing you a favour then you may have the answer why those people rarely do what you expect or want from them. 

A compliment or praise or encouragement is not those things if the person feels worse after. If you want to build someone up and make them have the confidence to really reach their potential in life, then leave out the buts. A compliment is not a real compliment when there is a but attached. You have not empowered or built someone up if you've also reminded them of their flaws. If someone does something good even if not to pristine standards then usually a compliment is what is appropriate,

Let me make this very clear, this is being written by someone who is very guilty of this. This is not some passive aggressive manifesto to try to get people to tell me how awesome I am. I am writing this because I recognize how often that I let that cruel but ruin a moment of victory. We focus so much on the negatives about ourselves and others that we forgot to celebrate all the wonderful things about each other. There is so much anxiety, hostility and sadness permeating throughout the world with people feeling so exhausted and beat down, and a lot of that can change if we focus more on building each other up than pointing out the things we don't like about a person. The world can use a lot more positivity and a huge start is to give genuine and heartfelt compliments, gratitude and encouragement that is absent of buts.

This is not a declaration against any criticism. I have been a professional movie critic since 2012, so I've done my fair share of pointing out issues in things. There is a time and place where you can suggest areas where someone can improve and better themselves. But I also think it is so natural for us as humans to notice the flaws or know what we want to be better that we rarely really appreciate the reason we love someone in the first place and we forget even more often to voice those appreciations to those that we love.

So, if someone does a kind act of service or gives you a nice gift or have accomplished a major achievement or is making real effort to better your relationship then show your appreciation and compliment them but leave the buts out. Leave the constructive criticism for another day and this time just build them up and make them feel appreciated. You may end up being shocked that the encouragement and appreciation will push them to be much better and be more motivated to improve than any sentence that has a but ever will. A person who gets that high of being appreciated may do what they can to achieve it again or find ways to be even better without that pesky but.

There are also selfish reasons to leave out the buts. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, you are fully appreciating the good things in your life. You are being grateful for that person and all their positives. The spirit of gratefulness and a more positive outlook will make you feel better and see your relationships in a much happier and positive way.

So, it is time to give authentic and sincere encouragement, praise and compliments with no buts about it.

The Breakdown of 'Airplane!', 'The Natural', 'The Willoughbys', 'Troop Zero' and 'The Boondock Saints'

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother's Day and was able to show some love for their mom. We are supposed to be at the start of the summer blockbuster movie season, but that is hard to do with all the movie theatres closed. So, instead we will review some past summer movies including what is considered one of the most beloved and influential comedies of all-time, Airplane! (which came out in the summer of 1980). You know what is big in the summer, baseball. There was a rather big baseball movie that came out in 1984 called The Natural starring Robert Redford, so we review that too. We also look at a movie that is considered a cult hit in The Boondock Saints, but it wasn't a summer movie and barely was released in theatres. Speaking of not being release in theatres, we have two streaming originals in the animated family adventure The Willoughbys and a period piece family dramedy in Troop Zero that stars Mckenna Grace and Viola Davis.

We had a great time recording this episode even if the dreaded technical difficulties made their way in a few times. We really hope you love the show as well, and if you do, please help us out by spreading the word on social media. It will do more wonders for the show than a Skittles rainbow.

Reminder that you can 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 Movies' Rating Out of Four Stars

The Willoughbys *** (CS & SM)
Troop Zero *** (CS & SM)
Airplane **** (CS & SM)
The Natural **** (CS) & *** (SM)
The Boondock Saints ½* (CS) & ** (SM)

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Scott Answers If 'Porky's' Deserves Its Reputation as a Tasteless and Bad Movie?

(CS: Scott returns with his mission of seeing if movies that have a reputation of being not just bad but awful are actually much better than believed. This week he looks at the box office hit that kicked off the teenage sex comedy boom of the 1980s, Porky's)

Different people will have their own reactions when they hear the word, Porky’s. The 1981 movie, written and directed by Bob Clarke has a reputation that is… perhaps not the best. Defenders may say that it is simply a ‘boys will be boys’ movie, and haters use words like misogynistic. Remember, this film was made in the early 80s, so there is a chance that our modern reaction to the film may be one of over political correctness and forgetting that it was made in a different time. (CS: To be fair, Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel despised this movie but loved movies like MASH, Animal House, Sixteen Candles and Revenge of the Nerds without mentioning any of the issues in them that we see now)

Not everything ages well. Some movies get forgiven for their sins. Some movies don’t. And then there are also films where nostalgia seems to paint over issues, leaving people forgetting that there were even any problems at all. I feel that MASH fits into this category, where it seems as though people don’t recall any of its inappropriate aspects. On the podcast, we recently reviewed Animal House, and a great deal of attention was paid to talking about changing times, and what wasn’t even to be considered correct when the film was released. (CS: Yet oddly enough even liberal-minded critics like Roger Ebert seemed to have very little issues with those things at the time) As I said, some films get forgiven, while others don’t.

