MY PROBLEM WITH MODERN STORYTELLING

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Ok, so for complete transparency my reference for this is fan responses to various properties, fan stories and reading the works of recent stories by current creators and colleagues. So while I acknowledge that this isn’t a universal issue-it is one that has bothered me and I’ve wanted to address and create a small blog/article about.

So a trend I’ve noticed in terms of storytelling (especially genre stories) is a focus on worldbuilding, discarding of the real “3 Act Hero’s Journey” and the desire for encyclopedic stories. The main examples are current stories I’ve read and fan responses, so I’m going to make a list of blunt and harsh points that have more than just the title to them.

1. YOUR CHARACTER ISN’T IMPORTANT
Ok, so what I mean by this is there is a tendency for many people to make their main character this incredibly prominent and desired character in the world. They’re often the chosen one, or a character called to action by great heroes or purposefully desired by the villain. They often have very few flaws (aside from curiosity or clumsiness-which are not flaws) and are either Bella from Twilight where they’re a blank slate for an audience to project themselves onto, or is an author insert. I feel the latter is very common as we’re in a trend of authors having to put themselves into stories as an autobiographical fantasy or retelling of their life. Unfortunately that often creates a problem where people want their character to be loved and while that can be (for the writer) a positive fantasy…in reality…it comes of like what Tommy Wiseau attempted with The Room.

You main character shouldn’t be the most important character in your story and they shouldn’t just be a camera for the audience to see the world, because it either makes you main “character” not a character. You either render them an authorial fantasy or blank slate to experience your invented world. The point of a character is for their growth and change, that’s what a story is. The story isn’t “I’m the most important character, I’m going on a journey to see worlds and beat a bad guy”, it’s “I’m going on this journey after maybe not deciding to, but I do and I’ll change for better or worse by the end”. The only genre that even remotely allows the lack of development is the noir genre as the Detective is a small character in a big world that people are more annoyed to have around. The way you develop your character is through “want vs need” (often tied to a theme) wherein someone wants something and must give it up to fulfil their need and change as a person. In the best versions of these:
-Star Wars: “Luke gives up his want to go to flight academy and goes on a journey where to save the Galaxy, he must chill out and embrace the force”.
-Aladdin: “Aladdin gives up his want to be someone he isn’t, and goes on a journey where he learns to be himself”
-The Dark Knight: “Bruce must give up his want to stop being Batman and pass the duties to someone else and realises he needs to be The Dark Knight”

It’s not really hard, you go through an arc and have a different person by the end…because that’s what people do. And making your character incredibly important and special not only detaches an audiences grasp (because a grounded character is easier to understand for more audiences) it also creates a somewhat problematic elitism with the whole “Chosen One” narrative. Your characters should drive the plot, because your villain does. In storytelling terms:
-“Point of Attack” is when the villain kicks the plot into gear in the opening scene (Star Wars, Aladdin, Speed, The Matrix, Avengers: Infinity War)
-“Inciting Incident” is when the hero decides to go on this journey after discovering it (Legend, Mulan, Seven, The Meg, No Country for Old Men) and often they’re forced into it.

The point being is that your character should often be forced into worse case scenarios that the villain has left (likely unintentionally) and the hero should be more an annoyance or disturbance to the villain. When people say the “It’s about the journey” it means we’re here to see a character grow over time…not just kill a bad guy and suddenly they’re a different person. It’s what makes the hero’s journey (although subverting it like in Avengers Infinity War helps)

And speaking of worst case scenarios…

2. YOU ARE A DEVIL, NOT A GOD
One of the best pieces of writing advice I was given in Film School was “Be your character’s demon” and this feeds into what I meant about these perfect characters many creators develop. Their main characters either experience no pain, problems or situations they can’t easily work their way out of. In reality…you should be abusing your character and putting them in the worst case scenario. For example:
-Die Hard: “I’m just an average cop in a building with terrorists, hostages and I don’t even have my shoes”.
-Speed: “I’m an FBI agent who now has to keep a bus speeding 55 miles per hour or it’ll explode”.
-The Revenant: “I’m a tracker whose being chased by native Americas, I’ve been almost killed by a bear and I was betrayed and left for dead by an evil colleague-so I’m out for revenge”.

No one wants to have the main character never be in trouble or never experience difficulty, even if they’re someone like The Rock or Robert Downey Jr. You want to love your characters at the beginning, but either admire or hate them by the end. Maybe you’re supposed to like them at the beginning because they’re cool, but kind of a jerk and you love them by the end because they’re a better person-like in Emperor’s New Groove. Characters who suffer and pull through are admirable: we admire John McClane in Die Hard because of what he goes through (not so much in part 4 or 5) or sympathise with Ash from the Evil Dead films as he suffers the torment of the Deadites. You pretty much have to injure, hurt, or scar your characters in the story…and not in the tragic backstory way.

3. TRAGIC BACKSTORIES SHOULD BE YOUR MAIN PLOT
Many stories I read have this problem where the main character’s current story is bland and their backstory is far more interesting. As Zero Punctuation’s Yahtzee Croshaw states “Is this the most interesting part of your character’s life? And if not, why aren’t you showing us that?” A tragic backstory is often where a character has been developed, but to a point where they can’t grow further…or they just reverse the backstory to go to a status quo we only know as a backstory. Characters obviously need backstory, but if you’re going to have a character’s backstory be saving the world while our current story is them dealing with a difficult day at work…it feels weak. Thirteen Ghosts had its incredibly in depth and rather nuanced backstories for its ghosts kept as dvd specials and not part of the rather boring main story and its all for the worse. If you make a cool thing happen, show it. You can give them a brief backstory, but don’t give them an amazing backstory to where you don’t even show that.

4. YOUR WORLDS AREN’T IMPORTANT
This is a problem I find in fantasy, sci-fi and alternative worlds, where more detail is put into the mythology, timeline rules and customs of a world-rather than the characters or story. It’s kind of like that episode of Family Guy wherein Brian Griffin takes focus medication and creates a giant world, treatment and even a language-only to have it put down by George RR Martin. Because let’s be clear here…no one REALLY cares about this giant elaborate world with 10’000 years of history-they’re here to see the story of growing characters. Your setting should be a playground for the characters and audience…and no audience wants to be educated what the playground was before or what company made the swing set-they’re here to have fun. Now if you do fall in love with the world you made and NEED to have it out there…then just have it as one of those encyclopedic books that company giant universes-don’t just shove it into the story. David Lynch’s adaptation of Dune has this problem where either 10’000 or 5000 years of history is explained in the first 10 minutes of the film…and not only could I not remember most of it-most of it doesn’t really matter. We shouldn’t need to start a film on the birth of the universe or your main characters…unless that actually has something to do with the plot. As my lecturer and fellow filmmaker Stephen Lance stated: “Films should be like a party where you arrive late”, because the preparing for a party and tidying a party are not the interesting parts. Start your story with a world already in swing and end with events that can follow. Your world should just be a really fascinating background for a good story, it’s like how the original Star Wars trilogy is great despite never really getting into HOW this world exists-and why the prequels made it boring by explaining it and getting into political elements. For some of the BEST ways worlds are shown and not told, I highly encourage looking at:
-Watchmen (Graphic Novel and Film)
-Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049
-Akira (Manga and Film)
-Zootopia
-A Clockwork Orange (Film)
Backstory is a part of storytelling so it’s ok to have it hinted in the background or briefly told, but if you’re going to do so-at least make it interesting (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Man of Steel, District 9). Backstory isn’t nececcary to everything: I didn’t need the Star Wars prequels to make the other films fun, I didn’t need the history of the Italian mafia to enjoy The Godfather, Goodfellas or The Untouchables and I didn’t need to read the prequel comics to understand John Doe from Seven.

5. STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI ISN’T BAD
Now a lot of my understanding on fans (often creators in their own right) wanting to inform stories was the negative response wave to The Last Jedi. Particularly how complaints were made in regards to Rey’s parents not being told (many people assuming she was Luke’s daughter), the truth of Snoke having no result (theorised to be someone we already knew), more Captain Phasma and how Finn and Rose’s escapade into a new world to show a new part of the universe was dumb. Now I may sound rather elitist and condescending saying this but, I’m glad The Last Jedi did these because aside from me believing fan entitlement shouldn’t always be met-the desired inclusions would’ve likely been stupid.

I really feel like we’re so accustomed to stories where every character has to be related or already existed in a story we know about. If Luke was Rey’s father…it would have made no sense and just make Rey more uninteresting than she already is. If Snoke was revealed to be some big bad we already knew about…that really wouldn’t have changed anything. Characters are able to just be and exist, but many writers and fans desire for completely inclusive stories where everyone and everything has to be tied to the same core elements. I feel this is strange as it makes galaxy wide stories revolve around a core group of people (again feeding this elitism angle), but I can understand how the human desires a lack of loose ends…but how many loose ends are the most memorable parts of films? (Inception anyone).

It kind of reminds of one of the recent reveals with the animated series Steven Universe seems really cool and smart on the surface…until you realise it kind of doesn’t make sense and dramatically decreases the scope of the universe and conflict.

CONCLUSION
In my opinion, storytellers need to focus on:
-Building a character’s arc (And maybe not just always basing them on your desired persona)
-Learning to be cruel to your character and not just love them
-Tell the most interesting part of their story
-Leave the world as background details
-Try not to make your big fancy worlds incredibly small in scope

I want stories to continue to be told well and not just turn into an era of self-loving stories with intricate worlds that no one remembers.

I thank you for reading, and apologies to those this angers (but I don’t apologise for writing this).

If you want recommendations of films that can teach you how to tell great stories:
-Star Wars: A New Hope
-The Matrix
-Speed
-Die Hard
-Aladdin
-The Lion King
-Avengers: Infinity War
-Alien
-No Country for Old Men
-Blade Runner
-Drive
-Batman Begins
-Blue Velvet
-Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
-Chinatown
-Memento
-Collateral
-Mulan
-The Shallows
-Wolf Children
-Oldboy
-Goodfellas
-Seven
-Citizen Kane
-The Godfather

And for a few videos on YouTube to help:

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Movie Review: THE PREDATOR

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Infrared vision showing The Predator creature & the Predator logo

The Predator is the first Predator film in 8 years and comes courtesy of Shane Black: writer of Lethal Weapon, Monster Squad, The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, director/writer of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Ironman 3 and The Nice Guys, and who starred in the original Predator. How is it? It’s pretty damn good.

For franchise clarity, the original Predator was almost a cheap and lazy monster movie until they got Stan Winston in to make one of the best movie monsters of all time. Directed by John McTeirnan (Die Hard, The Hunt for the Red October, Die Hard with a Vengeance) the film has rightfully become a classic of action cinema thanks to its cast, direction, monster, music and memorability. Unfortunately the movie would be the best Predator film as its initial sequel was mostly fine, but forgettable. AVP was mediocre although its Predator scenes were pretty cool, AVP Requiem was bad all around and Predators from 2010 went from good to average to mediocre in its running time. The series has never been a masterclass, outside of the genuinely good first one that still holds up-even if it’s a completely silly and cheesy 80’s action horror romp that’s fully memorable, has one of the best creatures in Hollywood history and even has a toe in the morality of killing.

The Predator comes just shy of the original’s greatness and doesn’t quite land it, but that still makes it the best Predator film after the original. For one thing, it’s funny. Shane Black knows how to write comedy (along with writing action, structure and narrative cohesion) and the jokes here are pretty damn funny. There’s maybe one stinker of the whole film that’s a call back to the original film, but it doesn’t stick around too long. In general this movie is less a fan service film and more Shane Black telling an actual story with new characters. Outside of a few lines of dialogue, a few pictures and props, and Jake Busey’s character-there’s no blatant fan service. There’s no Arnie cameo (he declined), no direct Xenomorph reference and really it’s those classic musical beats from the first film that return to be awesome. But like I said, it’s funny and it feels like that humor is purposefully used by the characters to hide personal trauma and I like that.

It’s a well made film, Shane Black’s direction and storytelling bolstered by Larry Fong (300, Watchmen, Batman V Superman, Kong Skull Island) and a great production and effects team that perfectly balance CGI and practical work. As for The Predator and the balance of horror and action-it’s really violent junky fun. This isn’t a slow burn action thriller from the original, not the 80’s cop film from the second or even the modern horror approach from Predators. Instead this feels more or less what Shane Black’s Monster Squad script was: a colourful genre film with humor, the additional being ultra violence. And I do LOVE the kills in this movie, with elements of the Predator mythos being used for new purposes instead of just looking cool. Shane Black even does what Brad Bird did with Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol in having some of the items not always work. But when guys are getting exploded and shredded, it’s a lot of fun and makes me with Predators had kept that vibe up. Plus the classic Predator is able to move and do more than in previous films where he mostly moved off camera and generally just stood around. And the Upgrade Predator (along with the Pred-Dogs) are fun, nasty additions that just make me want more Predator stuff.

Now aside from the casting controversy wherein Shane Black unfortunately made a bad decision in casting a friend who is a sex offender in the film (the scene was cut and Black apologised), the main production issue that has been discussed is the third act. This film’s 3rd act was rewritten and reshot (like Mission Impossible 5, Rogue One) due to test screenings not going well. Now there are examples where test screenings can hurt a film (I am Legend, Reindeer Games), but considering parts of this 3rd act are still in the trailers and I managed to read what apparently happened-I think I can make an educated analysis. The current 3rd act is being disliked by many critics, suggesting the original 3rd act would have been better, I disagree. From what I could find, the original 3rd act would have been an action spectacle in broad daylight that would’ve gone from a base attack to an armoured vehicle chase wherein friendly Predators help humans. This doesn’t sound good as it sounds like the ending of AVP (which is when that movie took its worst turn). Now I won’t spoil the current 3rd Act, but I think I prefer it as it gives way to more intimate and emotional moments and an overall better act. The 3rd act certainly doesn’t top Arnie’s showdown in Predator, but it’s the best Predator ending since then as all the other film endings with Predators in them simply try to recreate that Arnie moment of badassery. So unless we can see the final 3rd act (which we won’t-like Rogue One) we can’t really judge it. I enjoyed the 3rd act of this film, as I did every other act.

