Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

Apr
15

With Avengers: End Game being released later this month and Marvel hype at its highest, I thought it would be time for me to rank all the Marvel films of the modern era.  I realized that I was pretty close to seeing them all, so I  decided to watch the ones I hadn’t yet seen and try to rank them in some sort of order.  I have now done that, so now I will give you the top and bottom ten of that list, every Marvel movie post-Blade. Let me know if you are interested in the list in its entirety.  Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.

Top Ten Movies

10. The Avengers

2012

The Avengers was a big deal when it came out.  It pulled together four heroes who each had already had their own movies and built a larger cinematic world.  The Avengers isn’t perfect, but it is an entertaining spectacle which really feels like a comic book come to life.  The beginning has some parts which lean more to the uninteresting end of the spectrum, like the theft of the tesseract at the beginning, but the introduction of Thor, the battle of New York, and the overall humour between the characters makes this a winner.  If this movie had not been a success, movies would be in a very different place right now (whether you think that is a good or bad thing…).

9. Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse

2018

This may seem like a rash choice, what with the film being so recent.  It may also seem like I’m jumping on the hype train of hyperbole which so many movie fans have been using with this film in the last few months.  I’m not necessarily on the same page as declaring this “best comic book movie of all time!” (clearly as its at 9), but there is no denying its strengths.  It tells a really personal story from the point of view of a great main character, while introducing a lot of wackiness and vigor to the Spider-man franchise.  The blend of various animation styles is also to be commended.

8. Spider-Man

2002

One of the first big hits of the superhero movie movement, Spider-Man really showed the potential of what these films could do.  Sure, there is a lot about it that seems dated now, like the CG, the design of the Green Goblin, and some of the music choices.  But all of that is on the periphery.  The reason Spider-Man remains a great film is because it really invests in its characters and has a lot of heart at its core.  Sam Raimi knows how to tell the story of Peter Parker in an intimate way that few other comic book directors do, and still makes it a fun, light piece of entertainment at the same time.  The upside down kissing scene has entered film history as one of its iconic moments, perhaps more so than any other Marvel movie moment (though we’ll see how the Thanos snap holds up).  And the Uncle Ben story-line remains the best superhero origin story.

7. Avengers: Infinity War

2018

Again, I’m going recent with this one.  And again, its not a perfect movie by a long sight.  But what Infinity War is is a complete encapsulation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Everything they had done in the decade previous was building up to this smorgasbord of comic-y plot and action.  They brought their biggest and baddest villain yet into the fray, presenting the heroes’ biggest threat and highest stakes.  We end up with a bunch of great pairings, from Iron Man, Dr. Strange and Spidey, to Thor and the GOTG.  The story-line will conclude at the end of April with End Game, but Infinity War really went all out.  Many people may have thought it to be a clusterf***, and who knows what someone who has never seen a Marvel movie would think about it, but I thought it really embodied the idea of a long-form, comic book crossover.

6. Guardians of the Galaxy

2014

Among all the MCU films, Guardians seems to be the one that has the most individual style.  From the vibrant colours, cool soundtrack, and interesting cast of characters, Guardians does a lot of things right.  To be fair, it doesn’t feel like a superhero film at all; instead, it feels more in the vein of a Star Wars movie and works as such.  Chris Pratt gained superstar status with this film, while Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot were also great characters in their own right.  Its hard to find a Marvel movie with as much humour and as much of a sense of fun as Guardians of the Galaxy.

5. X-Men: Days of Future Past

2014

Days of Future Past is like the Infinity War of the X-Men franchise.  It was a conglomeration of all that came before it.  It meshed the old and new crews together in a double layered story of past and future.  On the future half, we see some crazy mutant power action as the remaining X-Men use their powers in creative ways to defeat the Sentinel killing machines.  I love when hero powers are used creatively and in ways that make sense, not just overpowered people causing everything around them to fly up in a debris chaos (cough, X-men Apocalypse).  In the other half of the movie, Wolverine has his consciousness sent back in time to stop a crucial moment from happening that would mean doom for mutant-kind.  This movie is full of great moments, character arcs, and, like the Avenger’s films that would come after, a wonderful representation of the crossover event.

4. Logan

2017

Say what you will about the X-Men franchise, but they aren’t afraid to try something different now and then.  Sure they have some bad films, but they also have some great ones.  This only happens when you take risks; for example, having a movie centered around your most popular character as an aging recluse pondering his own existence and importance.  Logan is a superhero movie unlike any other superhero movie.  Its dirty, its contemplative, and its more concerned with character growth than action and cool-looking visuals.  It takes a character we have known for over 16 years (two characters actually) and places them in a more relatable and realistic situation than we have seen thus far.  The journey of Wolverine comes to its conclusion in a way that is both surprising and satisfying.

3. Iron Man

2008

The MCU’s first movie remains its best.  Iron Man is just a solidly plotted and paced film.  Its a great character journey which sees Tony Stark embrace his role as the eventual headliner of the Avengers.  They don’t rush through this journey, but give it the time and detail it needs.  Iron Man is just a really strong, really focused movie.  I know I’m not really selling its spot this high on the list, but I do feel it is one of Marvel’s best, I really do.

2.  X2: X-Men United

2003

This one kind of surprised me when I was ordering my list, but the second X-Men film is a really strong movie (despite its horrible title).  The film explores themes of xenophobia and isolation while also being a great action-adventure.  The powers are used interestingly and each character is played to their strengths.  Wolverine being forced to take the role of protector is awesome to watch, while Nightcrawler provides an interesting look at a faith-based mutant.  Throw in that dramatic ending, and you have one fantastic comic book movie on your hands.

1.  Spider-Man 2

2004

No superhero movie has more heart than Sam Raimi’s second Spider-man film.  I love comic book movies, but I wouldn’t include many of them as being one of the “great films”, but this one gets that inclusion.  What SM2 does so brilliantly is that it focuses right in on Peter Parker and his every day woes.  He is a superhero of course, but it comes at a cost; not in the form of a dramatic loss, but more of a quotidian struggle.  And most of all, it has strained his friendship with the love of his life, Mary Jane.

Mary Jane is not just a token love interest, as so many other superhero movies have.  She is the fulcrum of the entire story.  The conflict between Peter and Mary Jane is foremost of everything else that Peter has to deal with, be it failing grades, losing jobs, or battling Dr. Octopus.  But that’s not to say this is just a love story; the Doc Ock story-line is just as compelling and gives us some fantastic set pieces, especially the train sequence.

Sam Raimi does an amazing job of capturing the plight of Peter Parker and the sacrifices of being a hero. The whole movie builds on top of that, questioning the idea of what a hero is and whether Peter even wants the burden anymore. He is doing what is right, but it isn’t easy for him.  And then it all culminates in that moment when he turns around and Mary Jane learns the truth.  Its such a cathartic moment.  Great movie.  Still the best Marvel has given us.

Bottom Ten Movies

There have been over 50 Marvel movies made in the last twenty years.  Wow, that’s a lot.  They can’t all be gems.  In fact, a lot of them weren’t.  Lets take a look at the bottom ten.

