Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Sunny days for DC?

 Marvel is responsible for changing the blockbuster, franchise film-making in both good and bad ways. I've written hundreds and hundreds of words on this subject by now that you are probably drained by reading them. It just so happens that one company that tried harder than hell to emulate the Marvel formula was DC studios and Warner Brothers. They saw what could happen with a shared universe and they wanted in. With arguably, or maybe not so arguably, smaller results. It's a new decade now though. It seems DC is turning a new leaf. It doesn't seem like they are interested in shared universes or grand plans right now, and perhaps that will lead them to some success.

I mean, they already have. "Joker" may not have been my cup of tea, but I can't deny that it found its audience, it made some money, it won awards, all of that is great and I hope its fans are basking in that glory. About a week ago or so, DC announced its future for DC movies, and the future looks bright. I am a huge Batman fan, but "The Batman" really appeals to me in a big way. I hope its just as amazing as it looks. Robert Pattinson looks rad, and I knew, I knew he would be good. People were quick to jump on the hate train when he was cast, but I was optimistic. I've seen what he can do when he isn't playing a vampire. He truly is a talented actor. Let it be known that after "Twilight," he had no interest in going back to blockbuster filmmaking. So I hope its apparent that something special drew him to Batman, and I hope people give him a chance to see what that is. Oh, and Colin Farrell as Penguin? Yeah, I've been starring at the image for days now. I still don't quite believe its him.

While I loved the first "Wonder Woman" quite a bit. I have some reservations for its sequel "Wonder Woman 1984." I enjoyed the first trailer. I love the chemistry between Gal Gadot and Chris Pine, so I am happy they are both returning. It just doesn't make much sense that Pine is back. Kristen Wiig as a villain gives me pause. I still don't see it. Plus Cheetah just looks weird in general. I hope its good though, I will give the benefit of the doubt until I see the movie.

The road James Gunn took in order to make a DC movie has been crazy and controversial to say the least. But if anybody is a perfect fit for Suicide Squad, its Gunn. We have not received a full trailer for "The Suicide Squad" yet, but the featurette we got that introduces the cast was nice. Of course, as with most of these types of videos, its just the cast falling over themselves with praise. But the characters chosen for this tale have me curious as hell. It's a great cast too. I hope that Gunn isn't in "Guardians of the Galaxy" mode though. I hope "The Suicide Squad" has a personality of its own and Gunn continues to evolve as an artist. Both "The Suicide Squad" and "Wonder Woman 1984" are being hailed as soft reboots, so the DCEU is still very real and intact, just may be taking on a different shape and something things may be retconned.

I guess I should not say that decisions of the future "may" retcon the DCEU, and I think they full blown are. Zack Snyder had to leave in the middle of making "Justice League" in 2017 due to a family emergency and Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film, completely changing the entire DNA of the movie. Seemingly, I should add. Many fans have wanted to see the Snyder Cut of Justice League for years, nobody actually thought we'd see it. But thanks to WB and HBOMax, we are. Miracles do come true sometimes, don't they? It's clear from the first trailer that this is going to be a completely different experiences from last time. We have four hours of Zack Snyder Justice League coming next year and you won't have to set foot in a movie theater to see it.

So how about it? Are you guys excited for these upcoming DC movies? Are you excited for the "Flash" sequel that will feature Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton as Batman? Are you looking forward to the sequel to "Shazam?" Or The Rock Black Adam movie? DC is getting exciting, and who knows. Maybe DC will rule the box office this decade. Time will only tell.

If you like video games, check out these trailers for upcoming games.

RIP Chadwick Boseman


It feels pretty unbelievable and I can't believe I'm typing this, but Chadwick Boseman passed away over the weekend. He was only 43, but he has already had an amazing career. After showing up in some television series' over the years, he starred in such things as "42" and "Get On Up." In those two movies, he played icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown respectively. It seemed like Boseman was making a career off of playing black icons. Robinson. Brown. Black Panther. Thurgood Marshall. Thoth. He had a knack for bring important black figures to life, he had success with it. 

This feels like a Heath Ledger moment again, 43-years-old is really not that old. Not at all. He was beginning to rise in the A-List and now we are never going to know what his career would have looked like. He was building quite the resume and it would have been nice to see where his career would have lead him. He was clearly up to the task. He was diagnosed with colon cancer sometime in 2016, so the idea that he made a handful of movies while he was fighting cancer only speaks to the strength and courage he had as a performer. I can't believe it, he was a god among men.

I was lucky enough to hear him speak personally. His film "Marshall" opened the Chicago International Film Festival in 2017, the first film festival I ever attended. I didn't get to meet him. I wanted to shake his hand after the Q & A, but he, Josh Gad and Sterling K. Brown moved pretty fast out of an auditorium that was already packed. But it's okay, having the pleasure to hear him speak personally was the coolest experience in the whole festival.

