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Nick Valdez

Nick's Top 15 Movies of 2016

Jan 24 // Nick Valdez
15. Shin Godzilla I've got to admit my major Godzilla bias helped it make the list, but I argue it's a great enough movie to belong here. Along with a fresh take on an old monster, Toei gave it a more pro-active Japan in the narrative. In films past when Godzilla attacked, the Japanese citizens were always just reacting to Godzilla or running from this nuclear fear. But in Shin Godzilla, it's the humans who are finally able to put him down. Through intelligent strategy (as it unfolds like a political thriller that also sneaks in some digs at the Western version of Godzilla) and science, the humans prove that there is hope in a hopeless situation. It's a far cry from where Toei started with this series. Couple the strong message with a fantastic monster suit, and Godzilla has never been better.  14. Morris From America What seemed to be a major theme in 2016 was youths growing up in an ever changing world. Quite a bit of films followed kids as they formed their own perspectives and found their voices. One of the more unique takes was Morris From America, which followed the young Morris (Markees Christmas, who is going to have a huge career ahead of him) and his father (Craig Robinson, who definitely should pursue more dramatic work) as they both tried to accept their new lives in Germany. Morris finding his way through rap lyrics, and then discovering that he shouldn't merely mirror the voices of others, was a journey we don't really see much in film. It's a nice slice of life about a kid just trying to be himself. That's always nice.  13. Hell or High Water In might be because I'm from Texas, so I'm willing to forgive a lot of its character faults because I know people like this, but Hell or High Water really struck a chord with me. It just seemed so unique. It's a film following two sets of characters as a string of robberies occur in bumblefuck Texas, but there's just so much said. It's all in the smaller moments such as when a jerk gets his face bashed in, or when Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham throw subtle, racist jabs at one another. Or when Ben Foster and Chris Pine's characters rob a bank and you have hilariously awkward dialogue between the two of them. Then it's all the more devastating when the film reminds you of the reality of these characters' situation. There's beauty in the film's gradual progression.  12. Fences Since Denzel Washington directed Fences, and helped get it to the big screen in the first place, it was touted as some kind of major performance from him, but he's honestly my least favorite part. It's everything around him that's fantastic. In fact, his overacted performance actually works in his favor since his overbearing father character is inherently flawed and unlikable. But you feel for his family, these characters, trapped in this continuously awful situation until Viola Davis just breaks down and brings in the most commanding performance of the year. It's a bit of a dense piece, but worth the watch completely.  11. 10 Cloverfield Lane This Cloverfield sequel was the first major surprise of 2016. Hitting theaters only two months after its sudden announcement, it was already in my good graces since I didn't really have any expectations for it. What we got was one of the more tense productions of the year with standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman. In fact this film was so damn good, the thought of an entire Cloverfield extended universe doesn't seem too bad at all. It cemented Cloverfield's franchise status and gave us the kind of sci-fi horror we haven't seen in years.  10. Sing Street It might be unfair to compare two musicals, but after such a drought it seems apt. La La Land is going to get all of the attention (which is mostly deserves), but Sing Street was the musical that hit home for me. Kids forming a new wave band in 1980s Dublin might not seem like the most inclusive premise, but it's positivity makes it familiar. It's a nice musical about chasing your dreams, and it's got a killer soundtrack to boot. "Drive It Like You Stole It" was one of my favorite songs in film last year, and the final performance was one of my favorite moments of the year entirely. Sing Street is charming, quietly strong, and it's just a musical of pure fun.  9. Moana Disney always seems to find a way onto my end of year lists, and 2016 was no different. But while there were two strong offerings, Moana is leagues above Zootopia in its awesomeness. A princess film where a young girl learns not to just aim to help a man, but accomplish things her own damn self? It says more than Frozen ever did. While the soundtrack admittedly doesn't have the staying power of its more Broadway predecessor, the film makes up for it with a deep color palette, astounding animation, and awesome performances from its two leads. Auli'i Cravalho has a major career ahead of her, and I can't wait to see how far she'll go.  8. O.J.: Made in America You can argue the five hour O.J.: Made in America project isn't technically a film, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better documentary last year. A documentary somehow always finds a way on to my list each year, so I definitely felt I should include this seeing as how I watched all five hours of it in one sitting. The O.J. Simpson trial happened before I was conscientious of things happening in the world around me, so seeing it all laid bare is fascinating. An enthralling portrait of the figurehead Simpson had become through his trial and then cataloging his public descent into mediocre madness was honestly something you couldn't make up. "Stranger than fiction" has never been more appropriate.  7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople Taika Waititi has quickly become one of my favorite directors. After a strong showing in the surprising What We Do in the Shadows, and before seeing what he can do with Marvel's Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is yet another home run for him. The story of a kid in New Zealand who's been bounced between foster homes and his adoptive father who couldn't give less of a damn about him running through the forest is one of the funniest films of the year. Like Shadows before it, it's a dialogue heavy comedy full of of awkwardness and charm from the young Julian Dennison.  6. The Jungle Book I can't believe Disney took a terrible sounding idea, remaking their animated films into live-action, and produced some of their best work from it. Maleficent, Cinderella, and now The Jungle Book. I've never been a fan of the original, but Favreau's take was fantastic. Stunningly animated animals, a great voice cast (with Walken's mob boss styled King Louie being an obvious stand out) , a tense story, and a great performance from the young Neel Sethi, who somehow was still believable while acting for a green screen. I watched this a number of times last year just to marvel at it, and I don't expect to stop anytime soon.  5. Moonlight The one major awards contender I'm rooting for is Moonlight. It's simply incredible. Watching the young, quiet Chiron grow, deal with his terrible home situation, struggle with his sexual identity, and survive in a world that wants to destroy is a phenomenal experience. Barry Jenkins' directorial strength comes through with his intimacy in heinous situations and finding the beauty in the mundane. A deep, bright color palette showing Miami in a light rarely seen in film, close face ups that linger on a character's internal pains, and strong central performances anchor the film's journey. It's not a film I can recommend for everyone, as my own sister exclaimed how boring she felt it was, but it's an experience you should have for yourself.  4. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping I've always taken The Lonely Island trio of Andy Samberg, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone for granted since I keep forgetting how much genius they share between them. Their last project, Hot Rod, is still a film I re-watch to this day, and Popstar dutifully continues that tradition. I've seen it four times since I first viewed it in theaters and, of course, I'll never stop never stop it. A hilarious script, charming performance from the trio, and original songs that oddly sound great enough to fit in with the pop scene. The genius is in how slightly off each of those songs are, to remind you of the parody. I mean, "Equal Rights" and "Finest Girl" are some of the most hilarious things I've heard in years.  3. Kubo and the Two Strings I was attached to Kubo from its very first trailer. Laika is one of the few studios keeping stop-motion animation alive, and luckily for all of us they're phenomenal at it. Kubo is their strongest offering to date with the story of the titular Kubo journeying across the world to find the pieces of a mystical suit of armor to fight the ghosts of his unknown past. It's got this mythical quality in its storytelling, so it's kind of like a new, yet familiar take on a fairy tale. Coupled with the previously mentioned crisp animation (which Laika makes more and more seamless with each film), great voice cast (including the likes of Rooney Mara and Charlize Theron), and stunning score. I've yet to hear a better version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." 2. The Nice Guys So this came out of nowhere, huh? Shane Black's unique perspective always yields a great film and The Nice Guys is no different. Ryan Gosling may get tons of attention for La La Land, but he had a much more nuanced performance in this film. He even seemed to have more fun bouncing off of Russell Crowe in Black's vibrant, violent version of the 1970s. This dark comedy was unique, full of tons of memorable scenes, and has my favorite finale of the year. That final shootout was fantastic. Black really has a handle on his scene geography so you never lose sight of where everyone is, yet there's still plenty of surprise. Too bad it's bound to ignored by virtually everyone.  1. Green Room For me, 2016 peaked early. Jeremy Saulnier's Green Room premiered in April and ever since then, I found myself watching films and thinking "Well that was good, but not as good as Green Room." It is just so f**king intense, man. The chilling, stoic viciousness of Patrick Stewart's performance, the unbelievably charming band, The Ain't Rights, at the center (with a fiery rendition of "Nazi Punks Fuck Off," which is sadly needed now more than ever), and top tier performances from Imogen Poots and the late, too f**king great, Anton Yelchin. When the world came crumbling down around these characters, it was so tense my mouth was wide open the entire time. A brutal knuckle drag of a film with an unapologetic, highly intelligent narrative bound to make you hate Nazis even more (if that were even possible, to be honest).  Green Room is pure gold, and my favorite film of 2016. 
Nick's Top 15  photo
2016 was rough, but the movies were good
2016 was full of all sorts of losses for me. My life went through a few unwelcome changes, we've got a crazy President now, and the general air was full of strife. But at least there were some good movies last year. The year ...

