Tag: Movie

The Walking Dead’s Ninth Season Has Returned the Show to Its Previous Level of Greatness

Brennan Dubé | @Brennan_Dube71R

AMC’s The Walking Dead just finished the first half of its ninth season and I can safely say this show is back to being great. It is no secret, seasons 7 and 8 received mixed reviews and were met with much dissatisfaction from many fans, and ratings saw a significant dip. While Jeffrey Dean Morgan offered an entertaining portrayal of Negan in those seasons, the overall writing and premise of the show lost its touch, and more importantly its charisma. I have been a fan of this show since I began watching it live in the fourth season after binging the first three… over six years ago. This show at one point was the biggest thing in TV pop-culture in North America, and while it still enjoys a great deal of success across the World, it has slightly lost touch here in North America with the last two seasons. I try to refrain from discussing TV too often as it is a World that is much more difficult to follow than film, but I must share my thoughts and continue to echo the message that is becoming louder and more consistent among the fan base and the average TV critic, this show is back to being great. New showrunner Angela Kang took the helm of this season and was faced with great difficulty regarding many complications leading up to it. The team promised a fresher season, it promised a better season and so far halfway through they have not failed to deliver on those promises. This is the first time in a long time that I can safely say that The Walking Dead has delivered eight, at the very least good, episodes to open up a season. Even in its glory days the show had an episode or two in the first half that dragged but with season 9 that is just not the case. What made the last two seasons hurt was how the writers developed the characters, or lack thereof. Season 9 takes fans back to the roots, what made this show great, and that is meaningful drama between the characters we root for. The show has really done a tremendous job this season at making characters who fell dry the last few seasons feel fresh, revitalized and absolutely more fun to watch. There is real development again, there is real thrill again and the new characters and arcs that have been introduced this season are all landing smoothly with great success. While this show still after nine years remains to be AMC’s number one show, it’s clear it probably won’t get back to the glory days when it was number one everywhere (ratings wise, that is), but this show is back in terms of quality and intrigue. I keep telling myself after every episode this season just how fresh that feels and I am officially hooked again.The Walking Dead has taken risks, managed to juggle many complications off screen, and introduce new characters that are interesting while still finding ways to freshen up the characters we know and love this season, and I applaud them for making it a success, so far. So, all I’m saying is this, if you are a past viewer, one who has turned it off, or one who just can’t seem to find the time to commit, give it a chance again… I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. The second half of AMC’s The Walking Dead season 9 will premiere Sunday, February 10that 9pm EST.


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The Lost Art of Suspending Disbelief

By Craig Axford | Canada

Imagine you’ve just watched Star Wars or a Harry Potter movie with a friend. As you throw your empty popcorn bucket into the trash and head for the exit, your friend asks you if you believe the movie is true.

Perhaps book clubs are more your cup of tea. After reading the Da Vinci Code, which everyone in your group agrees was a real page-turner, your club discovers in its midst someone who thought they were reading a scholarly historical work and insists the code really exists.

To be fair, someone having the opposite reaction would be just as far off base, even if perhaps not as obviously so at first glance. If, instead of insisting the movie was a documentary of some sort your companion had concluded the movie was false, citing as proof the fact that faster than light travel is impossible or that the artificial gravity enabling everyone to walk about the decks of the starship at 1G seems implausible, we might find ourselves conceding that they are technically correct yet still reasonably conclude that they had missed the story’s point.

We find such literal true or false dichotomies ridiculous when it comes to the arts. Even the sciences, properly understood, deal in probabilities rather than absolute certainty. Yet we have no difficulty making such absolute claims about our religious myths. These stories, we insist, must either be true or false.

. . .

This situation is largely the fault of those insisting their religion is factually true. In taking this position they often push even those with nuanced views on the subject into the opposite corner. When we insist it’s all or nothing, we can’t blame the opposition when we find the door to communication and compromise closed.

Having consistently had that door shut in their face, doubters and disbelievers are increasingly resorting to mockery and derision. It’s an understandable stance to take when you’re talking about people who insist dinosaurs walked the earth with humans and two of every living thing can actually fit on a boat. In addition, after the centuries worth of both physical and emotional abuse that has been heaped upon doubters (as well as believers) constitutionally protected freedom of expression is a hard opportunity to pass up when it becomes available.

All that said, fundamentally what we’re dealing with here are stories, and the purpose of a good story isn’t to convince us of its historical or scientific accuracy. Its function is to draw us in and cause us to lose ourselves for a while as we experience its telling. A good story ideally leads us to suspend disbelief, which is a very different thing from either belief or disbelief.

