Deadpool

Deadpool

I just saw Deadpool, and though I haven’t yet had the time to fully analyze it and let my opinions fully bake, I figured I’d write how I feel about the movie now despite my opinions still being in dough form.

Overall I enjoyed Deadpool more than I thought I would. I’ve admittedly never been a fan of the Deadpool character, as I tend to not usually be a fan of overly sarcastic, self-referential characters (I like my stories genuine, even if they’re ridiculous). But Deadpool worked for the most part.

Ryan Reynolds’ performance was particularly memorable, as he pretty much nailed the character’s comedic and fourth wall-breaking elements perfectly, and also managed to delve into some more serious territory when necessary.

The portrayals of fellow X-Men characters Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead were also enjoyable, as were the nods to the confusing continuities of the X-Men movies and this film’s relatively low budget when compared to them.

On the downside, Deadpool continues the recent trend of super hero movies of having a completely forgettable villain. The villain simply lacks presence, and in terms of super powers he doesn’t come off as a threat to Deadpool and company.

Though Deadpool starts things off with an interesting pace – beginning with a brutal action scene before going to the origin story and back again – it ultimately devolves into another predictable super hero origin story. By the end of things, it largely turns into one of the very movies it insistently mocks.

Overall, Deadpool was fun. It wasn’t great by any means, and I still can’t say I’m a fan of the Deadpool character as a whole, but the fact that I mostly enjoyed it despite my initial skepticisms is saying something.

Why Kylo Ren is Great

Kylo Ren

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been in theaters for over a month now, and though the film has received widespread acclaim and broken more records than I can count, it still has its share of detractors. Notably, these misguided individuals have issues with its villain, Kylo Ren. But most, if not all, of their issues with the character are based on the fact that Kylo Ren is actually a character, and not just a cool character design. Of course, these same people tend to claim that Darth Maul, a character who literally did nothing but look cool, is a good character. But let’s take a quick look at why Kylo Ren is not only one of the best characters in the series, but is infinitely cooler than both Darth Maul and fellow fan-favorite-despite-doing-nothing character, Boba Fett.

"These are what make characters interesting!"
“These are what make characters interesting!”

Kylo Ren’s critics tend to refer to the character with labels such as “whiny” and “emo,” presumably because the character possesses actual emotions and isn’t just a one-dimensional “silent badass” archetype. But a character having emotion doesn’t make them emo (after all, this is Star Wars we’re talking about, not Final Fantasy), it makes them interesting!

What makes Kylo Ren work is that he is conflicted. He is dedicated to the First Order and Supreme Leader Snoke, but he’s still human, and remembers what his life was like before he turned to the Dark Side. He wasn’t always a space-nazi sorcerer, and there’s part of him that struggles with his decision to join the Dark Side in the first place. In a bit of a reversal of Anakin Skywalker, he’s tempted by the Light Side of the Force, so he’s actually hesitant to perform some of his evil deeds.

How about Darth Maul? Well, he was bad because reasons. And Boba Fett was just a clone of another dude who was a bounty hunter, and decided to follow suit. But, y’know, they said like a total of ten sentences between them. So they’re so cool!

"Kylo Ren worships Darth Vader, but wishes to be "stronger" than Vader by not giving into the Light Side of the Force, like Vader ultimately did. That's interesting!"
“Kylo Ren worships Darth Vader, but wishes to be “stronger” than Vader by not giving into the Light Side of the Force, like Vader ultimately did. That’s interesting!”

One could argue that Kylo Ren is a proper realization of what George Lucas tried to pull off with Anakin Skywalker in the prequels (but again, with something of a role reversal with his conflicts). But seeing as The Force Awakens has infinitely better writing than the prequels, and Adam Driver is an infinitely better actor than Jake Lloyd and Hayden “the anti-actor” Christensen, you actually care about the character’s struggles. Granted, the fact that he continues to choose evil decisions makes him pretty detestable by the end of the movie, but it’s the right kind of disdain you feel for the character. You hate him for what he’s become, but are intrigued that there’s an actual character behind the actions. You may even pity him at times.

What about Boba Fett? Well, he has a jetpack and a cool helmet. So he’s so awesome!