Every Power Rangers Theme Song, Ranked

Jan 22 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221220:43333:0[/embed] 20. Power Rangers Operation Overdrive (2007) Back when Disney owned the rights to Power Rangers, they made quite a bit of changes in order to reinvent it for their network. Punches and kicks were replaced by more lasers, explosions allegedly couldn't occur in front of the Rangers themselves, and they wanted to do a rap theme for some time. Unfortunately for all of us, their idea of rap was total garbage.  Highlighting the worst season of Power Rangers is faux-techno rap babble with the lyrics "There's treasures to be found, there's some lives to be saved, our planet to look after, there's a whole lot of space!" There's a whole lot of something, all right.  [embed]221220:43334:0[/embed] 19. Mighty Morphin' Alien Rangers (1996)  I wasn't originally going to count this, as the Alien Rangers arc is the capper of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers' final season and it's merely a copy of the OG theme with "alien rangers" in the lyrics, but you'll see in the next couple of entries this theme has a bit more effort in it than others.  I'm giving it credit for merely existing when it didn't need to. We didn't need a new theme, but it was nice to hear something different in preparation for the major reboot the series would go through a season later.  [embed]221220:43335:0[/embed] 18. Power Rangers Samurai (2011) / Power Rangers Super Samurai (2012) When Saban re-acquired the rights to Power Rangers (which fans have dubbed the "Neo-Saban"-era), they chose to reintroduce the series to kids on Nickelodeon with a remix of the show's original theme with the additional lyrics, "Rangers Together, Samurai Forever." But unlike the Alien Rangers theme, this remix is weak. I get the need to reintroduce the series' mythos to a new generation, but Saban missed the chance to highlight the show's obviously Japanese influences.  It's reflective of Saban's growing pains over the next few seasons that'll only get worse. Even worse is having the characters shout their names during the title sequence, treating kids like little idiots.  [embed]221220:43336:0[/embed] 17. Power Rangers Megaforce (2013) / Power Rangers Super Megaforce (2014) Megaforce was a worse season than Samurai in a lot of ways. Chiefly it's biggest disappointment was in how lazy of a show it was. It's exactly the same theme, complete with characters shouting their names during the credits, but it's just slightly better thanks to the first couple of seconds. With a season as lazy as this was, take what you can get.  [embed]221220:43337:0[/embed] 16. Power Rangers Mystic Force (2006) Just as Operation Overdrive somehow needed a rap in its theme song, Mystic Force was the first attempt at it. It's not a full-on trash rap, nor is it just a retread, but it's not an accomplishment by any means. This season was weak for a number of reasons, but the theme should've been the first indicator of its overall terribleness. [embed]221220:43354:0[/embed] 15. Power Rangers Jungle Fury (2008) Remember the band Metro Station? What about 3OH!3? Well, if either or those bands wrote a Power Rangers theme song it'd be whatever the hell this song is. Taking advantage of the faux-emo wave at the time is this piece of work which in no way suited a cool season of kung-fu Rangers.  Jungle Fury had a lot of great things going for it, but I could imagine this theme song turning kids away. It's just way too in your face with its awfulness.  [embed]221220:43338:0[/embed] 14. Power Rangers RPM (2009) Originally intended to be the final season of the series, as Disney got tired of spending money on it, RPM was a surprisingly mature story of the last bits of humanity fighting against machine apocalypse. Borrowing imagery from films like Mad Max and Terminator, this series was as awesome as Power Rangers has ever gotten...but the theme didn't tell you any of that. Other than some techno mess in the middle of it, this theme was a little too generic. All it's got to offer are a few "Power Rangers RPM, get in gear!" thrown in every now and again, and it's a letdown for what's arguably the best season of the series.  But it's not a rap song, so there's that.  [embed]221220:43341:0[/embed] 13. Power Rangers Wild Force (2002) Wild Force was basically a Power Rangers version of Captain Planet, as the Rangers fought against pollution and what not, so a boring season unfortunately got an equally boring theme song. There's nothing technically wrong with the song, it's just a little too loud and busy to really hit home. Accompanying animal roars, a tone that's constantly aggressive, with nothing sticking out to make it unique. The best seasons (as you'll read in a bit) have themes with distinguishing, memorable characteristics. Don't expect anyone to remember this.  [embed]221220:43340:0[/embed] 12. Power Rangers Ninja Storm (2003)  Ninja Storm's opening theme is about as forgettable as Wild Force's, but what makes it win over in the end is how unique it is. Matching its series' tone of extreme sports loving ninja masters is a chill rock song that helps play up the "Storm" in the series title. There still has yet to be a theme like it.  [embed]221220:43342:0[/embed] 11. Power Rangers Lost Galaxy (1999) Since Lost Galaxy was the first self-contained season of the series, not continuing the story started in MMPR, it needed a theme that sounded wholly different than what had come before. And it got that...for the first thirty seconds or so. As the first opening theme of the series not composed by Ron Wasserman (who's credits include MMPR through In Space and the Mummies Alive! opening theme), it's different enough to stand out yet feels similar enough to themes before. But after the great "ahhhhhhhh," it starts feeling repetitive. Granted all of these themes are repetitive, but this one really lets down its grandiose beginning.  [embed]221220:43343:0[/embed] 10.  