MCU Villain Problem More Myth Than Truth

Honestly, there are a couple of issues that I get real tired of hearing.  One of those is the “comic book fatigue” that all of the online movie “experts” want to claim is happening.  I am so tired of this.  Where is your evidence of this?  Black Panther is preparing to blow away all expectations at the box office as did Thor:Ragnarok before it.  The evidence shows that if you make a good/great comic book movie, the audience will come see it.  No fatigue there.

But, that deserves its own column at another time.  This column is about the other easy slight that people lay at the feet of Marvel Studios which is “Marvel does not have any great villains.”  Again, I call BS.

First of all, if we want to be divisive about it, how many great DC villains have we had?  Outside of the Joker in Dark Knight and Zod in Man of Steel, who are they?  Jared Leto’s Joker?  He was completely wasted.  Batman v. Superman’s Lex Luthor? He was one of the most hated aspects of that film.  Suicide Squad’s Enchantress or her CGI brother?  Horrible.  Justice League’s Steppenwolf?  Come on.  Even Wonder Woman’s Ares was probably the weakest part of that great film.

But I do not want to engage in the DC vs. Marvel argument because it is counterproductive.  Instead, I want to focus in on the Marvel villains that have appeared in their 18 movies during the age of the MCU.  Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige had said the following:

“Well, I mean, it always varies, but it always starts with what serves the story the most and what serves the hero the most. We’ve been criticized, if a big criticism of ours is that we focus on the heroes more than the villains, I think that’s probably true.”

Now, looking that that quote, Feige is saying that there is only so much time available in a movie and that they are looking to focus on the hero.  We have all seen movies that spend too much time on the villains where it feels like the hero is not even in the movie (Batman Returns?).  Feige understands that you look to your hero and the story first, and then you develop the villain.  Feige has also stated that the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War will be Thanos’s movie, so that might change.

This focus is also the reason why Netflix’s Marvel villains such as Wilson Fisk, Copperhead, Jigsaw and Killgrave were such amazing villains.  The time allotted to their development is greater since the time available is more.  You can do more in 13 hour TV seasons than you can in 120-130 minute movies.

Image result for malekith dark worldEven with this, I would argue there have been very few weak Marvel villains.  The first one everyone brings up is Malekith from Thor: Dark World.  This, I would agree, is the worst of the Marvel villains because of how much of a waste the character was.  In the comics, Malekith is one of Thor’s most vicious villains, manipulative and monstrous.  The film failed to portray him in such a way and the movie counterpart has become completely forgettable.

Whiplash from Iron Man 2 was also a step down for Marvel.  Like much of Iron Man 2, the villain was lost among set up for future movies.  There was an adequate performance from Mickey Rourke in the film, but it felt too rushed.  As if the movie was hurried into production after a huge success of the original.  I believe that Marvel Studios learned from their mistakes in Iron Man 2 because most of these errors have not been done at this level again.  Even with the errors, Whiplash was not terrible, and Iron Man 2 brought us Justin Hammer.

Related imageHammer fits into a category of Marvel villains that would be non-powered villains who manipulate for their own advantage. Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) from Iron Man was a great villain that showed the opposite of Tony Stark.  Stane was a power hungry man who was willing to have his friend killed in order to take over his friend’s company.  Robert Redford became a leader of Hydra in Captain America: Winter Soldier and was tremendous in the role.  Daniel Bruhl’s Baron Zemo is much maligned from Captain America: Civil War, but I contend that he is one of the best villains Marvel has had.  He has realistic motivations that you can relate to and he basically wins at the end of Civil War.  An argument could be made that the villain of Civil War is actually Tony Stark, but Zemo does not get the credit he deserves.  Civil War felt like an origin story for the Baron Zemo from the comics and I expect to see more of him in the future of the MCU.

Image result for loki killmongerOf course, you can’t talk about the MCU villains without talking about the one that practically everyone agrees is the standard bearer.  Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has sat on top of the mountain since he slithered his way onto our screens in Thor.  However, as of today, some people might claim that Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from Image result for loki killmongerBlack Panther has replaced the “puny god” at the top.  Both of these villains are amazing and the performances from these charismatic actors are a big reason.  Loki has benefited from appearing in three Thor movies as well as the Avengers, giving more time to develop him as a character.  Killmonger’s motivation is just so relatable to the movie going audience that you can’t help but root for him.  Despite the terrible acts he perpetrates, Killmonger is someone we like seeing on our screen.

There are villains that some say are underused, and they may be.  Ronin from Guardians of the Galaxy may have been little more than a plot point, he was a very effective plot point. He brought an intimidating presence to the film and served as a perfect foil to the dance off at the end.  Lee Pace does everything that is needed of him to make the Guardians of the Galaxy such an epic trip.  Kurt Russell’s Ego the Living Planet from Guardians Vol 2. was another great villain with a wonderful performance.  He brought the story of Peter Quill’s parentage to a close and was able to bring to the screen a Marvel villain that you never thought would be there.  Plus, it is Kurt f’n Russell.

Image result for hela ragnarokI’m not sure how, but we have gone this long into the column without mentioning Hela, played by the exquisite Cate Blanchett.   Hela was also well developed, considering all she wanted was her birthright as the Queen of Asgard.  She had been cast out into the Underworld by her father Odin because he feared who she was, despite riding into violent battle at her side. Odin struck her from the history of Asgard, completely covering up the record of her existence, even from her brothers Thor and Loki.  I’d be a little unhappy as well.

Image result for vulture keaton in car with peterWho am I leaving out here? Red Skull?  A great villain in Captain America First Avenger and I think we will see Red Skull again one day.  Hugo Weaving was perfect as the Red Skull.  The biggest issue with Red Skull is that Weaving was not a fan of the role.  Dormammu from Dr. Strange.  The film’s main villain was really Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelson) and was also spent setting up Baron Mordo as a future villain for Stephen Strange.  However, Dormammu is involved in one of the most original super hero endings in the entire MCU with the “I’ve come to bargain” tactic.  Abomination?  The Incredible Hulk is a very good movie that does not get much recognition and the Abomination is great.  Tim Roth certainly provides us with a strong character prior to his transformation into the raging giant green creature.  Yellowjacket?  I found Darren Cross to be the perfect foil for the first Ant Man film and I really liked the look of the character.  His defeat at the end of that film was a great one.  Michael Keaton was amazing in Spider-man: Homecoming as the Vulture.  One of the most compelling and frightening scenes with him was out of costume, as he talked to Peter Parker in the back of his car.

Image result for yonduThere have been a couple of Marvel villains so good that they wind up becoming heroes.  Loki has fought with the heroes before, though usually because of his own selfish motives.  Nebula is the daughter of Thanos and had a grudge with her sister Gamora.  Still, the Guardians films have shown how she took the pain of her childhood and misdirected it so much that she was seen as a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Yondu is another example of this as the former Ravager head become a father figure to Star Lord and his death at the end of Vol. 2 was one of the best, most emotional moments in any MCU film.  The Winter Soldier is the main villain of Captain America 2, but his reveal as Bucky Barnes showed that this villain would one day become a hero.  It looks like Bucky is just about there after his appearance in Civil War and his appearance in (SPOILERS) the post credit scene of Black Panther. (END OF SPOILERS).

How about Ultron?  Some people did not enjoy the presentation of Ultron in Avenergs: Age of Ultron, but I was not on of them. I found the character to be outstanding, especially with the voice work of James Spader.  Perhaps the final fight with Ultron was not at a level it should have been, but the film Age of Ultron was a victim of its own expectations more than anything else.

