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So after the size of the 2010 piece, I really wondered about whether I’d have the fortitude to keep doing these. I think as long as I give myself time to work on them and release them only as I finish, it’ll stay doable. Guess we’ll find out together.

I should keep an index of these and add to it for each released year. Might as well start here:

I’ll also include this bit from the 2010 introduction as a sort of guideline for what I’m doing with this:

This series won’t just be pieces about what movies and shit I like now vs. then or about giving appraisals for stuff I missed at the time. It’ll also be about this blog itself with probably a ton of linking to specific things I bring up. A lot of the images I used back then are links and broken now. I was also a different dude in a lot of ways so if you click links and back-read, fair warning!

When it comes to naming a “Retrospective Best” in whatever category, the criteria I have in mind are this: something that I loved then and still love now. That’s basically it. I won’t be choosing stuff I only loved then and cooled on or stuff I love now but wasn’t into until many years later. I’ll try to stick to that as close as I can so that this doesn’t become just a rehash of shit I’ve already written.

Anyway. Read the rest of this entry »

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Enemy Mine is one of my all-time favorite films. In my opinion, it’s Wolfgang Petersen’s best film period. I think I first saw it when I was in high school but I probably saw bits and pieces long before that. It was a film that would come on TV every so often and I’d catch it and watch it from wherever it was to the end. I think I’ve seen the whole movie start to finish maybe twice before this latest time, which inspired me to write this piece about it.

When you think about a kid watching this closer to when it came out (1985, a year before I was born), it’s easy to see why it would have an impact. It’s a survival story set on a well-realized alien world. It feels a little like an extended Star Trek episode, like that one where they keep saying “Shaka, When the Walls Fell”. I’m sure this was even an inspiration for that episode, which is a classic. It also has a little Star Wars as well, with some whiz bang action and gadgets and lived-in approach to design. There are interesting creatures, danger, discovery, and interesting life lessons along the way.

As an adult, Enemy Mine feels rich with meaning way beyond its aesthetics. I think I’ve seen this film with a different lens every time I’ve sat down with it and it’s always had something to offer. That, to me, is the hallmark of a great film, especially one that trades in ideas.

So I think I’m going to talk about that. The different ways you can read this film and its relevance to problems and ideas we’re still struggling with. This might feel a little different than one of my usual reviews, but more in step with the kind of writing I’ve been doing lately. Stick around if that sounds good. Read the rest of this entry »

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Badasses.

Note: I am going to be playing with format and organization with this review. Formalizing some elements I usually do informally. Let me know if it works or doesn’t!

Spoiler-Free Intro

Birds of Prey is good. I’m not gonna write out the full title. I respect them for using it because it’s just the kind of bold nonsense that the possibly stagnating world of comic book movies needs. Or something. I’m still not going to write it out.

People probably (and rightly) expected another Suicide Squad here. The marketing was fun but also kind of loud and maybe a bit self-conscious, like it was trying very hard to be ZANY. We’ve seen that happen before. Instead, this feels more like the Deadpool of the DCEU if Wonder Woman was the Captain America/Thor and Suicide Squad was the Guardians of the Galaxy. Now I’m not saying anyone is ripping anyone off, not really, since the DC and Marvel comics characters have always been in dialogue anyway (see Shazam! and Captain Marvel’s comic book history for example). But it’s still worth noting that this movie winds up feeling somewhat comfortable because, at the end of the day, we’ve kind of been here before.

At the same time, Birds of Prey is still very much its own thing. It’s not quite as crazy as it maybe seemed like it could have been, but it’s still plenty crazy. The cast is completely game with some very fun and occasionally surprising performances. The soundtrack is intrusive but that’s also getting a bit expected with these movies since Guardians. The action swings wildly between adequate and excellent. The plot is a total afterthought and instead of being a flaw, that’s mostly a pretty wise choice for a movie like this. It also feels simultaneously like a movie that could only be made now and a throwback to dumb muscle-guy action movies form the 80s and 90s. If you like that kind of thing, as I do, then Birds of Prey will feel downright nostalgic in some ways.

