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

May
01

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The Office is an interesting study in the evolution of a television show.  It began its existence as a remake from the popular British comedy that had been popular a few years earlier.  Because of this, most people thought it was doomed, that it was going to try too hard to capture the brilliance of that show that its only fate was to fizzle out in failure.  And with their short-run first seasons, that appeared to be the case.

But then something else happened.  This new comedy, based on the awkward foibles of a standard workplace, began to find its own voice.  Its characters starting following their own path from their derivative beginnings.  Michael Scott was related from the same idea as David Brent, but he was now becoming much more sympathetic.  Jim started s the every-man like Tim, but was soon his own person.  Pam was developing quite a lot differently than Dawn.  And the will-they, wont-they romance was also far more interesting.

Another brilliant move that the American Office made was to begin to develop all of their secondary characters as well, creating a whole menagerie of comedic personalities; from Kevan’s lovable doofus, to Stanley’s grumpy eye rolling, to Kelly’s obsession with celebrity culture.  This allowed The Office to grow out of its roots as a remake of a short lived workplace comedy to a sitcom juggernaut that lasted for 9 years and was a mainstay on the fabled NBC Thursday night line-up.

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Season Recap

Season 1 – The first season was a quick 6-episode order after Christmas.  Looking back it does have a meaner edge to it, reflecting the British series a lot more than it would.  The first episode is really a mirror of the original pilot, but after that it stars to do its own thing.  Highlights are Diversity Day, Health Care, and Hot Girl.

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Season 2 – With a renewed, full slate of episodes, The Office really found its stride in its second season, without being weight down by trying to find new material like newer seasons would.  That’s probably why this is The Office’s best year.  There are so many great moments, and the Jim crush on Pam is at its peak.  Michael begins to become likable, but he’s still a complete asshole.  Dwight is very funny without verging into ridiculous Dwight territory like he does later.

This season also has some of the best episodes of the whole series, including the Christmas Party episodes (perhaps my personal favourite), Sexual Harrassment, Office Olympics which introduced Flonkertin, Conflict Management, and of course Casino Night which gave us one of TV’s great finale cliffhangers.

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Season 3 – The third season started with a shake up by moving Jim to anther branch.  This introduced new characters like Andy.  But of course you knew that the family would have to be brought back together again.  Still, it was an interesting twist to the start of another season of The Office at its peak. Highlights include Gay Witch Hunt, in which they learn Oscar is gay in what is one of Th Office’s bet half-hours in which Michael’s homophobia and desire to be seen as progressive clash in such a hilarious way.

Season 4 – The show’s quality dipped quite a bit with season four, which became far too hung up on Michael’s relationship with Jan, and their questionable need to focus on Jan’s crazier tendencies.  The episode Dinner Party is a particular low point in the series.  Jim and Pam are now officially together which works, but other things like Ryan as the new head office guy just doesn’t. (I really don’t like his character).

Season 5 – Things start picking up again as Jan and Ryan-as-boss are out of the picture.  One of my favourite side stories are the Michael Scott Paper Company episodes, which are all pretty great episodes.  This season also introduces Michael’s love interest Holly.

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Season 6 – Season six is just kinda there.  It introduces the buy out of Dunder Mifflin (which unfortunately introduces the perpetually annoying character Gabe) and a terrible subplot of Michael dating Pam’s mom.  This season is largely forgettable, but the Jim and Pam wedding eipsode is really good.

Season 7 – Season 7 saw the exit of Steve Carrell as Michael Scott.  Yes, the show and its plethora of funny characters would be able to hold the show up for another 2 seasons, but lets face it; Michael was the heart of The Office (sorry Jim and Pam).  However, the lead up to his departure did give us a return to form in its writing.  Its also really nice to see him exit on such a high note. Goodbye Michael is definitely a highlight, as is Search Committee tough in a more goofy, fun way.

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Season 8 – The first season without Michael Scott certainly suffers without him.  A lot of things don’t work here: Andy as Boss, James Spader as Robert California, and the worst cast introduction perhaps through the whole series, Nellie. Jim and Pam also seem to be getting more and more smug at this point.  The only highlight is the small group of episodes in which some of the coworkers go to Florida (especially vacation Stanley).

Season 9 – I pretty much lost interest at this point.  Dwight, who has been growing more and more ridiculous throughout the show’s run, was too much to bear here (The Farm may be the worst episode of the series).  Andy was hardly present and when he was seemed uninterested.  They tried to drive a wedge between Pam and Jim which could have been interesting but only kind of was.  They did end it well though. And I liked the new character of Clark, which was almost always funny. The highlight is definitely the penultimate episode AARM (assistant to the assistant to the regional manager), which I thought worked as a better finale than the finale did.