Image result for iron man 3 mandarinMandarin from Iron Man 3 is one of the most divisive characters of all time.  Marvel simply could not provide the world with a Mandarin as he is in the comics.  The Mandarin is a walking racial stereotype and would have been rejected.  Instead, they pulled off one of the best twist surprises ever, revealing that Trevor was not the Mandarin, but in actuality an actor who was hired to be the face of the role.  I think Marvel understood that making Guy Pearce the Mandarin at the end was an error and they retconned that out with one of their short films. That does not mean that Marvel did not show tremendous guts in pulling off the twist.  I am sure they expected a backlash, but they did it anyway and created a moment for all MCU.

Before you immediately dismiss the MCU villains, think about what they are meant to be, what they have accomplished, and the amazing group of actors that have taken these mantels up and understand that, for what they have been given, they have exceeded expectations.

 

 

 

Black Panther

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There is a lot riding on the release of the newest Marvel Studio film, Black Panther.  Not only is this the last MCU film before the release of the massive 10-years-in-the-making Avengers: Infinity War, but the Black Panther has become a culturally significant tent pole film, kicking off the first MCU film with a black super hero as the lead.  That’s a lot of pressure, so Marvel apparently knew that they had to get this one right.

And they really got this one right.

Marvel loaded this cast with amazing African-American actors, starting with Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, and Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger.  Throw in an astounding supporting cast with such stars as Danai Gurira, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Sterling K. Brown, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis.

Then, they gave the film to one of the hottest young filmmakers in Hollywood today.  Ryan Coogler has had two great films on his resume, Fruitville Station and Creed.  Black Panther would make his third great film.

Picking up after the events of Captain America: Civil War, we see T’Challa preparing to take his rightful place as the monarch of Wakanda, a country hidden in Africa that the world believed to be a third world nation, but, in reality, is a thriving, industrious, technologically advanced country built upon a mound of vibranium, a metal that landed in Africa upon a meteor.

Wakanda has hidden its advanced technology from the world for years.  However, the chance to capture the renegade villain Ulysses Klaw sent the Black Panther out of Wakanda and toward the world as a whole.

Klaw was not alone, though.  He was stealing antiques made of vibranium from a museum with Erik Killmonger.  Killmonger had a desire to get to Wakanda as a way to gain revenge for past deeds against him.  I don’t want to go into much detail here to avoid any spoilers.

The story is extremely amazing.  It is so full of depth and layers that it feels rich and developed.  It keeps you off balance and never feels predictable. These characters are fully realized and developed and you understand their motives.  Each character has their chance to shine.  This is a true ensemble film and this ensemble does a tremendous job.

Fact of the matter is this… the film is not just about Black Panther.  This film is about Wakanda.  The country itself is as much of a character as anyone in the film.  Coogler amazingly weaves the culture and history of Wakanda into the film and you feel the life.  The country feels lived in.  Even though this is a setting unlike any other in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you never feel like an outsider.  The film takes some time to introduce you to the five tribes that make up the Wakandan country and these intros pay off big time.

The cinematography is gorgeous and exploring this world of Wakanda and the after life involved in breathtaking in its loveliness.  The score of the film, along with the soundtrack, are another strength of this film.

The film may have started just a little slow, but it picked up the pace and, after the beginning, I absolutely did not feel as if I were sitting there for 141 minutes.

Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger is one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe villains we have had because we can see why he is doing the evil things that he does and we understand it.  In fact, there are probably many people who can completely justify the anger Killmonger rocks in this film.

The women of Black Panther are completely kick ass.  Oyoke, the general of the Dora Milaje, Black Panther’s female royal guard, is one of the great characters of the film and shows off her ability with a staff throughout the film.  Young Letitia Wright, who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri, is a breath of fresh air and provides much of the film’s Marvel humor.  Shuri is a technological genius on the level of a Tony Stark, but she has not lost the wide eyed innocence of youth.  Lupita Nyong’o shines across the screen as the super spy Nakia, and a love interest for T’Challa.  These women really are as important to the film as Black Panther is and they step up their game fully.

I really do not have much in way of criticism for this movie outside of a couple of minor nitpicks.  The CGI in the third act had some moments where it did not look great.  It certainly did not live up to the rest of the film.  The other criticism I have would be a major SPOILER  SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER. The fact that both Killmonger and Klaw die in the film makes me unhappy.  Yes, I believe that Killmonger’s death scene was one of the most lovely and powerful moments of the film, but I really did not want Killmonger to die.  Both Klaw and Killmonger were remarkably entertaining and tremendous and losing them both in the film brought it down just a little bit.  END OF SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER.

Black Panther is long overdue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  It gives a section of the public a hero to look up to.  Someone who looks the same as they do.  This allows people of color a chance to see themselves in a super hero for the first time.  Sure, there was Blade, who is really the first African-American comic book movie, but Black Panther is first in the new age of comic book movies as a massive film genre.  There is an absolute audience built in as the box office will attest to (Black Panther made over 25 million on Thursday night alone).  It is one of the strongest introductions in the MCU and feels like something new and different for that decade spanning franchise.

4.85 stars

EYG Top 10 Superhero Origin Movies

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Welcome back to the Top 10 list of the week.  This week, John Rocha and Matt Knost were joined by special guest Chris Burns from the Store Horsemen podcast to do the Top 10 Superhero Origin Movies.

So, I made my list of origin movies and I eliminated a couple of the possible choices because I did not feel that they were origin movies.  My definition of an origin movie had to either show a superhero gaining his/her powers or how they came to be known as the hero/team that they are known for.  If the movie was the introduction of a character but felt more like just another adventure of that character, I did not consider it.

So, Spider-man: Homecoming, which Matt had on his list, and Thor, which was also mentioned, do not make my list because they are not origin movies.  This is, of course, my opinion.

Starting off the list…

#10. Chronicle.  Josh Trank’s film that showed the creation of a super hero (and villain too) through the use of found footage was such a wonderful film.  The found footage genre had really felt like it had played itself out and was getting way too boring.  However, Trank, and screen writer Max Landis, was able to find the originality in the technique and brought something different to it.  It also showed us how amazing actors Michael B. Jordan and Dane DeHaan were and how great these young men will be in the future.  Michael B. Jordan is of course in his next super hero movie this weekend as Killmonger in Black Panther.

Image result for ant man#9. Ant Man.  This film had so many strikes against it before it ever came out.  After such a public break up between Marvel Studios and Edgar Wright, who had been working on getting Ant Man completed for years, many people had no intention of liking Ant Man.  The thing was that Peyton Reed came in and resurrected the film and made people love it.  He had Paul Rudd as a super hero, which was strange at best, but the comedic actor was great as Scott Lang and the film cast Michael Douglas as Hank Pym.  The film had a great heist film flavor to it and featured a surprise cameo by Falcon.  Michael Pena appeared as one of Scott’s friends and stole every scene he was in.  We may never know what caused the separation of Edgar Wright and Marvel, but it sure seems as if it were for the best.

