Stranger Things Season 3 Unfortunately Doesn’t Break Any New Ground For the Beloved Netflix Show

Minor Spoilers Ahead 

I have a confession to make: I used to love Stranger Things. Yes, I know it’s mainstream as hell and nothing extensively bright, but when that first season came out, I was head over heels for the show. Additionally, when I heard that the show was going to have a new story with new characters for each season (kind of like an anthology program) I was beyond excited. But then, season 2 came out, and it turned out that they were just going to continue the story off of season 1—which didn’t disappoint me at the time because I was glad to see the continuation of the story involving these likable characters. And, ultimately, I ended up enjoying season 2, but not nearly as much as season 1. At that point, the hype for the show kind of died down for me so I had no intention of watching season 3 immediately, hence why this review is coming out so late. 

I think I might officially be done with Stranger Things—for good now. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I dug season 3 in the slightest. This show has officially lost complete steam to me. That’s not to say though that this season was bad, there are some admirable properties to this third telling of Hawkins, Indiana. The directing manages to still be very sharp, similar to the show’s previous seasons. The cinematography is clean and visually colorful at times. The actors/actresses all, for the most part, do fantastic jobs and give memorable performances. In general, the show’s first half does start off decently and does reach a solid climax in Chapter 4. A lot of adolescent themes brought into the mix that involves young love and distancing friendships were fruitful and investing. And, of course, the Steve and Dustin interchanges were enjoyable to watch. 

In terms of my nitpicky technical issues with this season, I thought the editing felt rushed in a handful of the earlier episodes; lots of the cuts and techniques reminded me of Twisted Pictures’ Saw movies. This show, more importantly, has reached a level of goofiness in its storyline that feels like a desperate attempt to keep the show going. The plot reaches areas in this season that are dumbfoundedly ludicrous and childish. Example: I’d take spooky underground caves and monster dogs (which were in Season 2) over Russian bases that live secretly underneath a public mall. The explanations that come with every far-fetched asset of this season are juvenile and weak, unlike the previous seasons that amusingly explained certain sci-fi elements. And every main threat is always a giant Demogorgon-like beast, except, every season the threat gets bigger and bigger. Remember what they say: that doesn’t necessarily mean better! 

The rhythm of the show’s story is also beginning to feel way too familiar. All these seasons end up being about some government that’s doing sketchy stuff in secret lairs that open a portal that releases a bunch of monsters. And as always, Will gets visions, Eleven has to save everybody on numerous occasions, and someone or a couple main characters at the end have to make a sacrifice. It’s so blatantly predictable at this point. 

Losing the ability to believe, loses interest, loses surprises, and everything just becomes foreseeable. I’m, furthermore, really tired of people in this show being saved at the very last second; an occasion that happens multiple times in nearly EVERY episode! There’s a fine line between how much disbelief and convention you can insert into even a science-fiction property before it becomes tiresome and flat-out exhausting. 

Some of the dialogue here is distasteful; its attempts at comedy also seem to have gotten much cringier. The pop-culture references are getting so worn-out and rowdy. We can only take so many 80s movie references, Duffer Brothers. The science-fiction, thriller elements seem to be continuously dying down as the forefront—which is a damn SHAME. Also, can somebody tell me why nearly every main character in season 3 has suddenly become a major asshole? Like, a lot of beloved characters are now attaining cocky-leveled areas of disbelief and illogicalness—especially Hopper who’s now just a bumbling buffoon in this season than an intelligent, resourceful cop. However, I can say that they tried to at least give Billy in like…two scenes…character development—which was admittedly cheesy character development but at least mildly compelling character development. 

And please: don’t get me started on the finale to this season. It’s UNBEARABLY embarrassing. 

A lot of people have been preaching that season 3 is a significant improvement over season 2 and, frankly, I don’t see it. The only improvement I can think of is that everybody starts off with new goals and intentions because they’re either all becoming teenagers or leaving high school—which could have been explored much more interestingly. But other than that, there’s nothing I can think of that this season does better than season 2 and especially season 1. The biggest issue with season 3 is that it comes off as another repeat of the first season with an even more rushed storyline than Season 2—a 9-episode runtime that at least developed its characters intensely (especially Eleven!). Season 3 is mildly entertaining and brain-numbing most of the time, but ultimately unnecessary and, MY GOLLY, forgettable. 

I really liked Robin, though. Go Uma Thurman’s offspring! 

Stranger Things Season 3 Math:

Chapter One = C+

Chapter Two = C+

Chapter Three = C+

Chapter Four = B- 

Chapter Five = C+ 

Chapter Six = C+ 

Chapter Seven = C+ 

Chapter Eight = D+

Final Verdict: C+ 

I haven’t actually written about Stranger Things before, so in case you were wondering, here are my grades for the previous two seasons:

Season 1 = A-

Season 2 = B

Yeah, season 1 still rocks. Steve’s redemption shall never be forgotten. FORGET BARB THOUGH! 

“Stranger Things” Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix.

 

Rewatching One of My All-Time Favorite TV Shows: Death Note (2006-2007)

2nd Viewing 

Disclaimer: I don’t watch a lot of anime. In fact, Death Note is the only anime TV show that I’ve seen in its entirety and I do absolutely adore Studio Ghibli movies. Maybe I’m closed-minded, who knows? At least these brilliant Japanese properties work for me! 

Why This Show is Utter Genius: 

So, if you don’t know already, Death Note is a 2006-2007 animated television show based on Tsugumi Ohba’s manga that goes by the same title. Its story centers around this high school student named Light Yagami who finds this notebook that can essentially murder people if you write their names in it. Light decides that this could be an opportunity for him to exterminate all criminals off of the face of the planet in order to make a new, more harmonious world. However, the task doesn’t become as easy as he had predicted it to be when a detective named L begins to investigate the crimes that he is committing. Ultimately, L begins slightly suspecting Light who happens to be the son of the chief of the NPA, and eventually, it causes Light to begin working with L and the police who are ironically trying to catch this unknown mass murderer (who is Light). 

Death Note in hindsight is this insight into the two brainiest, similar in tactic but opposite in ideologies men (Light and L) going head to head in an egotistical game of cat and mouse. Every episode is a dexterous puzzle of twists and turns that genuinely are almost impossible to predict given the incredible, flat-out knack writing and plot. Nobody in this show ever feels safe, so it’s intensely gripping, and that’s probably one of the main reasons why it’s so hard to abandon the show. It’s a page-turner that’s almost impossible to turn off; it, no joke, almost caused me to pull an “all-nighter” when I first began watching it again. Witnessing these two enemies work so close together is very uncommon to the typical sort of rivalry tale. The best example I can give you is if you’ve seen the show Dexter, which is similar in the sense that that show is about a serial killing villain that also happens to only kill bad people, yet he works with the police department (like Light does). Except, Death Note is a little more off-guard and intelligent when it comes to showing you how the main villain gets out of certain situations and how he is able to not get caught despite him working so closely to the investigation team. Plus, Death Note has a great arch-nemesis for the villain that is legitimately equal in brainpower which makes the competition in this series feel epically real. 

Witnessing Light start off as this comprehensible anti-villain and slowly progress into this cancerous, manipulative demon is vastly intuitive. Even if you believe in the old “the world would be a better place without murderers” ideals, you’ll most likely still end up detesting Light as he grows closer and closer to pure wickedness. One of the most worthwhile elements of the show is this philosophical battle that its themes cause you to have. The series makes it very difficult to choose sides, and that’s why it’s such a mental conflict to personally deal with—which makes for a much more special experience. Also, L, a socially awkward genius who despite being one of the most brainy of the human race, still faces the complications and discomforts of having real-life relationships. There’s this underlying theme that occurs within this character that has to do with the drawbacks of wanting justice and reason over friendships as he begins to grow fonder of Light. I also idolize how both L and Light seem to feel neutral and admirable of one another. Even though they are enemies, they understand each other because there are not a lot of aspiring and intellectual people out there like them. 

