Thursday, September 03, 2015

How You Doing?

The most useless phrase in North American culture may also be the one most uttered, “How are you doing?” Or any of its similar forms like “Wassup?” “Howzit going?” Unless you're sitting down on a comfy couch surrounded by close family members and friends that caught whiff that your life was barrelling towards shambles after your spouse rode away on your prized ostrich and took your collector's edition Ernest Hemingway Pez dispenser, then the phrase's utterance is usually just a really verbose way to say “Hi.”

I’m clueless to when a simple hello became dated and got replaced with a catchphrase that should be a door to deeper conversation but is often uttered when someone is already in the frozen food aisle before you reply with a simple ‘good.’ Of course, ‘good, and you’ is the expected response so in case one hasn't already slammed the car door in your face then they can fire back the equally expected, ‘good, thanks.” A person’s head may go all Scanners and explode if someone actually dared to take the person up on the empty greeting and reveal they're rather anxious about downsizing at work and been spending free time convincing their child that bonfires don't happen in the living room. The world may actually open up and swallow us all whole if someone dared to say 'bad.'

The other night I was walking Summit with the blanket of darkness upon us and from the shadows I heard a “How’s it going?” I didn’t recognize the voice or the driveway that it came from and hardly was sure it was even a person except for the moonlight shining off his bald cranium (maybe that is also how he saw me?). Somehow this perfect stranger that could have easily let me just continue trotting on the sidewalk wanted to know all about my hopes, dreams, passions, and fears. Should I tell him about my current stress over my writing career that has crashed into a wall after two years of feeling the wind in my hair and a belief I’d continue uphill? Should I delve into my plans for that week or start sharing photos of my beautiful children? I opted for “good, you?” And I was rewarded with, “good, thanks.” Then I was out of talking distance to never hear that voice again.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Episode 106 Podcast: Remembering Legendary Director Wes Craven and Introducing New Competition

On Sunday, the legendary filmmaker Wes Craven passed away, but he'll always be a director that had a major impact on both Scott and I. We take time to celebrate his film canon and talk about how he successfully shaped the horror genre with three separate pictures (a rather incredible feat). As well, we review the 2013 'cat and mouse' chase thriller, Black Rock, we introduce a new competition between me and Scott, and discuss the controversy of the new Concussion trailer.

As always if you love the show then please spread the word to all those who like movie talk.


The Movie Breakdown Outline:
00:00 - 01:37 Intro
01:38 - 11:47 Crazy week and Christopher's camping weekend adventure
11:48 - 33:00 Wes Craven tribute
33:01 - 50:28 Black Rock review
50:29 - 55:17 Sad We Are Your Friends got critically trashed and didn't reach potential
56:18 - 1:27:35 Critical Darling competition and drafting movie picks
1:27:36 - 1:31:08 Concussion trailer
1:31:09 - Closing

Movie Star Rating:
Black Rock **½ (CS) & *** (SM)

Critical Darling Draft Pick:

Scott:

1. Carol
2. Brooklyn
3. Macbeth
4. 99 Homes
5. Joy
6. Good Dinosaur 
7. Suffragette
8. Hateful Eight
9. Room
10. Sicario


Christopher:

1. The Revenant
2. The Danish Girl
3. Spotlight
4. I Saw the Light
5. Crimson Peak
6. Steve Jobs
7. Youth
8. Truth
9. Our Brand is Crisis
10. Star Wars VII: Force Awakens

Critical Darling Rules:

1. 10 points for a movie that hits above 75%
2. Additional 5 points for movie that gets above 90%
3. Negative 5 points for movie that get below 40%
4. Additional negative 5 point for a movie below 25%
5. The percentage become official when it hits 50 reviews by time of that weekend's podcast
6. "Fool's Gamble" clause where competitor can call out the other's pick as foolish
       a) If pick doesn't make 75% then the caller gets 10 points
       b) If pick falls under deduction levels then the caller gets those deducted points
       c) If the pick does earn points then the picker gets additional 10 points
7. Potential reward for winner of contest to be determined later

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Episode 105 Podcast: 'American Ultra' Slacks in Originality but Burns it Up with the Leads

This week Scoot and I review the pot-smoking slacker turns Jason Bourne comedic actioner, American Ultra. Since it is the time of the year where studios dump their cinematic debris, we decided to open the vault for our second review with the original Sinister. From there we discuss topics like the future for Josh Trank, what will be the next big adult drama trend, and if film writers spend too much time on big blockbusters.

