Movie Meltdown

The Foilers Winners!!

2016-03-15

"Yes Oscar Meltdown. It's that magical night where we, here at Movie Meltdown, get together on Oscar night and then completely disregard the Oscars and hand out our own coveted awards - The Foilers!" 

Spoiler Alert: It's REALLY hard to announce some of these categories without spoiling certain aspects of the films. So... potential spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk, Mad Max: Fury Road, Sicario, Ex-Machina and probably several other movies along the way. You have been warned. 

These were the winners announced at our exclusive and fancy awards ceremony this year... 

1. Most questionable career decision made by an actor/actress/filmmaker in 2015?

And the nominees are...
A - Making "The Walk", despite the fact that an award-winning documentary already exists about it. ("I HATE THIS MOVIE!" -Anonymous Voter)
B - Netflix signing a deal with Adam Sandler.
C - Mila Kunis for Jupiter Ascending.  (I didn't hate the movie, and I like her as an actress. I'm afraid, though, that it's going to be harder for her to get interesting roles being the lead of a pretty substantial flop.)
D - Rooney Mara as Tigerlily in "PAN".
E - Sam Rockwell in "Poltergeist"? 

And the WINNER is: Mordecai

"What the hell was that Mordecai movie? Did anyone go see that? Are there people that love Johnny Depp so much they would pay to see that? Is Johnny Depp trying to ruin all goodwill people have toward him? What the hell was he doing in Tusk? How do these things happen?" - Anonymous Voter

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2. Most shocking moment in a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are...
A - The part in Chappie when I secretly kind of liked it.
B - The flashback with oral sex and murder in "The Hateful Eight". 
C - Me crying at the end of Terminator: Genysis when the Terminator dies. 
D - The "fillet scene" in "Bone Tomahawk". 
E - The bear attack in "The Revenant". 

And the WINNER is: The fate of Han Solo in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens".

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3. Most miscast actor/actress for their role in a 2015 film?

And the nominees are...
A - Emma Stone in "Aloha".
B - Johnny Depp in Black Mass. 
C - Miles Teller as Reed Richards in Fant-4-stic.  
D - Adam Driver in "The Force Awakens". 
E - Channing Tatum in "The Hateful Eight". 

And the WINNER isBenedict Cumberbatch in Black Mass. 

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4. Most impressive visuals (CG, practical, whatever…) in a 2015 film?

And the nominees are...
A - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
B - "Ant-Man" fighting scenes
C - Crimson Peak
D - Krampus 
E - The android in "Ex-Machina". (RUNNER-UP with a lot of votes)

And the WINNER isMad Max: Fury Road

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5. Most obnoxious use of CGI in a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are...
A - Jupiter Ascending  ("Complete CG overkill." - Anonymous Voter)
B - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
C - Jurassic World 
D - Ultron's mouth ("ROBOTS DON'T NEED LIPS." - Anonymous Voter) 
E - Alvin and the Chipmunks 

And the WINNER isFantastic Four  "About a third of the way in. The studio must have cut off Josh Trank's budget at the proverbial knees."  - Anonymous Voter

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6. Best kill in a film in 2015? 

And the nominees are...
A - Old Arnold kills young Arnold in "Terninator: Genysis"
B - The death of Immortan Joe in "Fury Road"
C - The mind-blowing sequence in "Kingsman".
D - Bathroom kill at the beginning of "Crimson Peak"  
E - Crotch split in Bone Tomahawk.  (Host pick... as winner)

And the WINNER isBenicio Del Toro's revenge in "Sicario" (aka family dinner murder). 

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7. Best villain in a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are...
A - Rose Byrne in "Spy"
B - The War Boys in "Fury Road".
C - Immortan Joe in "Fury Road".
D - Tom Hardy in "The Revenant".
E - The Catholic church in "Spotlight".
 
And the WINNER is:  Kylo Ren  

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8. Best monster in a 2015 film?  

And the nominees are...
A - Christian Grey in "50 Shades of Grey"  
B - Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp) in "Black Mass".   
C - Bing Bong & Jangles the Clown from "Inside Out"
D - Red ghosts of "CRIMSON PEAK"
E - The troglodytes in "Bone Tomahawk".

And the WINNER isThe Bear in "The Revenant". 

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9. Best action sequence in a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are...
A - Traffic Jam/border crossing scene in "Sicario".
B - Ant-Man and Yellow Jacket fight on the train.
C - First flight and battle for the Millieum Falcon in "The Force Awaken".
D - Full team attack at the beginning AND Hulk vs. Iron Man in "The Age of Ultron".
E - The melee in the church in "Kingsman".

And the WINNER isThe entirety of "Mad Mad: Fury Road".

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10. Forget their impressive acting skills... “hottest” actor/actress in a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are... 
Actor:
A - The Rock
B - Michael B. Jordan in "Creed"
C - Tom Hiddleston in "Crimson Peak"
D - Zac Effron 
E - Kurt Russell (Bone Tomahawk/The Hateful Eight)

And the WINNER isOscar Issac in "The Force Awakens" 

Actress:  (we had a few extra nominees on this one)
A - Emma Stone in "Aloha".
B - Charlize Theron in "Mad Max"
C - Scarlett Johannson in "Age of Ultron"
D - Alexandra Daddario in "Burying the Ex"
E - The Wives in "Mad Max"
F - Jennifer Jason Leigh in "Anomalisa" (by the way, stop-motion puppet)
G - Zoe Kravitz in "Dope"
H - Tessa Thompson in "Creed"
J - Jennifer Lawrance in "Joy"
K - Selma Hayek in "Everly"

And the WINNER is: Daisy Ridley in "The Force Awakens"

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11. The 2015 movie you expected to hate, but ended up enjoying? 

And the nominees are... 
A - Goosebumps
B - Fantastic Four
C - Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
D - Jupiter Ascending
E - Minions

And the WINNER isCreed

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12. Dreariest study of the human condition (in a film in 2015)? 

And the nominees are...  
A - Anomalisa
B - Chappie 
C - John Cusack bits in "Love and Mercy". 
D - The Revenant
E - The Entourage Movie

And the WINNER is: (tie) Ex-Machina and  The Hateful Eight "Every last despicable one of them." 

(And Jacqueline's personal winner is "Spotlight".) 

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13. Favorite use of a song in a 2015 film? (It does NOT have to be originally created for the film.)

And the nominees are... 
A - "Girls just want to have fun" from Anomalisa 
B - "Uptown Girl/Let's get Ridiculous" from Trainwreck
C - "Fuck the Police" from Straight out of Compton
D - "Get Down Saturday Night" from Ex-Machina
E - "Waiting for my Moment" from Creed

And the WINNER is: (tie)  "Plainsong" by The Cure from Ant-Man and "The Big Ship" by Brian Eno from Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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14. Favorite score in a 2015 film? (Again, it does not have to be specifically created for the film.)

And the nominees are... 
A - "Turbo Kid" - score by Le Matos  
B - "Fury Road" - Score by Junkie XL
C - "Sicario" - score by Johann JoHANason
D - "Love and Mercy" - Score by Atticus Ross
E -  "Straight Outta Compton" - Score by Joseph Trapanese  (Runner-up)

And the WINNER is: The Hateful Eight - Score by Ennio Morricone

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15. Most impressive director of a 2015 film? 

And the nominees are... 
A - Denise Villeneuve - "Sicario"
B - Alfonso Gomez-Rejon - "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl"
C - J.J. Abrams - "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
D - S. Craig Zahler  for "Bone Tomahawk"
E - Ryan Coogler - "Creed" (Runner-up )

And the WINNER is:  George Miller for "Fury Road" (Runaway winner, with over 2/3rds of the votes)

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16. Favorite (what you would consider) indie movie in 2015? 

And the nominees are...
A - Anomalisa
B - Ex Machina
C - Tangerine
D - That Guy Dick Miller
E - Slow West

And the WINNER is: (tie) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and Turbo Kid

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17. Favorite (what you would consider) mainstream movie in 2015? 

And the nominees are...
A - Sicario
B - The Big Short
C - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
D - Carol
E - Creed

And the WINNER is: Mad Max: Fury Road (Another runaway, with almost as many votes as George Miller.)

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Thank you to ALL of our friends and listeners out there, specifically the people who actually GOT INVOLVED and helped us vote on these categories. The show definitely works better if YOU get involved, so e-mail us at- geeks@moviemeltdown.com and let us know you're out there, let us you how you can help the show... AND how you would like to be part of the show. But definitely thank you to everyone who voted for this year's winners. - Bryan

And a big thanks from Zuzu... award-winning dog.

BeadedLine

Best of 2015

2016-02-07

 by Kyle Armstrong


15. Carol: Carol is visually stunning with a script that is brilliantly written. I really wanted this to make it into my top 10, actually, I had it in my top 5 for awhile, but had to move things around. I love its recurring visuals and elements that really build up this film. I love the train sets that return throughout the film, showing each character's metamorphosis into a new person or their reveal of who they actually were. Cate Blanchett plays a very mysterious character, which works since it is through the eyes of Rooney Mara's character Therese. Carol keeps this mystery throughout, although, we learn more about what is causing damage to her personal life. Carol is this Gastby-esque story told better than the actual Great Gatsby movies.

14. Inside Out: I am a big fan of Pixar's work, which is why I feel terrible that I have yet to see the Good Dinosaur (well, I'm not the biggest fan). I try to see as many Pixar films in theaters as possible (for me, anyway), because they are beautiful, with the exception of every Cars and Planes movie (because who cares?). Inside Out is beautiful to look it and there is this different experience for when you see it in the theaters. I'm getting pretty tired of the Herman's Head argument, it's unoriginal. Yeah, I too remember the Cracked article, there are also many more stories like this. I've heard Inside Out being compared to Herman's Head more than I've heard Pixels being compared to that episode of Futurama. The reason I am barely discussing this film is because I already discussed this film, many of these I have.