Ranking of the Seasons:

Season 2

Season 3

Season 5

Season 1

Season 7

Season 6

Season 9

Season 4

Season 8

Favourite Character – Its gotta be Michael Scott.  Steve Carrell took the David Brent template from the BBC show shaped and built upon it to makeWWS05FM02jhuk a whole new character.  Michael is like a petulant child who just really, really wants people to like him.  That makes for some awkward and cringe-worthy behaviour, but also sort of gets you on his side a little (certainly not always though).  his lack of grasp on normal human interaction has provided some of the shows funniest moments, which the growing relationships between he and the other characters is one of the emotional cores of the show.

Final Thoughts – The Office is one of the defining comedies of the 2000’s.  It took a premise from an already excellent show and evolved over time into its own creation.  The characters are almost all notable and hilarious (with a few clunkers in there), and the leads are very likable in their own way.  The comedy works as both subtle satire and more outrageous slapstick (the former giving way to the latter more and more as the series progresses).  It has gone through a lot of side stories, some of which work and others which really, really don’t (Andy and Angela anyone?).  But the first three seasons are simply some of the bet in TV sitcom history.  Should the show have ended when Michael left?  Probably, but the shows legacy holds up regardless.

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Apr
10

4

And so the Hunger Games series which arrived with a bang, leaves with a whimper.  The second half of the third book, split into two purely for financial reasons not story reasons, is a slight improvement over the numb first half, but I still can’t say I liked it.   The story dragged, the emotional connections simply weren’t there, and the conclusion was underwhelming.

I thought that I may be in for a return to form with Hunger Games when the central premise looked to be an expedition to charge the capital which was defended by  series of traps.  These traps involved anything from fireballs to oils floods.  (Oh, and some sort of zombie things that looked like the pale man from Pan’s Labyrinth that seemed really out of place.)  This idea seemed promising, despite the practicality of it being ridiculous.  It seemed like it would touch of the original premise of the games themselves.  However, while it gave us some good scenes, the promise ultimately fell flat.

What we get instead is a half-baked revolution story which ultimately isn’t interesting.  We basically know how its going to turn out, which is fine as long as its entertaining which this only partially accomplishes.  But then they try to throw out a twist around a character we only somewhat know and really don’t care about.  Honestly, until I started watching this movie, I forgot that Julianne Moore was in the series at all, playing some character so memorable I don’t even remember her name as I write this, having just watched the movie.

Mockingjay continues to suffer from trying to force in a love story with the incredibly weak and annoying character of Peeta, this time forcing him into the same army unit of Katniss with no explanation of why and every reason for him not to be there.  Add to this the Return of the King style continuous ending, and the finale to the Hunger Games is a bit of a dud.

5/10

Apr
01

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I didn’t have high expectations for Hateful Eight. After Django, which had a lot of strengths, dont get me wrong, I was worried that Tarantino was delving into self-indulgence a little too much. Now I realize that’s like saying Scrooge McDuck may have had a little too much money, but that’s how I felt. And based on what I saw leading up to this film, it really seemed like he was going to continue down that road.

But instead what I got was a very interesting, well-constructed Western, which looking back was exactly what was promised all along. The plot sets up tension right from the get-go as Kurt Russell’s bounty hunter character is trying to transport the criminal Daisy to town to get a reward. However, a blizzard is coming and not only does he have to pick up more passengers, he also has to spend the next day or two in an inn on the road with a bunch of strangers he can’t trust. There’s a lot of drama to be found in this premise, and find it they do.

The Hateful Eight works very, very well in many ways. First, it looks amazing. The production design feels authentic, while the cinematography is beautiful and very reminiscent of old epic westerns, with lots of mountainous backgrounds and the like. Ennio Morricone’s score is not used too often, but is excellent when it does appear.

I also really like the story behind this whole production. It plays out like a murder mystery, Agatha Christie style. Its got a slow, tense build-up which leads to surprising revelations and plot twists and is just a whole lotta fun to watch. Tarantino uses his usual chapter style of narrative which he is so fond of (even using the same font as Kill Bill), but I ended up being okay with that. Oh yeah, and the performances are great. Seriously. If they weren’t this movie simply wo0uldn’t work.

However, there is one hang up I have, one nagging thing which keeps this from reaching greatness. The violence. Now hear me out. I know, I know, this is the guy who had a room full of blood spraying and hacked off limbs in Kill Bill and what-have-you. But I must say that the violence here seems rather out of place and, well, childish. What we’ve been given is perhaps Tarantinto’s most mature movie to date, but then we get these sudden violent outbursts where peoples heads are literally exploding, and guts are running down people’s hair. And we’re not talking realistic violence that speaks to the gritty, messy time period. Its cartoonish gore, in what is otherwise a very adult movie. Its like he just couldn’t help himself, he just had to throw some candy into the stew even if it didn’t fit.