Suspending disbelief is the act of setting the choice between truth and falsehood aside. In this state of mind, we are not evaluating what we are reading, hearing, or seeing to determine its compatibility with reality as such. We are not engaged in analytical thinking or looking to poke holes in the tale any more than we are unconditionally accepting it as factual. In a state of suspended disbelief, all such considerations disappear from consciousness while we “become lost” in the pages of a good book or “take a journey ” with Frodo and Sam across Middle Earth from our seats in the theater.

It’s usually understood going into these experiences that we are leaving reality behind for a while. Sometimes storytellers will even explicitly invite us to suspend disbelief before the story has even begun. Such signals to drop our guard, if done right, are readily followed. However, had George Lucus opened his first Star Wars movie with the words “Recently, in a solar system near us” instead of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” the implicit invitation to believe in even just the possibility of what was to follow would likely have ruined the whole story.

. . .

A society’s most powerful myths — the ones that ultimately shape and come to define its culture — are only superficially about the characters and events depicted in them. These are merely the vehicles for conveying deeper lessons. But anyone who has attended a religious service recently knows very well that the question ‘what did you get out of the story?’ rarely if ever comes up. Even in our very secular age doubt, or even a willing suspension of disbelief, is still largely unwelcome at Friday, Saturday, or Sunday services.

Consider for a moment the historian Jennifer Michael Hecht’s description of the story of Job, a story with which even those raised in non-religious Western households are at least vaguely familiar. Was there really a man named Job? Does God really exist and did He really make a bet with Satan that facilitated Job’s suffering? From Hecht’s perspective, those kinds of questions are at best secondary:

There is something grand about a story that tries to reconcile human beings to loss, to letting go of the things that the universe has allowed us to amass and keep for a while — including the idea that after we lose everything, there is a good chance we’ll get it all back someday. Could the Job author have been satisfied with this as a parable of divine justice? It is not a parable of divine justice. It is a parable of resignation to a world-making force that has no justice as we understand justice. God comes off sounding like a metaphor for the universe: violent and chaotic yet bountiful and marvelous. The Job story is a story of doubt. God’s list brings Job back into the fold, but the fight has transformed the fold. With Job, that paradigm of a just God was carried to an extreme that immediately identified the problem with the idea: the world is not just. If justice exists, the Book of Job concludes, it does so in a way inconceivable to humanity. Job asked deep questions and they have lingered for millennia. ~ Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History

Job is a proxy for everyone who has experienced a deep and powerful loss. Whether you’re an atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated but “spiritual”, or a regular churchgoer, the problem of suffering remains central to the human experience. Whether an individual that went by the name of Job and lived in a particular time and place ever actually existed is so far beyond the point that one must conclude that anybody who insists upon it is, like a person fixated on the reality of Lucas’ far away galaxy, seriously out of touch with reality.

Wrestling with the issues raised by the story of Job, and others like it from a variety of traditions, requires a willingness to avoid making the literal truth or falsehood of the story the place where we take our stand. That leaves suspending disbelief as the only way we can get to the heart of the matter. Suspending disbelief allows us to maintain a healthy skepticism without allowing it to interfere with our experience of the story. We aren’t accepting the story on blind faith, but we aren’t dwelling on its lack of historic or scientific veracity either. We can acknowledge factual problems if circumstances demand it, then quickly find our way back to the message without lingering for too long with the irrelevancies.

There is a morality play going on here, not a history lesson. Whether intentionally or not, when a believer insists that we have a debate about whether dinosaurs actually walked the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve or Jesus really did walk on water, they are making the story the end instead of the means. That is something our myths were never intended to be.

. . .

In all fairness, the development of writing shares much of the blame for our literalism. For most of human history, we lacked any means of confirming whether or not the stories being told around the campfire were the same from one telling to the next, let alone from one generation to another. There were no audio or video recordings available to make sure a storyteller was adhering to the original version, let alone anyone around to take notes.

Since memory was all people had to go on — an unreliable record-keeper under the best of circumstances — the best anyone concerned with fidelity could hope for was that any major changes made to the sacred tribal myths would be noticed by those who had heard them before. However, even assuming people wanted to catch them, minor additions and subtractions were impossible to consistently detect. This combination of small but intentional creative changes and unintentional memory lapses built up like mutations over time. Some went over like lead balloons with their audience and were quickly dropped while others were powerful and popular enough to become long-term features.