13. The Peanuts Movie: A small amount of these movies will be my biased opinions, but I didn't want to fill it up with movies I've only enjoyed, I wanted it to be more of a critical stand point. These may not be the "best" by any means, but I think they are. The Peanuts Movie did something that many things on my worst list did not do, brought back nostalgia, not insulting to the creators, while also making an enjoyable film. I would really like to see a sequel or more TV specials because of this film, but a small nitpick for any upcoming ideas, including the gang, it would be to slow it down a little bit. I know it could be more difficult to keep the kids attention that way, but that is what Snoopy is for. When it comes to the kids, don't be afraid to slow it down, just leave the fast paced comedy to the double act, Snoopy and Woodstock.

12. Creed: Creed worked because it gave the time to develop the characters, unlike other spin off films, it didn't feel like a film without a main perspective or lead. This film felt as though it was passing down the torch after a series of looking through the eyes of one man, as if to say that "it's time for something new and it's time for someone else's story". As a Rocky movie this felt right and as a movie this felt right. It payed homage to the original, without declaring "Sure, there is Rocky, but we can stand alone". Michael B. Jordan is a charming lead and seeing Rocky so alone is actually really sad seeing how famous he was in Philly and they did give a heads up to the actual statue, meaning in the movie, Rocky is a really big deal in philly. So seeing him go from nothing to something to a little bit of both is pretty sad. Creed is something that I will look forward to giving it many other viewings.

11. Sicario: Sicario is one of the most intense films I've seen all year. I did not discuss this film, because there was already so much surrounding it, that I just didn't want to and didn't have much to say at the time. There is this idea of "who is the real enemy" and are we any different from the criminals, if we don't treat them like human beings. Such corruption of power leaves our protagonist in a state of vulnerability and not knowing who to trust. Labels and corruption of such power creates an endorsement of extreme police brutality to the wrongfully accused, having a major effect on friends and family, all because of how the government portrays these people. Ending on a note of such isolation from the world that is going on around them. Do I believe this film is suggesting a message? Yeah, that there is a life beyond the battlefield and by taking someone's life away, you many more with it.

10. The Man From Uncle: Although, I loved Kingsman, really enjoyed MI5, and didn't think Spectre was as bad as everyone thought, my favorite spy movie of the year goes to the Man From Uncle. This is probably the classiest Batman v Superman film we're getting. This film is so charming and funny, Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer have amazing chemistry, and Alicia Vikander may be my favorite person this year, she has so much personality, and again, like this movie, she is so charming. I am glad I got to see her in many movies this year because she is so much fun to watch. The soundtrack for this film is amazing, with sounds from a Spaghetti Western and tunes from the 50s. This is a movie that I would welcome many more viewings.

9. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: This is me, once again, including my own biased opinion, instead of a critical one. Now usually something like a 3rd bigger and better Death Star, would get an honorable mention, but I enjoyed this film too much. Like J.J. said, I think this is there to make room for the new. It was too much like the originals at times, but now that it is out of the way, I am pumped for what's to come. Also, the idea of the force, the Jedi, Luke, and the Dark Side being a legend after only 30 years is unlikely, but this was kind of a problem with the original trilogy as well. I am glad to see that Daisy Ridley is leading the new series, because Rey is a very interesting character to me, I found Finn to be a funny and little bit of a tragic character, Oscar Isaacs is charming as the new Han Solo-ish character, and I am glad we get to see Kylo Ren grow up. BB-8 is adorable, Captain Phasma has some potential as this right hand, and I am ready to see where the Millennium Falcon takes our heroes next. 

8. Mad Max: Fury Road: Has Fury Road become overrated? Yeah, most likely, but it is still a really fun and visually stunning film. This is what more action movies should be like these days, we feel the anguish and the mystery of each character. We begin to see life through the eyes of Max and become more invested in the story that is going on around us, than what is going on with him. The visual effects are for the most part practical giving the film more grit and realness to it. I did enjoy Gibson as Max, but that was a long time ago, he has gotten older and the apocalypse hasn't done any good for his mind, so it was better to replace him with a much younger actor to continue this film in less of a Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Indiana Jones and more of a Casino Royal James Bond.

7. The Martian: I found myself always interested as to what is going on in this film, this is probably the most I will ever be that interested in math. Donald Glover is really fun in this film, I wanted more of his character, Matt Damon gives a performance full of wit and charm. Things go wrong in this film, but unlike Knock, Knock, it doesn't feel like the universe is against him, it is understandable and shown why this is happening to him. The film is shot beautifully, too. I find the idea interesting as well, a man stranded on a planet, forced to grow his own food and survive on a planet where nothing grows. The characters feel real in this film, no one is singled out as a bad guy, sure Jeff Daniels wants to leave Damon on that planet, but it is still a little understandable. It's not "oh well, that's too much money", it's more like "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few". I like Ridley Scott's work, maybe it hasn't been the best within the last few years, but his best work stands up taller than his substandard films. I found the Martian to be fun, interesting, and well acted.

6. Spotlight: I love watching these investigation stories, I find them more intriguing when they're based on true stories, because life is more unpredictable, than the set of followed clichés, if they are used. This film left me with various questions, I really wanted to know about the priests point of view, who believes that he was raped by a child, tells Sacha this very calmly, by the way, but is interrupted by his wife or sister, or whatever. Michael Keaton gives a great performance, as always, and deserves more respect as a dramatic and comedic actor. Mark Ruffalo gives a tragic performance of someone who was very familiar with the Catholic Church, who is can't bring himself back because of recent events. Rachael McAdams and Liev Schreiber also gives great performances. This film works because it never tries to shift the blame on anyone or any group, but shows the tragedy of what has happened and what could happen, while also showing us the effects this has on other's lives.

5. Steve Jobs: I wasn't very excited for another Steve Jobs film, after his death, Steve and Apple were advertised everywhere, and it felt like Steve Jobs himself was starting to get shoved down our throats. So I was not excited to hear about another Steve Jobs movie in the works, however, I was intrigued by the director reveal of Danny Boyle, the writer reveal of Aaron Sorkin, and all the problems Jobs' family were causing with the actors portraying him. What we got was a film with beautiful visuals and depth, like just about any Danny Boyle film. Unlike the last Steve Jobs film, it isn't lazy and it doesn't just build him up as this misunderstood hero. Ashton Kutcher looked the most like Steve Jobs, but played Ashton Kutcher in that film. Michael Fassbender looks barely anything like him, but gives a fantastic performance, that one could lose themselves in. This film shows us the failures of the man and the myth. This is a man so obsessed with the power to lead, that he loses that connection, that fire, that once was with his family. This film shows the anger in Steve Jobs that could erupt, and would, over his passion to be the one in charge. What makes this film work is not how much success we see Jobs go through, but how much failure, whether it is a failed attempt at a new device, or his personal life. With these failures, we see how this character grows and becomes stronger.

4. Anomalisa: The final four were the films that moved around in my list the most often. While I feel pretty good with this arrangement, it may change around in the future. I am a fan of much of Charlie Kaufman's work as a writer, I loved Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. This time Charlie Kaufman is co-directing alongside Duke Johnson, giving the audience a rather beautiful and tragic film about love and what was. In a world where everything just feels the same, Tom Noonan giving this monotone voice work as everyone else. We see a man who is bored with life and the people living it, they are all predictable. Everyone is afraid of something different, creating a world that somewhat resembles the one in 1985. That we are all the same, programmed with these generic ideas of love and we are no better than machines, or the main character in this film is just a dick. This idea of finally finding something different, then becoming easily bored with it is tragic. Most of the movie is about how you feel in the moment, and just like the sex doll (or machine), love comes and goes as fast as an orgasm. 

3. Ex Machina: This film asks the question of what it means to be human and who should we trust, if not our own? A question last asked in this manner in 2014's Under the Skin. Alicia Vikander plays a curious and tragic character, full of mystery, her performance is done phenomenally, and we get to see the many layers of her acting abilities. Oscar Issac is pure fun and menacing in this film, he really has fun with this role, making him a very charming bad guy. Domhnall Gleeson seems to be in every film I watch Frank, Ex Machina, Star Wars, the Revenant, but he is also very good in this as well, fitting right in with the cast, as the POV. This is a really interesting film depicting why humans think the way they do, are we all just the same? Do we all just have sex and love on our minds? Could this get in the way of how we think? Following the character of Caleb, we never know who to trust, Nathan seems too crazy to be trust worthy, but Ava may be using manipulation. Would I say this had a happy ending? Kinda, depending on how you look at it.

2. The Revenant: What an intense film; Alejandro Iñárritu just packs another punch after Birdman. The Revenant is also a beautiful film to look it, with phenomenal visuals and great use of colors. The film had many production problems and used natural, instead of artificial light, giving the film a grittier and darker look (quite literally). Leonardo DiCaprio gives a great performance, but Tom Hardy steals the movie with his dark humor and his selfish intentions. DiCaprio does deserve an Oscar, but for every other performance, like The Departed, but mostly for The Wolf of Wall Street. He deserves an Oscar for all that he has given, and this would be the perfect time to give him one. This film kicks shit out of Leo, he falls off a cliff, sleeps in the carcass of a horse (and I thought it smelled bad on the outside), gets chewed up by a bear, and I am pretty sure the bear did not rape DiCaprio; as many times as you joke about it, it does not happen. The bear that chews up DiCaprio is a mother bear protecting her cub(s). I found this movie interesting the whole way through, with its Western vibe, it was definitely worth the 2 hours and 30 minutes of my time.