So yeah, most of Death Note is ultimately this unpredictable spree of witty storytelling that’s almost hand-crafted to sheer perfection just to make you feel like a complete idiot. 

Some Flaws:

I’m not a fan when it comes to some of the characterizations of the female individuals in Death Note. A lot of the times they are really hokey and submissive, and I wish more women characters in Death Note felt more genuine and sharp like Naomi Misora—who was a fantastic minor character in the show. I mean, not all female characters (as well as male characters) have to be smart, but they should at least feel plausible. Specifically, I had issues with Misa Amane who is far and beyond not only the worst character in the show but the worst assert of this entire series. Her character is obnoxious, overemphasized, and unnecessarily humiliating. She has no dignity for herself and it’s quite bothersome. 

And yes, after episode 25, the show does begin to noticeably die down in quality. In fact, the only thing keeping this show away from being a tour de force is its somewhat disappointing final third. As much as I’d love to give this show an “A,” the unavoidable acknowledgment of its unfortunate decline clearly brings the shows rating down. Death Note, conclusively, can be described as an elongated masterpiece wrapped up with an undetachable decent finale. There are just way too many new characters that are inserted into the third part of Death Note’s progression as well as way to many critical moments that feel rushed. We had 25 episodes to develop our two main characters Light and L, but afterwards, the show begins to introduce so many major characters that have never been mentioned previously in the show, and it‘s an obtuse objective. Furthermore, there are specifically two characters in this chunk of the show that feel like almost exact rip-offs of L and Light—an unnecessary and pointless jab to demean two characters that were so special because of their distinct traits. But honestly, despite my concerns about the last third of Death Note, I still really liked it, it just wasn’t anywhere near the quality of the first two thirds. 

Conclusion:

Death Note is a must-watch, and I don’t say that about a lot of TV shows because a lot of series can take a ton of time to binge and sometimes not be collectively that great. Death Note, on the other hand, is quite short for an anime program considering its only one season and around 24 minutes per episode. It’s a quick watch, and it has the mountain-reaching quality that is worth your time. If you’re like me, who was someone who started off being repelled by anime, or simply someone who doesn’t like a lot of the zaniness of Japanese animation, Death Note might be that one series that you can manage. It’s pretty tame in its animation department. 

Death Note Math:

  1. Shinsei = A-
  2. Confrontation = A
  3. Dealings = A
  4. Pursuit = A
  5. Tactics = A
  6. Unraveling = A
  7. Overcast = A+
  8. Glare = A
  9. Encounter = A
  10. Doubt = A
  11. Assault = A
  12. Love = A
  13. Confession = A- 
  14. Friend = A-
  15. Wager = A
  16. Decision = A
  17. Execution = B+ 
  18. Ally = B
  19. Matsuda = B-
  20. Makeshift = A- 
  21. Performance = B 
  22. Guidance = B+ 
  23. Frenzy = A
  24. Revival = A 
  25. Silence = A+
  26. Renewal = B-
  27. Abduction = C+ 
  28. Impatience = A-
  29. Father = A-
  30. Justice = A-
  31. Transfer = B+ 
  32. Selection = B-
  33. Scorn = C+
  34. Vigilance = B-
  35. Malice = B+
  36. 1.28 = A-
  37. New World = B+

Final Verdict: A-

But essentially, Part I of Death Note (episodes 1-12) is an “A” Part II (episodes 13-25) is an “A-” and Part III (episodes 26-37) is a “B” 

Bonus! Top 5 Death Note Characters: 

  1. L
  2. Light Yagami
  3. Ryuk
  4. Rem
  5. Touta Matsuda

Top 5 Worst Death Note Characters:

  1. Misa Amane
  2. Sidoh
  3. Kyosuke Higuchi
  4. Matt (LOL!)
  5. Near

“Death Note” is now available to stream on Netflix.

 

I Disagree: An LP That Reinforces Poppy As One of the Most Inventive Artists Working Today

If you were to tell me around 4 years ago that the internet enigma Poppy would become an experimental alt/pop/hard rock/EDM/metal musical sensation in the near future, I would’ve laughed so damn hard at you. 

Pity me and my ignorance. 

In 2017 Poppy released her first LP Poppy.Computer (if you don’t count her strictly pop-oriented 2015 album under a different artist’s name) and in 2018 she released the harder side of her persona with her album Am I a Girl? Both albums unquestionably had songs I relished and some standout, in-your-face stylistic choices that intrigued me, but I wouldn’t say the albums consecutively won me over.

Fast-forward 1 year later. The end of a decade: 2019. Poppy releases an EP under the title Choke—a 5-track emphasis on her new, mature sound. Not only does the small collection have one of my favorite tracks of that entire year on it, Scary Mask (feat. FEVER 333)—a song with more tonal switch-ups than Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody or Radiohead’s Paranoid Android—but it furthermore reinvented Poppy’s devilishly ludicrous follower vs. satanist journey. The lyrics seemed more constructive and fascinating within the controversial topic, the instrumentals became a lot more inventive than obvious, and Poppy’s light-toned, adorable vocals managed to fit into the metal scene a little more appropriately. 

Now, fast-forward to January 2020. Only a little less than a year later, Poppy has a whole new album out called I Disagree. It’s an album that maturely reconstructs religious conversation (instead of simply repeating the basics like—cough cough—Kanye West’s Jesus is King). It’s a metal, electronic hybrid that will dumbfound the contemporary—and prove that a lot of mainstream 2010s female artists could have sung about much more than just their over-bloated bank accounts and glorified sexualizations.

This is an addictively, head-banging, satanic album that is plausibly about Poppy’s questioning of belief, of her despisement of the norm, and ultimately her polarizing emotions towards the paradox of ultra pro-positive culture—it’s very edgy, indeed. In terms of instrumentals and production design, I would easily describe this as the best one of her three albums. 

The first track Concrete isn’t exactly the most lyrically impressive work Poppy has done in all of her career—and even in those weird-ass YouTube videos. In fact, the weakest point of the LP I would say is her lyrical consistency. Sometimes her very straightforward and elementary lyrics work constructively, in the sense that they are mostly meant to mock predictable phrases, and sometimes they fall flat. The minimal use of the Japanese language in the song I Disagree is frankly needless and cringy, as well. Track 6 or Nothing I Need is a bit of a hit or miss; it feels awfully slow and out of place from the rest of the album, in my opinion. Nevertheless, when it comes down to it though, most of the tracks here are absolute bangers (notably, I Disagree, BLOODMONEY, Anything Like Me, Fill the Crown, Sit/Stay, and Bite Your Teeth) and you can’t argue with that unless you hate to just rock out to inventively executed, rebellious insanity every once in a while.

I Disagree which was the first track to be released by the artist on this album is a solid introduction into Poppy’s ear-catching whisk of cute, adorable tonalities and dismal, vicious lyrical content. BLOODMONEY I’ve said my piece on; it’s a bafflingly mind-blowing track especially in terms of production that ended up on my favorites singles of 2019 list. Anything Like Me is an extremely catchy song that follows a similar formula to Scary Mask in which the style and sound of the song are constantly at war with each other. It’s easily one of the best tracks on this LP and one that has some of the most fruitful production decisions. Fill the Crown is essentially a children’s motivational PSA gone wrong, with some monumental electronic and metal elements that really push forward a sort of a late “Korn” sound, as well as some “Korn-like” lyrical content. 

Sit/Stay is a blatantly Nine Inch Nails inspired track that literally sounds like it could’ve come off of any one of Nine Inch Nails’s three recent EPs (which I consider a good thing) if it weren’t for Poppy’s occasional feathery vocals. Bite Your Teeth sounds like if Metallica meet Disney’s It’s A Small World, so, very appropriate. It has that sort of “parody” vibe going on that tackles the cheesy, motivational lines that we often come by in life when we feel emotionally exhausted. Sick of the Sun can be best described as “casually cynical.” It’s as if the happy instrumentals and vibe of the track are supposed to be normal for such hilariously dark lyrics; it legitimately made me chuckle the first time I heard it. The outro of the LP Don’t Go Outside is a fitting closing track and arguably the most interesting of the 10 songs. It has very harmonious and gorgeous-sounding string-work and some well-organized transitions placed throughout the single. I adore, as well, how the track ends with the lyrical hook of the 2nd track, I Disagree, but sung in a more angelic manner. 

