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The MCU Countdown #1: The Avengers

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I hate to be predictable but to be honest, what other film ranks higher than The AvengersThe Avengers not only is one of the most successful comic-book films of all-time but the pinnacle of what modern-day franchises strive for. Ever since Marvel successfully pulled-off the cinematic universe idea, studios have strived to find which properties they can merge together in order to set-up a film where everyone comes together for one major event. Warner Brothers tried that with Justice League and failed. Universal has tried to get their "Dark Universe" off the ground but the failure of The Mummy might have killed that franchise on arrival. The only cinematic universe that seems to have some success going is Legendary's Monster Universe involving King Kong and Godzilla. That being said, Avengers is up here not only because it is widely considered the bet comic book film of all time. While being the one of the best comic book films of all times is a major feat, the larger fact is that The Avengers changed the way studios make films now.

While studios like Warner Brothers and Paramount owned large properties such as DC Comics and Hasbro, they never considered crossing over their characters. While WB always toyed with the idea of a Batman/Superman film after the success of Tim Burton's run at the character, it still took over 25 years to bring those two characters together on the big screen. There is a lot of work that goes into producing cross-over films. Marvel Studios is the one and only studio that has truly made a cinematic universe work. Say what you will about the DCEU or other universes out there, Marvel has stuck to their ideas on how they build their worlds. The Avengers also had the best MCU villain for the longest time. How Whedon and company crafted and expanded the ideology of Loki in this film is impressive. While Loki was far from being a weak character in Thor, the evolution of his character within this film set the bar for future antagonist to come, for better or for worse. We will see if Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War can live up to his billing.

Well now that this list has concluded, the story turns to what the future holds for the MCU. Are the brightest days of this franchise behind us or ahead of us? While that question is not easy to visualize yet, there are two things that are certain with the future of the MCU. One is that Marvel is aware of their villain crutch and they're aggressively changing the tone of that criticism. Since the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming, Marvel has had great responses to their new wave of villains including Vulture, Hela, and Killmonger. If Thanos knocks it out of the park, four of the top five MCU villains could be from the last wave of MCU films. 

The other initiative that Marvel is putting on their films is making their properties interconnect more. While Marvel films have had Easter eggs and quick cameos in the past, you could easily skip Thor's solo film or the Guardians of the Galaxy newest volume and now miss any important information regarding your favorite heroes. Now, Marvel seems to be changing tones by placing a lot of knowledge from prior films into future films. While fans of the franchise will enjoy these rewarding moments, newcomers and regular fans of the franchise might begin to feel like their missing something and begin to feel disconnect with the MCU. Whether these decisions harms or helps the franchise remains to be seen but until they're proven wrong, let Marvel go do their thing. 

The MCU Countdown T-#2: Captain America: Winter Soldier & Civil War

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Since I built this list a few months back, I had a hard debate between these two films as which one I would put at #2 and #3. On one hand, I believe that one film is very well-made film that might be one of the most relevant Marvel films ever made. The other film is a setup to the biggest Marvel film as of this point in time. While I think both films are great, I could not decide on which film is more relevant to fans and the story. So, because of my respect for both films along with my indecisiveness, I decided to talk about both films at #2.

When it comes to Captain America: Winter Soldier, you have to respect this film for what it started inside the comic book genre and that is adapting other genres of film. Before Winter Soldier, many comic book films were just that, comic book movies. With the massive explosion of the genre in cinema, Marvel understood that comic book films needed to become more than just super-hero films and the writers behind Winter Solider decided that their film could be just that. While Winter Solider is still a super-hero film on the outside, the core story shares the tropes of a political thriller straight from the 60s and 70s. The success of this genre blend lead to future Marvel films doing the same thing. Guardians of the Galaxy is a space opera, Ant-Man is a heist film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a teen comedy, and Black Panther is a James Bond film.

I believe that this and Black Panther are the two most culturally relevant films in the MCU. Who would have thought that a comic book film about Russians infiltrating our government to spy on ourselves and influence the outcome of our lives would be so relatable in today's world. While I enjoyed Winter Soldier when it was released a few years back, the film has aged incredibly well due to the political climate that the world is in now and might make this MCU film one of the few that truly stands the test of time.

As for Captain America: Civil War, my love for this film started when it was announced that Marvel was going to adapt one of their famous event comics. Civil War was a comic that I read back when I was in high school and I loved the social dynamics that story placed on heroes and how they would react to the government getting involved with their business. While Captain America: Civil War doesn't fully adapt the Civil War comic story arch (primarily because they do not have the X-Men and Fantastic Four franchises), the perfectly translated the core beliefs of characters inside that comic book story arc to the big screen.

Captain AmericaCivil War also is one of the most successful set-up films I've ever witnessed. While the film is fun and entertaining just on its own, Civil War successfully sets up the events leading into Spider-Man: Homecoming, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. Making a successful film is already a difficult task to pull off. Trying to make a successful film that sets up a future franchise is a whole different monster to achieve that very few succeed in (look how poorly Power Rangers & The Mummy set their future up). Captain America: Civil War is not only a great film but a textbook example of how well-oiled of a machine Marvel is with their film universe.

While I find both of these films very entertaining, both films do have a problem. When it comes to Winter Solider, one of the major plot points that happen in the film is (SPOILER ALER) the fall of SHIELD, the government agency that represents the Avengers. While this massive event that happens in the franchise does show some lasting damage, I feel like this event hasn't been represented enough in future films. One of the biggest arms in the United States government branch has been corrupted and controlled by an outside government and yet, there is no other government agencies or public outcry over the new formation of the Avengers in later films. I guess you could consider the Sokovia Accords in Civil War as the final straw, but the film doesn't mention the fall of SHIELD as the first reason why the accords are written.

Civil War also has a tendency to place comedic moments inside some really tense areas within the film. I understand that Marvel is the "family friendly" comic book franchise that everyone loves including me but at the same time, I wish they would lean back on their comedy sometimes. There are moments within this film where friends are having tense exchanges with one another, yet they still find time to drop some one-liner or exchange that is only there to generate a laugh from the audience. I understand that this is just a staple of Marvel films that works for many people but sometime soon, Marvel needs to pull your punches when it comes to their humor.

I wished that I could have given a definitive #2 and #3 to this list. While one film is a film that's one of the most important films inside the MCU, another film might be the best film they've ever made. It amazes me how many fans of the MCU latch on to characters like Star-Lord, Iron Man, Spider-Man, and even the Hulk, yet, the most successful hero in this franchise hands-down is Captain America. While few heroes that have been given a trilogy up to this point, Captain America is the only one that truly has three-successful films. Say what you will about Captain America: The First Avenger but that film is much more enjoyable than Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World. Even if Infinity War succeeds as well as many believe it can, the Captain America series might even surpass that trilogy of films.

Speaking of The Avengers...

Could Infinity War Be The First $300 Million Opening Weekend Movie?

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The week is finally here. The Friday, Avengers: Infinity War will hit theaters is the United States and other countries around the world. Fans of the franchise will get a chance to see the climactic closure to ten years of cinema that has changed the way Hollywood tells stories. Say what you will about properties such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, or James Bond but I believe that there is not a property that has garnished such a wide admiration amongst moviegoers than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the hype surrounding the franchise growing with promotional material and now the raving impressions from critics who have gone to the premiere of the film, the hype leads me to wonder if Infinity War could be the first film to break $300 million domestically?

Tons of box-office numbers have been starting to pour out in the news with Variety reporting that the film could net half a billion dollars worldwide opening weekend. Half a billion seems like an insane number but I believe that this film could even hit $600 million opening weekend worldwide. If Fate of the Furious can pull $541, Infinity War should have no problem. While these numbers are great to hear if you're a fan of either the property or genre, I do not believe that these projections understand how important this film is to pop culture.

Marvel is a film property that has invested nearly twenty films and ten years of many people's lives for this cinematic moment. While some people might not be completely entrenched in the knowledge of every character in the MCU, everyone has had their different entry point into the universe. Tons of fans might have caught on to the property later down the line and have revisited the older films after seeing something more recent like Guardians or Black Panther with the latter being my main point with these box-office numbers. In February, Black Panther killed it at the box office by blowing away all expectations and dropping over $370 million worldwide and $202 million domestically. In fact, half of the top ten weekend box offices belong to Marvel properties. Say what you will about the money-making machine of Star Wars but they cannot compare to what Marvel Studios is doing. 