1. A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence: With its dark comedy and grim commentary on life, this may be the funniest movie of the year for me. Everyone in this film looks as if all the joy has been sucked out of them, but each character has a memorable personality, and it is fun watching them portray such lifeless characters, this is the first film in The Living trilogy I have seen or heard of, this has me wanting to run out and watch them. There was pure joy watching this film, it is the most unique and creative film I have watched all year. This film is like a parody of Ingmar Bergman films, and yet, I have never seen anything like it. These mixed together stories fit so well together. My favorite story has to be the one with the captain who rides into the restaurant and just forces everyone out, whips a man who was just playing the slots, then asks the bartender to join the army just so they can share a tent together. This is just a crazy fun film.

BeadedLine

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Spoiler analysis and thoughts)

2015-12-28

by Kyle Armstrong

     Again, if you have yet to see the movie, watch it, because it is worth seeing it instead of finding out through some scumbag. Decided to wait a week, after most have seen it and wanted to talk about it as a whole. Last time I discussed Star Wars, I said Return of the Jedi didn't work as well without Kurtz, this is, in a way, fixing Return of the Jedi's mistakes. A big question is, what's with the smiles on the Stormtroopers? Well, maybe I can explain. In the original trilogy, I believed that Stormtroopers wore white as a way to present that manipulative side of the Dark Side. The idea of the Dark Side forcing a smile on the face of people like Finn, who don't want anything to do with it, it also looks very mischievous. People seem to have a problem with Kylo Ren, when I kinda think that's the point. Let me explain, Kylo Ren or Ben Solo, has lived in his parents shadow, his father is a legendary pilot and smuggler, his mother is a queen, Ben is just a kid who wants to make a name for himself. Why do I think this? Because JJ points it out to us, he has temper tantrums, like child and he looks like a child when he takes off the helmet, that's why the one guy behind me laughed when he took off his helmet. If we had gotten another big bad villain he wouldn't even graze the light of Vader, but because he is a reckless, rebellious kid, we get to see him grow and he is shown as a memorable villain. JJ tries to capture the beauty of a character like Boba Fett, with Captain Phasma, reveal very little, but suggest enough to give the character a reputation, but this is where we sort of have a problem, to create said reputation there needs to be more to this character. I think Boba Fett is great, but it runs into the problem of giving the character nothing to do, which is why I hope they didn't crush Phasma in the trash compactor because I would like to see more of what the character and Gwendoline Christie. Although, I think I can explain the lack of Phasma, the character is built on reputation alone, bit of a stone wall, and looks cool, even though she has barely any scenes, these are the reasons why I want more of her, we didn't get enough, when they built up the character way too much.

     The Nazi symbolism has bumped up to the extreme (which I like), to a point where we get angry speeches, standing in groups, and, I am not making this up, the Storm Troopers Sieg Heil. The only thing that really bothered me about Finn is his transition from good to bad, maybe we could've had more of how this obedience to evil has damaged him, but with that behind us, he was a great character. The scene where he gets (presumably a friend or close partner's) blood on his mask is chilling, this is the scene before Finn has his Vietnam flashbacks ("I don't see any connection to Vietnam, Walter"). I honestly believe that blood on his mask symbolizes the human aspect to Finn, the blood outside of the armor. I don't know how I feel about this being his first mission, seeing all this death phases him, but he's never shown any sign of disobedience, until now. I have no idea how the First Order trains their troopers, but it can't be pretty.

     I know no training can prepare you for the real thing, which is why I have mixed feelings about this. He has been trained to obey and to shoot before thinking (Well, if you're a Stormtrooper, before aiming), a life of eat or be eaten. I find it interesting that he questions his authority, in the face of death and destruction of what is going on, but as to why he has not questioned it before, shows that manipulative side of the First Order (Dark Side), I'm pretty torn. Everyone is pretty upset that Finn is able to use a lightsaber, while I'm not that upset about it. If it is the fact that he can turn it on, that doesn't make much sense, because Han turned it on in Empire, that exact same lightsaber (something I would like to discuss). Is it the fact that he can use it? Well, it these were more choregraphed, I would understand and would probably be mad as well, but he doesn't look like he knows what he is doing, he's just swinging it around trying to dodge Stormtroopers and Kylo Ren, with the both times that he uses it, he gets knocked down and hurt pretty badly. He doesn't know what to do with it, and if it is revealed that he has the force, I wouldn't be that mad because for a new rebellion to work, Jedi are needed, the more, the merrier. My question is, where did Maz Kanata get Luke's lightsaber? After Luke's hand was chopped off in Empire, it had to have been lost, so the green lightsaber would've made more sense. Speaking of lightsabers, I'm glad they went back to the main colors, blue and red, no purple, no green, just red and blue. 

     Rey is a very interesting character and the big question is, who's daughter she is, now from what we've seen we can say that she may be Luke's daughter, well, I disagree. If she has to be anyone's daughter, I believe she's Han Solo's, here's why: So Luke does mean bringer of light and Rey does resemble ray of light, but I think this is because Rey, like Luke once was, is the "New Hope", that light, is the hope for bringing balance to the force. Why is she Han's daughter? Kylo Ren tells her, at her weakest moment (or strongest, matter of perspective) "He's like the father you never had. He'll disappoint you", maybe foreshadowing. Why didn't Leia recognize her? Maybe she did. Why didn't Obi-Wan recognize R2D2 or tell Luke that Vader was his father? I don't think it is the time and it could tempt Rey to join her brother. Which brings me to my next argument, it makes the battle a personal one. Not only is it, once again, family vs. family, it is the fight for the memory of Han Solo. So why did they give her up? Well, they keep her away from her brother (the student of Luke's, who was tempted by the Dark Side), in fear that she may turn. There is an age gap between the two, now before you say "only 9 years", Jedi are taught at a young age, even 9 is pretty old for a student Jedi, making him 14 or 15 when he turned, which as a rebellious teen, sounds right. I understand that Luke has a child in the books, but the books aren't cannon, because they contradict the prequels. In the prequels it is said that Jedi cannot fall in love or reproduce (which is dumb). Now if we want to talk about the books, Han and Leia do have kids, one girl, one boy, the boy's name? Ben Solo, named after the one and only Ben Kenobi (which is odd, seeing Han and Leia weren't that close to Obi-Wan, not as close as Luke was. Also hearing Luke say "Rey, I am your father" is way too cheesy.

     Which brings me to the death of almost every Star Wars fan's hero, Ham Yoyo (as Harrison Ford would refer to him), I saw it coming, as much as I denied it going in. With Gary Kurtz's vision, Kasdan and Ford wanting to kill him off, Lucas off board, Han taking up the role of the mentor (which usually gets killed off), the villain being as close to Han as you can get without it being one of his friends or Leia, and Han walking onto that platform, resembling the "I am your father" scene in Empire, it was a bit obvious. Everyone is unpleased with Han's death, but the reality is, it is hard to accept the death our Star Wars hero (that isn't the protagonist), I think it is better coming from someone close, than some stranger. That image of the light in the sky going dark just runs shivers down my spine. That hope of light we see in Ben is gone, he has completely gone dark, and the only light we see is the light of the red lightsaber on Ben's face, showing the anger he has for his father. Taking off the helmet makes it even more personal, how it isn't a Darth Vader wanna be killing Han, but his own son. To me, this felt right.

     Let's move on to the new Han Solo, Poe Dameron, who I am glad they decided not to kill off, because Oscar Isaac is fun in this role and I can't wait to get more of this character, but the explanation for him being alive was a bit weak, however, I understand why they did it, they didn't want too much of Han Solo-ish personality in this film. I enjoyed each character, I thought each character was very fleshed out, not resembling our past heroes too much. Rey resembles Luke, that young character who wants to get away, wants to be a pilot, has the force, but she has way more depth and attitude than Luke had in A New Hope. The arguments of it being too much like the original, are arguments that I completely understand.

     There are times where it is resembling A New Hope and Empire way too much, and it plays it safe sometimes, the ballsiest thing they did was kill off Han Solo, however, at times it was its own thing and I respected it for that, but the idea of the bigger and better Death Star 2.0 is unneeded, and I only see it as the film's MacGuffin, although, I liked how they named it after the original name for Luke Skywalker, Starkiller Base, a name too violent for a Jedi that will bring peace, (maybe irony?). Lucas later decided to pass this name down to the lead character of the Force Unleashed video games, who was almost named 
Darth Insanius, or even worse Darth Icky (Lucas wasn't very good with names, seeing Yoda was almost "Buffy". Dodged a bullet there).

     The idea of taking all the energy from a star to destroy other planets, is like Neil DeGrasse Tyson said, unlikely, but as of a Star Wars story, I can see it happening. The final lightsaber battle is absolutely amazing, it is dark, thrilling, realistic, with a gritty backdrop, and it may have been one my favorite parts of this film. This has to be one of the greatest lightsaber battles in the Star Wars series. This is not like the prequels, we watch these characters as they look like they're in pain, not this choregraphed mess.

     This is what I want in a lightsaber battle, something that feels like a war, a gritty battle of good and evil. This battle had my eyes dead set on the screen. Seeing the lightsabers in Rey and Kylo's eyes is an image that is locked into my mind, showing that thin line between good and evil. I wasn't that upset with Luke was in the film for only a few seconds, because he wasn't really advertised and the characters have no idea where he is either, although, I love that he gets top billing with Ford and Fisher, I find that funny. I enjoyed Episode 7, I guess more than others. It is flawed, very flawed, I did not like the CGI alien chase, but I did like the homage it payed to Raiders of the Lost Ark. I liked Maz Kanata and I also thought BB-8 was adorable. I love seeing Star Wars get back on its old track again.


