When the Best Picture Actually Wins Best Picture

Did you hear? A really amazing movie that totally deserved to win the Oscar for Best Picture actually won the damn award! Yes, Parasite, directed and written by Bong Joon-Ho just made Oscar history by becoming the first foreign language film to win the coveted Best Picture trophy. It’s incredibly well deserved for the talented filmmaker. In a year that had numerous strong contenders, most especially 1917 which had been winning a number of the usual Oscar prognosticator awards, Bong came out on top.Image result for bong joon ho

The Korean filmmaker didn’t come out of nowhere (he’s been making films since 1997) but Parasite marks a turning point in his career. Bong’s films have typically been genre pieces, like the monster movie “The Host” and the post apocalyptic thriller “Snowpiecer”. These films go beyond their genre conventions though, Snowpiecer is focused on classism like Parasite, but his genre mash-ups made it easy for awards voters to ignore.Image result for snowpiecer

This was not the case tonight. Parasite’s Oscar success is unprecedented. A film with unrecognizable actors (at least to Oscar voters and its audience) it managed to sweep the story awards through will alone. Bong himself seemed overwhelmed, mentioning during his International Film victory speech that he was “ready to drink”. Unfortunately for him he had to come to the podium again for his Best Director speech, watch it below!

This kind of gratitude is what makes the Oscars worth watching. Bong’s humility in honouring his fellow nominees was awe inspiring. Scorcese seemed to be holding back tears as Bong shouted out to him. Bong’s feelings about the Oscars are know, he referred to the ceremony as “local” in response to how the show rarely rewards international film, but he didn’t let snark get in the way of respecting his fellow artist. It’s a perfect example of a man who cares deeply about the art of filmmaking.

Parasite’s big night marks the rare occasion where voters actually picked the right movie. After last year’s Green Book upset it seemed like the worst movie of the pack would the frontrunner. That thankfully didn’t prove to be the case at all during awards season as 1917 and Parasite lead the pack and are both well crafted films in their own right, but while 1917’s strength lies primarily in its visuals, Parasite thrives in its intricately crafted story. A film with no clear heroes or villains, where the true enemy is capitalism and the inequality it brings. There is something to be said about a bunch of millionaires awarding a film that loathes them but the thing about being rich is that its easy to take criticism when your life is great. Image result for parasite

Much has been touted about the Academy Awards expanding their membership. And yes they have increased the percentage of women by about 10% as well people of colour, but it is still an overwhelmingly white, male, and geriatric body of members. This isn’t even the first #oscarssowhite. To detract from some of the controversy they made a bit of an over-correction in having presenters point it out, saying “yes we get it” but also not really making an effort to change. And while things have improved (Get Out winning screenplay two years and nearly winning best picture is seriously wild) with things such as the Green Book upset last year it seemed the Oscars would be doomed to voting for the safe white guy movie. Parasite’s win at least shows that things are changing. Not just in awarding diversity but also in straight up awarding the film with the most artistic merit. Image result for brad pitt wins oscar

Bong of course wasn’t the only winner of the night. Brad Pitt finally won for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and was his typical cool guy self. Laura Dern got her moment to shine as well. Renee Zellwigger won for a movie that few people have seen. And Joaquin Phoenix won for a movie a heck of a lot of people saw. His speech was, uh, something else. A call for protecting the environment, an apology for his transgressions, and a weird off handed remark about cancel culture which almost seemed like he was trying to get ahead of some terrible news. Given his close friendship with Casey Affleck whose faced some accusations that’s probably who he’s talking about, hopefully. These wins were definitely more in line with previous Oscar telecasts, deserving wins for sure but not entirely surprising given how seemingly every Awards group had rewarded these people. It made the lack of acting nominations for Parasite feel even more egregious, snubbing its cast for simply not speaking english. Image result for parasite wins best picture

Parasite’s win is historic for a number reasons. And it seems at last that the Academy’s shifting membership is becoming more aware of films that defy the usual Oscar conventions. For the first time in a long time the Oscar ceremony actually seemed to be somewhat unpredictable in the best possible. Will next year prove to be as good? Well a film like Parasite doesn’t quite come out every year so it’ll be tough to beat but here’s hoping some films will try.

Sam Raimi’s Strange Journey Back to Marvel

On Wednesday, Film Twitter unleashed one its biggest gasps when Variety broke the story that Sam Raimi, director of the first Spider-Man trilogy, would be returning to Marvel to direct Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Just a month earlier they had broken the news that Scott Derrickson, who had directed the first Doctor Strange movie, had parted ways with Marvel due to creative differences. Derrickson’s departure had fans questioning what went wrong with the movie, did Marvel chicken out on the promised horror elements of the sequel? In a tweet dating back to mid-December, Derrickson mentioned that “studio release dates are the enemy of art” suggesting that he wanted more time and Marvel wanted to rush the film so it could make its May 2021 release date. But with the announcement of Sam Raimi taking over that put cold water on those rumours. After all, aside from his Spider-Man films, Raimi is most famous for his horror-comedy franchise “Evil Dead”, not too mention the numerous horror flicks he has produced, including last summer’s killer crocodile movie “Crawl”. If Marvel was getting cold feet about horror being a part of Doctor Strange than hiring the guy who stuck this scene below into a Spider-Man movie probably wasn’t the best idea.

On top of that the speculation that Marvel was rushing the film into production also doesn’t hold up due to the news that the Strange sequel is getting a re-write from “Loki” writer Michael Waldron. And no offence to Derrickson but Doctor Strange (as well as Captain Marvel whose directors are also not returning for the sequel) was one of the lesser Marvel films of recent memory, certainly not bad but nowhere near the heights of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok.

Raimi’s horror work is among the most important of the genre. His first feature “The Evil Dead”, was made on a shoestring budget but ended up spawning a franchise. Evil Dead 2 is a masterpiece in horror comedy, with slapstick violence so original and insane that it just has to be seen to be believed. Just take a look at this work of art below.

So it goes without saying that Raimi is more than a little creative with his set pieces. Marvel is known for developing their action scenes even before their writers get hired. Winter Soldier screenwriters Markus and McFeely were told their script had to have a SHIELD helicarrier crashing down for example. But with Raimi on board he’s bound to have new ideas that the current Strange draft doesn’t have. His visual style is among the most distinct of any director Marvel has hired. Even Joss Whedon, whose Avenger films have those trademark Whedon quips, wasn’t the boldest when it came to shot composition. Marvel has hired some very good writers with original takes but their films definitely have a house style, almost like how Jack Kirby defined the look of Marvel comics for nearly two decades. It’ll be interesting to see how much of a Raimi film this will feel like.

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Raimi is a bold pick for Marvel, not just because his prior work with the company would have suggested he had moved on from superheroes, but also because his directing style is so distinct compared to other directors Marvel has worked with. The studio has typically chosen directors who are willing to do their job and work within the limits that Marvel has set them. Edgar Wright famously departed Ant-Man mere months before shooting due to creative differences. But the past few years have marked a change in the studio. Prior to Taiki Waititi being hired for Thor: Ragnarok, the film was pitched to audiences as the darkest Marvel movie yet. This did not end up being the case at all, and the film feels very much like Taika’s independent comedies despite the presence of multiple gods and a Hulk. Likewise Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther is a deeply personal film that opens and ends with scenes in Ryan’s hometown of Oakland. And James Gunn straight up completely changed the Guardians of the Galaxy characters from how they were in the comics. Will Raimi reinvent Doctor Strange as well?

Well, we’ll see. The character has already changed a fair bit between his appearance in his first film and Infinity War. The Russo Brothers and screenwriters Markus and McFeely seemed to have a far better handle on the character than Derrickson did. Not to mention the massive power up that Strange was given between the two movies. Marvel has not shied away from changing characters on a dime, the Thor of Thor: Ragnarok was a chill surfer dude, a far cry from his more Shakespearean portrayal in his previous four movies, so Raimi will be given at least a degree of freedom in altering the character.Image result for thor ragnarok

On top of that, as per the films title, the multiverse will be explored which brings new possibilities to the table. Most importantly the potential for a cameo of Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man. After the brief spat over the Spider-Man rights, Sony seems to be far more flexible with the character and Marvel has too. The trailer for Morbius showed that the film will be a part of the MCU thanks to a cameo from Michael Keaton’s Vulture. If Marvel is willing to let Sony play in their court, perhaps Sony will allow Marvel to use the original movie Spider-Man as well. Tobey Maguire hasn’t exactly been an active actor lately (his last on screen role was in 2014) but perhaps a quick payday would be enough to convince him to suit up once again. Better yet, in Sam Raimi’s un-made Spider-Man 4, Bruce Campbell was to play Mysterio (here’s official concept art below). Perhaps Campbell will finally get the chance. There’s many possibilities when dealing with alternate Earths, as the DC Universe did so just recently with Crisis on Infinite Earths, so it would be unfortunate if Marvel didn’t take advantage of some of their history.Image result for bruce campbell mysterio

With Sam Raimi behind the camera, Marvel seems to have found a new angle with Doctor Strange. It’s both a intriguing new choice and also a homecoming of sorts. The studio’s track record hasn’t faltered yet and its unlikely this will be the one to crack it. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness is scheduled for May 2021.

Harley Quinn’s Wild Rise to Superhero Stardom

Did you know it’s been a whole four months since a Superhero movie has come out? Well this weekend that dry spell finally gets broken with Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The kinda-sorta follow-up to Suicide Squad is getting way better reviews than that flick with as of this writing a 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s being praised for being a fun balls out action movie although it’s been criticized for being more of a Harley Quinn movie than a Birds of Prey one. But there’s a pretty good reason for the film focusing more on her. Harley Quinn after all has become one of the most popular DC characters in recent memory. True to her character, the behind the scenes of how she came to the DC universe isn’t as conventional as other characters. So let’s go down the rabbit hole of how Harley happened.Image result for birds of prey poster

Harley Quinn’s first appearance wasn’t in a comic book but rather a cartoon. Created by Paul Dini and Bruce Tim, she appeared in the critically acclaimed Batman the Animated Series in the episode “Joker’s Favor”. The role was originally intended to be a one-off female sidekick role for the episode, just another wacky goon for Joker to play off of. Arleen Sorkin, a soap opera actress on Days of Our Lives was the inspiration for the character and also voiced the character. The character’s role quickly expanded beyond one episode and she became a regular in Joker stories from that point on. Her key traits were fleshed out in this series, like her abusive love relationship with the Joker and her friendship (although maybe more) with Poison Ivy. Even though she was a villain you could emphasize with her, something later appearances work with even more.

Audiences instantly fell in love with the character and in 1994 Dini and Timm came out with a graphic novel called The Batman Adventures: Mad Love that told her origin story. It revealed that her real name was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, PhD, and was an Arkham Asylum Psychologist who fell in love with the Joker and became his on-again off-again girlfriend. The graphic novel was a huge success and won an Eisner Award (Comic Oscar basically) for Best Single Issue of the Year. 5 years later it would be adapted into an episode of The New Batman Adventures.Image result for mad love

Despite being introduced in 1992 and having made 14 appearances in various non-canon comic books, it wouldn’t be until 1999 when she would be officially a part of the main DC Comics continuity, in the storyline “No Man’s Land”. But once that happened it was off to the races with her. In 2001 she got her first solo series titled “Harley Quinn” of course. It lasted 38 issues and ended with her turning herself in to Arkham Asylum, having finally realized she needs help. This being comic books it didn’t last of course but the idea of Harley growing beyond her relationship with Joker and getting better was something many writers of the character would focus on heavily, marking a transition from her being a super-villain to more of an anti-hero.Image result for harley quinn solo comic 2003

Gotham City Sirens, though only lasting 26 issues, would end up being a major hint of things to come for the character. Written by her co-creator Paul Dini (and too many artists to name), it was a book that teamed her up with her best friend Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. At one point a film of it was being developed before Warner Bros decided to do Birds of Prey instead, although Margot Robbie just recently said she would still like to do a movie of it. Gotham City Sirens wouldn’t be the last team either as a very significant one was to happen just a month after Sirens ended.Image result for gotham city sirens

In September of 2011 DC made the bold move to reboot their entire continuity. It was a controversial move that was supposed to make it easy for newer readers but, as with all reboots, it kind of did the opposite. Thankfully in Harley Quinn’s case things mostly stayed pretty similar, with one major profession change, she became a part of the Suicide Squad. In spite of being a recent addition to the team she quickly became one of it’s most associated members. Two years into the New 52 another solo Harley series was launched as well. This series effectively turned her into DC’s Deadpool, with Harley often breaking the fourth wall and having fun with the reader. It was a significant transition that would play into her appearances in other media.Image result for harley quinn comic

In 2016 Harley Quinn finally made her film debut. “Suicide Squad”, directed by David Ayer was released August 5th of that year and…well it was a movie. Plagued by reshoots and competing edits (one cut of the film was edited by a movie trailer company!). The story behind the movie is more interesting than the film itself. I mean Jared Leto did his whole method acting shtick which had him sending used condoms to cast mates only for the majority of his scenes to be cut. It’s a terribly edited movie with conflicting tones, a movie that wants to be Guardians of the Galaxy but was reportedly shot initially as a gritty action flick. But it wasn’t a complete wash, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn was praised, as well as Will Smith’s Deadshot. And despite the terrible reviews, the film grossed over $700 million and will be getting a sequel next year, ironically being directed by Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn.