Storytelling, like evolution, is a process. In oral cultures, this was intuitively understood. The meaning and knowledge embedded within the story rather than the words themselves tended to take precedence. Comparing a modern society that has the ability to not only write, but also create a real-time audio and visual record of its existence down to the minutest detail, to an oral culture for whom stories are not merely a source of identity but a matter of survival is more like comparing apples to coconuts than it is apples to oranges.

Writing provided a mechanism for ensuring consistency unlike anything humanity had encountered before and it transformed how we approach both our myths and our physical environment in ways we never could have anticipated in advance. Of course, stories were still alterable, but as long as the original text or something very close to it survived new versions could be compared to the old and even subtle differences could be readily detected.

At that point, our sacred stories began to both literally and figuratively be seen as chiseled in stone and many of our traditions ceased to be living. Increasingly, the goal was to preserve them through a kind of textual mummification. It was in this context that the written word was sanctified and the story it recorded came to be seen as historical.

. . .

“Symbols are only the vehicle of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, of their reference,” Joseph Campbell wrote in his classic work The Hero With A Thousand Faces. “No matter how attractive or impressive they may seem, they remain but convenient means, accommodated to the understanding.” Campbell concludes by reminding us that “Mistaking a vehicle for its tenor may lead to the spilling not only of valueless ink, but of valuable blood.”

We should take mythology seriously, but not too seriously. A decent level of respect rather than a reverential posture is what’s called for. Modern technology enables us to compare notes and police each other for consistency, but in the context of storytelling, there’s no opportunity for either fun or learning in that. The same technology also gives us an opportunity to play with our myths: to find humor and fresh interpretations that reveal themselves best through the use of contemporary language and references.

Consider Jonathan Goldstein’s reinterpretation of the story of Adam, Eve, and our loss of innocence in the Garden of Eden. Such a retelling is only possible when the storyteller sees the text as living rather than dead. It’s both humorous and evocative without demanding either belief or disbelief. It would be difficult for a listener to come away from Goldstein’s reimagining of the opening chapters of Genesis with a desire to storm the next local school board meeting demanding Intelligent Design be given equal time with evolution. Likewise, anyone insisting the story isn’t true after hearing Goldstein’s version would also be missing the mark by quite a wide margin.

The Abrahamic traditions, in particular, have consistently doubled down on belief, generally insisting that any who would darken the doorway of their institutions be willing to profess their faith in the word as it is written. Failure to do so often means ostracism, excommunication, or far worse.

But these religions don’t have many chips left to play. Nor has the modern world dealt the literalists in their midst a particularly strong hand. The best play at this point is to fold and acknowledge humanity’s myths are now, as they have always been, a means of fostering meaning and spreading wisdom rather than a mechanism for describing the physical universe or communicating historical events to future generations.

In the closing pages of Myths To Live By, Joseph Campbell said it best. As is so often the case when it comes to mythology, he deserves the final word:

The difficulty faced today by Christian thinkers in this regard follows from their doctrine of the Nazarene as the unique historical incarnation of God; and in Judaism, likewise, there is the no less troublesome doctrine of a universal God whose eye is on but one Chosen People of all in his created world. The fruit of such ethnocentric historicism is poor spiritual fare today; and the increasing difficulties of our clergies in attracting gourmets to their banquets should be evidence enough to make them realize that there must be something no longer palatable about the dishes they are serving. These were good enough for our fathers, in the tight little worlds of knowledge of their days, when each little civilization was a thing more or less to itself. But consider that picture of the planet Earth that was taken from the surface of the moon!


Follow Craig on Twitter or read him on Medium.com

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The Movie of the Summer: ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ Movie Review

Brennan Dubé | @Brennan_Dube71R

Tom Cruise and company have returned for a sixth installment of the long running (6 films, 22 years) ‘Mission Impossible’ franchise. Who would’ve thought they’d save their best stuff for the sixth film? Here is my review of ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout.’

In the sixth film in the series we are reunited with Tom Cruise and his infamous ‘Ethan Hunt’ character, as well as the rest of the gang, Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames. This film is directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie. This is the second ‘Mission: Impossible’ he has directed, the first being ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ (2015). Following all the hype mustered up by this film I found myself surprisingly excited to see it. I was able to see the opening day viewing and I was not disappointed. Christopher McQuarrie is the perfect director for these films as proven by two back-to-back successful films as well as this being, in my opinion, the best film in the franchise to date. ‘Fallout’ is a sheer epic. It has everything you want in an action film and it does it all perfectly. While giving the audience some intense and top-notch barrages of action, writer/director Christopher McQuarrie balanced in a very strong and clear pointed plot. This perfect balance made for a perfect action film.

