Thursday, January 31, 2019

FW Team-Up | The Thing and Sasquatch



It's Canada vs the United States! It's Siskoid vs Michael! It's epic! It's a showdown!

I was honored to be Siskoid's guest on his super fun FW Team-Up podcast to talk about issues 83 and 84 of Marvel Two-in-One where The Ever-Lovin' Blue-Eyed Thing faces off first with Sasquatch and then the rest of Alpha Flight. We recap the team-up, talk about the issues, discuss which side fares better, and suggest Alpha Flight team-ups we'd like to see. You really need to check this one oot.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

My Top 10 Movies of 2018

10. Damsel



I went in knowing next to nothing about it except that it's a Western. That's the way to watch it, but if you want to know just a little bit more: Robert Pattinson plays a guy who hires a preacher to travel across country in order to perform a wedding. It soon becomes apparent that there's more to Pattinson's story than he's revealed and half the fun of the film is learning the rest of it. The other half is watching it play out. The story is extremely well-constructed and the acting is all top notch.

9. Avengers: Infinity War



What an impressive feat. I'm still impressed by what Joss Whedon was able to accomplish in the first Avengers film, but this is next level, balancing an unbelievable number of characters and storylines. Of course, it couldn't do this without all the hard work that earlier MCU films did. And of course, that's not the only way in which it doesn't stand on its own. It's not a complete story and that's what keeps it this far down in my Top 10. It's super entertaining though and surprisingly emotional in unexpected places. I'm eager to see its conclusion in Endgame.

8. The Meg



Like many people, I went in expecting Sharknado levels of wackiness and cheese. Unlike those people, that's not what I wanted. This is what I wanted. It's cheesy and grand, but it also has characters that I actually like. It's a big, fun, summer adventure movie with Jason Statham fighting a giant shark. The diverse cast, awesome sealab, pseudo-science, and Pippin the Dog are all bonus. I had a great time.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story



I had complicated feelings going into this that I'll go into on the Nerd Lunch drill down (coming soon), but the short version is that its everything I hoped it would be and some of what I feared it would be. When it's not connecting prequel dots and ticking origin story boxes, it's a great Han and Chewie story a la Brian Daley and AC Crispin. 11-Year-Old Me is well pleased.

6. Mission: Impossible - Fallout



A great followup not only to Rogue Nation, but to all the previous movies, including references or homages to each without depending on them to make sense. Several set pieces - especially towards the end - had me grinning even while I shook my head in disbelief at what I was seeing. Utterly thrilling.

My only complaint is that the film is obvious in how hard it's working to make Ethan available for Ilsa. But it's as successful as it is conspicuous and I love the closure that it brings to a major plot thread that's been unresolved for the last few films.

5. Black Panther



Awesome. It relies on a couple of superhero movie tropes where I would have loved to see something different done, but the characters and world are astounding, unique, and so much fun. And of course there's also its social importance, which I've commented about on Nerd Lunch.

4. Hearts Beat Loud



A very touching story of a single father named Frank who decides to shut down his 17-year-old business at the same time that his daughter Sam is preparing to move across country to go to college. The film isn't only interested in Sam as the object of Frank's impending grief, though, but explores her own conflicting feelings about the coming move.

Sam and Frank's emotions are complicated by some exciting new things that are entering their lives. Sam has a great, new girlfriend and Frank's dream of starting a band with Sam is finally starting to get some traction. In a lovely, understated way, Hearts Beat Loud explores both characters as they try to enjoy these developments, knowing that they're doomed to end prematurely if Sam moves away. It does this not through dialogue, but through acting, making it a remarkable film.

3. Aquaman



Not quite as inspirational as Wonder Woman, but a solid adventure/fantasy focused on one of my favorite DC heroes and also including other fun characters, a cool quest, and great acts of heroism.

2. Mary Poppins Returns



I can't believe they pulled it off, but they sure did. I was crying before Mary even showed up. The songs are great and the performances are all wonderful. The animated sequence made me feel six years old again. Some have complained that it's too similar to the original. I disagree that this is a flaw, but then I love The Force Awakens.

1. Won't You Be My Neighbor?



I feel like I need to watch this every morning before I leave the house and face the day. Fred Rogers has always been an inspiration; this intensified it. What an amazing man. And what an amazing film to celebrate him and continue his work of encouraging viewers to be better people.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Dragonfly Ripple | Captain America: Civil War (2016)



David and I discuss the Avengers' break-up, focusing on the Accords and how each character responds to them. And getting introspective, we also talk about what we might do if asked to sign.

