(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.)

Before Adam Sandler hit us with his lazy vacation period (you know what films I’m talking about), it was always easy to identify his worst movie: Little Nicky. The film was a financial disaster, his first flop after an unstoppable rise from the cult hit Billy Madison to the hugely successful Big Daddy. Even more painful, it was a financial disaster on a very ambitious swing, story-wise. A film where Sandler takes care of a child with an adorable speech impediment is almost mathematically certain to succeed. A film where Sandler uses an obnoxious speech impediment to play the son of Satan is not. 

Little Nicky proved Sandler had limits, and stands out as a blight on his filmography as a result. Twenty years later, however, the time has come to remove that blight and put it where it belongs (I dunno, Bedtime Stories maybe). Little Nicky rules and it’s high time more people figured that out.

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(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 Irishman is a regression on multiple fronts for director Martin Scorsese.)

In ancient Egypt, pharaohs would be entombed with everything they needed for the next life: all their treasures and their mummified cats and even their living servants. This was before someone had the bright idea that you could just make lifelike models of the servants and not have to bury people alive. Obviously, in this case, the models weren’t CG … but you get the point. The Irishman sees Martin Scorsese, our greatest living filmmaker — the Ramses II of cinema — nesting below his pyramid, snug in his bed of mob movie hits. At this point, Scorsese has nothing left to prove. He’s made his masterpieces. We can look on his mighty works, and rejoice.

In this one instance, I will not rejoice, because— like Peter Griffin assessing The Godfather — “I did not care for” The Irishman.

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the dead don't die restricted trailer

(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 Dead Don’t Die has been critically panned, but it’s far more insightful than it’s being given credit for.)

I get it, okay? The Dead Don’t Die can be a really hard film to like. It’s a bitter, cynical, downright abrasive film that takes more pleasure out of being smug about zombie films than it does about being a zombie film. It’s understandable that it’s going to turn a lot of people off with its extensive-bordering-on-excessive commitment to deadpan humor and its absolute disdain for what is surely a large portion of its target audience. It’s a comedy that is hostile and bleak, paradoxically playing off our collective despair in a way that only a fraction of the audience was ever going to be able to laugh at.

But I am more than happy to be in that minority of folks who can enjoy it.

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(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: Keanu Reeves never needed a comeback and the underrated Street Kings proves it.)

Keanu Reeves has been in the public consciousness since the mid-80s, and while he’s had his ups and downs success-wise, he’s currently enjoying the biggest popularity wave of his career. That’s no small thing as he’s been in a whopping 64 movies since his debut in 1986’s Youngblood with a filmography that includes critical darlings (River’s Edge, 1986; My Own Private Idaho, 1991) and box-office hits (Speed, 1994; The Matrix, 1999). As an example of how quickly his tides can turn, Reeves made three movies in 2018, but while you might have caught Destination Wedding – and you’re a fool who hates love if you haven’t – you probably haven’t even heard of Siberia or Replicas. Just one year later, though, and Reeves is a global sensation again thanks to John Wick: Chapter 3, Always Be My Maybe, and the upcoming Toy Story 4.

This past weekend even saw him take the stage at E3 to help announce his role in a new video game called Cyberpunk 2077.

So, yeah, I’m thinking Keanu Reeves is back, and with this newly invigorated interest in all things Keanu, I’m hoping people take the time to dig into his extensive and varied filmography to seek out some gems they may have missed along the way. Man of Tai Chi (2013) is a fun flick with terrific fight action, The Replacements (2000) is a sweetly satisfying underdog sports tale, and The Night Before (1988) sees him sell Lori Loughlin to a pimp. How are you not already heading to the video store?!

If I could only pick one of his past films for people to rediscover, though, it would be David Ayer’s Street Kings (2008). Yes, the same Street Kings currently sitting at 36% on Rotten Tomatoes alongside an underwhelming 58% audience score.

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(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 big bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe kinda’ sucks.)

“I am inevitable,” intones the fearsome alien Thanos at a few different junctures in Avengers: Endgame. He states this both as a taunt to the Avengers, who are trying to stop him from destroying humanity either in half or whole. But Thanos also states it as a fact that the heroes can’t possibly always save everyone. The inevitability of Thanos, or of a large-scale villain who wants to destroy everything we hold dear, is arguably counterintuitive to his presence. Thanos is indeed inevitable, but within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he’s not a remotely exciting villain.