Image result for dormammu i've come to bargain#8.  Dr. Strange.  Marvel took the MCU to different dimensions for the first time with the Sorcerer Supreme, Stephen Strange.  Once a skilled surgeon, Stephen Strange is involved in a tragic car accident that robs him of the use of his hands.  In search of a way to fix his hands, Strange heads to the mountains of Tibet and find the Ancient One, who shows the doctor that there is much more to the universe than he ever would have believed.  Dr. Strange features one of the greatest fight scenes in comic book movies as Strange and his colleagues fought the villains as time reversed.  Plus, “Dormammu, I’ve come to bargain…”

Image result for batman begins#7.  Batman Begins.  The movie that reclaimed the Dark Knight after the travesty of Batman and Robin, Batman Begins is the first film in the Christopher Nolan trilogy of films and is, arguable, the best.  This film looked at the life of Bruce Wayne before he ever donned the cowl and showed his training in the process of becoming the World’s Greatest Detective.  The film did not use one of Batman’s most famous foes.  Instead, it used Scarecrow and Ra’s Al Ghul, and it never missed a beat.  Because they were able to use these villains in the origin story, it saved the Joker for the second film, and you know what happened there.

Image result for unbreakable mr glass#6.  Unbreakable.  We did not even know that this was a super hero origin story until the very end of the film.  That was when Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass revealed himself to Bruce Willis and told him that he had been searching for him for years.  Mr. Glass needed an adversary, a nemesis, an arch enemy.  By this point, you understand what it is you have been watching.  M. Night Shyamalan was as hot as you could be after this film, but he took an unfortunate turn into the garbage heap, but the surprise sequel to Unbreakable, Split, made for brand new excitement around the director.

Image result for iron man 2008#5.  Iron Man.  If this one did not work, the MCU would not be what it is today.  Marvel took a risk, throwing out what many considered a B-level super hero, but with most of their biggest guns’ rights at other studios, they did not have much chance.  They brought in Robert Downey Jr. to play Tony Stark, which with RDJ’s troubles was also seen as a risk, and gave the director’s chair to Jon Favreau.  But there was something magical about this film and Iron Man took off, thrilling fans everywhere.  And after the credits, suddenly there was Tony Stark talking to… is that?  Could it be?  Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who was speaking to Tony about the Avengers Initiative.  What did he say?  Avengers?  Seeds planted.  Huge success.

Image result for cap america first avenger song#4.  Captain America: The First Avenger.  “I could do this all day” were words spoken by the scrawny and bullied Steve Rogers just before being rescued from the beating by his friend Bucky Barnes.  However, it showed what would make him the most inspirational hero of the Marvel Universe.  Steve Rogers had heart.  He had guts.  He never gave up.  And he would become Captain America.  This film was a tremendous origin for Steve Rogers, and it showed the man as the hero he is without it being boring, dull or cheesy.  It featured one of my favorite songs too, “Star Spangled Man.”

Image result for deadpool reynolds#3.  Deadpool.  Ryan Reynolds fought for Deadpool for years. After the character was completely neutered in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Deadpool was a punch line.  But Reynolds did not give up on him.  He fought to get the film he wanted made the way he wanted it made.  And he succeeded.  Deadpool is one of the funniest super hero movies around, and it featured maybe the best romance between hero and significant other ever.  The film was released on Valentine’s Day and was marketed as a romance, and it did not lie.  The marketing campaign of Deadpool was brilliant and showed the dedication of FOX and Ryan Reynolds to this character.  Deadpool became a monster hit as an R rated, dirty, foul-mouthed, 4th wall breaking smash.  Thank you, Mr. Reynolds.

Image result for sam raimi's spiderman upside down kiss#2. Spider-man.  I don’t think I can sufficiently explain to you how scared I was heading to the theater to see Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.  I love Spider-Man and I was so scared that this film would not be any good.  I was afraid that this would be one more failure in super hero movies at a time before they were so beloved.  I remember the exact moment I knew this film was going to be great.  As Peter Parker held Uncle Ben in his arms on the ground outside of the car, watching his amazing uncle die, I knew the film had the wall crawler right. Sure the Green Goblin looked silly.  I did not care.  Sure the organic webbing made me pause.  That was fine.  I loved this movie and having a big screen rendition of Spider-man that I could be proud of made me as happy as I could ever be.

Related image#1.  Guardians of the Galaxy.  How was this ever going to work?  How could this property, which honestly was not that well known even among the comic book reading crowd, and featured a talking raccoon and a walking tree that could only say three words, “I  am Groot,” not be a complete failure.  Had Marvel Studios gone mad with their own success?  Apparently not.  Guardians of the Galaxy, helmed by James Gunn, became of the studio’s most consistently loved films.  It was dripping with originality and gravitas.  It had amazing chemistry among its five main stars, even the raccoon and the tree (maybe even especially them).  It had an unbelievably cool soundtrack of 1970s music.  It was more of a space opera than a super hero movie.  At its core, Guardians of the Galaxy is about family and these characters are a family that we loved being a part of.  We are Groot, indeed.

There they are. My top ten Super Hero Origin Movies.

Honorable Mentions:  Big Hero 6, Kick Ass, Wonder Woman, Blade, Superman: The Movie, X-Men, X-Men: First Class, Robocop, The Incredibles (Not sure that one counted with my rules).

The TV Week That Was

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Good afternoon.  Welcome back to another TV Week That Was.

This week, the Winter Olympics kicked off in South Korea with the opening ceremonies and the first few events.  Norway has started off with 8 medals so far, though only one of those was gold.  The USA only has two medals so far, one gold, one silver, and one of those, surprisingly in luge.  17-year old Red Gerard gave the USA its first gold medal in men’s snowboard slopestyle.   Chris Mazdzer finished with a silver in luge on Sunday, shocking everyone as he was not expected to be anywhere near contention.  It was the first US medal in luge in history.  Skier Lindsey Vonn among other members of the ski team will be decked out in ski apparel base on Marvel super heroes.  Vonn’s outfit is Captain America and there will also be a Captain Marvel outfit.

Image result for altered carbonI watched the premiere episode of Altered Carbon which dropped on Netflix this week.  The show starred Joel Kinnamen as Takeshi Kovacs, a man who was brought back from the dead over 300 years prior to solve a murder of a fancy rich man, his own.  This series is based on Richard K. Morgan’s cyberpunk noir novel of the same name.  The futuristic sci-fi program demanded attention while watching it and the first episode definitely felt like a large expository dump.  I’m not sure how else they could have done it, and the show felt interesting. I hope to be able to find time to continue to sample more of the episodes on Netflix.

Riverdale Season 2Riverdale continued its unbalanced season with a good episode after the last couple of weeks of weaker offerings.  This week, the story featured the resolution of the FBI angle with Archie.  It was revealed that the FBI agent trying to stick it to Archie was actually in the employment of the Lodges and was only a test for Archie.  Of course, Archie passed the test.  The second part of the story this week was the mysterious drug dealer that Betty discovered, bleeding and dead on her house’s floor, with her mother and brother desperately trying to clean it up.  Betty helps dispose of the body, supposedly killed by Chic, but her guilt and fear of the body being discovered eats her up and she turns to Jughead for help.  Jughead gets his dad to do a better job of body disposal.

Related imageThursday’s episode of How to Get Away With Murder continued to send Annalise’s former psychologist Isaac down the rabbit hole.  He not only fell off the wagon after (he says) 23 years sober, but it was revealed that his daughter Stella died from an overdose of pills that he brought into the house.  We also discovered that Isaac had, in a panic, actually typed the text message on her phone indicating that she was going to kill herself.  All this info came out as Isaac was starting to pull closer to Annalise.  However, Annalise was pretty clear that they could not be together and that they would be toxic together.  But in good news, Connor said that he and Oliver should get married, and Oliver agreed!