Power Rangers Ninja Steel (2017) Since this season just premiered it might be a bit too soon to have the opening theme crack the top ten, but it's pretty dang good. It's the opening few seconds that really drive the point home. While I'm not sure if the series will live up to the Asian influences the theme presents, it already seems much different than seasons before. Coupled with a remix of the original theme (in order to keep building the mythos, as mentioned) thrown in for good measure, and I'm pretty stricken with it.  [embed]221220:43344:0[/embed] 9. Power Rangers Turbo (1997) As the only season of the series to premiere with a movie, Turbo didn't have to do much. The season itself had a ton of problems, but its theme has the best final seconds of any season. While the full version of this theme breaches hilariously bad territory (complete with a car starting up for the first 20 seconds), the show's 30 second cut was amazing. It's surprising the series never returned to 30 second themes, but it at least helped Turbo.  [embed]221220:43346:0[/embed] 8. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue (2000) I don't know why, but Lightspeed Rescue has the one theme I found myself singing the most as a kid. Like Lost Galaxy, the second half doesn't have as much to offer as the first but I prefer the lyrics here than in most of the other themes. It's goofy, but in a series about an emergency rescue team of Rangers, the lyrics "the signal is calling, our planet is falling, the danger will test you, better make it Lightspeed Rescue!" are just hype.  [embed]221220:43345:0[/embed] 7. Power Rangers Zeo (1996) Zeo marked a lot of first for the series. It was the first reboot, it was the first time the Rangers had wholly new suits and powers, and it was the first real season to change the theme. Thankfully, it delivered on everything it was supposed to. With lyrics like "stronger than before" and "powered up for more," mixed it with the standard "Go Go Power Rangers!" you really got the idea that these new powers were different, better maybe.  [embed]221220:43347:0[/embed] 6. Power Rangers Dino Charge (2015) / Power Rangers Dino Super Charge (2016) Speaking of remixes, Saban wouldn't get it right until much much later with Dino Charge. The first good season of the Neo-Saban era, Dino Charge burst out of the gate with a theme sounding like an original until it reminded you that it's a remix of the original song. If Power Rangers could've been reintroduced with this series, this opening theme, than it be a much bigger hit for Nickelodeon than it is now. There's something about dinosaur themes that really makes Power Rangers pop.  [embed]221220:43350:0[/embed] 5. Power Rangers In Space (1998) Just as how RPM was intended to be the final season of the series years later, In Space was initially planned to be the final season before doing well enough in the ratings thanks to its space opera narrative. This theme may have an atonal quality to its lyrics, but the opening countdown has always set it apart in my mind. As the final theme (at the time) composed by Ron Wasserman, it has a ton going for it. The final half, while admittedly as repetitive as other themes on this list, is too hype to pass up. I think the "go go go fly!" always does me in, haha.  [embed]221220:43352:0[/embed] 4. Power Rangers Time Force (2001)  Time Force was a much better season than it got credit for. It was right around the time less kids paid attention to it as we were all starting to grow out of waking up early on Saturdays, but it had so much good in it. The actors were all great (most of them having had experience in film and TV beforehand, which is sadly notable for this series), the premise was great (time patrollers fighting mutants), and it had a memorable theme song. The guitar solo here was the best in a long time and it's better than a lot that came after it. Just like how In Space has a line that does me in, here it's "timeless wonders, fire and thunder, all to save the world." It's goofy when written out, but trust me on this.  [embed]221220:43351:0[/embed] 3. Power Rangers Dino Thunder (2004) As I'm sure you've guessed, Power Rangers has gone through tons of reinventions and new beginnings in order to keep kids entertained. Disney bought the rights to the series mid-Wild Force, but it wasn't until after Ninja Storm that Disney had their own take on the series. To go along with another dinosaur themed team of Rangers, the series also tried to bring back old fans with Jason David Frank, an evil Ranger storyline, and most importantly, a kick-ass rock theme song. This theme is probably the closest to an actual "song" in the entire series, and it's the one theme that's most fit for a sing along. With the strongest lyrics of the entire series, this theme song is only beaten by musical greats. [embed]221220:43349:0[/embed] 2. Power Rangers S.P.D. (2005) Although Ron Wasserman composed a few demos during the Disney era, only one of them really made it to the actual show. Thankfully, it was the best one. The only theme on this list to highlight percussion rather than guitar riffs made it stand out for a number of reasons. It's entirely strong throughout with a kick-ass opening and a final ten seconds which elevate it over the other seasons' themes. It'd be the best overall if not for the final entry on this list.  [embed]221220:43353:0[/embed] 1. Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (1993-1995) C'mon, like I was going to put something else here. I'd be lying to myself, and you, if I didn't pay tribute to the original. It's the theme everyone remembers for a reason. With a harder rock composition than kids deserved, it treated this new series with an awesome reverence that would sadly never get matched again.   They just don't make theme songs like this for kids anymore. 
Power Rangers Themes photo
Go Go
Pop culture is full of different kinds of media, but the ones with the most lasting power all do a very important thing: build mythos. "Mythos" is essentially a group of ideas uniquely tied to a premise. Power Rangers has man...