       

BeadedLine

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

2015-12-14

 by Kyle Armstrong

     The darkest film in the franchise, as well as my favorite film in the franchise (after the Christmas special, of course). This is the film where we learn that Vader is partially human, we see the back of burnt scalp, and we learn Vader is a puppet of the Empire. On Dagobah, Yoda starts to train Luke, and again, we get an image of Luke suspended in an upside-down position to reflect his letting go of all urgency. This is an image symbolizing the Hanged Man (one of the Tarot card's most mysterious characters), where the character finds inner peace, in a dreadful situation. He is seen in this position 3 times in the film. Meaning to do what you feel, not what you must. To be, not to begin, and to just "hang out" or "chill", if you get my drift.

     After the ice cave incident, Han finds him almost dead, opens up the womb of a dead Tauntaun, where Luke is reborn, after Obi Wan's force ghost tells him to go see Yoda. Also, don't give me that "midichlorian" mumbo jumbo, that's probably what Han didn't believe, because neither do I. The force should not be explained by science, that takes away the beauty of it. We shouldn't worry about if Han shot first, we should worry about these "midichlorians" infecting our heroes. Kill me, I sound like Kirk Cameron. Later, when Luke asks about the cave and what's in it, Yoda replies "only what you take with you", Luke journeys into the cave, finding Darth Vader. Luke decapitates Vader, revealing Luke's own face under the mask, foreshadowing the true identity of little Anakin (no, no, no, we aren't going to talk about that), it also symbolizes what Luke is becoming, that evil follows him.

     Luke then gives into this evil as he disobeys his master. "Stopped they must be. On this all depends. Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Vader did, you will become an agent of evil.", but Luke leaves anyway, because he really wants to go to the Tashi station to pick up some power converters (I'm probably gonna to run this joke to the ground). This is where transhumanism vs nature comes full circle. Luke gets in his big flying machine, leaving the natural swamp, but if Luke won't eat the Root Leaf Stew, who will? Back at Cloud City, we are shown Han Solo, who was sold out by his friend, Lando Calrissian, is getting the chance to get a carbon freezing and not knowing how lucky he is, nothing replenishes the skin more than a carbon freezing, resembling Osiris, where Boba Fett (Set) puts the nail in his said coffin. The sad irony of the man who was in it for the money, is the one being sold.

     Han's jacket has been removed and this time he is seen in all white, because for once he is the martyr, this is his most noble moment. Luke walks into Cloud City, and like Yoda said he would, he messes everything up and walks into a trap. After an amazing lightsaber battle, Vader chops off Luke's hand and reveals that he is in fact the father (tough love is the best kind of love). After that reveal from Vader, Luke goes through a different kind of rebirth, a rebirth through technology.

     Later, Luke is being fitted for a cybernetic enhancement, bringing him one step closer to his father. What consumed his father is beginning to consume him. The film ends in one of the most depressing endings ever, but we did find out that there is another Skywalker. Although the ending is depressing, it's unpredictable and one of the greatest endings of all time. The films can only get better from here... Right?

                                              

BeadedLine

Plan 9 from Outer Space

2015-10-31

 by Kyle Armstrong

      This is a very popular movie to hate, but I just don't understand it's title of "the worst film of all time". It is fun to point out its flaws (the many that it has), however, this is more of the worst film that the viewer had seen (in which he probably hasn't seen many), rather than the "worst of all time". Even on a list of all time films, this probably wouldn't be accurate because this isn't even the worst Edward D. Wood Jr. film. This is the last film in what I like to call the "Lugosi trilogy" in Ed Wood's filmography. After many years of mistreatment by Hollywood, Bela had become a washed up actor, but Wood, who looked up to him had brought him into his own home with bigger roles (well, by Ed Wood standards). We were given 3 films, a biopic that was more about the director's personal life, than the woman he was supposed to make the movie about in the first place, an insane Frankenstein-esque film with a rubber octopus and an atomic explosion in the same scene, and then we got Plan 9 from Outer Space, Ed Wood's final film before Lugosi's death, including the final on screen footage of Lugosi before he died. 

     This footage is used over and over again throughout the film, when it isn't used they cast a man who looks like Lugosi from the eyes up. What we get is stock footage of Lugosi mashed into scenes with the man hiding his nose behind his cape throughout most of the film, a clichéd image of Dracula... or, well, Batman. The only time he doesn't is if it is a shot of the back of his head. As for the plot, the film is about an alien invasion that brings the dead back to life, after seeing what Earth really is, a war filled planet, full of "stupid minds". By "the dead", I mean 2 people, also including Dracula or "Ghoul Man". The doorway with the black sheet is used for both the cockpit of the airplane and UFO, this is very noticeable. Tor Johnson's character Inspector Clay is in the film (alive) for 1 minute, until he is killed off immediately, then brought back from the dead. Seeing him struggle getting out of the ground was left in the film, and it is hilarious. The other character brought back from the dead, Vampira, is credited as "Vampire Girl", but that is the only way we would figure that out because she has no lines, nor is she ever explained in the entire film. The film goes from day to night constantly in a matter of one scene. I counted this about 5 different times. The way these characters speak to each other feel very scripted and forced, in a way nobody would talk. They explain too much of what they do and what is going on. Just too many unrealistic conversations. Where there are these sightings of the undead walking around, the cops decide to go back to Inspector Clay's grave to find that his body is gone and his casket has been broken out of. They have an officer go down there to figure this out, when apparently, the other cops see it fine from up there. Then music plays to anticipate something dramatic, when Inspector Clay's body is missing, but leads to just an awkward silence. 

     The Marshall proceeds to inform the soldier that flying saucers do not exist, even though in broad daylight earlier, he and other soldiers shot at them for a "field test". Wait, what? So what did he expect him to think, even if he hadn't seen the UFOs before that moment? The enemy just had a highly advanced plane? When shooting at the UFOs, you can clearly see the string, which makes this film all the more better. Then we listen to a recording from the alien leader himself. The alien leader proceeds to insult the human race in a recording that couldn't finish because "atmospheric conditions", although, it sounded pretty fine to me. No atmospheric conditions got in the way of the sound. "Ghoul Man" walks in the UFO and walks back out, for some reason that is never explained, so when we see him walk back out he is headed for this group of people, who are terrified and call him "thing or it", not knowing he is obviously a human with a cape over his face. The laser beam on the UFO zaps and kills him, leaving only the cape and bones you could find in a science class, of the man who was taller and younger looking, than Bela Lugosi. Apparently, the American government is working on a solar bomb (which is idiotic on many different levels), the American soldiers do not know this, but for some reason, the alien soldiers do. Then one of the alien soldiers begins having a temper tantrum, like some sort of child. As the female alien begins to tell off the humans, the male alien soldier pushes the female alien out of the way for talking, because "women don't fight men's battles". So wars are bad, but misogyny is fine?

     Then, like how most America's wars end, they trash the joint and set fire to the UFO belonging to the people that only wanted to make peace in the first place. Then they feel pride in the war they most likely started. The film ends with Criswell telling the audience that "We laughed at Radio, TV, and vitamins, what makes the beings in the universe any different?" Well, the universe is not a man made thing, it's not some goofy invention some guy made with his free time. Plan 9 is Edward D. Wood Jr.'s best film. There are plot holes everywhere, but it has the most coherent story out of all the films in his filmography, and unlike many films of his, it stays on track, never getting too sidetracked with junk footage he came across. If you want a bad Ed Wood film, watch his first few films or even his last few films.

BeadedLine

Zombies Ate My City!

2015-10-27

     It was last Halloween that Leo ran my story about zombie movies, Return of the Living Dead and the doomed city where it was supposedly set.  Well I thought this October, I would give people a chance to read my full piece - a slightly longer and more personalized version of this undead tale. Including my interview with William Stout dropped right in the middle. So, without further ado...

(Attention: Massive spoilers will quickly be revealed for the film, The Return of the Living Dead. But hopefully by now, you’ve already seen the movie – especially if you live in Louisville.)                      

 

                  Zombies Ate My City! 
(or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love being Bombed)
 
                                      by Bryan Renfro


    I remember the first time I saw The Return of the Living Dead. It was in the blossoming age of a new form of entertainment called… cable television. I saw it late one night and I remember it felt like I was treading on new cinematic ground. It felt fresh with a touch of deviant. While it had all the trappings of a run-of-the-mill horror movie – it wasn’t. There was just something so different about it. While sitting there watching it that first time, it’s like I felt it… changing the game. And just when I thought I couldn’t be shocked more then watching the living dead rampage this town, the movie dropped the bomb on me (literally… plotwise anyway). As they announce that all this insanity was in fact - going on in my own hometown! Of course that is revealed just minutes before the city is hit by a nuclear blast. For a town that isn’t featured on the big screen that often – we were certainly getting a lot of action in this movie. 


     Now I was a less sophisticated viewer back then (it’s arguable that that’s changed), but in the years since I’ve watched that film turn into a cult phenomenon. And even more surprising was that I began to watch the city I lived in, slowly become more and more obsessed with it's zombie subject matter. So in writing this, I set out to piece together how this movie got made, how the story came to be set in Louisville – and just why our town is so fascinated with zombies. 


     So I guess we’ll have to start at the beginning. The Return of the Living Dead, released in 1985, could never have existed without the movie Night of the Living Dead. “Night” made its debut in 1968 and was filmed on an ultra-low budget on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was written by George Romero and John Russo and was directed by Romero, who up until that point had been making mostly industrial films for different Pittsburgh industries. It told the story of a mysterious situation wherein the dead returned to life and began to chase and eat the living. And the plot, which became the first of many, centered around a small group of people who band together (sometimes) to try to fend off these undead creatures. It’s grim black and white cinematography and grisly, realistic feel shocked audiences and turned away many critics. Before long however, someone had the genius idea of playing the film “at midnight” - and it took off, making it arguably the first successful midnight movie. But along the way, it also took hold of the American consciousness in a way that we never saw coming. Redefining the horror genre and creating a new sub-genre – the zombie movie.  