Scandal saw the power struggle with the White House and Olivia Pope come to a possible conclusion when Olivia resigned as the Chief of Staff, despite having dirt on President Mellie.  Quinn revealed herself to Olivia as being alive and she also returned to the other Gladiators who had been having trouble doing their jobs without her.  There was also the scene that helped me hope once again for Rowan to catch a bullet between the eyes as he held Quinn’s baby in front of her and implied that he would strangle the baby to death if Quinn did anything to harm Olivia. Rowan needs to die at the end of this season.  Please.

Image result for letterman and clooney on netflixThe second episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman appeared on Netflix this week and it was another entertaining interview, this time with George Clooney.  The pair eat hamburgers together and Letterman goes with Clooney’s parents to his hometown for some sweetness.  These episodes reminds us how much we missed David Letterman, even with the gigantic weird white beard.

No Agents of SHIELD this week.  Missed it terribly.

Happy viewing.

The 15:17 to Paris

This is an amazing, real-life story told the most boring and unappealing manner.  Director Clint Eastwood made several choices here that I just do not understand.

Of course, the biggest and most apparent choice made by the Oscar winning director was taking the real-life heroes from this major news event and have them play themselves. Childhood friends Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler star in this movie based on their heroism of one day on a train from Amsterdam to Paris.  On that train, the trio, along with a few train customers, stopped a terrorist from hijacking the train and most likely saved the lives of everyone on the train.

This portrayal of this heroic event took all of ten minutes to show and play out. These ten minutes at the end of the film were amazing and suspenseful.  Unfortunately, the previous 75 minutes of the film was filled with boredom, questionable narrative choices, truly awful writing and dialogue, and wooden delivery from the entire cast, not just the inexperienced men playing themselves.

The film starts by showing the three boys as children in school, which accomplishes nothing narratively, except, perhaps, to allow Eastwood to comment on his obvious dislike for the educational system.  We are shown that these three boys are constantly getting into trouble, although most of the time it is the teachers and the administrators who are to blame because of their unfair accusations toward the boys.  We are introduced to Anthony (young Anthony played by Paul-Mikél Williams) as a smart-mouthed troublemaker who appeal to the outcast boys Spencer(William Jennings) and Alek (Bryce Gheisar).  They become friends, do stuff together, until Anthony decides he is leaving the all-boy Christian school to get a girlfriend.  He does I guess.  Then, there is more trouble and Alek is sent to live with his father out of town.  This was apparently tough for Spencer,but we do not see it.  As soon as Alek is taken away, we flash forward to older Spencer, who is back with Anthony (sans girlfriend, oh well).

At this point, Spencer has made a decision to join the Air Force and texted Alek, who does not return that text, implying that there is some distance between them, though Spencer was confused by it.

None of the story with the children actors is ever dealt with or returned to, nor does it factor in to anything that the threesome decide to do in the second half of the film.  It is literally just a time filler.

We see Spencer fail in his attempt to earn the positions in the Air Force that he wanted, and to be asked to leave.  Again, though, none of that carried any stake for the remainder of the film.  It was just something that happened and is never mentioned again.

Just a few scenes after being tossed out from the Air Force, Spencer is convincing Anthony (who we know next to nothing about) to accompany him on a trip across Europe.  The pair engage on the “selfie-tour” across Europe, eventually meeting up with Alek in Germany because he wanted to spend time with a girl he had met (though, I believe he made her up since we never see her at all and he acts later as if he is completely free of a relationship).

During this whole trip, you cannot imagine how wooden and awkward the scenes with these three are.  There seemed to be very little acting skill on display, and even if they had great skills this dialogue was unlike that spoken by human beings.

There was only one scene in the entire movie, prior to the train sequence, that made me think it was important for later and that was when Spencer was learning some first aid in the Air Force.  Practically every other scene in the film could be tossed aside.

The train sequence was thrilling and very compelling.  I do not understand why the remainder of the film could not have been this interesting or could have built better to this ending scene.

I feel bad for Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler because they are true heroes who put their lives on the line to help save people without a second thought for their own safety.  A film of this incident should have highlighted this more than this film did.  I do not know what Clint Eastwood was thinking through most of this film, but it was surely a shame.

1.2 stars

Peter Rabbit

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This was another film that I did not want to see.  The trailer made this film look so crappy that I had zero anticipation for it and almost skipped it.  But the chance of having the ultimate double feature (Fifty Shades Freed and Peter Rabbit) got me into the theater.  Plus, the Paddington trailers looked terrible as well and both of those movies are gold, so could the same thing happen for Peter Rabbit?

Eh.. not so much.  It was okay.

I will say that if you are 10 years old or under, this is probably going to be a great time at the theater, and in that case, it reaches what is its target audience and that should make it a success.  I would even say that the parents can sit through this with their kids without wanting to tear out their eyes.

This film is based on the children’s series by Beatrix Potter.  Peter Rabbit (James Corden) and his family of rascally rabbits are trying to steal vegetables from the garden of Old Mr. McGregor (Sam Neill), when the old man died of a heart attack.  A relative named Thomas (Domhnall Gleeson) takes over the garden and picks up in a rivalry with the clever creatures.  The neighbor Bea (Rose Byrne) loves the rabbits, tries unsuccessfully to paint, and falls for the new McGregor.  Peter became jealous of the attention Bea gives Thomas and swears that he must go.

So,yes, Peter Rabbit is a giant asshole.

The film is reasonably fun.  It has about three or four running jokes that they string together throughout the entire film that work, at least initially.  The CGI is extremely well done as these rabbit appear to be real creatures.

There is some good chemistry between Gleeson and Byrne and because of that, you want to root for Gleeson to turn away from his crazed ways and embrace the good side.  Of course, one could argue that Peter drove him to do everything that he does.

It did feel pretty long and the story was definitely paint by the numbers predictable, but that does not hurt when the target audience is in the single digits of age.  It moved from scene to scene quickly and had enough heart to be charming.

Yes, the running jokes were driven into the ground.  Yes, the main characters are both jerks.  Still there is enough for children here and it is not the worst time at the theater for an adult.  It certainly hit what it was intending to do. Paddington is still 100% better, but you could do way worse than Peter Rabbit.

3 stars

 

Fifty Shades Freed

I debated with myself about going to this movie.  Last year, a friend of mine posted to my review on Facebook asking why I go to the movie when I knew I was going to hate it.  That was Fifty Shades Darker, of course, which I abhorred.  I responded with some platitude like “taking a bullet for my readers” or “you never know.”  I think I referenced how I hated the first Ouija movie but loved Ouija: The Origin of Evil.  The real answer is that I see myself as a movie critic and I want to review the movie.

However, after how much vile I had for Darker, I truly considered skipping the “climax” (ha ha…yeah, real funny marketing there) of the trilogy.  I knew I was going to hate it.  Why put myself through it?  Of course, I thought to myself, how could I honestly compile a list of worst movies of the year without having experienced the final chapter (thank god, by the way).

I was still torn when we had a snow day from school today, but the roads were not too bad.  This opened the day up and I made the final decision.  I would attend the final film.

And you know what… I did not come out of the film with the same self-loathing for seeing Fifty Shades Freed as I did seeing Darker.  I did not want to put a hot poker through my head like I wanted last Valentine’s Day.

The movie is still shit, mind you, but it was less obscene as Darker, so there is that.  Just sayin’.

There is not much of a plot here.  The movie is a soft-Rated R-porno with a plot just a little more developed.  Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and her hunky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) get married at the very opening of the film.  Then, they have marital problems and there is a stalker (Eric Johnson).

That’s about it.