As always if you love the show then spread the word.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 2:06 Intro
2:07 - 12:08 Everett's first adventure at Canada's Wonderland
12:09 - 21:13American Ultra review
21:14 - 32:50 Sinister (2012) review
32:51 - 41:13 Box Office Game Final Scores
41:14 - 54:02 Can Josh Trank's career recover?
54:03 - 1:00:19 Wanting diversity in blockbusters when independents are delivering
1:00:20 - 1:12:13 Predicting next trend in prestige pictures
1:12:14 - 1:15:34 Carol trailer
1:15:35 - 1:17:05 Victor Frankenstein trailer
1:17:06 - 1:21:33 The Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse trailer
1:21:34 - Review Rundown & Conclusion

Star Ratings:

American Ultra (2015) **½ (CS & SM)
Sinister (2012) *** (CS) & **½ (SM)

Monday, August 17, 2015

'Carol' Trailer Reveals a Major Multiple Oscars Contender

The LGBT community has been a central part of the news this year with Caitlyn Jenner and the huge Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage. Even though almost every movie released this year would have had to start filming long before those events, independent pictures like Jenny's Wedding, About Ray, and Stonewall are likely garnering more attention. If they prove to have box office success then it'll likely be the new adult-centric drama subject of choice for the next few years (along with pictures about rap groups).

I'm also pretty sure that this will be a "social issue" year at the Oscars with movies like The Danish Girl and Carol marked as heavy favourites to garner nominations and potential Best Picture shots. Carol has already screened at the Cannes Film Festival where it came out with a substantial amount of positive buzz and most Oscar pundits are betting it is a top thoroughbred in the race. It should be no surprise that both Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett are also both considered sure things for actor nominations.

The political game is already being played as apparently the picture is actually about Mara's working class character and her budding romance with the married socialite, Carol. Since Blanchett is the more established name and already has a Best Actress win to her credit, Mara is being pegged for the Supporting Actress spot. That type of game playing can be tedious and reminds me of the August Osage County situation where Julia Roberts was the obvious lead of the picture but was campaigned as supporting due to Meryl Streep considered the stronger play.

Outside of Oscar ridiculousness, director Todd Hayne's film adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel, The Price of Salt, looks gorgeous and atmospheric and really captures the feel of the big city 1950s. I like the understated feel of the romance but also presents shots that reveal longing and happiness and sorrow. It looks like an emotional roller coaster and the performances are sure to be stunners. Hopefully, this turns into a well a deserved break-out for Mara who along with Carey Mulligan (set to star in Suffragette along with Streep) will hopefully have a huge fall when it comes to recognition for their amazing talents.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 104 Podcast: 'Straight Outta Compton' and 'The Gift' Make it a Wild and Great Time at the Cinemas

This week Scott and I finally get to see one of our most anticipated movies of the year, Straight Outta Compton. From there we review a very different picture in the thriller, The Gift. We also discuss a whole slew of news including The Hateful Eight trailer, Sesame Street on HBO, and Colin Trevorrow directing Star Wars. As always if you love the show then please spread the word.



The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 - 05:13 Intro and Scott talks about being a jerk
05:14 - 25:26 Straight Outta Compton review
25:27 - 37:00 The Gift review
37:01 - 40:40 Blumhouse is the place for mid-budget high concept pictures that big studios ignore
40:41 - 49:51 Box Office Game Update
49:51 - 55:51 Hateful Eight trailer
55:51 - 1:04:27 The failure of Fantastic Four is proof we need the return of mid-budget star-vehicles
1:04:28 - 1:13:45 Losing top talent and unique voices to big blockbusters
1:13:46 - 1:18:16 Sesame Street goes HBO and what that means about the state of TV
1:18:17 - 1:26:14 Trumbo and Burnt trailers
1:26:15 - Review rundown and closing

Star Ratings:

Straight Outta Compton **** (CS & SM)
The Gift *** (CS) & **** (SM)