So I guess that self-indulgence I was worried about did peek its head out. Otherwise, great movie.
8.5/10

Mar
31

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The reprint of the Game of Thrones board game included most parts of the previous expansions from the first run, so Fantasy Flight needed new ideas for the new expansion. The second expansion for the reprint is titles Feast for Crows after the 4th book in series (inexplicably being released after Dance with Dragons, named after the 5th book). A Game of Thrones is a great game, but is this small, card-only expansion worthy?

Additions

1House Arryn – A new house is introduced to the game with a new set of character cards. They are interesting and focus on available power tokens for the most part. However, I have a major problem with the addition of the Arryns into the game. They do not come with their own components!
Each house in the game as their own set of beautiful, marbled troop tokens in their house colours. Except the Arryns. They rules say just to use the green Tyrell tokens. Really? How great would it be to have a new set of sky blue components and fully include the Vale in the game. But no, Fantasy Flight cheaped out, just to they could contain the expansion as a simple deck of cards. I feel ripped off. Missed opportunity.

2New 4-player set up – So the Feast for Crows expansion is 4-player only (Stark, Baratheon, Lannister, Arryn), and as such they each have new set-ups to make the game work. Not much more to say about that.

3Objectives – The main reason for this expansion it to introduce objectives, which are missions that can be claimed by the players for points. Therefore, the regular objective of capturing 7 castles is replaced by mission points. For example, one of the objectives is to control the home area of any other house. Once you do that, you play the card and get the points. And the points are adjusted depending on which house meets the goal, as goals can be easier for some.

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Critique

Best Feature: Um, the objectives are…. good. They are interesting to play with and add a new aspect to the game. But… they also mess with the overall nature of the game at the same time. I’ll discuss that in my final thoughts.

When to use
: You can only use this when you have 4-players, and you should only use this if you play the game a lot and are looking to switch things up quite a bit. Its fun every once in a while, but should not be used most of the time.

Does it fit?
: Yes, its just a deck of cards. I store mine under the insert flap.

What type: This is a different scenario expansion.

Overall: Okay, I liked trying out the objectives. It reminded me of the Mission variant of Risk, which is fun for a lark. But the problem is that it takes away from the essence of the original game. Its no longer a game about conquering as much territory and controlling as much land and power as possible, and that’s what Game of Thrones should be. Add in the fact that Fantasy Flight refused to make this collection complete with a full set of Arryn components, and I can’t recommend this.

thumbsdown

Mar
30

10 Cloverfield Lane

A girl gets in an accident. She wakes up in a bunker with creepy John Goodman. He says there’s been an attack and they can’t leave. Can she trust him? I mean, he only had her chained to a pole…

So the premise of 10 Cloverfield Lane allows for a “bottle” story which sees three people stuck inside the bunker trying to survive and ascertain the truth of what happened, if anything did. The atmosphere is tense and uncertain throughout, which is exactly what it needs to be. And lets face it, most of the reason for that is Goodman’s performance.  He’s as great as he usually tends to be.  Its an effective thriller, but not without its flaws, which I can’t really go into without spoilers, so…

*Spoiler Warning

So I guess the balance of this movie is what seems a little off. The majority of the film deals with whether or not Howard is lying and whether he can be trusted (as much as someone so paranoid as to build a massive bunker system can be I suppose). And this sustains the movie up until the last… fifth or so when Michelle makes it out, and suddenly she’s smack dab in the middle of an alien takeover.

Now, I don’t have a problem with this, but like I said the balance seems off. I think if she escaped sooner so that maybe the whole final act was escaping the alien ship, that’s one thing. But it seemed like the running time inside the bunker went for so long, they sort of passed the point of no return and maybe should have just stuck to the bunker for the whole movie.

Yet, I’m not sure I would have liked that either. I was impatiently eager to see what actually was happening outside, and likely would have disappointed had they not shown it. I’m just saying that the amount of time spent underground and above seemed off kilter.

Also, I felt like that decision she made in the end felt like a really tacked on character motivation piece that wasn’t entirely earned. Yes she told that story about her running instead of helping, but nothing she did since kept that character idea in our heads until the very end.

*End of Spoilers

10 Cloverfield Lane is well acted and mostly engaging (with a few slow parts here and there as most bottle stories do)..  There are some story balance issues, but they are easy to look past for a simple, entertaining watch.
7/10

Mar
28

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The first two expansions for the smash hit 7 Wonders each came with 1 or 2 new wonder boards for players to try out. This third, smaller expansion focuses entirely on these new wonders. The slender box contains 4 new cities, offering more variety in which wonders the players are able to build. (It also doubles the “seven” wonders from the original game).

Additions

1Great Wall of China – The interesting thing about the great wall is that there are four possible rewards on each side, but you do not have to build each level in order. You get to choose which section of the wall you wish to build when. I think this one a lot.