Of course, this relationship is meant  to be the heart of the film,but it is such a toxic relationship, it is really difficult to cheer them on.

The dialogue is atrocious.  The acting is below average.  I do think you can see the light in the eyes of Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as they know that their contracts are up and they do not have to be these characters any longer.  I think they are both, at the very least, competent actors, but the scripts that they are given are just so bad that it is bordering on funny.

I feel for these two.  How many years did it take for Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson to shake off the stink of Twilight, allowing people to see that they were solid actors?  Will Johnson and Dornan have the same time frame?

This was better than Fifty Shades Darker.  It had some decent moments of unintentional humor that helped entertain me.  It is a bad movie, but it is most likely not the worst movie of the year.

1.2 stars

EYG Top 10 Third Movie in a Franchise

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Another week, another Top 10 list from the Top 10 Show starring John Rocha and Matt Knost.  And, for the second week in a row, we get a huge category.  Last week, with Top 10 70s movies, there were all kinds of choices. This week may not have that wide of a reach, but the topic remains as a big one.  Top 10 Third Movies in a Franchise.

We are under three months away from what could be the biggest third movie in a franchise ever in Avengers: Infinity War.  There is no doubt that every little scrap I see from that thing has EPIC written all over it, figuratively.  Honestly, I do not need to see any more.  After that Super Bowl TV spot, I need no more. Honestly, they had my money a long time ago.

Coming back to this list, I had more trouble with the final three spots on this list than I have had for any other list I have come up with.  There are legitimately two or three that could be interspersed with what is on this list.

Here we go:

#10.  Rocky 3.  I loved this movie.  As a youth, I was a fan of Mr. T, so seeing him fight Rocky was tremendous.  This film also gave us exposure to Hulk Hogan who was just getting ready to explode in the world of professional wrestling.  The training scenes with Apollo Creed were some great ones and the ending scene with Rocky and Apollo sparring in the ring was a wonderful cliffhanger.  The Eye of the Tiger was one of the great 1980s songs and fit perfectly here in the movie.  Rocky 3 might have been the first Rocky movie that I saw.  And it was great.

 

#9.  Die Hard with a Vengeance.  I was a huge fan of the Die Hard series.  I loved Bruce Willis from Moonlighting and I loved his turn as John McClane in Die Hard.  Die Hard 2 was a favorite as well.  So when the third film came around, my first feelings were that I was not as fond of it as the first two.  However, it is one that I have grown to appreciate more as the years have gone on.  I think Samuel l. Jackson as Zeus is a fantastic partner for Bruce and brings a different level of trouble with him.  I will admit that I think the ending is pretty weak in comparison, but it is funny and exciting and ties nicely back to the first film.

 

#8.  Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  This might be the best of the Harry Potter series.  If it is not, it is certainly in the top two or three.  The Prisoner of Azkaban has the most creative use of the kids, deals with time travel and brings us the awesome Gary Oldman.  The story has a great mystery and it takes it time to unfurl it as the film goes along.  This is also one of the first of the Harry Potter movies where the cast starts to become more of an adult crew and they start to show some acting skill.  A great entry in the series.

 

Image result for mount doom frodo gollum#7.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  The amazing final chapter to the JRR Tolkien trilogy is an epic.  Beautifully shot and directed by Peter Jackson, the film does not disappoint in any manner.  There are several brilliant stories that come back together in this final installment.  One of the best moments is certainly the fight between Frodo and Gollum on the edge of Mount Doom.  There is so much passion and emotion here and these characters pay off three movies worth with amazing scenes.  Sure there are a bunch of false finishes to the film, but none of those take away from the masterpiece that it is.

 

Related image#6.  Thor: Ragnarok.  Taika Waititi took the Thor franchise, which by all accounts was the least successful among the Avengers lineup, and completely redid the film.  It became less of a Scandinavian myth and much more of a comedy.  And he threw in the Incredible Hulk.  And yet, he lost nothing of what made these characters special.  Thor, Hulk, Loki, Odin were still here and were the characters we knew, but they found themselves in a different tone.  And it was wonderful.  One of the funniest Marvel movies ever, but also a film with the most stakes ever.  Plus we got Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie.  Thor: Ragnarok took the MCU in a different direction and I, along with many others, were extremely happy about it.

 

Related image#5.  Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  This film has one of the best opening scenes of any film on this list.  The adventure into Jabba the Hut’s palace to rescue Han Solo is exciting from the first moment that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker strolled into the place to have a meeting with Jabba.  And I still use the line, “Boba Fett?  Bobba Fett? Where?”  However, Return of the Jedi was not only that opening scene.  It had a conclusion that might be the most emotional one in the Star Wars franchise.  With the final fight between Luke and Vader, and then eventually the Emperor, everything that had been building up from three movies came to a head in the redemption of Anakin Skywalker.  Sure the Ewoks are clearly a attempt to make money on toy sales, but many movies do that.  And the Ewoks aren’t that bad.

 

Related image#4. Logan.  This is the third Wolverine movie, and I think it qualifies, even though that would not be considered a trilogy.  John Rocha had indicated that Skyfall was not eligible for the list because that was the James Bond series.  Logan is the third Wolverine movie, so it counts.  And it is one of the best movies made.  In Hugh Jackman’s final appearance as Logan, he delivered the most emotional and powerful performance of his career.   Plus, the film had powerhouse performances from young Dafne Keen as Laura and the venerable Sir Patrick Stewart.  Stewart’s final run as Charles Xavier was heartbreaking and memorizing.  I cried every time I watched Logan because it struck a chord with me involving characters that meant the world to me.

 

Image result for indy last crusade#3.  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  This is my favorite Indiana Jones movie of all time.  The pairing of Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as father and son might be the best duo ever cast together.  They are pitch perfect as the Dr. Joneses.  This film is so much fun and exciting.  It brings back all the joyousness of the Indy movies and gives you even more to the character than you ever thought you could get.  A father and a son who were so very much alike that they could not see past each other’s flaws.  That is, until the chips were down, and then they were ready to take a leap of faith.  Remarkably entertaining.

 

Image result for toy story 3 incinerator#2.  Toy Story 3.  I love this movie.  I have mentioned that I think one of the best movie villains of all time is Lotso Hugginbear.  I found his tragic tail as relatable as you could ever get and I have always believed that a relatable villain is the best kind.  But that is not the only thing about Toy Story 3 that I love.  There was actually a moment, as the group of them were heading toward the incinerator, that I believed that they were all going to die.  Can you believe that?  In a Disney-Pixar movie, I legitimately thought these characters were all going to burn to death.  This movie perfectly tugged on emotions.  And that final scene where Andy was giving his toys away to the little girl was such a tear-inducing moment that you couldn’t help but be ripped apart.  Toy Story 3 is a perfect end to the trilogy.

 

Image result for civil war airport scene#1. Captain America: Civil War.  The Captain America trilogy is one of the best ever and it does more with Captain America than you ever would believe they could.  This film succeeds as a stand alone Captain America story.  Sure there are other heroes in it, but it is distinctly a Cap story.  Of course, it also is an Avengers story.  It introduces us to Spider-man in the MCU and to Black Panther.  It does these roles beautifully as well.  It gives us one of the best, if not THE best, fight scenes of all time in the airport scene.  And yet it gives us personal stakes between Cap and Tony Stark at the end that feel real and devastating.  This is my current favorite MCU film and it is an undertaking like few films can try.

