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

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

 

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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

Oct
08

Hey all, I’m trying out a new segment.  This is scary movie month, where I summarize all of the Halloween-ish type movies that I watch in October.  But since it seems lame to make this post in November after I’ve watch all the films, I’m going to go back to the films I watch last year during 31 Days of Halloween so that you can read about it during October and possibly influence your own scary movie month choices.

Day first

Amityville Horror

Amityville Horror is odd in that it really feels like old hat. There’s a lot of stuff that’s really familiar and recognizable; some from before it was released, but a lot of it after. There are heavy tones of The Exorcist, The Shining, and Poltergeist, as well as many other popular horror movies. Its a hodgepodge of haunted house, Catholic stuff, crazy father, evil flies and what-have-you. The bleeding walls are really cool though.

7/10

Day this-and-that

Teen Wolf

Never seen Teen Wolf before. Now I have. So yup. Its okay, but it sorta doesn’t follow through on any of its potential conflicts.
And I don’t really like the make-up, or whatever you call it. Kinda grosses me out. But Mikey J. is likable, and its watchable enough.

Best horror/sports movie?

6/10

Day Somewhere near the Middle

Rosemary’s Baby

This is a creepy, effective thriller. There’s always something just not right, and this feeling builds and builds throughout. The pacing is just right. I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, or why she made the decision she did. Is it a mom thing? I dunno, but I didn’t really feel like she would do what she did.

I liked how scrabble was used as a plot device. Go board games!

9/10

Day in the Middle
The Phantom Carriage

Okay, so….. The phantom Carriage is a spooky-ish film from Sweden from the 20s.  Its a silent film, clearly, which I will talk about later.  I really liked the beginning half-hour or so of the film; it did a good job of drawing me in.  It had a spine-tingling atmosphere, and when the carriage itself shows up it provides us with some really cool imagery.

I must say though that once the flashback stories began happening, the momentum was sorta killed for me.  We were set up for this interesting afterlife exploration, but it really just turned into a Scrooge story that I found myself getting continuously bored with.   And as such the spookiness began to subside including the end where SPOILER: he ends up getting a second chance for some reason.

Also, I kind of want to talk about silent films in general for a moment, since I thought about it a lot while watching this.  I just can never seem to find myself loving silent movies and fully embracing them.  I know I’m no where near alone on this, but as someone who tries to be open to experiencing films from all points in history, I have to ask myself why.  Two reasons came to mind, which I’m not sure are valid or not but I thought I’d mention them anyway.

1) The title cards.    I really don’t like title cards.  I’m sure there are many silent films that are more physical, like the Buster Keaton ones for example, but when movies rely on title cards too much I find it really draining.  I mean, I know at that point its just the way it was, but I definitely appreciate how huge a leap for cinema it was when they got sound.

2) The music.  I am a little bit of a purest when it comes to movies, but its hard with silent films because most of the time the music is not original.  The phantom carriage for example had music composed for it in the 90s.  Granted they did a good job making it sound sorta 20’s era ish, but nonetheless it isn’t.  So am i really getting the full effect I should, or is it tainted?  It just kinda bugs me a bit, but the only other way is to watch it completely in silence, but even that doesn’t work, since these films were meant to be accompanied by music.

Day the Blobiest
The Blob (1958)

A group of teenagers in their thirties investigate a giant blob that is attacking people in their town. Its very much a basic monster movie with some strong special effects. The acting ain’t so great (though par for the course for movies in this vein), but I do appreciate how the writers try to make these characters more than just stereotypes. I was disappointed that the ending wasn’t going to deal with the discovery of the creature’s weakness, but then it turned around and did just that.

And also, potential global warning message with last line?

Day Where I Hated the Movies

Texas Chain Saw Massacre

I’ve wanted to see this movie for quite a while, considering it is a horror classic. Long ago, this was never a movie I was interested in. However, the more praise I heard it getting as a fundamental film of the genre, often talked about on the same level as a film like Halloween, the more interested I became. Finally I managed to track it down, but instead of getting a top notch horror movie as I expected, I got something else, more akin to the type of movie I thought it was earlier in my life when I cared not to see it.