In general, this was just a really fun and junky monster film with great production values and a great script with perfect Set-Up and Pay-Off structure. I whole heartedly recommend you check this out instead of The Nun or Peppermint so have at it.

TOP 3 WORST FILMS OF 1996

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Disclaimer: Because I haven’t seen all the possibly bad films from 1999-1990, there’ll be inconsistent numbers in the lists depending on how many bad films I’ve seen. There’ll be no dishonorable mentions and I’m not interested in seeking out potentially bad films.
Please enjoy otherwise.

3. GALGAMETH
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The background to this film is 1000 times more interesting than the film itself. This is an American remake of a North Korean Kaiju film called Pulgasari. Pulgasari was made because in 1978, the North Korean government kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok along with his wife and forced them to make movies. While they eventually escaped and lived without trouble, it’s still nightmarish to think of a world leader who would kidnap a filmmaker to force him to make propaganda type films.
If only this movie were 1% as interesting…because it’s basically an ET type movie in a fantasy setting. The story is a young prince is wanted dead for a royal conspiracy and he finds a little lizard who turns out to be an ever growing dragon and you can tell where the story goes. Its direction…isn’t great. It was directed (and even acted as the King) by Sean McNamara whose films include Casper: A Spirited beginning, Casper Meets Wendy, 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, BRATZ, Soul Surfer and A RoboSapien movie. This is probably the mot ambitious, but least functional of his movies due to the often lacking effects. Basically the bigger the monster gets and the more it has to do-the less impressive it is. While it only was his second directorial effort and didn’t even have the budget of From Dusk till Dawn or The Craft…the effects are weak. It’s not even laughably enjoyable and is just a kaiju film that doesn’t hold up.

2. THE ENGLISH PATIENT
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This won Best Picture a the Oscars…anyone know or remember this film? No. Of course you don’t. It’s a 2.5 hour bore fest that confuses elaborate for convoluted. It feels like Dear John if stretched out to be 2 hours and 40 minutes of nothing really happening. While the actors are doing what they can…it doesn’t really amount to anything and feels tonally akin to Atonement. It’s shot well by John Seale (Mad Max Fury Road, Poseidon, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Witness) and edited well by Walter Murch (The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now), but the direction and script by the late Anthony Minghella focuses far too much on posh characters with rather unrealistic statures (also like Atonement). It’s just another pretentious Oscar bait film no one remembers.

1. THINNER
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This is one of the dumbest premises ever…getting thinner. This was a Stephen King story that he wrote under a pseudonym for a reason. I’ve no idea how the book went but I’m assuming not much better than this. Directed by Tom Holland (no not Spider-Man) who directed Fright Night and Child’s Play…it’s a wonder why he took this job. The film doesn’t have any stylish elements or unique direction and most of the performances range between sucking and being overly comedic. The main character by Robert John Burke (who also starred in Munich, Good Night and Good Luck, BlacKkKlansman and Tombstone) is just such a weird performance that I couldn’t honestly tell if this was a comedy or not. And overall its story/concept/moral exercise is really nonsensical: it felt like King wanted to make a horror film about dieting and lost the plot. Just…don’t watch this.

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1996

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-101 Dalmatians
-The Birdcage
-Bound
-Breaking the Waves
-The Cable Guy
-Crash
-The Crucible
-Dragonheart
-Eraser
-The Fan
-Fear
-Flipper
-The Frighteners
-From Dusk till Dawn
-The Ghost and the Darkness
-Hamlet
-Jerry Maguire
-The Long Kiss Goodnight
-Mars Attacks!
-Matilda
-Mulholland Falls
-Primal Fear
-Sling Blade
-Space Jam
-A Time to Kill

10. ALADDIN AND THE KING OF THIEVES
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This is probably the best direct to video Disney sequel overall. After the classic original and the rather mediocre first sequel that was a pilot for the series-this feels like a great return to form and closure for the franchise. Aladdin discovering his long lost father and getting involved in a treasure hunt when he should be getting married is a solid enough story for the reunion of the original cast (as Robin Williams had sat out of the show and 2nd film due to being mistreated-being replace by the voice of Homer Simpson). I like the new voices of John Rhys-Davies as Aladdin’s father/The King of Thieves and classic actor Jerry Orbach as the villain Sa’luk. Tad Stones who is a workman director for Disney animation gives this film a gorgeous pallet and some very artistic choices like the red and blue colours in Aladdin’s fight with Sa’luk. The score is great and its songs are incredibly entertaining, with the voice cast doing an admirable job. I like the comedy, the consistency of the thieves with repeated characters considering 40 isn’t actually a lot. Plus the film really is the best ending to contrast how the original came in. It makes me wonder if they’ll follow this plotline as a sequel if Guy Ritchie’s remake next year does well.

9. WHITE SQUALL
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Ridley Scott makes a coming of age story that instead of being set in a college or on a basic road trip-is out at sea and it works. This really is a basic story, but the setting allows for a more nuanced take that allows Ridley’s visuals to shine through thanks to cinematographer Hugh Johnson (who also shot GI Jane, The Chronicles of Riddick and Eragon). It’s scored well by Jeff Rona who’s had a hand in everything from Black Hawk Down to Far Cry 4, but its the cast lead by Jeff Bridges who really make this shine. The film could have had the top notch production muscle it had, but would have sucked if the cast didn’t make this “boys become men” story work as well as it did. It’s not Ridley’s best, but it definitely deserves the recognition it barely received by audiences.

8. TRAINSPOTTING
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This film is acclaimed and beloved and taught to every film student. And it’s definitely good, but not…masterpiece good in my opinion. A black comedy about drugs that introduced the world to Danny Boyle (sorry about losing the Bond film man) and Ewan MacGregor that still retains its charm and masterful execution. I just think certain dark moments should be darker and I’m more partial to its ultra bleak cousin Requiem for a Dream. But its acting is top-notch, the directing and editing perfectly executed and its story that only examines, but never idolises its main cast is really well done. Maybe it’s the over exposure in film school that made me not appreciate it as much, but it’s still a great film and taught for a reason.