So yeah, I don’t usually review albums, but I thought this one was certainly worth reviewing, because its quality caught me off guard, and considering the hate Poppy has gotten throughout her entire career, I wanted to add some more positive thoughts to the unfortunate mix of hatred Poppy usually receives even in her musical career. All in all…

Poppy’s. I Disagree. Gets. A. Letter. Grade. Of…

Verdict: B+ 

“I Disagree” is now available to stream on most musical platforms.

 

The Most Anticipated Movies of 2020

So, recently I did some research on what movies were coming out in 2020 and was contentedly surprised to find out just how much this year has to offer. Considering that 2019 set the bar for 21st Century years for movies, I had totally forgotten that there are a lot of attracting movies coming out this year. Hence, here are my top 10 most anticipated movies of this decade’s opening year: 

10. No Time to Die 

Release Date: April 8th

Granted, 2015’s Spectre didn’t impress me. To me, that movie kind of admitted that the Daniel Craig saga of the 007 franchise was beginning to die down in intrigue. However, I am a total geek for this series. From From Russia to Love to Casino Royale, there are so many monumental moments in James Bond’s grand, epic story and to hear that No Time to Die could be the definitive quote on quote “ending” (for now) of this individual’s legacy does harness my attention. Plus, the trailer was badass and Cary Joji Fukunaga (the man behind Beasts of No Nation) is directing it. 

9. The Invisible Man (2020)

Release Date: February 28th

I have always been a supporter of Leigh Whannell ever since he and James Wan made the original Saw. Two years ago he directed a fantastic throwback thriller called Upgrade, which ended up on my Top 20 list of 2018. I am also a big supporter of Elisabeth Moss because she’s a phenomenal actress. Hearing that these two are coming together to craft a twisted, darker reimagining of The Invisible Man tale is honestly quite exciting. 

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8. Those Who Wish Me Dead 

Release Date: October 23rd

Taylor Sheridan is a man of many talents—one part actor, one part writer, and one part director. This man not only wrote Sicario 1 and 2 and Hell or High Water, but he also directed 2017’s acclaimed Wind River. I legitimately would have to be critically insane not to be thrilled for his junior directorial feature-length, Those Who Wish Me Dead

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7. The Trial of Chicago 7 

Release Date: September 25th

Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriting legend to me. His collaboration with David Fincher, also known as The Social Network, featured one of the greatest screenplays ever in my opinion. Later on, Sorkin went on to write Moneyball and Steve Jobs, and more recently he directed a solid biopic about American entrepreneur Molly Bloom. Now, he has a second directorial film coming out that has not only a killer cast but a pretty interesting true story behind it. I doubt that anything could possibly go wrong with this movie; I can’t wait! 

Film Title: Glass

6. Last Night in Soho

Release Date: September 25th

I have a confession to make: I am not the biggest fan of most Edgar Wright movies. For the most part though, I’ve liked all his films but have never really “loved” any of them besides maybe his most recent gift to cinema, Baby Driver. With that being said though, you can’t deny that the director is outstandingly gifted. I am always excited to see a new project by Wright because no matter what, even if I don’t end up falling head over heels with a new project of his, there’s always something creatively worthwhile to get out of anything that the man crafts. He’s clearly someone who appreciates the art of cinema and I hope Last Night in Soho is a stylistic blast like most of his feature-lengths. 

5. Tenet 

Release Date: July 17th

Christopher Nolan is a mainstream filmmaker that I adore. Even if he makes an indifferent movie like Interstellar every once in a while, everything that the dude makes always interests me and at least has some sort of admirable complications to them. Tenet, based off the trailer, intrigues the hell out of me. I have no idea if I’ll like it or not, but like most Christopher Nolan movies, there’s bound to be something mind-boggling about its culmination. Plus, Robert Pattinson is in it. 

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4. The French Dispatch 

Release Date: Unknown

Ah, yes, Wes Anderson. An artist who usually makes the cutest, prettiest, and most hipster-targeted movies of this generation. When it comes to Anderson, I never have major expectations for his stories, but I always have major expectations for his entertainment values. There’s something peculiarly charming about everything that the filmmaker has made yet and I guarantee that there will be many things that are oddly delightful about his newest film, The French Dispatch

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3. Mank

Release Date: Unknown

There’s a new David Fincher movie coming out. Do I really need to explain myself? This time around though, I think I’m more excited for a film of his than ever not only because it’s been more than half a decade since he’s released a feature-length, but because this new movie of his, Mank, is about the creation of Citizen Kane. Thee Orson Welles, Citizen Kane. That’s awesome! I’m utterly dying to see it! 

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2. I’m Thinking of Ending Things 

Release Date: Unknown

Good news for Netflix subscribers: I’m Thinking of Ending Things will be available to stream on the platform this year. I have no issue in saying that writer and director Charlie Kaufman is one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time. Most notably, the mastermind is known for writing such hit films as Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but, to me, his greatest achievement in the category of cinema is easily his directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York. Not only, with only two films, has the craftsman proven that he is a brilliant writer, but he has furthermore proven that he is more than capable of directing a masterpiece. About less than a year ago, I actually read the novel that Kaufman’s new movie will be based on and reviewed it. In simple words, I loved it, and there is no fitter director out there to take on the material that that book had to offer than Kaufman himself. I have high hopes for this exceedingly anticipated motion picture. 

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1. Dune (2020)

Release Date: December 18th

In 1984, legendary director David Lynch made an underwhelmingly received adaptation of the heavily acclaimed novel, Dune. Not until 36 years later did it seem as if the perfect director would come to take a jab at the iconic science fiction tale. From the man behind such triumphs as Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario, and Blade Runner 2049, comes a motion picture that is almost guaranteed to be an experience of a lifetime. Of course it’s my most anticipated movie of the year! 

 

The Top 25 Movies of the Decade! (2010-2019)

Well, ladies and gentlemen, another decade has flashed by as well as a whole 10 years of movie releases. I won’t waste anymore time. You know exactly what that means…

25. Enemy (2013)

Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy is very dissimilar to anything in the artist’s filmography. It’s very small-scaled, concise, and abstract in its presentation. Villeneuve’s 2013 paragon is about a college professor played by Jake Gyllenhaal who discovers an actor that looks exactly like him. The results that dispute in this eye-catching storyline are potent, unexpected, and ultimately polarizing. But the more and more you think about what happened in Enemy, the more and more you begin to realize that it truly is a cinematic treasure. 

24. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

As of the moment, Moonrise Kingdom is my all-time favorite Wes Anderson film, and probably because I saw it during my adolescence when it first came out. Being the same age as the two main characters in this film gained so much value for me because I harshly related to what our leads were going through at that time. Now, gazing back at the film as an adult, I can furthermore appreciate just how perfectly it encapsulates young love. Moonrise Kingdom is endearing, spirited, and, in all likelihood, my favorite looking Wes Anderson movie as well. 

23. Moonlight (2016)

Sticking on target with movies that involve love and sexual awakenings, here we have Barry Jenkins’ directorial debut, Moonlight. This motion picture journey I would confidently describe as technically flawless. There’s literally nothing in terms of execution, directing, and visual presentation in this film that is anything below marvelous. Moonlight is the quintessential drama about someone growing up in a poor neighborhood and family while simultaneously dealing with a secret that isn’t necessarily accepted in society. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking three-part exploration. 