Also even though Suicide Squad is very much a bad movie, it is not nearly as big an insult to the character as 2017’s “Batman and Harley” was. It’s a direct to video animated movie written by Bruce Timm, shares the same art style as Batman the Animated Series, and features the same voices of Batman and Nightwing from that series. Sounds awesome right? It’s not. Harley Quinn in the film is constantly objectified, has a scene of her farting constantly in a car with Batman, and also has her have uh, non-consensual sexual relations with a tied up Nightwing. Yeah, it’s bad. And it also features a double-butt crack.

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Honestly I brought this trashfire of a movie up just to show this.

But thankfully things have turned out a lot better for Harley after this. Last November, she finally got her own TV show called “Harley Quinn” of course. Currently only available on the DC Universe streaming service (please come to Netflix), it focuses on a lot of the recurring elements I’ve already mentioned. She breaks up with the Joker, is best friends with Poison Ivy, and the show is focused on her getting better mentally. I love it! It’s like a mash up of Batman and Rick and Morty. The humour is whip-smart and the show’s overall narrative treats Harley great, keeping her funny elements but also making her enough of a human so that she works as a lead character. On top of that the show has a ton of fun turning serious Batman characters into joke machines, just take a look at this brilliant Calendar Man gag.

And that’s just from the first episode. Yeah, I really love this show, just don’t ask how I was able to watch it in Canada.

Finally we come to Birds of Prey. Margot Robbie pitched the film to Warner Bros. herself, choosing to do a team film because in her words “..’Harley needs friends.’ Harley loves interacting with people, so don’t ever make her do a standalone film”. She spent three years presenting the film to WB until the studio felt the project could be made. On top of that she is a credited producer on the film and her production company ,LuckyChap Entertainment, is involved as well. Directed by Cathy Yan, the first female Asian director to direct a superhero movie, it’s looking to be Harley’s next hit.

Harley Quinn is a character with a rich history and unconventional rise. I didn’t even get into her videogame appearances or non-canon comic history. Heck, she’s an incredibly popular Halloween costume on top of that. And if Birds of Prey doesn’t quite hit the mark Harley will still be on screens soon enough, with her appearing in “The Suicide Squad” in 2021. What can I say, everything is coming up Harley.

Who Will and Who Should Win at Oscars 2020

The most wonderful day of the year is almost upon us. Yes the 2020 Academy Awards finally happen this Sunday. And if you’re looking to score your own gold at your friends Oscar pool then you’re in look because I’m here to tell you who will win and who should win. So lets skip the theatrics and get right into it!

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Best Picture:

“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Marriage Story”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Parasite”

Who will win: This is a toss up between 1917 and Parasite. 1917 has won some critical awards such as the Producers Guild Award which has matched up with Best Picture more than 2/3 of the time. However Parasite won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards and the actors branch of the Academy is the largest by far. I’d give the edge to 1917 but Parasite is definitely a strong contender.

Who should win: Parasite, it’s easily one of the most ingenious thrillers of the last decade with a brilliant commentary on class. 1917 is certainly a technical achievement but Parasite will be remembered for far more than that.Image result for 1917"

Lead Actor:

Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”

Who will win: This is Joaquin Phoenix’s award plain and simple. Joker has been a smash hit at the box office too which definitely helps. Whether you like the film or not his performance was undeniably entertaining. Also his best actor speech will likely be pretty crazy too which will be fun.

Who should win: Adam Driver. In any other year Adam Driver would be the frontrunner by a mile but Joker’s ridiculous success halted that unfortunately. Driver is one of the greatest actors of his generation though so this won’t be his last nomination anyways.

Lead Actress:

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Who will win: Renee Zellweger will win this. I haven’t seen the movie, but my mom wants to see it so I guess that’s who the movie is for. She’s won every award this season so good for her.

Who should win: ScarJo. Marriage Story is a brilliant movie and ScarJo’s performance is one of the best of her career. The argument between her and Driver has already become a meme but the scene itself is devastating. Take a look below and if you don’t feel anything from this I don’t know what to say.

Supporting Actor:

Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Who will win: Brad Pitt. He’s great in OUaTiH and he’s earned it for his long career. Pitt is one of the greatest guys in Hollywood and an on top of his acting career his production company, Plan B, has produced some of the best films of the decade (he already has an Oscar for producing 12 Years a Slave). I’m excited as hell for his victory speech.

Who should win: Pacino was great in The Irishman and it would have been nice to reward him for a good movie so Scent of a Woman wouldn’t be his only Oscar winning role but honestly Pitt is so good and probably won’t have another chance so honestly this win will be deserved.

Supporting Actress:

Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”

Who will win: Laura Dern is going to win this and even though I love her and the movie she’s in I honestly didn’t find her performance to be super noteworthy. But she’s super popular with Academy and it’s her time so she’s winning.

Who should win: Florence Pugh, but for Midsommar. She’s also great in Little Women but in Midsommar she delivered an iconic performance for the ages. But that movie is a horror film so I get why she was pushed for Little Women instead.Image result for midsommar poster"

Director:

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

Who will win: Again, like Best Picture, this is a fight between 1917 and Parasite. 1917 being a technical achievement and all probably has the edge. It also won the Director’s Guild Award so that definitely helps its chances.

Who should win: Parasite’s delicate tonal balance is perfect but lately Best Director has become a technical award even though story is just as important to direction as fancy one take wonders. Bong is still going to be winning at least two Oscars this night though so he’ll be fine.

Animated Feature:

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” Dean DeBlois
“I Lost My Body,” Jeremy Clapin
“Klaus,” Sergio Pablos
“Missing Link,” Chris Butler
“Toy Story 4,”  Josh Cooley

Who Will Win: Toy Story 4. This movie could have been so unnecessary and instead felt like a true ending to the series even after 3’s incredible ending. The ending to Woody’s story brought me to tears and I’m sure plenty of Academy voters felt the same way. The fact that it made a billion dollars also helps.

Who should win: Weather With You isn’t Makoto Shinkai’s best film but after the Academy snubbed him for Your Name this should have made up for that. Sadly the Academy’s strange dislike of anime has continued even after expanding their voting bloc.Image result for weathering with you english poster"

Animated Short:

“Dcera,” Daria Kashcheeva
“Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry
“Kitbull,” Rosana Sullivan
“Memorable,” Bruno Collet
“Sister,” Siqi Song

Who will win: Honestly I haven’t watched any of these and neither have you probably. These short awards are such a toss up and exist to spoil your Oscar pool

Who should win: N/A

Adapted Screenplay:

“The Irishman,” Steven Zaillian
“Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi
“Joker,” Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
“Little Women,” Greta Gerwig
“The Two Popes,” Anthony McCarten

Who will win: JoJo Rabbit has been on an Awards Season role. Taika is beloved by voters on top of that too as he’s become one of the hottest writer/directors in town. It’s a great movie so I’m not complaining that he wins.

Who Should Win: Greta Gerwig’s Little Women managed to be the best adaptation of the novek despite being the seventh version. She managed to modernize the story without making any wanky changes like setting it in present day or something like that. It’s an impressive feat.

Original Screenplay:

“Knives Out,” Rian Johnson
“Marriage Story,” Noah Baumbach
“1917,” Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino
“Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han

Who Will/Should Win: This is going to Parasite and deservedly so. The twists and turns in Parasite are handled incredibly deftly. Starting off as a fun farce then becoming something far darker and profound, Parasite is a masterpiece. Bong’s speech is going to be a fun one.

Cinematography:

“The Irishman,” Rodrigo Prieto
“Joker,” Lawrence Sher
“The Lighthouse,” Jarin Blaschke
“1917,” Roger Deakins
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Robert Richardson

Best Documentary Feature:

“American Factory,” Julia Rieichert, Steven Bognar
“The Cave,” Feras Fayyad
“The Edge of Democracy,” Petra Costa
“For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
“Honeyland,” Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov

Who Will/Should Win: American Factory, which is produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, has been getting all the hype this awards season and will continue its hot streak this Sunday.

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Best Documentary Short Subject:

“In the Absence,” Yi Seung-Jun and Gary Byung-Seok Kam
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone,” Carol Dysinger
“Life Overtakes Me,” Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas
“St. Louis Superman,” Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan
“Walk Run Cha-Cha,” Laura Nix

Who Will/Should Win: Where can I watch these? Please comment below.

Best Live Action Short Film:

“Brotherhood,” Meryam Joobeur
“Nefta Football Club,” Yves Piat
“The Neighbors’ Window,” Marshall Curry
“Saria,” Bryan Buckley
“A Sister,” Delphine Girard

Who Will/Should Win: Do you have any ideas?

Best International Feature Film:

“Corpus Christi,” Jan Komasa
“Honeyland,” Tamara Kotevska, Ljubo Stefanov
“Les Miserables,” Ladj Ly
“Pain and Glory,” Pedro Almodovar
“Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho

Who Will/Should Win: I’ve talked about Parasite enough, you know how I feel. This is one of the easiest awards to predict.

Film Editing:

“Ford v Ferrari,” Michael McCusker, Andrew Buckland
“The Irishman,” Thelma Schoonmaker
“Jojo Rabbit,” Tom Eagles
“Joker,” Jeff Groth
“Parasite,” Jinmo Yang

Who Will/Should Win: This is a tough one since 1917 was snubbed. I’m leaning towards Parasite but Ford v Ferrari could score an upset. Both of these films are fantastically edited though.

Who Should Win: Ford v Ferrari is a pretty remarkable film and this award would be a great way to acknowledge a surprisingly overlooked movie.

Sound Editing:

“Ford v Ferrari,” Don Sylvester
“Joker,” Alan Robert Murray
“1917,” Oliver Tarney, Rachel Tate
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Wylie Stateman
“Star Wars: The Rise of SkyWalker,” Matthew Wood, David Acord

Sound Mixing:

“Ad Astra”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Joker”
“1917”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Who Will Win: 1917 has a lot of explosions and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood has a lot of music. If that sounds like a simplistic way of looking at things, well considering sound mixers comprise a teeny part of the Academy, this simple view of things is probably how a lot of other members see it. I’d say pick 1917 considering how beloved the film is.

Who Should Win: Ad Astra is a one of the weirdest space movies out there and its use of sound is pretty wild. Just look at this scene where Brad Pitt fights a baboon. Remarkable.

Production Design:

“The Irishman,” Bob Shaw and Regina Graves
“Jojo Rabbit,” Ra Vincent and Nora Sopkova
“1917,” Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh
“Parasite,” Lee Ha-Jun and Cho Won Woo, Han Ga Ram, and Cho Hee

Who Will Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a love letter to the 60’s, an era that the geriatric membership of the Academy feel very nostalgic about. Jojo Rabbit’s Wes Anderson-lite portrayal of Nazi Germany could be a dark horse in this race but money is on the Tarantino flick.

Who Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a pretty stunning movie so I’ve got no issues at all with it winning.

Original Score:

“Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story,” Randy Newman
“1917,” Thomas Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams

Original Song:

“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”

Who Will/Should Win: This is the Frozen award plain and simple. We should all give a standing ovation when Idina Menzel belts this out.