10. Daredevil

2003

Its been a long time since I’ve seen Daredevil, but I can say its quite forgettable.  Bland story-telling with a lot of the awkward cheesiness that came with the early Marvel flicks.  And of course there is that awful fight scene in the park between Mat Murdock and Elektra.  This may be unfair since I haven’t seen it in such a long time, but on the other side of the coin, absolutely nothing was encouraging me to rewatch this.

9. Venom

2018

There is a scene where Tom Hardy crashes a fancy restaurant, climbs into the lobster tank, and proceeds to eat the lobsters raw while lounging in the tank.  And that pretty much sums this movie up.

8. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

2014

The second Ghost Rider film is admittedly better than the first.  That doesn’t mean its good.  Its a pretty boring plot with ridiculous editing.  Its like they were afraid to slow down the movie for even a moment, and as such you get a frantic and fractured tone.  I find that this sort of editing style, which is seen a lot in the really bad superhero movies, means that the filmmakers feel like they have a crap product they are trying to dress up as best they can and don’t actually have any confidence in the material.

7. Fant4stic

2016

Fox decided they wanted to keep their Fantastic Four property by giving the team a new look.  “Lets make it grittier and more realistic!”  Unfortunately this is a tone that doesn’t fit F4.  Many people disparaged the first outing (which is why we got this dreary mess), but I actually thought the light-hearted nature and the way the characters discovered and used their powers made for a pretty fun film in 2005.  There is nothing fun on about this new rendition.  Reed is a jerk that doesn’t really get redeemed, the powers aren’t used to their potential, and the whole thing feels like a slog.

6. Punisher: War Zone

2008

The filmmakers here seemed so desperate to make a “brutal, psycho” Punisher movie, it was pretty hard to watch.  It reeked of “look how edgy we are!”  And along the way, we never actually get any sort of in with the main hero.  The movie is actually mostly told form the perspective of the unlikable villain, and they just assume we will be on Frank Castle’s side without actually giving us much reason to be.

5. Hulk

2003

I know there is a contingent of people out there who thinks this is a hidden masterpiece when it comes to comic book movies.  I am not one of those people.  I found the “flare” added to the editing and camerawork to be distracting and annoying.  I found the dialogue too much to take.  And there were a lot of moments I was simply bored.

4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2

2014

Some movies are considered a mess, but then there is this heap which is Amazing Spider-man 2.  So the second film in the first Spidey series is the best of the bunch, but the second in the next Spidey series is almost the worst.  There felt like there was no coherency to the storytelling here at all.  I don’t find Garfield likable in the Peter Parker role (I think he tries way too hard to be awkward and geeky), and his supporting cast isn’t much better (with the exception of Emma Stone).  Not to mention that the character design in this is maybe the worst I’ve seen in a superhero flick.  Green Goblin, Elektro, Rhino, they all look awful.   Thank goodness the MCU got Spider-Man back on track again.

3. Ghost Rider

2007

Ghost Rider really embodies the cheesy super hero movie.  It feels rushed, its villains are horrible, and it wants so desperately to be cool but isn’t quite sure how.  And there’s something to be said for Ghost Rider making two spots on this bottom list…

2. Elektra

2005

Ohhhh, yikes this was bad.  No one involved with this movie seemed 100% present.  The story was either uninteresting or didn’t make much sense.  Elektra never really seems like a badass assassin, and so her turn to “good’ doesn’t work.  The villains are pretty lame.  I didn’t care about anything going on, and certainly not with this “bond” she makes with that girl. The fight scenes feel like they belong in television rather than a blockbuster movie.  This is just really not a good movie.

1. X-Men Origins: Wolverine

2009

How does a franchise that has made so many good movies, with a character as great as Wolverine, wind up with a movie this bad?  And to think that the Wolverine series would eventually reach the heights of Logan, its baffling.  In fact, the Wolverine trilogy may be the only movie trilogy I can think of that gets better with each film.

So many things make this movie awful.  The pacing was very inconsistent and off the rails.  The dialogue was completely vapid.  The filmmakers were more concerned about having this movie look cool, that they didn’t really put anything into making it, you know, watchable.  And all of the characters around Wolverine were basically cardboard cut-outs.  Boy oh boy, do I dislike this movie.  But again, eventually we got Logan.  So we can put this one behind us.

So there you have it; the best and worst Marvel has offered us in the last two decades.  End Game will be out this month.  Which half will it fall into?  I suppose we will find out.  Thanks for reading, and be sure to  leave your own comments on the film below.

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Apr
06

So, that was interesting. They really decided to go all out with DC’s lamest superhero, didn’t they? It was visually arresting in moments, like the introduction of Atlantis and going into the trench, and did have its moments of fun. But it was also a wet mess.

First lets get the dialogue out of the way (I have a feeling this phrase was also uttered by the screenwriters at some point). I don’t know if they were going for cheesy and melodramatic, but that’s what we get and it doesn’t work. Not to mention the humour beats mostly flounder. Most of this humour is dragged from the quippy relationship between Arthur and Mara, however they just met each other and so this riposte-based relationship they suddenly have seems entirely unearned, so the quips fall flat.

Unearned also seems to be the word of the day for the plot as well. The king of Atlantis wants to declare war on the surface. For some reason. Also, who else snickered when he dramatically announced he wants to be called “ocean master”? And then there is the familiar plot with the mom, which could be seen a league away and which we just experienced in Antman and the Wasp (and How to Train your Dragon earlier).

As far as the action scenes, since this is a superhero movie, there were some fun stuff, especially the chase in the Italian town. But honestly, most of the action was just punching and swinging tridents around. There was also some sort of weird visual aspect to it, almost like a higher frame rate was added into these scenes, which I found very distracting. There’s also an issue with the fact that Aquaman is basically invincible which lowers the stakes so much the action becomes less interesting, as seen in the submarine fight.

A lot of people ended up being surprised by Aquaman and liking it a lot. I understand why, as it really goes all out in its wackiness. With so much mediocrity in blockbusters these days, a movie which isn’t afraid to have people riding sharks and giant seahorses, or a giant kraken monster show up in the final shot, or people hiding in whales, can seem like a relief. There are some bold decisions that are to be commended.

However, just because something is trying to be different and taking risks doesn’t automatically make it a good movie. We seem to be in a place where sometimes a movie’s weaknesses are overlooked because its trying something different, and we as an audience are so desperate for that. But maybe we can have something different and solidly well-made? Something not so fishy perhaps.

5/10

Mar
30

Once again, its my Best and Worst Episodes series, where I choose a TV show to rewatch, rank all the episodes, and then give you the ten best and worst episodes.

I have done this previously with the following shows:

The X-Files

Game of Thrones

The Simpsons

The West Wing

Lost

This time I’m taking a look at one of my favourite comedies of the past decade: Community.  Community is a show with a notoriously tumultuous broadcast history, even being relegated to Yahoo of all places for the last season.  But its early years were top notch, the humour was fresh, and the characters were great.  It has certainly been a show of ups and downs though, and today I will look at both sides.

Cool cool cool. Here we go.

Top Ten Episodes

10. A Fistful of Paintballs

Season 2

The “paintball episode” became a thing for community, something they’d keep returning to.  There first return to the “genre” was the penultimate episode of season 2, which saw a new paintball challenge with a western theme.  The episode explored a lot of the tropes of the western in some hilarious ways, but as with the best Community episodes, also had an emotional core.  This time we learn that the group is on the verge of kicking one of their members out, leading to a dramatic ending.