So why are more people not discussing the $300 million number with Infinity War? Do people seriously believe that this film cannot do it? My guess as to why this is not being discussed more is the fact that the only film to come close to that number is Star Wars: The Force Awakens with $247 million. Many believe that Star Wars is the most popular franchise worldwide in terms of pop cultural relevance and age. The fact is that these Marvel films mean much more to people that many realize. With all of these properties coming together for a climactic outing, you're going to get every person that has watched these films into theaters. Plenty of people understand the cultural impact that this film will have, and you'll have many people pay the extra to see this film in IMAX or 3D. You're going to have people going to see this film Friday night only to find out that every showing up until Sunday morning is sold out. Theaters are going to be running overnight screenings to help keep up with audience demands. 

Will Infinity War break $300 million? I believe that it can. You are talking about a franchise that has collected nearly $6 billion domestically and almost $15 billion worldwide (not accounting for inflation). To put that in comparison, Star Wars has made $4.3 billion domestically and Harry Potter only brought home $2.3 billion domestically. Marvel is a different animal when it comes to making money, so you can't let history determine what this film could make this weekend. The one thing I know about this weekend is a lot of fans will be happy and Disney is going to need a bigger bank.

Is Hollywood Trying To Blacklist Streaming Films?

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Very recently, I put together my list of the Top Ten films for 2017. Two of the films that made my list were Crown Heights and Mudbound, both were streaming-first films. I was sitting there after putting my list together around the time of the Academy Awards and I wondered "Why did these two films not get more widespread recognition?". I don't think that either film was deserving of Best Picture for many awards this year but they were definitely deserving for more than they were given. Even a film such as The Big Sick I believed got royally screwed this year. While The Big Sick was primarily released in theaters, the film was funded by Amazon and has primarily stayed on Amazon Prime since leaving theaters. I thought to myself if maybe the major players in Hollywood were beginning to draw a line between them and streaming content. With Hollywood continuing to struggle at the box office and theater chains losing money left and right, maybe they see streaming services as a threat to their existence. Maybe it's just a conspiracy that I'm conjuring in my head to make sense for why films I enjoyed did not get recognized.

Then the news came out that Cannes will ban Netflix films from competition and then my theory started getting some validity. Shortly after that rule chance, one of the biggest directors in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg, is now coming out and saying that Netflix films should not qualify for Oscars. Two major players in the filmmaking industry have now came out and declared war on streaming films. Spielberg goes on to say that he believes Netflix films are "TV movies" and that them gaining award accolades could be considered "cheating". I understand that Hollywood has failed to end their downward spiral in theatrical attendance but do you seriously believe that going to war with streaming service is going to bring people back? 

Do you want to know why people do not go to the theaters that much anymore? Maybe it's because tickets for a standard screening of a Hollywood film is $15-18 per person. If you decide you want to treat yourself to 3D or IMAX, tickets can get neat $24-$26. That is absolutely insane, especially when you consider a date night can run you around $40-50 and a family night can get you near $100. When did the movies turn into costing nearly as much as a theme park? The movies just cost too much and if you're not someone who enjoy the experience, You'll skip out on the experience and wait to pay nearly the same price of admission to own the film on home release. MoviePass is one of the best things to come to the movie business and yet theaters are still trying to ban the subscription service. Yes, I understand that the $10 monthly fee for that company is not "sustainable" but you have to know that this $10 fee is definitely an introductory fee to get people interested in the service. It is because of subscriptions like MoviePass that have made me go to the movies more and invest more in theaters especially having the extra money to pay for concessions, the one thing that theaters make nearly all of their money off of.

Don't even get me started on the actual films in theaters. Half of the films in theaters are complete shit. A lack of originality in the theater along with studios lack of care for the quality it puts out has made moviegoers more cautious than ever. Now with rating sites such as Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, studios are having an extremely hard time hiding terrible movies from audiences anymore. Instead of funding big-budget shit shows, how about you cut back on spectacle and focus more on acting talent and their material. Get OutEx Machina, and The Big Sick are all low-budget films that were highly successful in theaters. Get with the times.

Hollywood big wigs and their failure to adjust to the times is going to be the death of them. Streaming and on-demand content is the way of the future and trying to fight change is only going to leave you behind. You know, it wasn't that long ago that I wrote an article about Martin Scorsese and modern film. I find it very ironic that nearly a year later, he's producing a feature-length film for Netflix, the studio that Hollywood is now trying to fight. I highly doubt that Martin Scorsese thinks The Irishman is a "TV movie". Stop complaint about the competition and give audience members a better option. They're staying at home because your films cost too much and streaming content has a higher entertainment value than half the shit you have filling the screens in your cinemas. Stop whining, start adapting, and make better decisions. 

TFT's Top Ten Films Of 2017

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It says something to my procrastination as a critic when I'm posting my "Best of 2017" in March. Better lake than never though. 2017 was a strong year in film. Last year saw the return of big-name directors such as Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott, Denis Villeneuve, and Edgar Wright. 2017 had plenty of hits as well as misses but one thing that made 2017 different than any year was the amount of good films that nobody saw. Audiences were completely unpredictable this year with what they wanted to see. The box offices reflected this radical nature between the bombing of Blade Runner 2049 and the insane box office run of Get Out. 2017 could go down as one of the most insane years in the film industry especially with the results of this season's Oscars. Now with the new year beginning, it is time to give you our Top 10 films of 2017.


10. Mudbound

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One of my top films of 2017 that I have still failed to finish my review of. To summarize the film without going into the full details of my thoughts, Mudbound was one of the most under appreciated films at this year's Academy Awards. While the film has a sluggish first half, the film has greta pace once it gets into the meat of the drama. Showcasing solid performances from top to bottom, Mudbound is one of those Oscar darlings that somehow was not able to get solid footing and also one of the most accessible films on this list and you should give it a shot.

9. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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The Spider-Man film that nobody wanted was the Spider-Man film that we all deserved. Being that this is the second time I've talked about this film (with a third time approaching in the MCU Countdown), it's safe to say how much I love this film. I was one of the few supporters of Sony's second interpretation of the Spider-Man character. While Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield did an incredible job with their characters, Sony's lack of solid villains and their focus on the future rather than the now lead to the downfall of their reboot. Thankfully Disney were able to get their hands on the character and now the future of the MCU looks very bright with Tom Holland.

8. The Post

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While The Post was not the Oscar-darling that everyone thought and hoped it could be, Speilberg's film on the Washington Post's publication of the Vietnam papers was a solid and definitely well-timed film. Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep deliver what you expect from them at this point in their careers but none of them exceed expectations. The film has a handful of moments that help bring tension to the story but it's sluggish pace and abrupt ending lead to this film falling lower than it should on this list.

7. Crown Heights

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When I saw this film earlier this year, I thought that this film was Amazon's next Oscar-winning after last year's success with Manchester by the Sea. But as shown earlier in this list, the voters of the Oscars gave zero attention to films that were primarily released on streaming. The amount of pain that Keith Stanfield portrayed carries so much weight that I'm still feeling the impacts of this film months after seeing it. Crown Heights does a great job at telling this true story and the affects a corrupt and broken justice system can have on a struggling black community doing whatever they can to survive.

6. Wonder Woman

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Whether you like the DCEU or not, you have to respect what Patty Jenkins did with Wonder Woman. With a comic book franchise on the verge of collapse, Jenkins and Gadot teamed up to show the world that this franchise doesn't need Batman or Superman to stay afloat. While the third act of this film doesn't carry the momentum of the film as powerfully as it should, Wonder Woman is still a powerful film that showcases that Gal Gadot can be a star and how the demand for female heroes is out there. Sadly, Warner Brothers might struggle to get a sequel afloat with the DCEU on life support after the complete failure of Justice League. Hopefully Warner Brothers finds a way to get audiences interested in their properties again and bring DC back as a competitor in the comic book genre.

5. Blade Runner 2049

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Blade Runner 2049 was one of the biggest shockers of the year. First, nobody thought that the film was going to be good. Just like prior sequels of films from yesteryear, Blade Runner 2049 was going to leave a stain on a cult-film classic and weaken one of the strongest sci-fi films in modern cinema history. Instead, the film found a way to surpass the original and elaborate on everything we loved about the original and brought the story to a future generation. Too bad that nobody saw this film in theaters just like its predecessor. Let us all hope that Warner Brothers allows this group of storytellers to round out this franchise and cap off what could be one of the greatest trilogies in cinema history.

4. Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is a personal favorite of mine this year mainly on the fact that Christopher Nolan is my favorite director working in the business today. While Dunkirk is not anything near the story-telling genius of Memento and InceptionDunkirk is a step in the right direction after somewhat of a letdown with Interstellar. I thankfully got an opportunity to watch a 70mm IMAX print of this film and that experience is one of the most intense moments I've ever had in a theater. Christopher Nolan is still a master of pacing and tension but his stories are starting to lack the intrigue that his former work possessed. I am hoping that Nolan scales back for his next film and focuses on characters instead of spectical. 

3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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The Oscar darling of 2017, Three Billboards was one of the most talked about films during the award season and there are many reasons why. This film probably showcases one of the best top-to-bottom performances from a cast in 2017 and it showed this award season. Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell went on a tear winning award after award for their performances in this film. I personally believed that Three Billboards was going to win this year's Oscars. Between the performances and material that the film presented, I thought it could take home the award. I still don't know how The Shape of Water did as well as it did. Hopefully you set aside some time and see this film if you missed out on Three Billboards in theaters.

2. The Big Sick

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How did everyone forget about this movie? Seriously, The Big Sick is one of the most inventive romantic comedies in recent memory while also being one of most heart-wrenching stories released on the big screen. Known for his quirkiness in Portlandia and Silicon Valley, Kumail Nanjiani shows his range as a performer in this true story about his life and meeting his wife Emily V. Gordon. Both him and his wife wrote one of the most original romantic comedies in in recent memory and injected a fresh take into a genre that has been dying for great content for twenty years. Hopefully The Big Sick can show that romantic comedies can be a powerful genre in cinema sooner rather than later.

1. Get Out

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I seriously cannot talk about this film enough. Back in February of 2017, I left my New York screening of this film and automatically went "This is the best film of 2017 and I do not know how any films this year will top it". I was hoping that I would be wrong and that Get Out was just the start of an amazing year in movies but not many films came close to dethroning the champion. Jordan Peele's debut is one of the strongest debuts of a first-time filmmaker I've ever seen and I hope that Peele has more up his sleeve. While The Shape of Water might have won Best Picture, Get Out will be the film on this list that truly stands the test of time.

Breaking Down The 90th Academy Awards

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Last night, millions of viewers tuned in to the Oscars to see some of Hollywood's most talented performers take the stage. Drama surrounded the award ceremony in all directions including the #TimesUp movement, #OscarsSoWhite, and even the recent allegations against Ryan Seacrest. Many, including me, were wondering how the academy was going to approach this year's ceremony and how these topics could affect the voting process. While I thought the ceremony was better than last year's awards, there is still a lot of work to be done to make this ceremony more inclusive both for the filmmakers and the audience members who go to the movies. Here are my thoughts after witnessing last night's Oscars:


Lady Bird Gets Shutout At The Oscars

One of my favorite moments of the night came when The Shape of Water was awarded Best Picture. I jumped out of my seat in celebration not for the film that won but more for the film that failed completely at the Oscars. Lady Bird was a film that was surrounded by a ton of hype  when the film held the highest Rotten Tomatoes score during its release. The hype only built more after the film began to win awards at the smaller award ceremonies including Best Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes. The discussion then switched to Greta Gerwig possibly being a favorite to land the Best Director award this year as well as Lady Bird being a dark horse for Best Picture. All of this hype and praise made me question if I watched the same film as these critics. I saw nothing incredibly special with this film besides the fact that Lady Bird was female lead and female directed. While I support more female-centric films made by female directors, we should support that these films be held at the same standard as other films within their categories. A film should not get a handicap boost because it has women or minorities involved. A film should be judged by what the film is as a whole and Lady Bird did not hold a candle to many films in the Best Picture category.

The Oscars Are Still Very White

When I was figuring out which picture I wanted to headline this article with, I found a photo featuring all of the winner in the acting category. That photo seemed to be a nice metaphor for what I wanted to discuss. While the Oscars did make progress in nominating and awarding more people of color at this year's award ceremony, the fact remains that a lot of white people still won including a complete absence of people of color winning in the acting categories. Of the twenty actors nominated in an acting category, only four were people of color. Two categories (Best Supporting Actor and Lead Actress) saw ballots completely filled with white actors. Countless of other categories saw a lack of diversity. While the Oscars are making progress, there is still a long way to go. If only the rest of the show made as much progress as the Best Director category which has seen a minority win the award in five of the last six years.

The 90th Oscars Received The Lowest Ratings Ever

Following the trend of many television programs, the 90th Academy Awards saw a drop in their ratings. The only problem is that it wasn't just a drop, it was a plunge. The Oscars saw 6.5 million less viewers than last year broadcast which lead to the lowest ratings in the history of the broadcast. While ratings drops can correlate to more viewers cutting the cord, I believe last night's awards were hurt more in part because the common moviegoer didn't know any of the films in last night's show. There was nothing for the regular audience member to connect with outside of maybe Dunkirk. Almost every film nominated for the Oscars this year were not box office successes with many losing money. Of all of the films nominated for Best Picture, only two crossed the $100 million mark (Dunkirk and Get Out). To put things in perspective, Black Panther in less than a month has made $200 million more than the total gross of every film in the Best Picture category. If nobody saw these Best Picture films, then why would they care if they win or not?  

Get Out And The Voter Bias

According to an i09 report, some of Get Out's failed success last night could have been hindered by the fact that many Academy voters were disregarding the film without even watching it. In the article, one of the new voters in the academy's initiative to inject a younger and more diverse voice mentioned the following: 

“I had multiple conversations with longtime Academy members who were like, ‘that was not an Oscar film,’ and I’m like, ‘that’s bullshit. Watch it.’ Honestly, a few of them had not even seen it and they were saying it, so dispelling that kind of thing has been super important.”

While this news is very hard to hear, the sad thing is that this has been the academy's thinking to a lot of properties in recent years. In 2008, The Dark Knight was the hottest film going into that year's award show and to a lot of dismay, the film was not nominated for Best Picture The film received eight academy award nominations but failed to receive a nomination for Best Picture or Best Director. While Heath Ledger did win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, many believe that his victory was a political move to celebrate his career in the wake of his passing. The outrage for The Dark Knight's snub also lead the academy to change their rules and allow ten films to be nominated for Best Picture instead of the traditional five. 

The situation with what's going on between Get Out and the older generation of voters is even worse than what happened to The Dark Knight and other genre films from the past. This story showcases the pretentiousness of this group and their bias towards certain types of films in full force. Maybe if their bias towards a revolutionary film like Get Out is given more attention, we could inject more discussion about rule changes and allow more new voters to join and progress the medium forward.

The Shape Of Water Won But Will It Be Remembered?

The Shape of Water was an entertaining film but will this film stand the test of time. Many films have won Best Picture in the past but while many have taken the award, that moment fades fast and the film falls into the abyss of Hollywood obscurity. Do you remember who won Best Picture in 2011? The film was The King's Speech, a film that won three of the big six awards. Yet nobody sits there and remembers The King's Speech. What moviegoers do remember if going to the theater and watching Inception, Black Swan, The Social Network, and Toy Story 3. How about 1978 when Annie Hall beat out Star Wars? Will we remember The Shape of Water five or ten years from now or will we remember the 90th Academy awards as the year that weird fish film beat Get Out? Only time will give us that answer. 

The 90th Academy Awards: Predictions

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The weekend is finally here and this Sunday, the Oscars will air on ABC and all of our questions will be answered. Who will take home the gold this year? Some categories seemed to be pretty locked heading into this year but never underestimate the underdog candidates during these shows. Just take last year for example, where everyone thought La La Land was a lock for Best Picture and they technically were for all two minutes they were on-stage. This year might not be as surprising as last and hopefully the ending will not be as insane but you never know. 

Going into this year's Oscars, I began writing down predictions for who might win for this year but I wanted to take a different approach for some categories this year. While I will give my predictions on who I believe will win at the 90th Academy Awards, I'll also want to take a moment and give my thoughts on who should win the award as well. The favorites are definitely getting a lot of buzz and attention but I want people to recognize some of the other great work that might not be getting the recognition it deserves this year. 