2Stonehenge – Stonehenge gives you points and coin for how much stone you have. Its kinda weird. I mean thematically I get it, but there’s no other types of scoring like this for the other resources, so why is stone singled out?

3Mannekin Pis – This was originally a promo, but is now included in this pack. Its neat because a) it gives money as a starting resource and b) you can claim the wonder levels of your neighbours.

4Abu Simbel – Alright so this is perhaps the most complicated but most interesting wonder. When you can do when you reach a level is “bury” one of your leaders, and then get points for them at the end. You get twice as many points as their cost, so the better the leader you sacrifice the more points.

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Critique


Best Feature:
While Abu Simbel may be most interesting, I like the Great Wall of China because of the pick and choose bonuses.

When to use: You can thrown them in all the time. They are just extra variety for the player cities.

Does it fit?: Yes, but it gets tight and some of the wonders are swimming around above the insert.

What type: This is a more of the same expansion, simply adding more wonders.

Overall: I love having the wonder pack, as I love more of the same expansions which add to variety. It’s a pretty simple pack, with only 4 new wonder boards, but the art is as great as ever and the new bonuses are fun.

thumbsup

Mar
26

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Smug and self-important would be my short, three-word summary of Batman vs Superman. Just like 2013’s Man of Steel, this movie had promise, but simply did not deliver. From the desaturated colour palate to the pretentious dialogue, this movie took its self way, way too seriously.

Right off the bat (pun not intended), Zach Snyder a bunch of borrowed ideas and imagery, right down to Mama Wayne’s pearl necklace, and thinks that its okay because its all in slow-motion and more artistic. Sure we’ve seen boy Bruce surrounded by bats before, but its okay to do it again because this time they’re making him fly through symbolism! And these borrowed ideas continue, even having Batman get his car stolen from a party by a woman who would end up becoming his ally. Even the Harry Potter wand battles are borrowed from.

We are thrown right into the ending of Man of Steel, this time from Bruce Wayne’s perspective. Then we go to Lois Lane in the desert for some reason, then Lex Luthor doing stuff, then Superman doing stuff,… the whole story is very fragmented and shoddily edited together. It is constantly jumping storylines in a way which make the seams very apparent. And then out of the blue we get some sort of doomsday prophesy and a time traveler showing up? C’mon! No cohesion whatsoever. A mess, one might say.

I liked Ben Affleck taking up the bat suit, and I liked Wonder Woman quite a bit (despite her addition being entirely extraneous). I didn’t care for Jesse Eisenberg as Lex though, Henry Cavill was just there, and Jeremy Irons never felt like he was in the same movie.

The visuals of this movie were completely ruined by the choice, once again, to go almost grey throughout the whole thing. Not to mention they went a little far with the religious imagery (both visually and in the writing). Man, did they ever miss the mark with Superman here.

And then finally, once it seems to be over with the prolonged action set pieces (the only interesting one being the actual fight between Supes and Bats), we get an almost Return of the King ending which feels like it takes another half hour to conclude. Not to mention the desperation to turn this into DC’s avengers by hinting at a further storyline. Honestly, that scene with Lex in the jail cell was so tacked on it was eye rolling.

Sorry DC comics. It was a nice idea, but poorly executed. Too long, too full of itself, too disjointed, too joyless.
4/10

Mar
25

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I’ve been a fan of Peanuts since I was a kid. I always identified with the Charlie Brown, the perpetual screw-up. However, I was skeptical about the idea of a modern Peanuts movie being released in 2015 with CGI animation. As it turns out the football was pulled out from under me and my skepticism was misplaced.

The Peanuts movie does a great job of capturing the essence of our lovable blockhead Charlie Brown, a good-natured kid who just never has things go his way. The movie really centers around that idea, which I believe was a great choice and has an obvious yet satisfying pay-off at the end.

The animation really looks great. They managed to keep everything in Schultz’s original style yet give it a modern, updated look at the same time. Its struck a great balance.

The humour was definitely for kids, but it matched the humour of the comic and was charming in that innocent way, and comfortable like Linus’ blanket. And the story that matched it was simple but worthy of a feature film. The only real issue I had with the movie is that the imaginary sequences with Snoopy as the Flying Ace felt like distractions from the overall story.

I felt that the Peanuts Movie did a great job of capturing what made the original Peanuts cartoons so great. No one seems to be talking about this movie, but it is an excellent family film that should be getting more buzz. Good grief!

8/10

Mar
19

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Spotlight is one of those pictures that some might find powerful, others might find dull, and others simply interesting.  Its hard to say where you may fall, so its hard to recommend or not.  Personally, I fall into the finding it interesting category.  Spotlight tells the story of the Catholic abuse scandal being broken by the Boston Globe, and follows an approach blazed by All the President’s Men (one of my favorite movies) 40 years earlier.  And as such, its a compelling journalistic drama that I quite enjoyed.