22. Snowpiercer (2013)

South Korean legend Bong Joon-ho made an American feature-length back in 2013 that was harshly criticized by audiences for its lack of “story-wise” plausibility. The thing is though, Snowpiercer isn’t trying to be quote on quote “realistic.” It’s trying to show you the ugly truth about human nature, which is, that no matter the absurd situation, social-class will always stay relevant. To me, Snowpiercer is a science-fiction cult classic that is brimmed with fantastic set pieces, memorable characters, and some of the coolest shot action sequences I’ve seen all decade. 

21. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Tiimothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer exemplify one of the most realistic human connections that I’ve ever witnessed on screen in Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name. This adaptation is a natural, gorgeous progression in showing you two men who are in love during the 80s in Italy. There’s not a whole lot to it than just that, but the charm of the movie is just simply its down-to-earth presentation. Plus, it has one of my favorite endings to a romantic drama ever. Hopefully, the sequel doesn’t ruin it. 

20. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

If there’s any director out there that deserved to make a sequel to Ridley Scott’s science-fiction classic (and one of my favorite movies of all-time) Blade Runner, it had to be Denis Villeneuve. In full boldness, I can say that Blade Runner 2049 is the prettiest-looking movie in this history cinema. Roger Deakins is a god. Storywise, Blade Runner 2049 is also considerably powerful. Simple, yet powerful. This is far and beyond one of the best sequels ever made, purely because it is respectful of its predecessor and legitimately adds something worthwhile and needing to the story of its source material. 

19. Prisoners (2013)

Believe me, you’re going to see a good chunk of Denis Villeneuve films on this list, and that’s just because he’s the very definition of a modern master. Prisoners is one of the best David Fincher films not made by David Fincher. And, clearly, it’s not made by him because, all though, it follows a similar, gritty detective premise like a lot of Fincher movies, its execution and plot plays out a lot differently than a Fincher project. This movie puts you in such a terrifying, disrupting situation that you could hardly even fathom happening to you or your own family—and that’s why it works so well! This movie gets real deep under your skin, especially during its epic climax and haunting final sequence. 

18. Good Time (2017)

Good Time: the most moving (literally) or “always-on-the-run” motion picture ever, one of the most aesthetically pleasing projects in the visual department, and easily the most stressful movie I’ve ever had to sit down and watch. The Safdie Brothers are gems to the new world of stress-urging cinema, and Good Time is about as far-out you can possibly go in replicating the throbbing feelings of hysteria. I wish I could watch Good Time for the first time ever again, as it was an unforgettable experience that I had no clue what I was in for.

17. Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino’s seventh feature-length is a twisted, stylized spin on the Spaghetti Western genre. Like most Tarantino major motion pictures, Django Unchained is an orgy of endless amusement that, all though, is often difficult to watch due to its touchy and disturbing subject matter, is the very embodiment of a dynamic take on the fictionalized history adventure/hero flick. The dialogue and performances are miles beyond extraordinary and the film has one of the goriest and most satisfying shootouts in the history of cinema. Yes, please! 

16. Her (2013)

Spike Jonze’s acclaimed Oscar-winning hit is both scary and beautiful. Scary because of its realism and profound insight into our very future with where technology is taking us and beautiful because it manages to make a human and robot (of artificial intelligence) relationship blossom into something that many would describe as true love. It genuinely takes a skillful cast and crew to make such an unorthodox and almost laughable premise function in such a down-to-earth and riveting manner. 

15. A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story isn’t necessarily a movie that’ll appeal to everyone, yet it’s certainly a movie that’s about all of us. It’s a hypnotic exploration of life and death. It’s almost like the elongated version of what we would most likely urge to see right before we died. Like Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is a compelling take on existentialism: what life really is and what it might be like if life were to cease. It’s so hard to compare the execution of A Ghost Story really to any other movie that’s ever been made. It’s holy original, addicting to look at, and truthfully a movie that I would consider severely overlooked. 

14. The Florida Project (2017)

If there were anything out there that could possibly (be prepared to hear something that will probably sound awkward and strange) make me feel like a child again, it would be The Florida Project: a movie about a group of kids living in an impoverished area. This entire film doesn’t even really feel like a film; it’s like you’re 100% looking in on the everyday life of some families who don’t have necessarily the most wealthy lives. Not only are the child performances in this movie hands-down the greatest child performances to ever be showcased on camera, but the atmosphere of the movie is hands-down one of the most genuine, heartfelt encapsulations of American poverty lifestyle in the existence of fictional storytelling. 

13. Incendies (2010)

“One plus one, does it make one?” is still one of the most effectively used quotes in the history of cinema—and if you don’t know the context of the scene, please don’t search up the scene on YouTube; go watch the whole movie! Overtime, I have grown to consider Incendies to be Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece. This is rightfully his most f****d up movie of his entire filmography as well as his most relevant feature-length to date. It’s a heart-wrenching magnum opus. 

12. Suspiria (2018)

Well, onto the most underrated horror movie of this entire decade. Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria is a downright serpentine of muddling intentions. It’s not a pretentious flick; it’s a scary flick—like how most horror movies should be. The majority of criticisms I’ve heard about this film are glaring reasons into why I think people have stopped appreciating what makes horror real horror. Is it real horror if the plot makes complete sense or gives you full closure—like what some people seem to want these days more than to be terrified of unblemished execution and editing techniques—or is it a movie that delivers eerie, unnerving confusion, imagery that burns directly into your eyes for all of eternity, and ear-wrecking music. Just saying. 

11. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Easily the most passionately crafted and emotional of the films on this list, It’s Such a Beautiful Day is an obnoxiously overlooked and underrated animated masterpiece that depressingly showcases life itself. Its narration is creative as hell and unlike anything else. Its themes are well progressed and relatable to nearly every living being on this planet—take your dog to see this one, I guess. Plus, the incredible soundtrack is used in the most constructive way I’ve seen used in an animated motion picture. It still blows my mind that Don Hertzfeldt made this movie with only a couple other people. It’s an artistic feat if I’d ever seen one. 

10. Inherent Vice (2014)

This may sound harsh, but the type of people who hate Inherent Vice are most likely the type of people who know their opinion on a movie the moment the movie ends. No wonder Inherent Vice has received such negative reception by audience members because this is not an easy movie to digest at first glance. Structurally it’s a clusterf*** of intentional dilemmas and the story, in essence, doesn’t really add up in a perfect little circle. But, Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2014 hippie mystery noir is the type of film that only gets better the more you recollect the confusing and utterly unique experience of the poisonous hallucinations that the motion picture took you on. If drugs were a movie, it’d be Inherent Vice: a masterpiece in progressing cinema to new, undiscovered territories. 

9. Burning (2018)

Lee Chang-dong’s Burning has the most unsatisfying satisfying ending in the history of storytelling. This masterclass in slow-burning progression has possibly the evilest finale to accompany a motion picture ever—and I f*****g love it. It took me about a year to realize that this movie is evidently flawless. It also took me a year to realize that The Academy (AKA, the worst movie award show ever since The Golden Raspberry) doesn’t deserve this movie—especially after they decided to not even nominate this masterpiece for best foreign film, furthermore continuing the company’s racist trend of never nominating a South Korean flick in the show’s entire historical runtime. Hopefully, spot #7 will break that trend!

8. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Is it okay for me to say that this is the best action blockbuster ever made? Because it is. Mad Max: Fury Road is the grandest show-off movie of this entire century, meaning that it basically was made to make every other action movie in the world look like garbage. This is a flick of sheer, madcap craziness with practical effects shining left in right, colorful explosions imploding the screens, and a faultless return to the iconic Mad Max series. It’s literally a post-apocalyptic lover’s wet dream. 