Makeup and Hair:

“Bombshell”
“Joker”
“Judy”
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
“1917”

Who Will Win: Joker’s look in that film somehow managed to make people forget about Ledger’s, at least for a moment. Not to mention Phoenix’s sickly Arthur Fleck look. It’s a very gritty film with lots of people with smeared faces and it will be hard to overlook

Who Should Win: Maleficent, if only so I could say Maleficent 2 won an Oscar.

Costume Design:

”The Irishman,” Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson
“Jojo Rabbit,” Mayes C. Rubeo
“Joker,” Mark Bridges
“Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Arianne Phillips

Who Will/Should Win: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s 60’s outfits are to die for so it would be a real surprise if this lost. Although don’t count Joker out for it’s one iconic outfit.

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Visual Effects:

“Avengers Endgame”
“The Irishman”
“1917”
“The Lion King”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”

Who Will/Should Win: The Lion King’s visuals are so good that Disney didn’t even push it in Animated Feature even though the film is basically just a very pretty cartoon. I’d be shocked if it loses.

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A Brief History of Superbowl Advertising

The biggest game of the year is upon us finally. Two championship teams will be going head to head for football supremacy. Will it be the Kansas City Chief or the San Francisco 49ers? Do you even care? Whether you got skin in the game or not though, there’s at least one thing you can count on, some brilliantly overproduced ads! But if you’re like me you may be wondering why the Super Bowl became the mecca of advertising revenue. Well today is your lucky day to read the story of how a simple athletic event became the most important marketing day of the year.Image result for super bowl 2020

Super Bowl advertising had its humble beginnings in the early 70’s starting with Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus endorsing Prestone, a brand of anti-freeze. It was the first example of celebrity endorsement during the Super Bowl. Another notable ad came from the padlock company, Master Lock, which featured a person shooting one of their locks with a rifle. These ads became a yearly tradition for the company and between 1973 when they first started and 1994 their sales went from $35 million to $200 million. Take a look at this brilliant display.

One of the most iconic Super Bowl ads debuted in 1980. the Coca Cola as known as “Hey Kid, Catch!”, it starred Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman “Mean Joe” Green. The had actually aired iin October of 1979 but when it aired on the Super Bowl its popularity increased massively. It’s become so famous that its been parodied constantly by sitcoms such as The Simpsons and Family Guy. Coca Cola even parodied it themselves in 2009 and Mean Joe reprised his role for a Frebreze ad where the kid rejects his jersey because it smells. Here’s the original in all its glory.

Do you love your Mac? Can you not live without the precious glow of your iPhone? And don’t you miss the simplicity of the iPod? Well all of those things owe their existence to one very important Super Bowl ad. The “1984” commercial was a growndbreaking piece of commercial artistry directed by Ridley Scott. Despite being considered to be one the greatest ads of all time, when Steve Jobs screened it for the Apple boardroom it was hated and Jobs nearly pulled the ad. Thanks to the incredible response Apple followed “1984” up with an ad depicting businessmen as lemmings falling off a cliff, which ironically is considered one of the worst ads.

Super Bowl XXXIV became known as the “dot com Super Bowl” due the large number of tech companies that advertised during it. 14 to be precise, paying roughly $2.2 million on just one 30 second spot. The ads that debuted during this Super Bowl had a reputation for being terrible and non-sensical, just take a look below at this ad for Electronic Data Systems. The ads also didn’t really translate into success for any of these tech companies, as of today only 4 of the 14 companies that advertised that year still exist.

In 2006, Doritos came up with the clever idea to hold a contest for people to make their own Super Bowl commercial for them. In 2009 they upped the ante by offering $1 million if any of the winning entries were named #1 on the Super Bowl Ad Meter surveys. It’s a clever promotion that also results in cheap labor for Doritos!

“Halftime in America” directed by David Gordon Green of Pineapple Express fame, is perhaps the most iconic thing of the 2010s that Clint Eastwood did. It evokes the automotive crisis of 2008-2010 which was quite recent at the time. It recieved over 4 million views on Youtube within 36 hours.

In Canada unfortunately it isn’t exactly easy to see all the amazing Super Bowl Ads make their premieres. “Simultaneous substitution” regulations require Canadian broadcasters to act in accordance with Canadian Content laws, therefore American ads may be substituted with their Canadian counterparts. Or in some cases just random Canadian ads altogether. In 2010 the official Vancouver Olympics anthem “I believe” earwormed its way into Canadian audiences thanks to its huge presence during the Super Bowl. Canadian broadcasters also charge far less than America’s, roughly $170,000-$200,000, although to be fair Canada’s population is also 1/10th the size of the U.S’ so that makes a huge difference.

The Super Bowl’s advertisements have become as much a part of popular culture as Football itself. Here’s hoping Superbowl 2021 will bring even more creative content.

Bojack Horseman’s Finale Marks the End of Peak Netflix

Were you aware that the greatest show about depression, addiction, anxiety, and mental health in general ended this weekend? In case you didn’t I wouldn’t blame you, for one thing the show isn’t exactly at first glance about this things, and also Netflix has done a horrendous job marketing the show in past couple years. I’m talking of course about the Emmy Award-winning Bojack Horseman, which just dropped the second half of its final season.Image result for bojack horseman

When the first trailer for Bojack Horseman came out, I like many people thought it was like Netflix just took a bunch of actors from their most streamed shows and stuck them in a cartoon. It had Will Arnett of Arrest Development fame as the title character and had him playing an narcissistic asshole, not exactly a stretch from his AD role. Ditto for Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul playing a loser drug addict who wore a beanie. And then you had Allison Brie of Community playing the voice of reason. The show’s early reviews seemed to suggest that as much, with it being received as a silly parody of Hollywood.Image result for bojack horseman cast

But then as that first season went along things got darker. The funny horseman had a tragic and grounded past and his antics, while funny, also had ramifications on his friends. Looking back a lot of that darkness is present in those early episodes, it’s just that the somewhat hostile reaction to the show clouded things.

But if you still thought the show’s themes were just an attempt at making the show that had a character spending an entire season developing a bad rock opera seem deeper than it was than season two definitely proved that wrong. Towards the end of that season Bojack makes some pretty selfish and gross decisions that go beyond your average cartoon. And yet the show somehow managed to balance these scenes with hope. Just take a look at the ending to Season 2 below.

“It gets easier, every day it gets a little easier, but you gotta do it everyday, that’s the hard part, but it does get easier.” It’s a profound moment of hope for the character and a scene that I’ve looked back on a lot.

In subsequent seasons the show deftly balanced the push and pull between Bojack getting better then throwing it all away. It could have come across as repetitive but instead reflected what happens with a lot of people trying to battle their demons, the battle isn’t just won in a moment of clarity, it takes years and years to get better and even then things aren’t necessarily going to be perfect. And in Season 5 the show boldly took on the entire “anti-hero” genre that had come to dominated the Golden Age of Television. Bojack gets a job on as the lead of an anti-hero show called “Philbert” where he plays an abusive cop. The show is a hit but a character feels Philbert is becoming a vessel for assholes to justify their own shitty behaviour. Bojack, himself an anti-hero character, thinks that because he at least feels bad about his actions and acknowledges to others that he’s screwed up he’s okay (Spoiler alert, he is not okay). Though the previous seasons were also excellent, season 5 provided a self-critique that elevated the show on another level.Image result for bojack horseman philbert

With five acclaimed seasons you’d think that Netflix would want even more Bojack right? Well you’re wrong. Season six was advertised as the final season well in advance but creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg confirmed that Netflix cancelled BoJack Horseman, albeit with enough notice that they could write and animate a proper ending to the series. Marketing for the final season was limited compared to previous ones too. This wasn’t the only show of Bob-Waksberg that Netflix cancelled either, the Bojack spin-off “Tuca and Bertie” that aired this summer was cancelled within weeks of airing despite critical acclaim.

This is a stark contrast compared to the early days of Netflix’s original programming. “Lilyhammer”, Netflix’s oft-forgotten debut original, managed to get an entire three seasons despite having zero cultural footprint. And Netflix’s second show was “House of Cards”, an outrageously expensive television show starring a major movie star who hadn’t done TV in decades. House of Cards managed to do six seasons and only was cancelled due to allegations coming out against its lead. The early era of Netflix was filled with interesting original shows and they all seemed to get renewed. The first exception to that rule was the 70s disco drama “The Get Down” and even that cancellation at least made a bit of sense due to the exorbitant cost of the show. The early days were like a gold mine, it seemed like Netflix was the place to be.

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But in the past couple years things started to change. Netflix’s famed algorithm, which had been used as research to develop hit show ideas, also uncovered something interesting about audiences viewing habits. What they noticed was that show’s audiences tend to evaporate by the the third season. With Netflix not having to worry about time schedules like a typical TV network, all they had to do was develop shows that kept audiences subscribed. If the show was cancelled the viewer could find something else to binge anyways. Just look at the much hyped Marvel shows that debuted. When “Daredevil” first aired it seemed like a revelation, a gritty superhero show set in the same world as Iron Man, who wouldn’t want that? On top of three more heroes getting their own shows as well an Avenger’s style crossover it seemed like a no brainer. And yet in spite of that only two of the five Marvel shows made it to season three before being cancelled as well. Other critically praised shows such as “American Vandal” started getting axed too. The gold mine was over.

A major part of this is due to Netflix focusing more on producing content than actually marketing it. Netflix spent $8 billion on content in 2018 and produced more than 1500 hours of it. To say that’s a lot is a bit of an understatement. And while this “throwing stuff against the wall” seems like a decent way of finding the next Game of Thrones, it really isn’t. Netflix’s most significant show in the last couple years has been Stranger Things, a show that took a two year break between its first and second season and has only aired 8-10 episodes per season. On top of the fact that Netflix likes to drop their entire seasons in one day rather than week to week, it’s made the cultural impact of Stranger Things’ premiere’s rather limited. Just think back to this summer when its third season aired and it seemed like everyone was talking about it…for a week and it felt like an eternity. The binge drop is certainly great for audiences who don’t want to wait for a cliffhanger, but its a terrible way for a show to generate interest. The week to week model lets audiences speculate and post memes as they wait for the next episode. Look at the eight week long love affair the world had with Baby Yoda!Image result for baby yoda

Which brings me back to Bojack Horseman, today I watched the final eight episodes and now it is over. That’s it, its done. And the rest of the audience will likely feel the same. And as content becomes more and more disposable audiences will be less willing to commit to a Netflix program given their new reputation for cancelling everything in sight. Netflix won’t be going away any time soon but the next few years may become very rocky as their repuation diminishes.

Ring Fit Adventure turns Exercise into a Videogame

Working out for a lot of people isn’t exactly fun. I would know, I’ve tried getting into the rhythm numerous times, whether it be the P90X or running, or just making up my own routine. But I’ve always found it difficult to commit longer than a month or two. Eventually something comes up, whether I get injured, or am depressed or hungover and I start to miss a few session and eventually straight up quit. This became even worse during my time at BCIT, thanks to a long commute and tons of assignments it became incredibly difficult to keep up the physical activity, after a long day school why would I want to do even more hard work. Well oddly enough Nintendo came up with a solution.Ringfitadventure.jpg

Announced in July of last year, Ring Fit Adventure at first elicited groans from gamers. With it’s silly ring controller that reminded people of fads like the shake-weight, it seemed to be one of those very “Nintendo” ideas and not in a good way.Image result for wii fit

But it would be wrong to count Nintendo after, after all they’re the ones who came up with “Wii Fit”, which had sold over 18 million copies. However one criticism of Wii Fit was the lack of intensity in the workouts, not to mention it was very easy for users to cheat doing them.

Ring Fit Adventure, which released in October last year, is far better at keeping users honest.The game, available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch, comes with two physical components: the Ring-Con, a flexible, hard-plastic ring that the user holds and one Joy-Con (Switch Controller) slots into, and a Leg Strap, a piece of fabric affixed to the user’s leg that holds the other Joy-Con. The game is far better at sensing user’s movements than you’d expect and as someone who was notorious cheater at Wii Sports the exercises require far precision than that game.