     Now with a movie that successful and cinematically impactful… a sequel would of course be imminent. But things are never that simple. For one, a mix up with the original theatrical distributor ended up with Night of the Living Dead falling into public domain. Which is why to this day, you will find a cheap (and probably bad quality) copy of it sitting near the cash register of your local grocery store or gas station. While on the one hand it totally ruined the creators chances of ever really making money on this extremely successful film. But if you overlook the financial bungle aspect, I feel like that is probably the most instrumental factor in zombies imbedding themselves in our national cognizance. Suddenly the movie was available everywhere, and every low rent TV station across the country cashed in on that. Countless horror hosts played the movie over and over until that undead scenario had woven itself so far into our psyche that today most people you meet, if you ask them, probably have a “zombie contingency plan”.

     Now in addition to the public domain debacle, another interesting fact was that after the success of Night of the Living Dead co-writers Romero and Russo parted ways professionally. And in a strange turn of events they were both allowed to continue making zombie films, but with different title structures. While Romero was free to continue making movies using the phrase “of the dead”, Russo was tossed the other side of the coin by being granted use of the wording “living dead”. And that is how both of their careers continued. 

     In 1977 while Romero began shooting his own sequel Dawn of the Dead, John Russo published a novel entitled Return of the Living Dead. I talked with Russo a few years back, and of course I asked him about his involvement with what would eventually become the film The Return of the Living Dead

     Russo said, “We wrote a straight horror actual sequel, in the vein of Night of the Living Dead. So that straight horror version opens with the funeral of a child, and the farmer who is father of that child, is handed a spike and he has to drive it in his own child’s head. That was the rational [of doing a sequel], bring them back and then now what can you do to take it in a different direction then Night of the Living Dead? So we opened it up with the raiding party, because there would be people taking advantage of such a crisis, and looting and raping and so on. And there would be good guys too, trying to stop them and stop the plague of the zombies. So that was the whole idea behind Return of the Living Dead.” Well if you know anything about the way the movie actually turned out, that’s quite a different direction.

     Another interesting character enters the mix as we learn how the movie eventually changed hands. Russo went on to explain, “We finally had to sell the screenplay because nobody would finance it. Frank Sinatra was going to finance it. And we went out to Las Vegas to close the deal… and his mother’s plane went down in the mountains and she was killed. And so the deal didn’t go through. And we sold the script, for a lot of money - but lost control of the project. And then Orion Pictures said, ‘Straight horror is dead. Don’t make straight horror.’ They hired Dan O’Bannon to turn it into a comedy… so the script got revised. Which he did a good job… it’s good movie.”

     And so Dan O’Bannon enters the picture. A longtime fan of EC Comics and Heavy Metal magazine, O’Bannon got his start in the business collaborating with the likes of John Carpenter on his early project Dark Star and attempting to work on the now infamous Alejandro Jodorowsky version of Dune. O’Bannon went on to become a major force in the world of screenwriting, penning films like Alien, Blue Thunder, Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, Total Recall as well as, not only writing the screenplay for The Return of the Living Dead, but also stepping in to direct as his feature film debut. 

     Now I don’t know if it was his childhood love of Tales from the Crypt comic books or just his own need to shake up the system, but Dan O’Bannon’s version of The Return of the Living Dead changed a lot of things in the making of the film. Perhaps taking into account Orion’s comment about ‘straight horror’, this new screenplay was equally as much a comedy as it was horrific. It also drug the old black and white esthetic of the original ’68 story kicking and screaming into the 80’s, as it cast most of our main characters with punk rock youths. (Which by the way, I always thought made Louisville look much cooler circa 1985. I mean, if most people would have set a horror movie in Kentucky, it would have more then likely been about a bunch of backward, hillybilly types. So I was always thrilled to have this progressive vision of Louisville being presented to the world.) 

     In keeping with our punky cast of locals, O’Bannon also heavily featured punk music as the soundtrack to all the horrific scenes. Again a gutsy move, that I would assume most studio execs would have disagreed with. Punk certainly had built an underground following in the music world, but still didn’t pull in big money, in terms of record sales. And though we had just started to see punk influences creeping into smaller studio films (Repo Man, Rock and Roll High School, Suburbia), the concept was still almost completely unproven as a draw for theater-goers. 

     So as if the comedic tone and musical choices weren’t genre-bending enough, then O’Bannon took the very “rules” that previous zombie films were built on… and threw them out the window. He featured fast moving zombies (at least 17 years before geeks everywhere would argue over whether that was appropriate or not), and let these creatures not only speak but also gave them the cognitive skills to operate machinery (like say a CB radio). Plus he also added a key factor that would change the way people saw zombies as a whole from that point on… “brains”. Having his featured zombie utter that one word, he reset the whole undead mythology - by now making the zombies not flesh-eaters, but that they specifically fed on the brains of the living. (And even more groundbreaking was that they had a specific reason for doing so! And were even conscious of it.)

     So obviously, I’m pretty amazed with the talent and innovative style of writer/director Dan O’Bannon. And at this point in piecing our story together, I would of course love to ask him some questions about his thought process in creating this film. But sadly, Dan had been battling Crohn's disease for many years, and passed away in December of 2009.   

     But if there was one other person who was as involved in the majority of creative processes that led to the making of  The Return of the Living Dead, it was William Stout. William was a phenomenal artist years before he even got involved in film. But when he came on-board for The Return of the Living Dead it inadvertently made him the youngest production designer in film history. He’s done everything from designing movie posters to creating creatures on-screen. From writing screenplays to heading up the art department on a number of films. He’s worked with everyone from Roger Corman to Jim Henson. From John McTiernan to Frank Darabont. From Guillermo del Toro to Christopher Nolan. William Stout has had, and continues to have, a remarkable career and I was glad to get a chance to ask him a few questions about his time working on The Return of the Living Dead and his thoughts on not just what they were creating, but also the impact it had on the horror genre. 

                                         ---------------------------------------------------------------

Bryan: How did you initially become involved with The Return of the Living Dead? Had it already changed hands from John Russo and crew and moved to Dan O'Bannon?

William: John Russo got the rights from George Romero to do a "Living Dead" film. As far as I know --- and I could be wrong --- he was never considered to direct it. Russo was paid for the use of the Living Dead name, then Dan O'Bannon wrote the screenplay to The Return of the Living Dead (ROTLD). The film was originally supposed to be directed by Tobe Hooper. When Tobe dropped out, O'Bannon took over as director. 

     I knew Dan from meeting him at several parties thrown by Ron Cobb. I was working with Ron designing Conan the Barbarian. Ron and Dan had been friends for years. I often brought current non-Conan art projects or jobs to Ron's parties to get feedback from Cobb's guests. Dan always paid close attention to whatever I brought. I didn't know it at the time, but he was already considering me for ROTLD. He knew I could handle the zombies; he just wasn't sure I could design the film's high-tech stuff. One evening I brought in a comic book cover I had drawn for Alien Worlds. It featured an astronaut sinking into the ground. Later, Dan told me that when he looked at the high-tech astronaut suit he thought, "Ah-HA! Stout can do high-tech!"

     Once he became the director, O'Bannon gave our line producer, Graham Henderson, a very short list of whom he wanted as his production designer. Dan didn't want a traditional production designer. He wanted someone with a comic book background. Dan's list was short: Bernie Wrightson and William Stout.

     Graham did his homework and quickly discovered that Bernie, Dan's first choice, didn't have any film experience but that I did. He called me and cut a deal, then lied to Dan that Bernie had passed on the film.

     I began work on ROTLD almost immediately, working very closely with Dan.

Bryan: For people who don't know, what exactly does the title "Production Designer" entail?

William: The production designer is the eyes of the director. He is responsible for everything you see on the screen except for the performances of the actors (although I provide things that will hopefully enhance and inspire their performances, too). So, I'm in charge of the sets, special effects, make-up, special effects make-up, props, set decoration and costumes. I typically have about 1200 people working under me. The title was created for William Cameron Menzies for his role in creating Gone With The Wind. Before that, they were called "art directors". Now, art directors work for the production designer. An art director does all of my budgeting and scheduling for me, giving me more time to focus on the film's design.

Bryan: And did what you ended up doing on Return of the Living Dead differ from the traditional production designer job?

William: Not really, except that there are three types of production designers: those that can draw (like me); those with architectural and art director backgrounds; and cut-and-paste guys. These are guys that can't draw but instead make collages and oversee illustrators to express what they think the film should look like. 

     I'm unusual in that I'm a very "hands-on" production designer. I'm on the set every day, making sure that every last visual detail and color is just the way I and the director want it. I was under the half corpse's gurney, for example, making her spine flop around and ooze spinal fluid.

Bryan: So, I'm assuming when you got the job on Return of the Living Dead, you were already very familiar with Night of the Living Dead

William: Yes; my girlfriend at the time was a big fan of that movie.

Bryan: And probably Dawn of the Dead as well. 

William: I saw its very first public screening (at FilmEx). Uncut, by the way --- very long. I'm sure it didn't, but it seemed like it ran about three hours.

Bryan: So what did you set out to do that was different from those two films that had arguably created the zombie genre?