7. Parasite (2019)

Now, I’ve already said plenty of things about Bong Joon-ho’s greatest achievement yet, so if you’re curious, I’ll link my full review of it. Otherwise, all you need to know about this movie is that it’s the most fun I’ve had in the theaters ever. Check out my review: CLICK HERE 

6. The Lighthouse (2019)

Yet another movie I’ve already said plenty about. It’s a TRIUMPH! It’s belly-achingly FUNNY! It’s quite HORNY! Check out my review: CLICK HERE 

5. The Lobster (2015)

Arguably the best romantic comedy of this entire century, Yorgo Lanthimos’s The Lobster is the most fitting depiction of dystopian relationships ever—even though people literally transform into animals in this movie. Despite the fact that this entire movie is “lore-wise” absurd and goofy, sprinkled with awkward, clunky dialogue, and kind of meant to just make you laugh or feel extremely uncomfortable, it has so many things to say about modern and future society. The Lobster artistically investigates our desperation for love and our hatred of the taboo. It’s a personal favorite of mine! 

4. The Social Network (2010)

It takes god-like talent to make a boring-ass story about the creation of Facebook into debatably the most interesting drama in living memory. So, it makes sense that both David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin were the leading minds behind The Social Network. There’s not a whole lot to be said about this movie that hasn’t already been preached about by critics. It’s witty, fast-paced, always investing, and constantly wrapped up in exploiting the modern-like rivalries between friends and foes. 

3. Under the Skin (2013)

The best way to describe Under the Skin is to pitch it as if 2001: A Space Odyssey took place primarily on Earth, and I swear to you, it is almost as good as Stanley Kubrick’s classic. It’s easily the most underrated movie of this entire decade; it hurts me that almost nobody talks about it despite its legendarily flawless and groundbreaking quality. If aliens actually came to Earth to try and take us over, this is how I imagine it would happen—in utter, traumatizing and psychologically unimaginable ways. 

2. Melancholia (2011)

Lars von Trier is a controversial director, sure, and this is most likely going to be a controversial choice. However, give me a chance to explain myself. Depression is something everybody goes through, right? It’s a natural asset of the human persona. Melancholia, as the title may suggest, is about depression, and as pretentious as it may sound, it is the artistic entity of depression. This is the #1 film, to me, that has most accurately depicted the bipolar disorder. Melancholia is a (hopefully soon-to-be) classic that is, on paper, about the end of mankind as we know it, but really, the perfect vetting of our misery. If aliens (yes, I’m using aliens as an example again to describe a movie; shut up) ever came to Earth after we were long gone and wanted to understand us and our symptoms of depression, all they would need to do is pop in a Blu-ray copy of Melancholia, and voila, they will learn! 

1. The Master (2012) 

The Master is the finest made movie of all-time. There I said it. Is it my favorite movie ever? No, second favorite actually—beaten by A Clockwork Orange. But, personally, I genuinely believe that The Master, in terms of filmmaking technicalities, is the most perfect movie ever—even more so than The Godfather, which most people often claim to be cinema’s best-made film. Paul Thomas Anderson’s greatest masterpiece is one that intricately observes manipulation, partnership/love, belief, leadership, purpose, and addiction all in a flawlessly balanced and persuasive manner that hasn’t been executed in such an uncanny fashion in the history of cinema as it has in this movie. Did I also mention that The Master is the best looking, best acted, and best-written film of all-time? Enough said. To the kiddos who say cinema isn’t nearly as good as it is now: s-h-u-t u-p. 

 

Starting Off the Decade with Another Review of Raiders of the Lost Ark

??? Viewing

I don’t know why I wanted to rewatch it for the billionth time; it just felt right. I needed to start off this decade with a killer bang.

Remember back in the day when numerous characters in most blockbuster extravaganzas had special, distinct makes? Back when adventure films could have subtle, little moments that told you all you needed to know about certain individuals in order to conserve time? Back when even fun, action flicks had at least a creative, alert construction surrounding its foundation.

There’s a specific scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark that I always refer back to as the type of moment in blockbuster cinema that you rarely see today; this being when the perverted Belloq makes Marion put on a dress. It’s an ingenious sequence that takes its time to casually show Marion upping Belloq in a masculine tournament of drinking while she cleverly attempts to pick up a knife half-intoxicated. For the time being, we don’t know whether or not she’ll be able to escape using it—and ultimately, she doesn’t. But in the end, it didn’t matter, and sometimes it doesn’t need to matter; sometimes the events we see on screen only need to keep us invested, on-edge, and informed of the type of characters we’re dealing with regardless of its dismaying conclusions.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is one of those films I guess you could coin with the term “timeless.” It’s a movie that has—for the most part—aged like fine wine. It was established during a period when Spielberg, Lucas, Kaufman, and Kasdan where at the peak of their careers and their abilities seemed to be unstoppable. The first of the Indiana Jones flicks always stood as the metaphorical epitome of an adventure; the top-tier personification of one’s life at its most daring and most animated. This is another one of those early cinematic pieces that identified the paramount concept of an unforgettable journey and for the search of one of existence’s biggest mysteries.

And it can’t go without mentioning, again, but Marion Ravenwood is perhaps the most underrated side-kick character of all-time. She’s sassy, authoritative, sexy, caring, intelligent, a “productive” killer, and someone who’ll pridefully take on a dangerous crusade despite an unpleasant circumstance involving a haunted past of adolescence. I hate how David Koepp made her such a bland act in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s such a disservice to arguably the greatest performer of this entire franchise.

I still think (more than ever) that there are some distasteful technical and script-oriented flaws in a little more than the entire first half of Raiders, but yeah, everything after it: perfection—and duh.

Verdict Change: A+ —> A-

Spielberg Ranked

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” is now available to stream on Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and iTunes.

The Top 15 Best Movies of 2019

Can I be frank with you fellas for a second? 2019 has been a GOLD MINE year for cinema. It’s as if the movie gods themselves had wanted to drop every consecutive masterpiece during this very special time in 21st-century history. So, with that in mind, this list was extraordinarily hard to make; it hurt putting this one together. I wish most of the movies on this list could get the #1 spot, but this was a damn well competitive year, so I’ll be a fair gentleman and rank them accordingly. Once again, I have done separate reviews for all of these films so the links for them will be highlighted over the titles of each film. First off, though… 

My Honorable Mentions: Knives Out, Ad Astra, Beach Bum, 1917, Joker, Shazam!, The Farewell, Us, Her Smell, Rocketman, Birds of Passage, They Shall Not Grow Old, The Souvenir, and Pain and Glory

Now, onto the list! 

15. Greener Grass

I feel as if I would be doing the world a disfavor by not having Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebee’s severely overlooked Greener Grass on this list. This movie is just straight-up freakin’ weird. It’s a motion picture that doesn’t try to hide the fact that it’s quirky and absolutely absurd, but rather, fully embraces its uncanny material. Nevertheless, what truly makes Greener Grass a triumph is how it evokes laughs out of its audience. The comedy here is not only holy original but the eccentricness of the movie’s comical material is utilized for a much more consequential meaning. Through one of the most joyful parts of human existence (laughter) DeBoer and Luebee sinisterly strive to make gloomy meanings out of situational comedy. 

14. Cold War

This foreign gem by acclaimed director Paweł Pawlikowski didn’t get a US release until February 2019, so it’s on my list—which I’m not complaining about, FYI. Cold War isn’t necessarily a movie I’d deem super innovative, it’s simply just an exceptionally well-written and well-acted love story that successfully encapsulates its time period. Some of the best, most provocative dialogue of the entire year lies within this film. Cold War is a lovely film to look at, an extremely pleasant movie to listen to—thanks to its spectacular original soundtrack—and a fairly insightful study on intimacy. 