Logan Trailer photo
I'm so ready for this
We were all stricken by the first Logan trailer for its gritty setting, somber tone, and older Logan, and it looks like the second trailer delivers that even more so. The third, and final, Wolverine film follows Logan as he s...

Power Rangers photo
Everything and the kitchen sink
This newest trailer for Power Rangers has everything, and I mean everything, you probably we wanted to see. We see the new Command Center, Zordon, Alpha, we see the suits in action, zords, Rita Repulsa, the Megazord, and pret...


Chips Trailer photo
Chips Trailer

First trailer for the CHiPs remake is pretty bad


Jump Street this isn't
Jan 12
// Nick Valdez
Joining shows getting remade for the screen like The A-Team, 21 Jump Street, and Baywatch, is CHiPs, a show practically everyone forgot about. And like 21 Jump Street, this new Chips is trying to be a goofy buddy comedy that ...
Justice League photo
Justice League

Newest Justice League photo shows off the team


Gal Gadot and a bunch of cosplayers
Jan 09
// Nick Valdez
Did anyone else forget Justice League was coming out this year? I totally did. 2016 was such a weird year, it feels like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was released forever ago. But as teased in both BvS, Suicide Squad an...
Beauty and the Beast photo
Beauty and the Beast

Newest Beauty and the Beast clip finally features singing


All in
Jan 09
// Nick Valdez
I've been looking forward to Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast remake for a while now, and despite a funky looking Beast, every bit of footage we've seen has been fantastic. But Disney has smartly held off the film's ...

Here are your 2017 Golden Globes winners

Jan 09 // Nick Valdez
Best Supporting Actor in Any Motion Picture Mahershala Ali, MoonlightJeff Bridges, Hell or High WaterSimon Helberg, Florence Foster JenkinsDev Patel, LionAaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals Best Actor in a TV Series - Drama Rami Malek, Mr. RobotBob Odenkirk, Better Call SaulMatthew Rhys, The AmericansLiev Schreiber, Ray DonovanBilly Bob Thornton, Goliath Best Actress in a TV Series - Musical or Comedy Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-GirlfriendJulia Louis-Dreyfus, VeepSarah Jessica Parker, DivorceIssa Rae, InsecureGina Rodriguez, Jane the VirginTracee Ellis Ross, Black-ish Best Television Series - Musical or Comedy AtlantaBlack-ishMozart in the JungleTransparentVeep Best Actress in a Limited Series  Felicity Huffman, American CrimeRiley Keough, The Girlfriend ExperienceSarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryCharlotte Rampling, London SpyKerry Washington, Confirmation Best Limited Series American CrimeThe DresserThe Night ManagerThe Night OfThe People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series Sterling K. Brown, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime StoryHugh Laurie, The Night ManagerJohn Lithgow, The CrownChristian Slater, Mr. RobotJohn Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Original Score - Motion Picture MoonlightLa La LandArrivalLionHidden Figures Best Original Song - Motion Picture “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls“City of Stars,” La La Land“Faith,” Sing“Gold,” Gold“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Viola Davis, FencesNaomie Harris, MoonlightNicole Kidman, LionOctavia Spencer, Hidden FiguresMichelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series Olivia Colman, The Night ManagerLena Headey, Game of ThronesChrissy Metz, This Is UsMandy Moore, This Is UsThandie Newton, Westworld Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy Colin Farrell, The LobsterRyan Gosling, La La LandHugh Grant, Florence Foster JenkinsJonah Hill, War DogsRyan Reynolds, Deadpool Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Damien Chazelle, La La LandTom Ford, Nocturnal AnimalsBarry Jenkins, MoonlightKenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the SeaTaylor Sheridan, Hell or High Water Best Animated Picture Kubo and the Two StringsMoanaMy Life as a ZucchiniSingZootopia Best Foreign Language Picture Divines (France)ElleNerudaThe SalesmanToni Erdmann Best Actor in a Limited Series Riz Ahmed, The Night OfBryan Cranston, All the WayTom Hiddleston, The Night ManagerJohn Turturro, The Night OfCourtney B. Vance, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Best Actress in a TV Series - Drama Caitriona Balfe, OutlanderClaire Foy, The CrownKeri Russell, The AmericansWinona Ryder, Stranger ThingsEvan Rachel Wood, Westworld Best TV Series - Drama The CrownGame of ThronesStranger ThingsThis Is UsWestworld Best Director - Motion Picture  Damien Chazelle, La La LandTom Ford, Nocturnal AnimalsMel Gibson, Hacksaw RidgeBarry Jenkins, MoonlightKenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea Best Actor in a TV Series - Musical or Comedy Anthony Anderson, Black-ishGael García Bernal, Mozart in the JungleDonald Glover, AtlantaNick Nolte, GravesJeffrey Tambor, Transparent Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Annette Bening, 20th Century WomenLily Collins, Rules Don’t ApplyHailee Steinfeld, The Edge of SeventeenEmma Stone, La La LandMeryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins Best Picture - Musical or Comedy 20th Century WomenDeadpoolFlorence Foster JenkinsLa La LandSing Street Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Casey Affleck, Manchester by the SeaJoel Edgerton, LovingAndrew Garfield, Hacksaw RidgeViggo Mortensen, Captain FantasticDenzel Washington, Fences Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Amy Adams, ArrivalJessica Chastain, Miss SloaneIsabelle Huppert, ElleRuth Negga, LovingNatalie Portman, Jackie Best Picture - Drama Hacksaw RidgeHell or High WaterLionManchester by the SeaMoonlight
Golden Globes 2017 photo
Queens, record breaks, and hidden fences
The Golden Globes were a weird sight last night. Technical flubs (which made Fallon awkwardly flail on stage until he mercifully shuffled away), Hidden Figures and Fences wrongly labeled as "Hidden Fences" (which reveals a wh...