Sunday, August 16, 2015

UPDATED: Ranking Movies I Reviewed in 2015 So Far

I've seen thirty-four 2015 pictures so far, which isn't that impressive compared to most professional critics but it does give me a decent barometer of what the year is like at a mainstream level. While at bottom to top level it hasn't been a blow-away year, we have three instant-classic movies that have redefined their genres and will be strong candidates for the best of the decade, which is enough to make 2015 a pretty amazing year even at just the halfway point. Even without those three movies, the major positive has been the wide variety of genres and type of movies we've got at the wide release level. As a launching point for the second half of the movie year, I'm ranking all the movies I've seen and reviewed so far, from least to greatest.

UPDATE: I initially posted this on July 15th with the intention of jumping back on the review saddle again after taking a rather hard tumble this past year or more. But the aches and breaks were more serious than I initially assessed. Now, I'm ready to allow the healing and take it easy on this next ride. I plan for full reviews going forward but since this original posting, I've now seen ten more 2015 movies (all discussed on The Movie Breakdown podcast), so I've added them to the list.

44. Chappie *

43. Aloha * 

42. Hot Pursuit *½

41. The Gunman *½

40. Strange Magic **

39. Get Hard **

38. Home **

37. The Woman in Black: Angel of Death **

36. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel **

35. Furious 7 **

34. Magic Mike XXL **

33.  These Final Hours **½

32. The Age of Adaline **½

31. Insurgent ***

30. Terminator Genisys ***

29. Pitch Perfect 2 ***

28. Monkey Kingdom ***

27. Jurassic World ***

26. Run All Night ***

25. Southpaw ***

24  Minions ***

23. The Search for General Tso ***

22.  San Andreas ***

21. The Avengers: Age of Ultron ***

20. The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water *** 

19. Kingsman: The Secret Service ***

18. Shaun the Sheep Movie ***

17. Tomorrowland ***

16. Paddington ***

15. Paper Towns ***

14. Insidious Chapter 3 ***

13. The Gift ***

12. The DUFF ***

11. Cinderella *** 

10. Focus ***

9. Ant-Man ***½

8. Faults ***½

7. Trainwreck ***½

6. Spy ***½

5. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation ****

4. Straight Outta Compton ****

3. It Follows ****

2. Mad Max: Fury Road **** 

1. Inside Out ****

Friday, August 14, 2015

'Sesame Street' Will Be Brought to You by the Letters HBO

If you want evidence that the way media is consumed and the direction of television is drastically changing then THR revealing that Sesame Street is entering into a 5 year deal with HBO should be enough to sway the jury. HBO has long been heralded as the channel that caters to the culturally sophisticated viewer that demands niche entertainment that is above broadly appealing network shows. I assumed just like diamonds and Highlanders that Sesame Street would live forever on PBS and it was just one of those series that was invincible to measly things like finances and production costs.

I was wrong. Well, not entirely wrong as the series will remain on PBS in essentially rerun form, but starting this fall the first-run episodes of Sesame Street will air on the premium cable channel. I don't know what this means for Canada though, because when I've watched episodes with Everett it has mostly been on Netflix.

That is the kicker right there. Assholes like me that haven't been willing to watch it the traditional way and perpetuated the problem of the younger generations expecting the viewing to be on-demand or available on multiple platforms has set my son on the path most networks dread. The younger generations aren't down with adhering to TV schedules or having to put up to advertisements. In the case of Sesame Street it has meant that PBS hasn't been able to be the same revenue stream it was in the past since not as many kids are watching it on that channel anymore. Plus the market place has changed in a way that the licensing revenue stream that has fed Sesame Street hasn't been as lucrative. People aren't getting the DVDs when there is so much of the content in their streaming packages.

It is the same proliferation of streaming that hurt Sesame Street that also turned it into an enticing property for premium cable. Up to this point, the notion was that HBO was too prestigious for such lowly things like network television and for the most part has created its premium content in-house. Suddenly, 'free' and broad entertainment has become a sought-after entity by HBO. The reality is that right now Netflix and similar streaming services are the major competitor to HBO. This is an obvious reason why they launched HBO Go as a stand-alone streaming service.