Spotlight is really an acting showcase, but not in that over-emoting sort of way that other Oscarbait films can be.  What we get here are solid, dialogue-driven performances by great actors like Marf Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, etc.  Just watching these people interact on screen is very satisfying.

 

The scandal itself isn’t delved into that deeply.  There are some victim statements which are powerful, but it doesn’t really try to go for the hard-hitting graphic remembrance of what actually took place.  This isn’t that kind of movie.  Spotlight looks at the scandal in terms of the increasing scope of the cover-up and the truth coming to light, and as such it is a very strong film.

8/10

Mar
05

Room is a very interesting movie and it took a while for my thoughts to solidify on it. There are some brilliant moments and brilliant aspects in this movie, slightly blunted by a sense of tedium. Room tells the story of a kidnapped woman and her son who have lived in a wood shed for something like 7 years. Its intriguing and rather emotional, with some complex feelings being bantered about.

Its going to be difficult to talk about this without spoilers, (especially one overarching spoiler) so from this point on, be aware.

The movie doesn’t explicitly tell us what is happening when we are introduced to Joy and Jake in their tiny room, but it is easy to put together the pieces of how they came to be there and why they are being forced to live such a confined life. They are captives of a man named Nick who has foiled Joy’s escape plans enough to dissuade her. However, now she starts fearing for her son’s life and knows that the time to escape has come.

Their time in the room takes up about half of the movie. During this time we see how Joy is able to cope in this imprisonment and try to be a mother at the same time. Jake however lives his life as though this is the only world that he knows, because it is. Its fascinating the way he as developed his own views of how the world works, and how everything in TV doesn’t really exist. However, this segment of the film begins to become overlong and tedious, as horrible as that might sound. Luckily, just as the momentum begins to run dry, the film switches things up with the escape attempt.

Before the escape, Room was merely interesting and sad. But when Joy tries to smuggle Jake out of the room is when the movie really finds its footing. The entire ‘jailbreak’ sequences is wonderfully filmed and brimming with tension. It works so well because you as a viewer who have been following the plight of these two people so desperately want them to escape, and are heart-achingly worried that it won’t go right.

This leads us to the second half of the movie which shows how Joy and Jake try to adjust to being back in the real world. And this half is very similar to the first half in that it starts off intriguing, but begins to drag out eventually. And by dragging out I don’t necessarily mean plot pacing, but emotionally.

Lets see if I can explain. The emotional core of room sort of has a spectrum of moments, some of which are very subtle and others which are pretty blunt. There were some beats which sort of made e roll my eyes in their obvious attempts at a reaction. For example, when Joy is practicing rolling up Jake in the carpet and he yells “I hate you!”, that simply didn’t ring true for me, and felt like it was the filmmaker trying to reach for something shocking. Eye roll. Also, Joy’s fight with her mom in the living room, while I understood the basis behind it, felt too TV drama-ish and didn’t work.

But that’s not to say that this movie didn’t tug at my heart-strings at all, because it certainly did. It was in the smaller moments that this happened, and they were very effective. For example, the look Joan Allen gives when Jake mentions Old Nick’s visits, Jake meeting the dog for the first time, and telling his Grandma that he loves her. There were lots of those tiny bits of character growth and acceptance that strengthened this movie.

8/10

Feb
28

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Well, they certainly didn’t shy away from the controversy, did they?  Chris Rock had a pretty funny opening monologue, but after a while he kinda beat the thing to death.  Oh well.

BEST PICTURE:

Winner: Spotlight

My Pick: The Big Short

You know, my gut told me it would be Spotlight, but I over-analyzed the awards that came before this and chose Big Short.  Oh well.


DIRECTING:

Winner: Alenjandro Innaratu – The Revenant

My Pick: Adam McKay – The Big Short

I guess Mckay was a long shot.


ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE:

Winner:  Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant

My Pick: Leonardo Dicaprio – The Revenant

This one was a lock, lets face it.


ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE:

Winner: Brie Larson – Room

My Pick: Brie Larson – Room

Good for her, she probably deserved it.


ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Winner: Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies

My Pick: Sylvester Stallone – Creed

Sly got upset, but I’m fine with it because I really liked Rylance’s performance.


ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:

Winner: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

My Pick: Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl

I really just went with the buzz on this one.



ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Winner: Spotlight

My Pick: Spotlight

Called it! 1 for 1.


ADAPTED  SCREENPLAY:

Winner: The Big Short

My Pick: Carol

As I watched this, I thought that I guessed it right.  Then I came back here and saw that I picked Carol.  Oops.


FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Winner: Son of Saul

My Pick: Son of Saul

I’ve gotta keep my strategy of just picking the most popular nominee in this category.  Seems to work more often than not.


ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:

Winner: Inside Out

My Pick: Inside Out

The return of Pixar.


PRODUCTION DESIGN:

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road

Yeah, hard not to give this to Mad Max.

CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Winner: The Revenant

My Pick: The Revenant

I know Deacons fans must feel ripped off again, but I think the right film won.  Congrats to Lubeski for 3 in a row!

COSTUME DESIGN:

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Pick: The Danish Girl

I expected Mad Max to win quite a few tech awards, but this one wasn’t one I expected.

FILM EDITING:

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Pick: The Big Short

Max is destroying.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Winner: Amy

My Pick: Amy

It was the most popular, so…

MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING:

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Pick: The Revenant

Once again, I underestimated Mad Max

ORIGINAL SCORE:

Winner: The Hateful Eight

My Pick: The Hateful Eight

And so Morricone has an Oscar.

ORIGINAL SONG:

Winner: Writing on the Wall – Spectre

My Pick: Til It Happens To You – The Hunting Ground

I really don’t care for this song.  But I’ve gotta say, eihter lett them all perform or dont have any of them. Dont pick and choose.

SOUND MIXING:

Winner:  Mad Mad: Fury Road

My Pick: Mad Mad: Fury Road

For sure.

SOUND EDITING:

Winner: Mad Mad: Fury Road

My Pick: Mad Max: Fury Road

I gotta say, I loved the video clip they showed for this. Very cool.

VISUAL EFFECTS:

Winner: Ex Machina

My Pick: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I really wanted Star Wars to get an award.  But I gotta say, I expected Max Mad to steal it from them, surely not Ex Machina.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT:

Winner: A Girl in the River

My Pick: Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of Shoah

Its more relevant this year I suppose.

ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Winner: Bear Story

My Pick: Sanjay’s Super Team

I think this was an upset in animation circles.

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM:

Winner: Stutterer

My Pick: Ave Maria

Okay seriously, I don’t know how to pick these.

MY SCORE: 12/24 = 50%

I think this is my worst year yet.

Feb
27

IF

Last year many people were loving a movie called Kingsman. I thought it was stupid. A few years ago, everyone was loving a movie called Kick-Ass. I bloody hated it. Right now, everyone is loving Deadpool, and I…. okay, I liked it too. The reason I’m comparing this to those other films is because I really thought that Deadpool was going to be a similar situation: a movie that people went gaga for because it swore and did inappropriate things like a desperately rebellious teenager.

But as it turns out, Deadpool manages to handle its rude behaviour quite well. Its definitely brazen, and while it teeters on the edge of obnoxious, they manage to pull it from the edge just enough at just the right times. And although I myself am not familiar with the comic character, from what I hear this matches the comic tone quite well.

Ryan Renoylds really sinks himself into this character, realizing that this is his chance to make right with his fans after his two recent comic movie disasters. Heck, he even makes references to both of them, a couple different times. (Actually, those references were part of this movie I didn’t care for. Sure its good for a laugh, but has a shelf life of about… 2 hours). His brand of humour and comedic timing i pitch perfect here almost throughout the movie. The parts I laughed most at were when he’d make girly screams when being shot at, or things of that nature. Great stuff.

The story structure takes place as a narration by deadpool flashing back while he’s taking part in a large fight on a highway overpass. It works well and gives the movie momentum as it plows through his origin. It worked, but to be honest, apart from the wisecracks the action was pretty generic (especially a certain fist fight between Colossus and that really strong woman whose character name I do not know). The climactic action sequence in particular is nothing special, even compared to the overpass fight. But I suppose this movie doesn’t exist for innovative action. It exists for the humour within that action. And as such it succeeds.
7/10

Feb
19

Jobs2

Most people didn’t bother going to see Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs movie.  Most were turned off by that other recent Jobs movie starring Kelso and Olaf.  Others were probably just sick of hearing about the guy.  Whatever the reason, it was mostly ignored and in and out of theaters quite quickly.  Which would be all well and good, except for one thing:  this is a bloody great movie.

I’m well documented as being a big Sorkin fan, and so I usually enjoy most anything he writes.  That said, I understand the criticisms behind his work and recognize them.  However, I think that really good actors can blunt the edges of his writing and make it seem a little smoother and more natural.  Michael Fassbender certainly accomplishes that here, making Sorkin’s writing his own.  The other actors around him are also great.  I especially like Seth Rogan as Steve Wozniak, and greatly enjoyed all his scenes.

The story is told in three parts, backstage behind three product launches, as well as a few appropriately placed flashbacks.  This framing device works very well and gives the whole movie a unique energy.  We follow through the history of modern computing as well as get a glimpse behind Job’s family life and how it evolves.  The obvious comparison to make is 2010’s The Social Network, as both dealt with the digital revolution and the people behind it.  I think Social Network does a better job exploring the themes that come with such a revolution, but those ideas are certainly not absent here, and Job’s personality is consistent with the “unstoppable wave” of the future.  There’s some interesting ideas to snack on here for sure.  Also, its just fun to watch and listen to.
9/10

Feb
17

‘Bridge of Spies’ by DreamWorks Studios.