Thanks for the memories, Chadwick. You were great and you will be missed.

Monday, August 10, 2020

What I hope changes about the Movie Industry Post-COVID

Once COVID-19 is in our rearview mirror, we will notice that the world around us has changed.

Now, spare me the tin foil hat, I'm talking about the many conspiracy theories plaguing the internet. I can't begin to explain how or what those changes will entail. But a new world is on the horizon. I see people complain about the world as it is today, saying that there is nothing normal about anything happening right now. Good observation. The fact of the matter is, our government blew it. There's no arguing that point and I am not trying to turn this into a political screed, but its true. We blew it. We possibly could have had opened businesses on the rise by now, but it didn't happen for us. So we are going to be waiting a little bit longer to see how the world changes after all of this.

We are starting to see some changes, happening right under our noses and nobody noticed. Once COVID-19 really took off, the country shut down. That includes movie theaters. No big releases were coming to any of our screens any time soon. Major studios started pulling films off the release schedule with a new date to be released at a later time. In the mean time, streaming services have stepped up to release brand new content that you wouldn't think of, drive-in theaters are having a revival, and VOD has been getting its hands on some cool new content, stuff that probably would maybe play for a week or two at your local theater and those have been the big winners during this global pandemic.

Seems almost the same? Not quite. You see, the 2010's ended as the decade of the fan. The studios all came together and allowed us to indulge in nostalgia. The movie business didn't push creative ideas with A-List Actors. Each studio found its brand and they pushed that brand. These "tentpole" movies were only meant to keep the studios afloat, not become the business themselves. If you look at each year in the 2010's, the top ten highest grossing films, each year features a bunch of superhero movies, a bunch of stuff based off books, a bunch of revivals...there is barely a new, creative idea anywhere. Instead of feeling a sense of pride with this, it turned its fans into a bunch of rabid animal keyboard warriors, ready to trounce on anybody who would talk smack about their beloved franchise.

This is something that's been bothering me for awhile, and I've written about this issue a couple of times before on this blog. But when each year looks the exact same, going to the movies feels a bit bland. And trust me, I'm not the only one who thinks so. Look what happened to Disney and "Star Wars." We were supposed to get a new movie a year for the unforeseeable future, now Disney is retooling their plans for that brand. When the credits rolled for "Avengers: Endgame," I knew more Marvel movies would be coming. But at the same time, do we really need this franchise to continue? "Avengers: Endgame" felt like such a satisfying conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it wasn't the conclusion. While I trust and respect Kevin Feige without hesitation, most people are starting to get bored with the Marvel model. Plus, if Feige is planning to tell another huge story across 23 movies, can I just pay 1/23rd a ticket price?

Part of any great story is the ending, and we are living in a movie culture that doesn't end. Do we need revivals of "Saved By The Bell" and "Full House?" Do we need a TRILOGY of films based on a book-within-a-book from Harry Potter that never played a significant role in the greater story? Does "Game of Thrones" really need three fucking spin-offs? If we live in a pop culture where nothing ends, we run the risk of that pop culture getting stale, then all of those tentpoles we talked about fall down.

I've enjoyed several movies during this quarantine. Just this passed month, there have been some fun horror films like "Relic" and "Amulet." Are they necessarily great? No, but they've certainly scratched a particular itch with fashion. I found "An American Pickle" to not be the typical Seth Rogen vehicle, but still worth seeing and still very funny. Beyonce's "Black Is King" is psychedelic and often mesmerizing. I think Dave Bautista is on his way to be a formidable force in Hollywood, the next big movie star after seeing "My Spy." Had COVID not happened, I am not sure how well most of these movies would have fared at the box office, but they are keeping people busy right now during the pandemic and they are ruling the box office right now.

Here's what I hope changes after this pandemic is over. I hope we go back to genuine storytelling in the movies. I hope we get flashes of the big, nostalgic stuff in smaller doses. I hope we allow our franchises to end properly and give them time to settle before we milk the cow for all that it's worth. I want our pop culture to live and breath, I don't want it to be treated like its a freaking puppy mill. I want filmmakers to get creative, and I want the studios to back those ideas up with the money and the swagger and the connections that they bring along. Let's start to take chances of all kinds going forward, because clearly its working. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Conversation Starters

I hope you all enjoyed reading my Top 1000 Favorite Films list. Boy, it was a fun year and a half putting that together. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, Head on over to my Mubi profile to read it. You can also find links to the list on my social media. This post may not make much sense if you haven't had a chance to read the list yet.