One of the biggest hits on the other streaming networks is children's programming. Netflix has spent millions on original children's shows in the past few years and it has been some of their highest watched shows. If HBO wants to enter that game then it makes sense to bolster its chances of success by landing the biggest brand name in children's programming. The biggest victory is not only getting a series that will grow an audience by its massive broad appeal but also a show that maintains their reputation of delivering the highest quality shows. When it comes to shows geared to the youngsters, I can say that with confidence as a father who has done his time in the trenches of fare aimed at the preschoolers that Sesame Street is the golden goose.

This deal also answers the big question of why Cookie Monster and Elmo are plastered on all things kid related. Big Bird and friends need to fund those high production values somehow, and apparently, those products haven't been enough since they have been cut down to 18 episodes a season the past few years. HBO deal not only brings it up to 35 but likely will even see a uptake in visual quality and a chance to be a bit more experimental in the presentation (from a style and presentation stand-point -- I'm not expecting gritty reboots of The Count and Snuffleupagus).

I'm sure there are some that lament this breaks the myth of Sesame Street being non-profit as it is now on premium channel that demands you to pay to see its wares. I don't see how this is really all that different from Sesame Street adorned toilet seats or DVD specials. We've always needed to pay for some product with the iconic characters or had exclusive content that came with a price tag. Sesame Street is still for free on PBS, we'll just need to wait 9 more months if we want the new stuff, and I'd guess it will still be hanging out at places like Netflix as well (though that may change since HBO Go is going to stream the older library).

The biggest benefit with HBO helping to pay the bills, is it will likely open up opportunities for different programming with our favourite furry buddies who love the alphabet and numbers. There is already a Sesame Street Muppets spin-off in the works. What I really want to know is if the 30 year long wait is over, and we'll finally be getting Follow That Bird 2. 


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sports Clichés Fit in All Careers When it Comes to Movies as 'Burnt' Trailer Proves

The Bradley Cooper starring Burnt so far looks like a pretty formula sports picture where the star athlete has fame and riches but crashes then must recover to reclaim former glory by winning the big game. The sport this time is fine-dining cooking and the big game is achieving a Michelin star restaurant.

We've had two other movies about super talented chefs in the past year and both of those definitely followed typical formula. One movie was the warm and full of energy Chef that made you smell, taste and salivate over the food, which turned it into a delightful and delicious summer relief to the bigger summer blockbusters. Unfortunately, the other movie, The Hundred-Foot Journey, was weighted down by its tropes and predictability that never allowed its characters to shine or its cooking to dazzle.

Going along the sports path, Southpaw is another picture stuffed with clichés and tropes that are firmly planted to the formula, but it has riveting performances and directing that made the fights have the sweat flung upon you and transport you right into the ring for crushing blows. You felt the sport and were instilled with the passion

Even if Burnt turns out as typical as it seems, it can work if it throws us into that kitchen and makes us feel the passion that Adam Jones has for cooking. We need to taste and crave the food and get intoxicated with the world of fine-dining. It has the stellar cast to make this movie work with Bradley Cooper on a roll for becoming and breathing his characters. He is supported by rising talent like Lily James, Alicia Vikander and Daniel Bruhl, along with some more established names that have brought the goods lately with Matthew Rhys (holds his own with Keri Russell in the terrific The Americans series), Helen Mirren, Uma Thurman, and Sienna Miller.


Bryan Cranston Gets Blackballed in His Run for an Oscar in 'Trumbo' Trailer

Bryan Cranston has come a long way since being a naive and goofy dad from Malcolm in the Middle. He solidified himself as an acting heavyweight in television with the highly revered Breaking Bad, but he is yet to burn his mark on cinema. Trumbo is clearly Cranston's big grab for a Best Actor Oscar nod and the early buzz amongst the "experts" is he at least has a bullseye-like shot at a nomination. The movie itself is almost custom made for the Academy by nailing all the criteria by being a movie about Hollywood, a biopic, a period piece, doesn't look to delve too painfully deep, and offers a chance for Hollywood to make amends (give an award to a Dalton Trumbo biopic after blackballing him over 60 years ago). If it is even half decent then I'd put it as an easy frontrunner for most years but after the neglect of Selma last year that caused much backlash, I see this as a "social issue" year with stuff like Suffragette, Carol or The Danish Girl being monstrous challengers. This might be a situation where those pictures take all the actor trophies while Trumbo pulls off a Birdman.