Ring Fit Adventure also stands out among other exercise games in that it’s a full blown role playing game with an actual story. Players take the role of a young athlete that meets a talking ring, and they team up to take down an evil, bodybuilding dragon named Dragaux. Yeah, this silly as hell but it’s also super charming. Workout routines become game levels that the player has to conquer. During a level the player will start off by running in place, causing their avatar to move, on top of that there are also coins players can collect throughout the run by aiming and squeezing the Ring-Con.Image result for ring fit battles

Then there’s the meat of the workout which are monster battles. This is when things get wild.Players fight these monsters in the form of turn based battles where they select one of thirty workouts. Initially in the game you are limited to four different workouts but you unlock more as you progress throughout the game. Those four initial workouts aren’t easy either. I have never done so many squats in my life, and I dread every time I have to perform them. That’s because just like a RPG you can’t just spam the same move all the time, you need to alternate. Workouts go on cooldowns so you’re forced to switch things up. Even better the amount of damage you do to an enemy is dependent on your form! Previously it was always easy for me to slack on my form but with this game you are given extra incentive to do things properly. This is excellent gameplay design and I was wowed by how cleverly it incentives you. To add even further depth after a couple levels you unlock the ability to determine an enemies weakness. Red enemies take more damage from arm based workouts for example. This way even if you just only want to do one type of exercise the game nudges you into another routine.Image result for ring fit dragaux

And just like any good RPG there are boss battles! I’ve fought the evil Dragaux twice so far. After the first battle I just expected the second fight to be the same but more difficult. Instead there were totally new gameplay mechanics that forced me to change the way I fought him. I get excited just talking about the brilliance of the game’s design but it really is worth talking about. This game triggers the dopamine effect that comes from sitting on my butt killing monsters and turns it into something healthy. On top of that as someone who loves their sweets this game has really encouraged me to watch what I eat so that I don’t just waste the workout.Image result for ring fit adventure clothes

Furthermore players can unlock dozens of clothes to customize their character. These clothes also give players new bonuses too. In addition to that there are a dozen minigames included with the game. These aren’t super high intensity but they are very fun to play and you will still get some benefit from playing them. There is also a general fitness routine mode that lets you just go through the exercises without the gamification elements as well as a “quiet mode” where instead of running in place during levels you do squats (but why would you want to put yourself through that?).Image result for ring fit battles

Ring Fit Adventure is straight up incredible. As someone who’s put on a few pounds and has had difficulty in putting the time in, Ring Fit has been a great help. I’ve only had the game for just over a week so I’m not exactly jacked but I can already tell it’s become a great part of my life. If you’re looking for a fun way to get in shape I definitely recommend it.

Arrow’s Finale Ends an Era

If you told me ten years ago that there would not just be one major comic book superhero show on TV, but an entire interconnected line up, I would have laughed in your face. While live-action comic book shows weren’t entirely unknown (Smallville did like ten seasons), the quality of those shows was, uh, dubious at best. “Arrow ended up proving me wrong. The series, which premiered in October 2012 on The CW, ended up launching a whole universe of DC Comics superhero shows. Tonight, the show finally comes to an end after eight seasons. So let’s take a look back on the legacy of this influential show.Image result for arrow tv series

The idea for a Green Arrow TV series dates back to the sixth season of Smallville, when there was talk of spinning off Justin Hartley’s portrayal of the character, but it wouldn’t be until 2012 when things finally got off the ground. Andrew Kreisberg, Greg Berlanti, and Marc Guggenheim, were hired to develop the show. Berlanti and Guggenheim were already familiar with the world of DC Comics, having worked on the screenplay to the not-so successful Green Lantern movie that Ryan Reynolds starred in. The show was titled “Arrow” so as not to come across as too comic-booky, although their official rational was that the character hadn’t earned the Green Arrow monicker yet. It took a page from the comic book “Green Arrow:Year One”, which told the story of billionaire Oliver Queen becoming stranded on a deserted island and through a series of adventures, develop a vigilante persona that would eventually become the Green Arrow.

Stephen Amell was cast in the title role and things moved on from there. The show would utilize a flashback structure, showing how Oliver went from billionaire dude-bro to badass bow wielder. The intent was that each year the flashbacks would cover one year of Oliver’s five years on the island while the present day would show him taking on the Arrow persona and cleaning up his city. As time went on it became clear that five years of flashbacks on a deserted island would get boring, and so by the third season it was revealed Oliver became a mercenary and things got more than a little wacky.

Arrow, at the start, borrowed more than a little from the movie Batman Begins, with the title character’s brooding being far closer to the Dark Knight than the Green Arrow’s wisecracking sensibilities. The villain of Batman Begins, Ra’s Al Ghul, was even the main antagonist for the third season. There were also some plot points borrowed from the Spider-Man films, with Arrow having a snarky best friend whose dad was secretly a super-villain. But after the first season the series started to develop its own identity. Season 2 in particular earned wide praise for it’s portrayal of the villain, Deathstroke, whom the DC film’s have tried and failed to make happen somehow.Image result for deathstroke arrow tv series

Season 2 had another element introduced that would prove very important, the debut of Barry Allen AKA The Flash. Grant Gustin portrayed the character in a two episode arc that set up what become the CW’s most successful superhero show, The Flash. While Arrow had established itself as a show where there would be zero superpowers appearing, The Flash broke those rules pretty easily.Image result for the flash tv series

With the launch of The Flash in October 2014, audiences of course wanted to see the characters team up. In what would become the start of an annual tradition, The Flash and Arrow had a two part story arc, with each part being an episode of The Flash and Arrow respectively. The chemistry between the two leads was praised and things only got wilder from there.Image result for supergirl tv series

Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow premiered in October 2015 and January 2016. Supergirl started off as its own thing on CBS, but after a single crossover episode with The Flash, it became obvious that the series would become interconnected. With Supergirl moving to the CW in its second season, as well as production moving to Vancouver, it quickly became the third pillar of what became known as “The Arrowverse.” Legends of Tomorrow, meanwhile, was a team-up series that featured heroes and villains from Flash and Arrow. Though the show had a rocking first season, it quickly found its legs once it fully embraced the fact that it was “Doctor Who but with Superheroes.” With four series running at once, the yearly crossovers became four part extravaganzas. While the Avengers movies were blowing up the big screen, the Arrowverse shows had their own share of storylines that faded in and out between different shows.Image result for crisis on infinite earths arrow

One thing that the Arrowverse shows definitely had a leg up on compared to the MCU was it’s portrayal of LGBTQ characters. While it took Marvel 21 movies to have an unnamed male character mention dating another man, the Arrowverse has had numerous major LGBTQ characters, both super and non-super. In particular, Batwoman, which just premiered last year, is the first major comic book show to have lesbian lead character. Marvel’s TV shows have also had LGBTQ characters, but those characters have had nowhere near the screentime.

The Arrowverse also compares flatteringly to DC’s film universe as well. While they struggled to get even famous characters like Lex Luthor right on screen, the Arrowverse has had dozens and dozens of obscure DC characters appear throughout. The Reverse Flash, Damien Darhk, Martian Manhunter, Gorilla Grodd have all appeared in major roles. Heck, they got Jon Cryer to play Lex Luthor and he’s arguably the best live-action version since Gene Hackman. Take a look below.

It must also be said that Arrow and it’s spinoffs have been an incredibly important part of the BC film industry. With four series running in BC since 2015, that’s a heck of a lot of jobs. Numerous local actors have gotten their start on the show, as well hundreds of crew members. Watching the show, it’s always been funny seeing how sometimes they barely even hide the fact that they are shot here. While Arrow is leaving, two other shows will take it’s place, “Green Arrow and the Canaries”, and “Superman and Lois”. This brings the total of Arrowverse shows shot in Vancouver to six! Black Lightning is also part of the universe but shot in Atlanta. The economic impact that Arrow’s success has brought to Vancouver cannot be understated.

With 170 episodes, and an entire line up of shows that have spawn from it, Arrow’s legacy is far from over. While the show’s quality wasn’t entirely consistent, it still managed to run for 8 seasons. And with a sequel series already a go, there’s clearly more stories left in its quiver.

 

Joaquin Phoenix’s Unconventional Journey to Oscar

Joaquin Phoenix has always been a bit of a cypher. He is known for his awkwardness almost as much as his talent. Throughout his nearly 40 year career he has challenged conventions in numerous roles. And in a couple weeks he is almost guaranteed to finally win an Oscar for his most successful film (give or take a few hundred million). Today let’s take a look back at one of Hollywood’s most interesting actors.

Phoenix’s most well known early role is in the Ron Howard 1989 dramedy “Parenthood” as the troubled young nephew of Steve Martin. His performance earned him a nomination for the Young Artist Award for Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film. Despite this success he ended up retiring for a bit to travel around Mexico and South America with his father. In 1993, his brother River died of an overdose outside The Viper Room, causing him to retreat even farther from the limelight.

Phoenix continued to act though and played various oddball characters, like his role in Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, where he plays a young man seduced by Nicole Kidman to commit a murder. But it wouldn’t be until the year 2000 where he would achieve true commercial success.Image result for gladiator film

“Gladiator” was a massive hit of epic proportions. Phoenix played the heavy to Russell Crowe’s Maximus Decimus Meridius. He plays the role as a sneering snake whom you just love to hate. It put Phoenix’s unconventionality to great use as a blockbuster villain. Ridley Scott’s made a film that rivalled the biblical epics of the 50s and would go on to gross $457 million worldwide. Phoenix’s role as the villainous Roman Emperor Commodus was praised unanimously by critics and he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Phoenix’s blockbuster success would continue with two M. Night Shyamalan movies, “Signs” and “The Village” which grossed $408 million and 256 million respectively. He even fit in a voice role in a Disney animated movie in “Brother Bear” which did $250 million. It seemed like the edges were being sanded off and he would become a conventional leading man.Image result for walk the line film

2005’s “Walk the Line” certainly seemed to prove that. Joaquin’s performance as Johnny Cash earned him some of the best reviews of his career. He portrayed Cash as a nuanced and complicated person in what could have been a very clean and conventional biopic. Not only that, all of Cash’s songs in the film were sung by Phoenix. He received numerous award nominations, including Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

But then in 2008 things got weird. He announced that he would be retiring from acting to pursue a hip hop career that Sean “Diddy” Combs would be managing. In February 2009 he appeared on David Letterman wearing sunglasses and a bearded look that could only be described as “disheveled”. People were incredibly confused as to why Phoenix would be throwing his incredible career away. The answer would be a lot less interesting sadly.

“I’m Still Here”, which came out in September 2010 revealed that Phoenix’s strange public appearances were actually a part of a mockumentary he and Casey Aflleck had made. In the film Joaquin snorts cocaine, has sex with prostitutes, and abuses everyone around him. It tries to be a commentary on the nature of celebrity but it’s too in on the joke to be anything worth watching unfortunately and if anything it was a waste of Phoenix’s talent for two years. The film received mixed to poor reviews and made only $550,000. But hey, it seemed to get some of Phoenix’s worst artistic impulses out of his system at least.Image result for the master

Thankfully Phoenix’s follow-up to I’m Still Here would be one of his greatest films, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master. The 2012 film starred Phoenix as Freddy Quell, a sex obsessed, alcoholic World War II veteran who gets involved with a religion loosely based on Scientology. Phoenix’s performance is magnetic, he plays Freddy with an animalistic sense of rage who’s actions are difficult to be fully understood. He received another Oscar nomination for the film.