13. The Irishman

In many ways, Martin Scorsese’s return to mafia motion pictures does seem like a retread of familiar grounds, but at the core of the film, the themes of the motion picture feel entirely different from anything the legendary director has touched on. The Irishman is a three-hour documentation on a husband/father who starts to incrementally get caught up in his work and caught up in some of his new colleagues who have almost become like “family” to him. The most daunting part about this state of affairs is that working in such a dangerous field inevitably forces you to make some tough calls that could majorly affect your real family or your best friends. It’s essentially a more psychological modernization of Goodfellas

12. Midsommar (The Director’s Cut) 

The first time I saw Midsommar, I thought it was just “fine.” I had no dire inclination to watch the movie again in theaters. That is until I read some articles that director Ari Aster was pretty much propelled to cut down the movie by studios. A couple months later, A24 decides to limitedly release a 3-hour director’s cut of Midsommar in theaters. Due to these circumstances, I decided to watch this extended version of the polarizing horror/drama feature-length and I ended up pretty much loving it. It’s amazing realizing just how much less than half an hour of footage can improve a film. This superior version of Midsommar to me is a fantastic example of how uncomfortable situations that at first, may appear quite taboo and funny, can really get under your skin when you begin to witness how it affects others. A terrifying break-up movie, indeed! 

11. A Hidden Life

It seems that we’re on a roll with these 3-hour-long movies, huh? Terrence Malick’s newest feature-length A Hidden Life was a beautifully depressing experience, to say the least. Of course, the movie is shot and directed to a god-like level that only Malick can accomplish. But, I also really appreciated what Malick had to say in this story. This is an admirable exploration on how belief is such a chief principle in causing us to make decisions that don’t necessarily seem logical. It’s a very upsetting look into an Austrian farmer during World War II who simply gives up all his lawful rights just so that he can keep his firm beliefs. It’s inspiring yet emotionally draining to witness, and the unforgettable experience that Malick took me on has simply not been able to scram out of my head. 

10. Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a great argumentative piece of evidence to show people that marriage and divorce aren’t as cookie-cutter as they appear to be. While this movie did piss me off a lot because you essentially witness just how corrupt the divorce system is, it was also a very moving experience for me and I’m sure a great chunk of people who saw the film. Not only do Adam Driver and the spectacular Scarlett Johansson deliver some of the best performances of this entire year, but they also share together one of the most important stories of the entire year. This is a must-watch for couples who want some forewarning and single folks who want to feel victorious.

9. Uncut Gems

As a gigantic Good Time fan, it can be plainly expected that I had high hopes for the Safdie Brothers’ Uncut Gems. Luckily, my expectations were reached. This is, of course, an exceedingly anxiety-driven thriller like Good Time, but is one that seems to want to focus more on its main character than the rough sensations you get from the situation at hand. This is a marvelous motion picture that constructively exemplifies the cliché father who is too caught up in his work and money than in his actual family. Plus, there’s some crazy filmmaking stuff in it that cinephiles like myself will eat up graciously. 

8. Waves

Can we please make an exclusive Academy Award for Trey Edward Schultz that rewards people who know how to direct and move a camera seamlessly? That’d be so cool. Anyhow, Waves was a hard film to watch and I can completely understand anyone who found the movie to be repulsing. To me though, I found Waves to be endlessly insightful on modern-day adolescence/young adulthood. It showcases some very graphic scenarios and builds off of them productively. It has resolutions that are immorally disgraceful and resolutions that are morally positive and it successfully balances them as a singular, consecutive piece. It’s a momentous movie that I think everybody high-school-age and up should check out. I truly believe that it’s an experience that we all need to understand and recognize for the benefit of ourselves.

7. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

I was one of the few—thanks to not seeing the trailer beforehand—people who went into Portrait of a Lady on Fire without knowing that it was a love story. In hindsight, because I watched this movie slowly blossom into a beautifully orchestrated romance with no knowledge of the film at all, it can evidently be said that my experience was unfairly enhanced. However, I don’t care, I still think this movie is absolutely brilliant either way. Imagine if Ingmar Bergman wrote Call Me By Your Name; that’s essentially what Portrait of a Lady on Fire feels like. Who could turn down such a prodigy of combination? Céline Sciamma is certainly going places and I’m dying to see what she does next.

6. High Life

I never could have imagined that one day I would need a horny science-fiction movie to complete my life. High Life, you’ve disturbingly changed my taste in movies. Legendary director Claire Denis’s newest feature-length is not only one of the best looking space movies I’ve ever laid eyes on, but it’s also one of the most unique movies I’ve ever seen in my entire life. The execution of this film is super unorthodox and the resolutions of this movie are also extremely unorthodox. This whole movie is one humongous “F-U” to the conventions of typical storytelling. But, there’s clearly a purpose to all the madness, and I ended up getting so much out of High Life especially as I thought more and more about it. In my mind, this movie is going to age superbly and I can only hope that it becomes a cult classic in the near future; it deserves it. 

5. Under the Silver Lake

I can’t tell you how much I hated the first hour of this movie when I initially saw it. But, I hate to compare a movie to Citizen Kane, but this movie is similar to Citizen Kane in the sense that it’s so adventurously taboo to the filmmaking art that it makes sense why so many people, critics and audiences alike, would initially hate the experience of the movie. By the end of it, I was won over despite almost despising the confusion I gained during the opening act of the movie. Under the Silver Lake is one of those films where you don’t entirely understand what the story presented at hand is, but you do know entirely what it’s trying to say thematically. The whole movie is this unbelievably ridiculous abstraction that’s meant to intel us on the cancerous culture of the entertainment industry. You feel it throughout the movie, and while it hurts to not understand every intricate plot point that is occurring at hand, you feel satisfied in the otherworldly journey of emotions and memories of Hollywood that David Robert Mitchell’s newest film takes you on. Also, it has my favorite scene of the entire year in it. Do yourselves a favor and Google, “the Elite Scheme scene.” 

4. Climax

Gaspar Noé you sick son of a bitch, stop stressing me the hell out! Climax was one and a half hours of just pure horror. I hated it. But that’s why this movie is so incredibly mind-blowing and why Noé continues to be one of my favorite directors working today. Sure, the movie is arguably short on story, but obviously, that’s not what the movie is all about. This is a stressful visual performance that allows its victims (the viewers) to witness a posse of dancers struggle to survive on LSD. From the flawless camera direction to the gut-wrenching performances from all the actresses and actors, Climax is undoubtedly a monumental accomplishment for the thriller genre. Watch it with the whole family! 

3. Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

Tarantino’s ninth feature film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is the type of unadulterated “fun” Hollywood should ironically be striving for. It’s a lightweight movie made exclusively from the ambitions of a filmmaking genius who wanted to play around a little with his devoted audience. It’s the kind of light-hearted, laid-back motion picture that takes you on multiple different journeys through the preexisting times of the Hollywood Renaissance. It’s another Tarantino soon-to-be-classic, indeed. 

2. Parasite

Parasite is genuinely one of the most carefully crafted films ever made. A virtually flawless affair in directing, writing, acting, cinematography, comedy, twists, drama, structure, characters, and themes, this is arguably a 2019 knockout that’s up there with some of the greatest movies of all-time. It’s exciting, it’s traumatizing, it’s shocking, and it’s a movie that nobody on this entire planet is going to forget once they’ve seen it. I can’t imagine a living soul out there that wouldn’t be enthralled from start to finish by Bong Joon-ho’s finest contribution to Korean filmmaking yet.

1. The Lighthouse

While Parasite may be the cinematic technical achievement of the year, when it comes down to it, Robert Egger’s The Lighthouse is this year’s feature-length that I personally bonded with the most. The aesthetically old-fashioned yet utterly original film lends itself to classic horror premises like The Shining where we observe an individual or a couple people slowly drift away from sanity. However, The Lighthouse doesn’t present itself like any of those vintage psychological terror flicks. Despite its obvious influences, this is a dark comedy at its core. The satire blended with the old-folk language makes for an absurdly hilarious adventure of drinking, farting, and violence. You wouldn’t believe the lines that come out of Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe’s characters until you hear them. You couldn’t come up with the type of character actions that Eggers’ pulls out of his odd little complex until you’ve seen them for yourself. This is an endlessly rewatchable genre-blender with some of the best acting, dialogue, and sequences ever put to arthouse film. High-brow creativity never seemed to cease in The Lighthouse. 