Rings Trailer photo
Rings Trailer

Newest trailer for Rings reminds you it exists


'Cause I got a really big team'
Jan 05
// Nick Valdez
Naturally when a film gets hit with numerous delays it's easy to assume the final product is subpar. Couple that with a bump from last October to February, and Rings already has a lot working against it. It's a sequel no one ...
Child's Play photo
Child's Play

There's a new Child's Play in the works for some reason


For Blu-ray and DVD
Jan 05
// Nick Valdez
For those not too in the know, the Child's Play series has been keeping a single story alive for 30 years now. For some reason I don't completely comprehend, Chucky has been a horror icon to many and a joke to more. But regar...

Review: The Autopsy of Jane Doe

Dec 25 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221155:43293:0[/embed] The Autopsy of Jane DoeDirector: André ØvredalRelease Date: December 21, 2016 (limited theaters and VOD) Rating: R The Autopsy of Jane Doe follows father and son pathologists, Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) Tilden operating out of their family owned morgue. When the body of an unidentified young woman (Olwen Kelly) is found, the two must figure out the mysterious circumstances behind her death. But as the autopsy rolls on, strange things begin happening and the Tildens find themselves struggling to escape the mortuary with their lives. This simple premise is what makes Autopsy work as well as it does. It's a tightly focused feature never losing sight of its central mystery. I'm going to try my best not to divulge the film's mystery, but honestly, the film isn't even about the reveal. It's all in the build-up. The entire film is built around this idea of confinement, and that's reflected in the film's editing and set design.  From the opening, there's a keen sense of dread permeating throughout the film. The inspired choices like an aged mortuary building (enhanced by a lack of natural light thanks to Autopsy taking place late at night), to the casting of Jane Doe herself, help make the audience uncomfortable. Taking something as inherently disturbing as a medical procedure is made doubly so thanks to quick cuts to Jane's face every time one of the Tilden's makes an incision. Thanks to these close ups, the autopsy becomes more like a creepy surgery that permeates with dramatic irony as the audience becomes more suspicious of Jane than the characters. There's also a refreshing flow to how much of Jane's mystery is revealed at a time. By halfway through, you already know most of what is necessary to move the plot forward without going overboard. Unfortunately, since the film's effort is put into Jane Doe, the Tildens get less development as a result.  There are some hints of tension between Austin and his father, but that's more credited to Hirsch's and Cox's performances than to any character building. Due to the film's tight focus and short time, there isn't much room in the narrative for anything other than the mystery. Even as the Tildens fear for their lives, I found myself lacking the necessary wherewithal to care whether or not they actually survived. Because of this, the film lacks tension once Jane Doe's origins are revealed. Since so much effort is put into its buildup, there sadly isn't enough effort left over for the denouement. In fact, the finale even goes on for a bit longer than it should. There's a particular scene toward the end that would've made for a perfect finale, but seeing Autopsy go beyond it lessened my enjoyment overall. I guess it's more of a sense of disappointment given how well Autopsy had edited itself to that point. But on the other hand, I do appreciate the uniqueness of The Autopsy of Jane Doe. While there are some ideas I would've liked to see the film explore further (especially when it teases metaphysical horror, which is something lacking from most current offerings in the genre), and I would've appreciated a better grasp on character, the film sets out to tell a certain story and competently does it.  The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a focused, chilling thriller that you should check out before you start writing your end of the year lists. 
Jane Doe Review photo
Doe-n't miss this one
Every year I wind up missing a good deal of films as their advertising end up swallowed by the huge hype machines of bigger studio releases. But the true gems make themselves known somehow. Usually it's through word of mouth,...

Alien: Covenant photo
Uh...Merry Christmas?
If you can spare a few minutes away from your family today, you should check out the first Red Band trailer for Alien: Covenant. Ridley Scott's Prometheus wasn't received too well, so it looks like Scott wants to rectify that...