This looks pretty light on its feet and seems to be aiming for a comedic drama vibe, which shouldn't be a shock since director Jay Roach's credits include stuff like The Campaign, Dinner for Schmucks, and the Austin Powers franchise. I trust Cranston to do the heavy lifting for the dramatic moments and hopefully, bring some nuance to Trumbo, From what I know, the screenwriter was a larger than life character so the broad performing with the scenes in public is authentic and the depth of the film will rely on how the behind-closed-doors moments are handled.

Too many biopics are super-serious and yearning to be about something while stringently following a formula. This has a breezy energy that feels little more eccentric and going its own way. It also is clearly aiming to sell itself as bubble-gum, commercial entertainment that is easy for the masses to chew for two plus hours. I'm hoping that there is some jagged bite or at least edgy satire hidden under fluffiness, considering it is a rather dark period in Hollywood's history. Even if it remains fluffy, it is packed with an incredible cast like John Goodman, Elle Fanning (set to have a hell of a fall), Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk, and Louis C.K. This should be lots of fun and a subject I'm surprised hasn't been tackled until now.

'Ride Along 2' Trailer Let Kevin Hart and Ice Cube Do What They Do

Kevin Hart and Ice Cube have established and expected characters when it comes to their movie roles. Hart is a wild limb waving, motor-mouthed man-boy who talks toughs and is largely inept at standing up for himself. Cube scowls and kills with his stare. One's anticipation for Ride Along 2 relies on how much those acts still excite and elicit laughter. If you entered the groan phase, then it's best you move on. I know the original got critically blasted, but the guys seems to have a fun dynamic and buddy action comedies almost completely rely on the chemistry of the two leads. It may not measure up to the standards of The Heat or 21 Jump Street, but a few of the gags in the trailer got an almost chuckle out of me that would always play better on the big screen with a packed house ready to laugh. The "using the turning signal during a high speed chase" gag is pretty brilliant that also goes a long way to establishing how much Hart's character is out of his element as police officer. I'd definitely prefer 90 minutes of these guys riffing off each other than another tedious Vince Vaughn or Adam Sandler mainstream comedy.

'Life' Trailer Shows a Beautiful and Atmospheric Take on the Standard Biopic Formula

Biopics are the superhero movies of the Oscar movie season and actually, the population may even be denser. So, it is understandably hard to stand out if you're not hitched to a major studio or one of its independent labels. Despite that fact, I'm still shocked at the absolute lack of buzz over a movie depicting one of the most iconic American movie stars of all time, James Dean. Just because the awards prognosticators aren't betting on Anton Corbijn's Life being a major contender, doesn't mean that it won't be that or more importantly, that it won't be any good, because they're often is a sleeper that slips in. If this movie did have any awards' hopes or that the distributors had ample faith in its quality then it should be entered in some of the major festivals of the fall.



This looks pretty standard biopic formula along with the annoying trend of a character having to tell us how much of a genius the picture's subject is rather than trusting the story to show us that. The cast here is fantastic with Ben Kingsley as Warner Brothers' studio head Jack Warner, Joel Edgerton as renowned Times picture editor John G. Morris, Robert Pattinson as the photographer who 'discovered' Dean, and Dane Dehaan as the legend himself.

Pattinson has broken away from the Twilight shadow and really proven himself to be a diverse actor and one who wants to take on challenging roles (he was really good in last year's The Rover). Dehaan is destined for an Academy Award some day and has been able to comfortably jump from down-to-earth relatable roles to creepy sinister types. The cool and cocky type is a little different for him but he looks to be nailing it.

Corbijn directed A Most Wanted Man last year, which was not only a slickly paced thriller that drew out some amazing performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams and Robin Wright, but had a distinct visual style that set the mood and tone of the picture. His movies ooze style and emotions due to the careful crafting of the visuals on the screen. This looks like another picture where the cinematography and scenery are going to enrich the storytelling. There are enough intriguing parts here to elevate past what may be a standard biopic script.