The most important thing about the movie, though, is who it’s for. It’s not for the manboys of the internet who chase women off social media, make endless sophistic videos about diversity being bad, etc etc. This movie was made for young women and it doesn’t apologize for anything it explores, glorifies, or condemns. It’s kind of challenging as a result, staring down people who like to criticize media directed at women by different standards than that directed at men. Before you do a deep think about what this movie “says to women”, direct that energy at the stuff you like. It’s not always fun to realize that the tabletop wargame is crypto-fascist or the anime series is deeply misogynistic but I promise that realizing these things is only going to help us all in the long run. Birds of Prey might have problematic elements, but people don’t get to use that as an excuse to dismiss it or pile on because movies with no sympathetic male characters and centering women make them uncomfortable. The manboys need to cut that shit out.

Spoilers of Prey Read the rest of this entry »

Sidebar re: format:

So I thought about how to do my retrospective and after that series of articles about the X-Men MCU stuff, I decided I liked the “series” format. I’ve tried it before but never stuck with it for very long so we’ll see if I can get through ten parts of this. By the time I’m done, it’ll likely be summer and the ten year anniversary of this blog. I’m gonna try to keep it up at my own pace so I won’t promise a regular schedule. Just watch out for these every so often.

This series won’t just be pieces about what movies and shit I like now vs. then or about giving appraisals for stuff I missed at the time. It’ll also be about this blog itself with probably a ton of linking to specific things I bring up. A lot of the images I used back then are links and broken now. I was also a different dude in a lot of ways so if you click links and back-read, fair warning!

When it comes to naming a “Retrospective Best” in whatever category, the criteria I have in mind are this: something that I loved then and still love now. That’s basically it. I won’t be choosing stuff I only loved then and cooled on or stuff I love now but wasn’t into until many years later. I’ll try to stick to that as close as I can so that this doesn’t become a rehash of shit I’ve already written.

Also, there won’t be many pics with this series. I would have to include pictures for either almost nothing or almost everything and the latter seems too tedious.

Last thing: this is very thorough. Maybe too thorough. That also means it’s super long!

Anyway, that’s enough housekeeping. Thanks for continuing to read this. Read the rest of this entry »

In Part 1 I talked about what I thought was the best way for the MCU to introduce the X-Men and their universe.

In Part 2 I talked about about casting Wolverine.

Also, brief housekeeping note: when I was talking about Marvel’s willingness to double up on actors occasionally I also forgot about the best recent example, Mahershala Ali coming back as Blade after dying in Luke Cage!

Now we move on to more casting. This time we’ll get into Xavier and Magneto. Read the rest of this entry »

Last time, which was yesterday, I decribed the reasons I think Deadpool is the perfect vehicle to get the X-Verse into the MCU. This has two obvious scenarios: use the same technique that Deadpool and Deadpool 2 did (fold them in with no fanfare, just act as if they were always there) or using the Deadpool Spice, namely irreverence for the very idea of constructing barriers between universes, continuities, etc. The visual equivalent is that very meme of Deadpool riding Iron Man through the sky. Only it’s more likely to be Spider-Man or Cable (good way to keep Brolin in the MCU).

My conclusion was that I’d prefer them to just act like X-Men were always around, maybe slightly hidden… but I think they are more likely to hand-wave it in spectacular fashion using Deadpool. That’s of course leaving aside the most likely of all scenarios: that they will do an origin film or origin story in another MCU film that makes more an event out of the X-Men coming into the picture. One popular theory is that Wanda Maximoff will basically create mutants. There are some cool and plausible reasons to think this and if WandaVision shapes up like it sounds like it will, it’s probably the most likely way to go.

But is it the best? Nah, I don’t think so. The only real reason being that it’s a harder tightrope to walk. Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t or won’t try to do it, though, and it certainly doesn’t mean they won’t pull it off. You don’t really get far betting against the MCU. Read the rest of this entry »

Lots has changed this year. At the time I made my 2018 list I was a for real free lance writer at a movie website. A dream I’ve had since I was like fourteen. I was seeing a lot of movies in the back half of 2018 and the early months of 2019 and I was always writing about them or preparing to discuss them in the companion podcast to the site I worked at. There was also a successor podcast that ran in the spring but also petered out. For various reasons, those opportunities and projects ran their respective courses and I think I’m slowly coming out of a months-long aversion to writing any kind of film criticism. Hopefully this isn’t just an old habit refusing to die (this year anyway) and actually a sign that I’ll be more up for writing reviews and the like in the coming year. Everybody’s gonna need something to keep them sane in 2020 after all. I’ve realized that I’m not really happy unless I’m making things, which above all is why I’m back here writing these again.