Monday, January 28, 2019

10 Movies I Liked a Lot from 2018

20. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom



The series is moving away from Michael Crichton and towards Lester Dent, but I'm totally okay with that. It's not about What If We Brought Dinosaurs Back? anymore. It's about What Kind of Crazy Stories Can We Tell in This World? I'm enjoying it.

I also enjoyed the changing locations in this one instead of just the island the entire time. From the trailers, I expected the whole movie to be about trying to get off the island before the volcano destroyed it. I was pleased to learn that that's only Act One. Fallen Kingdom keeps things interesting and the final location is especially relevant to my interests.

19. The Grinch



I went in prepared to dislike it, but laughed a lot throughout and came away charmed. My biggest fear was that it would repeat the mistake of the 2000 live-action film by turning the Whos into villains in order to give the Grinch a sympathetic backstory. This one does create empathy for the Grinch, but not at the expense of the heroes of the story: the villagers who actually do understand the value of the holiday they're so enthusiastic about.

18. Ready Player One



Much better than expected. I liked the puzzles and references in the book, but not so much the characters. In fact, the books' characters (especially the main one) made me like the references less just by being so insufferable about getting them all.

The film is packed with references, but doesn't care whether you spot them. It's more interested in telling a fun story with versions of the characters that I like much more than their literary counterparts.

17. Scorched Earth



A cheesy B-movie with a garbage script, but it's Gina Carano as a bounty hunter in a post-apocalyptic Western. Ryan Robbins does his best to steal the movie from Carano, but she's too badass to let him get away with it. He's shockingly charming as the villain though and way too good for this material. I liked him, her, and the movie very much.

16. Mortal Engines



It's based on a YA book, but I couldn't have told you that just from seeing the movie. I enjoy YA movie series like The Maze Runner and Hunger Games, but Mortal Engines feels like an all-ages scifi adventure in the tradition of Star Wars. I enjoyed the variety of characters on different (but connected) journeys. And I especially enjoyed what I thought was going to be a Terminator-like character, but turned out closer to Frankenstein's Creature.

15. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse



The initial trailer didn't grab me. I've long ago given up Spider-Man comics precisely because of Marvel's desire to create a whole line of spider-powered characters around him. I didn't think I wanted a movie about how crowded Spider-Man's corner of of the Marvel Universe is, even though I like a lot of the concepts behind the characters individually. I mean, I think Miles Morales is an important character; I just didn't want to see a movie with him and Peter Parker both trying to be Spider-Man, if that makes sense. If this was going to be a Morales movie, my preference would be to leave Parker out of it.

But then I saw the poster above with Spider-Ham in it and realized the tone Into the Spider-Verse was going for. And Spider-Man Noir?! Are you kidding me? And Spider-Gwen (one of my favorite Spider-Man supporting characters in a really cool costume). And a little girl with a giant Spider-Bot. All this I could get behind.

And the movie turned out to be a ton of fun with a unique animation style and more comics Easter eggs than I'll ever be able to spot. Almost makes me want to buy a Spider-Gwen comic.

14. Wildling



A coming-of-age story disguised as a fantasy film, but with a horror premise. I want to compare it to Teen Wolf, but it's not silly like the Michael J Fox movie nor angst-filled like I imagine the TV series to be. For all its supernatural elements, Wildling is real and true in its presentation of teenagers. It's got Bel Powley (whom I also enjoyed in the Mary Shelley biopic with Elle Fanning), Brad Dourif being all creepy like he does, and a welcome performance by Liv Tyler who's been absent from my movies for too long.

13. Pacific Rim: Uprising



Even though I write a comic with giant monsters and giant robots (or maybe because of that), I was pretty critical of how Pacific Rim did some things. So I was also pretty interested in seeing the story continued by new writers and starring John Boyega.

And I had a really good time with it. I liked it better than the first one. The story and world move forward in a natural way with a couple of charming lead characters, lots of fun set pieces, and some surprising developments. It's a complete story, but also suggests further adventures and I'm more up for sequels now than I was after the first.

I saw it twice last year and noticed some flaws the second time around, but they don't bother me. They're not even really flaws; just some unanswered questions that I would've liked to see explored. Really strong sequel.

12. Ant-Man and the Wasp



More of what I liked about the first one without being a repeat of it. A nice change from the epic seriousness of Infinity War. We've been rewatching our way through the MCU films this year and that ability to change tone from film to film has stood out as a big strength of the series.