7. THE CRAFT
four young student girls walking in the rain towards the viewer with the film's title ,credits and release date below them.
Here’s a perfectly little excellent witch film that’s the kind of thing I wish we got more of. A witch film that has both a tie to Wiccan culture and never devolves into “Witches and women are scary-burn them” that has real female characters and is…well awesome. I think the story, directorial execution and balance between a fun teen movie and supernatural horror film really work. Stuff like the snake aesthetic and the genuine use of colour (as opposed to the desaturated trash most teen movies are) really make me miss this kind of film. While the performances and arch are all great in terms of the loner girls in high school, my favorite of them is Rochelle Zimmerman played by Rachel True who has one of the more harmful pieces of bullying abuse and the comeuppance her abusers get is enjoyable to say the least. It’s actually a really great story that frames the “teens learn to overcome, but go to far angle” and frames it in the entertaining guise of a witch film. While this kind of story would still be told in the likes of Chronicle-this 90’s snapshot does it best…so let’s not remake this because there’s nothing really new you can do with it that won’t be stupid.

6. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE
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The next four movies are action films so buckle up. Mission Impossible might’ve opened to mixed reception (criticism of its script and changes from the tv series) but it has technically introduced one of the best action franchises. While the series quickly became a bombastic action spectacle-the original was basically a Hitchcockian heist film because that’s what happens when Brian DePalma (director of Carrie, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables and Hitchcock’s biggest fanboy) makes a spy film. I didn’t think the script was that convoluted considering they had the writers of Chinatown, Jurassic Park and  Schindler’s List on hand and works as a series of cool reveals. Tom Cruise does great work acting and proves himself the action star he is, along with the rest of the cast doing a great job. Mostly, it’s the filming execution that pulls this all off. The direction, cinematography, design, music and DePalma cute tricks take what could’ve been a generic spy film and elevate it.

5. THE ROCK
The Rock (movie).jpg
Often considered Michael Bay’s best film due to it not having giant CGI robots or a 2.5 hour length, The Rock is still one of the best 90’s action blockbusters. The “Die Hard on an Island” premise with Ed Harris as a Brigadier General wanting compensation for dead Black Ops Marines who don’t receive their appropriate recognition holding WMD in the Alcatraz Island Prison, with Nicolas Cage as an FBI Biochemist and Sean Connery as an imprisoned SAS officer to stop Harris is a good set up. Bay’s direction is incredibly solid and grasping like Tony Scott of the same era. The performances and cheesy fun dialogue suit really well, along with the drama in action movie form makes this an action film that might’ve suited an MCU plot if not for the language and violence. Obviously the action is pretty kick-ass with the small enough geography allowing for Bay’s chaotic nature to be appreciated, but it’s that ridiculous car chase that’s the most fun. While I don’t think this is Bay’s best film (that’s probably Bad Boys 2) this is definitely one of his best and just a well made fun ride.

4. EXECUTIVE DECISION
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This often forgotten action thriller starring Kurt Russel, Halle Berry, John Leguizamo and Steven Seagal is actually one of my favourite action films for how long and effectively it holds the tension. Produced by action giant Joel Silver (who’d produced the similar Non-Stop years later), scored by the marvelous Jerry Goldsmith, shot by DOP Alex Thomson (Excalibur, Legend, Labyrinth, Demolition Man, Hamlet) and directed/edited by the often forgotten Stuart Baird. Stuart Baird was an editor on films like The Omen, Superman, Altered States, Lethal Weapon 1/2, Die Hard 2, The Last Boy Scout, Demolition Man, Casino Royale, Salt and Skyfall. Baird has been a reliable action workman, but while this was a stunning directorial debut, due to his other directorial efforts being US Marshals and Star Trek Nemesis-he’s now slinked back into just editing. But, Executive Decision is the real deal in doing a “Die Hard on a Plane” that…ok this came out before Air Force One, but Passenger 57 also did that in 1992 and Delta Force did this kind of story back in 1986, but I digress. This is some of the best tension in any film I’ve seen, with a small team meant to take back a terrorist controlled passenger plane and sneaking around before the guns start firing-just enduring bad luck and more problems. The film feels like a Rainbow Six game in movie form and it’s awesome. While I wish the final end was a tad more interesting, there’s enough subversion that I think this is easily one of the best 90’s action films.

3. INDEPENDENCE DAY
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The big dumb blockbuster that perfectly executed its goal of being a big dumb blockbuster with a theme. A seemingly simply disaster movie that’s about the destruction of human objects so that humans can be unified beyond all boundaries to defeat an alien menace is crafted expertly in this Roland Emmerich 90’s vehicle. While today we think of his worse efforts like Anonymous or this film’s sequel-Independence Day was the reason we loved his work. Indepdence Day was one of the key 90’s blockbusters that were genuinely great films like Terminator 2, Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Titanic and The Matrix. While it has a lot of criticisms towards some of the acting and story elements, it still holds up better than a large majority of blockbusters. Its effects were genuinely astounding, its sound was great thanks to Casino Royale composer David Arnold and its visualised perfectly through Emmerich’s intentional direction and compositions with help from cinematographer Karl Walter Lindenlaub and its performances by Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum and everyone else really sold this epic alien invasion story. We’ve all seen this and we all love it, even if some of it’s still silly. It still has a hopefully theme and idea about unity beyond boundaries that would continue into the next decade with franchises like Fast and the Furious and the Marvel Cinematic Universe…plus come on-its explosions and action sequences are still AWESOME!

2. FARGO
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Robbed of its Best Picture Oscar by the truly forgettable and trash The English Patient, Fargo is a masterpiece of cinema and nihilistic storytelling with a sense of hope. I still find it funny how people believe the film and subsequent TV series are based on real events as that’s clearly a lie (because for anyone to know these events-they’d have to be present for every event). Clearly the Coen Brothers were playing their cute game of testing the audience (better than when they did in A Serious Man) as their films have this nihilistic quality wherein things that should be meaningful mean nothing and things that should be nothing mean everything. Its writing, direction, performances by the likes of Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and William H Macy and the cinematography by master cinematographer Roger Deakins all coalesce into this amazingly executed, brilliant funny and dark tale that still has positive things to say about humans. It’s great and if you somehow didn’t see it-just go watch it.

1. THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME
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This film has so much right about it that I look past all its few flaws to see this kind of genius film. This film by the two directors behind Beauty and the Beast was made as an Oscar earning attempt, but the creators managed to create a nuanced, dark and important film. Considering that it’s one of the more positive mainstream stories with a lead disabled character (I grew up watching this movie with my disabled brother) it’s already a very positive film where a character is considered a “monster” in the eyes of the public, but becomes beloved once the true villain is revealed to be an unquestionable monster. And speaking of Frollo, he might be the best villain ever considering he’s the most real villain that becomes scarier as you grow older. As a kid you see him as a mean old man, but as an adult you see him as a xenophobic man charged by religious righteousness and sexual repression who truly wants to force a woman he deems with oppressing to love him or he’ll kill her…like…that’s kind of genius. Its voice cast is spectacular, the music and songs truly amazing, even its use of comedy is not such a tonal whiplash compared to the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and its visuals are astounding. Now, I think the film’s dark tone does work and I genuinely believe a kids film being this dark wouldn’t be accepted in the current “let’s make fast cartoons with butt jokes” era. But this movie has probably the greatest scene of any Disney animated film. Up there with the Wildebeest Stampede from The Lion King, You Can Fly from Peter Pan, A Whole New World from Aladdin, Rite of Spring from Fantasia or Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid and that scene is of course…Hellfire. The contrast between Heaven’s Light that comes before it and Hellfire is some of the best craftsmanship I’ve ever scene. Hellfire is a masterful song, visually perfect and one of the pinnacles of animation. If Disney does plan a remake of this, you must nail Hellfire in a perfect way that doesn’t just copy the original-otherwise there was no point. As far as I’m concerned, Hellfire is what makes The Hunchback of Notre Dame. While it also has a killer opening, it’s Hellfire that I will say is the best scene out of any Disney film. There’s also nice nuances wherein Esmerelda isn’t a complete damsel (though I get the argument against her ethic exoticism in sexualising her) and that she is not a prize for Quasimodo. I know people hate Quasi not getting the girl…BUT-girls (and people in general) shouldn’t be prizes in stories or character arcs for being a good person (that’s why the lie of the Friendzone exists). And Quasimodo accepting that her love is her choice and that he instead earns the love and respect of the city is more important. This movie is just pure beauty.

Ok fine I’ll do a little top 2 casting/creator pick for a potential remake.
Director Choices: Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Writer Choices: Nicole Perlman (Guardians of the Galaxy), John Logan (Skyfall)

Quasimodo: Ben Whishaw (Paddington), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings)
Esmerelda: Mila Kunis (Ted), Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace)
Frollo: Michael Keaton (Birdman), Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Phoebus: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Chris Evans (Captain America)
Clopin: Oscar Isaac (The Force Awakens), Will Smith (Men in Black)
3 Gargoyles: Kevin Hart (Secret Life of Pets), Karl Urban (Dredd), Queen Latifah (Hairspray)

 

Or…I could make it? Disney-hit me up.

TOP 10 WORST FILMS OF 1997

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

10. TURBO: A POWER RANGERS MOVIE
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Even as much as I’m Power Rangers fans, this sucks. The series is awesome overall, the 1995 film is a staple of my childhood collection and the 2017 movie I thought was pretty good. But this movie is just BORING! The first time the Rangers morph in this film, they don’t do anything and are out of the suits by the next scene. Most of the film is watching the Power Rangers mope around on an old boat. While some of the narrative/structure work in base level sense (like the villain setting the plot into motion), it’s all boring until the Rangers morph for action by the end. The holding off feels only to limit the budget and doesn’t even have the 2017 excuse of earning that big end battle as this was the second Power Rangers film building off the show. The only other good things are Divatox as Hilary Shepard is owning her time, some of the comedy, the action, the Rita comedy cameo and that pretty creepy monster scene in the middle of the film. Otherwise…yeah this isn’t even defensible for Power Rangers fans…this even had two directors…I don’t know why.

9. ROMEO + JULIET
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I know Leonardo DiCaprio is in this and that we all watched this for English class in high school because Romeo and Juliet is the most taught piece of literature…but this still kind of sucks. Aside from the fact that the pretty visuals are cut down by Baz Luhrman’s inability to edit well (Moulin Rouge! being the worst example), the tone is a nonsensical mashup between melodrama, cartoon comedy and serious crime story. I’m all for genre mashing, but this really REALLY doesn’t work. The dialogue might be intact from the original text…BUT IT’S STUPID TO CALL GUNS SWORD AND IT MAKES ME FACEPALM! Whatever problems I have with the original Romeo and Juliet text, this makes worse-ESPECIALLY that trash ending that looks like it was executed as a comedy when it’s trying to be serious. If you want a big, melodramatic romance with Leonardo DiCaprio that’s good from 1997, go watch Titanic…but as for this-can we get a new good version to replace this in classrooms?

8. ALIEN RESURRECTION
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When people tell me that Ridley Scott’s Alien Prequels “killed” this franchise…I’m reminded how bad the AVP films and this truly were. Because this is not a horror film, it’s a comedy. It already has the stupid premise of reviving Ripley 200 years in the future by a generic corporation because Weyland Yutani was bought by Walmart (really). Plus it goes with stupid gags like a scientist kiss a xenomorph through glass, a general who got his brain bitten by a xenomorph and taking a piece out to look at it,  a basketball scene, bullet ricochet, someone screaming and shooting at a spider, someone going berserker mode when chestbusting  and that final baby thing just…this is messy. Granted it’s…sometimes entertaining maybe. The main question I have is “If they needed the Alien queen for eggs and she’s unable to make eggs in the film-how do they have so many eggs in the film?” The acting is…fine I guess for the execution but it just feels so lacking compared even to Alien 3 or Prometheus. Its production design is fine for the most part, with the director of Amelie and City of Lost Children doing a decent job. And this film at least has one interesting depiction of Xenomorphs swimming, but it’s mostly let down by a really stupid story and script. Alien 3 might’ve had production problems like no other…but at least it somewhat worked.

7. URBAN LEGEND
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I can get the appeal of this movie…but I wanted to like this and slowly hated it more and more. It’s opening is actually a really good short film version of an urban legend, but it slowly evaporates after that. Aside from the concept of urban legends becoming this prominent/prevalent not only feeling rather ridiculous, it’s a concept that was done with a genuine take with Candyman 4 years earlier. Urban Legend’s apparent ripoff of Scream feels palpable considering the multiple possible suspects and someone’s fixation on Urban Legends. But considering I never liked Scream and felt it was just as ridiculous (at least having one decent added element that makes it feel more real than this) and by the end I had pretty much given up. I don’t know if I should blame the Australian director Jamie Blanks (who also did Valentine, Storm Warning and the Long Weekend remake) or writer Silvio Horta (who created Ugly Betty), but I’m just really unimpressed.

6. SPEED 2: CRUISE CONTROL
The faces of Jason Patric and Sandra Bullock and shown among streaks of diagonal lines in blue and orange.  The top reads "From the director of 'Speed' and 'Twister'" and right side reads "Rush Hour Hits the Water".  The bottom features Sandra Bullock's and Jason Patric's names, followed by "Speed 2" and "Cruise Control" in red text, with film credits underneath.
The sequel to one of the best action thrillers of all time is just…bad. While director Jan de Bont and Sandra Bullock returned-the writers and Keanu Reeves did not. The first Speed is a stone cold classic, one of the best action films and thrillers of all time. Unfortunately Speed 2 (which had Jan de Bont writing) loses all the effective momentum and story structure with a generic Die Hard set up. Yes, the original film was “Die Hard on a Bus” but at least used its constant momentum effectively and was bolstered by a villain with a personal grudge. Here, it’s just Sandra Bullock and discount Keanu Reeves stopping Willem Defoe as Hans Gruber. What’s more insulting is that it’s a boring “Die Hard on a Boat” story…when we already had that story work 5 years earlier with Under Siege and it couldn’t even do that. Willem Defoe is at least entertaining in a memeish way-but there’s no real entertaining factor outside of “generic action film for the background”.

5. JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE
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I used to like this as a kid, now I look back asking questions. Why is this kid film making tons of sexual references? Why is animal abuse treated in comedic terms? Why does this give into a Russian mafia plot by the end? WHAT WAS THE POINT? Apparently this is a remake of a French film…I don’t know if it’s any better but this is trash. The pedigree should have been good considering it’s Disney, the director of The Santa Clause and one of the writers from Stand by Me. Unfortunately it devolves into boring Tim Allen “jokes” and lame 90’s slapstick involving a spider. So please don’t remake this. And I’m away that the voice actor behind Cogsworth and Jumba played the Russian Mafia boss and he was fine and passed away…but this isn’t exactly his best work.

4. BATMAN AND ROBIN
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Yes, this is bad-but not worst of 1997. While some of the puns have grown own me (mostly Arnold Schwarzenegger’s) most of the dialogue and writing (mostly George Clooney’s) is TERRIBLE. Joel Schumacher might’ve gone for the pop neon kid aesthetic and while it works in making the film look like a toy commercial…it doesn’t work for the film. Batman and Robin are whining children, Freeze’s tragic story is lost when he just wants to take over the world, Poison Ivy is far less interesting than she should be, Bane is a henchman on steroids and Batgirl…ok Alicia Silverstone was pretty good in this. The main things that save this film are the base level visuals, the good puns and batman’s relationship to Alfred. Otherwise…yeah it’s bad.

3. VEGAS VACATION
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The first 3 Vacation film’s were good-hence why National Lampoon’s name was attached (although that didn’t become much to speak of). Considering this came out 8 years after the last one (Christmas Vacation), was the first of the series not to have the National Lampoon name (which ended in 1998) and the further installments would be a made for TV Cousin Eddie spin-off and a lame 2015 remake/reboot/sequel…it feels like we should just call the original 3 films a great trilogy and the rest…bad. Considering the original trilogy had film greats like John Hughes, Harold Rami and Amy Heckerling as creative leads, Vegas Vacation’s lack of strength comes from John Hughes not writing for the first time and the main creative voices had no real success before or after, so it’s no surprise this dull comedy landed with a thud. The comedy based around really lame “Vegas” staples have zero laughs and mostly it’s due to Chevy Chase’s Clark being unrealistically stupid to the point he’s more dimwitted than Mr Bean and cousin Eddie…is the world he’s ever been. While prior films had him as either a kind hillbilly or sometimes clueless if well meaning relative: here’s he’s an active hinderance and is the worst part of the film worst he would be until his spin-off. While the prior films were successes and loved by audiences-Vegas Vacation could barely earn its budget back, so everyone knew it was trash as Vacation is a relic of the 80’s that is funny…but fails in an new contemporary setting.

2. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS
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The original An American Werewolf in London is a masterpiece of horror comedy cinema. Genuinely scary and funny with some of the best practical effects and one of the best werewolf movies…SO WHAT HAPPENED? JESUS THE EFFECTS AND HORROR AND COMEDY AND DIRECTION AND WRITING AND ACTING FOR THIS MOVIE ARE ATROCIOUS! Made by a nothing director with no real actors in a really dumb nothing story by some less than adequate writers and cost 5 times the original 5, looked 10 times cheaper-barely made its money back with is embarrassing considering the original was a box office smash. This is probably the worst werewolf film EVER…so…you have that going for you Twilight.

1. MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION
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Remember when the first Mortal Kombat was pretty good?…that was something. This sequel is trash. Completely cheap trash from the man who produced and directed Foodfight and the director of Butterfly Effect 2, Annabelle and Wish Upon. What’s disappointing is that the director is a good cinematographer (The Mask, Dead Silence, The Conjuring, Insidious 1+2 and Piranha 3D) and this film’s cinematographer/director’s brother also has a strong track record (Raise the Titanic, Poltergeist, Commando, Strange Days, Dawn of the Dead) but the film looks like absolutely trash before the terrible costumes and effect appear. It’s boring, the plot bounces everywhere for no reason and it doesn’t look like anyone cared or tried to make anything worthwhile. But yes, it’s the performances and ridiculous character moments that really show how bad this is-giving Batman and Robin a run for its money when it comes to bad line delivery. I mean…that line of “Too bad YOU…will die” is delivered to the point I see it in my nightmares. Want to know the only thing I like about this? Cyrax. No, just Cyrax existing. The scene looks like a poorly imitated Power Rangers episode and all I like is that he’s there…nothing else. Nothing else in this film is worth watching. It’s the worst 1997 had to offer.

TOP 10 BEST FILMS OF 1997

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Honorable Mentions:
-Amistad
-Anastasia
-Chasing Amy
-Con Air
-Donnie Brasco
-Face/Off
-The Fifth Element
-George of the Jungle
-G.I. Jane
-Good Will Hunting
-Hercules
-Jackie Brown
-The Lost World: Jurassic Park
-Men in Black
-Mimic
-The Mirror
-MouseHunt
-The Postman
-Spawn
-Starship Troopers
-Titanic
-Tomorrow Never Dies

10. CUBE
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So here’s a perfectly little excellent film that didn’t even cost a million dollars and achieves more than most hundred million dollar films. A bunch of people wake up in a seemingly infinite cube with barely any memory and must find their way out-all the while the cube has deathtrap rooms that kill at random. It’s be like 10 Cloverfield Lane meets Saw, except this came out before those. The reason this works is that it’s done as a simple movie with a large world that’s barely shown. You’re stuck with these characters and seeing how they all work together in trying to solve this puzzle…or go crazy. The deaths in this film are actually pretty cool and the tension you feel is palpable. While the sequel to this pretty much went overboard, this one holds up nicely between the realm of real, hyper visceral torture and nebulous un-seen world. I think a continuation with a few new twists would be nice, especially considering the director improved his craft greatly with his sci fi piece: Spice.

9. BOOGIE NIGHTS
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A drama about the porn industry wherein the porn is the least interesting part because of the cast and director. Paul Thomas Anderson’s second outing was his first pretty big hit, a cast of stars giving some of their best performances and a showcase of Anderson’s use of cinematography (especially in the long takes thanks to his frequent cinematographer) . Mark Wahlberg as a kid who gets into porn thanks to Burt Reynolds is a mature spin on the “rise to fame” story and features the amazing supporting cast of Julianne Moore, John C Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H Macy and Don Cheadle. Mostly it’s the performances, story and execution that carry this really engaging story that isn’t a comedy-but feels humorous and human. It’s what I wish more dramas should be, exemplified by Anderson making some of my other favorite dramas in the form of There Will Be Blood and The Master.