William: Ours was the first zombie film to have fast zombies. You can outrun Romero's zombies --- but not ours. Ours was also the first film in which brain-eating was crucial to the zombies' "life" and existence. Plus, we were determined to have what O'Bannon called "principal corpses" --- very distinctive zombies, visually --- not just guys with dark rings around their eyes. The Tarman is a good example of one of our "principle corpses". He's unique in the annals of zombie film history, a real star on his own.

Bryan: Romero's Day of the Dead must have been in pre-production and then shooting around the same time, was there a sense of competition with what they were doing on that film?

William: Not at all. We were completely unaware of Romero's Day of the Dead. We were totally focused on our own zombie flick and making it as good as we could possibly make it given the restraints of our budget. And neither Dan nor I wanted to make a zombie movie similar to any of the Romero films. We had our own vision and stuck to it.

Bryan: And I would assume had the story continued from the Romero/Russo point of view, it would have still been set in Pittsburgh. So how did the setting of the Return plot line end up being set in Louisville?

William: I have no idea. That was something Dan came up with but I don't know why. The two of us did promote the film in Louisville. In fact, that's the only city we visited to promote our movie even though we never actually shot anything there --- although many of the locals think we did!

Bryan: You have a connection to Louisville, don't you? 

William: Yes; my wife is from Louisville, Kentucky. She was Kentucky's Junior Miss and a talented actress.

Bryan: Do you think Dan knew that, and worked it in because of that?

William: No. I don't think that Dan had even met my wife until after he had written Return.

Bryan: Return of the Living Dead, to me, had a very different feeling then most other horror movies, especially at the time. What made it so different to you?

William: We were trying to create a real rarity in cinema: a film that is both really funny and really scary. I can think of only a small handful of films that have pulled that off --- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is the first that springs to mind. It accomplishes both because the horror is played straight in that film --- like we did in ours.

                                               --------------------------------------------------------------- 

    
     Thank you to William for his stories and thoughts on the film. And I agree, the comedy aspect is probably what made The Return of the Living Dead so different. It’s something that others would eventually find, like Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive and even Sam Raimi more or less re-shot his earlier film and turned it into Evil Dead 2, trying to find that comedy balance (although hard-core geeks will acknowledge that “deadites” are different then zombies… but still, it’s playing with that same dynamic.) And it would be nearly twenty years before Shaun of the Dead would eventually master that same concept and bring it to what is probably the biggest mainstream audience of all of these films.

 
     So it was around that time that “the shift” began to happen. We had all survived crossing into the new millennium and since civilization didn’t collapse around Y2K, we obviously were unconsciously looking for a new apocalypse to be obsessed with. Then along came 28 Days Later. While there had been many other zombie movies over the years, I feel that was the movie for most horror fans that revitalized the zombie genre. And oddly enough, it did it by NOT being about zombies. Not only did it introduce the concept of “fast zombies” (to all those people who had forgotten that Dan and William had already done that in 1985), but it also brought with it the idea of – infected humans. Essentially not undead, these humans were infected with a new strain of virus that made them behave like animalistic zombies. Building on real world virus stories in the news and Hollywood versions like Outbreak, director Danny Boyle made 28 Days Later and cleverly crossed the hype of virus paranoia with the pre-established zombie formula… and a new era was born. And in my opinion, what took it to that next level was the new option of now being able to argue whether or not it was “actually” a zombie movie. This new cinematic grey area awakened the geek gene in many mainstream viewers and led them to start seeking out older zombie films. Looking for previous movies to confirm or deny their zombie mythology… and then seek out others to argue with over these minute details. The 2000’s was the dawn of this age of widespread geek culture, where what used to be considered nerdy obsession over pop culture - is now embraced. I mean, we could never live in a world where the #1 TV show in America is The Big Bang Theory without this millennial change and the steady increase of acceptance over the last decade or so. And as the geek culture began to take over the mainstream markets, it brought with it - zombies.

     28 Days Later was followed closely by the one/two punch of the Dawn of the Dead remake followed by Shaun of the Dead. 2004 was a very big year for zombies. From that point forward, America was obsessed with zombies. And though it was a trend that swept the country, it’s arguable that no city took to the movement as much as Louisville. 


     It was in fact, that following year that Louisvillians John King and Lyndi Lou decided to have a zombie-themed birthday party and have it drag down Bardstown Road in full undead regalia. And again, we come across another moment in local history that led to what would soon overtake our town. Within a few short years not only did the Louisville Zombie Attack (as the annual birthday celebration became known) find a huge following, but in addition our town was overrun with zombie proms, zombie music events, zombie dress-up day at school or work and suddenly everyone who owned a home video camera in Louisville was shooting an indie zombie movie. It was out of control!


     But what did it? What made Louisville so crazy for the zombie lifestyle? Why our city more then Cincinnati or Indianapolis or Chicago? There are plenty of other towns out there, many with more people or resources to put these elaborate events together… but no, it was Louisville that latched onto this creepy subculture. Could it be just random chance? Or was it that seed planted in 1985 when Dan O’Bannon decided to annihilate our city with zombies and nuclear weapons? 


     I suspected that The Return of the Living Dead memory was secretly guiding this local fascination. So since they were so instrumental in leading our town down the undead path, I thought I would check in Lyndi and John, those founding members of the Louisville Zombie Attack, to see what their early zombie exposure was like – and if it tied to The Return of the Living Dead. Plus I thought they were both a good demographic of people that grew up at just the right time for that movie to potentially be a factor. A two person “case study”, if you will. 


     So when I asked Lyndi what her first exposure to zombies was, she said, “At a slumber party at Leslie Robert's house when I was like 8 or so. We were watching Night of the Living Dead, and her dad, Gary, snuck up to the window behind us, banged on the window, and scared the bejeezus out of all of us! I was hooked after that.” But when I asked when she first saw The Return of the Living Dead, she said she didn’t really remember…in“High school I'm sure.” 


     Now John’s recount of his zombie introduction goes a little differently. John said, “My first exposure to zombies was The Return Of The  Living Dead when I was probably 8 or 9. Linnea Quigley, who played Trash, was one of my first crushes (along with Agent 99, and Catwoman). I have older sisters that were punks in the 80’s that exposed me to that life very young, maybe too young, but the music and the camp horror always stuck with me. My sister took me to my first rock show at around the same time…” 


     So there it is - everything a growing boy needs! Gore, rock music and preteen sexual attraction. And it is interesting to note that the zombie allure took hold of both of them around the same age. So I think between the two of them, we have our answer. I think you can broaden those responses and apply them to not just the entire city of Louisville, but across the country. Possibly across the globe! 


     Basically what we’ve found is that at a young age, kids are not just curious - but morbidly curious. In fact, most kids I come across have a weird fascination with gruesome subjects. So if you are going to grow up to be a horror fan, that young age is when it sinks its teeth into you. 
     And as for zombies in particular, it’s probably a combination of what you are exposed to. But for a huge part of the last several generations, it was the seminal Night of the Living Dead. A classic film that still creepily holds up today, and was the entry drug for many horror junkies out there. 


     But in 1985, we were given a new option. A different approach to the zombie world. And for many kids coming up at that time, this new style of horror probably had the same enticement as the punk rock music it featured. Being different. This isn’t your father’s zombie movie. It’s a cool, rockin’ version that you old people just don’t ‘get’. For many 80’s kids, that was more then likely the appeal. That… and the fact that it also happens to be a great horror movie on top of that. 


     So for each generation, they find their creepy entry point. For thousands of kids out there today it’s undoubtedly The Walking Dead… and that will go on to inform the rest of their horror influences. But what about the weird Louisville connection? We never really pinned down why The Return Of The  Living Dead was set in Louisville. And just why we were so receptive to the increasing zombie obsession.


     Well as far as why it was set in Louisville, while we can no longer ask Dan O’Bannon for a full explanation, he left us a little clue. Around 2007 the studio put out a new collector’s edition of The Return Of The Living Dead. And among the many special features it offers, is a commentary track with both Dan O’Bannon and William Stout. But don’t get your hopes up too high, O’Bannon doesn’t give a big lengthy explanation on why he set the story where he did. Even at the key moment in the film, when it is revealed that all this is in fact, taking place in Louisville… Dan is talking about other things, and really doesn’t mention it. But somewhere around the 47 minute mark, right in the middle of the movie, they make a comment featuring the phase ‘in a New York second’. Which spills over into a comment about potentially having set the story in New York City. To which Dan nonchalantly says, “Naw, I didn’t want New York. I wanted Louisville, Kentucky. ‘Cause it was offbeat. And nobody would set a movie like this in Louisville. That’s why I wanted Louisville.”   


     So there you have it. Finally we have our answer. Why would you set a movie like this in our city? Because we’re weird. I have to admit, he’s got a point. I’ve lived here my whole life, and we are a strange place. Things are accepted and even celebrated in Louisville that just wouldn’t fly in other cities. And while I occasionally call us out for being unfocused and overlooking some of the great things we have here, one of those great things is - our own unique style. Maybe that all stems from not being a lot of things. We’re not quite Midwest, we’re not quite Southern. We’re not a huge metropolis, we’re not a small quiet town. We fall somewhere in the middle of most categories, somewhere in that ambiguous existence where there are no set rules. And so we’ve used that unrestrictive circumstance to explore some of our more unconventional avenues. To cultivate some of our more unusual options. And what we’re left with is a town build around a lot of eclectic individuals. Large groups of people coming together to form one massive wave of offbeat charm. So as it turns out, maybe our fascination with zombies is just a reflection of what we are every day. A horde of unorthodox characters all coming together to form something bigger. A wave of bizarre progression. A force that can’t be stopped. Well… at least until the military realizes we’re out of control and nukes us all. Which could happen. But until that day comes… 

   Again a big thank you to "Leo" for running the more succinct version last year. Check out what they currently have in the works at: http://www.leoweekly.com/ . And thank you to William Stout, John Russo, Lyndi Lou, John King and all the rest of the creepy Louisvillians who helped make this piece possible. 