11. Game Night



The premise is similar to Bill Murray's The Man Who Knew Too Little, but a) that's a great premise and b) Game Night dresses it up in a story about a group of friends who get together regularly to eat food and play games. These are my people and this is my kind of movie. It's a trifle, but it's a very, very funny trifle.

Friday, January 25, 2019

10 Movies I Liked Just Fine from 2018

30. Gone Are the Days



I had high hopes for a Western starring Lance Henriksen, Tom Berenger, and Danny Trejo, but Gone Are the Days disappointed me. It's extremely slow and unnecessarily surreal. There's a cool story, but it's buried beneath layers of strangeness for its own sake.

The cast is amazing, though, with an excellent central performance by Henriksen. And Berenger makes everything better simply by being there. I also really dug a character played by Meg Steedle. She's a prostitute trying to get out of a bad situation and mostly taking matters into her own hands. Trejo, sadly, is barely in it.

Like I said, the building blocks for a great movie are there; it's just that they're put together crooked.

29. I Feel Pretty



I'd had good luck with Schumer's comedies so far; enough to trust that I'd enjoy this one. And I mostly did. It's about a woman with low self-esteem who suffers an accident that changes her perception of the way she looks. Her increased confidence of course then changes the way that she interacts with people. It's probably the least funny of Schumer's films so far, but I like where its heart is and there are some lovely, poignant scenes.

28. Welcome to Marwen



It's a potent story about a fascinating individual. I enjoyed Steve Carell's performance and the technical achievement of bringing his dolls to life to give insight to his imagination and how he's coping with tragedy. The movie tries to too neatly tie up an extremely complicated and serious situation though and the multiple Back to the Future references are out of tone with the rest of it.

27. The Spy Who Dumped Me



The violence is more graphic than it needs to be, but the movie is super funny and the relationship between the leads is lovely. I'm a recent, but strong fan of Kate McKinnon and I'd forgotten how much I enjoy Mila Kunis in stuff.

26. Tomb Raider



There's some good character stuff, some really good actors, and I like how grounded it feels. It's making an effort to transcend its genre and I rooted for it, but it never got there. In the end it's just a pretty good action adventure, though that's fine with me.

25. Ocean's Eight



Such a fun cast. I feel like it tried to fit too many twists and surprises in at the end, but I really enjoyed spending time with these characters. I'd love a sequel that's more comfortable doing its own thing rather than try to duplicate Ocean's 11, but that's not a complaint about this movie. It was good.

24. Incredibles 2



A strong, really fun movie. It probably deserves to be higher on my list, but because of my love for the first one, I wanted even more from it.

The first one was made in a different time when the landscape of superhero movies was completely different. It felt like the best superhero movie we were likely ever going to get. This one feels like another good superhero movie in an expanse of good superhero movies. Which weirdly reminds me of what Dash observed in the first one: When everyone's special, no one is.

That's not a complaint about how many good superhero movies there are. But it does mean that Incredibles movies need to work a lot harder to stand out and I don't think that Incredibles 2 gets there.

23. Maze Runner: The Death Cure



I thoroughly enjoyed the previous two films in the Maze Runner series and was very excited to finally complete the trilogy. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as the others, but it's a fine end. I kept trying to predict how it was gonna go and it kept surprising me. It's more emotional than I expected, too.

22. Ralph Breaks the Internet



I assumed this would be funny with plenty of Internet in-jokes to keep me entertained. And it is.

But I was totally blindsided by what the movie is actually about: an important and thought-provoking message about a specific element of friendship. This resonated with me way more than it has a right to.

21. Deadpool 2



All the violence, irreverence, raunchiness, pop culture references, and (most importantly) heart of the first one.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

4 Movies I Didn't Like from 2018

Counting down the 2018 films I saw, from worst to best:

34. Batman: Gotham by Gaslight



I don't often watch these direct-to-home-video animated DC movies, but Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola's classic graphic novel is one of my favorite takes on Batman, so I needed to see how it was adapted. Sadly, the movie takes the central concept of Victorian Batman vs Jack the Ripper, but creates a whole new, much inferior story from it. I knew I was in trouble right away when Poison Ivy appears as a prostitute murdered by the Ripper. The generic, anime-influenced art direction isn't as visually cool or interesting as Mignola's designs, either. Wholly disappointing.