Spielberg has given his take on WWI, WWII, and the Civil War, and now he tries his hand at the cold war. Bridge of Spies tells an intriguing story about a prisoner exchange between the US and the Soviets which is expertly told. Its nice to see a spy drama grounded in the reality of what espionage actually was like. Granted there’s not a whole lot of ‘spy stuff” per se (though the one rare moment we see at the beginning is pretty cool), but there is a lot of the intrigue and politics that goes with it.

There’s some great writing and great acting in this film. Th writing includes some great thoughts and ideas surrounding constitutional rights and the contrast between American and Soviet ideals, and the ideas of what is and is not considered treason. These ideas are supported by solid performances, not only by the indomitable Tom Hanks, but especially by Mark Rylance as the calm and collected spy Abel. I loved any scene he was in.

Bridge of Spies is a solid drama. It fulfills that need for a great story by a great storyteller that doesn’t rely on gimmicks or fantastical elements. Its an adult drama. Its not perfect; sometimes the score gets in the way and the ending is a little weak (so should we care what other people think, or shouldn’t we?). But I guess Spielberg often has ending problems. I highly recommend Bridge of Spies to anyone who appreciates period pieces like this or realistic spy films.
8/10

Feb
07

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I know that this blog is not really a personal blog, its a site I use for entertainment, both for myself and for the handful of you who actually take the time to read it.  Its just a silly site where I post movie reviews and other fluff stuff and I usually keep my personal life out of it.  But I just feel the need to express myself somehow, somewhere.  Of course, I am expressing myself with my wife and my family members and my other friends who were so close to this, but I think I just need to get it “out there” so to speak.

Two of my closest friends and their two children were killed in a car accident Saturday night.  In an instant, their entire family was wiped out.  Even just typing those sentences just made me break down again.  I am only starting to comprehend my loss and just how big of a hole they are going to leave in our lives. (Note: I am posting this a month later.  This took a long time for be to actually get the strength to sit down to write the whole thing.)

The story of the crash has dominated the local news here in my city, which has been so surreal that suddenly everyone in the city and surrounding area suddenly knows the names and story of two people who have been so important to me for so long. My facebook feed is dominated by people expressing their sympathies and giving remembrances.  I’m a pretty private person, so I dont feel comfortable sharing my thoughts there, but… I need to get them out.  I dont know if this is the right venue, but I think it might be for me.

 

To Jordan,

You have been one of my best friends for almost 16 years.  We graduated University together with the same degree, taking many of the same classes, lab partners whenever possible.  We partied together, we BBQed together, we have had countless pub conversations.  We played hockey, softball, frisbee, dodgeball, golf together.  We’ve gone camping together.  We’ve celebrated each other’s weddings.  We have gone through so many experiences and stages in our lives together.  And now you’re gone.

The reality of that is hard to comprehend.  For someone to be such a close and important part of my life to suddenly not be there anymore is so hard to accept its almost inconceivable.  I miss talking with you.  I miss hanging out with you.  We always made fun of you for complaining about everything, but that was one of the things that made you endearing in your own way.  You’re sense of humour is going to be greatly missed, and I can’t believe I wont hear you breaking into laughter with that very instinctive laugh anymore.  I know that we have frustrated each other over the years, close friends always do, that’s just part of it.  Sometimes your practicality would bother me, sometimes my quick temper I’m sure would annoy you.  I’m lucky to have a friend as close and as loyal as you.  We were both lucky to have had several of them.

You were an inspiration to me in your own way, though I never really let you know that.  Even though we both went through micro together, you were always a much better scientist than I.  You’ve always been more inquisitive.  One thing I learned from you was how to take pleasure in the simple things in nature.  You always had stories about your camping and hiking experiences, and later on your photography sessions.  You understood the beauty of the world and were not afraid to express it.  We you began photography, we  all thought it would be another hobby you were just trying out, but you grew so much with it, and I should have seen that coming.  It allowed you to visually express the things that interested you, the things that impressed you.  I don’t think I’ve ever complimented you enough on this, though I remember doing so during one of the last times we hung out together and I’m glad I expressed at least some of my appreciation for your art while I could.  It still wasn’t enough.

I’m going to miss you Jordan.  You were such a huge personality and your love for life was infectious, it really was.  I’m going to miss you bitching about traffic  or work or whatever bothered you that day.  I’m going to miss your inappropriate comments and stories.  I’m going to miss your awe in space and nature.  and I’m just going to miss you being there for me.

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Jordan and I at convocation

To Chanda,

I remember meeting you at a new year’s eve party many years ago.  I believe this was when Jordan met you too? Or at least where he decided that he liked you.  After that, we would somehow magically run into you in the halls at school all the time.  Then suddenly we saw Jordan less and less.  I’ll be honest, this bothered us.  You were the girl stealing Jordan away.  If I was ever a jerk to you, I apologize.  I was just being jealous.