In writing this, I also realized that many of the 2019 films I loved most were connected by two basic elements: kindness and sadness. If there’s a theme for the year that ties back into my own life somehow, it’s probably in my ongoing struggle with these things, and my growing distaste for influences that compel us to reject sadness as a valid emotion and kindness as a valid response, rather casting either or both as weakness. I’m trying to get over cynicism and ironic detachment because I’m seeing what they do to people, and culture, when everybody gets in on the “joke”. I spent too many years like that and while I try not to be, I’m pretty bitter about how much wasted time there is just “growing up”. I’ve still got time to put in and the trick is being more patient with other people on the same path. And more patient with myself, specifically how I still can’t really show people who I am without accidentally or defensively implying (or outright giving) criticism or judgment of somebody else. I know I’m failing to do that even in the writing I did for this list, so the struggle definitely continues. That’s next decade’s struggle: learning to be patient with people who refuse to grow up. With myself most of all.

Anyway.

This is above all a subjective list. There’s no right or wrong here. The only real disagreement that’s worth having is just in terms of how my list would differ from yours, and even that should just be about growing all parties’ appreciation of the films in question. I am always super interested in other peoples’ end of year lists and I don’t believe in judging people for them. I don’t “get mad” or “argue” with others’ lists, even when I have a diametrically opposed take on something. If you do, you should grow up and cut that shit out. See, that isn’t kind. Anyway, take it from me: don’t take the lists themselves, the fake hierarchy of it all, too seriously. I mean, pretty much all evaluative “this is good, this is bad, I liked this, I didn’t like that” opinions are subjective. Objectivity is something immature people use to try and feel superior to other people, particularly on the internet. It is not a real thing we can achieve because we aren’t robots. We’re walking, talking meat and everyone knows meat makes mistakes. I should know.

I used to think the goal was to try and get as close to objectivity as possible, but this was just a more nuanced, but also disguised, way of getting one over on people who maybe put less time or effort into forming their opinions about media. I have a bad habit of hitting walls with people and then turning my attention to reasons why they might not be as literate in a subject, which can come off condescending and dismissive even though I really don’t mean that. Still, it’s about how it feels and not my intentions so I’m trying to cut that shit out. If you catch me doing it, remind me I said all this. You’d be doing me a favor.

I still gravitate towards salient criticisms, stuff that people might miss when watching something but will immediately get when it’s pointed out to them. The stuff that doesn’t change depending on what you or I, subjective meat that we are, bring into the experience. But that’s kind of folly, isn’t it? I’ve come to understand that this is just one way to approach things and that I don’t have to stick to it all the time. For example, I’ve dropped the notion (which I had for ages and is still pretty popular) that we should separate art from artist. I started to more closely adhere to the idea that context matters almost as much as the thing itself. Often a lot more. That’s maybe why my Worst List spends more time on context, although I could be kidding myself in thinking it’s actually different from other years in that way. One thing that hasn’t changed is that even if my “style” of criticism or whatever is consistent across reviews (it isn’t), I don’t worry too much about it for these year end lists. Like I’ve said before, these lists are primarily about the fun of making lists, the way they can summarize the year or help you reflect on it. I mean, look at all that shit I wrote above. It’s almost a cleansing ritual, a way to say goodbye to the previous year and look ahead to the new one. It’s ultimately, for me, an act of hope and probably always has been.

Feels good to say. Now let’s get on with it. Read the rest of this entry »

Boy. I thought 2018 was a long year. I bet everybody in the whole world is laughing at me for that one. They are justified. Here’s the Worst Movies from last year anyway.

I feel like I saw just as many movies this year but spent a lot less time talking about them since Spring. I was involved in an attempt to get a film and culture site off the ground and also lent my time to two different film discussion podcasts that didn’t wind up panning out. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to having similar opportunities in the future. I really like podcasting and all but with any luck I won’t have to do my Worst/Best lists in a recording. I think I do better in dialogue than monologue, Go listen to last year’s lists yourself if you don’t believe me.

As always, my list is half a “most disappointing” list and half a “these movies are truly awful” list. I’m not including total shit like Rattlesnake but rather movies that, in their special badness, elicit an actual emotional reaction from me. Some will expect obvious stuff like Dark Phoenix (I actually kinda liked it as far as X-men movies go) or Rambo: Last Blood (which is really bad). I saw a lot of bad movies, some that could have been good like Gemini Man and others that were doomed from the start. Same as every other year, really. Some comfort in that. Like last year, I actually made a few cuts to this list which could have probably gone to 15. No sense changing the formula but I will definitely reconsider that in 2020 if I’m in the same situation. I did increase the number of video games I covered this year so I’m not all by the book, am I?