2013’s “Her”, a film where Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with his smartphone, would be another acclaimed performance to add to his belt. He also did another collaboration with Paul Thomas Anderson in “Inherent Vice”. Vice was not as acclaimed as The Master, but few films are and Phoenix’s work earned him his fifth Golden Globe nomination.Image result for joaquin phoenix doctor strange

Phoenix’s success did not go unnoticed by the major studios either. In July 2014, Marvel Studios did their best to court him for the role of Doctor Strange. It looked as though it would be a done deal but in October of that year he bowed out, with the reason being the lengthy press tour commitments he would have to make as well as his own insecurity about working on a film that would ultimately be driven by set pieces and not character. This would not be his last encounter with a comic book movie, however.Image result for you were never really here

In 2018, one of Phoenix’s most disturbing films was released. “You Were Never Really Here” is an oppressive, violent film where he plays a suicidal man suffering from PTSD who is a hired gun that rescues trafficked girls. The opening scene, where Phoenix’s character attempts suicide by suffocating himself with a plastic bag, sets the tone for a movie that is heavy to say the least. It’s a film that in only 90 minutes gives the audience an unforgettably bleak experience, yet ends on a note that is surprisingly hopeful.Image result for joker film

And in that same year it was announced that Joaquin would be playing the role of The Joker, in Todd Philip’s origin story of the character. The idea of a Joker origin story sounded incredibly appealing to everyone, except Jared Leto, who according to a THR piece, tried to kill the movie. The film would be released in October 2019 and had some controversy to say the least. Fears of the film inspiring mass shootings were commonplace in the discourse, but what came out was at the end of the day a decent movie that if anything, played things pretty safe, especially compared to Phoenix’s other work. What it did well though was make an absolutely insane amount of money, grossing over $1 billion at the Box Office and becoming the highest grossing R-Rated movie ever. While the film’s reviews were mixed, Phoenix’s performance received universal acclaim. Since award season started he has received almost every Best Actor Award. With such a varied career, it looks like he’s finally ready to take home the gold.

Unmade Movies Become Fan’s Dreams

Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker came out just over a month ago and already it feels like an eternity. Whether you liked the movie or not has become almost besides the point. Thanks to various things leaking whether it be on reddit, twitter, or straight from the writer’s mouth, you can already picture the version of Rise of Skywalker that didn’t happen.

Spoilers abound, if you haven’t seen Rise of Skywalker, Justice League, or David Lynch’s Dune I’m going to spoil the heck out of them, this is your final warning.Image result for rise of skywalker poster

Months ago before the movie came out, a reddit thread leaked plot details that thanks to the movie’s release have been confirmed to be real. But what’s most interesting are the details of the film that didn’t make the final cut or where altered. Seemingly crucial plot details such as new character Jannah being Lando’s daughter or General Hux being killed by Kylo instead of the Admiral guy played by Richard E. Grant. The final of shot of the film is even a shot from The Force Awakens but with a different location background! All these things paint a picture of a movie that was heavily reshot and edited in a short period of time. Which isn’t difficult to prove either as director JJ Abrams has said as much.

Another reddit thread that popped up a week after the film’s release pinned the blame on Disney, claiming that they intentionally made Abrams make changes to the film that would diminish his reputation due to the fact that his production company “Bad Robot” had signed a deal with Warner Bros. The evil Disney wanted their billionaire film franchise to take a dive so that the asset they would lose wouldn’t be able to save Warner Bros struggling DC films. Fans began to hail the cries of “Release the JJ Cut”. Take a look at this over 50 minute long video revealing the truth!

Of course if you couldn’t already tell, my own personal view on the JJ cut is that it already came out. Rise of Skywalker for better or worse feels like Abram’s movie through and through. The constant barrage of fanservice and emotional moments that only start to ring hollow once you think about them for more than five seconds are intrinsic to his style of filmmaking. That reddit thread has since been debunked by numerous reputable sources in the entertainment field but things didn’t end there.

On January 15th, the website Making Star Wars posted about Colin Trevorrow’s abandoned Episode 9 script. Trevorrow had been attached to write and direct Episode 9 but due to creative differences his work was scrapped and JJ Abrams came on board. I’m not going to summarize the whole thing but here’s a link to the article. I’ll give you a couple minutes.

 

As you can see it’s very different! Whether you like it more than the movie that actually came out or not, it’s definitely an interesting “what if” to think about! And then just yesterday things got double confirmed when Trevorrow confirmed it was all real, aside from one tiny detail.

This type of thing of “what could have been” for a movie isn’t new either. For years fans have been clamouring for Warner Bros. to release the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League. Justice League for those who don’t remember was a not so good movie that didn’t make a lot of money, or at least didn’t make the Avengers level money that the studio hoped for. But rumblings began about director Zach Snyder’s original version of the movie. This isn’t routed entirely in fiction either as Snyder had worked on the film for years, only to leave six months before the release due to his daughter committing suicide. Avenger’s director Joss Whedon, who had already been working on rewrites for Justice League, was hired to finish the rest of the movie. Numerous scenes were filmed and altered during Whedon’s summer shoot leading fans to wonder about Snyder’s original vision.

Snyder himself has done a lot to suggest what that vision might be, with him still to this day posting on his Vero account about what his version would have been like. He even posted a picture of the  reel itself of his cut. While there likely is a version of his movie that exists it must also be reiterated he did not even finish filming his version, not to mention the numerous visual effects shots that would have to be added to the movie he shot already. The dream of a better version of a disappointing movie is an enticing one for fans, and as a person who loves reading about unmade movies, I find it super fascinating.

Take in point the excellent documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune” (trailer below), which tells the story of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unmade Dune adaptation. The way the man describes his movie is intoxicating, and the concept art that his pre-production team made is incredible. Let alone the dream cast that he assembled into battle. But at the end of the day the movie was never made. And while the story he tells of what it could have been is incredible, a lot can change during the shooting and editing process. There’s a good chance that even if he made his movie it wouldn’t resemble the story he tells.

At the end of the day movies are fantasies. And movies that aren’t made are also fantasies. Whether you see it on screen or picture it in your mind that’s all it is. As a fan it sucks to see a series you love end on a whimper, but just getting a movie made is hard work and the film that could have been could just as easily been as bad, if not worse. So while you may wish that Rey was still a nobody (I still do) had that movie been released but you had heard in another version she was a Palpatine, you may have said to yourself “Wow, that would have been way better”.

Uncut Gems is Adam Sandler at His Finest

You may have heard about all the uproar about Adam Sandler not being nominated for an Oscar for his latest film. And if you haven’t been paying attention you’re probably thinking “What the hell could make Sandler even an Oscar contender?”. Well do yourself a favour and head to Vancity Theatre as soon as possible because “Uncut Gems” is an absolute thrill ride of a movie. Directed by the Safdie Brothers, it follows Sandler’s jewelry store owner Howard Ratner as he struggles to pay off a $100,000 debt. It’s a kinetic rush of film that doesn’t let up at all. In fact watch the trailer right now, and even if you’ve already seen it watch it again because it’s awesome.

At the screening I went to, the woman presenting the film warned the audience that the film was very stressful and that if they’re expecting a normal Adam Sandler movie they probably would not like the movie. She had said there always at least a couple people walking out of theatre during each screening. If there were any walkouts at my screening I didn’t notice because I was completely glued to the screen. Sandler’s Howard is a person a who is both incredibly likeable and also a complete scumbag. You can totally understand how his ex-wife and mistress hate him and yet can’t leave him even after the terrible things he puts them through.Image result for adam sandler

Sandler’s most famous characters have tended to fall under the category of “angry man-child”. Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore are two characters with deep seated rage that explode in ways that are played hilariously but when taken out of that context could be viewed as terrifying. Sandler first explored that aspect in Punch Drunk Love, where his character’s explosive fits of rage are played far more realistically and imply a degree of mental illness and trauma that his character suffers from. In “Uncut Gems” this is doubled down even further. His character is a frantic mess of a man bringing untold chaos to everyone around him. It is something we’ve both seen in Sandler’s work before and also wholly original to this film in an incredibly exciting way.Image result for kevin garnett uncut gems

Sandler isn’t the only actor delivering great work either. Basketball player Kevin Garnett plays himself in the film and his appearance is more than a cameo. His character is incredibly superstition and becomes convinced that the diamond Sandler is trying to sell him is key to his basketball success. Garnett delivers a truly great performance and it will be interesting to see if he decides to pursue acting more seriously after this. Had I not been aware that Garnett was a real basketball player I would have just thought he was simply a very good actor which is no small feat. Playing himself as well is The Weeknd, his role is much smaller than Garnett’s but hey, it’s the Weeknd and he’s awesome so I’m not complaining, Another non actor, Keith Williams Richard, plays Phil, who is the muscle to Arno, the loan shark and brother-in-law whom Sandler owes money too. His character is the type of old school gangster who you’d be wrong to cross and his performance is incredibly to natural.

 

And on top of that newcomer Julia Fox makes her film debut as Howard’s mistress Julia, not since Margot Robbie has an actress made the kind of impression that she has. She’s the type of actor who when you watch you just assume they’ve been in plenty of other work due to the skill they display. The cast is filled out with Lakeith Stanfield playing Howard’s partner, Idina Menzel as Howard’s soon to be ex-wife, and Eric Bogosian as Howard’s Loan Shark. Lakeith’s role was the only performance that I wanted more of, not necessarily because he’s not developed enough, but just because he is an actor that you always want to see more of.

The Safdie’s confidence in their direction is on full display here. After loving Good Time, Uncut Gems proves they’ve master the art of capturing that gritty New York 70’s film feel. The New York here is grimy, foul, and dangerous. They populate the small roles with numerous non-actors giving the film a very realistic look. The types of people you see in this movie aren’t a sea of models but rather people who with one look tell a backstory. The highlight of which is a pair of twin enforcers with some very curious hair. It solicits comparisons to the movie “Joker” which chose to set it’s film in the 80’s and invoke shade’s of Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. But while Joker uses that setting in an effort to mimic, the Safdie’s New York is set in the present and yet clearly feels in touch with classic films like Dog Day Afternoon while still being its own movie with its own ideas.

It goes without saying that I enjoyed Uncut Gems a ton. It is easily one of the best films of the past year and I would recommend it to anyone looking to see a great crime thriller that happens to star Adam Sandler and a Basketball champion. You still have time to see the film at Vancity Theatre but if you can’t make it the film will be out on January 31st. Do yourself a favour and see this movie!

Fire Emblem’s Long Journey to Smashing Success

You may have heard about yet another Fire Emblem character being added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. You may have even read one of the multiple articles on this site. I’m not here to rehash that, don’t worry. But you may be wondering when the heck did Fire Emblem become a franchise worthy of being almost 10% of the Smash roster. Well it’s your lucky day because today I’m here to explain how it all happened.Image result for fire emblem nes box art

The very first Fire Emblem game was released in Japan in 1990. It was a tactical role playing game for the NES. It told the story of a blue haired prince named Marth who had to reclaim his throne from an evil sorcerer. It featured a vast array of characters and numerous character classes that had various niches in battle. Characters could also change their class, with the exception of the hero Marth, which allowed a great degree of customizability especially for a game of that era. But what made the game stand out even more was the fact that if a character died in battle they would be gone FOREVER. It added a great level of difficulty as players would have to make the choice of whether to continue on with the level or restart it if one of their characters died. This “perma-death” concept more than anything would define the series. With such a unique game that received critical and commercial success in Japan you would think Nintendo would be very willing to export it to North America, right?

Well you’d be wrong because due to fears of the game being too difficult for Western players, Nintendo let Fire Emblem stay a Japan-only franchise for seemingly forever.Image result for marth and roy melee

Until one very special game got released that is. Super Smash Bros. Melee came out on December 3rd, 2001 and featured the first Fire Emblem star Marth and the lead of what at the time was the latest Fire Emblem game, Roy. North American players had no idea who these two swordsmen were but they sure were cool. Marth was fast and dexterous with his sword movements and Roy played the same because he was a clone character (but he looked way cooler so whatever). Craziest of all, Nintendo actually considered not even putting Marth and Roy in the NA release but Smash Bros. Director, Masahiro Sakurai (a huge Fire Emblem fan himself), made the push to keep them. North American gamers became smitten with the two dashing lads and so with this new popularity Nintendo finally opened the gates and released a Fire Emblem title in the west.Image result for fire emblem blazing blade

“Fire Emblem” was the seventh game in the franchise and a prequel to the game that starred Roy. Released on the Game Boy Advance in 2003, it was more than a long time coming. I was 12 years old and I got it soon after its release and became a massive fan. It was a perfect entry point for new players and featured three lead characters with their own unique viewpoints. My personal favourite of the trio was Hector Ostia, who was a badass with an axe, he’s still one of my favourite characters in videogames to this day. I proudly managed to complete the game with zero character deaths, at least until the final chapter where all but five of my characters died heroically, I figured the ending wouldn’t change too much but my epilogue describing the fates of everyone was pretty bleak thanks to my reckless tactics. But thankfully unlike my playthrough, Fire Emblem’s fate was far more bright, with it receiving critical praise and commercial success, it was more than a long time coming.