Tom Cruise yet again delivers a strong performance and his stunts continue to be jaw-dropping. McQuarrie’s direction with these action sequences are perfect and some stunning and edge-of-the-seat scenes do happen rather frequently in this film. Henry Cavill is also in this movie and it was great to finally see the now infamous-stache on the big screen. I had my slight doubts in him at times during the movie but continuously with each and every passing scene Cavill seemed to just get better and better. He brought a lot to the film and definitely served a strong purpose. Simon Pegg is entertaining as always, as is Ving Rhames. Sean Harris is also in the film and he brings a good strong presence as the films mysterious villainous character. Harris owns the role and brings genuine darkness to the film.

What puts Mission: Impossible – Fallout head and shoulders above other action flicks is the insane and pristine camera work. Some of the shots that were taken during this film are absolutely stunning and I found myself turning to the person beside me admiring these shots on several occasions. This all made for rather grand and certainly epic scenes. The moment I left the theatre I was ready to turn back around and head back in for more.

While the story isn’t necessarily fresh, Christopher McQuarrie does a good job at telling this story and unfolding a very picture-perfect spy film. There are some characters I definitely would have liked to have seen developed more. As previously stated, the brilliance in balance within the film is truly unmatched and story is not compromised at the hands of over usage of CGI or cheap jokes. This is the quintessential action movie of 2018 and the summer blockbuster we needed oh so badly.

The big plus: Stunning visuals and camera work enhance this movie and take it to the next level in every way possible.

Where it lacks: The overall story isn’t the most original but the movie makers do a good job at telling it.

Score: 89/100

‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ is my favourite movie of 2018, so far. It is the perfect action movie and it proves that you can make a good, engaging and entertaining blockbuster without all the crazy CGI. The stunts and major action sequences are top of their class and the performances are overall very well done. This film has the twists that will stun you and the intensity that will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is the perfect action movie and definitely one of the better made overall films in a while.

Upcoming Releases

August 3: Christopher Robin, The Darkest Minds, The Spy Who Dumped Me

August 8: Dog Days

August 10: The Meg, BlacKkKlansman, Slender Man


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Skyscraper: Movie Review

By Brennan Dubé | @Brennan_Dube71R

Universal Pictures presents Dwayne Johnson saving his family from a burning tower that’s over 200 stories tall… ladies and gentlemen, here is my review of ‘Skyscraper.

‘Skyscraper’ is directed and written by Rawson Marshall Thurber (‘Central Intelligence’, ‘We’re the Millers’). The film follows Johnson, who plays an FBI Agent and U.S army vet, and his family. Johnson’s character, ‘Will Sawyer’ is sent to examine the safety of a new tower being built in Hong Kong. Upon his travels, shenanigans ensue and he must save the day. ‘Skyscraper’ offered a very simple story line that was covered with predictable twists and clichéd villains. Despite these very clear structures within the film, ‘Skyscraper’ was actually a solid popcorn flick. I enjoyed the movie mainly due to the well inserted intensity and some very solid action sequences. The dynamic of having the film be centered around a skyscraper seemed very silly in the trailers and TV commercials but upon watching this film I can attest to it actually making for some cool scenes. I did end up seeing this film in 3D due to the great things I heard about how it looked. I was not disappointed and the 3D definitely enhanced my experience and enjoyment in ‘Skyscraper.’ That being said, 3D is not a necessity for this movie and it can still be watched and enjoyed in standard 2D.

‘Skyscraper’ has a plot that is simple enough to follow but not enough to really feel a connection with the film at all. There were times in this movie where certain dialogue was used that was absolutely unnecessary and cheesy, definitely one of the years weakest scripts. At times certain lines even took me out of the movie. One positive thing about ‘Skyscraper’ I can confidently say is that it did not go out of its way to throw silly jokes in. This is something that other summer blockbusters always go for and it can often feel very misplaced.

As previously stated, Johnson rocks in the action scenes and director Rawson Marshall Thurber did a great job at constructing some very entertaining sequences. At times I felt I had to just turn my brain off and not question some rather convenient moments but that being said I was not taken out of the action sequences all that much. The special effects were great in this movie and some of the rooms in the skyscraper look so damn cool.

Dwayne Johnson delivers a very Dwayne Johnson performance in this movie and his charisma and charm in the lead role continues to be a draw. Not much of the supporting cast did much to enhance this film but the family rescue scenario worked out pretty well. Neve Campbell is in this film and she does a swell job at portraying the mother in the family, she even does a solid job during the action scenes as well. Most of the cast does a good job especially working with the dialogue they had. The score definitely could have been better, thinking back in this film I don’t even recall hearing music at all. It’s important that a score leaves its touch and enhances intensity but Steve Jablonsky’s score in this film did not do that.