BEST PICTURE:

Who Should Win?: Get Out

Get Out is the most revolutionary film on the list for this year's Best Picture nominations. What Jordan Peele did with this film is something that will be taught in film schools and discussed in pop culture for decades. The sad thing is that this film would probably win Best Picture if it were not for the fact that the film was released all the way back in February of 2017. With the film being older than a year, Get Out will not be the "sexy" film to talk about and therefore fail to take home the Oscar.

Who Will Win?: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

While Get Out, Lady Bird, and The Shape of Water have grabbed a ton of attention during the award season, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri has been a sleeping giant this season. Yes, the film has faced some controversy on its journey but that hasn't slowed down the success one bit. Three Billboards has cleaned house in terms of winning including wins at the Golden Globes, SAG, Critics Choice, and the BAFTAs. Their tear will continue into the night when the film snags a few more wins including the top award of the night. 

LEAD ACTOR:

Who Should Win?: Daniel Kaluuya - Get Out

Talks about a break out role for an actor. Daniel Kaluuya jumped onto the scene with Jordan Peele's directorial debut and crushed it as Chris Washington. His performance showed a ton of strength as well as vulnerability. No matter what skin color and racial background you come from, you can understand Chris' fears. Kayuuya's performance is half the reason this film is nominated for Best Picture and should be the reason he deserves to win Best Actor. Sadly, he won't because of his youth and the academy having to award a mulligan. 

Who Will Win?: Gary Oldman - Darkest Hour

This is going to be a year the Academy says, "We're sorry you haven't won anything for your entire career" and award Gary Oldman his first Oscar. Oldman was terrific in Darkest Hour and carried a film that was basic at best. Oldman's transformation into the English prime minister is one that makes him unrecognizable to the common moviegoer. While his physical transformation is noteworthy, we've seen Oldman deliver far more powerful performances from characters that are even more unrecognizable. Oldman won't be winning the Oscar for Winston Churchill, he will be winning the award for Sid, Dracula, Commissioner Gordon, George Smiley, Mason Verger, and Zorg.

LEAD ACTRESS:

Who Should Win?: Frances McDormand - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Frances McDormand has always been one of those actresses that shows up, gives a solid performance, and goes home. She might not have the top billing of actresses such as Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, and Charlize Theron but her resume and talent speaks for itself. The emotional weight that McDormand carried with her character throughout Three Billboards is mesmerizing. You can feel Mildred's pain deep inside yourself and all of her rash and outlandish decisions somehow make sense to you. Frances McDormand makes Three Billboards just as much as Daniel Kayuuya makes Get Out

Who Will Win?: Saoirse Ronan - Lady Bird

Why this film is getting so much attention this award season is still mind-boggling. Lady Bird is not a bad film but the fact is that this film should not be a contender. Instead, the film could potentially win 3-4 of the major awards at the Oscars. There are many films much deserving and Best Actress is one of them. That being said, the academy is going to want to spread the love tonight and what better way to show love for Lady Bird than with the face of the film itself. Ronan's performance as Lady Bird was nothing truly special. It doesn't take much talent to channel the inner-thinking of a whiney, stuck-up, angry teenager that hates her life and her family and then gets everything she wants in the end. 

SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Who Should Win and Will Win?: Sam Rockwell - Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

This is the first category on here that I'm going to agree with who will most likely win this award. Just when you forgot how good Sam Rockwell was as an actor, he shows up in Three Billboards and gives the strongest performance of his career. While the social criticism for his character is justifiable, I don't believe that will affect his chances of winning tonight. Rockwell has nearly swept every other major award show leading up the Oscars so it didn't affect that. When you have a accused assaulter working the red carpet, do the decisions of a fictional character really matter to the academy? Rockwell will win, book it.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Who Should Win and Will Win?: Laurie Metcalf - Lady Bird

While I have criticized Lady Bird a ton on this blog and in my personal life, one of the bright spots of this film that I will praise is the performance of Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird's mom. Marion McPherson is one of the most relatable characters in this movie hands down. All of us in our lives have had moments where we agree or disagree with our parents. We fight, we laugh, and we love them when dealing with our growth as an adolescent. Metcalf's performance is not only a performance of Lady Bird's mother but of all our mothers.

DIRECTOR:

Who Should Win?: Jordan Peele - Get Out

Talk about one of the biggest career transitions a person has ever made. From skit-comedy star to Oscar-nominated horror director, Peele is becoming one of the hottest names in the business. His directorial debut Get Out is probably the most talked about film in 2017. Peele is well deserving of this award but Hollywood might consider passing on Peele because he is a first-time director and believe that he can make something just as good later on down the road. As we've learned before and are reminded of with Oldman this year, don't try to be a fortune-teller with these awards and then correct yourself down the road when you find out you messed up. Do you want #OscarsSoWhite to stop? Do you want changes to be made in Hollywood? Then do the right thing and give this man the recognition he deserves.

Who Will Win?: Greta Gerwig - Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig has been in the independent scene for a while with her collaborations with Noah Baumbach. While her work as an actress has not gotten much recognition, her solo-writing and directorial debut has made Greta Gerwig a household name. While it is intriguing that the two favorites to win this year are two first-time directors, Greta's work with this film might be the weakest resume in comparison to her competitors. Between the technical achievements Christopher Nolan and Guillermo del Toro did to the revolutionary work Jordan Peele did, Greta Gerwig doesn't bring anything new to the table with Lady Bird. The Oscars will use this award as a statement to the #TimesUp movement. While Best Director has only been won by a woman once before, tonight they make it twice.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Who Should Win?: Logan

When will good comic book films get award recognition? Yes, I know Heath Ledger won an oscar for his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight but Hollywood has produced a handful of incredible comic book films over the past few years. With the genre expanding and entering new horizons of story-telling, Logan is the example of what can happen when a comic book film is given serious attention. While I do not believe Logan is the best comic book film of the year, it's one of the most different comic book films we've seen ever in cinema. The swan song of Hue Jackman is one that deserved some recognition. 

Who Will Win?: The Disaster Artist

Being a fan of The Room and someone who also read the book, The Disaster Artist is a film that this team of comedians somehow got right. The behind-the-scenes story of The Room is something so complex, crazy, and weird, that it is very easy to fall into the realm of parody and full-blown comedy when approaching this material. Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (and maybe others if their lawsuit continues), understood the source material well and knew that there was more than just laughs when it comes to Tommy Wiseau. I appreciate what these guys did with this film and won't be disappointed if this film takes home Best Adapted Screenplay.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Who Should Win? The Big Sick - Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

One of my favorite films of the year is The Big Sick. When someone comes up to me and asks me what film got snubbed, I always come back to this film. The Big Sick is one of the most powerful films of the year that makes you laugh, cry, love, and laugh again. The amount of work it must have been for Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani to reopen old wounds and tell this true story about their early dating lives must have been tough. With Hollywood's lazy attempts and pumping out content by rebooting and making sequels to every property, the academy should celebrate Emily and Kumail for sharing their story and giving audiences something fresh and new. 

Who Will Win?: The Shape of Water - Guillermo del Toro

When your film is nominated for 13 academy awards, you have to win something in the major categories, right? This year's Oscars are going to be very political in terms of who wins and who doesn't this season. Trying to acknowledge the #TimesUp movement and also fight the battle against #OscarsSoWhite, the academy is going to try and find a way to make everyone happy this year. Because of that, things will be messy and The Shape of Water is going to lose some awards to films it's better than. Guillermo could still walk away with Best Director when it's all over and he is more worthy of that award than of Best Screenplay. The fact is that with Greta Gerwig most likely winning Director and Three Billboards winning best picture, Guillermo could snag this award at the end of the night. If Guillermo's film finds itself without many awards at the end of the night, he can always look at Jordan Peele and realize he's not the only person getting screwed over.

The MCU Countdown #11: Avengers - Age of Ultron

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This was possibly one of the hardest films to place on this list. Age of Ultron is a film that is a more entertaining watch than some of the other films higher on this list. On the other hand, the film is definitely problematic including questionable plot decisions and technical choices. Everyone who went to the theaters to see the Avengers that they know and love got the interactions that make us care for them. What audiences did not get was a follow-up that lived up to the billing. No one should have expected this film to compare to the original Avengers film. Trying to surpass your predecessor is one thing but to supplant one of the greatest comic book films of all time is nearly impossible.

