star trek picard poster

The first season of Star Trek: Picard was as frustratingly mixed as any first Trek season. As thrilling as it was to see Jean-Luc Picard return, its great ideas and story elements are tantalising moments amid a show that’s merely pretty good. The central story is solid. It’s the best-shot Star Trek show to date, shying away from shiny sci-fi precision in favour of earthy tones and messy spills of light. The inevitable moments of fan service mostly serve the story. And while its structure and texture is wildly different to any prior Treks, it still finds time to explore big ideas like the rest of them. 

So by way of organisation, here are five things we loved about the season, and three we didn’t (and by “we,” I mean “me”).

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Hollywood isn’t the only source of blockbusters anymore. International film industries generate hits with the same frequency, on scales local and sometimes even global, often outgrossing American studio films. But such is the imperial dominance of Hollywood, any time a major hit emerges from outside the English-speaking world, conversation immediately gravitates toward a potential American remake. Hollywood just can’t keep its mitts off an idea that might make money. But while this process is widely reviled, for several good reasons, there are subtleties within it – and the films themselves are undeserving of prejudice. 

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the lodge trailer new

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything.)

This article contains major spoilers for The Lodge. It also contains discussion of self-harm.

Horror movies often rely on physical violence and cruelty to horrify their audiences. That’s fair; we all have bodies, and we’re afraid of them getting damaged. Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge, however, isn’t particularly violent. It isn’t particularly bloody. There are no monsters, and barely any “scares.” Yet it hits harder, conjuring dread on a deeper level, than any conventional horror film of late. An intimate and emotional nightmare, the film wrings audiences into stunned submission, proving that psychological cruelty can hurt far worse than the physical.

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reason for Avatar's success

Australia is burning. It’s hard to comprehend the scope of the disaster: a blaze covering an area that would stretch around the borders of the contiguous United States, leaving a billion animals dead, likely rendering numerous species extinct, and creating smoke plumes that cloud even New Zealand’s skies, two thousand kilometres away. It is, along with the climate crisis that helps fuel it, an ecological genocide of a scale that inspires almost religious levels of awe and terror. The inferno is much larger than the ongoing Amazon rainforest fires that made headlines in mid-2019, and there are many differences between them. But both bring attention to unsettling trends – in climate change certainly, but surprisingly also (more relevantly to this website) in entertainment.

Ten years ago, a movie called Avatar made billions of dollars, scored multiple Academy Awards, and heralded a new generation of 3D and performance-capture technology. It also, perhaps inevitably, suffered a backlash. Many criticisms were valid, but one has always rankled me: that of James Cameron’s environmental themes being too obvious, too blatant, too didactic. Another load of overwrought, tree-hugging “save the rainforest” FernGully bullshit, thought many audiences. Hadn’t we all agreed on that stuff years ago? Audiences rolled their eyes as IMAX screens played out images of ancient forests burned by industry seeking to profit off the land, displacing indigenous peoples in the process.

Then, ten years later, the news played out images of ancient forests being burned by industry seeking to profit off the land, displacing indigenous peoples in the process.

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The 10 Movies That Defined the Decade, For Better and Worse

Movies That Defined the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

Everybody’s got their opinion on the best films of the decade. There are consensus favourites and weird idiosyncrasies on everyone’s list. But what films actually defined the decade? Which films were representative of the changing culture across those ten years? Which films best represent the trends in cinema? It’s been a decade of enormous change, both in the film world and the wider one, and though we can’t sum up all of it in ten films, we can certainly try.

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Rey in The Rise of Skywalker

Cinematic language carries meaning. Movies are more than just a series of events documented by a camera; the way those events are depicted – blocked, framed, edited, scored, mixed – is as important as the events themselves. When the cinematic toolbox is used well, movies can evoke feelings, make arguments, and change lives. Used poorly, though, films can say something completely contrary to what the filmmaker intends.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is such a film. It’s a mess in a multitude of ways, but the most unforgivable is how it treats its main character.

Spoilers follow.

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The 10 Best Sequels of the Decade

Best Sequels of the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

Sequels were big business this last decade. Between shared universes (Marvel, DC, Fast & Furious, Star Wars), nostalgia sequels (Independence Day: Resurgence), surprise sequels (Split), soft reboots (Bumblebee), and hard reboots (21 Jump Street), every flavour of sequel was represented in some way. Many, of course, were terrible. But taking stock at the end of the decade, it was a surprisingly good time for sequels. Several would be in contention for many moviegoers’ “best of the decade” list. But ten sequels truly stood out to us as particularly innovative approaches or simply exceptionally good films. Let’s take a look.

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The Twentieth Century Review

The biopic genre is one of the more predictable out there. Even outside the musical-biopic subgenre, now so heavily coded that films functionally identical to parodies still get nominated for Academy Awards, there are expectations, and most of them are filled most of the time. Chief among them is fanatical reverence for their subjects, painting them as the most important figures in their respective fields through slick, gauzy, prestige-project filmmaking.

Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century, a biopic of legendary Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, doesn’t do any of that. It’s among the least-conventional biopics in existence – and it’s all the better for it. If you didn’t know the backstory, you’d never guess it’s even based on a true story, and if you do know the backstory, you might be furious at the liberal treatment of the subject. But The Twentieth Century being a biopic is merely the icing on the cake of Rankin’s incredible artistry, craft, and utterly bonkers comic and visual sensibility.

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Avengers Endgame

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: Disney fandom has become a powerful tribe – how did we get here?)

It’s natural to seek out people who share our interests. Those are the people with whom we’re most likely to get along. But after a point, tribalisation becomes a negative force: when supporting your tribe comes at the expense of other tribes. We see that everywhere, from fandom to global politics. And this year has seen a dramatic and disturbing spike in pop-culture tribalisation – largely centred around the company that needs it least.

Fandom rivalries have existed forever. Star Wars vs Star Trek has more or less come to an equilibrium, with most fans admitting that they like both, to some degree. The Marvel/DC rivalry has been around for decades, though it’s become much more visibly unpleasant since the birth of the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes. Now that superheroes are a dominant global cultural force, and not a niche for enthusiasts, the scale and fury of these rivalries has escalated to at-times horrifying levels. 

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Ghost Killers vs Bloody Mary Review

Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary is a very stupid movie, and I don’t mean that as a judgement of its quality. It is stupid in the way that Dumb & Dumber is stupid: it’s about stupid characters doing stupid things, and it generates some stupid fun along the way.

The heroes of Ghost Killers Vs Bloody Mary are no Ghostbusters. They’re the Ghoulbusters, a knowingly IP-breaching squad of paranormal investigators, known mostly for their YouTube channel of middling repute. Their nominal leader is played by one of Brazil’s top comedians, which should be a lesson not to write off performers English-speaking audiences haven’t heard of. Behind on rent and low on morale, the Ghoulbusters’ days are spent fending off angry commenters and thinking up new ways of faking ghosts. 

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