I wanted to look at Porky’s to see if perhaps there was overreaction towards it. I think I’m kind of politically correct, but I know people can take it way too far. Maybe the memory of Porky’s through the mind of the modern person really misses out on the true heart of the movie. Maybe we all project our own sense of ‘rightness’ on anything that dared do things differently and had a bit of edge.

Watching Porky’s, I saw a movie about male comradery. In 2020, the alpha view of the male is quite different than what we see in this film set in 1954. Are we even allowed by the PC culture to focus on the primal elements of manly brotherhood? It could be that Bob Clarke’s film hit on something that is quite important as a counter argument to the demasculinization of gender and the focus on free-flowing neutrality. The story is one of teen guys on the cusp of becoming men. Many issues that the characters' face, such as overcoming bigotry and standing up for themselves and their communities are legitimate even this many years later. The story is about coming together, being the band of brothers and standing shoulder to shoulder with our peers as we stare down the challenges of the world.

And it’s about Pee Wee. He’s, I guess, the main character. He is awful. He is more than awful. I don’t condone violence, but I honestly wouldn’t have minded if our little, misogynistic pit stain of a lead character got tossed over the side of a sea-bound galleon and keel-hauled until there was nothing left of him but a memory of our delight at seeing him vanish from site on his way to an intimate date with the barnacle covered hull of such a mighty vessel.

Honestly, I did hate that character. Thankfully, I found comfort in the fact that I could spread my loath across the entire cast of characters. Boys will be boys, sure. I never really agreed with that stuff, but if the characters are likable and ultimately not mean-spirited then we are able to accept that they are flawed. (CS: Bluto from the aforementioned Animal House, for example) It’s not just something that affects raunchy comedies, but all movies. Audiences can accept many actions from characters if we believe that these people on the screen are just trying their best to find their way. The people we watch on the screen might well do many things we ourselves would never, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t connect with us.

What doesn’t work in Porky’s is the lack of likability of anyone, as well as the fact that there is but no objective in their lives. Ultimately, their trouser trusses are divining rods that get them dowsing any which way that will lead them to any kind of sexual fulfillment. Jeremy spoke in class today.

Sorry, I was temporarily distracted by the music I’m currently listening to. But this distraction is a good opportunity to stop talking about hateful characters put in hateful situations and mention that this is one of the highest performing Canadian films of all-time. Yep, this film that was written and directed by an American, shot in Florida, and starring mainly Americans is a Canadian film. This is because of tax stuffs that I seriously tried hard to understand and research, but financial words and even the basic idea of trading a dollar bill for an asparagus evades me. Thankfully the transaction works, and I can walk home with my handful of asparagus. Because of a tax something or other for movie production that was ultimately increased by the papa Trudeau in 1974, filming in Canada (but apparently not even needing to film in Canada) in the 1970s was all about tax somethings. Credits? You know… monies. (CS: Director Bob Clark was also mostly working in Canada at the time, and the executive producers and one of the production companies behind it were Canadian based, so that likely is a reason it is considered Canadian, just like an American production can be filmed elsewhere)

As a Canadian, this means that technically Porky’s will be discussed as one of the biggest home-grown hits of all time. It was the sixth highest grossing film of 1982, and really paved the way for teen sex comedies. Bob Clarke is a director I quite like for films like Black Christmas (CS: Also, Canadian!) and A Christmas Story, but this tale of his missed the mark for me.

This could have been a really good film. Yes, teenage boys can be sex-obsessed, but they can also be more than just that. If the characters had something else to them then we can attach while we can shake our heads at their antics, because we know they mean well. The antics themselves would also have to be managed a little differently. Porky’s could have easily been a film that rattled a few people but told an endearing story about boys becoming men. Instead, it focused on unlikable characters doing unlikable things, and sticking their asparagus through walls. This film does indeed deserve its reputation.