They would go on to make a second part to this episode which acted as the season finale, but this first part remains the better of the two halves.

9. Critical Film Studies

Season 2

Pop culture references are a staple of Community (usually due in part to the character of Abed), and in this episode they even deconstruct the idea of pop culture references themselves.  The gang gets together for a Pulp Fiction-themed party for Abed, but he has other ideas in mind.  He invites Jeff to dinner to discuss his maturation out of his obsession with movies.  Or…. perhaps he is just referencing something else??

8. Beginner Pottery

Season 1

The first season of Community was quite a bit different than the rest.  It was a lot more subdued in its story lines and seemed more of a standard television sitcom.  But even as such, it was still of much higher quality than almost every other show on at the time. As far as the “normal” episodes go, this is one of the best.  One half of the episode sees Jeff, Annie and Abed join a pottery class where Jeff confronts good guy Rich, as well as his own ego.  Meanwhile, Shirley and the others take a boating class, which takes place on a boat on wheels in the school parking lot.  Both halves are hilarious.

“No Ghosting!”

7. Cooperative Calligraphy

Season 2

The bottle episode.  Its just the group alone in the room the entire run of the episode.  And since we love these characters and their interactions, its good stuff.  We learn something about each of them, and they come out of it closer.  All because of a pen.

And of course there is the puppy parade.

6. Pillows and Blankets

Season 3

This wasn’t the first blanket fort episode.  The first one came in season 2 (and will be discussed shortly), and the episode previous to this had lead up to it.  But Dan Harmon, Cummunity’s creator, was never shy about taking an idea that worked before and trying to make it better.  He succeeded here, turning a pillow fight into a full-scale war documentary.  With the voice-over of Keith David, the doc was complete with battle maps, secret weapons, personal stories, and even Annie as a wartime nurse.  And at the root of it all, it was a metaphor for conflict in a friendship.  Community is so good at this kind of stuff.

5. Conspiracy Theories and Interior Design

Season 2

This great episode has two parts: Troy and Abed’s blanket fort that extends to the whole school, and Jeff trying to get away with a fake class but instead getting involved in an intricate web of lies.  I don’t really know what to say about this, except that its just a lot of fun.

4. Remedial Chaos Theory

Season 3

Considered by many to be Community’s greatest episode, Remedial Chaos Theory uses something as simple as friends hanging out and ordering pizza to explore the concept of multiple universes.  Its a lot of fun to see how the dynamics of the group changes depending on which of the seven goes to the door to pay for the pizza.  It works on both the grand scale and in the subtler moments.  Its pretty great.

Roooxanne!

3.Basic Lupine Urology

Season 3

Season three was Community at its most creative.  Including the two from that year I’ve previously listed, it also gave us a spoof of the Apocalypse Now doc Heart of Darkness, a musical Christmas episode (that actually works), and even an episode in 8-bit computer game animation.  But my favourite of these big concept eps was their Law and Order parody.  Revolving around the investigation of a biology lab gone wrong, they hit all the notes of the infamous police drama perfectly.  The style is spot on.  Great stuff.

2. Contemporary American Poultry

Season 1

The “chicken finger” episode was perhaps Community’s first foray into the larger and more gimmicky episodes, seeing a Goodfellas-style mafia story develop out of the group’s desire for cafeteria chicken.   What develops is a power struggle for group leadership between Jeff and Abed while everyone else lets popularity run to their heads.  This is Community firing on all cylinders.  Also, Troy gets a monkey.

1. Modern Warfare

Season 1

For my favourite episode of Community, I’m always brought back to the episode that really won me over on the show: the paintball episode.  This was certainly Community at its wackiest at the time, and was so much fun to watch.  Through this ridiculous game of paintball assassin, the cast and crew were able to explore the tropes of action movies and play them up in their own way.

Modern Warfare also reaches a climax in the Jeff-Brita sexual tension (personally, I’ve always liked Jeff and Brita more than Jeff and Annie, though the show disagreed with me).  The show also uses this game as a way to deal with Jeff’s selfishness by stressing the importance of cooperation.  I love the opening where Jeff wakes up in his car to find the school a disaster zone, when he shoots up the deans office, and of course the showdown with Chang.

The paintball episode became so popular that Community would eventually have 4 other paintball episodes throughout its run.  But nothing beats the original.

Bottom Ten Episodes

But of course, Community wasn’t always full of great ideas and perfect comedy.  It had its missteps like any show; some story-lines that simply didn’t work and some weak later seasons, probably resulting from all the turmoil behind the scenes.  I also know that there will be one pick on this list that a lot of people will disagree with.  Anyway, here are my picks for the bottom Community episodes.

10. Psychology of Letting Go

Season 2

Okay, so this episode isn’t really that bad.  Its half bad.  The b-plot with Annie and Brita competing over oil spill donations was fine.  But I really didn’t care for the story about Pierce dealing with his mom’s death.  Sometimes the Pierce stuff gets a little too weird and out there.

9. Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing

Season 6

So here’s the thing: I am not a season 6 fan.  Most people harp on the fourth season as being the weak link, but I feel the show was at its lowest in the final year.  I’ve also never really been drawn to the dean as a character either, but here we get an episode exploring the dean and it just doesn’t work for me.  There’s some comedy in Chang being an actor, but overall its just kind of a summary on the whole sixth season: meh.

8. Basic RV Repair and Palmistry

Season 6

This particular season sixer sees the gang suddenly transporting a giant stone hand in an RV for an unknown reason.  This is a failed attempt at one of those high concept episodes they became famous for.  In this case Abed tries to make some sort of commentary on flashback structure and non-linear storytelling, but it just doesn’t jive very well.

7. Alternative History of the German Invasion

Season 4

Yeah, not a big fan of this one.  Community often delves into the idea that the main characters are jerks, but there was just something about the way it was done here that didn’t sit right.  Also, why bring back the “German guys” from the Foosball episode, when you can’t even get all the German guys back?  This one was pretty lame, despite the fact that they finally dealt with the fact that the study group always got that room.

6. Advanced Safety Features

Season 6

Talking about one shot characters from previous that no one would care if they returned, we have Brita’s boyfriend who changed his name to Subway.  I liked that episode, but this one seemed really unnecessary, and not really that funny.  There were some laughs to be had with the way the dean went all in on Honda, but that stupid ear-bands game was dumb, and this one was just another example of the sixth season spinning its wheels.

5. Lawnmower Maintenance and Post-Natal Care

Season 6

So here’s a really big reason why I didn’t like season six very much: new characters.  Well, that and the fact that three of the main characters were no longer on the cast.  Losing Troy, Shirley and Pierce was bad enough, but don’t try to replace them with a) Hickey in season 5, and more importantly b) these two new characters in the last season.  In fact, i don’t even remember their names… Leroy? Elroy?  Hold on, I’ll google.

Frankie and Elroy.  Anyway, they are not interesting characters, and they feel like they are trying to sneak their way into belonging, but just don’t.  Elroy was introduced this episode.  Frankie the one before, but this is when I realized she’s sticking around.  Oh well.