Some people bemoan the “tantrums” that Kylo Ren throws every time things don’t go according to plan. But I feel these “tantrums” further magnify the contrasts Kylo Ren has to Darth Vader. Whereas Vader would often murder his own henchmen (while keeping his cool) whenever things didn’t go as planned, Kylo Ren will destroy everything in sight with his lightsaber while restraining himself from actually killing one of his flunkies.

I think this works brilliantly. By the time we were first introduced to Darth Vader in Star Wars (or A New Hope or whatever you want to call it), he had grown old and fully absorbed in the Dark Side. His demeanor was calm and collected, but he was ruthless. Kylo Ren, by contrast, is younger and more of a hot-head. But because he’s still struggling to commit himself to the Dark Side, he won’t go killing his own men willy-nilly.

What about Boba Fett and Darth Maul? Well, I honestly already summed up their entire characters in the brief sentences I’ve brought them up. There’s literally nothing to them but cool character designs.

Much like I feel Rey is the kind of hero that feels long-overdue for the series, I feel Kylo Ren serves as a great addition to the Star Wars villain front. And thankfully, the sequel trilogy isn’t going down the “villain of the week” road of the prequels, so we can see Kylo Ren develop more as a character in the next two installments. Will he eventually seek redemption? Or will he become a slave to the Dark Side? It certainly serves as an interesting prospect for the character, and it gives Kylo Ren a sense of depth that Boba Fett and Darth Maul could never dream of. No matter how cool they look.

So while Kylo Ren will be back to add more to his character, fans and writers will continue to retcon the unceremonious deaths that fittingly fell upon throwaway characters like Boba Fett and Darth Maul in continued attempts to pretend like there was ever anything to them.

Lol Boba Fett
“Oh yeah, Boba Fett’s a real badass alright…”

Movie Awards 2016: Best Comedy

Comedy has always played a big role in movie history. Though many comedies seem to get dumber and tackier as the years go by, there are still a number of gold ones to be found. As far as 2015 goes, the best comedy may seem like a rather unlikely one…

 

Winner: Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie

There are few animation studios out there who display the painstaking attention to detail of the medium quite like Aardman. This quasi-spinoff of Wallace & Gromit is one of the studio’s most enjoyable features, and also one of their funniest.

What’s remarkable about Shaun the Sheep Movie is how it accomplishes its storytelling and humor through action alone. Not a single word is spoken in the movie (apart from background songs), yet it manages to produce a number of laugh out loud moments. It’s a great reminder that comedy is more than simple punchlines, and that humor itself can carry a story, and even produce some more sentimental moments.

Forget that it wasn’t the biggest box office performer out there, Shaun the Sheep Movie is an undeniable good time, and 2015’s best comedy.

Movie Awards 2016: Best Sequel

As much as we may begrudge the idea of sequels, let’s be honest, we all love a good franchise. Sure, there are a lot of cash-in sequels and franchises that get way more attention than they deserve (I’m looking your way, Transformers). But let’s face it, without ongoing movie series, the world of cinema would feel incomplete.

Sometimes, a series may dwindle in quality after a while. Other times they are able to pick themselves back up. I think we all know which franchise saw the greatest return to form in 2015.

 

Winner: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens

Though I truly loved Mad Max: Fury Road, it didn’t have a terrible prequel trilogy to redeem itself from. Star Wars, on the other hand, had the notorious Episodes I, II and III in the back of audience’s minds. Thankfully, The Force Awakens delivered an adventure that’s as fun, engaging and magical as Star Wars has ever been.

No Hayden Christensen, no Gungans, no Midichlorians, no Gungans, no political subplots, no Gungans, no poorly-written romances, no Gungans, no pointless Podraces, no Gungans, you get the idea.

Whatever bad memories were created by the prequel trilogy should be melted away by the sheer delight of The Force Awakens. It really is everything we’ve always loved about Star Wars made new again.

Thanks to The Force Awakens, it is now cool to like Star Wars again. Now Disney is left with one hefty task: topping The Force Awakens with the sequels.

Runner-up: Mad Max: Fury Road

My Opinions on the Oscar Nominees

They suck.

Anger

Okay, I guess I should elaborate more than that.

I guess you could say my problem with this year’s Oscar nominees is basically the same as my problem with the Oscar nominees every year. It’s once again not an award ceremony celebrating the best films of the year, but an love-fest dedicated to the best of certain types of films (save for Mad Max, which has miraculously snagged 10 nominations despite the fact that it’s actually entertaining).