BeadedLine

Best Games For Marvel Geeks 2015

2015-09-16

 

     Best Games For Marvel Geeks 2015 has yet to see the release of a console system video game based on Marvel comics, and the only such game that appears to be on the way is another animated LEGO crossover. And according to Super Hero Hype, even that game, LEGO Marvel's Avengers, has been pushed back to a January 2016 release. So if you were hoping to load up your Xbox, Playstation, or Nintendo with something Marvel-related this year—like, I don't know, maybe something to do with Avengers: Age Of Ultron—you're pretty much out of luck.

     But if anything the absence of major Marvel releases for consoles has emphasized just how many superhero games exist in other areas of the industry. Really, there's more than enough to go around. But in case you haven't found the Marvel game of your dreams, here are some to consider.

Marvel: Contest Of Champions


     If there's a definitive Marvel video game of 2015, it's this little app from Kabam (and, you know, Marvel). Set up as a pretty standard brawler infused with Marvel heroes and villains, it's actually a pretty enormous game, offering a wide range of different missions, achievements, and items to unlock. The downfall that a lot of critics have noted is that when you win one of the crystals that unlocks a new hero to play, the unlocking is completely random (meaning you can't hand-pick your favorite characters). You might get 15 Captain Americas before you get one Iron Man, for instance. Aside from this aggravating factor, the game is a lot of fun. It's also made use of its huge player base by introducing "alliances" that allow you to link up with other players to work together for greater rewards and achievements. But the real fun is just beating up Marvel characters with other Marvel characters, if we're being honest.

Marvel Heroes 2015

     I'm not sure you can dive into a piece of fiction more thoroughly than by inserting yourself into the coinciding MMORPG, and lo and behold that's just what you can do at the Marvel Heroes platform. I'm actually stunned that this game isn't talked about more. It's free, it was made by the guy who designed Diablo, it has a huge user base, and it involves just about every Marvel character imaginable. Even fringe folks (at least in modern cinematic terms) like Nova and Ghost Rider are available. Basically, if you're a fan of the movies, the comics, or both, this game is the best way to thoroughly immerse yourself in the comic giant's universe.

Marvel Slots

     That's not technically the title of any one game (I don't think), but instead a whole sub-genre of Marvel-related games that's emerged over the years. Basically, online casinos are always looking for new ways to engage players, and one of the best ones they've come up with is by sprinkling slot machine games with Marvel characters and settings. After all, what better way to geek out over your favorite movie superheroes than by interacting with them when you're not even playing an action or adventure game? As for the specific gaming titles, it depends where you're looking. GalaCasino has a fairly wide selection of Marvel titles, with Spider-Man: Attack Of The Green Goblin and Iron Man 2 titles among its most popular options.

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3

     This game came out back in 2011 for Playstation and Xbox devices. Even though it's a little outdated, I have to recognize it as one of the ultimate Marvel games, simply for its collection of playable characters. The Marvel vs. Capcom site lists 25 Marvel heroes and villains that you can take into classic brawler content against a range of popular names from Capcom's lengthy history of action gaming. And just like with the more modern Marvel: Contest Of Champions, the fun is pretty much in heading into combat with your favorite characters. Sure it gets repetitive, and there's not a whole lot of story going on, but this is not your destination for cinematic gaming content. It's meant to simply be a whole lot of fun for fans.

     Now go forth and game to your inner Marvel fan's content. Frankly it's been disappointing that such an incredibly popular movie studio has been so ineffective at producing noteworthy console games. But don't let that trick you into thinking there aren't some awesome games out there on other platforms.

BeadedLine

Understanding Birdman. Analysis.

2015-08-16

by Kyle Armstrong

     I listened to many theories and generated my own. I have heard people perceive this entire movie as a dream or an illusion and his powers not being used to the full potential. Is this a work of Dadaism using reality and the perception of reality as its gateway to a metaphysical idea? An example given is that it is a movie about movies and happens to take place in a theater or is Birdman about the existential journey through the idea of psychosis? Possibly both. The film itself stands for many different things, I read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, a book with many different stories with many different messages with a rising action of something, but no resolution. What each character is missing from this life is unknown, but it is the journey to find that unknown is what makes the biggest difference. Riggan wants admiration, but not as the characters he portrays, who is portraying the character. So Riggan will often see himself flying amongst others. The idea of art cannot be fully obtained, we cannot truly fully understand what the artist was thinking at the time, but we can see the visuals in front of us. What speaks louder the art or affluence growth? Hollywood could care less if you "like" something, but whether you go see it or not makes the biggest difference, answering the question "Why does Hollywood spur out the same shallow crap?". On the other hand, Birdman does poke at the idea of art itself in many forms, pointing out the forms that seem to be cash grabbers and calling it out for what it is, which is pretentious bullshit. The idea of being a BIRD-man of all things, where in reality Riggan is trapped in this metaphorical birdcage, even in places that you would think he would be free, his mind, is also trapped by his past. Making freedom and admiration more elusive than ever. The title "A Virtue of Ignorance" deems the idea of mankind as blissfully ignorant, that maybe not knowing what is inside of what you eat or what you watch, or even what lies ahead in the future, is what we like to think of as a good thing. He is mocking us at the very least for not thinking about what we watch, instead, tuning into mindless box office gold. Riggan wants this admiration, is finally doing something about it, but isn't shown any until he is forced to run around Time Square in his underwear (which, honestly, isn't the weirdest thing I have seen at Time Square). Riggan can't have this affirmation as an actor or a father, so he has this reminding guilt of Birdman that follows him around, constantly reminding him of what he could have done and what he thinks he is. "A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing" is a note in the mirror of Riggan's dressing room, now a good example of what this means is when Tabitha tells Riggan about how she will still give the play a terrible review no matter what, because that is how she feels about him. Then there is the way the film is shot, which talking about it already feels like beating a dead horse. The way it is directed is supposed to have this feel of one long shot because we are supposed to follow these characters around, as if they are apart of our lives, as if we are there, on this journey with them. Something that not many talk about is the transition from past to present, which I find very interesting, as if the past is going on the same time the present is, suggesting that the two aren't so different, if we never do anything about it. Reality vs. Perception of reality, Riggan may or may not be an unreliable narrator, this being his story and he is telling the way he remembers it or how he wants to remember it. Like Lolita, to get the full story we must look at each detail carefully. Now I would like to analyze the very ambiguous ending, so, it kinda goes without saying, but spoilers. There are 3 scenes where Riggan may have died, the first is after the bloated idea of Birdman talks to him and he is later seen standing on the edge of his metaphorical career with nothing to lose, so he jumps. We see the image of Riggan above everyone, but then we are brought back to reality when the cabbie runs in for his bill. The next scene we see is Riggan lying on his desk with flowers around him and someone he used to associate himself with says good things about him, something that reminds me of the "flowers when you're dead" quote from the Catcher in the Rye, however, instead of shoving it away, this is what Riggan really wants. We are told the story with the jellyfish, which I find very interesting, in which Riggan tried killing himself, but is brought back to life by these metaphorical jellyfish, symbolizing the idea of fame and how you cannot escape it. Which brings me to the next possible death, where he shoots himself on stage with (once again) nothing to lose and (once again) is given the admiration he longs for. In the hospital, it is clear that he just shot off his "nose", replacing it with his beak, wrapping it in a metaphorical Birdman mask, because (once again) past fame is inescapable. We are then shown one of the most beautiful scenes in the film, where Sam lies in the hospital bed with the father she admires, almost as beautiful as the "wiping out the entire human race" with the wipe of Riggan's mouth. The final death is the more obvious one where he jumps out the window (or is it?). Sam in shock of her missing father runs to the window, looks up, looks down, the laughs in amazement. No, she does like the site of her father's splattered corpse on the pavement, and no she is not witnessing her father fly (in a literal sense), she can finally look up to her father (metaphorically and literally) not because of the admiration he is getting, but because of the thought of losing him.

BeadedLine

Kingsman: The Secret Service

2015-04-04

by: Kyle Armstrong

This is a movie not afraid to pay homage to the great action and spy mystery films, imagine London's Expendables, if the Expendables were actually good. It expresses its love to the Bond movies, but the more later Bond films, think more Pierce Brosnan, and if they were directed by Quentin Tarantino. Kingsman is witty, smart, and charming, while also doing its best to stay away from the obvious cliché and in doing so in a satirizing manor.

Colin Firth brings in the charm of the film and Taron Egerton and Mark Strong bring in the comedy. Mark Millar and Matthew Vaughn collaborate together once again since 2010's Kick Ass, both films show a harsh reality of action scenes we see in the movies and comics and what would sometimes be more probable in those situations.

After giving the news to Lee's wife the news of his death, Harry tries giving his medal of honor to his wife with his phone number on the back, if ever needed. When she rejects the medal, Harry gives it to the son Gary "Eggsy". Seventeen years later Eggsy has grown to be the smart and witty troublemaker who would give himself up before anyone else (even people or organizations he is not that familiar with). This sparks Harry's interest in him as an agent for the agency named the "Kingsman" (while also being the name of their tailor shop, making them easier to find and not so secret? Or am I reading into this wrong?).

At the secret headquarters we meet the models behind the Suitsupply advertisements who are also competing to become the next Kingsman agent. The ones who aren't already apart of Biff Tannen's gang are attractive female co-stars that we will either not hear from again or become a post major part of the film.

