Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Kubo and the Two Strings

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Kubo and the Two Strings (Focus Features)

kubo-and-the-two-strings poster

Directed by Travis Knight

Written by Marc Haimes, Chris Butler and Shannon Tindle

Starring Charlize TheronArt ParkinsonRalph FiennesRooney MaraGeorge Takei & Matthew McConaughey

What a fantastic movie. Kubo and the Two Strings is the tale of a young guitar player & storyteller and his epic adventure to find the end of his own heroic story. I loved this movie so much. It is lyrical like an epic poem and melancholic like an ancient sonnet. And although sometimes its need for comedy can hamper the melody, it’s not enough to ruin the music. And this movie, good god, this movie has everything. A kid with a huge chip on his shoulder, who likes to tell stories and play his guitar for passing strangers, while dreaming of one day being a god. Throw in a mentally ill mom and a tall-tale about his father, and it makes me have to ask, Who the hell’s been reading my diary? But I’ll say it again, this is a fantastic movie.

Verdict: SPARED


Kubo wears that guitar like a Katana across his back. Kubo is Japanese for bad-ass.

Kubo & the Two Strings is a tale about family & honor. It’s a fable about love & courage. It’s a story about memory & redemption. But at its core, it’s a meditation about loss and about vision. It is wonderful.


Paper Samurai is gonna give you a nasty paper cut. You will respect.

Kubo is a young busker, blind in one eye but skilled at the art of story-telling. And blessed with an origami magic he inherited from his mentally disturbed mother. He collects coins he earns from playing his guitar and spinning his stories at the marketplace by day. While at night he hides in his mountain cave… from the moon.


Kubo’s mom wailing out. (voiced by Charlize Theron)

This is just the beginning of what turns out to be an epic tale full of heroes and villains and love and adventure and sacrifice and discovery and I would surely throw the kid a few coins because this boy can tell a story. Kubo and the Two Strings is well-worth the price of admission.


Villainous twin sisters (voiced by Rooney Mara)

The animation is a gorgeous combination of stop-motion and conventional artwork. The music is amazing. A beautiful, sparse, traditional Japanese music that creates a reverence for its morality tale. Even the end credits song, a Regina Spektor version of George Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, is fucking incredible in its instrumentation and that same traditional Japanese lyrical beauty. The movie is gorgeous to watch and gorgeous to hear.


Kubo, he’s a born showman. (voiced by Art Parkinson)

Kubo is perfect. The story. The voice acting. The music. The animation. An amazing movie from top to bottom. With a lovely moral center. Not too sweet. Not too childish. A work of fine art to be displayed in the museum of animation. Is there a museum of animation? If not, somebody please build one so we can put this damn movie in it.


Beetle (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) has taken offense at something I said. Whatever it was, I take it back.

Kubo is definitely the best animated film I have seen from last year. But granted, I haven’t seen them all yet. However, Kubo and the Two Strings (…and oh my god, the title is so powerful. So perfect. So bad-ass.) Kubo and those mother fucking Two Strings will be a hard one to beat.

– Mel


5 Quick Reviews of 5 Movies on DVD (Bad Movie Edition)

So sure. I’m calling this a Bad Movie Edition of my 5 Quick Reviews series but it’s more of a Sci-fi Fantasy Edition or a Five Movies That Are Bad But You’ll Probably Still Check Them Out Edition.

The Queens

“Did you hear that, sister? Mel wants us to check them out.” “Why aren’t you dead?”

This is a strange quintet. All five films could be considered sequels or part of a series. They all have great casting. But every single one has a fatal flaw. So maybe I should have called this the Fatal Flawed Movie Edition.


“I’ll show YOU a fatal flaw.”

But to tell you the truth, I’ve been so busy, I didn’t give it much thought. I have so many reviews on my hard-drive. I’m so far behind. I didn’t even bother to give you a recrap of these movies. Recrap is my own word. It’s when you try to do a recap of a shitty movie like it was good. Recrap. So this is the phoning it in edition. Yes! That’s it. All five directors knew, going in, that they had an audience because fans of the source material were already going to see these films. So they phoned it in.

And so did I…

This is the Phoning It In Edition.