I have already received some feedback on the list and a common question that has come up is why certain films are missing. Fair question, even with 1000 spots there are a slew of classics out there and I can't fill an entire list up with them without the list itself becoming something insane to read. I do like hearing what other people like and what they'd put on the list, that's all just the nature of being of film fan. All that talk got me thinking though, and I want to turn the floor over to you guys.

I have decided to create "Conversation Starters." If you choose, you can pick a title off the 1000 Favorites list and send it to me. I will then review the movie for you, and discuss and defend why I put it on the list in the first place. This will be your chance to find out more about a title you are curious about or if you are just wondering how my funny brain works. Have at it. This is your time to delve into the list, and possibly find new recommendations.

I am throwing the whole list up for grabs. But keep in mind that most of the 21st Century stuff I have already written reviews for. So I hope you take the time to really dig deep into the list for suggestions.

Simply email me (bloggershawn@gmail.com) which movie you'd like me to discuss. I will get my thoughts written out as fast as possible. I hope we can have some fun with this.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Review: "Host" is fun COVID anxiety for the whole family!

Host Review
We are not quite through with this COVID stuff. That's unfortunate. It's tough having all these plans for a year, then watching them go down the drain. it's equally tough when not everyone around you is taking it seriously, because that only means this takes longer to get through. It seems no matter where you fall politically, this event is giving us all lots of anixety.

What I've found interesting throughout this whole ordeal is how horror movies and stuff like "Contagion" and "Outbreak" have been popular rentals. I guess that's one way to cope with this lockdown, but its not exactly something I'd do for myself. At least, that's what I told myself at the beginning of this whole mess. But I broke my one rule tonight. I read about this creepy little caper on Shudder. If you are unaware of Shudder and you are a horror fan, you better jump on the train. It's a streaming service that specializes in horror, mystery and suspense. It may be a niche streaming service, but there's no denying how well it caters to people who want it. Just like many streaming services, they've been offering their own content and one of the new movies released this week was "Host." A movie that is very timely for quarantine.

The movie takes place during the quarantine. Haley (Haley Bishop), Jemma (Jemma Moore), Emma (Emma Louise Webb), Caroline (Caroline Ward) and Alan (Alan Ermys) get together on a Zoom call. Not just to see each other again during the quarantine, but because Haley has hired someone who can communicate with the dead, and she's agreed to attempt to help the group contact the dead via Zoom. What could possibly go wrong, right?

The answer is plenty. Because one member of the group decides to goof off during the Zoom meeting. When they decide to try and contact a person who never existed, it opens the door for any spirit to penetrate their world. And when the group realizes how in over their heads they are, its too late and the audience is left with plenty of scares to deal with. This probably sounds similar to "Unfriended" which came out a few years ago. But the difference is simple; "Unfriended" was pure shit, "Host" is not. "Host" is effective. It features some striking scares. It's short, sweet and to-the-point as its only an hour long. But don't worry about the run time, there is enough terror in this one hour that is usually missing from most tedium scary movies each year. Because the movie is short, character development is etched in at a striking speed, but these actors get you to care about the characters fast. 

Just in case you need anymore anxiety for yourself, you can turn this one, dim the lights and enjoy the nightmares.


Friday, July 31, 2020

My Top 1000 Favorite Films

It's finally time everyone...

Published over at Mubi...

Have fun moving through the list. How many have YOU seen?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

What to expect from my Top 1000 Favorite Films List

On January 21st 2019, I posted the above image to my social media platforms.

Later on in 2019, I turned 30. I felt as if the 2010's was a decade which felt like I was leaving the young man I felt I had been for awhile behind and stepping into the shoes of someone a bit more mature. I was already a father by then, and another child would be entering my family in 2020. I remember turning 30 seemed like such a milestone age, and I was trying to figure out who I really was as a film fan, and how I could do something special for my blog.

Knowing how passionate I am about film, the question I get the most is "Shawn, what's your favorite movie?" Seems like a fair, simple question, right? Honestly, its the toughest question people ask me about film. Simply put, I am not a guy who just watches whatever new gets released each weekend and that's it. Sure, I love the new and that's certainly part of the cinematic diet, but I am constantly strengthening my film knowledge and language with a wide-range of vintage film each year. I usually see somewhere in the ballpark of 150-170 new releases every year, I have no idea what that number would be if I included films from other years I am seeing for the first time. You may also notice that when I discuss great film, I hate limiting myself. At the end of each year on this blog, its common to see a top ten. But you also get a Runner Up's list and sometimes another list of movies I didn't have room on either of those lists or I'll make a specialty list or I'll just throw the traditions out the window and post a top 20 or top 25. If my shelves at home have room for all the movies I love, why can't the lists I make.