This movie is ugly and vile. I hated it. I really have nothing more to say.

Halloween Viewing
Beetlejuice

Okay, lets talk Beetlejuice. So I suppose its fun at parts, but I kinda just don’t get it. Best scene is the banana boat scene for sure. But otherwise…. this is a comedy right? Cause I sure didn’t laugh too much, even though I knew that what was on the screen was supposed to make me laugh. Am I so jaded? Maybe I just don’t jive with Tim Burton’s style.

Michael Keaton puts a lot of energy into the role as Beetlejuice, but wow, for someone who is the title character he’s really not that big a player. Honestly, they could cut Beetlejuice out of the whole thing without missing too much.

What does everyone else think of this movie?

6/10

Aug
25

When I heard that there would be a print run of 2001 this year during its 50th anniversary, I got very excited.  This was one of those movies I always wanted to see in theater.  But as the summer went on, there was still no word from my local theater that this was going to screen in my city.  I was disappointed, to say the least.

The other day at the pub, I expressed this disappointment to a couple of my buddies.  As we were talking,  my friend Lloyd became curious and looked it up on his phone, only to learn that in fact yes, it was coming to town, and was airing at the IMAX the next day!  My eyes shot open in surprise, followed by the question “You wanna go?”

Seeing this movie on the giant screen with the massive IMAX speakers was outstanding and an experience that, as a cinephile, I’m very appreciative I was able to have.  I felt the rumble in my seat with the timpani beats in the opening title, as the camera panned over the moon to see the earth and the sun.   I had to rub my ears after the monolith screech inside the lunar excavation site.  I stared transfixed as the wacky light-speed images enveloped my view, with those eerie sounds humming through the auditorium.  There was even an intermission during the intermission break!  It was a little too long, but oh well.

In a theater meant for 300, there were only about 20 of us in there, but what else did I expect I suppose?  I could feel the unease of some of the younger audience members during the many very slow shots of various spaceships and crafts landing or docking.  But I kind of just had to say screw it, and enjoy the moment on screen.  Besides, I was just happy to see so much youth at this screening in the first place.

After seeing the movie enough times, I mostly have the main ideas worked out and understand the progression of the plot.  But what really makes this great is the discussions that the ambiguity of the film provides.  A crucial part of this film experience was going out for a drink on the next block with my friend afterwards, where we had a chance to talk about what we saw.  We talked about both the logical plot points as well as the deeper philosophy behind everything.

We discussed whether or not time actually went that fast for Dave in the white room, or whether he lived out the rest of his life there and the progression of looks was just an artistic way to portray that.  Then my friend mentioned the idea that maybe it was all moot, as the point of that was the meaninglessness of time for him once he reached this place.

We then went through the motivations of HAL where we talked about this programmed objective and how he met that. This led into the bigger idea behind his self-awareness being the next step in evolution and how this connected to the apes in the beginning.  We talked about lots of these ideas that the film had.

And that’s one of the strongest reasons 2001 is such a masterpiece.  It may be confusing, it make be crazy and cryptic, but its not nonsense.  Everything is there for a reason.  This is a masterpiece, to be sure; one which I am happy to have finally seen, and heard, on the big screen.

10/10

Aug
06

Soooo… we’ve come a long way from a small band of characters vising an island of dinosaurs and a hiccup in the power. Now we’ve got a volcano threatening to destroy Dino Island, a group of black market mercenaries capturing these creatures, and genetic villainy creating monsters that resemble dinosaurs but are far more menacingly agile?

Sigh, I miss the days when two raptors in a kitchen was enough,

This is not a movie devoid of good ideas; they do have some. As ridiculous a concept as the island exploding is, its an interesting premise to hook the movie onto, and something different than before; should we save the animals or not?

There are also a few set pieces that work quite well, including a dino blood transfusion and an escape from previously mentioned volcano. These action scenes are certainly more outlandish than what came before, but still fun in the moment.

The real problem come with the secondary conflict: black market dino dealers. There is something about this idea that doesn’t seem to fit the Jurassic Park milieu; a group of terrorists essentially who have no regard for human life that the heroes must fight against. There’s even a scene where Chris Pratt fist-punches a bunch of guys with guns as he makes his way across a room.

