‘Worldbuilding’ Is the New Bad Word in Movies

The easy thing to do after watching the dumpster fire that was Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was to go online and write a blog post calling it a dumpster fire. I’ve done my best to avoid that (though not so much with my social media accounts …) and now have let the idea of that film percolate in my mind for a few days.

But wait, Jasper, Batman v Superman was good!

No, sorry, it wasn’t. It just wasn’t. You may *like* BvS, but you may also have really bad taste.

So? It entertained me!

Yeah, I know, and that’s kind of the problem. Let me explain.

The head of Warner Bros. says that the amount of money earned by BvS shows a huge disconnect between movie critics and fans. That’s like saying the huge lines for a restaurant opening defy the fact that the food they will soon eat tastes like cardboard. A film’s opening box office has NOTHING to do with a film’s quality. Absolutely nothing. What it *does* say is (a) fans are excited about Batman, Superman and, yes, Wonder Woman, (b) movie critics’ opinions aren’t really that important most of the time, and (c) Warner Bros. has a hell of a marketing department.

Read more

The Film Minor: Five Films to Watch After 10 Cloverfield Lane

Much has been written about the new Bad Robot flick, 10 Cloverfield Lane. Set in the same sort of downplayed, alienified universe as the original Cloverfield, the new film features a small cast of characters hiding out the apocalypse in a tiny bunker. But what do you do if you suspect one of the people you are hiding with is a monster?

10 Cloverfield Lane is an excellent film to watch if you enjoy suspenseful thrillers. Further, the director, Matt Reeves, makes good use of the enclosed environment and keeps you stuck in the head of the film’s main character in ways other filmmakers don’t bother with. For virtually all of the film, we follow Michelle (played to great effect by Mary Elizabeth Winstead) shot-for-shot with the camera echoing her own sense of attention to detail. This helps ratchet up the feelings of nervous anxiousness, particularly in an early shot (shown in the trailers) of the three bunker inhabitants eating at a dinner table. What plays out afterward is a delightful blending of paranoia and weirdness until the film’s explosive climax.

Like the original Cloverfield, once you’ve seen the movie, you’re left wanting more. So here’s a list of five movies to hold you over until the next non-sequel installment in this sci-fi series comes out (fingers crossed it’ll be soon):

Alien (1979)

By the end of 10 Cloverfield Lane, sci-fi fans have been introduced to another badass heroine. Like the original Alien, from director Ridley Scott, Michelle doesn’t become a kick ass hero because she was always prepared to be one. Instead, her situation forced her to be both creative and tough. It’s a trait played to much effect in Alien and only one thing that the two movies have in common. A second is that both films take place within tight confines, further putting pressure on the characters involved. 10 Cloverfield Lane is as much a spiritual prequel to Alien as it is a sequel to Cloverfield.

Read more

Zootopia Isn’t So Special – And That’s Why It’s So Great

By Friday night, I began to hear it. “Zootopia is incredible!” “Zootopia is better than Frozen!” “Zootopia will be the best movie of the year!” Hyperbolic? I thought so. But still, a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes and friends of mine raving about left me excited to see the movie. I went Saturday, watched the film and reviewed it thusly on my Facebook:

“Zootopia: Some great gags string together a pedestrian plot made worse by a grating Shakira sountrack.”

You can guess how that went over. Children wrung their hair, friends blasted me in the social sphere, and the sun turned black with ash. But the thing is, the more I talked with various people, the more they actually kinda agreed with me. The indisputable: Zootopia is funny. Very funny. Also, Shakira brings down the film. (I don’t get why John Lasseter has decided that Disney films should have music videos in them …)

Read more

Reviewing Films: The Deadpool Dilemma

I’ve been reviewing films since the early 2000s and what I’ve learned over that time is simply put: there’s no accounting for taste. It was this thought that struck me as I left a screening of Deadpool this weekend. The film is positively reviewed (over 80% on Rotten Tomatoes) and I enjoyed it, but as I set about evaluating and scoring it, I engaged in a few text messages with fellow Arch City guy, Jason Moody. I told him I scored the film a C+ and he was perplexed. How could I enjoy a film with an average score?

Read more

Breaking Down the Race for Best Picture – Oscars 2016

Did you see all the nominees for best picture this year, and are you wondering which has the best chance to win? Well, probably not. For many people, seeing all the movies nominated for best picture can be difficult. Outside of large metropolitan areas, many movie theaters simply won’t carry every film and, even if they do, a lot of the films nominated this year had small-to-non-existent marketing campaigns, so they might’ve flown under the radar for you.

Well, have no fear, we’ve watched all of these films and we’ll give you the scoop on them, telling you why they’re nominated for best picture and what they have going against them so you can have verbal discourse with all your buddies about these movies, even if you haven’t seen them all. So, here we go!

The Big Short

The Hype: You know Adam McKay. He’s the guy behind a lot of your favorite comedies – Anchorman, The Other Guys, Step Brothers. He even worked on Ant-Man. So what’s he doing on the short list for Best Picture? This year, McKay deviated sharply from his typical oeuvre and decided to make a fictionalized documentary about the 2008 financial collapse. If that sounds snooze-worthy, then you aren’t alone in your thinking. Hell, Adam McKay probably thought the same thing. So he jazzed it up with a team of killer actors (Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carrell and many more) then threw in more spice by cutting the film up with music videos and guest appearances (the sensational and sizzling Margot Robbie and the acerbic Anthony Bourdain, among others). What you’re left with is one of the hippest pieces of edu-tainment ever produced and a surefire good time, despite the heady subject matter.

Read more