8. EVENT HORIZON
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The best film Paul WS Anderson ever made-a Lovecraftian fueled nightmare which basically amounts to The Shining in space. It’s a schlocky B-Movie that was given the budget to be something better that what it might’ve achieved on a smaller budget. While I would’ve preferred the longer, gorier version that the studio basically killed-its current state still works incredibly well as a kind of disjointed story about insanity. The production design, performances, unseen elements and general direction of the horror style hold up much better than its contemporaries or even some modern films. Sam Neil and Lawrence Fishburne genuinely do great work as the leads and I’m very much aware of the film’s relative connections to Dead Space, Hellraiser and the Warhammer 40K universe. I think a lot of the vitriol given to this movie considering its cult status is made by people who don’t understand its cult status, this movie isn’t loved because it’s a masterpiece-it’s loved because it’s a flawed but still perfect version of what it wanted to be.

7. THE RELIC
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The Relic is an often forgotten monster movie that I feel genuinely deserves more attention. Considering Scream was the dominant horror film in culture at the time (The Relic coming out only a month after the meta-slasher) this movie briefly had its positive reception and top box office slot before failing to make its money back and largely going unnoticed. Directed by genre workman Peter Hyams (Outland, 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Timecop, Sudden Death, End of Days) I feel like The Relic might be his best film, as it’s a technically solid film with great monster effects and executes its scares in darkness better than most movies can. It’s performances are solid, the use of darkness and holding the monster back works wonders and the overall execution of the film makes me appreciate it over other popular monster films like Anaconda or Lake Placid. The Relic might not be well remembered, but it’s absolutely worth seeking for a Halloween monster movie marathon in the actually good category.

6. AIR FORCE ONE
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So considering my “Best Action Film of 1997” spot could have gone to Face/Off or this, I elected Air Force One because while Face/Off is certainly memorable and entertaining-Air Force One is just better. Air Force One was helmed by one of my favourite prior generation action directors Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Neverending Story, Outbreak, Perfect Storm, Troy) and this is my favourite of his work. A contained “Die Hard on a plane” movie with Harrison Ford playing the President of the United States defending Air Force One from Russian ultranationalists lead by an amazing Gary Oldman. The direction of this film rivals that of how Die Hard and Speed were crafted, Jerry Goldsmith’s score is excellent, its narrative works better than more contemporary version like Non-Stop and this films visuals are assisted thanks to the effects team and the cinematographer of Goodfellas and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. So if you’re an action junkie or need a well made entertainment piece-check this one out.

5. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
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A classic noir made in the co-current modern era that has all the tropes and is amazing. The late Curtis Hanson (who also did The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) perfectly directs this romantic, yet dark mystery tale from a screenplay by the awesome Brian Helgeland (who wrote A Knight’s Tale, Mystic River and Man on Fire). The story is a mature tale that’s able to show when its Hays Code era originals couldn’t. The performances are all great: Russel Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger do an amazing jobs in this film with all the other supporting cast in bringing this world to life. While this film doesn’t quite reach Chinatown levels of neo-noir perfection, it’s probably the strongest contender within the past 30 years. An absolute must-see for any film buff.

4. THE GAME
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David Fincher’s most underrated film is still one of his best, a near adaptation of A Christmas Carol with the goal of showing a depressed businessman some meaning in his life. The Game is one of these really elaborate mystery films that shouldn’t make sense (like an M. Night film) but it’s not only mostly explained into believability, but is such a thrill-ride going through it all. Michael Douglas, Sean Penn and the rest of the cast do really spectacular work under Fincher’s direction-considering the turns the film makes. Harris Savides who would go on to shoot Zodiac with Fincher utilizes cinematography almost perfectly, especially in the close ups. This screenplay is the best thing this pair of writers have done and I think there’s more to this film than at first glance. So if you’re one for a good thriller, just go see this great one.

3. PRINCESS MONONOKE
A young girl wearing an outfit has blood on her mouth and holds a mask and a knife. Behind her is a large white wolf. Text below reveals the film's title and credits.
This is my favorite Studio Ghibli film-a violent, action-packed and artful epic about nature. I’m really glad Harvey Weinstein didn’t get his actress abusing hands on this, because it’s quite simply one of Ghibli’s perfect films. It’s animation, art and colour and every other aspect of its production is pitch perfect (what more do you expect?) but it’s the nuance in the narrative that I appreciate. This film doesn’t do the preachy hippie act about nature and man’s relationship-instead having the kind of nuance Silent Running had with its premise. The film doesn’t end on some undefined or copout answer, instead giving a more realistic depiction of how this kind of event might play out. Basically what if the kind of repayment nature destruction we’re familiar with occurred in a team where Gods and Demons walked about? It’s really, REALLY freaking good. Also I genuinely love its English voice cast: Billy Crudup (Watchmen), Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet), Minnie Driver (Tarzan),  Billy Bob Thornton (Armageddon), Gillian Anderson (The X-Files), Keith David (Princess and the Frog) and John DiMaggio (from any number of beloved animations) all do stellar work in this fantasy epic that might be better than Spirited Away-but don’t quote me on that.

2. LOST HIGHWAY
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This is one of my favorite David Lynch films. I almost had no idea what happened the first time this movie played…then I realized one aspect and unlocked the whole film (which I’m not going to spoil). This ultra trippy neo noir thriller with an eclectic cast is certainly a trip that rolls between nightmarish visions to quaint and comedic situations. Its story follows dreams and nightmares as Lynch’s other work has, but I feel this might be the first film of his to truly incorporate the dream, nightmare and real world into the same reality. I really do like where the story went and by the end, I did have a clearer understand of what occurred. I don’t think this is for everyone and absolutely falls under my personal taste, but I think everyone should try to dissect this movie and find its Rosetta Stone in understanding how it works-it’s a genuinely understated masterwork.

1. PERFECT BLUE
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Here’s one of my all time favorite films, a genuinely great anime film and a film that put me on my creative film course. Perfect Blue was the directorial debut of the late and great Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress) who was one of the truly great anime creators. Perfect Blue follows a J-Pop star turning to serious acting, an online stalker and the slowly fracturing mind of the lead character. The story is very much like the work of David Lynch in blending realities, with Kon using animation to fully encapsulate that. While the film may feel pretentious or repetitious to some-I think it’s purposefully going through these motions to show its story perfectly. Black Swan might’ve been its kind of soft remake and while I like Black Swan-this is just better. I think it’s a very good story about modern media culture, fandom, obsession, the importance of one’s true self and I think it should be viewed by everyone (especially those going into creative mediums). Mima the main character is a really well realized character and acted perfectly in either the Japanese of English dub, with the supporting cast of characters also being great. As always, my number one film is the film that I’d ask you to watch if you were to only pick one film off my lists; Perfect Blue is thrilling, dark, gripping and has some truly warped scenes and imagery to strike your mind. Check this one out now.