33. Red Sparrow



I didn't finish this, but I rank it slightly above Gotham by Gaslight because my expectations were so low going in. I was fascinated with how much it felt like a Marvel Cinematic Universe story: either Black Widow or the Leviathan organization from Agent Carter. I begrudged it that similarity at the same time that I admired its guts for using the same scenario.

There's a good spy story in Red Sparrow, but the movie desperately wants to be a psychological thriller instead. The trouble is that it's not that deep. Its observations are neither insightful nor interesting. And Jennifer Lawrence plays a woman who starts the story super reserved and is forced by circumstances to become even more restrained, so there's not even a compelling performance to latch onto.

32. Future World



The poster would have you believe that Future World is The Road Warrior with James Franco, Lucy Liu, and Milla Jovovich. I wish that were true. But the movie wants to more than just a grindhouse movie, so it divides its focus and ends up not even as good as a grindhouse movie. Not only does it not achieve its goal; it's worse than the thing it's trying to be better than. And it's a shame, because that is an awesome cast.

31. Dead Men



I wish I knew the history behind Dead Men, because it's a weirdly curious movie. It's edited like a TV show, including hard cuts for commercial breaks. It's also three-hours long and ends abruptly, as if was intended to be a series, but ran out of funding so here it is stitched together into something that resembles a movie.

It's very low budget, so the acting isn't great, the costumes don't fit or look authentic, and the dialogue is poor. But dang does it have ambition. The filmmakers wanted this to be epic and there's certainly a lot of story. Some of the situations are compelling, but I wish that the whole thing was better told and that there was a real ending. As it is, it just gets to a certain place and stops.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Introducing the Filthy Horrors Podcast | And That's When the Murders Began



I know I have a problem, but just listen. I started a new podcast with a couple of dear friends: Darla Ecklund and Jessica Hickman. It's a horror podcast, so if that's your thing, I hope you'll give it a listen.

This one's different from other shows I'm on, because the three of us all live near each other, so we're recording it face-to-face instead of online. I have some learning to do about producing a show like that, but this was a fun discussion. We just talk about how horror got its claws into us and reveal our favorite horror movies, books, comics, and TV shows.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Movie-Watching in 2018



Before we get into the pathetically small number of 2018 movies I watched in the year of their release, here are some notes on my movie-watching in general last year. This is all collected from the super helpful Letterboxd where I keep a running log of what I'm watching and it feeds back cool statistics.

I only watched 34 movies that were released in 2018, but I watched another 350 movies from earlier years. That's an average of 32 a month or 7.4 per week. It's 643.3 hours of film. I should point out though that I log everything I watch that Letterboxd will let me. That doesn't include ongoing TV series, but it does include a lot of mini-series and TV specials (especially Christmas ones).

182 of my 384 movies were first watches. Meaning that 202 were rewatches.

The first movie I watched last year was Spaceballs. The last was the 1995 Pride and Prejudice mini-series. The one with Colin Firth.

My most watched actor last year was Samuel L Jackson due to rewatches of the Marvel and Star Wars films. I saw 15 films with Jackson in them.

After that it was Tom Cruise with 13 films. We rewatched the Mission: Impossible movies last year, but we've also been working through other Cruise films from his whole career.

There's a tie for third place (11 movies each) with Frank Oz and Anthony Daniels thanks to that Star Wars rewatch, but also some Muppets stuff that helped Oz catch up with Daniels.

Ron Perlman and Doug Jones tied for fourth place with 9 movies each. That's mostly due to our watching Guillermo del Toro's filmography last year, plus some other odds and ends.

Fifth place was another tie: Paul Bettany (thanks, Marvel movies) and voice actor Paul Frees who's in pretty much every Christmas special we watch annually. 8 movies each for those guys.

And just behind them at 7 movies apiece is Sidney Poitier and Kenny Baker. Baker from the Star Wars movies, of course, and Poitier just because I got on a kick of watching a bunch of his stuff.

Thanks to Christmas specials, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr were my most watched directors at 12 "films." Behind them though is Guillermo del Toro at 10.

Bill Melendez (king of the Peanuts holiday specials), Robert Zemeckis, and George Lucas are tied for third place with 4 movies each. And fourth place was Jon Favreau, Ed Wood, Christopher McQuarrie, and Wes Ball (from the Maze Runner series) at 3 each.

The movie I watched that was most liked by other Letterboxd users was Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It had an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. The movie I watched that was least liked by other Letterboxd users was called Future World. It's a 2018 movie, so I'll tell you what I thought of it, but it has an average Letterboxd rating of 1.6 stars.