Review: Assassin's Creed

Dec 21 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221143:43283:0[/embed] Assassin's CreedDirectors: Justin KurzelRelease Date: December 21, 2016Rating: PG-13 After being executed in a Texas prison, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is held under the control of the Abstergo Foundation, a company that wants to "end violence." His caretaker, Sofia (Marion Cotillard), explains one of his ancestors was an assassin in 1400s Spain (named Aguilar) and wants to use his memories to help Abstergo locate the Apple of Eden, a magical macguffin that would eliminate free will. Lynch is then plugged into the Animus, a machine that allows Lynch to live his ancestor Aguilar's life and gain his abilities. As more of Abstergo's plot comes to light, Lynch has to decide whether or not to carry on the creed of an ancient assassin's group and fight the coming evil.   As you can most likely gauge from the synopsis, there's a lot going on in Assassin's Creed. Like its smooth action scenes, the film's plot and premise move along with a breakneck pace. There's a bit of plot-specific terminology thrown into the film's dialogue, but it never rests enough within its character interactions for these terms to make sense. It's almost as if the film expects its audience to be familiar with the game series, so cool ideas like The Templars and the Creed don't have enough development. Despite the film running over two hours, things just kind of "happen" and often don't get enough follow through to make sense. Which is even more of a shame since the premise does inherently have a religion versus science debate in the root of it all.  But the film does succeed when it takes the time to develop its world.  If you're a fan of the videogame series, you'll be glad to know Assassin's Creed translates one of the series' core elements, the Animus, extremely well. Lynch plugging into the Animus leads to some of the coolest scenes in the film as the machine translates Aguilar's flashly assassin movements in real time. Cutting back to Lynch every few minutes during the film's well choreographed fights may get annoying later on as they take you out of the action, but it's still an initially intriguing and distinct look only capable here. That's also because the film took a moment to establish the Animus which is, as mentioned earlier, a luxury only briefly afforded. But although most of the story is a befuddling mess, it's visually appealing. Andalucia in 1492 is an incredible display of set and costume design, which makes its short time in the film even more egregious. When not covered in a notable amount in dust storms, Assassin's Creed spends the bulk of its time in yet another in a long line of plain, white science fiction sets.  Director Kurziel also films some impressive battle scenes. Although the point-of-view sometimes get lost in the fight choreography (as Kurziel at times can't fully grasp the geography of the setting), they flow well and incorporate many tactics and weapons (which is reminiscent of the game series, also). But Assassin's Creed doesn't have much going on for it beyond its look. Fassbender is, undoubtedly, the standout but even he struggles with the film's script. Failing to give Lynch's words the proper amount of weight as the film speeds on, Fassbender is just trying his best to push on. His scenes with Cotillard's Sofia are also a highlight, but that's only because he has Cotillard's near-deadpan delivery to bounce off of. In fact, you could've scrapped the bulk of Abstergo-set scenes altogether and the film would've been a triumph. Aguilar's romps through a mid-Inquisition Spain are the best the film has to offer, but there's never enough time to develop either Aguilar or Lynch to make any of this matter.  In a film where a man defies the laws of time and space, time is ironically Assassin's Creed's biggest enemy. A lack of time spent with its characters, lack of time spent with its ideas, and lack of follow through muddy the film's experience. In fact, the film seems to only want to translate the videogame series to film without caring whether or not it succeeds as a film. Much like direct to home video videogame adaptations like Dead or Alive and Tekken, Assassin's Creed captures the spirit of the videogame series but won't have the appeal for those outside of its fan base.  Assassin's Creed is such a good videogame adaptation, hilariously enough, it already expects to come back for yearly outings. 
Assassin's Creed Review photo
With flaws wide open
Assassin's Creed has been in the works for a long time. The videogame series' developer Ubisoft has been trying to get the project off the ground since 2011, but was marred with production and release date delays. When Michae...

Gotham City Sirens photo
Gotham City Sirens

Margot Robbie, Davie Ayer re-teaming for all female DC movie, Gotham City Sirens


Hope the Birds of Prey come along too
Dec 14
// Nick Valdez
We got wind of Margot Robbie spearheading a solo Harley Quinn film before Suicide Squad even hit theaters, but luckily for us that mess didn't hurt Robbie's chances. According to The Hollywood Reporter, David Ayer will be pro...
Spider-Man Trailer photo
Here comes Marvel's Spider-Man
After his debut in Captain America: Civil War, we've all been itching to see more of Tom Holland's take on Spider-Man. Being an unprecedented co-operative effort from Sony and Marvel, we're finally going to see what Marvel wa...

Baywatch photo
Those ABS
I'm not sure anyone was actually looking forward to the Baywatch movie. We heard Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron signed on to star, but it wasn't on anyone's radar until now. This first trailer for the upcoming reboot actually g...

Sega Films and TV photo
Sega Films and TV

Walking Dead producers working on Streets of Rage, Altered Beast adaptations


Part of Sega's major film and TV push
Dec 06
// Nick Valdez
Sega and Stories International announced plans to adapt more than 40 Sega properties (including the likes of Golden Axe and Crazy Taxi) a few years ago, but we haven't heard many rumblings until this year with films...
Trans-five-mers photo
I'm so confused, man
Well, that was certainly something. Not content to leave the series as he claimed, Michael Bay has returned to direct Transformers: The Last Knight, a movie featuring a very serious plot about very serious things. But will al...

Detective Pikachu photo
Detective Pikachu

Detective Pikachu movie catches a director


Still holding out hope for Danny Devito
Dec 01
// Nick Valdez
After a secret, yet massive bidding war, Legendary won the rights to produce a Pokemon related film. So they began moving forward with an adaptation of Great Detective Pikachu, a CG/live-action hybrid where a talking Pikachu ...
Moana  photo
Moana

Watch the fantastic "You're Welcome" from Disney's Moana


Thank you indeed
Nov 29
// Nick Valdez
If you didn't get to catch Disney's newest dynamo Moana over the Thanksgiving holiday, Disney has helpfully (and awesomely) given a little preview. Although I didn't get to gush about it as much as I wanted to in our review, ...