 

There they are.  There are several honorary mentions.  Films such as Goldfinger, Back to the Future III, Star Trek : The Search for Spock, Shrek the Third, Iron Man 3, War for the Planet of the Apes,  The Good, the Bad, The Ugly, Lethal Weapon 3, The World’s End, The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies(I did like the end).

The Cloverfield Paradox

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I was watching the Super Bowl Sunday night and enjoying the release of the new movie trailers coming during the commercials. Then, there was a trailer for a new Cloverfield film on Netflix. Cool.  I didn’t know that Netflix was going to have a new Cloverfield movie, The Cloverfield Paradox.  I was a fan of the first two films so I was excited to see the new film whenever it would come out.  Then the news broke.  It was debuting on Netflix that night, as soon as the Super Bowl was over.

Absolutely brilliant.

As a marketing ploy, this idea was pure genius.  Tease a popular film franchise’s next entry in the series in front of the biggest viewing audience of the year, and then roll it out immediately afterward.  Just brilliant.

So I, like I am sure many people, at the end of the Super Bowl, made my way to Netflix to watch the movie.

It was okay.

Again, I am sure that this stunt brought way more eyes on The Cloverfield Paradox than ever would have seen it in any other way.  Certainly, if this film had been released in the theaters, there would be a much greater chance that it was going to fail.  Here, Netflix introduced a brand new way to present their material.  It was a monumental way to maximize the release.

The film was an okay, fairly unoriginal science fiction story that featured pieces from other science fiction movies that we have seen before such as Life and Event Horizon.  Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane, there is little connecting this movie to the original film until an image at the very end.  In fact, it could easily have been filmed as a completely different movie and made to fit the idea of Cloverfield after filming was over.

The crew of the Shepard i in orbit around earth in search of a new source of energy for a planet struggling to find energy and on the brink of war over it.  The crew has plenty of questions about each other, doubting the motives of crew members.  Lead by Hamilton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the crew ignited the controversial Shepard in an attempt to save the earth.  However, shockingly, when the space station stops, it seems as if the earth is gone.

The cast of this film is pretty strong.  Mbatha-Raw does a great job leading the cast as Hamilton.  We also get Daniel Brühl as Schmidt, David Oyelowo as Kiel, Chris O’Dowd as Mundy and John Ortiz as Monk.  Each of these actors bring a strength to the role that helps to elevate the material higher than it might have been with  lesser actors.

The story has some good elements to it.  I found myself compelled enough to stay up and watch it after the Super Bowl.  True, some of the science fiction elements are not explained much, but that did not bother me much.  In fact, much of the previous Cloverfield movies lacked some explanation so it did not bother me.  When a severed armed started writing on its own, I did not find it a problem.  I actually thought that was neat and had some of the funnier moments of the film.

I will admit that the film has a definite feel of a B movie, and not a film that you might see in the theaters.  It feels like it found an appropriate home on Netflix. I know that Netflix is wanting to move into more serious movies, and this one would be a step back from, say Mudbound.  However, if I found entertainment here, albeit, not a ton of depth.

In the end, as a fan of the previous Cloverfield movies, I have given this a pass.  Not only because I enjoyed watching it for the most part but also because the fact that Netflix may have changed the way business is done.

3 stars

The TV Week That Was

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Welcome to a late arriving TV Week That Was.

Of course, the reason the column is late is because last night was the Super Bowl.  The Philadelphia Eagles defeated The New England Patriots 41-33 in an entertaining offensive struggle between two of the top offensive teams in the NFL.  Nick Foles, the Eagles QB who was a backup as late as Week 11, was the game’s MVP.  Foles replaced potential league MVP Carson Wentz after he injured his ACL.  Foles struggled at the end of the regular season, but he had really stepped up in the playoffs.

The commercials of the Super Bowl were another let down this year, but there were a ton of awesome movie trailers that were shown during the big game.  We got trailers for Mission Impossible 6, Avengers Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story, The Rock’s Skyscraper, Annihilation, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and the surprise release of The Cloverfield Paradox on Netflix (which dropped as soon as the game ended.)

 

triplethreat.pngThis week saw the return of the Movie Trivia Schmoedown on Collider Video on YouTube.  The first match was a Triple Threat Number One Contender match between “Little Evil” JTE, Rachel “The Crusher” Cushing, and Mike “K.O.” Kalinowski.  Rachel Cushing won the match in dominant fashion, knocking out Kalinowski and TKOing JTE.  Rachel earned a championship match against current Movie Trivia Schmoedown Champion Samm Levine.  The video also saw the long anticipated announcement of Rachel’s new partner, “Classy” Clarke Wolfe in the new team to be called Shirewolves.

This week’s X-Files was one of the best episodes of the new season.  “Ghouli” focused on a monster of the week story, or, at least, that is what it seemed.  However, it turned out that the person that Mulder and Scully wound up chasing was their son, William, whom they put up for adoption years before.  William, who was known as Jackson, had some kind of mental illusion ability that can cause people to see things that were not there.  This was an emotional episode and brought a light on the mysterious son of Mulder(?) and Scully.

Image result for agents of shield season 5 episode 10Agents of SHIELD brought the Kree battle in the future to a satisfactory ending as Flint helped create a new monolith to be able to send the Agents back in time.  Of course this was not before Yo Yo found Kasius’s seer and discovered that it was an older version of her.  Older Yo Yo spoke to younger Yo Yo and implied that this moment had happened many times in the past, implying that the future was set in a loop.  She also said that everything happened because they saved “him” and that this time they had to let him die.  Older Yo Yo said that Coulson was dying and they had to let him die.

Image result for nathan west diesGeneral Hospital had an emotional week as police detective Nathan West was shot and killed by Cesar Faison, a man Nathan just learned was his biological father.  Ryan Paevey had chosen to leave the show so the popular character who was married to Maxie Jones, found himself being killed in the line of duty.  The General Hospital ensemble cast is very powerful and everyone brought their top game with these emotional episodes.  Faison became another victim of the week as he died from complications of a gunshot from Jason Morgan.

Image result for riverdale season 2 episode 12Riverdale has been slipping in my opinion as of late.  After a less than stellar first half of the season with the Black Hood, the last couple of episodes have been pretty low.  Characters constantly do things that make no sense or do not fit the characters that we have grown to know of over the first season and a half.  The whole Archie is being used by the FBI is ridiculous.  Jughead and his obsession with the Serpents brings about some of the worst written sections of the show.  Archie seems to be fine with the Lodges and their connection to organized crime.  None of it works.  I will say that it was nice to see Betty and Jughead back together, despite their break up being short and not believable.  Riverdale needs to start improving or it is in danger of falling back off of my viewing habits.

Image result for scandal the interventionScandal continued its final season with an attempt by Olivia’s friends to hold an intervention for her and get her to admit her wrong doings.  They took her to Vermont and held her prisoner for a few days.  Of course, in the end, Olivia outsmarted the entire crew and got herself back to Washington.  Meanwhile, President Millie was discovering the truth behind Olivia and B613.  Mellie struggled with what exactly she wanted to do to reestablish her own power as President of the United States.  At the end of the episode, it looked like Mellie had decided as Olivia’s things were being moved from out of her office.

Happy viewing.

Winchester

“Inspired by true events.”

What exactly do these words mean?  In this case, the words indicated that there is a real house, in San Jose, California, like the one in the movie that Sarah Winchester was continuously adding on to during her life.  It has a reputation of being haunted.

That would be it.

Not that there is anything wrong with taking that bit of true events and fictionalizing it into a horror movie.  Heck, I would even go as far as to say that the concept itself is very solid.  The Winchester mansion has all kinds of weird rooms, with stairs leading nowhere and creepy atmosphere.  The lay out of the house indicates the possibility of the madness of the owner.