Avengers: Age of Ultron brings back its all-star class including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, and Don Cheadle with the addition of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Paul Bettany. Following the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the remnants of SHIELD are on the run from the government and The Avengers are hot on the trail of HYDRA. After leveling the last HYDRA stronghold, Tony Stark comes across HYDRA's tech research and their work on producing an AI. Stark believes that this tech can be used to help create a new deterrent to help protect the world from future alien invasions but his work for good turns into the Avenger's newest foe. 

Joss Whedon brings his trademark witty dialogue back in full-force. Joss Whedon just does a great job at bringing every element that audiences love with these individual characters and use their traits to create incredible interactions with their peers and foes. While there are great moments that work just as well as they did in The AvengersAge of Ultron doesn't nail every landing when it comes to dialogue. The film still lands about 70-80% of its dialogue but when comparing it to the near perfection of The Avengers, it makes it easy to believe that the film failed to deliver. The film is also packed with tons of action including more "hero on hero" fighting that seem to be some of the most entertaining moments in these films. While the film showcases more moments of The Avengers being a team, none of those moments give the same impact as the fight for New York in The Avengers.

Why the film leaves a bitter taste in fan's mouths is that Age of Ultron's purpose isn't focused on the actual story going on in the film. Instead of the film focusing on the conflict going on within the film, Age of Ultron's main goal is to set up all of the major story arcs for Phase 3 of the MCU. Captain America and Iron Man seem more interested in fighting each other instead of fighting Ultron, bitterness that will lead to the events of Captain America: Civil War. Thor's focus is more on trying to transcribe a vision he's given and finding the remaining Infinity Stones, a journey that leads him to his journey in Thor: Ragnarok. All of the films in Phase 2 were a build-up to the events of Age of Ultron only for the film's purpose to set up the next three years of Marvel films instead.

Age of Ultron is a very entertaining film but the fun comes from the interplay between the heroes and not their actual actions. Audiences just had too high of expectations for this film. The second film in the Avengers franchise is definitely an entertaining film but the film's lack of coming anywhere close to their first story makes audiences believe that the film is a failure. Age of Ultron is nowhere near a failure of a film and showcases some of the best moments ever in a Marvel movie. If this film kept its focus on itself and not the future, maybe it could have lived up to the hype.

The MCU Countdown #12: Captain America - The First Avenger

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Captain America: The First Avenger is the first outing of Captain America in the MCU and the final solo-film in Phase One. The excitement was building for The Avengers leading into this film and many were wondering if Marvel could get their A-list hero to adapt successfully to the big screen. Marvel had already tried to make a movie adaptation of Captain America once back in 1990 with the release of Captain America. The first attempt at bringing Steve Rodgers to live-action was a complete failure. Now they were trying again but this time introducing him as the final key to putting together their cinematic universe. Marvel's casting of Steve Rodgers was one the most concerning of the Phase One castings. While Robert Downey JR. was a proven actor alongside Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans was an actor that has a lot of misses on his resume. He was also casted as a Marvel superhero in the past in Sony's first attempt at creating the Fantastic Four. Once Sony had firmly scrapped that version of the Fantastic Four franchise, Marvel thought they should capitalize and bring in Chris Evans. Many were hoping that under this new guidance that Captain America would be given the right treatment. Was Chris Evans the Captain America we were all hoping for? Thankfully, he was.

The First Avenger can be considered the first Marvel film to set up Marvel's future plan of implanting different genres into their properties. While The First Avenger is definitely a period piece at face value, the film can also be considered a propaganda film with its over-the-top patriotic tone. The film is a big-screen adaptation of not only Captain America but of the World War II poster of Uncle Sam saying, "We Need You". While it is a propaganda film, it helps audiences relate to the patriotism people had in the United States at that time. The character of Captain America himself stems from war propaganda at the time so it's fitting that the film returned the favor.

The propaganda approach to helped stylize the film and set it apart from the MCU films that had come before it. Captain America: The First Avenger was definitely the most colorful and cheerful film at that time. The cheerful tone might be a turnoff to some fans, the lighter tone was the right approach to the Captain America character. Yes, the film is full of camp but it was smartly written camp. A great example of clever writing is the explanation of Captain America's suit. While Iron Man took a tongue-in-cheek approach to explaining the colorful costume, Captain America's American flag inspired outfit was cleverly crafted to make sense as to why it was conceived and why Captain Rodgers keeps using the outfit for the foreseeable future.

While The First Avenger is not the best film in Phase One, it might be the best introduction of a character in the MCU. Captain America was the character that Marvel had to nail or else their cinematic universe would fall on its face before it could start running. Luckily audiences were granted with two more Captain America films later on and several more appearances. The First Avenger is worth revisiting for those who might have missed out on it during its theatrical release especially if fans of the series want to learn more about the relationship between Captain America and Bucky Barns.

The MCU Countdown #14: Doctor Strange

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While the Marvel Cinematic Universe has its know heroes and famous faces, many of Marvel's heroes have started to grumble about their times in the MCU coming to a close sooner rather than later. With the possibility of some heroes preparing their big screen farewell in the coming years, Marvel began laying the foundation for their next generation of heroes to lead the charge into the next chapter of the MCU. The Guardians of the Galaxy were introduced in 2014 and they were followed-up with the introduction of Ant-Man the year after. While their introductions were a success, they were obviously not the star-power needed to lead the future of the MCU. 2016 is where things started to get serious with the introduction of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Steven Strange in his self-titles origin film, Doctor Strange.

Doctor Strange follows the beginnings of Steven Strange, a lead nerosurgine in a Manhattan who quite simple is the best in his field. His talent for saving people from impossible circumstances leads to his cocky and arrogant lifestyle. After a near-fatal car accident, Strange is left with severe nerve damage in his hands preventing him from ever being a surgeon again. Looking for ways to repair himself leads him to Kamar-Taj and discovers the world of mystical magic. Strange must decide if he wants to return to the life that he once lived or serve a bigger purpose and protect the world from greater dangers.

The film ended up being a critical and financial success. With Marvel Studios doing their best to keep their stories fresh and inventive, Doctor Strange truly was something different in terms of visual aesthetic. The imagery of the different dimensions showcase in the film alone are worth the price of admission. Benedict Cumberbatch is such a perfect casting as Doctor Strange. There are moments in this film where Cumberbatch literally looks like the comic book renditions of Strange from the past. Cumberbatch's performance is solid along with the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Mads Mikkelsen, and Benedict Wong. Mikkelsen's performance as Kaecilius does fall into the realm of one-dimensional MCU villains as well as being the mirror of what the protagonist could become if given the wrong motivations. While the film nails some casting, one will always make me scratch my head and that is the problematic casting of Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. While I understand that there is plenty of mystery to her character and where she originates from, it is obvious that her culture and beliefs stem from eastern teachings. While I'll give the film credit for tranisitioning the the Ancient One as a female instead of a male figure, they could have also taken this oppertunity to add more diversity to the film.

While I do appreciate the film's visual creativeness and introduction to the world of the mystic arts, the film lacks any other form of creativity after that. The core plot of the film is basically a beat-for-beat retelling of Iron Man's origin story from his first film. The growth of Strange going from self-centered playboy to defender of the people is completely stolen from Iron Man. Doctor Strange also deals with a recent problem in some MCU films recently with forcing too many jokes into the film. Some moments in the film that give weight to the storytelling only get ruined by forced comedic moments only to get cheap laughs. While that might work on first-time viewings, they tend to get stale over time and completely ruin the films pacing. The love tension between Benedict Cumberbatch and Rachel McAdams lacks chemistry similar to Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in their Thor films as well. While Doctor Strange doesn't overplay the love angle as much as Thor does, the fact remains that the force plot is still there. 

Doctor Strange is still a fun and entertaining film and worth checking out, especially leading up to Avengers: Infinity War since Strange seems to be a big player in the film as well as the world to come. The film is also easy to obtain currently as it is currently streaming on Netflix as well. While I do believe the film is more entertaining than some films to come on this list, I have to place this film lower on this list due to the fact that is lacks the originality that some of these later films do. While some of these films later on rinse and repeat some plot elements, they still find a way to make you believe that they bring something fresh to the table. That being said, I look forward to seeing the next chapter in the Doctor Strange story.