Multiple titles soon followed. Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones came just a year later and was also released on the GBA and received even greater praise. It’s still considered one of the best games in the franchise. Two console Fire Emblem games, Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn released on the Gamecube and Wii and while they reviewed solidly, the sales for Radiant Dawn in particular were showing signs of franchise fatigue from audiences. Certainly releasing a title that even for Fire Emblem standards was incredibly difficult was perhaps not the best idea for a game on the casual-friendly Wii console.Image result for fire emblem shadow dragon

Then in 2009 things got even worse, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon released for the Nintendo DS. A remake of the very first game, it would have seemed to be a sure thing especially since North American audiences never played the original. Unfortunately by virtue of being a remake of a game from 1990, some things felt dated. The story wasn’t as strong and the relationship building “support” scenes that fans loved were not in the game at all. Shadow Dragon’s sales fell below Nintendo’s estimates and for the first time since 2003 Nintendo did not bother to localize the following title, New Mystery of the Emblem, which was also a remake. It was a definite bummer as thanks to fans I was able to play a translated ROM of the game and its actually very good and introduced a player customizable avatar character which subsequent Fire Emblem games all took on.Image result for fire emblem awakening

With the future of the franchise dire, Nintendo intended for 2012’s “Fire Emblem: Awakening” to be the last game in the series unless it sold over 250,000 copies. And luckily for fans they did. Awakening received rave reviews for it’s excellent characters and customizability. Characters could even marry and thanks to some time traveling craziness their future children could show up and have skill traits inherited from the parents. It made for some really awesome character builds that could be created. Awakening’s sales were above and beyond Nintendo’s projections and it ended up selling almost 2 million copies, demolishing their sales goal.

With the series dodging fate once again, it was followed up by not one but three titles. “Fire Emblem Fates” borrowed a page from Pokemon and had three different versions. Although unlike Pokemon the differences were far pronounced with each title having their own story and characters unique to itself. The story was about a person named Corrin who is raised by the morally dubious House Nohr but eventually discovers he was actually a child of House Hoshido. Depending on the version you picked (Conquest, Birthright, and Revelations) you sided with a different house, or in Revelations case, neither house. It was well received by critics although fans felt the stories of all three games was kind of garbage.Image result for fire emblem heroes

In 2017 Nintendo released a mobile game version of Fire Emblem titled “Fire Emblem: Heroes.” It manages to squish all the good tactics fun into an iPhone screen. Players summon characters from all the various Fire Emblem games, letting fans come up with the ultimate dream team. It’s high production values and steady stream of content has resulted in a game that’s generated over $500 million. At this point it could be argued the traditional games exist to give “Heroes” more content and not the other way around.

And finally just last year Fire Emblem hit another milestone, “Fire Emblem: Three Houses” brought a level of success that Nintendo could have never imagined a decade ago. The game put players in the shoes of a young professor who allies with one of three houses in the game’s academy. Each of the houses has their own full blown storyline and cast of characters. And after a five year time jump brings the houses to war with each other, the characters players haven’t sided with may face them in battle as enemies. Players can thankfully recruit characters from other houses (barring the house leader and their number two) if they have the correct skillset. I myself managed to recruit everyone in my first playthrough although it was quite difficult and required lots of min-maxing to do so. Unlike previous games in the series which moved the story from chapter to chapter, Three Houses used a calendar system, with players having a set time to explore the academy and develop their characters before the next battle. Hours and hours can fly by without even fighting anyone. Critics and fans fell head over heels with this approach. Three Houses’ story also was hailed as one of the best in series. With four story routes and dozens of chapters and side quests between them, Three Houses was massive not just for a Fire Emblem game but as a game in general. I personally logged in 165 hours in just over a month, beating the three main routes. It was my personal game of the year for 2019 and I am eagerly awaiting next month’s DLC expansion which will easily add another 50 hours to my count. Within less than a year Three Houses sold over 2.3 million copies making it the best selling game in the series.

And that’s the journey of Fire Emblem, a series that Nintendo thought had very limited broad appeal has managed to become of their most successful and iconic franchises. From a series that almost ended to one that has received multiple game of the year awards, it’s been a very long time coming.

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a Super Saiyan Blast of Nostalgia

If you’re under the age of 40 you’re probably at least somewhat aware of the Dragon Ball franchise. The series has transcended it’s anime roots and become a huge part not just of Japanese culture but globally as well.Image result for dragon ball z

I vividly remember watching the first episode of DBZ on YTV when I was seven. That first episode throws the viewer right into the deep end with character relationships and backstories that seem like they’ve been developed for a lot longer than just a single episode. I remember my first impression of Goku, seeing this fun loving dude in a cool orange gi knocking down a massive tree. “Damn this guy is strong I thought.” He then encounters his rival, a big green dude with an awesome turban named Piccolo. Oh and there’s a dude with really long hair named Radditz who murders a farmer and is also Goku’s brother and is also an alien making Goku an alien. Oh, and then he kidnaps Goku’s kid after beating Goku up. Goku then teams up with Piccolo who reminds Goku that he really wants to kill him after they beat Radditz. And when Radditz proves too hard to beat, Goku grabs Radditz and holds him down so Piccolo can unleash a super powerful move called the Special Beam Cannon which kills both Goku and Radditz! Image result for dragon ball z piccolo kills raditz

Yeah, this show started with a bang to say the least. And if these character relationships and backstories seem like way too much for a first episode that’s because it really wasn’t one. Dragon Ball Z was a sequel to Dragon Ball which had aired over 100 episodes already. For various reasons Dragon Ball hadn’t yet aired in North America so for most of the Western viewership Z was the beginning of Goku’s story.Image result for dragon ball z kakarot

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, a new videogame for PS4, Xbox, and PC takes this approach. It’s a retelling of the entire Z saga, from the Saiyan Arc all the way to the Buu arc. You can play as a variety of characters like Goku, his son Gohan, and his rivals Vegeta and Piccolo. Characters have skill trees that you can develop to strengthen their moves and also unlock new abilities on top of that. In addtition to the playable characters their are also support characters that can fight with you like Krillin, Tien, and perpetual loser Yamcha. These characters also have their own skill trees, although with the rather large amount of playable characters already you will probably focus on the ones you actually have direct control of (although Krillin’s Solar Flare is a godsend that will save your butt). On top of that you can unleash powerful combination attacks with your teammates to obliterate the enemy, although the most difficult fights in the game are true to the source material and limited to one on one bouts.Image result for dragon ball z kakarot

Speaking of the fights, they’re a lot more difficult than I was expecting. The climatic fight with Vegeta took me numerous tries to complete and I actually had to exit the fight to grab some healing items to I could survive it. Basic enemies go down in a couple of hits but major fights will require you to pay attention to the enemy’s attack pattern. I am about halfway through the Frieza saga and have yet to face the man himself but I am dreading how difficult it will be, which is a great feeling to have given the character’s stature in the show. The game definitely delivers on the flashiness of the show’s fights and you will feel like a total badass when you deliver a killing blow with a Super Kamehameha.

Unlike the past decade of Dragon Ball games this is an open world game so you can explore the vast locations of the Dragon Ball worlds, and that doesn’t just include Earth, you can also explore the planet Namek, at least until it gets blown up (spoilers). Flying through the air at 100 miles an hour is very fun, although for whatever reason the game makes you use the right triggers on the controller to adjust flying height as opposed to the right control stick which can make things trickier than they need to be. Related image

One of the biggest criticisms of the original Dragon Ball Z anime (there are multiple versions, it’s confusing) was the amount of “filler” in the show. Basically as the show was airing, the manga that it was based on was still in progress. In an effort to not overtake the manga and have to write entirely original conclusions to stories the writers would add additional material to the story. The problem was this material couldn’t be used to develop the characters or give them new power ups or moves, lest they contradict future story developments in the manga. Well in DBZ: Kakarot part of the fun is all the filler they’ve produced. Characters not featured in Z like the Android Eighter become quest givers and provide new stories for you to enjoy. Given the playable nature of these side stories it’s a lot more fun than sitting through the filler episodes. That being said some filler episodes have been adapted, like infamous episode where Goku and Piccolo had to get their drivers licences.

In addition to these side quests there is also a cooking system in the game. Goku is famous for his love of gigantic meals (punching people through dimensions burns a lot calories). You can hunt deer or if you’re feeling risky, dinosaurs. You can also fish on both Earth and Namek. It’s a fun side diversion even if so far in my playthrough at least, the bonuses that come from cooking aren’t quite significant enough to put in the effort.Image result for dragon ball z kakarot community board

All of these elements come together in a skill boosting feature called the Community Board. Basically there’s eight different boards that boost your skills in various areas, from combat to cooking to experience boosting. You place emblems of the characters you meet on these boards and some characters are better at boosting some boards than others. On top of that characters also have relationship bonuses if they’re placed next to other characters they have connections too. It’s super fun when you’re able to stack boosting combos to strengthen your board even further. And if that’s not enough you can even boost the character emblems individually with the use of gifts. It’s a great feature that allows the characters that don’t fight such as Bulma and King Kai to still benefit you in gameplay.

Overall Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot is a pretty solid game. I am not even halfway through, maybe even less than that if the final two arcs are longer than the previous two, but I am enjoying my time with it. The game isn’t perfect and the quest variety could be greater (it’s disappointing fighting random robots at the end of the quest instead of an original enemy) but the game nails the feel of the show and if you’re looking for a way to revisit the epic saga this is a great way of doing it. If you’re not a fan of Dragon Ball this game probably isn’t for you since so much of it relies on your love of these characters already and the pacing of the story forces you to fill in gaps. But if you are a fan (and there a LOT of DBZ fans) you can’t go wrong with this game. I’ve played a lot of DBZ games and for a long time had to deal with some really poor games but this and 2018’s Dragonball FighterZ have ushered in a new era of quality games!

GRADE: B (for fans) C+ (for non fans)

 

Fox’s Era of X-Men Ends with New Mutants

Did you see that new trailer for the film New Mutants? Ordinarily this wouldn’t be that big a deal but considering the last trailer for the film dropped 18 months ago it kind of is. The film was supposed to come out in 2018 but 20th Century Fox decided it needed to go into reshoots. These reshoots ended up being delayed after Disney purchased Fox and in the end didn’t even happen. With the new trailer finally confirming that the film will be released in theatres after all I feel it’s important to look back on Fox’s franchise now that this era has ended.

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2000’s X-Men is an important movie for a lot of reasons. It was the first classic Marvel series to be properly adapted (Blade and Howard the Duck came before but they aren’t exactly superhero films). It also gave us Hugh Jackman who’s iconic performance as Wolverine would become easily the most famous aspect of the series. Less well known is that future Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige was a producer on the film. The opening scene of the film, set during the Holocaust where a young Magneto first uses his powers was the perfect way of showing how seriously the material was being taken. Though some of the action scenes in the film haven’t aged great and the jokes about leather spandex seem tone deaf knowing where the genre would end going, it is ultimately an incredibly successful film at capturing the core aspects of the X-Men. Some characters didn’t quite get their due; they never quite knew what to do with Storm or Cyclops; but the three most important characters, Wolverine, Magneto, and Xavier. were cast perfectly. Though better superhero movies and even better X-Men movies have come out since, the genre owes a ton for this film for setting the path.

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Speaking of better X-Men movies, X2: X-Men United took everything that the previous film nailed and made it even better. A scene where Iceman’s mother asks him if he could just stop being a mutant was based off of director Bryan Singer’s actual coming out to his mother, further doubling down on the metaphor of Mutants representing oppressed groups. Furthermore the conflict unites the X-Men and Brotherhood against Colonel William Stryker, a man who hates mutants with a passion and even lobotomized his own mutant son. It’s a film that’s incredibly confident in what its message is. On top of that the action scenes are a massive improvement over the previous film with the opening Nightcrawler sequence being the standout. With such an excellent sequel the X-Men franchise could only get better couldn’t it? Especially with that cliffhanger promising a take on the Dark Phoenix saga right?

Well…not exactly. The next two movies X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine  were, uh, not quite up to par with the standards of the previous films. The Last Stand suffered from combining both the Dark Phoenix and The Cure stories into one movie which led to a rather messy narrative. On top of that Bryan Singer ended up not returning to direct the film leaving it in the hands of Brett Ratner. The movie is still pretty fun and Kelsey Grammar is great as Beast but is a clear step down.