While we have the first half of Full Metal Jacket going on at the moment, we also have the somewhat character background to Samuel L. Jackson lisping character Richmond Valentine who's plan is to implant SIM cards around the world hidden as free cell phone and internet access when in reality they are head explosive chips with the insane idea that would be (should I say it once again?) straight out of a Bond film, not to mention the dastardly plan to do all this while heavily advertising McDonalds.

The story is just the right amount of over the top that it comes out as hysterical without constantly asking yourself "What am I watching?". Richmond Valentine himself may be my only issue with this film, going back to the James Bond films (once again), the name is right on spot, however the performance is too undersold. Bond villains are known to be over the top, yet soft spoken and cool about having such an outrageous idea. Now I don't believe that Samuel L. Jackson has to pet a cat with a scar on his eye, but I do believe his performance needs to be there if they are in some form trying to create this modern day Bond film. I am not a fan of the Austin Powers films, I could do without any of the Austin Powers films to be honest, however I will give them credit for knowing their stuff (how unfunny I may see it to be) their villain is right on point with the somewhat calm and collective and ridiculous villain (speaking within only the first movie). If this film gets a sequel (which, I am sure it will get), it should patch up that small flaw with writing either a more cooler villain or a calmer actor.

The action scenes are extreme and very over the top, which is very fitting for a Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar collaboration. The gore and action is in an exploitation like fashion, which is ironic seeing the Bond films (Its main source of inspiration) is everything but gory, keeping its action as classy as its lead, which makes the film funnier comparing these.

The set up reminds me of 2008's most underrated film Wanted, both play on the idea of over the top moments of ultra violence and both put a realistic character in unrealistic settings. Going back to the classy lead, Colin Firth is casted perfectly. If I were told he was casted as the next Bond (even now at his age), I would believe it, he has that "shaken not stirred" vibe to him and this film really shows that side of him. Then we have Eggsy, while Colin Firth steals the show, Eggsy is the character the audience is suppose to relate to more with him being the odd man out, him trying his hardest to adapt to the crazy world that he has just been dropped into.

Eggsy does eventually adapt and starts to surprise the people around him with his change and his dauntless, new decision making self. While this is a fine storyline to go with, Eggsy making his own decisions and becoming his own man, maybe the film is too much about his change and not enough about the people around him (Oddly enough).  Roxy is the character it should have focused more on seeing she is in a more important position than him, he still gets the entire finale, which feels odd to me.

This is more of a James Bond film on a sugar rush (which can be seen both good and bad, but mostly good), it plays on this fact making it funnier. That and it sometimes gives me hold your head underwater effect where there is no room to breath. There is so much going on that I could've given myself whiplash looking every which way at what exactly was happening. This film is so hyped up on adrenaline that I have worn myself out talking about it, as much as it is supposed to be that kind of film. Kingsman does not plan on slowing down for anybody so any audience should take a deep breath before seeing this film.

BeadedLine

The Best of 2014

2015-03-30


by: Kyle Armstrong

Before starting this list let me say I have not seen all the films I should've for this list, I have yet to see Inherent Vice and I made this list before watching Snowpiercer, so consider this a list of the best of 2014 at this moment and just before the pretentious Oscar show.

10. Captain America: Winter Soldier: Phase 2 Wasn't the best Phase for Marvel Studios. While Thor 2 was the best of the two Thor films, that isn't saying much, Iron Man 3 was disappointing and while we still technically have Avengers Age of Ultron and Ant-Man left (Both of which I am pretty excited for), I feel as though we could've gotten so much more. While for now I am done with the Iron Man films and would like to see it as a sad trilogy with an amazing first film and being done with Thor until they write and direct a better film, Winter Soldier gave me a taste of what is to come with Captain America and I want more of what's to come. Captain America has shown us in the films something that the comics have been arguing for years, the superhero genre can be so much more than what it is, we can show these characters as detectives, as intergalactic bounty hunters, as spies and it works because it fits and it is something fresh for these characters. The last time I seen this was the Dark Knight, something that Man of Steel later tried to do and failed. It is just great to see this again.

9. The Grand Budapest Hotel: Even if this is one of Wes Anderson's worst, it is still a masterpiece. With its bright color scheme and dark tone, Grand Budapest is a triumph. The goofy, satirical manor of the film gives it more personality. It reminded me of his Rushmore days with the overall film, which is great to see again. With its sarcastic and silly tone, Grand Budapest is kind of what it means to be alive, it is about the joy of living. I see the bright colors and fast paced scenes of this film and I feel good about what I am watching. It brings in this feeling of nostalgia of why we love Wes Anderson.

8. The Wind Rises: I found The Wind Rises to be very odd, odd in a beautiful way. Like Princess Mononoke, it holds this question in the core of the movie, who is the real villain The knowingly evil or the unknowingly evil? We cannot truly say Jirô Horikoshi was "evil" or can we? He later feels bad for what he finds out his designs are being used for, but he just wants to create. That can also say much about us as well, we can judge this character, but what if we were in that same situation? What if what we loved to do were used against others? This movie questions our morality throughout and in ways we could be questioning ourselves. Sometimes the mouth made sound effects can get a little distracting, however, I get the reasoning of it being there. The Wind Rises, if it is Miyazaki's final film, it is a nice ending to an amazing journey.

7. The Lego Movie: I didn't think much of this movie when I first heard about it, but when I watched it, I was amazed. I like to think of it as this anti-Toy Story, because it isn't supposed to be comfortable and have all the answers (No offense against Toy Story), some movies are supposed to be that way, but the Lego Movie didn't want to have the answers. We felt for these characters, when Emmett was shown as this lonely man who just wanted some attention and someone to notice him as "special", we felt for him when he realized he had no real friends and was the "nobody". 2014 was a really good year for animated films and the Lego Movie, in my book, proved to be one of the best. It proved to be so much more than a movie to promote a toy losing its popularity to video games, some ironically have to do with the product itself. Legos aren't dying, they just haven't been exactly the same. This film is fun and witty.

6. Force Majeure: This is an extremely dark comedy and says so much about our lifestyle, that is why I love this film. This is about a man who struggles with the idea of manhood and fatherhood because of a controlled avalanche where he failed to protect his own family. It tests the idea positions and roles we play in society, this is what makes it kind of tragic as well. While we have this character breaking free from his role, we also see the tragedy in the fact that he cannot live up to this role, seeing himself as useless. Force Majeure turns out to be overwhelming and beautiful.

5. The Babadook: Annabelle wishes it was the Babadook, being a smart, self aware, horror film, that even after the film, questions are still raised. Almost every shot is so creative with characters that I actually care about. In many scenes we are shown the character's reaction from Mister Babadook's point of view or we see the Babadook's outfit behind a complete stranger, as if society is the real Mister Babadook, creating such stories outputting social norms emotionless, making assumptions of people we don't even know well enough, but we can not kill the Babadook we can only contain it, so it cannot consume us. This brilliant Australian horror film will most likely get a horrible American remake and that horrible American remake will probably get a horrible American sequel, however, not even that can take away from the brilliance of this film. This is a love letter to classic horror films, with homage paid to the Shining, Amityville Horror, and Halloween. The Babadook is with no doubt the best horror film I have seen all year, not to mention one of the best horror films within the last 10 years.

4. Under the Skin: This can also be considered one of the year's most underrated, but it isn't as if I can't see why, it is a really heavy film. This is (ironically) one of the most down to Earth sci-fi films I have seen and really says something about the way we live and humanity in general, who is right and who is wrong. We have this general idea of who we really are and what we would do in such situations, but do we? Maybe this "morality" that we have such high standards for, doesn't exist. I see much of 2001 in the film, a movie I was thinking about the entire way through, and yet, it is much of the opposite of 2001.

3. Whiplash: The first long shot in Whiplash is beautiful. We see a hallway that is deserted and a room that would otherwise be empty if it wasn't for Andrew and a set of drums. I haven't seen such love of jazz since Round Midnight, Young Man with a Horn, and A Man Called Adam, even these films share the reality of these down and out characters who want to express their love of music. J.K. Simmons' character is such a no nonsense jerk that is not afraid to torture his students to teach a lesson, yet there are times where he looks to be this sympathetic, sad man. The performance is so well done that I don't mind feeling bad for this (If portrayed wrong) character who would seem like a horrible person.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy: Maybe it is a bit of a stretch, but I think for me Guardians of the Galaxy is my favorite Marvel film and one of my favorite comic book films in general, up there with Tim Burton's Batman. Going back to the topic of freshening the comic book film genre, this is something I really want to see more of, an expansion on Marvel's big universe. I am getting worn out of Iron Man and Thor, I don't mind sequels, but I do like flavor, I'm excited for Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Ant-Man, and Inhumans, just as excited as I am for Avengers: Age of Ultron and Guardians of the Galaxy 2, but maybe the Civil War storyline wouldn't feel so rushed, if Phase 2 had more variety. I have heard many of good reviews and I have heard plenty of bad reviews, showing it as a corny space opera starring a frat boy, well, maybe it is corny and maybe the main character has some frat boy-ish qualities, but that's what makes it good, many of our favorite films are corny, but that's why we love them. Guardians of the Galaxy is a love letter to the greats like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Serenity with a villain that is satirical of those tough posing, unmemorable villains and ironically is why he is so memorable.

1. Birdman (Or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance): With its amazing score and brilliant script, Birdman delivers something I have not seen in a film for a long time. The most sarcastic, dark, and self aware film I have seen this year, not to mention left me with the most questions. A knock-out of a film with its mind blowing visuals and mind set. Definitely one of the years smartest, funniest, and visually appealing films of 2014. The story does not seem to be that complicated, however, it gets more and more complicated when pulling back each layer (and this film has many layers). All of this and more is why Birdman is my favorite film of 2014.

BeadedLine

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