2018 will be remembered as the year the movies didn’t die. After years of stagnation, the U.S. domestic box office actually showed a solid performance, raking in an estimated $11.8 billion, a significant increase over the $10.6 billion it made in 2017. Movies decisively demonstrated that they are still relevant by continuing to become memes, topics of water cooler conversation, and cultural touchstones. People are occasionally putting away their smartphones and leaving their home theater setups to actually go to the movies again.

The year was full of notable moments and trends. Continuing Hollywood’s gravitation towards reliable IP, pretty much all of the top 10 films of 2018 are sequels or titles that are based on existing properties. The strong performance of Aquaman showed that the DCEU film franchise is far from over (despite what the mediocre performance of Justice League might have you believe), while The Grinch‘s huge box office take reveals that there are some stories that people will always turn out for in theaters.

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A Cast of Kings – Off-Season Update

Game of Thrones 15 million

In this special bonus episode of A Cast of Kings, Joanna Robinson and David Chen discuss some off-season developments that have happened in the past week, including George RR Martin’s interview with The Guardian and the new teaser trailer. Check out Joanna’s interview with George RR Martin and stay tuned for the new season of the show and podcast in April 2019.

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AMC Stubs A-List Review

AMC’s recently-announced Stubs A-List subscription is very exciting because it’s the first subscription service from a major chain to seriously compete with services like MoviePass and Sinemia. Sure, there’ve been pretenders to the throne like Cinemark’s Movie Club, but A-List’s value proposition actually poses some serious challenges to MoviePass’s domination of the subscription market. Below, you can watch my video review and read up on what’s great (and not so great) about A-List.
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While a video projector can be the cornerstone of a decent home theater system, it can also be a finicky beast. Projectors kick out a ton of heat and noise, they aren’t super portable, and they often require additional augmentation like a device to actually input a video signal, or speakers so that you can actually hear what’s happening.

That’s why I was so intrigued when I first saw an Indiegogo campaign for Anker’s Nebula Capsule Projector last fall. It actually seemed too good to be true. A projector that was the size of a Coke can, with a speaker built in that was running a version of Android with video apps? For under $500? (It retails on Amazon right now for $300). The prospect was so exciting that I threw caution to the wind and backed the campaign.

I wanted to understand if the Nebula Capsule really could do everything it claimed to. More importantly, I wanted to see if it could help me realize a long-time dream: Watching Netflix projected on my ceiling while lying in bed. Keep reading for our full Nebula Capsule Projector review.
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Avoiding Star Wars Trailers

(This article does not mention any details of Star Wars: The Last Jedi that haven’t already been revealed in trailers and marketing materials.)

During a recent visit to see Blade Runner 2049 at the Seattle Cinerama, I was seated comfortably and waiting for the show to start. Moments later, the Lucasfilm logo appeared on screen, a trailer started to play, and I saw Rey’s face against the backdrop of Luke Skywalker’s mysterious planet, Ach-To. Within seconds, I’d gotten up and left to go putter around near the concessions. I did this because I have been avoiding pretty much every single piece of marketing material for Star Wars: The Last Jedi for the past year.

As I exited the theater, I was surprised to find a few other men that had also stepped out at about the same time as me. I overheard one of them saying, “Yeah, I thought I was safe, but then that music came on and it’s soooo Star Wars…” His voice trailed off and he stared off wistfully into the middle distance. I realized that these were my brethren. We were all going to save ourselves for the “pure” Star Wars experience together.

I’ve now seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi and today, many months after the first trailer debuted, and many months of scrupulously avoiding any trailers, I want to try and answer the question: Was it worth it?
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mother spoilers

[This post contains SPOILERS about the new Darren Aronofsky movie mother! For a look at the film without major spoilers, please read Chris Evangelista’s review from the Toronto International Film Festival. mother! is in theaters today.]

A poet and his wife live in a peaceful, idyllic home, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. While the woman is happy, the man begins welcoming strangers into their home and sharing his belongings, until the cost to his wife becomes unspeakably high.

This is the plot of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! which can be interpreted in many ways, but seems most obviously to be an allegory about the creation of the world, as told in the Christian Bible. I found the movie to be provocative, bold, and original, even as its basic conceit began to wear on me during the course of its two-hour runtime. This is a movie that will polarize people and cause some to walk out of theaters.

It’s also unlike most things we’ll see in at the mulitplex this year and for that, I’m grateful (it is absolutely insane that Paramount, a major studio, is releasing this). Here are five things I found to be the most interesting about the film.
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Doctorb

After directing The Primary Instinct in 2014, I wanted to shift my focus to smaller scale projects. While The Primary Instinct was a tiny film to begin with, it still required many months of planning and over $50,000 to produce. So I tried finding stories from sources all around me, that I could film myself with a very small crew (if any).

In my search, I stumbled upon the world of professional yo-yoers, who compete annually in Seattle at the Pacific Northwest Regional Yo-Yo Championships. What drove these people to master the yo-yo? What did they get out of it? What was it like to be a winner, vs. someone who just competed for the love of the game? I tried to tackle some of these questions in a short documentary I made called Doctor B. You can watch it after the jump.

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logan trailer

After nearly two decades, the X-Men franchise under 20th Century Fox’s stewardship has begun to feel too constrained by storytelling mechanics and full of characters that are warmed over. After the third or fourth time that you’ve seen the X-Men crew go up against a powerful supervillain and face off against a city- or world-destroying force (often accompanied by a blue beam shooting towards the sky), you begin to wonder whether this franchise still has new stories to tell.

These days, films that deviate heavily from the formula have felt refreshing (e.g., Deadpool, Days of Future Past), while those that hew closely to it are tiresome (e.g., X-Men: Apocalypse). This is why James Mangold’s Logan is a goddamn miracle. It unapologetically blazes its own trail in the X-Men universe. Logan throws the whole X-Men chessboard into the air, settles on the few pieces it wants to use, and then plays them off each other in ways we’ve never seen. The results are thrilling, and give me hope that the genre as a whole can still be fresh and inventive. It’s a near-perfect film, and one that I’ll be thinking about for a very long time.

Spoiler-free thoughts on Logan follow.
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David Chen’s Most Anticipated Films of 2017 [Podcast]

Dunkirk teaser

Sometimes humans can be terrible at predicting things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun when we try. My previous attempts to predict my favorite films of the year are often wildly inaccurate — inevitably, my actual favorite films of the year will contain lots of entries that I couldn’t have possibly foreseen.

That being said, for 2017, the job is slightly easier. There are sequels on the docket that lots of people are actually psyched to see, rather than follow-ups people didn’t need (Alice Through the Looking Glass) or ask for (The Hunstman: Winter’s War). Still, I have no doubt that my favorite films of the year will be those that I couldn’t have possibly predicted at this stage.

After the jump, check out my picks in chronological order based on release date. Also, I recorded an episode of my new podcast with Joanna Robinson, Gen Pop, in which we both discuss the films that have us most excited. Listen below (and also see Jacob and Ethan’s lists).

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David Chen’s Top 10 Films of 2016

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This is a year where you had to work to see great films. Unlike last year, the vast majority of my favorite movies of 2016 weren’t movies that received wide releases, nor were they films that earned over $50 million at the box office. Instead, they were often quieter releases that I had to read up on in order to make sure I caught them during the 1-2 weeks they were playing in my city.

The good news is, if you did the work, you were richly rewarded. While the movie industry as a whole is not doing so hot, movies as a form of storytelling still feel as vital as ever. What follows are my top 10 movies of 2016.  Read More »