The big plus: Johnson runs the show and he looks good in some very well put together action scenes. The movie has the intensity it needs and it paces pretty well at about 102 minutes.

Where it lacks: Poor dialogue and a very basic, predictable storyline makes this yet another forgettable action flick.

Score: 63/100

‘Skyscraper’ is an entertaining film with solid special effects and a very basic plot. Its twists are predictable and the dialogue lacks but the film is still fun and it’s intense when it needs to be. This film hasn’t broken any new ground or changed the game at all, but it is an enjoyable enough time that it passes off as an okay summer popcorn flick.

Upcoming Releases

July 20: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Equalizer 2, Unfriended: Dark Web

July 27: Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

August 3: Christopher Robin, The Spy Who Dumped Me, The Darkest Minds, Searching


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July Movie Preview: A Rundown of the Biggest Hits

Brennan Dubé | @Brennan_Dube71R

July 4

The First Purge

This will be the fourth installment in the ‘Purge’ franchise. However, it will be the first not directed by James DeMonaco although he will still return to write and produce this film. On a budget of just $13 million, Universal Pictures should make a solid profit on this film considering two of the last three ‘Purge’ films have surpassed $100 million at the box office. This prequel action-thriller will be a hit at theaters due to the ‘Purge’ name attached to it. Despite poor reviews from critics, these films continue to obliterate their budgets and draw in crowds that enjoy a good thrill.

July 6

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The sequel to the 2015 film ‘Ant-Man’ will open up in theaters this Friday. Riding the wave of ‘Infinity War’, it should make some rather significant cash. The first film opened to $57 million in July of 2015. It went on to gross over $500 million globally, a little low in terms of Marvel movies but still a good draw considering ‘Ant-Man’ is much lower profile than the other heroes featured in the past few years. ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ will draw in the family crowd and the superhero fans, and should go for a win at the July box office.

Whitney

‘Whitney’ is a documentary about Whitney Houston that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It will get its theatrical release this Friday. The film will have a limited release, meaning it won’t be released nationwide right away. Instead, it will slowly expand its theater count as most documentaries do. The documentary will feature never before seen footage and rare performances as well as exclusive demo recordings by Whitney Houston.

July 13

Skyscraper

The Dwayne Johnson action/thriller, ‘Skyscraper’ will be released this month and should play out like any usual Dwayne Johnson film. If it follows the course of ‘Rampage,’ which was released earlier this year, it will open around $30 million and go on to gross a good sum at the box office.

Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation

‘Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation’ debuts this month and is the first ‘Transylvania’ film to be released in summertime. This animated feature should do well and with a very conservative budget of $65 million, they will be able to make a strong profit. Both previous films opened to $42.5 and $48.4 million respectively. The third may see a different result due to a summertime release, but I still expect it to be a good draw among families as most wide release animated films are.

Eighth Grade

This A24 studio film received high praise at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and is expected to be a big hit among critics when it opens this month. The movie is a coming of age comedy-drama. Early screened critics have this film currently sitting at a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.

July 20

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

This is the sequel to the hit 2008 film ‘Mamma Mia!’ which went on to be the 5th highest grossing film of 2008. It grossed $615 million on a budget of just $52 million. The sequel is expected to follow up with similar success, considering much of the star-studded cast is returning and there haven’t been many true musicals as of late. The musical film fans may be craving something and that would definitely help this sequel.

The Equalizer 2

Denzel Washington returns to star in ‘The Equalizer 2,’ an action/thriller. The film should have a good draw among action movie fans and it gets a small jump on the next ‘Mission Impossible’ film, which comes out the following weekend. The first film had a budget of $73 million and went on to gross $192 million globally. This will release in the first weekend following the World Cup which may help out its chances with doing better in foreign markets.

Unfriended: Dark Web

This found footage horror/thriller film is a stand-alone sequel to the 2014 film ‘Unfriended’ which went on to gross $64 million dollars on a budget of just $1 million. The movie was filmed secretly last year and had a surprise announcement in March of this year.

July 27

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

This will be the sixth film in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise. Tom Cruise continues to defy all odds with some never before seen stunts in this film. The movie will get a good draw from casual movie goers as well as action movie fans. Should ‘Fallout’ do well, expect more ‘Mission: Impossible’ movies to come.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

This animated film based on the television series is releasing this month. The movie is written by the writers of the show and is directed by series producers, Peter Rida Michail and Aaron Horvath. Warner Bros. will hope that this animated superhero comedy will get a good draw from the family audiences.


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