I'm 31 years old now, and I want to take inventory on what I've seen so far. I also want to stop beating around the bush or talking around what my favorite films are. Sure, I maybe have come up with a "Favorite Films" list a time or two on this very blog. I always immediately regretted it though. I barely put any thought into those lists and they changed in my mind instantly. The world would make you think that the cinema is a small, but its anything but. The world of film is a vast ocean, so that can make it difficult to come up with a list of favorite films that's worth a darn. How does one qualify? How do you rank such a list? My greatest fear when making a Favorite Films OF ALL TIME list is that I may accidentally leave off something major. Even though its all opinion and those are different for everyone, I may personally feel bad for leaving it off.

All of these ideas were churning in my head on that day back in January of 2019. In an effort to confront the film fan I am after 30 years. In an effort to really deliver an effective, worth-while Favorite Films of All Time List that really explores the history and classics each era and genre while including as many "classic" films as I possibly could, I realized I had to go big or go home.

So a week from today, you'll be getting my Top 1000 Favorite Films of All Time list. The most ambitious thing I have ever put together. Anywhere. Ever.

Here's a couple things to think about before you read the list next week.

1. The List will be in Chronological Order. I have a dirty little secret for you. I hate ranking movies for lists. Sure, its been a tradition for film critics for ages and while I always took it seriously on my own website, I can't honestly say I really liked it. When I love a movie, I love it. That's it. I don't try to figure out where something ranks in the greater pantheons of other movies or even the genre. I just love something. I become addicted to the films I love, no matter the subject matter. With that said, taking 1000 movies and trying to rank them in any fashion seemed next to impossible. How would YOU personally rank a silent era film to a 80's slapstick comedy to a Korean horror film to a 21st Century superhero flick? Yeah, suddenly it sounds like quite the choir huh? Looking at the list chronologically, you'll understand that I have a deep passion for the films themselves, instead of trying to work through what is better. Plus, I think you'll enjoy looking through the great history of film and see just how each decade of film differed from the last.

2. As always, this is just me. I hope you read the list for fun. I hope you use it as a point of reference. I hope its a piece of amusement for you. As always, I am not trying to declare in any serious manner what THE BEST films of all time are. Simply put, despite seeing many films. I HAVE NOT seen every movie made so far. I never, ever will if I am being blunt with you. Get this though, you never will either. So how can one REALLY declare a best of all time if they haven't seen every film known to man? This is just me putting my first 31 years of film fandom into context and perspective. If you don't spot a movie on the list that you love dearly, don't fret. It's possible I haven't seen it. It's possible I like it too, I just didn't feel it belonged in front of 1000 other great movies. Or I may NOT like it. That's okay too. We don't have to see eye to eye. Something I've noticed too about movies is that they are time bombs. I know from experience that I may have just liked a movie when I initially saw it, but maybe loved it a few years later. Maybe I hated something I saw the first time, but ended up loving it the next time, and vice versa. That's not living a lie. Art hits us in different ways. Art is constantly changing. There are plenty of movies that will show up on the list next week that were unpopular upon release, but word-of-mouth over the years turned them into classics. How art hits people and when is something that is nearly incomprehensible, and its one of the joys of movies.

When a person makes a list of favorite films or favorite albums or favorite TV shows or favorite books or even favorite restaurants...it truly is a political act. You are showing the world what art holds more value to you. I think that's why people are so fast to get worked up on the internet when critics, big and small, publish lists like these. There is always this feeling that the writers we read should feel the exact same way about the movies we love. But that's not true, because art hits everyone a different way. I hope we can all keep that in mind when you read my list next week.

Also understand that my top 1000 is a giant list of recommendations, and with 1000 titles, you certainly have room to roam. Are you curious about movies that won several awards and constantly show up on AFI and BFI lists? Good! I have recommendations for you. Are you curious about genres that always go ignored during awards season? Good! I have recommendations for you. Interesting in something more experimental and avant-garde? Good! I have recommendations for you. Do you want to get your feet wet in the wide world of international cinema? Good! I have recommendations for you! Or if you don't care at all about any of that crap and just want to stock up on recommendations from the last 10-15 years, no problem in that department either.

Think of it this way. If I was teaching a class on cinema, this list would be your syllabus. If I had my own movie channel on TV, the titles on the list next week would be the films I would first try to get licencing rights to. If you were to ask me what the 1000 movies I think you should see before you die are, tune in next week.

This list took me over a year to put together because it was scrutinized upon, around the clock. There were titles on it that I originally had but took off. There were movies I watched in preparation for the list that never got on the list. There was plenty of re-watching of old favorites and plenty of tracking things I haven't seen that I felt might make the list if possible. It was a lot of fun work, but also a tremendous task. After moving and shuffling and shifting titles around, I finally reached a place where I told myself. "Shawn, this is the right version. Publish this list." So, I am and I hope you join me next week to find out what made the list. I'd love to hear how many you've seen.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Keanu.

Couldn't have said it better myself.