None of that is covered effectively.  This house, which should have been the most important character in the movie, was really neglected for cheap jump scares and cliched horror movie tropes.

Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke), a drug-addicted yet famous psychologist, is hired by the Winchester company to travel to see Winchester heiress Sarah (Helen Mirren) and to perform a psychological test on her.  Price has his own share of problems that he brings along with him to the haunted house.  Immediately, there are things that he hears and sees that he has a difficult time coming to grips with.  Meanwhile, obsessively controlling Sarah will only speak to him under certain specific circumstances.

Eventually, we discover that Sarah believes that the house is being haunted by the angry spirits of those victims of the Winchester gun, and she has been building this house to help contain or allow the ghosts to move on.

There could have been some real psychological horror here.  They had set up this woman to be completely mad and behind much of her own pain, and they have some real potential in the character of Dr. price, whose own demons could be used in this situation.  Neither of these are effectively used.

Both Helen Mirren and Jason Clarke are okay in these roles, but I really expected to see the acting elevate the material, especially int he case of the great Dame Mirren.  That did not happen here.  They were fine.  That’s about it.

The story itself was non-existent more much of the film and it was downright boring for a good chunk of it.  There are so any things that are tossed out there without any sufficient follow up that it felt like a patchwork of a story.  And because of that, the film neglected the story that it should have focused on.

Worst part yet was the film was all jump scares.  Honestly, jump scares are so easy and this film chose to use them instead of going into any expansive story elements.  And these jump scares were so ridiculously obvious that they lost a lot of their effectiveness.  There is one scene where Dr. Price is moving a little mirror back and forth and you knew something was going to show up and try to scare us.  It moved a couple of times before finally settling on the “scary” creature that made Dr. Price jump.  There were also the typical loud bursts of music meant to jolt the audience.  I actually appreciated those jolts as they snapped me back awake a couple of times.

This movie took all of the fascinating parts that could have created a new and different horror movie, and tossed them away to have a simple and repetitive haunted house movie like all the others we have seen so many times before.  And even worse, the film wasted a strong cast including an Academy Award winner in Helen Mirren.

I did not even go into the magic bullet of love.

1.5 stars

EYG Top 10 70s Movies

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Okay, what an insane topic.

This week’s Top10 Show with John Rocha and Matt Knost featured a guest star, a friend of Matt’s, but also a character actor, writer etc named Wayne Federman.

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It is an impossible topic, by the way, to find the Top 10 List of 70s Movies.  Yes, that is what I said… 70s Movies.  An entire decade of films to choose.  The other issue was a lot of these movies are films that I have heard of, seen parts of, but never seen the whole film, so there are some missing films from my list.

Image result for smokey and the bandit#10.  Smokey and the Bandit.  A personal favorite that probably should not be on a list like this, but it is a guilty pleasure and I wanted to add it.  Burt Reynolds, Jerry Reed and Sally Field as our beer runners and Jackie Gleason himself as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, the most dedicated hick cop of all time.  Smokey and the Bandit is redneck fun and, albeit a silly film, I love it.

 

Related image#9.  Alien.  One of the great science fiction movies of all time and a film that spawned an amazing series of films and one of the greatest, baddest female heroes of cinematic history in Ripley.  Then, the creature that is to be known as a Xenomorph is tremendously scary and fear inducing.  Alien is a great film with some serious horror elements to it as well.

 

Image result for close encounters of the third kind#8.  Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  One of Steven Spielberg’s great early films, Close Encounters brings the nation’s fascination with aliens and UFOs into the movies once again.  This time, the film focuses on how the hysteria surrounding UFOs could affect a human being. Richard Dreyfus seemingly loses his mind after his close encounter and it ends up costing him his relationship with his family.  However, in the end, he does get to step upon the space ship and head into a new adventure.  There is so much beauty in the film, from the way it is shot to the iconic music.  Close Encounters is wonderful.

 

Image result for rocky#7.  Rocky.  Rocky Balboa was the ultimate underdog.  In his chase of Apollo Creed, Rocky had to put everything on the line.  In the end, the Italian Stallion just could not overcome the champ.  Who thought Rocky would lose?  It’s a surprise at the end that really makes this an uncommon sports film.  Sylvester Stallone became a household name because of this film, a film he wrote and directed and starred in.  Most of these film have that iconic score to them as well, helping secure their place above the other films of the giant decade.  Rocky’s theme is known by everyone and it helps create the character and the feeling of the film.

 

Related image#6.  The Godfather. I have actually not seen Godfather 2.  I know.. I know.  Truthfully, I just saw Godfather last year during a Fathom Event.  There is nothing I can add to the limitless discussions of this movie.  The Godfather is a masterpiece of a film in style and substance.  The acting is amazing.  The music is perfect.  There are so many key storytelling elements that continue to keep people coming back to the story of Don Corleone.

 

Image result for "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?"#5.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Here come some of the films that might not make some people’s lists, but I love so they are here.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail is amazingly quotable and continually funny. “It’s just a flesh wound.”  “I’m feeling better now”.  What… is your favorite color?– “Blue…. no, yel–aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh”  “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”  Of course, there is also the classic Black Knight and the Knights who say Ni.  My favorite of the Monty Python movies.

 

Image result for young frankenstein#4. Young Frankenstein.  Puttin’ on the Ritz.  This is one of my absolutely favorite scenes in movie history.  Gene Wilder putting on a fantastic show as Dr. Frank-en-stein, the grandson of Victor.  He was successful in re-animating life from dead tissue and the brain of someone by the name of Abby Normal.  LOL.  Igor and his moving hump.  The Frau Blücher -WHINNNEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.  Young Frankenstein is one of Mel Brooks greatest films and works to this very day.

 

Image result for willy wonka#3.  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  One of my favorite movies of all time.  Willy Wonka has great music, a awesome story that is darker than one would think when first viewing it. It seems like a kids movie, but this is anything but.  There is a subversiveness about Willy Wonka and his Chocolate Factory that weds out the bad little girls and boys and rewards those who can follow his rules.  We never see Augustus, Violet, Veruca, and Mike again, do we?  We are TOLD that they will be fine, but Willy Wonka does not seem to be the most legitimate source.  Gene Wilder’s iconic performance highlights this brilliant film.

 

Image result for star wars#2.  Star Wars.  Out of respect for the guest this week, Wayne Federman, I will only refer to this as Star Wars.  This film that led to the greatest franchise of films ever put together, Star Wars was truly a simple story.  A story of a boy in search of a family, a father and a purpose.  Luke Skywalker found all three by joining the Rebellion against the evil Empire.  Yes, we do not know yet that Darth Vader is, in actuality, Luke’s father, but there is certainly enough drama to hold the viewers attention.  We meet the awesome character of Han Solo.  Princess Leia.  Obi-Wan.  R2D2 and C3PO.  The Millennium Falcon.  It goes on and on.

 

Image result for jaws#1.  Jaws.  One of my favorite movies of all time.  I remember being scared out of my mind as a kid by Jaws, especially at the scene where the shark is slowly eating Quint.  That scared me silly.  Now a days, I love the scene with Quint, Brody and Hooper drinking below deck and comparing scars.  This led to a completely compelling tale spun by Hooper about the USS Indianapolis.  Jaws is a horror film that becomes an adventure film that end with a fantastically intense final act.  It is a near perfect movie and it is my favorite 1970s movie.

