Stranger Things 2 Defense

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or show or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: an argument that Stranger Things season 2 is a vast improvement over season 1.)

To say Netflix’s Stranger Things has become the love of my TV life might be the understatement of the decade. Featuring every bit of the ’80s that made my childhood magical, and one heck of an amazing cast, it fulfilled that hole in my TV life that no other new show could. But ever since I finished my first viewing of season 1, there has been one question that has plagued me  – could the Duffer Brothers deliver a “sequel” that was just as good as the first installment of their story?

While the rest of the /Film crew found themselves disappointed with the new season, I was definitely won over. In fact, I’m a proud believer that Stranger Things 2 is better than its predecessor for a multitude of reasons.

Read More »

Halloween 3

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which famously abandoned Michael Myers, is actually the best of the many Halloween sequels.)

The Halloween franchise has given birth to an entire candy bowl full of sequels, yet none are as reviled as Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Even the abysmal Halloween: Resurrection, which features Busta Rhymes drop-kicking Michael Myers, seems to garner more respect than Season of the Witch. It’s the black sheep of the family. The odd film out. The one that even the film’s producer Irwin Yablans thinks of as a huge mistake.

Yet beneath all the ire lies a wonderful, weird horror movie that should’ve been the start of bigger and better things for the franchise. Instead, the film disappointed so much that it would be another six years before another Halloween film graced movie screens, in the shape of a film that returned the franchise to its normal roots and take it down a path toward mediocrity.

Major spoilers are found throughout this article.

Read More »

Ridley Scott on the set of The Martian

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Ridley Scott has only made two good movies…and the reason why they’re good explains the rest of his weaker filmography.)

Sir Ridley Scott’s 40-year career is marked as much by its successes as it is by his chameleonic willingness to jump from genre to genre on an almost annual basis. This year alone, Scott has directed the grim sci-fi film Alien: Covenant and is following it up in December with All the Money in the World, a true-story crime drama about kidnappers trying to extort industrialist J. Paul Getty. His past films include the nihilistic thriller The Counselor, the light dramedy A Good Year, the con caper Matchstick Men, the sci-fi adventure The Martian, and on and on and on.

But the films that loom largest over Scott’s career are two of his earliest: Alien and Blade Runner, the latter of which received a long-awaited sequel last week in the form of Blade Runner 2049. Considering that both Alien and Blade Runner have gotten second lives of sorts in 2017, I feel compelled to come clean to my fellow cinephiles: for me, these are the only good Ridley Scott movies.

Read More »

dead silence 1

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Dead Silence is the first true James Wan movie and an unfairly maligned gem.)

It’s impossible to ignore James Wan’s impact on the horror genre over the last decade and change. Saw put both Wan and “torture porn” on the map, Insidious revamped haunted house architectures, The Conjuring scared up record-breaking box office numbers – and that’s to start. Tack on successful sequels (Insidious: Chapter 2 and The Conjuring 2), a respectful entry in the Fast and Furious saga (sending off Paul Walker), and him being handed the reins to a DC property in Aquaman. Wan is, undeniably, a Hollywood juggernaut who went from indie darling to household name by riding a wave of deserved praise for doing the impossible. Igniting franchises. Building cinematic universes. Redefining our nightmares. He is so very…wanderful Pulitzer, please.

Alas, some of his movies have been forgotten along the way. Travel back in time with me, won’t you? Let’s jump back a decade. Back to when James Wan was still trying to emerge from under the shadow of Saw. Back to when he made one of his best movies. Back when no one gave the terrific Dead Silence the time of day.

Read More »

ocean's twelve defense 1

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: Ocean’s Twelve is a brilliant chapter in what may be the best trilogy mainstream Hollywood has ever produced.)

If sequels are hard to pull off, then trilogies are the hardest of all. Hollywood is overstuffed with franchises, but few of those series are straight-up trilogies, and even fewer of those are good from start to finish. Even the existing trilogies that might be enjoyable have built-in caveats. Like most people, I love the original Star Wars trilogy, but it’s not a closed-off trilogy, telling three stories as opposed to being three stories in a larger, more massive series of films. The original trilogy is great, but it’s not, in its own way, standalone. Even great mainstream trilogies like the Toy Story films aren’t going to be trilogies for much longer, as the fourth Toy Story is on the way in 2019.

This week, as we prepare for the release of Logan Lucky, a new heist film from iconoclastic director Steven Soderbergh, it’s time to acknowledge perhaps the best mainstream trilogy of all: the Ocean’s trilogy.

Read More »

the shining miniseries 6

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: an argument that the 1997 television adaptation of The Shining is a worthy companion to the iconic Stanley Kubrick film.)

Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of The Shining ranks right up there with The Exorcist as one of the greatest horror films of all time. One person who has always been less than enamored with Kubrick’s film, however, is author Stephen King.

The Shining was King’s third published novel, released while he was on a hot streak in the 1970s, writing some of his most popular page-turners, like Salem’s Lot and The Stand. Over the years, King has been vocal in the press about his dissatisfaction with Kubrick’s adaptation. But in 1997, around the time of the book’s 20th anniversary, he was finally able to “correct” the problem, as Delbert Grady would say, penning and producing a much more faithful mini-series adaptation for television.