It baffles me that every year you read how the Oscar viewership keeps slipping, and that they receive backlash from fans, yet they willingly continue to do the same things they always do, believing that simply changing the host will restore people’s faith in them.

If the Academy Awards really wanted to win over people and viewership, they should nominate movies people actually care about! Shocking, I know. But it’s crazy enough that it just might work.

Now, I’m not saying that they can’t also nominate the “smaller” artsy movies they love so much, or that they should just nominate any movie that a lot of people saw (that would equally as disastrous). But surely they can find some kind of middle ground?

The obvious omission this year is that Inside Out isn’t nominated for Best Picture, despite being the most acclaimed film of the year, one of the biggest box office champs of 2015, and probably one of the most warmly-embraced movies of recent memory. Sure, it got the token Best Animated Feature nomination, and a Best Original Screenplay mention, but there really is no reason why it shouldn’t be in the running for Best Picture, other than the Academy’s blatant bias against animated films. For people who often gloat about their embracing of the little guy and diversity, and trying to make changes to the world, they certainly are closed-minded when it comes to the movies they nominate.

Given that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is also critically acclaimed, and one of the biggest movies of all time, I think it’s earned a Best Picture mention as well. I mean, if James Cameron’s garishly CG’d retelling of Pocahontas, and Neil Blomkamp’s abysmal and pretentious District 9 can get a mention, there’s no reason why a return to form like The Force Awakens shouldn’t get its name in the Best Picture running.

Then there’s the other categories. Where is Inside Out’s Best Original Score nomination it so rightfully deserves? Or The Peanuts Movie in Best Animated Feature? Why the Hell has there never been a director of an animated film nominated for Best Director?

I’m also guessing that, just like last year’s award show, we’ll be seeing countless slams towards super hero films by the presenters, as they pretend that the artsy movies they nominate don’t have their own long list of cliches and predictability. God forbid some people make movies that actually gain an audience.

JJ Abrams Totally Real Quote

I’m probably getting too worked up over this. A wise man once said “you can’t win against fools.” And if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can’t be more open-minded towards different mediums and genres of films, particularly ones that prove acclaimed and timeless, then they most certainly are foolish. They probably aren’t worth me writing all of this. I mean, if you can’t nominate the most acclaimed film of the year (Inside Out) or the biggest cultural phenomenon (Star Wars) for Best Picture, then they’re clearly in the wrong line of work.

If doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, then the Academy must be comprised of an insane asylum.

Movie Awards 2016: Best Animated Film

Animated films have become a bigger part of the cinematic world than they ever have been before. They regularly reap critical acclaim and have become some of the biggest earners at the box office. Animation is no longer a medium just for younger audiences, but the most universal storytelling medium around.

As such, naming the best animated film released in any given year is a big deal. But as far as 2015 goes, there was one obvious winner.

 

Winner: Inside Out

Inside Out

Inside Out is the deepest, most profound film that Pixar Animation Studios has ever made. The tale of the inner workings of the mind of a young girl, and the complexity of human emotion.

It’s a smart, imaginative film on every level. It’s a thing of beauty both visually and in its depth of storytelling, with a story that’s more heartfelt and (appropriately) emotional than anything Pixar has made before.

Inside Out is an animated film that takes full advantage of the medium to bring to life a concept that simply could never work in live-action. It’s also an important film that should be watched and studied by adults as well as children, as its messages are universal and profound. It rings true no matter your age.

It’s not only the best animated film of the year, it’s one of the best animated films ever.

Runner-up: The Peanuts Movie

Movie Awards 2016: Best Music

What would movies be without their scores? A lot less engaging, I can tell you that much! Movies and music go together like peanut butter and jelly. They were just made for each other. Imagine Indiana Jones running from that boulder without John Williams’ epic score in the background. Or Jaws without those menacing notes signaling the shark’s presence. It just wouldn’t feel right, would it?

Musical scores are imperative to movies. And great movies in particular should have a great score. As far as 2015 goes, one score stood out above the rest.

 

Winner: Inside Out (Michael Giacchino)

Inside Out

From the minute I first heard that melancholic opening melody to Inside Out, I knew I was in for something special. Pixar films have had great scores in the past, particularly Michael Giacchino’s previous collaborations with the studio (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up), but Inside Out’s music stands out above them all.