Watch The Best Trailers From Super Bowl LII

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Super Bowl Sunday is an unofficial holiday in the United States of America. Millions gather around friends and family around the TV as they watch the finale of the NFL's best. While most people watching are interested in the the game itself, others are excited for all of the ad campaigns airing during the big game, including a plethora of movie trailers for the upcoming year in films. Here are the trailers that aired during the Super Bowl broadcast:


Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Skyscraper

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

The Cloverfield Paradox

Avengers: Infinity War


The MCU Countdown #15: Guardians of the Galaxy - Vol. 2

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Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the riskiest moves Marvel Studios had made until recently. While Marvel was having a ton of critical and box office success with their films, all of them were based off of big-named characters in the comics. When Disney announced that they were making a movie based off the Guardians of the Galaxy, plenty of people were asking themselves "Who are these guys and is that a raccoon with a gun?" Needless to say, Guardians of the Galaxy was a huge financial hit and catapulted this band of misfit characters into pop culture stardom. Obviously, a sequel was bound to happen with the success of the first film and the Marvel structure of telling stories. Everyone was lining up for Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 with tons of excitement and anticipation.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 brings back Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista and Vin Diesel as the Guardians of the Galaxy along with other familiar faces to the franchise. Following the events of the first film, the Guardians are now guns-for-hire taking on any task that rewards them a large payday. After a job with the Sovereign goes south, Peter Quill comes in contact with a man claiming to be his father. With this revelation, Quill and Gamora decide to follow Quill's father, Ego, to his home planet where they can find out where he's been this whole time. Meanwhile the rest of the Guardians face the remainder of the Ravagers hot on their tale looking for revenge for getting ripped off in the first film.

The entire cast does their best at recapturing the magic and chemistry that made the first film such a hit. It's hard not to fall for Chris Pratt's charm and Baby Groot's adorable nature. While the chemistry between all of the characters and performers are still there, breaking the team in half for a majority of the film hinders this film's success greatly. What made the original great were not the character's individual actions but their interactions between the rest of the crew. Once the decision is made to split up, the main element that made the first film great is gone. To compensate for that lost humor, everyone cranks it to 11 on their performances. The two characters that noticeably take a downgrade in their performance is Drax and Nebula. Drax goes from a threatening figure who's literal language makes him a comedic bruit to a loud laughing monster who takes nothing seriously. Nebula, one of the weakest characters in the original film, comes back with a better story-arc but Karen Gillan's performance is still awful. Karen Gillan as Nebula is probably the worst character in the entire MCU.

This film, like many films in the MCU, is another example of a film that stuffers from sequel-itis. While films like Iron Man 2 and Thor: The Dark World suffered from a mild cold, Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 is a film that could be compared to pneumonia. This film goes over-the-top time and time again with its comedy. While the amount of comedy might be exactly what you want from this film, there is a lot of comedy in this film that doesn't serve the story at all. Speaking of story, the entire third act of this film is almost completely unwatchable on repeat viewings. The film could have easily ended 10-15 minutes earlier than it should have but Gunn's inclusion of the Sovereign in the final act is a terrible decision that only makes sense viewing the film the first time.

When I left the theater after seeing this film opening weekend, I was thoroughly enjoyed. While I didn't believe that the film was better than the original, I believed at the time that Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2 did an adequate job at following-up the original film. Once I revisited this film for the third time for this retrospective, I found myself losing interest in the film midway through the film. The lack of a driving story with the supporting characters and making this film completely centered around Peter Quill was a terrible decision. While these problems are not noticeable with a first viewing, they show their ugly face in repeat viewings. 

The MCU Countdown #18: Iron Man 2

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This week marks the start of our Marvel Cinematic Universe countdown. As stated in our introduction, we will be raking all of the Marvel films that take place in the MCU from worst to first (including Black Panther) up until the release of Avengers: Infinity War. Starting off this list to no surprise to most likely no one is what many consider the worst film in the MCU, Iron Man 2. Coming off the huge success of Iron Man and the underrated reboot of the Hulk, Marvel was looking to hit another home run out of the park with their first sequel in their cinematic universe. The film on paper is loaded with talent including the addition of Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke who were both coming off huge independent films (Moon for Rockwell and The Wrestler for Rourke). Scarlett Johansson also joined the cast as Black Widow and Samuel L. Jackson makes his first full-time appearance as Nick Fury after showing up in the post-credit scene in Iron Man.

I will say right off the bat that Iron Man 2 is in no way an awful film. Contrary to what some comic book fans might say, the film as a whole works and doesn't fail any of the characters or the plot that the film is trying to progress. Why Iron Man 2 lays at the bottom of this list stems from the fact that there has to be a film that fills the backend of this list. As you'll see later on, there were other films in contention for this spot. Why Iron Man 2 took the last spot on this list is how little this film impacts the overall story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If someone literally skipped over this film and went straight into The Avengers to see Tony Stark's next outing as Iron Man, would you notice any major event has happened to Tony Stark and his companions? I do understand that the film does introduce key players into the MCU including Black Widow and War Machine but War Machine was hinted at in the original Iron Man. Getting a sneak peek at Black Widow is definitely a nice treat for the fans but what happens to her character in Iron Man 2 leaves no lasting effect on her arc in The Avengers.

When I sit down prepare myself for a new installment in the MCU, I always make a watch list of MCU films that I deem important before seeing whatever release is hitting theaters. If the film is a new installment of Thor, I might revisit his solo entries and of course the two Avengers films. For the next installment of Spider-Man, I'll re-watch Captain America: Civil War, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Avengers: Infinity War along with whatever the fourth Avenger film will be titled. For a character like Iron Man, he's been in a ton of films. If you would want to catch up with his arc before Avengers: Infinity War, you would have to watch Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. For me, that's a very daunting task and when you find ways to cut yourself some slack, you make those cuts and Iron Man 2 is one of those cuts. I still believe that its a fun entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and should still be watched for anyone interested in the character or catching up on the MCU. For fans like me who have been there and done that, we'll pass on sitting down in front of this film anytime soon.

The Future of Star Wars and Where We Go From Here

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CAUTION: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS TO STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

Last weekend, Star Wars: The Last Jedi released into theaters with the film receiving high regards from critics. The film currently sits at a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and a MetaCritic score of 86. The critical praise of the film transitioned to a huge opening of $220 million at the box office which places the film second all-time with only its predecessor, The Force Awakens, besting it. While many enjoyed the story Rian Johnson put on screen, there are fans who left the theater not too thrilled for what they saw, and these fans are not in the minority. 

What caused Star Wars: The Last Jedi to become such a divisive film? The answer for many fans could be a simple one. It's the word that everyone from Kathleen Kennedy to Daisy Ridley said since Day 1 of filming The Last Jedi. The word is risk. The risks that The Last Jedi took are what made or broke the film for many. The Star Wars franchise is a property populated by many fans who cannot remember a day in their life where Star Wars wasn't a part of it. These fans dedicate themselves to Star Wars and delve into the mythology to learn as much as they can outside of the film. Star Wars is a universe with tons of connective tissue and with that come rules. Take for example the rules of the force. The force has been explained in multiple films, books, and comics and fans have a basic understanding with what the force can and can't do. Whether you believe these rules can be bent or broken can be a huge factor in deciding if you will love or hate The Last Jedi.

For me, what Rian Johnson did with the force in The Last Jedi is not my problem with the film at all, it's how he structured his film and his priority of plot over characters. Yes, Star Wars is known for its mythology, elaborate worlds, and diverse species but those factors are not the reason this franchise has lasted for forty years. What kept fans going to the theater and introducing newcomers to the franchise are the characters that inhabit it and how everyone can find someone to connects with in a special way. Every one of us has a scoundrel in them as well as a rebel. We all have the light side in us as well as the dark. Our reliability to the characters are how we connect to a universe that is unlike ours in any way and Johnson's disservice to these characters in The Last Jedi is the worst I've seen in Star Wars since the prequel trilogy.

Minus the arcs of Rey and Kylo Ren, Star Wars: The Last Jedi had its characters take a back seat in favor of a plot that has the characters serve it instead of vice versa. For example, midway into the film Finn and Rose are sent off to Canto Bight to search for a code breaker to help the resistance break away from the First Order. We follow Finn and Rose to Canto Bight only to be dragged into a convoluted scheme that only makes since to service the romantic subplot and showcase a new world. The film could have easily had a code breaker on the shit already (maybe as a prisoner or a resistance spy) and shaved at least 20 minutes off the film while also removing hands-down the most despised section of the film. Instead, the film tries to make time to produce a romance between Finn and Rose, a romance that is already forced by failing to produce naturally. Star Wars also needs its immersive worlds and therefore we must have Canto Bight or else the film would only showcase one new world (Crait).