TOP 3 WORST FILMS OF 1998

Written by Tyrone Bruinsma

Disclaimer: Because I haven’t seen all the possibly bad films from 1999-1990, there’ll be inconsistent numbers in the lists depending on how many bad films I’ve seen. There’ll be no dishonorable mentions and I’m not interested in seeking out potentially bad films.
Please enjoy otherwise.

3. SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE
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First of all I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I hope the disgusting monster of a pig seemingly titled Harvey Weinstein can die in the worst way the universe sees fit. Even before the allegations, Weinstein was a trash example of “filmmaker” in that he had stupid arbitrary rules and concepts with films (mostly time and editing down because he’s an idiot). Harvey’s stupidity included editing the second Crow film into a copy of the first thinking that’s what fans wanted…when the fans demanded it not be. He also almost got the rights to Snowpiercer and Princess Mononoke and would’ve chopped 20 minutes out (replacing story and character with narration) if the filmmakers chose not to relinquish them. His other gambit was gaming the Oscars (especially with his favourite filmmaker Tarantino) and Shakespeare in Love is an example of how a bad film wins Best Picture. Considering this won Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line, that feels insulting.

Shakespeare in Love is the same kind of revisionist history trash Anonymous did over a decade later. While Anonymous at least had an attempt of doing something bold, this film instead elects to basically have a cliché 90’s romance just using historical characters in ways that doesn’t make sense. Basically stating Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet while he was in love with a boy who was actually a girl (because of acting rules then). That already feels dumb because Romeo and Juliet is about child lovers separated by families and this plot is more akin to Shakespeare’s own Twelfth Night which the movie brings up and feels stupid for doing so. Basically this film falls under a very stupid and modern belief of “writers expressing real life into fiction” whereas Shakespeare’s time had no interest in that. So aside from the already dumb concept, we also have the heteronormative narrative where a guy thinks he’s gay and is relieved when it’s a girl…like…that’s kind of twisted when you think about it. It’s one thing for The Crying Game to explore nuances in gender, it’s another thing to just say “as long as you like someone of the same gender is actually the opposite gender-it’s a cute story”. Like there’s already accusations of Shakespeare being gay or not straight (because the concepts of homosexuality and heterosexuality didn’t exist back then) so I’ve no idea why they thought this was a good idea.

Aside from that, the acting goes between average to bad (especially Fiennes), the production isn’t that impressive and the Gwyneth Paltrow as a guy this is so bad I could only remember when they did that for the Rowan Atkinson series Black Adder as a joke (twice) A DECADE EARLIER! So yeah, not a fan and I despise its success. And I hope you suffer eternally Harvey, you and all the other abusers in Hollywood and in the world deserve fates worse than death.

2. BLUES BROTHERS 2000
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So aside from the fact that it’s strange to have the movie with a 2000 in its title when it was 2 years BEFORE 2000 when it was released, this movie has none of the charm of the original film. 3 of the main cast members had passed away in the almost 20 year gap between films, the new ratings system in Hollywood had butchered the sequel’s ability for profanity and it really felt like the filmmakers were making stuff up on the fly. John Landis had a very strong career-having directed Animal House, Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf in London, Spies Like Us, Coming to American, Michael Jackson’s Thriller music video and one of my favourite little 80’s oddity: Amazon Women on the Moon. By the 90’s he’d clearly burned out his creativity and the sequences involving actual magic and lacking visual gags feel tonally out of place and meant to supplement the film’s lacking edge. The original was basically a gritty film with a heavy emphasis on slapstick carnage and foul language, whereas this one feels like a direct to video sequel animated film of a grittier original (see the Secret of Nimh films). The performances, story and execution not only don’t really matter-they’re just trash all the way through. There’s no real fan service, meaningful story or reason to make this outside of either an obligation. I love the original Blues Brothers and hope to God they don’t remake it because the lack of special effects and seeing cars actually get trashed is amazing-and this movie didn’t have enough of that. Songs were nice I guess?

1. LOLITA
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Word of advice-don’t remake Stanley Kubrick. While most of Kubrick’s work (even adaptations) would seem wrong to remake like Paths of Glory, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, Full Metal Jacket, Eyes Wide Shut-there’s been a few attempts to continue/re-adapt his work. The sequel to 2001 in 2010: The Year We Make Contact was surprisingly not good (even if we don’t remember it). That Spartacus tv show might not have necessarily been a remake of Kubrick’s version-but it’s still touching material that has Kubrick’s name attached and the show avoided trying to be like that film. And Stephen King’s adaptation of his own novel The Shining in response to hating Kubrick’s version rendered the story boring and stupid (an apparently we’re getting a Shining sequel starring Ewan McGregor?).  And it’s not like Kubrick’s influence isn’t worth seeking-The Killing would influence Tarantino’s Early work, 2001: A Space Odyssey influence most science fiction to follow and Full Metal Jacket had a more recent and modern take with Jarhead. So the question is…why remake Lolita?

Lolita the book was a controversial Russian story about a middle aged man marrying a woman because of his interest in her 12 year old daughter (now his step-daughter) and having sex with her. So aside from this sounding like bad/illegal porn, the story’s influence still holds in influencing the Lolita/Loli character archetype and Lolita complex (nothing to do with Lolita fashion) so Kubrick’s original version was quite controversial and a lot had to be removed. In fact, Kubrick stated that if he was aware of all the editing he’d have to do-he likely would’ve have made the film. So it might seem more logical to do this story in a less restricted modern setting right? Wrong. See Kubrick’s version at least effectively used subtlety to show its point. Because here’s the thing…no one actually wants to see a borderline incestuous illegal relationship (unless you’re a genuinely sick mind who gets off on it) the reason you tell this story is exploring characters and mindsets. Unfortunately, any degree of subtlety or even exploitative shock value is lost on this film.

From the director of Fatal Attraction, 9 1/2 Weeks and Jacob’s Ladder, you’d think the film would be decent-but it’s not, that’s why it’s here. It’s mostly just a glossier, modern update of the Lolita story with not room for theme or nuance. It’s already a difficult story to adapt and trying to go for seemingly the Zoe Eszterhas trend (the writer of Basic Instinct, Sliver, Showgirls and Jade) of a 90’s erotic story-it falls short. The acting mostly holds up, although Kubrick’s version showed the range of actors clearer and with more depth. While Howard Atherton’s cinematography is solid (because he shot Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket) and Ennio Morricone’s score is delightful, Stephen Schiff’s screenplay doesn’t really do anything. It’s not shocking enough like Irreversible or Kids and it’s not explorative/artful with its themes like Leon the Professional or…yes the original Lolita.

I’m not always against remakes but with famous examples like Psycho…maybe learn some things shouldn’t be remade because there’s no chance in hell it’s gonna work. And please learn that soon before we get a Jaws, Godfather, Die Hard, Gladiator, Heat or Lawrence of Arabia remake.