Wolverine would fare even worse. Written by future Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff, it’s an absolute disaster of a movie that does a disservice to Wolverine and also Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool. As a teenager I was super excited to hear that Deadpool would be a part of the film only to be tremendously disappointed to see how badly they ruined the character. Sewing his mouth shut and getting his power set and look completely wrong was a sin that this movie could never be forgiven for especially since it seemingly killed the chances of a true Deadpool movie ever happening.Image result for x men first class

But in spite of two bad movies in a row something remarkable happened, X-Men First Class came out. What could have been an unnecessary origin story ended up giving the series new life. Matthew Vaugn, who was originally supposed to director The Last Stand, gave the film a light and tone. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy’s takes on a young Magneto and Professor X were just as great as their older counterparts and Jennifer Lawrence’s casting as young Mystique proved to be genius after her success in the Hunger Games franchise. The follow-up, Days of Future Past was also a massive critical success, reinvigorating the series.

Two very important movies came after this, Deadpool and Logan. Deadpool had gone through numerous false starts and seemed doomed to never happen, especially not with Ryan Reynolds after his own career started to falter. But after test footage went viral things finally happened and the film was green-lit. It was crass, violent, immature and 100% what fans wanted. Deadpool shattered not just the fourth wall but also box office records by becoming (at the time) the highest grossing R rated movie. It commented on the superhero genre in a way that didn’t seem possible, especially for a major studio movie. Deadpool saved Ryan Reynolds career and would also give the X-Men franchise a new lead to pin its hopes on, especially after what the next movie did.

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“Logan” was a movie that was risky in a different way. A full on western, it was far more bleak and depressing than any other major superhero film released. And the film’s mission was to provide closure to Hugh Jackman’s long run as Wolverine. The film doesn’t bother explaining why all the X-Men are gone aside from a couple lines and it’s all the better for it by focusing on concluding Wolverine’s story. Jackman delivers a heartbreaking performance as his character goes from one loss to another throughout it’s nearly two and a half hour run time.

I wanted to showcase these films in particular because they took risks in a way that few films of Marvel Studio’s have. And while the quality of the films will almost be certainly better, the messiness and inconsistent continuity of the Fox era led to a number of bold films that the Marvel Studios movies will likely lack. Although it will be pretty awesome to see Spider-Man team up with Wolverine I gotta say.

Don’t Like Anime? Here’s Five Anime for You

You’re probably more than a little familiar with anime. Whether it’s Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, or Sailor Moon, there’s more than enough Japanese animation that has crossed over and made it’s way permanently as part of our culture. But asking someone to watch a specific anime? Well that gets a bit dicier. I have plenty of friends well versed in pop culture but when recommending anime shows to them I often hear “I don’t like anime”. Not “I don’t like action anime or romance anime” just “anime.” Now okay sure some people have different tastes, but if you recommended someone a book and they said “I don’t like books”, well you’d think that would be a pretty strange generalization. Anime isn’t just bulky men with spiked hair screaming for hours before punching each other, or little kids playing games that are also available in stores, or magical girls named after planets, it’s a medium and a massive one at that. Going through a list of great anime would take you just as long as list of the best television shows, and many hold up to them as well. So for those of you who don’t like anime here are five anime for you.Image result for cowboy bebop

COWBOY BEBOP

Cowboy Bebop is like the Joss Whedon one season wonder “Firefly”, only it pre-dates that show by four years, and unlike Firefly it didn’t get cancelled and it’s story finished properly, so actually it’s way better than Firefly. The show follows a Bounty Hunter named Spike and his crew of misfits as they go from one bounty to the next. Created by Shinichiro Wantanabe, it’s got more than enough style to spare. The music is an electric mix of country and jazz which helps make the fast paced action sequences soar. The show balances comedic one-off episodes with deep looks into the characters’ tragic pasts. Episodes range from a parody of Alien to a wild mushroom trip to an intense John Woo inspired crime drama. If you’re not sold by the first episode I just don’t know what to say.

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FULL METAL ALCHEMIST: BROTHERHOOD

Full Metal Alchemist is basically anime Game of Thrones. Set in a world of magic where alchemists can perform incredible feats of power, it follows two brothers, Edward and Alphonse as they get themselves caught up in some crazy political squabbles that threaten the fate of the world. It blends humour and action very well and is a great all ages show. If you’re looking for awesome world building and characters that are neither good nor evil this is right up your alley.

Interestingly Full Metal Alchemist actually has two different versions as when it was first on the air the manga that it was based off of hadn’t finished so they had to make the rest up as the went along. Following the end of the manga a second series was made called Brotherhood which properly adapted the rest. Generally Brotherhood is considered the better one but you can always watch both if you want.

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MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM: THE ORIGIN

Giant robots are a huge part of anime and Gundam is easily the most iconic representation of them. Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin is, as you might have guessed, the origin story of the series. It’s centred around the most famous character of the franchise, Char Aznable. Char is basically the Loki of the Gundam universe, clever, conniving, and also pretty chill with murder, but somehow sympathetic thanks to a tragic story that this seven part series dives into. Filled with twists and turns, not to mention excellent animation, this series is an excellent way of showing how giant robot shows are not just for kids. Even better, once you finish this you can dive straight into the original series as they’ve been condensed into a three movie trilogy. The world of Gundam is vast and complex and also high addictive once you go down the rabbit hole.

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CAROLE AND TUESDAY

Available in its entirety on Netflix, Carole and Tuesday is quite simply pure joy. From the same creative team as Cowboy Bebop, the show follows a poor orphan and a wealthy runaway who form a musical duo on Mars. It starts off as a fun journey of two girls just trying to make it as musicians but as the story moves along it becomes something far deeper and relevant to our time. It sounds cheesy to call it the first anti-Trump anime but it does feature a politician running on an anti-immigrant platform so that’s a bit unavoidable. What really makes this show such an enjoyable watch is how positive it is about humanity. There are no villains here, just people struggling to do the best they can. If you want a feel good show you really can’t do better than this.

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MY HERO ACADEMIA

What if you combined Harry Potter with Superheroes? That’s basically My Hero Academia and if you aren’t sold now I don’t know what to say. Set in a world where 80% of the population has superpowers, a young powerless boy named Deku has a fateful encounter with his favourite hero, All Might. All Might ends up blessing Deku with his power allowing him to join the prestigious U.A High. The classmates that Deku meets are all very interesting and have powers that are utilized in unexpected ways. It’s a show that’s super easy to binge as you watch Deku go from a whiny fanboy to a confident hero in his own right. Given the show’s success it’s likely to continue for hundreds of episodes so now is a great time to start while it’s a manageable 50+.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

GURREN LAGANN: This was super close to making it in but I went with Gundam instead due to its iconicness. Gurren Lagann is an incredibly epic giant robot show that follows an underground dweller named Simon as he goes from a timid digger to a confident badass mech pilot who takes on beings literally the size of galaxies. Yeah this show goes places. If you want to see some of the most epic fights ever this is the show for you.

JOJO’S BIZARRE ADVENTUREHonestly this is an anime that’s too anime for even anime fans but I love it so I’m sticking it here. A generation spanning saga that starts off with a dude using martial arts powered by sunlight energy to fight his evil vampire step brother, it only gets more bizarre with an arrogant Brit fighting Pillar Men in the 30s with his best friend who is a Nazi and also a cyborg, to Italian Gangsters using magic spirits to fight their former boss who also has a magic spirit. Yeah this show is bonkers and I can guarantee you will never be bored by this show at least.

I hope these recommendations at least show you how diverse anime can be. There’s definitely a lot of shows with muscle dudes punching but you can also say that about American TV’s love of cop shows. So why not try something new?

The Snubs and Surprises of the 2020 Oscar Nominations

The nominations for the 2020 Academy Awards have finally been announced! As with every year there are numerous surprises and disappointments. Because if there’s one thing that people can all unite in it’s complaining about the Oscars.  Here’s an analysis of the surprises and snubs that the 2020 Oscars have brought us. Image result for oscar

BEST PICTURE

“Ford v Ferrari”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”
“Little Women”
“Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
“Marriage Story”
“Parasite”
“1917”
SURPRISE: THESE NOMINATIONS ARE MOSTLY PRETTY GOOD!
The 8 films nominated for Best Picture are all around a solid bunch. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Joker it has undeniably hit a chord with people. With a $1 Billion it is easily the highest grossing movie of the pack. But all these films have actually garnered pretty wide audiences. The only exception is possibly Marriage Story since Netflix generally doesn’t reveal viewer numbers (although they did tout their horn about how many saw The Irishman for what’s it worth). As for this writer’s personal favourite, I have to give it to Parasite which is an absolutely bonkers film that never let’s the viewer off the hook.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”
Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”
Scarlett Johansson, “Jojo Rabbit”
Florence Pugh, “Little Women”
Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”
SNUB: NO JLO
SURPRISE: FLORENCE PUGH IS THE BEST
Jennifer Lopez reminded people last year why she’s a star for her performance in “Hustlers”. It seemed like a no brainer to reward her but instead Laura Dern is going to win for playing a hip lawyer. I love her too but it’s a bummer that this is what’s going to get her the gold. On the plus side Florence Pugh is fantastic in Little Women. She’s even better in “Midsommar” but as a slow burn horror flick it was already a tough sell so at least she’s being rewarded for something.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”
Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”
Al Pacino, “The Irishman”
Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”
Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
SNUB: NO LOVE FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE
The Lighthouse, Evolution’s Jeremy Tubbs’ favourite film of the year, was always going to be a tough sell for Academy voters. It’s a black and white horror film with only two actors in the whole movie, WIllem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. On top of that they are both speaking in an old timey Maine accent. It’s a strange but brilliant movie and many expected at the very least that Dafoe would receive a nom for his performance. Alas it was not to be. That being said this is still a very stacked category, perhaps I’d replace Hopkins with Dafoe but The Two Popes is actually a pretty wonderful movie.

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

South Korea, “Parasite”
Spain, “Pain and Glory”
France, “Les Misérables”
North Macedonia, “Honeyland”
Poland, “Corpus Christi”
SURPRISE: ….
Parasite is going to win this category no questions asked. But hey Pain and Glory is really good so you should watch that too.

DOCUMENTARY (SHORT)

“In the Absence”
“Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)”
“Life Overtakes Me”
“St. Louis Superman”
“Walk Run Cha-Cha”
SNUB: NETFLIX, FOR NOT PUTTING THESE ON NETFLIX
This is the category where viewers get up and get something to eat. Nobody has watched these shorts because nobody knows where to watch them. So the true Snub is Netflix, for not bothering to put these on their service so we can finally know what these movies are all about.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

“American Factory”
“The Edge of Democracy”
“Honeyland”
“For Sama”
“The Cave”
SURPRISE: OBAMA MADE AN AN OSCAR NOMINEE!
Okay technically Barack and Michelle Obama didn’t actually make this movie, it’s merely produced by their production company “Higher Ground Productions” but that’s still pretty wild. And if you want to start your Oscar pool already this is a pretty safe bet. Hollywood’s ongoing love affair with the former President on top of being a very compelling doc in it’s own right make for easy Oscar bait.

ORIGINAL SONG

“I’m Standing With You,” “Breakthrough”
“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen II”
“Stand Up,” “Harriet”
“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”
“I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away,” “Toy Story 4”
SNUB: “CATS” 9 LIVES RUN OUT
This was basically the only award that “Cats” had a chance to get nominated for and it didn’t happen. Anyone dreaming to see Taylor Swift dress up as a cat and sing will be very disappointed. Also I don’t know what the movie Breakthrough is about, please comment if you have.