While Canto Bight was bad, The Last Jedi's worst sin is what it did to Captain Phasma and Supreme Leader Snoke. Do not forget how the filmmakers, cast, and Lucasfilm set up the continuation of Captain Phasma and Snoke and how their stories would take a step forward in this film. Back during the production of The Force Awakens, Snoke was compared to some of the strongest Sith in the history of Star Wars including Emperor Palpatine and Darth Plagueis. Instead of seeing who this powerful character is, why he is so powerful, where he came from, and what his goals were, Rian Johnson just decided to kill him off and leaves those questions unanswered. The death of Snoke leaves many questions unanswered and the ambiguity of his character just seems more like poor story-telling than inventive mystery. Captain Phasma was acknowledged by being under-utilized in The Force Awakens and instead of making up for that, they have her show up near the two hour mark of the film abruptly only to serve Finn's weak arc. This abrupt reveal is catapults Phasma's character into mediocrity by having her defeated rather quickly and possibly lead to her death.

While the film is far from a complete disaster, it's nowhere near the masterpiece that some fans of the franchise claim it to be. I think the excitement of having something fresh and new with a franchise nearing the half-century mark is something that should be celebrated. Risks and changes to the lore as rich as Star Wars will always divide fans but these changes should not sacrifice the work put into building these characters. As we sit here, there is nothing in The Last Jedi that truly foreshadows what the future might hold except that there are more force-sensitive individuals out there than Kylo and Rey. The film leaves little extending storylines for JJ Abrams, a filmmaker who is notoriously know for leaving audiences with unsatisfying endings that fail to explain long-time plot questions. While I fear for what direction the franchise might go after The Last Jedi, the only positive I can spin for Episode IX is that "Hey guys, at least it isn't Colin Trevorrow trying to pick up this mess."

Editorial: I have removed the section in the beginning mentioning the fan ratings for both MetaCritic and Rotten Tomato after it appears a hacker group was part of the voting process according to Deadline.

Tarantino Is What Paramount Needs For Star Trek

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In all of the cinematic news that I have read and covered, an article like I am writing right now would be an idea that only someone would cook up in some fever dream after watching a double feature of Star Trek and Inglorious Basterds. Yet here I am and here we are and if Deadline is reporting facts, the likelihood of Quentin Tarantino directing a Star Trek film is more of a reality than a fever dream.

According to Deadline, Quentin Tarantino has pitched the idea of a Star Trek film to J.J. Abrams and Paramount. The two parties have reportedly liked what they heard so much that they have now put together a writing room at Paramount to flesh out the plot for this Star Trek film that Tarantino has in mind. Many are believing that with this being Quentin's idea, that he would take the reins and helm the fourth film in the franchise. While it's still early to tell, there are many reasons for him to helm the fourth installment and other reasons why he might not.

First off, is this a good idea for Quentin Tarantino to take over a Star Trek film? This is a director who has famously written and directed most of his work.  Not only has Tarantino had that much influence in the production, almost all of his films up to this point have been original works that have not been involved in a larger franchise. Tarantino has never had to worry about an overlapping continuity from films prior to the one he's making. Sure, you can say that he's apparently developed a Tarantino Cinematic Universe, but that isn't anything that has overlapping consequences as a franchise like Star Trek.

While he hasn't dipped his toes into a large franchise before, Star Trek could definitely be a franchise that could benefit from adding another auteur director to its rebooted universe. Quentin's vision and style can help inject more energy into a franchise that's struggling to keep up with the mega-blockbusters that Disney has competing against them next door. Tarantino is a mind in Hollywood that understands what makes a film stand the test of time while also paying tribute to what has come before. Adding Quentin Tarantino next to the name J.J. Abrams already gets people into the seats and maybe some of those members will be newcomers to the series.

What about J.J. Abrams' already existing plans for a fourth film in the franchise? Shortly after the release of Star Trek Beyond, Abrams discussed that the fourth film was already in the middle of preproduction and would involve Kirk meeting his dad who was played by Chris Hemsworth before he became a huge success in the Marvel films as Thor. So, if Tarantino has come in and his' pitch is taking president, does that mean the original plans for the fourth film are canned? Maybe, but the idea that Tarantino has for his version of Star Trek is already out on the internet and you just don't know it. Not that long ago, Tarantino was asked about working on a franchise property and he discusses his interest in producing something in the Trek universe.  Maybe his idea might mirror what he discussed in this interview below:

With Abrams' discussion of the fourth installment involving Kirk and his father, maybe Tarantino came in and pitched the idea of combining that interaction with the plot elements of "Yesterday's Enterprise"? Having that be the plot elements of a fourth Star Trek film could be something that I would go see in theaters both as a fan of the franchise and as a fan of Tarantino. As of now, this news is still fresh and nothing has been green-lit or officially announced. Personally, I do believe that with two powerful names in J.J. Abrams and Quentin Tarantino pushing for this to be done, odds are that this film will be made. Whether Tarantino actually comes on and take the helm of this film remains to be seen. Personally, I do not believe that Tarantino will come on and direct this film, his language alone might prevent him or prevent the studio from allowing him to take that much control over the film. I would be interested to see who would take the lead on this film but this is definitely news that gets me excited as a Star Trek fan. My excitement is tempered with the fact that this seems like a match made from a game of Cards Against Humanity but the collaboration is something that could definitely work.

Here's Looking At You, Casablanca: 75 Years Later

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When a screenwriter sits down in front of a blank screen or a piece of paper, there goal is usually simple; write an entertaining movie. Creating a successful film is such a tall task to achieve that most filmmakers would be satisfied by simply making a good film. It's an incredible feeling knowing all the hard work paid off; the late nights and long weekends that went into the film over those years were worth it. While success is a rare achievement, there is one that filmmakers always hope for but never truly strive for; making their film timeless. A timeless film is something that is never planned. There is no such thing as a blueprint to making a film stand the test of time and Casablanca is no exception. 

This month marks the 75th anniversary of Casablanca's release in cinemas.  Since the release, Casablanca has captured the hearts and minds of countless audience-members and critics across the globe. Casablanca is on many Top 50 films lists including the AFI Top 100 where Casablanca ranks at #3. So how did this film stand the test of time?  Why do audience members from all generations look back at this film and find a way to connect? I always believes it was the nostalgia of falling in love or the aspect of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe the love triangle is what brings everyone to the film but I believe it's the setting and the individuals that surround the characters that make Casablanca the film that stands the test of time.

Yeah, we might relate ourselves to Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart at times in outlives but at the end of the day, they are still characters. They might look like real people that deal with heartbreak and strive for something better than the lives they live but they are exaggerated ideals of what people go through. What makes Casablanca a great film is the little people within the film, the characters that we don't remember. Everyone remembers Ilsa asking Sam to play "As Time Goes By" but many forget the story of the young refugee couple trying to immigrate to America. It's stories like and whether one bad thing is worth the price of a lifetime of happiness that made me remember the greatness of Casablanca

Casablanca not only helps bring a certain perspective to all generations about how individuals got through the times of World War II but the film's timeless dialogue and focus on the bigger picture of love and combating evil is what helps make a 75 year old film relatable to a millennial generation. Here is a 1942 film that touches upon topics likes quid pro quo sexual advances, immigration issues involving refugees, and how to deal with nazis with as sad as that may seem. So with the holiday season as well as award season fast approaching, I hope you take the time and celebrate this classic film either by yourself, with your family, or with a loved one in your life.

Regal is going to try (and fail) with changing their ticket prices

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I was sitting here recently thinking to myself "I haven't written an article in a long time". Then I wake up this morning and read that Regal Entertainment Group is about to do the dumbest thing a theater chain has done since bringing 3D back to the theaters.  Now I have something to write about. 

Regal Entertainment Group, one of the largest theater chains in the United States, has decided that they are going to start experimenting with a new model of ticket pricing.  The basics of this idea is that "high-demand" movies such as summer blockbusters and oscar season films (you know, the films that people actually believe are worth going to see in theaters) are going to have inflation on their prices due to demand.  While those prices will be increased, unsuccessful films (the dog trash in theaters that make us question if Hollywood is experimenting with a new form of torture) will have their ticket prices lowered. Let's say that the newest Star Wars movie opens up along side Fifty Shades of Grey 3: Even More Shade. Instead of both movies having ticket prices between $12-15 ($17 if you're in a bigger city), Star Wars will have it's ticket prices increased by $3-4 while Fifty Shades will have it's price dropped $3-4.  