So, those are my top 15 movies of 2019. Damn, this year was killer. I don’t know what else to say. If you haven’t already, check out some of the movies on this list. Support these talented filmmakers. This year deserves one big round of applause. 

 

My Top 10 Least Favorite Movies of 2019

It’s that depressing time of the year again, ladies and gentlemen, where I go over my top 10 least favorite movies of 2019. Disclaimer: I haven’t seen every dreadful act of wickedness this year so if a crappy movie that you absolutely despised didn’t show up on this list, don’t get upset; it’s probably not on here because I didn’t see it. Unless it’s High Life. I saw that movie, and I loved it; I don’t understand why you barbaric people hated it so much! Additionally, I have reviewed each of these movies separately, so if you’re interested in checking those out, the links to each review will be highlighted over the movie titles. Now, let’s get this s***show on the road, shall we? 

10. It Chapter Two

I thoroughly enjoyed Andrés Muschietti’s 2017 remake of It so the concept of making a sequel to the wildly successful horror hit always came as an alarming scheme to me considering that the source material in which the novel is based on has a highly half-baked secondary story revolving around the all-grown-up members of The Losers Club. Regretfully, It Chapter Two ended up being exactly as I expected it to be: drawn-out, moronic, and a complete misuse of such a talented cast. 

9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

While I did admire the haunting creature designs in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the movie itself left more to be desired. Admittedly, I never grew up on the books as a kid—I was rather a Goosebumps fanatic (sorry, not sorry)—so I may have not bonded with the long-awaited motion picture like some folks did. It merely felt like an amateurishly extended version of an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark—and a tedious one at that. 

8. Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel isn’t necessarily what I’d call a “terrible” movie, but it’s certainly the type of blockbuster that I would gladly categorize under “vanilla-as-HELL.” It’s a forgettable, pointless, and defectively contrived adventure flick that lives at the depths of such duds as Thor: The Dark World or The Incredible Hulk. It’s disappointing to see that the first female superhero movie in the MCU—which, by the way, has taken way too long to happen—ended up being a vast waste of money and time. 

7. Happy Death Day 2U

Happy Death Day 2U is a Blumhouse cash-grab sequel that’s a complete retread of the original Happy Death Day, just without the imaginative wit or drive. This whole movie feels like a PG-13 Disney Channel TV movie—meaning, it has the childish writing, acting, and dialogue of a made-for-television feature but the raunchy blunder of a PG-13 movie. They should’ve never made a sequel; the first Happy Death Day was a solid stand-alone that didn’t need to be tampered with. 

6. Terminator: Dark Fate

We’re officially 4 for 2 in the crappy Terminator movie count. Imagine: a studio wants to erase all their previous mistakes from the official Terminator timeline (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and Terminator: Genisys) so that they can restart the franchise with a clean slate…and then they just end up making another mistake—except this one, unlike the previous three failures, is a light retread of Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The action has never looked more embarrassing, the plot is all too familiar, and the results whimper down to another reason to jot down on the list of why the Terminator movies never should’ve been a massive franchise in the first place. 

5. Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Isn’t it just depressing that I’ve now had two Star Wars movies in my top 10 worst of the year lists? First Solo: A Star Wars Story and now The Rise of Skywalker—which by the way, is even worse than Solo. Like, it’s so disappointing that these new Star Wars movies have already reached this level of “bad” and it’s been like only 4 years since Disney released The Force Awakens. It’s such a shame. Anyways, do I really need to explain what is so utterly wrong with this movie? I’m exhausted from watching these Star Wars movies transform into studio orientated blueprints on how to please their obnoxious fanbase rather than ambitious and creative passion-projects. Enough said. 

4. 3 From Hell

I feel so sorry for hardcore Rob Zombie fans. I do shamefully enjoy The Devil’s Rejects and House of 1000 Corpses isn’t that shabby, but by golly is 3 From Hell a dyed-in-the-wool disservice to the series. It’s a movie that has absolutely no geography or sense of idea on what it wants to be or where it wants its gratuitous story to go. It’s one of those movies that thinks it’s so meta for parodying its source material, but just ends up comically backfiring on itself. If I had to choose between going to Hell or watching this movie again, well, let’s just say, it’d be a tough decision. 

3. Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Gareth Edward’s Godzilla is a good movie. There, I said it. Did you see Godzilla for more than 15% of the movie? No. Was there at least an authoritative sense of scale and intensity to that motion picture? Absolutely! What does Godzilla: King of Monsters have? Unbearable characters, shaky-cam/close-up CGI action sequences, and an unhealthy amount of fan service. Sure, mindless diehards got to see their favorite monster fight on the big screen, but at the cost of what? Getting a movie that inserts so much unqualified blockbuster nonsense that eventually gets real old real fast and even makes the greatest creature known to cinema seem repetitive and tiresome? Not worth it, in my humble opinion. 

2. X-Men: Dark Phoenix 

Sigh. Now, even though this movie is indisputably an atrocious superhero flick beyond disbelief, I wouldn’t say that I hated it. In fact, I, sinisterly, had fun watching just how horribly awful this franchise has become. In hindsight, X-Men: First Class, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Logan, in a lot of ways, set the bar for how fantastic superhero movies can be. But, watching such a solid revamp of a franchise just coward back to the flaws of its original series but at such a miserable level that hadn’t yet been discovered was hilariously enjoyable to witness. Dark Phoenix may be an inexcusably convoluted film, but it’s an unintentionally hilarious one. Do yourselves a favor: watch it with the biggest group of friends you can gather up. Alcohol may be needed. 

1. The Lion King

So here it is, fellas. My least favorite movie of 2019: the quote on quote, “live-action” Lion King remake. Not only does this movie happen to be the most despicable feature-length that this year has had to offer, but it’s taken a more special spot in my life as of the moment: it’s officially my least favorite movie of ALL-TIME. Yep, I am not exaggerating. Let’s take a glance at some of the classic choices that people would often choose as some of the “worst” movies ever made: Tommy Wiseau’s The Room and Amir Shervan’s Samurai Cop. Terrible, terrible movies. But, if you haven’t noticed already, these movies feature something that The Lion King simply does not possess: passion-driven ambition. The Lion King shouldn’t even count as a movie; it’s a greedy corporate product that managed to get millions of people to pay money and watch the same exact movie that they’ve already seen—minus the heart, minus the creative animation, and minus the charm. This is “legal plagiarism” if I’d ever seen it. I HATE JON FAVERAU’S THE LION KING SO MUCH. SO MUCH! IT MAKES ME GET SO AGGRAVATED JUST THINKING ABOUT IT! 

Deep breathes, Evan. Deep breathes. So, that concludes my least favorite movies of 2019. If I’m being quite frank, this year could’ve been a lot worse. Half of the movies on this list I don’t even think are that bad. I just happened to not see that many stinkers this year, which is delightful to recognize. The Lion King, truthfully, was basically the push I needed to make this list, all-in-all. So, thank you, Disney. 

 

The Four Special Albums That Made 2019 For Me

I was debating whether to do a top 10 list for my picks for the best albums of the year or just make a small, contained selection of a couple LPs that truly spoke to me, unlike any other albums I heard this year. As you probably already figured out from reading the title, I’ve decided to do the cringy, personal choice by speaking about the four records that emotionally made 2019 a musically special year for me. With that in mind, I still have a handful of LPs to give honorable mentions to:

Lana Del Rey’s Norman F***ing Rockwell,

Lingua Ignota’s Caligula

Thom Yorke’s ANIMA 

Now, onto the kickass stuff…

IGOR – Tyler the Creator

IGOR is a fine example of a very consistent album. Narratively, it’s extremely on topic and gradual. The production and sampling—which, by the way, is easily some of the best production and sampling of this entire decade—is tonally steady. Even the music videos that accompany Tyler’s newest record are visually harmonious. This piece, as a whole, is well balanced. There doesn’t seem to be one specific weak spot hidden somewhere in between tracks. While Tyler’s Flower Boy features most of his principal hits, I personally feel as if IGOR is the concise assembly that truly marked the artist’s greatest achievement yet. 