Scott Completes His Punishment

Remember back in the day when movie theatres where buildings that were open to the public and you could see movies on a giant screen? During that glorious time, there was what was known as the summer blockbuster movie season where the studios delivered their tentpoles and were expecting some of the biggest box office grosses of the year. To celebrate that big time in movie, The Movie Breakdown would do an annual Summer Box Office Challenge where we each drafted ten movies that we thought would have the biggest opening weekend domestic box office grosses. And every year, I ended up winning the contest and my reward was choosing three movies that Scott would have to review. Well, he has finally got around to reviewing those three movies, which are Do the Right Thing, Running Wild and Daddy Day Care. Please check them out, as a strong audience will hopefully motivate him to bless us with more than just three written movie reviews a year.

The Midweek Breakdown: So, Now We Know How Tom Cruise Will Die

We're back to delivering bonus episodes of The Movie Breakdown this week and it is loaded with banter and personal anecdotes. Have you ever wondered if I stole a freshly baked cookie as a child? This is the episode for you. We also talk about Tom Cruise pushing for a movie shot in actual outer space and then reflect on some of the best and most famous movie gimmicks in history. We also discuss Universal landing the right to make Lego movies and analyze if that is a smart business move now. It is almost two hours of free-form movie discussion mixed in with thoughts about life and whatever else comes to mind. We had a blast recording it and we really hope you love the show. If that is what you feel, then please spread it by sharing on social media.

Reminder that you can 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).

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Revisiting The Collective: Movies That Were Better Than the Book

(CS: Since my pieces for The Collective Publishing site no longer have a home, I'm going to continue to transport some of them over here. Just like my other piece, I'll insert some modern thoughts where I feel appropriate. Let's see how much I disagree with 2012 Christopher this time. 

So, this piece was written because pop culture lists were all the rage in 2012, and since this was only the second installment of my weekly pop culture column, I was also in heavy justifying the weekly paying gig mode and trying to write stuff that would gain big numbers. I found out a little after this that my columns were some of the most popular pieces on the site but considering the site went under after only three years, you can decide what 'popular' really means.)

The highly anticipated Hunger Games comes out in movie theatres this weekend (CS: Since I had yet to come up with the brilliant idea of offering myself as a film critic for the site, I didn't see this one in theatres but did end up reviewing it later for The Movie Breakdown). I am not sure how it will do in the box office, but based off the popularity of the series, it should rake in a decent amount of money (CS: It was the third highest grossing movie of 2012, so I'd say it did better than decent). I do know that there will be several people walking out of the theatre muttering, “The book was better.”(CS: And people whining Rue was black, even though the novel makes it pretty clear that she was)

 It is a line that I’ve probably heard about a thousand times in my lifetime. I admit that half the time I am the one saying it. Even though it has become cliché to say the book was far better than the movie, in most cases it is the truth. A film can never compare to the visions and imagination that form in your head while the book sweeps you away to a far-off land. But a book really isn’t always better than the movie. Here are a few examples where the film adaptation captured the story much better than the original novel.

Die Hard: I’m sure many of you read this and screamed out, “What? Die Hard was a novel?” One of the greatest action movies of the ‘80s was based off a late ‘70s novel by Roderick Thorp titled Nothing Lasts Forever (though I wonder if they’ll ever stop churning out sequels to the film version?) (CS: A Good Day to Die Hard answered that question). The novel is a fine suspense story, but it lacks a wise cracking Bruce Willis, big loud explosions, and John McClane’s famous catchphrase (Yippee Ki Yay. . .). This has to be one of the most watched “Guys' Night” films in history, while most people still doubt me that there was even a book. (CS: Ugh. I hate that "Guys Night' line, especially since Emily may love action movies even more than me. I should have just said Die Hard is one of my favourite movies and left gender alone)

Forrest Gump: Winston Groom’s novel is a fun and easy read. Let’s be honest here, the story of a dim-witted male stumbling upon some of the most historic moments of the ‘60s and ‘70s is pretty far-fetched and unbelievable. It is Tom Hanks’s amazing acting that draws you into the film and makes the story relatable. Without that powerhouse performance, the story gets exposed for its silly premise and you’re stuck rolling your eyes rather than getting your heart warmed. To really put things over the edge, the novel has even more crazy events like Forrest blasting off into space with an ape, becoming a professional wrestler, and being stuck on an island with a tribe of cannibals. (CS: I actually don't even remember liking the book, so not sure why I described it as fun)

Jaws: The novel written by Peter Benchley changed society’s perception of sharks and turned them into monsters of the sea in many people’s eyes. The novel is a significant piece of pop culture history, but its impact gets swallowed by the blockbuster film directed by the iconic Steven Spielberg. Benchley fills his novel with several subplots about the mafia and adultery, but Spielberg realizes this story needs to be all about the shark. The film brought us classic scenes, unforgettable lines (“You’re going to need a bigger boat.”) and a legendary score. The film Jaws was responsible for the creation of blockbuster films, and despite being over 30 years old, is still one of the most thrilling film experiences.