Chanda, it seems so unfair to me that your life with your children and your husband was cut short.  You deserved a long, happy life with them, you really did.  You are one of the kindest souls I’ve ever known.  You rarely said a bad thing about someone, and when you did we knew how serious it must have been.  You were always looking for that positive outlook, on people, on situations, whatever it was.  Its easy to be hyperbolic about the good-natured characteristics of someone after they die, but with you there is no exaggeration needed.  You were a genuinely friendly and caring person through and through.

And you were a great mom.   You spent so much time with your kids and made sure they had what they needed every moment.  Your joy for them was always apparent.  When I think back to hearing about how awful Kamryn’s birth was and the torture she put you through for the first year of her life, I remember thinking how strong and determined you had to be to endure.  Chanda, you were a person who knew your priorities and always had them straight.  You knew what was important in life.  You knew the value of relationships,about the value of the people in our lives.  What I have learned the most from you is to keep what truly matters to you as first priority.

Chanda, I am going to miss you so much.  You were such a stable and calming presence for your family and for those of us who were lucky enough to be your friends.  I think about how I needed to be a better friend to you.  There were times I chose not to go over to your house, after we learned we couldn’t have children, because it was too hard sometimes.  But you didn’t know that and I should have told you.  You would have understood.  Kimberly and I are going to miss playing cards with you two, hanging out on your deck, listening to that trademark laugh of yours.  You had such a wonderful sense of humour which match Jordan so well.  Your smile and your laugh together were so distinctive, I can hear them right now.  Chanda thank you for being such a great friend and such a wonderful person.

Chanda and I dancing at their wedding

Chanda and I dancing at their wedding

To Kamryn,

You were growing up to be such a kind, beautiful, fun little girl.  When you were a baby, you gave your parents hell, especially your mom.  But it was all worth it.  You were such a sweet, kind-hearted kid, always welcoming and always smiling.  One of my first memories of you were only a few months old and we came over for a visit.  We were sitting in the living room, you were sitting on someone’s lap, and you looked over to me and then just started crying.  Your mom turned you around so you weren’t facing me any ore. So what did you do? You turned your whole head around until you found me and once again started bawling.  We laughed a lot, but I was of course worried that I had become the ‘scary guy’ for you.  Luckily that was the only time that really happened, and ever since you knew who I was and were always beaming to see me.

You loved being around people.  Every time we would come over you needed to be hanging out with us, being a part of everything.  Every time I came to your house, I would get a boost of excitement and esteem because I knew that once I walked through that door you would be there to greet and welcome me.  You were the best parts of both your parents. From your mom you got her kindness and laughter, her warmth, her sense that people were far more important than things and that being with people was the best thing you could do.  From your dad you got his wonder and amazement for the world.  You acquired his inquisitive character, his love for nature.  I loved hearing that you got a camera for Christmas and went out shooting the northern lights with him.

One thing I will always remember about you that smiling happy face of yours.  Your smile was absolutely infectious and always present.  And those piercing blue eyes of yours will always be stuck in my memory.  It is a tragedy that you were only around for a few years, because I know that you would have grown into an amazing woman like your mom.  I’ll never forget how excited you were to see Kimberly and I and how you loved visiting with us and sitting on our laps.  You were such an amazing kid.

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Kamryn trying out Kim’s new camera phone

To Miguire,

Our last night with you, I watched you playing around our friend’s living room thinking to myself of just what an amazing little boy you had grown to be.  You were just so cute and so sweet and soft-spoken.  When you spoke it was only one or two words, followed by a giant smile and would melt ice.  It is unjust that you were taken from us at only 2 years old, but those two years you were around have given those who have known you many memories that we can always hold on to.

I remember holding you for the first time at one of our friend’s wedding.  Your parent’s had brought you along, and you were so small and bald.  Even on that last night, you will had only the lightest blonde fuzz on your head.  You shared that with your sister, who was bald for a long time as well.  Your eyes were always full of wonder, and you shared an inquisitive nature with your dad, trying to figure out how things worked.  And you had such a caring nature as well, given to you from your mom, a harmless nature in which you always wanted to make sure everyone was safe and okay, in your own way.

It is so unfair that we dont get to see you grow up into the amazing person you would have been.  Its so unfair that you didn’t get to experience more of life.  But its comforting to know that your parents did everything they could to help you experience as much of it as possible.  We will never forget that wondering expression on your face, followed by that sudden cheek-to-cheek smile of yours.

I wish we had a chance to know you longer Miguire.  You were part of an amazing family who meant to much to myself and many others.  The four of you remain together now, and we are left thankful for having you in our lives however brief it may have been.

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Holding McGuire for the first time