(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: Super Mario Bros. is much better than we give it credit for.)
Illumination Entertainment and Nintendo are gearing up to bring Mario, Luigi and the gang back to the big screen with an animated Super Mario Bros. film. Fans of the video game are hoping it’s going to be good, especially since many are trying to erase the original live-action film from their memory. It’s popular in film circles to say 1993’s Super Mario Bros. is atrocious. But I disagree. In fact, I think we’re all undervaluing it.
The film, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi, two brothers who get trapped in an alternate New York City run by humanoid dinosaurs, is a film that is considered so awesomely bad, that it becomes good. But I think it’s actually good. While there are tonal shifts that don’t make sense and a confused sense of direction, Super Mario Bros. is not the worst film to watch on a lazy Saturday afternoon. Its leads are convincing, its design is thought-provoking, and contrary to popular belief, it actually follows the Nintendo video games much closer than people actually remember. What also makes this a good movie is that it’s a movie fit for film lovers who like learning about how to tell better stories. One of the boons from Super Mario Bros. is, in fact, learning about its mistakes.
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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: we go to bat for The Matrix Reloaded on its 15th anniversary.)
If the burden of a sequel is to equal or better its predecessor, then few movie sequels have inherited as great a burden as The Matrix Reloaded did when it first hit theaters 15 years ago today on May 15, 2003.
The first Matrix movie gripped the public imagination, tapping into something deep in the collective unconscious. Steeped in grandeur, a sense of pre-millennial purpose, it was a motion picture that wielded the same kind of myth-making mojo as the original Star Wars trilogy. If anything, back in 1999, The Matrix was more Star Wars than Star Wars, as evinced by how widely it overshadowed The Phantom Menace that year as a cultural phenomenon.
The Matrix Reloaded’s legacy as a sequel is such that it and The Matrix Revolutions often get lumped together as inferior specimens. In terms of simple storytelling effectiveness — the lucidity of their dream-weaving as movie machines — both films are inferior to the smooth-running high-concept engine that was the first Matrix. But while the law of diminishing returns is at play in The Matrix trilogy and Reloaded does show signs of the impending system failure that Revolutions would bring about, it actually manages, despite its infamous cave rave scene, to expand the series mythology in new and interesting ways. A decade and a half later, the film’s dismantling of the oosen One narrative set up in The Matrix gives it a different but no less intriguing pull, one that takes to the freeway and attempts to broaden the viewer’s perspective on reality in a manner that now seems ahead of its time.
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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: why Avengers: Age of Ultron is actually superior to the other Avengers films.)
What do we want from the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Do we merely want a collection of cool moments; the realization of decades upon decades of comic book splash pages brought to digital life on a big screen with booming surround sound? Do we want the joy of recognition; the giddiness that comes when a familiar easter egg appears and we knowingly elbow whomever we’re seeing the movie with, as if to say, “I recognize that; do you?” Or do we want something challenging? Something that takes the raw materials that make up the MCU and builds them up into something entirely unexpected?
Better yet – what if we could have all of those things, together? As it turns out, we did. It was called Avengers: Age of Ultron. And people weren’t happy about 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: Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited isn’t just underrated, it’s the best film he has made yet.)
Wes Anderson is more than a director – he’s a brand. Beyond enjoying name recognition, Anderson has an identifiable aesthetic rivaled perhaps only by Quentin Tarantino among indie filmmakers. A cottage industry of trailer remakes, Etsy shops and Instagram accounts has sprung up around his name. His films’ releases are the closest things to events outside of major studio tentpoles.
So how did the 10th anniversary of The Darjeeling Limited pass by last October with hardly any significant decade retrospective piece? Anderson, ever a reliable click-generator for film sites, should easily have inspired some online chatter encouraging reevaluation for better or for worse. Instead, Anderson’s 2007 film simply cemented its status as his most forgotten film. While not the worst (an honor sometimes reserved for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou since most people cut his debut Bottle Rocket some slack), few rank it among his iconic classics like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums or Moonrise Kingdom.
Consider this a belated invitation to reconsider the movie. I maintain The Darjeeling Limited is Wes Anderson’s best film, a perfect blend of style, story and sentiment. You can’t quote it as easily as Rushmore, but Anderson’s deadpan dialogue retains its snapiness. You can’t dress up as it characters for Halloween as easily as The Royal Tenenbaums, but the personalities are as vibrantly acidic as ever. You don’t have an ensemble of stars to fill the poster like The Grand Budapest Hotel, but Anderson goes deeper than ever on three brothers who are among his most completely realized cinematic creations.
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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: not only is James Wan’s Death Sentence a good movie, but it’s also the only Death Wish remake we need.)
There’s a new Death Wish movie hitting screens this week, and while I’ll walk into it the same way I approach every film – hoping for greatness – it’s difficult to actually be all that optimistic. Not only has this remake been made redundant by four decades’ worth of movies about white men getting revenge with guns, but its journey towards production has seen a handful of interesting choices sidelined in favor of bland mediocrity. Instead of the once-rumored Benicio Del Toro for the lead, we now have Bruce Willis’ disinterested corpse. Instead of the Israeli filmmakers behind Big Bad Wolves announced for the director’s chair in early 2016, we now get the not-so subtle talents of Eli Roth. Instead of a fresh and interesting revenge tale, we’re getting what appears to be another empty and generic action film. (Seriously, watch the trailer.) It’s all made even more unfortunate by the realization that the only Death Wish remake we needed already came and went with nothing but empty theater seats and a 20% score on Rotten Tomatoes left behind.
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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: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice is one of the writer/director’s very best.)
“I never remember plots in movies,” writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson said in 2014. “I remember how they make me feel, and I remember emotions and I remember visual things that I’ve seen, but my brain can never connect the dots of how things go together.” He was referring to Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, though that quote could easily describe Anderson’s own Inherent Vice. Trying to explain the film in a Wikipedia-style recounting of events is futile. It does not even come close to doing justice to the experience of letting the film’s inscrutable mysteries wash over you. Read More »
(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: we’re all too jaded to enjoy a comic book movie as fun as Justice League.)
It’s been two and a half weeks — and three underwhelming box office weekends — since Justice League hit theaters. Some people have already forgotten about the movie.
Fans of DC Comics characters might still be grappling with it. As a comic book collector in middle school, the “Death of Superman” storyline shook my world; in high school, on the Wednesdays when new issues were released, Grant Morrison and Howard Porter’s tenure on the JLA comics title put it at the top of my reading list. But as an adult moviegoer who is not a fan of Zack Snyder’s work, I went into this film called Justice League with low expectations. I had already heard that Steppenwolf was the worst comic book movie villain of all time (a sentiment that Joss Whedon, who directed the film’s extensive reshoots, appears to have enjoyed). It was not even one of those movies where I felt the need to rush out and see it right away. My significant other and I just happened to have a slot in our Thanksgiving schedule.
Maybe the spirit of holiday gratitude put me in an overly thankful mood and has affected my judgment. I know I’m in the minority here. In fact, my Spider-Sense is already tingling, warning me that I was entering Unpopular Opinion territory. As I watched Justice League, I found myself… actually enjoying 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 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.
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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: 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.
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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: 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.
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