The Hunt for Red October: I have to admit that I’ve never been a fan of Tom Clancy’s novels. I realize he sells millions and millions, but I’ve always found his writing style to be formulaic and overly technical.  (CS: Sorry, what did you say? I fell asleep thinking about Tom Clancy novels) The film version is filled with tension and has brilliant pacing and contains great performances from both Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery. This will likely be the choice many will disagree with me on, but I think the film is a great thriller that stirs up emotions and excitement far better than the book.

Psycho: The novel by Robert Bloch was creepy and disturbing, and still contains the legendary twists and surprises. But the shower scene is one of the most unforgettable moments in all of pop culture (not just film), and probably has caused several people to peak around the shower curtain just in case. Alfred Hitchcock took the great material from the novel and turned the story into an instant classic and one of the most copied and “homaged” films ever.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit?: Disney took a gritty detective novel in Gary Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit? and turned it into one of the funniest and most whimsical films ever. The film is only loosely adapted from the novel, because I don’t remember the scene where Roger gets mowed down by a machine gun. The novel is off the wall and bizarre, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The film creates a much more compelling and engaging world, and the visit into Toontown is still one of my favourite scenes in the film. This is one of the rare cases where Disney’s mass altering of a story to be more kid-friendly was for the better and created the tale the way it should have always been. (CS: Meh, now as a father of two kids, I'm pretty happy with how Disney has altered most of the classic stories to be more family friendly)

 The Godfather: I really like Mario Puzo’s novel. It was one of the first real explorations into the underworld of gangsters and mobsters. Puzo’s novel is really good, but Francis Ford Coppola’s film is one of the greatest works of art ever. Coppola changed our vision of the mafia, and most of what we think we know comes from this epic film. Everything about this film is memorable. The film does a masterful job of presenting shades of grey, and you can feel the struggle and emotions as Sonny battles with his destiny. (CS: I am pretty sure I meant to say Michael) Much like Benchley’s Jaws, Puzo complicates the story by adding subplots that we never need, like detailed chapters about a woman dealing with the size of her private parts. (CS: Chapters? Try pages) The mood and atmosphere in the film is unsettling, but you still get thrills watching the Corleone family leave their mark. The range of emotions and storytelling unleashed in the movie is something that almost no other film has ever been able to achieve. This is another case of where the novel is really good, but the film is iconic. (CS: In retrospect, this was a pretty click-baity piece, and I don't feel it is fair to compare different mediums against each other even if based on the same stories. But I had to come up with something different each week that I was confident would bring in new readers, as I was already aware the site was struggling to get sponsors and money)   

Monday, May 04, 2020

The Breakdown of 'Extraction', 'My Spy', 'Charade' and 'Battleship'

We are now in May, which is traditionally the kick-off to the summer blockbuster season. But things are very different this year and streaming is still how we get our movie fix. We did still see movies and we have four movie reviews for you. Netflix has their version of a big event film in the Chris Hemsworth starring actioner, Extraction. Dave Bautista follows the past of Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel and Arnold Schwarzenegger by teaming up with a cute kid in My Spy. We also have a picture all the way back from the 1960s in the comedic romantic mystery directed by Hollywood Golden Age filmmaker Stanley Donen and starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant in Charade. Then it is the sci-fi picture based off a board game in Battleship. After the movie reviews, we discuss AMC recently banning all Universal movies from screening at their theatres and analyze how we think this issue with pan out and the repercussions that will be felt through the whole movie industry.

As always, we had a great time recording the show. We really hope that you love it and if you do, please help us out by spreading the word about us on social media.

We also want to thank David Wierzbicki who did the incredible Audrey Hepburn illustration. You can see more of his amazing artwork at his Instagram and Facebook pages.

Reminder that you can 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).