Major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame follow.

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(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: Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation is a best case scenario situation.)

I will be the first to admit that Zack Snyder’s interpretation of Watchmen isn’t perfect. In fact, in some respects it’s a very strangely paced and plotted film, very long with meandering diversions into the psyches of its large and often disconnected cast to the point that it’s a turn-off for casual viewers looking for just another superhero movie. However, it’s one of the few comic book films that attempts a faithful adaptation of a specific and limited comic run, rather than just of the characters or brands that usually inspire the films of the Marvel and DC cinematic universes. Because of this, the film is often maligned as either being too faithful to its source material, not faithful enough, or even decried for its very existence, as comic author Alan Moore has in no uncertain terms.

10 years on (Watchmen opened on March 6, 2009), it’s easy to look back on Watchmen and recognize what the film was attempting and the ways it succeeded rather than failed, and while Moore’s comic is still the gold standard for telling this story, Snyder’s commitment to making a cinematic parallel made for probably the best version of this film we could possibly have hoped for.

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glass review

(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: M. Night Shyamalan‘s critically lambasted Glass is actually good!)

Reactions from critics to the Unbreakable trilogy have grown increasingly divisive with each film – not unlike reactions to M. Night Shyamalan’s work as a whole. It was only years later, after the subsequent surge of studio attempts to make “gritty” and “grounded” superhero movies, that appreciation for Unbreakable began to swell. And despite being hailed as part of Shyamalan’s comeback, Split received more negative reviews than its predecessor upon its release in 2017.

Two years later, it’s hardly surprising that Shyamalan’s trilogy-capper, Glass, has fared far worse among most critics than the films before it, and yet I find it to be a near-perfect culmination – and escalation – of this particular narrative. Glass continues the subversion and dissection of the superhero genre, while continuing to explore the compelling thematic elements at work in its predecessors – particularly those in Split. The cleverness of Glass extends beyond its mere plot points and transcends the expected Shyamalan twists, with a thoughtful aesthetic and self-aware implementation of the filmmaker’s more heavy-handed tendencies.

This post contains spoilers for Glass.

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wayne's world 2 defense

(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 sequel to Wayne’s World is actually better than the beloved original.)

In 1993, just one short year after Wayne’s World transitioned from SNL favorite to box office hit, Paramount unleashed the sequel. Despite the fact that Wayne’s World 2 received mixed reviews and couldn’t seem to attract as many fans as the first film, it remains a hilarious and highly-underrated sequel – a delightfully silly follow-up that ups the ante while wryly (or obnoxiously, given the behind-the-scenes drama) delivering a formulaic sequel; a sort of self-aware cinematic Mad Libs. In my mind, Wayne’s World 2 belongs to the small group of comedy sequels that are better than their predecessors, like Problem Child 2 and Gremlins 2. At the very least, it should be considered just as great as the first film.

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(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: Quantum of Solace deserves better than the frequently snide dismissals you’ve all been giving it.)

Casino Royale (2006) is not only the best of Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies, but it’s the best Bond movie period. That’s just factual and not up for debate, but there seems to be less certainty when it comes to ranking the remaining three films from his tenure as 007. It’s easy, though, if you remember that the chronological order is also the order of descending quality – Casino Royale > Quantum of Solace (2008) > Skyfall (2012) > Spectre (2015). Yup, they’re a series of diminishing returns. You’re welcome.

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Blair WItch 2 Defense

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 much-derided sequel to The Blair Witch Project actually rules, thank you very much.)

A little over a year after The Blair Witch Project hit theaters and subsequently became a box office phenomenon, Artisan Entertainment released a sequel that did…the opposite.

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 was meant to capitalize on the success of the first film, expanding the mythology for Blair-obsessed audiences eager for another trip to the Burkittsville woods. But Joe Berlinger’s self-aware sequel failed to bewitch fans the same way its predecessor had. And that’s a shame because Book of Shadows is one of the most delightful and rewarding sequels in horror history.

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