The score to Inside Out is, very appropriately, bittersweet. It captures a range of moods and emotions to do the accompanying material justice, and often sounds minimalistic, ethereal and more abstract than most Pixar scores, which suits the film’s nature perfectly.

Inside Out is a sad movie, but also a happy one, and Michael Giacchino’s score captures that essence in what has become one of my all-time favorite film scores. It’s joyous and heartbreaking just to listen to. I’m tearing up just thinking about it!

Runner-up: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams)

Movie Awards 2016: Best Visuals

Visual effects are more prominent than ever in movies. Whether it’s the ever-expanding usage of CG, or the practical effects of old, visual effects play a major role in today’s movie scene. Of all the movies released in 2015, one had to stand out above the rest in terms of visual effects. It should be a no-brainer which movie that is.

 

Winner: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars

After the prequel trilogy soured the Star Wars franchise with horrible storytelling and an over reliance on CG effects to the point that they looked lifeless and garish, The Force Awakens was a real return to form. Both in that it was a great movie, and that it made the Star Wars universe feel believable again by utilizing practical effects along with CG (which was used as needed, instead of being excessive).

With great costumes, makeup, puppetry, animatronics, and computer generated imagery, The Force Awakens is the best looking Star Wars film so far. And one that uses its visual effects to help bring to life its imaginative universe in the best possible way. It’s as much fun just to look at as it is to watch.

Runner-up: Jurassic World

Movie Awards 2016: Best Action Movie

What would a movie year be without a few action movies? Well, it would probably be pretty unsuccessful, financially speaking…

Anyway, 2015 gave us some great action flicks, but one stands out above the rest.

 

Winner: Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max

This is one insane movie. Though it manages to add some interest and depth to the characters, and even has a good story, it’s still the ludicrous, high-octane set pieces that steal the show.

After a short setup of the plot, the characters all head out to the titular Fury Road while driving an array of deadly vehicles. Then it keeps escalating into bigger and crazier things. Rarely does Mad Max: Fury Road let up. It is wise enough to hit the breaks a couple of times, but it quickly gets back to high speed chases and some gruesome action.

On paper, it may just sound like Mad Max got a Fast & Furious overhaul, but this is really a movie that needs to be seen to fully believe it. Some of the imagery and characters are so odd and/or insane and combined with such extravagant action that the experience can feel close to surreal at times.

Movie Awards 2016: Most Underrated Movie

It’s award season! Now’s the time in 2016 where we reflect on the best stuff from 2015, and give awards to them. Everyone does it, whether it’s official committees, critics, or just people with blogs. Truth be told, I was just going to skip ahead and name my top five films of 2015, but I decided to dish out a small handful of other awards first. Don’t expect too many of these, but I figured there were some movies I just had to acknowledge for their individual attributes. Let’s start things off with a movie that didn’t get nearly as much credit as it deserved.

 

Winner: Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland

I will readily admit that Tomorrowland has its flaws. Primarily, it’s tone a bit inconsistent, as the film works best when it’s just being a whimsical sci-fi adventure. When it tries to be an action flick, it’s less successful (which is kind of surprising, considering this is from the same director as The Incredibles). There’s one particular action scene that takes place inside a hobby shop that I’m still not sure if intensity or comedy were the intended response audiences were supposed to feel.

With that said, did Tomorrowland really deserve all the flak it received? In terms of critical response, it was a mixed bag, receiving almost equal parts praise and punishment. In terms of box office, it was a total bomb, which of course made it the butt of many a joke, as though box office returns dictate the quality of a movie.

When all is said and done though, Tomorowland told a good and, dare I say, unique story with a good dose of imagination, made all the more standout by the film’s themes of optimism and exceptionalism, not to mention its utter disdain for the cynicism of today’s popular culture. In this day and age, when the millennial generation seems to be on a witch hunt against all things fun, a movie like this feels all the more special. Plus, it was a girl power movie without ever forcing it. It’s great to see a movie that can pull something like that off naturally.

But, y’know, it didn’t make any money. So I guess it must’ve sucked. Right?

Yes, Tomorrowland had its flaws, and of the five feature films directed by Brad Bird, it’s the most inconsistent of the lot. But it deserved so much better than what it got.