Review: Moana

Nov 23 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221047:43203:0[/embed] MoanaDirectors: John Musker and Ron ClementsRelease Date: November 23, 2016Rating: PG Moana follows the titular Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), a teenager who's always dreamed of traveling the seas beyond her island village, but is next in line for village chieftain and must stay home. When darkness begins rotting away her home, brought on when the demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) steals the heart of the ancient goddess Te Fiti, Moana must journey across the sea, find Maui and ask him for help, and return the Heart of Te Fiti from where it came. From its core, Moana is much different from Disney's other princess films. Choosing instead to follow Moana on a hero's journey, rather than a quest for love, the film allows for individual character development thanks to its simplicity. While this simplicity may mirror Disney's previous films a bit too much, it is honestly what makes Moana work as well as it does.  Directors Musker and Clements have experience creating lasting Disney legacies with the two of them directing hits like The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and The Great Mouse Detective. Basically, these two are responsible for a good deal of your favorite Disney moments and it's the same with Moana. The film may share too many structural similarities with previous films because of their choices, but it's also sure to make up for that simplicity with a complex emotional through line and culture. It's what previous Disney Princess films had lacked, and it's what Frozen experimented with. With a simplified tale, the film allows the characters to add layers of depth. Instead of growing as a character in relation to another person, i.e when Ariel changes herself for Prince Eric, for example, Moana's tale is all about self-improvement. It's not complicated with extraneous plot like a third act twist villain or jokes from a cartoon sidekick, Moana instead sticks to its heart with its two central characters and builds everything around them.  Being a character first type of fairy tale, Moana trusts in its two stars to make it work. Thankfully, Dwayne Johnson and the awesomely talented newcomer, Auli’i Cravalho more than hold their own. Johnson as Maui is energetic and as charming as he ever is, but, coupled with Maui's slightly mischievous character design, now has a slight edge missing from some of Johnson's work. His song, "You're Welcome" is also fantastic. His single is definitely a standout with a blend of humor and musicality. But I don't think I'll ever be able to fully express how impressed I am by the young Auli’i Cravalho. You would never be able to tell, but as her first major starring role, Cravalho is an absolute delight. Once again marrying character design and performance, Cravalho makes Moana a believable kid. Moana is astonishingly the first Disney Princess to act like an actual young girl. She's awkward sometimes, but has an endearing moxie that characterized classic princesses like Mulan, Ariel, and Tiana. But unlike the other Princesses, Moana is allowed to have non-romantic flaws.  You're probably a bit worried since I keep comparing Moana to previous films, but it's entirely intentional. Musker and Clements intended to recapture the spirit of the 2D films. Every part of its production fully embraces nostalgia, while making sure to change enough to keep the film from repeating the past too much. Thanks to the phenomenal soundtrack from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Opetaia Foa'i, and Mark Mancina, every scene has just a bit more punch. The opening, for example, is kind of incredible. As the film introduces its setting and unique culture (as the Oceanic island culture is far more three dimensional than cultures seen in films past), its punctuated by an incredible chant-like song mirroring The Lion King's now prolific opening. While I'm not sure if its lead single's, "How Far I'll Go," contemporary style will outlast the Broadway appeal of its predecessor, it's still heart-opening. Jemaine Clement's surprise song performance is pretty great too, as it plays to his creepy wheelhouse. Also, the most beautiful song and performance overall is the ancestor song. I don't want to spoil it, but just trust that it's fantastic. But none of this character work or music would succeed without Moana's unbelievable visuals. Moana has Disney's most exemplary animation to date with its luscious landscape and gorgeous ocean animations. The setting itself is a main character, and somehow feels fantasical yet attainable. It's an island paradise capturing the mythical nature of its fairy tale, but also looks grounded enough to exist in our world. There's no skirting the Pacific Islander culture here, unlike the other Princess' films dilution of ethnicity. The character body design is diverse, with Moana herself looking less plastic and moving more fluidly than humans seen in Tangled or Frozen. Thanks to its full embrace of what makes it different, the story's complex emotion and culture seem simplistic. See? Full circle. It's simplicity by design. Blending its depth so well and sneaking in character development through song, I didn't realize how much I had experienced until I started writing this review. The only real problem I had with Moana overall was how some of its contemporary jokes and song arrangements (There's a Twitter reference and other meta jokes) betray the timeless quality of its setting, but honestly it's not that big of a deal. Moana is definitely one of the better theatrical experiences of 2016, and in a year full of strife, it's what we need right now.  Its nostalgic quality may turn some off of Moana, but the film is still incredibly fresh despite these parallels to the past. It's a Disney Princess film taking the successes of the past, fixes their problems, and injects a breath of life into Disney they haven't had for quite some time. Moana is for the child in you, your children, and even their children. And who knows? Moana may just go down as a "classic" years down the line. 
Moana Review photo
Hawaiian roller coaster ride
Disney Animation has had one critical success after another since they're in the middle of a new creative renaissance. Fully embracing CG animation, Disney has produced hits like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Zootopia, and most im...

Cars 3 photo
Cars 3

This Cars 3 teaser trailer is short and awesome


It looks...good?
Nov 21
// Nick Valdez
Cars is overall the worst Pixar series to date, but maybe Pixar is pulling a Toy Story 3 with the third film? This teaser trailer for Cars 3 is short, but it hits quite harder than I'd expect. It's already better than the first two, but I'm waiting for the comedy shoe to drop.  Cars 3 releases June 16th next year. 
Kong: Skull Island photo
Kong: Skull Island

Watch the final Kong: Skull Island trailer for sweet giant monkey action


"No. It's pretty big, I guess..."
Nov 17
// Nick Valdez
With King Kong and Godzilla set to fight in 2020, Kong: Skull Island has to do quite a bit to set up Kong as a threat to to not only Godzilla, but nature itself. With this final trailer for the upcoming reboot/prequel, we're ...
Ghost in the Shell photo
Major-ly cool
Ghost in the Shell is shaping up to be an interesting project. An adaptation of Mamamune Shirow's manga, Ghost in the Shell stars Scarlett Johansson as Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg policewoman who must help stop the latest...