4. Basic Sandwich

Season 5

This was the season 5 finale, which saw the group trying to save the school from being sold to Subway by trying to find the original owner.  The original owner of the school, as it turns out, is a mad scientist hermit who has locked himself away somewhere in the school.  He’s also annoying and painful to watch.  And really brings this episode to levels of low humour that I really disliked.  This was almost the last episode of the whole series.  Luckily, they pulled that off in much better style at the end of season 6.

3. Intro to Felt Surrogacy

Season 4

The puppet one.  I realize that this one is on the bottom of most Community Fan’s list, and it makes sense.  While Community has delved into various animation types to tell their stories, it is a tricky balance to maintain.  Some that work are the 8bit video game style from Digital Estate Planning and the anime sequences from Foosball.  But the puppets feel like this is season 4 community being desperate at trying to capture the wacky creativity of the previous years.  And failing, especially during the drug trip sequence in the woods.  It also makes their characters look really ugly during their confessions period.  Again, this is something that they have done previously (and since) in much better fashion.

2. Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas

Season 2

A lot of Community fans are going to disagree with me on this.  A lot of people love it.  I really, really don’t.  It might come from the fact that ever since I was a kid, I hated the claymation Christmas “classics”, Rudolph especially.  And so, Community’s tribute to it really doesn’t work for me.  Its a bold idea, and I like that Community takes risks.  But I still don’t like it.  It feels like I’m indulging someone else’s fantasy without ever buying in myself in some sort of patronizing way.  Its really not enjoyable to me.

1. Messianic Myths and Ancient Peoples

Season 2

Shirley wants Abed to make a Christian movie.  Instead he pretends that he himself is a prophet filmmaker and wraps everyone else up in it.  He’s really disrespectful to his friend and the Christian faith.  There’s also some sort of commentary on… pretentious film-making? Art?  Either way, its kind of dumb and I really disliked Abed in this episode.  Community’s strength is its characters, and while I’m okay with these characters having flaws and not necessarily being good people, I don’t like when they are flat out ugly, especially to each other.

So while Community has had its dips in quality, especially in the latter half, it is also a hilarious comedy with some of the best sitcom writing in television this decade.    For those who like comedy, lets try not to forget about it.

Mar
10

The thing with Marvel movies at this point is that they’ve got it down to the point where they aren’t going to make a bad film. Now, you can rant and rave about “formula” and how much you don’t like it, but the movies are enjoyable. However, the flip side of that is that this framework also prevents them from making a GREAT film as well.And Captain Marvel seems to fall right down the middle of this narrow spectrum as really quite ordinary.

The plot sees an alien warrior who can’t remember her past hunting down Skrulls and eventually learn that she’s from Earth when one of her missions forces her to go there. She meets up with Sam Jackson and a cat. She eventually learns not everything is as it seems. And she shoots a lot of stuff with power emanating from her fists.

So in other words, it fits the bill for a Marvel movie well enough. Brie Larson is ok in the role, and I liked having her team with Nick Fury through most of the movie. There was some clunky dialogue and blatant exposition, especially earlier in the film, and quite a few humour beats that fell flat. Its not quite at Guardians level here.

There were some parts in this movie that I felt I was watching Star Trek. Also, in the scene where she is explaining everything to her friend and her daughter in the kitchen, did anyone else picture Arnold cutting the skin off of his arm?

I think Captain Marvel will make a good addition to the Marvel Universe, though it is worth noting that her powers seem to be really powerful, which may cause problems. Here it wasn’t so bad ass she doesn’t really use them in full till near the end, but having such undefined powers usually doesn’t work so well cinematically. I hope they find a way to reign her in a bit.

Captain Marvel is right in the middle of the Marvel films, a group which already has a pretty low standard deviation. You’ll likely have a good time, but don’t expect to be blown away.
7/10

Mar
09

I was really disappointed watching the first act of the Lego Movie sequel. It suffered heavily from sequelitis and didn’t seem to have a whole lot going on. The visuals were still fun, the characters were still there, and yes there was some good humour. But everything was just passable.

I didn’t really expect something different. The Lego movie really took me by surprise in 2014 with the inventive the visual texture of the film, the freshness of the humour, and the surprising dedication to theme. I knew the sequel was just going to be a sequel, and it was.

But in the last act, it did manage to go somewhere similar but different than where we found ourselves with Lego 1. And while it didn’t have nearly the same impact, it was interesting enough to save this from being merely a bland redo of the first and gave it more depth.

Though I wasn’t a fan of Maya Rudolph trying to steal her scene with some stupid comment on stepping on Lego bricks. And why was Will Ferrell only lending his voice? That seemed… odd.

To sum it up, this is a typical sequel.  It doesn’t match the quality of the original, but when the original brings something new and surprising to the discussion, how can it really?  This one is certainly more for kids, which is great.  Its fine.

7/10

Feb
19

If this was the 90s, A Star is Born would be winning the Oscar on Sunday. It is both very popular among the masses and dedicated moviegoers alike, and is highly respected critically. It is very well-made and has a lot of emotional weight to it. A couple of decades ago, this would be a shoe-in for the golden statue. Its not so anymore, unfortunately for Cooper and company.

But forget the Oscars for a second; they’re a mess. This is a great movie, and that’s what matters. I am not one for sappy, plastic romances in movies, but when a love story is told in a way which truly feels genuine, I’m all for it. This one does. A lot of time is spent on the night they meet, and so it should. It helps us to better understand their feelings for each other, so that when they are put to the test later, we have a touchstone.

A Star is Born has a lot to say, not just about relationships, but also about fame, and a lot about art.  It works on a lot of different levels, which is why I can see it stick in the consciousness of those who loved it for quite a while.  And while it is thought-provoking in all those ways, its also just heartrendingly emotional at the same time.  perhaps more-so, which really adds to the widespread impact this movie has had on audiences.  The character and relationship beats feel earned, and as such we are able to sink into this movies.  There’s also something about the cinematography that makes it feel very intimate, which helps us connect a lot more as well.

Now, this is a movie about music, and in that regard it certainly does not disappoint.  There was probably no way to make this movie with just an actress.  It had to be someone with a very high level of singing talent, and luckily Lady Gaga kills it in the role.  She feels natural both on and off the stage.  And as someone who is not musically-inclined, I can  say that the songs here really work.  In fact, the scene where she comes onto the stage to sing Shallow with him is incredible.  It may be the best scene I’ve seen in a movie this year.

In fact, this is probably the best movie this year period.  I posted my top ten list a while back, but now I see I was too hasty.  Because now that I’ve seen A Star is Born, its going to the top of that list.

9.5/10

 

Jan
27

Another year, another potential crop of movies.   Will it be a better year for film than 2018?  One can hope.

5. The Lego Movie 2

I loved the Lego Movie in 2014.  I thought it captured the spirit of Lego and told a funny, impacting story among a creative background.  That said, I do not at all expect the sequel to live up to it.  This looks very much like a sequel and it will likely fall short.  But I still want to see it anyway.

I don’t know much about the story, but I hope they don’t deal with the Duplo idea introduced at the end of the first film.  I think that works better as a small little tease to cap off the film, and should remain as such. Then again, I also said that about the joker card at the end of Batman Begins, so what do I know?

4. Toy Story 4

Consider me among the group of people who think that the third Toy Story wrapped the story up just right, and that this sequel is entirely unnecessary.  That being said – I’m curious.  Just where the hell are they going with this?