Extraction **½ (CS & SM)
My Spy *** (CS & SM)
Charade **** (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Battleship *½ (CS) & * (SM)

Friday, May 01, 2020

Scott's Guest Column: Did 'Butterfly' Deserve the Razzie or Golden Globe Nominations?

(CS: Bad movies have existed forever. The most interesting bad movies are the ones that somehow got some awards recognition despite everyone else thinking they are the worst. Scott explores that kind of movie in 1982's Butterfly, which received both Golden Globe and Razzie nominations.)

In my desire to search out movies with a bad reputation in order to see if they deserve it, there will be times when I want nothing more than to walk away. Hit the pause button, close the laptop, walk outside and remember that there are many blessings around. Not everything in life will be great, but perspective can put a spin on almost anything. When you’re trying to erase Butterfly from your mind, almost anything, no matter how awful, will put you in a better place. Yep, thinking about taxes and sores in all the wrong places are better for your long-term mental health than the memories of this movie.

The 1982 film, directed by Matt Climber who had previously used aliases such as Rinehart Segway to make fare of the more ‘adult’ variety, was an adaptation of a novel of the same name. Starring Pia Zadora in her debut (excluding Santa Claus Conquers the Martians), the film was financed by her millionaire then husband, Meshulam Riklis. Essentially, Riklis wanted his wife to be a star, and he thought putting her in a movie with taboo sex (incest) would quickly get her noticed by the folk in Tinsel Town. (CS: Climber was also the co-founder of 1980s camp wrestling company, GLOW - Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).

What really made me want to investigate this film was that Zadora won the Golden Globe for New Star of the Year in a Motion Picture, while also winning the Razzie awards for Worst New Star and Worst Actress. On top of that, Orson Welles was also nominated for both a Golden Globe and Razzie for his supporting performance. I felt the need to find out if the film was good enough for a total of three Globes, or if it was really that bad to deserve its ten Razzie nomination, winning in three categories.

Having now seen the film, yes, it is more on the side of bad than it is of good. Part of that is because of the tone-def nature from Rinehart Segway (a solid adult entertainment pseudonym). The material is of incest. A guy (Stacy Keach) lives alone, and his estranged daughter swings by to visit. Oh boy, do these two end up wanting to get down and dirty. Eventually they go all the way, but only after Keach finds out she isn’t really his daughter. I guess that makes it all better? Hardly. Zadora’s character still thought he was her father, and that doesn’t erase all the naughty physical acts that happened previously when Keach believed they were related. Oh, and she’s only seventeen. That makes nothing better (CS: Welcome to 1980s cinema where there was a lot of scuzzy sexploitation cinema being peddled out to make a quick buck. Some of it even became big box office hits like Porky's and Blue Lagoon. This is why I laugh off people who try to claim entertainment has got raunchier in the decades since).

The main issue is that good ol’ Rinehart shoots the aspects of incest in a way to arouse the viewer. Everything is done to sexually stimulate, and the only things it misses are a photocopy repair man showing up and a sultry yet groovy bass line. Chris and I have said a bunch of times on the podcast that anything can be done in movies. However, certain things really need a gentle and appropriate tone. Incest is one of them. A big one. Really big. Incest isn’t a good thing to romanticize.

When it comes down to the performances of Zadora and Welles, they aren’t good. Welles is phoning it in, and Zadora cannot act. The dialogue and overall theme of the film doesn’t help them. Amateurish is a good word to sum up many aspects of this movie. Could I have done a better job? Yes, I would have. And I would have accomplished that by making sure this thing never got created in the first place.

Since it is that bad, the Golden Globe nominations may be surprising. Surprising as well is that the film won the awards six days before it was even released in theatres. Seeing as how the entire movie was an effort by Riklis to shoot his wife into Hollywood stardom, it’s not a shock to find out that he flew members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the people who vote for the Golden Globes) to Las Vegas for a private screening. That may not seem totally above board. The fact that he then brought more of them to a screening at his Beverly Hills mansion six weeks later really makes all of this rather suspicious.

When it comes to the Golden Globes, I’d like to think that they wouldn’t be susceptible to efforts like this. The truth is, I have completely no faith in the Globes at all. An independent film about sensual incest that hasn’t even hit theatres yet getting these nominations stinks, especially when you sit down to watch the film and see how sad the acting is.