All Mirrors – Angel Olsen

All Mirrors sounds like the LP love child of Lana Del Rey and The Cranberries. A blissful mingle of 90s and modern-day influence, Angel Olsen has perfected her finest project yet in this 2019 breakout album. It’s a 21st century LP that I would happily describe as nothing less than “epic.” It’s a gathering of the most alluring symphonic instrumentals of the year and a landmark in Olsen’s development as a performer. 

All My Heroes Are Cornballs – JPEGMAFIA

Last year, JPEGMAFIA released a killer experimental hip-hop record known as Veteran. After such a crowning moment in the artist’s career, nobody could’ve fathomed the idea of him topping such a project. Fast forward one year later and the rapper has carelessly outdone his previous record with All My Heroes Are Cornballs. Surprisingly enough, this album doesn’t promote the hard-hitting, up-in-your-face sort of style that made Veteran such a harsh delight to listen to; the LP is rather more concerned in showcasing the restrained exploration of Peggy’s sentiments towards modern-day culture while also being a huge extravaganza of inventive genre-blending. It’s a contemporary hip-hop exemplar that deserves more recognition. 

Oncle Jazz – Men I Trust

Awe, yes. My favorite album of 2019: Men I Trust’s Oncle Jazz. Now, is it a little unfair that 30% of the songs on this record are made up of stunning singles that the band has released in the years of 2017 and 2018? Yes. But, this LP is 24-tracks long. So, in a manner, it sort of makes up for the fact that this album is compiled with a good amount of older hits. To me, Oncle Jazz is the reinvigoration that the dream-pop genre desperately needed. Men I Trust’s two previous LPs didn’t exactly seem to do the trick, but the band’s newest passion-project is just brimming with so many unforgettable gems that truly exemplify colossal signs of maturity. Twin Peaks soundtrack fans, it’s our time to shine. 

 

The Mandalorian is Groundbreaking Proof That the World of Star Wars Can Expand Justly

WARNING: Very Minor Spoilers for Season 1 of The Mandalorian Ahead 

In a galaxy of possibilities far, but not too far away, Disney’s ability to successfully innovate Star Wars contraptions through unconventional means instead of the archetypal structure of the franchise, lies real! The Mandalorian is proof that the smaller the scale, the smaller the budget, and the more fleshed-out or personal the story, the grander the quality and the closer we get to differentiating Star Wars—rather than letting itself repeat. The Mandalorian plays out like the coolest fan-made Star Wars property yet, but in its defense, the homemade craft is what makes the experience much crisper than anything Disney has made in of the franchise previously. 

In Jon Favreau’s TV show about a lone gunfighter who runs into an unexpected task, we get to progressively learn and attach ourselves to a moderate handful of our lead characters—something that is a rare entity to find in this overrated climate of sci-fi pop culture. The Mandalorian wisely decides to market its influences off of classic Spaghetti Westerns, unlike Disney and Prequel Star Wars movies which are ironically influenced almost entirely by the original Star Wars trilogy—which were movies based off of many different pop culture roots. 

The comedy in The Mandalorian doesn’t appear cringy nor forced. Ludwig Göransson’s score is holy original and dissimilar to any musical properties held previously in the Star Wars universe. The visuals are superior and evidently more creatively implemented when compared to any other Star Wars property besides maybe Empire and A New Hope. The writing isn’t mind-boggling; everything is fairly formulaic. Yet, the simplicity of The Mandalorian isn’t something to completely fault it for. It’s nice to see a Star Wars property that doesn’t over-complicate itself and try to make itself seem like this epic extravaganza. It’s prioritization on focusing on fewer characters and intimate interests are what makes the show thrive more memorably than anything in of this overcooked fantasy saga. Our characters have clear creeds, aspirations, motives, and backstories. They aren’t vaguely examined or desperately looked over; they’re appropriately employed and easy to grasp. 

There’s a savagery to the action sequences in The Mandalorian that feels energetically fresh. The action in this show never involves something like hundreds of CGI tie fighters fighting hundreds of CGI x-wings; it’s primarily hand-to-hand, combat orientated—and of the brutalist that TV-14 can possibly deliver. People are one-by-one getting burned alive, smashed with sledgehammers, and combusted alive; you get to actually focus on a physical conflict one at a time instead of watching 100 things happen all at once like in most of Disney’s recent cinematic affairs—yay! 

The settings or production designs harken to both original Star Wars mock-ups but also from Clint Eastwood and even Akira Kurosawa feature-lengths. The creatures are wide-ranging and practically put together. From dangerous monsters with reptilian builds, to prehistoric dinosaur assets, to goofy Jawas who love to eat larger than life eggs, and even to a mysteriously complex Baby Yoda—a sufficient example of how to implement cuteness without mainly feeling like a marketing ploy. The lore and society that connects to forced servitude and the battle for freedom adds a lot to the show’s merit. Scenes like when we listen in on two speeder troopers casually converse like normal human beings and attempt to miserably fail at shooting a target are refreshing as hell. Like, these are actual quote on quote “scenes” that take their time and allow the viewers to become immersed in the atmosphere of what is being presented, unlike a lot of turbo-paced action shows that we see nowadays. Remember when you could just breathe, watch characters interact for more than 15 seconds, and get to bond with beings from all across the galaxy like in George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy? Well, it’s back! 

In spite of this though, The Mandalorian didn’t start off as this appropriately paced delicacy. The series is a little glossy on storytelling at the beginning of the season—and what I mean by that is that it initiated itself as this show that always seemed like it was in a hurry. I understand that this program is supposed to appeal to kids and you need the faster pace but, c’mon. Take your time with the presentation; keep it mature. Let the audience have time to sink into the events, get to know the surrounding characters a little better, and just become absorbed practically. Nonetheless, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 are immersive starter teasers into what the show seems to be all about—and very engrossing ones at that. Plus, the pace does, as I said before, begin to come around as something more admirable in its second half. 

Chapter 4 is an unfortunate misfire; not only is it unnecessary as well as shabbily and predictably written, but the new characters are inserted so randomly in such a hasty manner. The whole ordeal surrounding this particular episode feels like some video game side quest that was put into the mix so that the producers could complete their 8-episode-long runtime. Chapter 5 is a weakly written filler as well. Plus, while it does seem less spontaneous or less absurd as Chapter 4 did, it doesn’t have the character development of Mando which Chapter 4 at the very least featured. So that’s something to take into consideration. 

Chapter 6, however, luckily picked my and most likely most viewers’ attention up real quick. In an arguably endlessly fun episode, we witness a very amusing prison break that has buoyant new side characters including a Bill Burr who packs more jokes in this than even in some of his comedy specials. Chapter 7 and 8 is when the show starts to make a full, imposing circle, fortunately. Where my main worry that originated from episodes 4 and 5 (being that the show wouldn’t follow a particular storyline and would just be a series of random episodes) chapters 7 and 8 seem to put those concerns at ease. The show engages an epic amount of stakes and tension in these finale pieces—where you begin to feel as if nobody is safe. There are some unexpected twists and turns and a fair share of solid execution. Plus, Gus from Breaking Bad is in these episodes. C’mon. Us fans are spoiled. 

Ultimately, The Mandalorian doesn’t necessarily break cinematic ground—it is heavy on its banal story influences—but it damn well breaks Star Wars ground, and frankly, it doesn’t need to break anymore than just that for now. This was a very intelligent move on Disney’s part, and all though, it isn’t anything too complex or outstanding, it is great; more importantly, however, it is investing. Believe me, I’m intrigued to see Season 2 this Fall. 

The Mandalorian Math:

Chapter 1 = B 

Chapter 2 = B

Chapter 3 = B

Chapter 4 = C

Chapter 5 = C

Chapter 6 = B 

Chapter 7 = B+

Chapter 8 = B+

Final Verdict: B

“The Mandalorian” is now available to stream on Disney+.