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

I haven’t been this excited about a Tarantino film in some time.  Django was a bit of a disappointment, and Hateful 8 was good but I didn’t really love it.  I do hope he taps back into what made Basterds work so well with this story surrounding the Charles Manson murders.  They cast certainly helps: Pitt, DiCaprio and Margot Robbie?  Excellent.

2. Avengers: End Game

Thanos’ snap created a pop culture ripple this year, even though almost everyone who saw Infinity War knew that there has to be some resolution that brings these franchise leading characters, like Spider-man and Black Panther, back into the fold.  But how? And what does the post-snap Marvel universe look like?  And how are the original Avengers going to come back together again, and what will that look like?  This is the second part of the build up of the last 10 years since Iron Man.  A lot of audience members may be using this movie as their exit from Marvel movies, but who can say?

1. Star Wars: Episode 9

The final part int he new Star Wars saga trilogy is as yet still title-less, but there is no doubt that this is the movie I am looking for ward to the most.  Its crazy that we have already come from Force Awakens to episode 9, but I guess that’s what shrinking the gap from 3 years to 2 years does.

I am incredibly excited to see where the story of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren  goes.  I won’t lie though, I am a little apprehensive.  I am worried that Disney studios is going to get too frightened by the ridiculous Last Jedi backlash and change course too much.  I hope they keep their eyes on the prize and continue the excellent quality that both Force Awakens and Last Jedi have given us thus far.

Jan
02

Another year, another list!  2018 wasn’t an outstanding year for movies, but mostly because the majority were under average.  That doesn’t mean there weren’t still some awesome films, and here are some examples of great movies that came from the year.  I don’t know if any are going to end up becoming beloved favourites of mine, but they are the 2018 movies I highly recommend.

10. Annihilation

This sci-fi thriller came out early in the year and received a lot of praise.  For me, the creepy bear scene alone is almost enough to put it on this list.  I really liked the mysterious mature of this phenomenon that Natalie Portman and the others have to explore.  It provides some great visuals and some good ideas.  I don’t feel like they stuck the landing mind you, but up until that ending I was very engaged.

9. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

This animated features was a surprise success.  It fully embraces its identity as animation, even exploring different styles within the film itself.  Miles is a great central character and is arc works really well.  This movie is a lot of fun for anyone who wants to freshen up their superhero palate.

8. Avengers: Infinity War

I am not immune to spectacle.  And after ten years and 20 movies, Infinity War was certainly a lot of spectacle.  This extravaganza of Marvel plots and characters has been the culmination of the most popular connected universes in the movies.  I for one loved it.  I understand why people don’t. I understand the “comic book fatigue”, I understand how people point to Marvel as the downfall of blockbuster entertainment.  But to see all these threads come together is pretty neat.   Thanos has already become a memorable villain, and his “snap” has made it into the pop culture milieu, something that is becoming harder and harder for movies to do.  This was the biggest movie of the year, and I for one had fun going along with the ride.

7. BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee’s biggest film in a long time tells the true life story of a black police officer who infiltrates the KKK.  Its funny yet mordant, its got great performances, and the story always keeps you engaged.  Lee isn’t subtle in trying to get across what he wants to say, but that’s okay.  We don’t always need subtlety; sometimes we need a loudspeaker in our faces.

6. First Man

Visceral space flight set pieces and a brilliantly underscored performance by Ryan Gosling makes this one hell of a watch.  I don’t think the at-home aspects work so well, bu the NASA stuff definitely does.  Armstrong’s NASA interview is one of my favourite scenes of the year.

5. A Quiet Place

I’m becoming more a fan of horror films lately, which is easy when they are as interesting as A Quiet Place.  Sometimes high concepts sound cool but end up being lame, or are cool but not much is done with them, or they simply start out bad.  But when a high concept works and is used to full effect, its a great cinema-going experience.  This is what happened with this story of a family trying to survive in a world where monsters are attracted to dangerously low levels of noise.

4. Eighth Grade

I have never been a girl in grade eight, but I am still able to sense the authenticity in this story of Kayla living out her last week of middle school.  Its hard not to emphasize with the struggles of middle years teens when seeing things through their perspective, and I really appreciated that aspect of this movie.  Its also really funny, and I had a lot of laugh-out-loud moments.  One of my favourite aspects of the film was Kayla’s relationship with her dad, a plot-line which paid off big time with the fire scene.

3. Hereditary

Hereditary was probably the most celebrated horror film to come out this year, and for good reason.  This is a solidly constructed film with great performances, and a mystery which keeps you guessing and intrigued.  And of course there is one scene in particular which is just plain shocking.  Be warned, this film gets dark, but it is masterfully crafted.

2. Mission Impossible: Fallout

Speaking of masterfully crafted, we come to one of the best pure action films I’ve seen in a while.  I caught some of Speed on TV the other day and marveled for a while at how they don’t make action movies like they used to.  Then I shook my head and remembered Mission Impossible.  Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the guy is on a mission to entertain.  Here we get fight scenes and car chases which aren’t boring (because trust me, I find it really easy for both of those things to be boring), we get the much talked about halo jump, and that spectacular helicopter sequence at the end.  And all of this within a top notch spy story.

1. Roma

Roma, Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film after a five-year hiatus, seems like a simple story of a Mexican maid working for a wealthy white family.  But under the layers it is so much more.  It is also a critique of the class system and how easy it is to take advantage of others.  It is also a commentary on tragic events and where they fall within the context of everything else that happens around you.  We see a number of tragedies unfolding around Cleo and how she just soldiers on through all of them.  But when things become more personal, she experiences this all from the other end, as do we.

Being a Cuaron film, there are a lot of amazingly shot sequences, and when you come across them you will recognize them.  The furniture store is one people are talking about, as it the beach scene.  (By the way, I know I added the most cliche picture for this film on this post. Sorry.)  There is one other I wont mention in specifics which is emotionally devastating.  And the cinematography throughout is spectacular, as per usual for Cuaron.  The black and white really makes the details pop.

Roma may seem simple if you are not looking closely, but there is a lot happening inside the subtext here.  It will give you a lot to think about if you let it, and it is probably the strongest film I’ve seen this year.

Dec
30

This seems like an odd choice as a theatrical release at this time. Live action Marvel superhero films are more popular than ever, while DC dominates the at-home animated superhero market, but all of the sudden we get a full studio theatrical release of Spider-man. I And not only that, but one which includes multiple animated styles of Spidey, from 30’s noir, to anime, to Looney Tunes style cartoon.

And people are loving it.

As it turns out, they love it for good reason. Not only is the animation style wildly imaginative and different, but the story is also very gripping. It centers around Miles, a kid who gains the same powers as Spider-man and realizes he will have to take over the job. Then we get into a bunch of multiple dimensions clashing together, and things get crazy. But not crazy enough that you can’t follow what’s happening.

Miles ends up being a great central figure, with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy providing excellent sidekick support. The Kingpin works really well as the villain, and there are other twists that add to the emotional context of everyone’s motivations.

Somehow they took a genre which is starting to feel stale in many people’s eyes, and created something fresh, despite it coming from a different medium. Into the Spider-verse works. It builds upon the weight of our cultural knowledge of Spidy and also becomes its own thing.