I’ve wanted to turn off a few films before. Usually it is because I feel disgusted. Butterfly made me feel dirty in so many ways. The concept may have worked, but not with Rinehart directing it. Honestly, I think Zadora would have done much better under a capable helmer, but I think Riklis was more interested in a sexual and arousing film for his wife to star in.

I’m done. I’m out. It was bad. Never again shall I watch it.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Very Important Thing That I Learned from My Son Being Able to Ride His Bike

A pretty major event went down at the Spicer Kingdom the last few weeks. Everett finally learned to ride a bike, and while we can all agree that this is a pinnacle moment for a kid, I want to explain exactly why this is a huge inspirational moment.

Two weeks ago, Everett hated biking. When I type 'hate', I mean the feeling you get if someone traded your bed for a pile of rotting garbage and traded your bedroom for rotting garbage and said for the next year you can only eat rotting garbage. He thought biking was rotting garbage.  Not literally, because he is a smart kid and understands the difference between decomposing waste and a physical activity. But he sure wasn't a fan.

Emily bought Everett a nice bike at least a year ago (it may have been two, but I'm old and lost the concept of the passage of time). He was super-excited about it initially, and he rode it with training wheels on. It was clear early on that he was leaning way too heavy on the training wheels and any time we suggested taking them off he panicked. As things were going at the time, he was not going to learn how to bike. This past fall, Emily took off the training wheels and Everett made every possible effort to avoid ever going back on the bike.

Danika on the other hand loved biking. She had a Strider, which is a balance bike without peddles. She was far more comfortable riding a bike than Everett. She would glide on it, go down hills and race around for entire afternoons. When Everett finally got on his bike, he was the opposite of fast -- Danika was the speeding runaway train and Everett was the exhausted sleeping snail. In the fall, Danika really liked biking to school and I was able to at least convince Everett to ride his scooter. Everett enjoyed his scooter. But he made it clear that he had no plans of ever riding his bike. Ever. He was ready for a life of scootering and a bike being a very expensive garage ornament.

I tried encouraging him to go out throughout this past year, Sometimes, I even succeeded in getting him to go out and ride for a few seconds. Usually I'd hold him while he wobbled around the driveway and Danika flew around spinning donuts beside us. There were agonized screams if I even hinted at the idea of letting go of him. I started to believe he would go through life not ever riding his bike or at least. I would need to hire someone else to try to teach him.

Then Covid-19 hit and playing outside became the ultimate recreational activity and a way to keeping our sanity. Even then, Everett stuck with his scooter being the way to play over even walking near his bike. His schoolteacher had daily suggestions for Daily Physical Activity, and one was a bike ride with the family. We had suggested this, and he declared it the rotting garbage of all ideas and he would scooter instead. The suggestion of biking was right up there with threatening to burn all his Pokémon cards or ridding the world of all candy.

Two days after the suggested DPA, Emily was outside with the kids and she encouraged both to ride their bikes. Danika jumped on it immediately and Everett pushed for his scooter instead. She encouraged him to use his pedal bike like the Strider and just glide on the bike. Our driveway has a decent hill, so you can glide down it and pick up a good deal of speed. Emily encouraged Everett to copy his sister (who has spent two years blasting down that hill with various forms of transportation) and glide down the hill. He was hesitant at first, but he went ahead with trying it. After not bursting into flames, he got much more confidence gliding down the hill. Then Emily started encouraging him to peddle while gliding down the hill, which meant for few seconds at the end of the hill he was riding his bike. He didn't go far, but it was a major progression.

I came out around this time and heaped praise upon him. It let him know this was a big deal and I was proud of him. This encouragement motivated him to glide down the hill the next day as well. This is when I reiterated that I was proud of him, but he countered that he wasn't actually riding his bike and it wasn't a big deal. I assured him that it was a big deal and that he was riding his bike, even if it was for a few seconds. I assured him that this proved that he could ride his bike, and he should not give up but rather start believing in himself. I told him to keep peddling while he goes down the hill because he will get more comfortable and he will start peddling for longer. By the end of that day, he was able to peddle out of our driveway and on to our neighbour's driveway, which connects with our own (the two driveways form a loop of sorts).

I showered him with praise and the pride was beaming off his face. The confidence was building and within a day his biking ability had jumped drastically.