The movie I watched that was most watched by other Letterboxd users was Baby Driver. And the movie I watched that was least watched by other Letterboxd users was an indie Christmas movie from 2007 called Noelle. I didn't really care for it.

And speaking of not caring for things, come back Wednesday when I'll start counting down the 2018 films I watched, starting with the bottom of the barrel.


Friday, January 18, 2019

73 Movies I Missed from 2018 (Part 3)

Let's finish this list of movies from last year that I wanted to see, but didn't. Next week I'll start talking about what I actually got around to.

The Favourite



Three things I like: period films, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.

A Star Is Born



I'm about as interested in this version as I have been in the previous ones: which is to say, not really at all. But I'm very interested in all of them as a collection of films based on the same story, but reinterpreted over decades. One of these days, I'm going to watch my way through the whole bunch.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs



I was extremely into this when it was announced as a mini-series in which each episode covered a different Western sub-genre. I cooled on it when that was changed to a condensed, feature-length version. It sounded very much like a business and not a creative decision. But it's still a Coen Bros Western that incorporates multiple sub-genres.

Suspiria



I think I tried to watch the original once and didn't finish it. I don't remember why. I need to try that again and then give this remake a try. I'm fascinated by remakes.

The Sisters Brothers



It's ridiculous that I haven't seen this yet. The cast is fantastic and the trailer looks great. Just came out at a time when I was overwhelmed with other things.

Any Bullet Will Do



Let's be honest. If it's a new Western and I'm aware of it, it's going on my Watch List.

The Predator



There is no excuse. There is no excuse and I am very ashamed.

Final Score



Dave Bautista is my favorite action star right now.

Halloween



I'm a fan of the Halloween series, but am so tired of all the rebooting and retconning. My understanding is that this one pretends that H20 doesn't exist and that's not something I want to pretend. Curious about the new one, but it's no kind of priority.

A Simple Favor



Anna Kendrick in what looks to be not a parody, but an actual thriller that just isn't taking itself all that seriously.

Green Book



I'm a sucker for movies in which bigotry is overcome, but always skeptical about a film's ability to tell that story without my feeling emotionally manipulated. I don't know Mahershala Ali yet, but I do like Viggo Mortensen and Linda Cardellini. I hope this is good.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls



I'm a little concerned that this could be a kids movie and not an all-ages movie, but the spooky steampunk vibe is right up my alley.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle



I read the novel in 2017 and was super excited to see the movie. Unfortunately, it was only released in festivals last year. There's not even a poster for it. Crossing my fingers for a wider release or at least an online option to see it. It's a great Southern Gothic story and I love the cast.

Bad Times at the El Royale



I keep getting this confused with Hotel Artemis, but I'd want to see it anyway because Chris Hemsworth.

Venom



I don't care about this movie even a little bit, but I know that eventually I'm going to see it, so I include it for completeness.

The Girl in the Spider's Web



I enjoyed both film versions of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but haven't seen the Swedish sequels. I'm curious to see where the character goes, but wanted to rewatch at least the Fincher Dragon Tattoo first. Haven't done that yet.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms



I get real skeptical about Nutcracker adaptations, but Keira Knightley overrides that. I'm nervous about that weird voice she's doing, but would love for this to be a fun fantasy adventure.

Slaughterhouse Rulez



I don't know what I find most appealing: the boarding school setting, the horror elements, or Margot Robbie (who is inexplicably left out of the poster). Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's being in it certainly doesn't hurt.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald



I didn't love the first Fantastic Beasts film enough to get excited about the sequel, but I didn't hate it either. My biggest disappointment was seeing Johnny Depp in strange makeup yet again, but at least he wasn't in it much. Having his character's name in the title doesn't make me eager for the sequel though, so I'm mostly interested for Jude Law as Young Dumbledore.

The Divide



It's a Western in a modern setting, but it's a Western.

Mary Queen of Scots



Two of my favorite actors in a costume drama set around events that I don't know enough about.

Robin Hood



I never thought I'd hear myself say this, but I don't think I needed another Robin Hood movie. Especially one as generic-looking and derivative as this. But it's Robin Hood and I'll eventually check it out.

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle



I feel bad for Andy Serkis. It's not his fault that Disney beat him to the screens with their live action remake. But while I'm curious to see what Serkis has done, my enthusiasm for it has been inevitably dampened by seeing the same story so recently. Remake rules apply though and I want to see how he and Favreau approach the material differently (Disney songs aside).

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