YJ S3 photo
YJ S3

Young Justice returning for a third season


Nov 08
// Nick Valdez
For what is truly a victory for fans after years of online support, WB Animation has confirmed that Young Justice is indeed returning for a season three. The series ran from 2010-2013, as part of Cartoon Network's DC Nation b...
Voltron Live-Action photo
Voltron Live-Action

Universal working on live-action Voltron film


(still)
Nov 05
// Nick Valdez
Studios have wanted a live-action Voltron reboot for some time. Before being bought by Universal, Dreamworks Animation had been chugging away at a script for years. But now after their mild success from the Netflix show, Volt...
The Simpsons photo
The Simpsons

The Simpsons renewed for record breaking 30th season


Even I've got a limit
Nov 05
// Nick Valdez
From Season 13, episode 17, the clip show "Gump Roast":    Ullman shorts, Christmas show,Marge's fling, Homer's bro,Bart in well, Flanders fails,Whacking Snakes, Monorail,Mr. Plow, Homer sp...
LEGO Batman Movie photo
LEGO Batman Movie

Newest LEGO Batman Movie trailer is full of heart and clown snakes


Best bat yet, really
Nov 05
// Nick Valdez
The LEGO Movie was a revelation when it hit theaters two years ago. A fun film with a hearty message, it featured a breakout performance from Will Arnett's Batman. Now with a spin-off set in motion, we haven't heard much of t...
Power Rangers photo
Power Rangers

The Power Rangers reboot Megazord is a f**king mess


ugh
Nov 05
// Nick Valdez
The upcoming Power Rangers reboot may be releasing in five months, but we've only been shown one tiny teaser for it. When pressed about new footage at the NYCC panel, director Dean Isrealite stated they were saving a lot of t...

Review: Pokemon: The First Movie

Nov 03 // Nick Valdez
[embed]221011:43182:0[/embed] Pokemon: The First MovieDirectors: Kunihiko Yuyama and Michael HaigneyRating: GRelease Date: November 6, 1999 (USA); November 1, 2016 (special event re-release) When a group of scientists sucessfully clone an ancient pokemon known as Mew, the resulting super pokemon breaks loose and wreaks havoc. The super clone, Mewtwo (Philip Bartlett), now in search of a purpose, invites the strongest pokemon trainers to a mysterious island to battle him. Ash Ketchum (Veronica Taylor), together with his friends Misty (Rachael Lillis), Brock (Eric Stuart), and Pikachu, meet Mewtwo's challenge and soon figure out there's more to this pokemon than they realized.  First things first, The First Movie is incredibly brisk. Choosing not to overstay its welcome (if you don't include the Pikachu's Island Adventure short), it instead tightly focuses on developing its central antagonist. Mewtwo themself is well defined with a clear existential crisis (as they try to clear the clouds of their mind, not so subtly represented by the storm they whip up with their powers), and it's a greater deal of characterization than anyone else gets in the film. It's such a well put together back story, in fact, it's surprising The First Movie is able to explore as much thematic territory as it does. It ends up questioning the philosophy behind the Pokémon series in full as it briefly challenges the "fighting vs. battling" argument within the Poké world. The film doesn't get as deep as I would've hoped, as the argument gives way to a hokey climax, but this amount of self-awareness is impressive for a children's film.  The laser focus on Mewtwo may help the film's pace within its short run time (as it rarely goes on tangents), but it's hard to care about anyone else involved with the plot since they fail to get the same attention. Since the film assumes the audience has working knowledge of the Pokémon TV series, and it's a fair assumption given the branding, Ash and his friends (along with Team Rocket, introduced into the plot in a Rosencrantz/Gildenstern, outsider looking in fashion) don't really have a reason to be involved. Their usual schtick of wandering into a plot in motion may work for a TV series needing a fresh story every week, but it falls flat here. Along with introducing seemingly important ancillary characters (like the kidnapped Nurse Joy or the random lady who knows storms or something) only to serve no purpose, The First Movie fails to turn Ash into a compelling protagonist.  With no real personality of his own, Ash instead becomes a moral mouthpiece. His base love for his pokemon is exaggerated into a love for everything and grand declarations of peace. It's a far cry from an Ash who, just minutes before, was willing to pit his pokemon against Mewtwo. The First Movie betrays its emotional themes with its own world, really. It's greater desire to stop senseless violence goes against everything Pokémon is known for. So it's okay to use your pokemon to fight when they use their abilities? Since there's never a clear difference between how Mewtwo forces a fight and how trainers could force a fight, the overall moral is clouded. Rather than focus on, say, the friendship between trainers and their pokes (thus enhancing its narrative overall), the film goes with a generic message. It almost feels like a cop out.  But in the end, Pokémon: The First Movie makes up for its shortcomings with pure entertainment value. Once you get passed the cheesy dialogue (complete with puns and jokes that didn't age well in the slightest) and the murky themes (which I give the film credit for attempting), there are plenty of rewards in store. A well written antagonist, slick animation, and a score that includes the ironically lovable "Brother Against Brother" song.  No matter what score I put here, it literally doesn't matter. You love it, you hate it, you already had an opinion 18 years in the making. But it was great to confirm that I liked a good thing back then, instead of figuring out yet another product from my childhood was hot garbage. My critic brain may settle on "Good," but my nostalgic one adds about 30 points. 
Pokemon The First Movie photo
"...and we succeeded"
One weekend, too many years ago, I spent a night over at my aunt's place. She didn't have cable, but she had a VCR. Which meant I could watch any movie I brought with me when I was bored of doing dumb kid stuff. Not thinking ...


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