We are now about as far removed from the original airing of that mini-series as the mini-series itself was from the novel’s publication. Indeed, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the tale of the Torrances and the Overlook Hotel. And with two more high-profile King adaptations on the immediate horizon (namely, The Dark Tower and It), perhaps the time is right for a reevaluation of Stephen King’s The Shining, the 1997 TV mini-series.

Read More »

village

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of M. Night Shyamalan unjustly maligned The Village.)

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been bumpy. He found monumental success with his 1999 ghost story The Sixth Sense, and continued to garner acclaim and stellar box office returns with its two follow-ups, Unbreakable and Signs. Yet after Signs, a rift began to form between Shyamalan’s work and how the public perceived it. Eventually, the filmmaker fell almost completely out of favor, only managing to climb back on top slowly with recent films The Visit and Split. Nothing can quite capture the meteoric rise of Shyamalan’s early career, though.

While Lady in the Water might have been the film that torpedoed the last remaining shreds of good will towards Shyamalan’s work, it was 2004’s The Village (which came out 13 years ago yesterday) that started the dissent. More often than not, when people want to hold up examples of Shyamalan’s lesser work, they tend to lump The Village in with misfires like The Happening.

This is a mistake.

The Village is one of Shyamalan’s most interesting films, and perhaps one of his best. A melancholy meditation on grief and fear, it radiates sorrow in ways his other films do not. Yes, it does have that expected Shyamalan twist – two of them, in fact. But the film is more than its twists, and deserves to be watched with fresh eyes.

Read More »

Jupiter Ascending Poster

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: why the failure of Valerian the City of a Thousand Planets allows it to join the club of overlooked space fantasy that already includes the magnificent Jupiter Ascending.)

I saw Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets last week in a practically empty theater, and I left with a smile on my face. Once again Luc Besson gave us a fully immersive, beautiful universe, a romantic fantasy quest in an extraterrestrial setting, with a powerful message similar to that of The Fifth Element: Love conquers all. Inspired by the French comic books by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières, Luc Besson took us on a welcome journey to somewhere colorful and hopeful, welcome in a year filled with darker sci-fi tales like Life and Alien: Covenant. And yet, no one saw Valerian. It is destined to join the ranks of movies that we discuss for their financial failures instead of their successes.

One close cousin to Valerian is the Wachowski’s delightful 2015 space opera, Jupiter Ascending. Perhaps the reason I so enjoyed Valerian was because I also happen to be a part of another small group that adored this visionary take on a space fairy tale starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum. Admittedly, my love for Jupiter Ascending was a bit of a slow burn. It wasn’t until I went to bed the night after watching it that I realized how wonderful it really was. The more times I watched it, the more my love grew. It’s the kind of movie that I imagine watching with my future children and yet, I rarely ever get to talk to people who actually went to see it or have bothered to rent it. However when I do find someone who is part of this club, we have conversations built of pure joy and enthusiasm.

Read More »

interstellar movie

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of Interstellar as one of Christopher Nolan’s greatest movies.)

“If I can fix every detail of this time in my mind, I can keep this moment always.”Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Christopher Nolan makes cold films. At least, that seems to be one of the biggest complaints frequently lobbied against the filmmaker. Film after film, from Memento to Insomnia to The Prestige to the Dark Knight trilogy and beyond, Nolan’s work may be technically proficient and visually dazzling, but some audiences and critics alike come away wondering where the heart is. He’s not a humanist filmmaker the way Steven Spielberg is, but more akin to Stanley Kubrick (before you crucify me for this statement, I’m only comparing Nolan and Kubrick on the emotional front, or lack thereof; this is not a comparison of their directorial abilities).

Yet anyone looking for heart in a Nolan film need look no further than the expansive 2014 epic Interstellar, which may very well be his masterpiece. With Interstellar, Nolan intertwines the grand adventure of a space exploration film with a beating heart. “To me, space exploration represents the absolute extreme of what the human experience is,” Nolan says. “It’s all about trying, in some way, to define what our existence means in terms of the universe. For a filmmaker, the extraordinary nature of a few select individuals pushing the boundaries of where the human species has ever been or can possibly go opens up an infinite set of possibilities. I was excited by the prospect of making a film that would take the audience into that experience through the eyes of those first explorers moving outwards into the galaxy — indeed to a whole other galaxy. … That’s as big a journey as you can imagine trying to tell.”

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

the world's end 1

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: The World’s End is Edgar Wright’s best movie. By far.)

This week at the movies represents an oasis in the summer-movie desert, with the arrival of Edgar Wright’s latest film, Baby Driver. This new action film represents a slight change for Wright, who’s a) never made a film set and shot in America before and b) hasn’t been the sole writer of any of his past projects. He’s best known as the co-writer and director of the Cornetto Trilogy, comprising Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End, all genre hybrids co-starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Now that Baby Driver is headed to theaters, there will no doubt be various (justifiable) appreciations written of Edgar Wright’s films to date; as a still-young filmmaker, he’s only now made six films (including A Fistful of Fingers, which, until recently, hadn’t been released in the United States in any form, so I’m excluding it from this essay). At the top, I want to emphasize something before I delve into the Unpopular Opinion at the core of this piece: I’m a big fan of Wright’s filmography, including the delightful, exuberant, and intense Baby Driver. Each of his films is remarkably assured and confident, hybrids that all feel singular instead of like carbon copies of their forebears.

But I feel now as I felt the moment I walked out of the theater in 2013: The World’s End isn’t just the best of the Cornetto Trilogy. It’s Edgar Wright’s best film, period.

Read More »