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
“I Lost My Body”
“Klaus”
“Missing Link”
“Toy Story 4”
SNUB: “DRAGONBALL SUPER: BROLY” AND “WEATHERING WITH YOU” PROVE THE ACADEMY DOESN’T KNOW WHAT ANIME IS
Dragonball Super: Broly was one of the greatest theatrical experiences of my life. Seeing the Goku and Vegeta fuse into Super Saiyan Blue Gogeta (who is now canon!) and punch Broly (who is also now canon!) so hard that they go into another dimension is something I will never forget. Only Avengers: Endgame could top it’s WOW factor. On top of that the film was box office smash despite having an extraordinarily limited release. If Missing Link, a movie where Zach Galifianakis plays a Bigfoot named Susan can be deemed Oscar worthy than DBS: Broly deserves it just as much.
On a more serious note, “Weathering With You”, an actual truly great film was snubbed due to a botched release. The film had an “awards qualifying run” so it could be nominated but distributor GKIDS won’t actually give it a proper release until January 17th. They also had messed up the awards campaign of director Makoto Shinkai’s previous (and also superior) film “Your Name”. The first (and only) time a Japanese animated film won an Oscar was in 2003 for Spirited Away. Given the stigma that Anime still has in the West it’s very disappointing that the Oscars have failed to be a springboard to showcase that Anime is more than just shirtless dudes fighting and underage girls dressed way too provocatively.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Little Women”
“The Two Popes”
“Joker”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

“Marriage Story”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“Parasite”
“Knives Out”
“1917”
SURPRISE: RUIN JOHNSON IS AN OSCAR NOMINEE
Rian Johnson, who by writing/directing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, became one of the most controversial filmmakers of the past decade (at least on Twitter and Reddit) is now an Academy Award nominee for his work writing Knives Out. While the film didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination this is still a pleasant surprise. Knives Out has also been a box office success and Johnson is already working on a sequel and maybe, possibly, probably not, is working on a new Star Wars trilogy that might come out until it doesn’t. Either way it’s a great day for him.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood”
Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”
Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”
Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”
SURPRISE: JONATHAN PRYCE GETS IN!
SNUB: SANDLER AND DENIRO 
Oh boy this a tough one. The Two Popes is a movie that would make most people scoff as Oscar bait but I actually really enjoyed it. On top of that Jonathan Pryce starred in “Brazil” one of my favourite movies ever. On the other Adam Sandler is absolutely insane in Uncut Gems and Robert DeNiro delivered an understated performance in The Irishman. Don’t hate me but the people I’d take out would be Leo and Joaquin, actors whom I love but delivered better performances in other movies. But we all know Joaquin is winning for Joker anyways. On the bright side I can’t wait for Sandler and DeNiro to team up for a terrible Netflix movie.

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”
Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”
Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”
Renée Zellweger, “Judy”
Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”
SNUB: LUPITA NYONGO PLAYED TWO PEOPLE WHY ACADEMY DID YOU RUIN THIS!
Lupita Nyongo is absolutely incredible in “Us” playing both the hero and the monster in the film. Her monologue as her Tethered counterpart is an all timer of a speech and had me on the edge both times I saw it. Peele has become a master of horror only two films into his career but it seems once was enough for Academy voters.

DIRECTOR

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”
Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
Bong Joon-ho, “Parasite”
Sam Mendes, “1917”
Todd Phillips, “Joker”
SURPRISE: THE DIRECTOR OF THE HANGOVER PART 3 IS BETTER THAN GRETA GERWIG IN EVERY WAY
Joker is, as one Evolution member would put it, a movie. It’s got some really good qualities (Phoenix,Cinematography, and the Score) and some not so good qualities (everything else). It’s got some interesting ideas but isn’t as deep as it thinks it is. In a perfect world it world it would be a thought provoking character piece but it mostly just…exists.
Greta Gerwig on the other hand managed to make the seventh adaptation of Little Women feel fresh and exciting. The choice to have the film be non linear could have made it unnecessarily frustrating but instead it felt completely natural, to the point where I thought it was simply part of the original novel. Gerwig also failed to get nominated for her work directing “Lady Bird” so I’m sure she’s wishing her “How I Met Your Mother” spin off got picked up.

PRODUCTION DESIGN

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“The Irishman”
“1917”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Parasite”
SNUB: JOKER
I thought Joker looked really cool, kind of surprised it didn’t make it in!

CINEMATOGRAPHY

“1917”
“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”
“The Irishman”
“Joker”
“The Lighthouse”
SURPRISE: NOTHING TO WHINE ABOUT!
These films were all visually stunning and absolutely deserved to be nominated. Midsommar was also gorgeous but “Slow Burn Swedish Death Cult Horror Movie” is a tough sell.

COSTUME DESIGN

“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”
“Little Women”
“The Irishman”
“Jojo Rabbit”
“Joker”

SOUND EDITING

“1917”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”
“Joker”

SOUND MIXING

“1917”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood”
“Ad Astra”
“Joker”

ANIMATED SHORT FILM

“Dcera (Daughter)”
“Hair Love”
“Kitbull”
“Memorable”
“Sister”

LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

“Brotherhood”
“Nefta Football Club”
“The Neighbors’ Window”
“Saria”
“A Sister”

ORIGINAL SCORE

“1917,” Thomas Newman
“Joker,” Hildur Guðnadóttir
“Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat
“Marriage Story,” Randy Newman
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams

VISUAL EFFECTS

“Avengers: Endgame”
“The Lion King”
“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”
“The Irishman”
“1917”
SNUB: CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS, CATS
There is no film whose visual effects drew more conversation than “Cats”. The inimitable film even received a “patch” days later after it’s release that improved its effects. How can anyone not respect that respect for the audience? Next year we all know Sonic the Hedgehog is winning at least.

FILM EDITING

“The Irishman”
“Ford v Ferrari”
“Parasite”
“Joker”
“Jojo Rabbit”
SNUB: 1917’s SINGLE TAKE EXPERIMENT FLOPS
1917 seemed like a shoe-in for this award. The film was not actually shot in a single take but thanks to clever editing it does its best to hide the cuts. It seems those cuts were too subtle for voters because it didn’t even get a nomination. It’s important to note that in the past two decades only two films have won Best Picture without being nominated for Best Editing which definitely dims 1917 and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s chances.

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

“Bombshell”
“Joker”
“Judy”
“Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”
“1917”
SURPRISE: MALEFICENT GETS MORE OSCAR NOMINATIONS THAN UNCUT GEMS
Folks, Uncut Gems is awesome and opens this weekend in Vancouver at Van City please see it.
OVERALL TAKE: MURDER CLOWNS 11/GEMS, STRIPPERS, AND TETHERED 0
With 11 nominations Joker’s dominance was certainly a bit unexpected to say the least. On top of that Uncut Gems late release proved disastrous and has reminded Adam Sandler that he should only make bad movies. Jordan Peele will have to be satisfied with his millions of dollars from “Us”. And Jennifer Lopez will be chilling on her couch for Oscar night. But on the bright side some very very good movies have been acknowledged. At the end of the day an Oscars with no surprises is no fun. Here’s hoping the next year will bring just as much discourse.

Looking to Plan Your Weekend? We Got You!

It’s Tuesday and you’re already stressed that you have no idea what you’re going to do this weekend. Don’t be too sad though, we here at Evolution have a bunch of cool ideas that will guarantee you have a blast!

If you love Hallmark Christmas movies as much as I do Vancouver Theatresports has the perfect comedy show for you! Merry Kissmas – A Royal Romance is an improvised parody of all your favourite cliches. VTS improvisers will be using audience suggestions to create a RomCom unlike any other. The show is from Wednesday to Sunday until Christmas Eve so you have plenty of time to go at least once or twice!

You still have time to catch Cirque du Soleil at Vancouver’s Concord Pacific Place. They’ve set up their iconic Grand Chapiteau big top tent. This year’s show is Luzia, a fantasy story set in Mexico. The show is centred around the elements of light and water. The only thing you can expect at Cirque du Soleil is the unexpected and this year’s show should be no exception!

Bah Humbug! is a Downtown Eastside take on the classic story “A Christmas Carol”. In this version of the story Scrooge is a heartless pawnshop owner/hotel landlord who evicts his helpless clientele. This humorous but also tragic musical is directed Michael Boucher and stars Juno Award Winner Jim Byrnes as Scrooge. It goes from Wednesday the 4th to the 21st at SFU Woodward’s Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

Finally if you’re looking for something a little more boozy, there’s the 2019 Christmas Carol Boat Cruise. Get aboard the luxurious Abititi located Dock B at the Plaza of Nations for an unforgettable Christmas Buffet. The four hour cruise has music by DJ Rob Steel who definitely knows how to keep the party going. Oh and did I mention there’s a Chocolate Fountain? Nuff’ said.

Hopefully one of these four events will suit your mood this weekend, and if not thankfully there’s more than enough to do in beautiful Vancouver!

Canucks Take On Senators at Rogers Arena

The puck hits the ice tonight at Rogers Arena as the Vancouver Canucks take on the Ottawa Senators at 7PM. Canucks fans are hoping for an easy win against the Senators as the Ottawa team is facing a four game losing streak and have only won 4 out of 15 road games total. It would be a pretty big embarrassment for Vancouver to lose to one of the worst teams on their own turf.

The Canucks thankfully have more than just the home field advantage. They have scored 29 power plays and 110 opportunities, the most out of any team in the season. Rookie Quinn Hughes is also killing at as a Defenceman and is on track to get the Calder Trophy. Jordie Benn is also making big plays after he logged 21:26 on Sunday.

Expect some fisticuffs tonight too as Canucks/Senators games have a surprisingly high penalty average, with about 20 minutes per game.

But there’s more to be excited about than just the game at Rogers Arena. Alex Burrows will be inducted into the Canuck’s Ring of Honour at a Pre-Game ceremony tonight. Burrows is ranked 6th in all games played with the Canucks with 822 games. He’s also eighth in game winning goals and played a major role in getting the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Boston Bruins back in 2011. The Senators will also do their part in honouring him by wearing Burrow’s number 14 on the back of their helmets. Alex had played for 91 games with the Senators after being traded by Vancouver back in February 2017.

Will the Canucks make their fans proud or will the Senators redeem themselves in a stunning upset? We’ll find out soon enough.

Santa Sleeps with the fishes at the Vancouver Aquarium

He’s making a list and checking it twice but before he can wrap that all up Santa’s making a detour. At the Vancouver Aquarium from now until December 24th Santa will diving into the deep end for some nautical nonsense. Children (and adults) can also get their photo taken with the legendary Scuba Claus.

But that’s not all, the Vancouver Aquarium has tons of great holiday activities for everyone. Like the electric eel-powered Christmas tree, which you can even feed! There’s also a jellyfish snow globe and just for the kids (due to size restrictions) a kelp maze!

And if you’re looking for a less active activity The Polar Express 4D Experience plays daily! Enjoy everyone’s favourite Tom Hank’s Christmas movie in the most immersive way possible. I’m eagerly awaiting the upgrade to 5D which I’m sure will be even more mind-blowing.

Other non-holiday related activities are also taking place today such as frog feeding and sea otter feeding.

So what are you waiting for? Head to the Vancouver Aquarium today!

Looking for Laughs? Bloodfeud Comedy is where it’s at!

Comedy is bigger than ever, whether it’s the vast selection of Stand Up Comedy on Netflix or the incalculable number of Sketch videos on YouTube, there’s no shortage of ways to make your belly ache with laughter. And if you live in Vancouver the options are even greater! With venues like Yuk Yuks and the China Cloud showcasing all sorts of unique talents there’s no reason not to support your local comedy community.

But I get it, you have a busy life and it’s so much easier to just watch an episode of The Office while snacking on your favourite brand of chips (Salt and Vinegar). So if you only have time for one show to go to, my recommendation would be Bloodfeud: Improv vs Stand Ups.

The show, started by Malcolm McLeod and Matty Vu, has a simple but intriguing concept. Stand up comedians battle it out with a group of improvisational comedians to see who is the funniest, with host Malcolm McLeod representing the improvisers while Matty Vu represents the stand ups.  In the first half some of Vancouver’s best stand up comedians show off their prepared and finely honed material. In the second half a group of improvisers do the opposite and perform a series of sketches completely made up on the spot. Once they wrap up it’s up to the audience to decide who is the victor.

It’s a great show that blends the best of both comedy worlds. Currently Malcolm is away in Toronto as he is involved with Second City there but a number of hilarious guest hosts have chipped in including Dragon Prince star Raquel Belmonte and Ryan Anderson. Their strange sensibilities have led to an interesting new vibe for the show.

Ryan Anderson is a strange man indeed

Bloodfeud is on the third Saturday of every month at Little Mountain Gallery.