8.5/10

Dec
28

I have a confession to make: I did not like the 2018 movie year as a whole.  I mean, of course there were films I really liked, as we will see when I post my top ten of the year list, but for some reasons I ended up seeing lots of movies that simply didn’t work for me.  Am I becoming more bitter, am I seeing the wrong movies, or are mainstream movies actually getting worse like the cinema Cassandra’s have been warning for years?  I actually debated whether or not to do a full top ten for my worst movies list this year, as I easily could have filled it.  But I decided to keep my pessimism contained within these five slots as usual.

5. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

I am a fan of the Harry Potter series, both the books and the films, but I just cannot get on board with this spin-off franchise.  Its so bleak and dull.  This one in particular, the second of however many they are planning to milk this for, is especially dismal.  The story was confusing, full of stuff they did not convince me to care about, and the villain in question, Grindelwald himself, was not engaging.  I do not like the way Johnny Depp portrays him; frankly, this was a poor casting decision altogether.  The story demands a charismatic antagonist, but we just don’t get such here.

4. Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider is the poster child for modern generic action movies.   Its very by-the-numbers with no real life of its own whatsoever.  All I remember from the action scenes is that she loves to jump and grab on to over-hangings.  Otherwise this is very prosaic and forgettable.  Tomb Raider feels like it really has just come from a studio blockbuster-generating machine.

3. Life of the Party

I’ve been saying it for a while, but mainstream comedies are in a serious rut this decade.  They have become so formulaic and stale.  There are fewer and fewer genuine laughs that grow from the premise and more attempts at displaced, random humour.  This one sees Melissa McCarthy as a sweater-wearing mom gong back to college with her daughter.  Its bad.  Her character is wildly inconsistent and the situations she finds herself in are eye-rolling.  Someone needs to come save film comedy…

2. The Cloverfield Paradox

Netflix tried to surprise everyone by dropping this the very same day it was announced during the Superbowl.  Would have been great, had the movie they tried this promotion with been worth the hype.  But instead they gave us a highly derivative sci-fi film chock full of confusion and shaky logic.  Something to do with melding parallel universes that allow someone to lose an arm without any blood loss.  And then they decided to throw in a connection to Cloverfield in a completely separate ancillary story cause, you know, cinematic universes and all that!

1. Ready Player One

It hurts me to have a Spielberg film top this list, but Ready Player One was such an atrociously bad movie I still have trouble believing that he was actually the one at the helm. RPO is an absolute mess.  It looks awful, is full of terrible plot points, and comes off as incredibly full of itself with all of its nostalgic callbacks and references.  I think I lost count with how many times my eyes rolled when I was watching it.

This movie was full of unearned moments, boring action scenes, and trashy visuals.  It has that problem of trying so badly to be cool that tends to bother me a lot.  Its been a while since I’ve seen this, and I never got around to writing a full review for it, so a lot of the more specific details that bothered me are slipping my mind now.  But I do know there were plenty.  For the time being however, I am comfortable declaring this as the worst movie I saw in 2018.

Dec
15

I have wondered what Harry Potter movies must be like for those who are uninitiated into the world, either through the previous films or through the books. After seeing this film, I now think I have some idea. Yes, I saw the first Fantastic Beasts film, but it didn’t exactly draw my attention, never mind actually engage with the characters and plot threads enough to lead into this film. So at many points throughout the film, I didn’t understand what was going on.

Who was this Creedence guy, and why was I supposed to care about him or his lineage? Why was I supposed to care about the Lestrange woman and her lineage? Why is Newt supposed to be a good choice to hunt down Grindelwald? Whats with the blonde lady?

I can’t quite pinpoint the right adjective to describe my thoughts about this movie. Stupid isn’t quite right. Something along the lines of “full of itself” but not that heavy. Its more like they really want you to take whats going on seriously. They really, really want you to, but without being convincing about it. Is there a word for that?

Newt is the main character of this movie once again, which sees him going to Paris to kind this kid who is important somehow. Newt is sort of an interesting character, even though its obvious the actor his doing all he can to make him seem awkward. He has a couple friends who show up from the last movie, and his brother is here (and actually really looks like his brother), and the love interest from last movie. I was never really sure on everyone’s motivations, but needless to say they did a bunch of stuff around Paris.

The best parts of this movie were the parts that took place at Hogwarts. I thought that Jude Law was an inspired choice for young Dumbledore, and I quite enjoyed him in that role. But everything else was kinda… I dunno, dreary? Befuddled? Maybe just uninteresting.

And while I liked Dumbledore in the film, I really disliked Grindelwald as the titular villain. All I know from Grindelwald comes from the backstory of the Deathly Hallows book. The impression that I got was that he was to be this really charismatic rogue, with some ambitious and misguided beliefs that needed to be brought into check. But Johnny Depp’s character is not charismatic at all. He just has a silly haircut and makes a lot of speeches and sneers. Part of the problem is the fact that he always just seems like Johnny Depp, and the actual character of Grindelwald isn’t able to rise about that star recognition and exist as his own character. Big fail there.

And that self-important ending where a bunch of people “go to the dark side”. Ugh. It feels like they have not earned the weight they are going for here. I also wonder who these movies are for. I guess grown up Potter fans, cause they certainly aren’t for kids. They are far too bleak, even involving some baby deaths. I know they are planning more, but I don’t care what happens.
4.5/10

Nov
23

Its time for a new edition of my Best and Worst Episodes series, where I choose a TV show to rewatch, rank all the episodes, and then give you the ten best and worst episodes.

I have done this previously with the following shows:

The X-Files

Game of Thrones

The Simpsons

The West Wing

And now I am setting my sights on the tale of plane crash survivors known as Lost.  Lost was a big deal when it aired, and I stuck with it from the first premiere to the last show.  I understand that the show has some issues, but on the whole I thought it was full of great characters, interesting story twists, and touching details that kept me loving it.  I’ll talk about the problems of the shows in a little bit, but first I want to showcase what I believe are the highlight episodes.

Please note that this post will include spoilers for the entire series.

Top Ten Episodes

10. Walkabout

Season 1

If you were to show someone only one episode of Lost to give them a sense of what the show is, Walkabout would probably be the best one to choose.  It encapsulates a lot of what makes Lost great.  It includes the survivors struggling to continue to survive and build a society by developing a hunting party, has some great interactions between characters, includes the weird island oddities like “the monster”, but most of all it has that great island flashback twist.  Learning Locke’s backstory added a lot, not only to the character himself, but more importantly to the show’s mysterious nature and ability to tell a great, surprising story.

9. The Constant

Season 4

Though not part of the original crew, Desmond quickly became a fan favourite, mostly because of his true romance story with Penny, whom he hasn’t seen in the three years he’s been stuck on the island.  Desmond also has a strange connection with time and reality, as he dins himself in this episode flashing back and forth from his past and his present.  However, the time jumping is killing him, and he needs to make a connection between both periods.  What results is a tense, race-the-clock episode that culminates in one of Lost’s great cathartic moments – when Desmond finally reaches Penny on the phone.

8. There’s No Place Like Home: Part 1

Season 4

Season 4 was a great year for Lost, even though it came right off the heels of the television writer strike.  The result of the strike is that we ended up with a shorter season, but that proved to be a great thing, as the story was tighter and things started moving very quickly.  One of the defining features of the fourth season was the flash-forwards of the Oceanic 6.  When know who makes it off the island, but how and why only them wasn’t known until the last two episodes where everything started coming into place.