Then that takes us to the next day. Where he no longer needed the hill to get him moving on the bike, but he was confident enough to hop on and start peddling. When I type that he could just hop on and bike, what I mean is he biked around the neighbourhood with me. By the end of the day, he had done fifteen laps around the neighbourhood. Biking was no longer rotting garbage but rather the magic gold that he couldn't get enough. He now wants to go out every day and do laps around the neighbourhood. On Tuesday, he biked from our house to his grandparent's house (for a social distanced visit), which for me would be about a 10 minute bike ride, which makes it even more impressive for an eight year old boy who less than two weeks ago said that he would never be able to learn how to bike.

I am so proud of Everett. He literally went from being petrified of biking to biking laps around our neighbourhood four days later.  Four days later he achieved something that he did not think was possible. It is amazing and I let him know everyday how incredible it is that he has achieved this.

My son's huge achievement in learning to bike is a huge reminder for me. A reminder in the importance of believing in yourself. The importance to never give up even when an obstacle seems impossible to accomplish. The importance of not letting fear stop you from achieving your goals. The importance of remembering the things that seem impossible to accomplish can be accomplished.

My son's biking achievement is the exact type of inspiration that we need during these times of Covid-19. I know a lot of people who are either out of a job or have lost a lot of their income. I know a lot of people that are depressed while being stuck at home. Even before the pandemic. there are many people that have dreams or goals that they don't think they can achieve. Just like how on a Wednesday Everett thought he would never bike, but then on a Monday he spent his whole afternoon biking in our neighbourhood. He made his impossible into the possible. If an eight-year-old can do it than anyone should believe they can overcome their fears and achieve their dreams.

Anyone reading this blog knows that I have dreams. You may not know the extent of my dreams, but I have shared some of my goals. I want to publish novels. I want to grow the audience for this blog to the point that I can monetize it. I want to grow the audience of The Movie Breakdown and launch it into pop culture media network that delivers different podcasts, videos and shows. I want to join a critic's association and get my reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, I would love to sell a screenplay, I want to provide entertainment that brings joy and value to the lives of others.

I also suffer from depression and anxiety. I have a lot of negative voices that try to convince me that no one wants to read my stuff or hear my thoughts. Some days, I look at my reader/listener numbers or see the places that I write for go out of business and start to believe that those voices are the truth. I've been digging deep into positive thinking and using meditation to try to become more optimistic, but some days those voices seem to have so much strength.

Maybe you can relate to the feeling that you can't even reach your goals. Or that life stuck at home is something you can't overcome. Maybe you don't think you can find work or make an income during these times. Maybe those dark voices are just too loud, and they are just speaking too much truth.

A truth that Everett believed when he said that he would never be able to bike. A truth he still believed when he first started peddling and he realized he was getting a better, but he still wasn't actually 'biking.' A truth that turned out to be a rotting garbage of a lie when just a few days later he had become a pretty good little biker. He now bikes for entire afternoons, and let me remind you, less than two weeks ago it looked like he'd never bike. But he achieved what he thought was impossible.

I understand a kid learning to bike is not the same as publishing a best seller or creating your own business that you can make enough to provide for your family. But those negative beliefs and fears come from the same exact place as the beliefs and fears that was stopping Everett. He overcame them because he achieved little victories that built up his confidence. He started to believe in himself and started to realize he could achieve his goal. He focused on what he wanted and shut out the negativity that had been hounding him for years.

You can too. Hell, we can too. I am just like my son when it comes to believing I can't accomplish some dreams. This is why my son being able to bike has been a monumental inspiration to me. Because it proves those negative voices and doubts are rotten liars and the impossible things can be made possible.

This is one of the reasons that I've always gravitated towards the careers of JK Rowling, Stephen King or Will Smith. Rowling and King came from very financially poor backgrounds and suffered through thousands of rejections when trying to get their works published. Now, they are two of the most successful authors of all-time. Smith had almost no musical or acting experience before starting his entertainment career, and then went on to have hit albums, a top-rated sitcom and several massive blockbusters (also got nominated for Best Actor Oscar).

I also love Smith's quote, 'Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.' If you want your life to be like a kid peddling his fastest with the wind in his hair and joys of the freedom of speeding around his neighbourhood, then you can't believe negative voices. Those voices that try to tell you what is realistic and why your dreams can never work. Everett didn't think it was realistic when I told him that he would be biking before he went back to school. He ended up biking faster than even I thought he could.

If you have goals and dreams that are being clouded by fear, then remember a little boy had those same level of fears just a week and a half ago. He conquered them and so we can accomplish our dreams too.