This whole aspect doesn’t work. It makes everything feel more outlandish and more like a generic action movie. They even try to throw in really dumb stuff like human cloning and even an effigy character of donald trump, which adds unneeded surrealism.

Another issue I had was the ham-fisted wonder and sentiment added it, like a really shoehorned moment where the caravan comes across a brachiosaurus. And the less said about “My Pet Raptor” the better. Also, the ending is sort of frustrating, because as cool as it is, its also just an excuse for the filmmakers to trow in really cool imagery without these images needing to be set up by the story at all.

So though watching dinosaurs on screen remains a thrill on some level, this is a bust. Oh well. We’ll always have raptors in the kitchen.

5/10

Jul
31

M:I 6 has turned out to be one of the best action movies in recent memory. Its the culmination of all that came before it: the intriguing plots, the spy gadgetry, and of course Tom Cruise’s insistence in putting himself in preposterous stunt situations. And its all fantastic.

Remember Howard Hawks’ famous quote that a good movie having three good scenes and no bad ones? Well how about a halo jump into a thunderstorm, a car chase that actually kept me engaged (not easy to do), and a helicopter chase like you’ve never seen? This movie never lets up; it is a patchwork of heart-pounding set ices interspersed with some great spy tricks, interesting plot developments, and a little look into Ethan Hunt’s humanity for good measure.

Fallout has come into a summer full of underwhelming studio offerings and has blown away the competition, reminding us what a great action blockbuster can and should be.  It is very clear that Tom Cruise puts a lot of love into these MI films, and in this one he really seems to go for broke.  Everyone working around him also cares a lot; the director, the script, the rest of the cast, the stunt choreography, they are all working towards a singular goal.  And they hit the mark spectacularly.

Remember when movies had spectacle? When they weren’t just overwhelming you with CGI and mindless, structure-less action but actually caught you up in the moment and took you for a ride? Don’t worry; they’re still here.

9.5/10

Jul
29

I am going to spend a little time here discussing an expansion for the X-Wing miniatures game from the perspective of a casual player. I am not a full-on devotee to the x-wing system, just a board game fan and a Star Wars fan who thought this would be a good fit for me.

The problem with this is that X-Wing is a game that doesn’t really just work on its own: you need expansions to make the experience worthwhile. But since there are approximately 3,720 expansions for this game, what is a casual player to do?

Where I’ve decided to begin and end my x-wing collecting habits is to restrict myself to only ships that feature in the original trilogy of films. I think this is a good rule to follow to prevent going overboard with spending. But no matter what your own personal rule is, there is one expansion all X-Wing players must have: the iconic Millennium Falcon.

Additions

1 Millennium Falcon model – This is one of the first two larger expansions for X-Wing, and it looks incredible! This is a fantastic model of everyone’s favourite ship, fully coloured and detailed. I cannot say enough about how awesome this looks.
As far as how the ship plays, this thing is a tank. Its very hard to take down, and its 270 degree firing range makes it very formidable. In fact, it may be a little too overpowered for the rebels, depending on what the Imperial side is like.

2 New cards – Thematically, this expansion includes Han, Chewie, and Lando as new pilots. That’s pretty huge. It also includes co-pilot cards to add (including Luke, Nien Nunb, and Chewie again) as a new type of upgrade card.
There are also some new types of upgrades like concussion and assault missiles. These are decent and can be nice additions to use on your Falcon, though the Falcon already costs a lot of points in the first place.

Critique

Best Feature: The ship model. I mean, look at it!

What type: This is an extension/collection expansion.

When to use: This could be used any time when playing. The pilots do cost a lot of points (ex. Han Solo is 46 points, almost half of the allotted total), as the ship is quite powerful, so the Rebel player may not always want to use it if they want a larger fleet.

Does it fit?: No. The base box is way to small. The cards can fit with the original game cards, but the ship has to be housed separate.

Overall:
If you are planning on getting into X-Wing, the Millennium Falcon is a must have. But lets face it, if you are any level of Star Wars fan, of course you are going to get the Falcon to add on. Its probably the best of the original ships I’ve played with. Its quite a pain in the ass to take down as the Empire though.

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