Is this idea stupid?  Yes, it is very stupid. Is it going to work? No, this idea is dead on arrival.  Doing this will just open up pandora's box for movie chains.  What's stopping movie theaters to hike up ticket prices even if the film has bad reviews?  What about theaters who have special deals with film distributors? If the theater has a special deal with Fox or Universal, what keeps their ticket prices fair instead of raising the price of their competitor's movies?

That's just the start of this problem. What about the methodology and the analytical models theaters will use for ticket pricing?  Is this model going to be based on first week attendance?  Well it can't be based on attendance because 70% of a movie's box office comes from opening weekend.  Theaters know that and will want to inflate the price before the film opens.  So does that mean ticket inflations will be based on Rotten Tomatoes or critical responses?  Maybe but there are a ton of blockbuster films with poor critical responces.  A 14% rating is not going to lower the ticket price to the next Michael Bay spectacle. A 56% rating is not going to lower the ticket price to the next Will Farrell comedy.  So if box office attendance and critical reviews won't be affecting the prices of these films, then what will?

John Campea talks about in his video that the argument behind the model is that multiple entertainment industries have switched to this ticket model over time.  Sporting events have this model as well as live theater, concerts, and comedy acts. So if the model has worked for those mediums, why can't it work for film? Can a model of demand-base ticket pricing work? Yes, it can work but the theory will work if it mimics the demand pricing of video games instead of live entertainment.  Good games that have positive critical reviews and high sales stay at the default $59.99 price for months after their release.  For games that do not sell well, developers will cut the price of the game to make it more accessibility to gamers. This price cut helps get the game in more players hands. Some of these players are people who wanted the game but say the reviews and didn't want to risk their money.  Other players might be gamers that wanted to play the game opening day but just don't have the money.

That is what theaters need to go if they want more people to come back to the movies. Cut the part out where you raising ticket prices for good movies just to make a quick buck. Raising the price of the newest Batman movie to $20 will keep me away from a theater. Keep the ticket prices model for bad movies.If I'm going to see Batman for $15  and another movie I've been wanting to see has had it's price lowered to $7-10 due to attendance, I might sit myself down for a double-feature. That is the model that will work for theaters and for studios.  The studio might not want to lower their prices for tickets but hey, $10 is better than no money.

Are Audiences Ready For Longer Runtimes?

Since as long as I've watched movies, I've heard many people groan at the idea of sitting through a film that nears three hours or longer.  I would not be shocked if there are people out there who won't sit down to watch something that is three hours long even if you told them It's the best film ever.  What makes things more interesting is those individuals might have no problem binging an entire season of a television show in two days.  Yeah they might not watch an extended cut of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers yet they will binge an entire season of Game of Thrones in one day.  Now more than ever, people are going to streaming content and binging seasons of television show.  People are transitioning from quick hour of television to three, four, and sometimes five-plus hours of a single show.  If we're in the age in binge-watching television, than why not transition this trend to film?

Millions are ready to get comfortable and spend hours investing in visual content, so why not binge in a more cinematic environment?  The idea that "I cannot sit down for a long period of time" is out the window for a majority of people now.  If you can sit down in a couch and watch four hours of The Bachelor, you can sit down and spend three or four hours watching a movie.  Comfort is a huge factor for a binge session but comfort is in the theaters now.  I could understand comfort being a dilemma ten years ago when almost all theaters had glorified folding chairs but now when a majority of cinemas have dine-in services and reclining chairs, that excuse is gone.

The idea that audiences cannot sit down for longer than two hours is completely false so the question now falls on where do we go from here with film runtimes?  The truth is that Hollywood will probably not make any changes in runtimes due primarily on box office numbers.  The fact remains that Hollywood blockbusters need to keep their films around two hours if they want a chance to bring in box office numbers.  While I think it's smart for Hollywood blockbusters to keep in that range, they should allow auteur director and filmmakers that are creating something that has more depth and content, than they should not make them conform their story to a runtime cap.  

Does Hollywood Understand What's Going On Right Now?

This just in, the country is in a rough spot politically and socially right now.  In the streets of America right now, many groups with different, conflicting ideologies are fighting for their rights and freedoms.  Society has almost devolved over the last few years as progress has screeched to a halt and backwards thinking has become front-and-center.  While times seem dark, film and television have been a great form of expressing opinions and ideals for where we should be going.  The first thing that comes to mind is last years academy awards where Moonlight, an independent film about an african-amercan dealing with his sexuality, won best picture.  Female directors have been behind some of the biggest projects this year including Ava Duvernay and Kathryn Bigelow.  The audience wants diversity and are clamoring for something different, so why isn't Hollywood giving it to them?

Not only is Hollywood not giving it to them, there pumping out projects that nobody is asking for to the point where it's insulting. This article could go on forever with a countless number of projects in development or releasing soon but I want to focus on two projects.  The first is a remake of the 1974 film, Death Wish, and the second is the D.B. Weiss/David Benioff "Confederate" project. 

Over the past few years, the issue of diversity has been a hot topic in the industry.  While the issue is not solved, many companies have responded with diverse projects and more casts with predominately minority casts.  Get Out is still considered one of the best films of 2017 and is a perfect example that the want for diversity and something different.  So what producers think that making a remake of a film no one was asking for, while showcasing in the trailer a while male taking law into his own hands and killing people (predominately minorities)?  Maybe they're the same producers that think it's a good idea to make a television show about an alternate reality where the confederate army won the civil war, while white nationalist riot and murder in the streets of America.  

The fact is that there are a ton of great ideas out there and the fact that these are the "best" ideas that Hollywood can present to us is a slap in the face of modern audiences who strive for something different and more culturally relevant to the matters that mean to us right now.  I hope Hollywood takes another loss from creating useless,lazy crap with the Death Wish remake and I hope that Hollywood sees Confederate as a terrible idea for where the country is at right now and postpones the production indefinitely.
 

The Terminator Franchise: Why Wont You Die!?

Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!
— Kyle Reese - The Terminator (1984)

The above quote is one of the most famous quotes from the original Terminator film created by James Cameron in 1984.  That quote struck fear into audience members as they began to imagine the never-ending hunt a Terminator could bring if one was after your life.  Now I find that quote as an ironic metaphor for what the franchise has become. The Terminator franchise is out here.  It cannot be bargained with.  It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse that you sat through the last three films.  You want the franchise to stop but it absolutely will not stop...ever, until we are dead.

News came out recently that James Cameron, the originator behind the first two and the only good films, could be getting the rights back.  Empire Magazine and other outlets believe that if/when the rights to the Terminator franchise revert back to James Cameron, that he's planning on creating a new trilogy of Terminator films that will help reset the franchise and bring it back to the forefront of pop culture. That's right! James Cameron is going to make a 6th, 7th, and 8th Terminator film while also trying to make a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Avatar film.  Get ready to go to a cinema near you and watch six sequels that nobody I think wants or cares about.

Now would I love a new Terminator that's good? Sure I would want that but the fact now is how the hell do you clean up this convoluted timeline? Terminator 1-4 in a way work in a weird way.  While the third and fourth film are not the best films, they still work in the timeline those films are in.  Terminator Genisys is where everything gets crazy and begins confusing the common-movie-goer and there lies the problem.  Today's audience just doesn't care about this franchise anymore.

Today's youth were not even alive for the original two films.  The only Terminator films they know about are these awful sequels and reboots.  For them, it's a franchise that's aging and becoming as irrelevant to pop culture as its lead actor.  That's another problem that this franchise has no answer to, how do you replace Arnold Schwarzenegger?  Unlike characters like James Bond, Batman, or The Doctor, The Terminator is Schwarzenegger and only him. While other franchises have found different ways to make the characters more than just the actors, Terminator has struggled to move on past Schwarzenegger.  Not that he's almost 70, the likelihood of him being able to carry this new incarnation of the franchise is slim.

James Cameron and whichever studio decides to become the new home to this property just need to do the smart and logical thing and put it to bed. Bury it deep somewhere and let it collect dust, a lot of dust.  If you want to create content with the brand, then do it with books, comics, and animation.  Those mediums can keep Schwarzenegger as young as you want him. Just please do not make me or anyone else suffer through another reboot or retelling of any Terminator story.  Just shove that idea in the dark corner of your mind and say "Hasta la vista, Baby".