You’ll notice only one of these has a review from this blog. Others have links to reviews or episodes of podcasts where I discussed these movies. Some of them. I’ll try not to be too long-winded below as I tell you why what’s on this list is there, but expect mini-reviews basically. Read the rest of this entry »

New content even though I made no promises! Haha. But seriously, I played more games in 2019 and followed the game industry a bit closer. I got into industry criticism, spent way too much time trying to find deals for games I want in a kind of abstract “I should have that” way. I only regretted those kinds of purchases a few times.

I also got a Switch rather late in the year, end of November, as an early Xmas gift. I got it for Pokemon Sword mostly but I am excited to see what else is out there. I’m definitely regretting a few games I have on Steam or PS4 that would be way better to have on Switch.

A lot of crazy shit happened in gaming this year, but I don’t follow it so closely or care so much as to waste your time summarizing it now. Suffice to say the one thing I watched with interest was the implosion (an inevitable one, I think) of Anthem and therefore Bioware. I mean, the company still exists but their credibility does not. I have an unpublished draft of an article I tried to write ages ago called “Fuck Anthem” that was a reaction to Bioware’s degeneration as well as what Anthem itself represented as a project. I should probably have published it but at the time it felt vitriolic and a little mean in a way I have been trying to get away from. I didn’t know then what I learned later from places like Kotaku where some of the best journalism in gaming was done to lay out just what the fuck happened to Bioware in the last few years.

And that’s just one story, one company. The main one I’m interested in maybe but other shit went down, too: THQ Nordic had a Q&A on noted pedophilia and white supremacy hotspot 8chan. Sure, just like any social media platform guys. Bethesda reneged on every single “promise” they made about Fallout 76 and, instead of another live service comeback story, they’ve simply made the game worse and worse almost like they are trying to. It’s the biggest purchase regret I have in video games these last few years. Easily. But there’s also good news. It was an incredible year for Indies and also resurgent single-player games.

Anyway. I did play more games so this is going to be a Top 10 list this time. Finally! I probably also played so many, or tried a lot without getting too into them, that I’ve forgotten something. Maybe lots! Oops! Read the rest of this entry »

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Get used to homeboy’s face. You’re gonna be seeing it a lot.

The one that pulls me in after so much inactivity is Ad Astra, the no-bullshit best film I’ve seen in 2019. Why I think it’s so good has a lot to do with personal connections I made to its unexpectedly intimate, human-scaled story and themes. That’s the kind of thing that gets glossed over in big reviews, where describing the plot and “feel” of the movie, usually in terms of other movies, is more common. You’ve heard that Ad Astra has within it the DNA of a variety of science fiction films, particularly space-heavy ones. That’s totally true, but I think writer-director James Gray intended this to not be a shallow list of familiar things. Instead, I think it’s supposed to be a dialogue. Space movies are usually about certain things and they almost always further certain myths or narratives about human life and purpose. Ad Astra is in dialogue with all of that and even subverts much of it. That’s worth the analysis, so I hope you’re here for it.

For others, who are more interested in what type of movie this is, long before I get deep into the spoilers that will help me parse it, I have this to say: Ad Astra is basically a prequel to The Expanse in terms of its world-building and larger thematic concerns. If you like that show, you will probably like this although its a rather big caveat that this film’s story and therefore its cast of characters is much narrower and more focused than something like The Expanse, which is sociological science fiction. Ad Astra is probably best understood as psychological in distinction. It owes a lot to films like Apocalypse Now for its deeper structural influences, or even Event Horizon for some (superficial) plot similarities. It’s very much like a better Interstellar, addressing one of that film’s many themes with a lot more clarity and focus. It never feels at odds with itself the way that one did.

Without spoiling it, I hope, I feel like it’s important for viewers to know that they’re supposed to wonder how far into the supernatural Ad Astra plans to go, because that too is a bit of dialogue that James Gray is having with our expectations for this type of film. But it’s not cheeky about it. Gray is totally in good faith here. Just try and keep that in mind. This is a film best met where it is.

AD SPOILERSA

Read the rest of this entry »

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