This penultimate episode of year 4 may have been a lot of set up for the finale, but it was done very well. It had some great flashbacks to the Oceanic 6 first getting back to the real world and some excellent intensity in the acting in the island story line.

7. Live Together, Die Alone

Season 2

One thing that Lost is great at is creating exciting, climactic season finales.  A motif you are going to be seeing through this top ten list is that there are quite a few season finales represented here, as they tend to bring together all the stories of the past year brilliantly.  This season 2 finale gives us the first flashback episode from Desmond: which is also the first flashback from someone not on Oceanic 815.  We see how he came to be on the island and got stuck supervising the hatch.  Speaking of the hatch, the “pressing the button” storyline reaches its conclusion, as does the searching for Walt storyline, leaving viewers with a great cliffhanger going into season 3.

6. Greatest Hits

Season 3

Charlie-centric episodes were never really that great.  Until, of course, his last.   He had gone almost a season and a half without seeing a Charlie story, until the second-to-last of season 3.  Throughout the year, Desmond’s new mantic powers have warned Charlie that he was fated to die soon.  As he reaches the point where he will accept his fate for the greater good of the group, he spends the episode reminiscing on the best moments of his life.  Seeing him reflect provides a lot of emotional weight, and finding out what his number one moment is, and who he is writing the list for, is quite a capper.

5. There’s No Place Like Home: Part 2

Season 4

And here comes another season finale, and still not the last, to grace this list.  This was a massive episode, in which the freighter that was supposed to save everyone exploded, Locke and Ben managed to “move” the island, and the Oceanic 6 were rescued.  The events of this episode were very cinematic in the way they played out, and seeing all the pieces you knew had to come together do so was very exciting.  This was the end of the survivors existing as a society trying to survive together, and the beginning of Lost’s end game.  And it was one heck of a roller coaster ride through the whole two hours.

4. Exodus: Part 2

Season 1

Another finale.  This one was the culmination of the first season of Lost: one of the greatest seasons of television in my opinion.  Everything led up to these two-part episodes in the last two weeks of its first broadcast year, making for one exciting finale with lots of adventure and drama.  We see Jack, Locke, Kate and Hurley trekking through the jungle on a quest to open the mysterious hatch.  We see Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer on the raft trying to seek rescue.  And we see Charlie and Sayid chase down the French woman who has kidnapped Aaron.  This was truly a climactic end to a great season.

3. Pilot: part 1

Season 1

Its not often that the very first episode of your TV show ends up remaining one of your best throughout the series’s run, but that was certainly the case for Lost.  This was a masterfully crafted premiere ( and the most expensive at the time) which established everything it needed to for viewers to sink their hooks into.  We started off with that incredible sequence of Jack waking up and running through the chaos of a plane wreckage.  We then have that great scenes where Jack and Kate meet for the first time.  And throughout meeting all the other characters as they deal with their trauma, we also have to deal with that mysterious thing knocking over trees and killing pilots in the jungle.  What a way to start!

2. Through the Looking Glass

Season 3

One more season finale for you.  The end of season three was exciting just with the island happenings.  Jack was leading the entire camp on a trek to the radio tower to finally be able to call for help.  Meanwhile, Sayid led an ambush against the others and Charlie and Desmond went on a mission to an underwater station to turn off the jamming signal.  Lost does a great job of engaging almost every character in the season ending climaxes.

But then there is Jack’s off-island story and that incredible twist ending, one of television’s greatest.  Jack’s flashback seems weird at first, hard to fit into what we already know about his life.  But at  the end when we see Kate, we realize that not only were we looking at his future, but they both got off the island!.  Great storytelling there, giving us a cliffhanger which would reshape the course of the series.

1. Exodus: Part 1

Season 1

The first season of Lost was outstanding, and a big part of that is because so many of the narratives built up throughout the year were able to culminate into two great series finale episodes.  I’ve already include the second part a few spots back, but the precursor to that finale is what I would consider Lost at its best.   In the first part of Exodus we get a ton of great character moments, as well as a group flashback of everyone on the day of their Oceanic flight.  The juxtaposition of these scenes with the island story does a great job of showing just how far these characters have come during their two months together.

So what makes this the top of my list?  While Exodus 2 gets really into the story adventure and is the climax of the plot, this episode contains the emotional climax of the season.  We get some great character payoffs with scenes like Sawyer telling Jack about his dad, Walt asking Shannon to look after Vincent, anything with Jin and Sun… so many great interactions.

And then of course there is one of my favourite Lost moments: the raft launch.  For half the season, Michael has been building the raft meant to find help, and here we see the entire camp pitching in to get it done before the weather changes.  When the raft is launched, we got an epic, sweeping moment which makes this show feel bigger than TV.  When the added emotional weight of Sawyer looking for Kate, and of course the just reconciled Jin and Sun sailing apart, this is one fantastic moment.

Bottom Ten Episodes

10. Whatever the Case May Be

Season 1

After a string of exciting, edge-of–your-seat episodes, this was Lost’s first real disappointment.  After just learning that there were others on the island, that one of their camp members was one of them undercover, and Claire was kidnapped, we then get an episode about… Kate trying to steal a briefcase from Sawyer.  Granted, there is some lighthearted humour in that, and the briefcase does become important as it has the marshal’s guns, but still.

But the real problem isn’t the on-island story, its Ktae’s flashback.  Lost has some really great flashbacks, but they also have others that feel too extreme and/or completely out of place in the character’s overall arc (there will be more examples of this down the list).  The idea that Kate would enter into a relationship with a bank robber, just to steal a childhood memento that is in a bank vault for some reason is ludicours.  And when we finally see what she has been struggling for all this time, a toy plane, what a disappointment.  After such great end of episode reveals, THAT’s what we get?  By the way, when its explained later in the season, it doesn’t become any less lame.

9. Some Like it Hoth

Season 5

There’s not a lot of reason this episode is on the list other than that its just kind of boring.  Not much actually happens in Some Like it Hoth other tha Miles and Hurley driving back and forth between Dharma stations.  The connection between Miles’ flashback and his relationship with his father isn’t as impactful as it should be, and the overall story isn’t advanced much.

8. Maternity Leave

Season 2

This episode is great is you love to hear Claire scream and yell a lot.

7. Across the Sea

Season 6

This was the Lost “prequel” episode so to speak, where we see the origin of Jacob and the man-in-black, and understand the purpose of the island.  It was sort of a momentum killer when it aired, coming in as the third last episode when things were really rolling.  It contains an awkward performance by CJ Cregg and a lot of less than stellar writing.  I was actually on board with it as a mythology builder when it first aired, but revisiting it it doesn’t hold up well.

6. Hearts and Minds

Season 1

I am actually a defender of Boone and Shannon from the first season, but Boone’s episode isn’t so hot.  one thing I really don’t like in television are character death fake-outs, and one of the most egregious examples is here where we are left thinking Shannon was killed, only to have  it revealed to be a hallucination.  By the way, the whole idea of Locke drugging Boone so that he would have hallucinations is in itself ridiculous.  We also see a big set up for Shannon and Sayid, the most unbelievable relationship in the entire series.  And don’t even get me started on how the flashbacks complicate Boone and Shannon’s relationship unnecessarily.  Just have them be brother and sister and leave it at that.