 

Plenty of Honorable mentions such as…

Honorable mentions:  Carrie, Bad News Bears, The Exorcist, Grease, Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blazing Saddles, Airplane, Superman.

The TV Week That Was

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Yesterday was packed full of fun, so the TV Week That Was had to be delayed until a Monday night.  But here we are!

royalrumblewinnersLast night saw the Royal Rumble PPV on the WWE Network.  The first ever all-female Royal Rumble main evented the show with “The Empress of Tomorrow” Asuka winning.  The male version was won by Smackdown star Shinsuke Nakamura.  Shinsuke then announced that he would be challenging WWE Champion A.J. Styles at Wrestlemania, which is a huge match.  Other major winners last night included The Usos retaining their Smackdown Tag Team Championship, The Bar regaining the RAW Tag Team Championship by defeated Seth Rollins and Jason Jordon, A.J. Styles defeated Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn in an handicap match to retain the WWE Championship, and Brock Lesnar pinned Kane in the triple Threat match with Kane and Braun Strowman.  Then, at the end of the night, a surprise came out from the back to make a challenge for Wrestlemania.  Rhonda Rousey came out and pointed to the Wrestlemania sign.  Social media then indicated that Rousey had signed full time with the WWE. The women main evented the PPV and this was a great way to go off the air.  We are officially on the Road to Wrestlemania.

There was more wrestling this week as Monday Night RAW turned 25 years old and presented its bog show with a lot of nostalgia and not much else.  Stone Cold Steve Austin came back to stun Vince McMahon once again.  The APA played poker.  The Undertaker made an appearance.  DX made an appearance.  Match wise there was not that much.  Miz defeated Roman Reigns and became the Intercontinental Championship once again.  Honestly, the show was a bit lackluster for how big the show was promoted to be. Thankfully the Royal Rumble delivered more.

And delivering even more after that was NXT Takeover: Philadelphia.  Saturday night prior to a big WWE PPV brings us the epic NXT card.  We had a brilliant Extreme Rules match between Adam Cole (BABEEEE) and Alastair Black, won by Black.  Just as people were getting ready to dub this the match of the night, out came NXT Champion Andrade “Cien” Almas took on Johnny “Johnny Wrestling” Gargano.  This 31 minute match was one of the best NXT matches of all time and is easily your January leader for match of the year.  It was simple epic.  Almas held off Gargano and defeated him to retain his title.

Netflix dropped the first episode of David Letterman’s new show, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman. Letterman, the iconic late night TV show host, spent 50 minutes interviewing former President Barack Obama.  Letterman had not missed a step as he was extremely interesting discussing all sorts of specifics with President Obama.  The gigantic beard on Letterman’s face is hard to take your eyes off of, admittedly, but these two had me fascinated the entire time  Next up is George Clooney.

The Flash SpoilersI gave Flash another chance this week, and I liked what I saw more than I did with the Trial of Flash.  Bill Goldberg guest starred as a felon who Barry met and bonded with.  Apparently, Goldberg was someone who owed a favor to Barry’s father.  However, the best part of the episode was the elevation of Ralph Digby from joke sidekick to full fledged super hero. The Elongated Man, which turns out to be a better name than Stretchy Man, was the best part of the show.

Scandal revealed that, as expected, Rowan did not shoot Quinn after all.  She has given birth to her son and fought her way out of the basement being.  I was pretty disappointed by this as it just felt like the typical bait and switch and it underplays the entire emotions from last week’s solid episode.  There was a lot of flashback and showing us scenes that we had already seen, but maybe just slightly in a different perspective.  These characters are just lost to me at this point.  Olivia is gone dark side without chance to be saved, in my opinion.  Rowan is well past due time for a bullet in his head.

General Hospital brought back one of their most compelling villains of all time and unleashed him on Port Charles for a few weeks.  Cesar Faison, played by Anders Hove, showed us why he is continually brought back.  He was an amazingly intense and vicious character, terrorizing Anna Devane, Lulu Spencer, Maxie and, his surprise son, Nathan.  Cesar shot Nathan before he knew who he was.  Thankfully, Jason was there to intercept Faison, who had taken Carly hostage.  Faison told Jason that he couldn’t make the shot… which Jason did, of course.  Jason wants answers about his twin brother that, apparently, Faison had something to do with it.

Image result for x files mulder as a child on his couchDisturbing was on display on the X-Files this week as we saw young Mulder on a couch enjoying his Twilight Zone was not.  The episode was actually quite a funny one, but this shot of Mulder as a child watching TV was just about as silly as anything you will see on TV.

 

Image result for agents of shield season 5 episode 9Agents of SHIELD is great each week.  This week was a dramatic and emotional one as Robin, the young girl seer from the past, was now an old woman, who has secrets to reveal.  One of those was that May raised her after something happened to her mother.  When Robin is killed, there is nary a dry eye int he house.  Sinara also comes down to the surface of the destroyed planet (was it really Quake?  not sure)and winds up biting the big one.  Plus, Mack, Yo Yo and Flint’s rebellion against Kasius seems to be going well, but I guess Kasius still has a seer.  Oh, and by the way, he brought back to life Tess.  Agents of Shield is driving toward their 100th episode and it is a joy-ride each week.

There is more I could write, but I am tired and getting ready to go to bed.  So I will skip Speechless, Child Support (new game show), Match Game, Black Lightning (a good 2nd episode), How to Get Away with Murder, the Schmoedown Awards (have a blog post about that) or Movie Fights Live.

Next week:  The new season of Movie Trivia Schmoedown starts on Friday with a triple threat #1 contenders match.  I have to catch back up with Riverdale.  Oh, and there is a little game called the Super Bowl.

Happy viewing.

The Shape of Water

I do believe this is the final of the movies released in limited release for Oscar consideration, and it is the best one as well.

I loved The Shape of Water, finally getting to see it.  It would have found its way into the top 5 of 2017 had I been able to see it before.

Guillermo del Toro brings his style to this beautiful story into something magical and legendary.  In the secret facility, mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning woman but something unbelievable happens.  Government agent Richard Strickland (Michael Strickland) has brought something to the facility, some kind of Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) monster to be studied and researched.

Elisa found herself drawn to the Amphibian Man and she sneaks him eggs and plays him music.  Meanwhile, Strickland is getting anxious for answers and information and begins pushing for dissection.  That forces Elisa, along with a doctor at the facility (Michael Stuhlbarg), to try something desperate.

The Shape of Water is magic and you can feel the magic.  There have been few films that have this kind of tone/feel.  It is almost palpable.

Performances are top notch.  Not only from Sally Hawkins, who is remarkable, and Michael Shannon, who is scary intense, but also from Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins, who play secondary characters.  I would even go as far as to say that I loved the original and quirky Richard Jenkins as Giles, Elisa’s friend.

The design of the Amphibian Man is amazing and has so many little idiosyncrasies that you would probably notice different ones each time you see it.  Doug Jones does a great job as the monster, showing as much emotion as he could without the ability to speak.

This is, of course, a key connection between the two of them since neither of them can use words to speak.  The love story is the single most important aspect and it really does work.  I did not think it would, but it was wonderful.

The music of the film is as important as the cinematography and the acting.  The music plays a huge role in the connections between characters and the imagery of the film.  I will say, I am not convince that the “dance” song near the end worked or fit very well.  That might be my only criticism of the film.

The Shape of Water was well worth the wait.  This was an amazing and magical time at the movies.  It made you feel as if this was an old time story with the beautiful expertise of today’s world.  I loved it.

4.95 stars