5. The Other Woman

Season 4

Season 4 is a pretty great season.  Its tight and action-packed with lots of great moments.  But this episode does seem to be its shortcoming.  We get a storyline about the freighter people trying to find a dharma station that has deadly gas, which has no impact on the rest of the series at all.  We get a mysterious visit from a woman from Juliet’s past which makes no sense, and again has no bearing on the rest of the series as she never shows up again.

As for Juliet’s flashback, it is indicative of a bigger problem in Lost, which is how they mishandled The Other.  At first, The Others were this mysterious, savage group of people which excited us as a viewer.  When we learned more about them, w e realized that they are basically living suburban lives, which they break out of to deal with people in extreme, unbelievable ways every once in a while.  Juliet’s story really deals with the mundanity of their lives, which adds to the disappointment of The Others.

4. Dave

Season 2

Hurley episodes are usually great, but this one late in the second season, not so much.  One aspect of Hurley’s backstory that never made sense to me was the whole “Hurley is crazy” thing, and this ep leans heavily into that.  His imaginary friend is annoying, and this is a pretty lame episode overall.

3. Stranger in a Strange Land

Season 3

This is probably Lost’s most hated episode.  This is the origin of Jack’s tattoos, that no one cared for or wanted.  The off island story make no sense in Jack’s overall arc, and is just really uninteresting and dumb.  Meanwhile, the on island story ain’t much better.  Again, we have The Others living lives that just don’t make sense, and Jack trying to live among them.  We also get a story-line where Sawyer and Kate get escorted back to the beach by Carl, one of Lost’s most annoying characters.

2. Further Instructions

Season 3

Lots of the time, Lost’s flashbacks inform the characters’ decisions on the island and help us get to know their motivations.  But sometimes they just make absolutely no sense and go places outside the experience of normal people.  The worst example of this is when Locke is seen as a pot farmer?? In some sort of cult? And he almost makes a decision to kill a cop? Seriously??  Whatever time period this takes place in Lcoke’s history, it makes no sense being there.  This is probably Lost’s worst flashback.

And s for on-island story, Locke losing his voice, creating a sweatlodge and hallucinating, is all pretty bad.  Just that image of Boone pushing him around the airport is laughable.

1. Fire + Water

Season 2

Poor Charlie didn’t get many episodes, when all was said and done.  He had one of the best with Greatest Hits, but unfortunately is only season season outing ended up being the worst of the series.  It feels like the writers went out of their way to make Charlie as much of a jerk as possible and even has him steal Aaron. And then we get that uncomfortable scene where Locke just beats him down and no one does anything about it.  And the less said about the Driveshaft commercial in the flashbacks the better.

Lost has crafted some incredible hours of television, but trying to fill out a full season slate of episodes means there are going to be some bad apples.  Fire and Water feels like one of the most mean-spirited episodes and feels like it doesn’t like its characters very much, and for that reason I have to say its my least favourite.  The characters are the reason Lost is such a great show.  Even when it has its missteps and doesn’t handle all aspects properly, whether its how they deal with The Others, or extreme character reactions, or unbelievable backstories, it more often than not provides some great moments and stories.

Nov
21

Almost great. Pretty close. There is some really great stuff in First Man. First off, there are the flight scenes, which really aim to put you in the driver’s seat, so to speak. Chazelle does this by lots of first person views and pulling the camera in tight. it really gives you a sense of the danger these guys were in, and was quite exhilarating. There are essentially three main scenes where we see this: one at the beginning, middle, and end. They are all unique and all work very well.

The other major plus to First Man is Ryan Gosling. He has put in yet another excellent performance. He crafts a very interesting character (its weird saying character about a real-life figure, but apt at the same time I think) in Neil Armstrong. He’s one of those men who speak seldom, but when he does its time to listen. I absolutely loved the scene where he is interviewed for the space program, and would actually put that right up there with the three big space set pieces.

But the character also comes across strong in smaller moments and basic lines of dialogue that work not just because of the writing, but also because Gosling’s delivery is spot on. Parts like when Aldrin is talking about Astronauts who just died and says “I’m just saying what we’re all thinking”, he simply replies with “Well, maybe you shouldn’t.” Its a great example of understanding a character through the simplest of means.

So what holds it back fro greatness? Its the home story, sad to say. Learning about his life at home is important as it brings this legend from the history books down to earth.. It also gives us some emotional context with his daughter’s illness. but in the second half of the movie, the relationship aspects with Mrs. Armstrong and his sons doesn’t really work. It feels obligatory more than anything, and I really think the film would have benefited from scaling back a bit on the home life aspect.

Its still one of the better movies of 2018 to be sure.

9/10

Oct
31

This movie turned out to be quite a worthy sequel to its predecessor (despite the choice to give it the SAME EXACT TITLE!). It really played on the idea of Michael as this soulless human being, and shows Laurie going all Sarah Conner on us. The idea of Michael as an old man is intriguing, even though we never really see his face, and the opening where the reporters try to get a reaction out of him is a pretty good kick off to the film.

One could argue that this is just another in the long line of nostalgia-fueled rehashes we’ve been seeing lately. It does touch on a lot of that, with the recapping on his sister’s murder, the bus crash scene being reminiscent of the asylum break out, and lines like the one that dismiss Halloween 2 (and all the others I suppose). But it still feels like a natural progression of the story, and its interesting to revisit the events 40 years later.

As or the suspense, I thought the movie took a while to get a footing, but when it did it really worked. The aforementioned crash scene was eerie, but there was a scene at a garage shop which lacked in suspense and felt more just like brutal violence. But once we kick into the babysitter familiarity, the suspense ramps up well. I really liked the final showdown.

And lets face it; that mask is damn cool.

8/10

Oct
27

This had potential, but it was ultimately squandered.  This reminded me of that period in the late 90s when there were a whole bunch of Tarantino wanna-be films coming out.  El Royale is absolutely a Tarantino mimic, though lacking in both clever dialogue and frenetic energy.  At first I found it intriguing, as a cast of characters wind up at this run-down casino lodge with mysterious backstories, but by the end it had all unraveled into a garbled mess.

I think my biggest problem with this story is how disingenuous it felt.  I could see the film-maker’s fingerprints all over it, especially in the character backstories and some of the ideas they chose to touch and linger on.  Some were suitable.  For example, there is a character with the backstory of having robbed a bank and his brother hid the money somewhere in the hotel.  That makes sense as a motivation for that character to be there and gives us just enough so that we can connect with him.

But then there is the backstory of the two girls, which basically goes like this: the younger sister is taken in by some sort of hippy cult leader, and the older sister kidnaps her to get her away from his influence.  This backstory ends up playing a huge role at the end and gives us some moments at the end which are unearned and far too heavy for what has come previously to that point.  The idea of a girl being brainwashed so completely like this should be the focus of an entire movie, not some side story to explain the presence of characters in an ensemble.  It feels like an obvious attempt to add emotional gravitas to this film, but simply doesn’t work.

Likewise with the story of the hotel clerk desperate to find forgiveness for things he did in the war, leading to a ridiculously drawn-out and indulgent scene involving a priest confession.  Again, another transparent attempt to add some sort of weight to the movie, but it slumps below its own capacity.

I did like the singer character though.

5/10