(but honestly I’m too indifferent to get up the energy to even change the title)

To the reviews…

X-Men: Apocalypse (20th Century Fox)

X-Men Apocalypse

Directed by Bryan Singer

Written by Simon Kinberg and Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris  Based on X-Men by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

Starring James McAvoyMichael FassbenderJennifer LawrenceOscar IsaacNicholas HoultRose ByrneEvan PetersTye SheridanSophie Turner & Olivia Munn

Wow! what a bad movie. Bad writing and bad directing. There’s really nothing more I can say. A disappointing display. People knock the X-Men original series but all three are better than this piece of shit. X-Men Apocalypse is awful.

X-men Apocalypse Cerebro

Love this cast. Honestly, what a group. With the welcome addition of two of my favorite young actresses; Olivia Munn and Sophie Turner. There is nothing wrong with the cast. But that’s the only thing good here. The rest is shit.

Cyclops and Jean Grey from X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse is the worst X-Men movie ever made. It is horrible in every way imaginable. This stellar cast deserved a lot better than this.

Skip it.


Allegiant (Summit Entertainment)


Directed by Robert Schwentke

Written by Stephen Chbosky, Bill Collage, Adam Coper & Noah Oppenheim  Based on Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Starring Shailene WoodleyTheo JamesJeff DanielsOctavia SpencerRay StevensonZoë KravitzMiles TellerAnsel ElgortMaggie QBill Skarsgård & Naomi Watts

These movies are pointless but this one has some decent tech and an interesting story. I’m guessing these are better books. Allegiant is better than the second one at least but the whole idea of factions was what made the first one just a little more interesting even though it was just as bad as the next two. Am I making any sense? It’s bad. Okay?


I’m glad it’s over. It’s over right? Tell me it’s over. I also have a strange observation. I like the actress, Shailene Woodley, but her body grew up and her face did not. She looks like a baby head on a grown woman. The body of a thirty year old well-fit woman and the head of a toddler. It’s disconcerting.

Shailene Woodley from Alegiant

That’ll be enough out of you, Divergent Series. You’ve over-stayed your welcome.

Skip it.


Everybody Wants Some!! (Paramount Pictures)

Everybody Wants Some!!

Written & Directed by Richard Linklater

Starring Will BrittainZoey DeutchRyan GuzmanTyler HoechlinBlake JennerGlen Powell & Wyatt Russell

Everybody Wants Some!! is classic Linklater and in my book that’s just fine with me. The man is one of my cinematic heroes. An artist with entirely his own style. I love everything he does. Everybody Wants Some!! is a sort of sequel to Dazed and Confused.

Everybody Wants Some Matthew McConaughey

My big problem with Everybody Wants Some!! is one of the central jokes or themes of it. In it. About it. Whatever. Everyone… Every mother fucking person in this movie is playing Matthew McConaughey. ALL OF THEM. The women. The men. Everybody is doing a McConaughey impression. It’s funny at first then becomes a bit creepy as it continues for the entire film.

Everybody Wants Some Alright Alright Alright

Everybody Wants Some!! is an amazingly entertaining film where little to nothing happens but “Life” happens. You know… classic Linklater but I need to tell you that everyone in this thing is playing a version of Matthew McConaughey from movies or appearances throughout his life and career. That’s the joke.

Everybody Wants Some

ALL of the characters are Matthew. But I still loved this quirky piece of shit. Linklater can do no wrong. The man is a god.

Rent it.


Batman: The Killing Joke (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Batman The Killing Joke

Directed by Sam Liu

Written by Brian Azzarello  Based on Batman: The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore

Starring Kevin ConroyMark HamillTara Strong & Ray Wise




This is a mistake. You can’t screw up a great story like this. I know it’s a little too dark for the animated world but it’s the whole point of the story. Batman finally realizes that it’s pointless. Joker’s too dangerous to lock up. Too unpredictable to leave in Arkham Asylum. Too smart to underestimate. And too sadistic to let live. He paralyzes poor Barbara just for shits and giggles, so Batman kills him. Batman kills Joker. He breaks his neck at the end. You don’t have to agree with Batman’s decision but don’t change the story. Then it’s not the same story and you just piss me off.


The ending is not ambiguous in the comic book. No matter how uncomfortable it makes you because Batman kills someone, it is a great story. The only thing uncomfortable about the animated adaptation is that Batgirl sleeps with her boss. It’s kind of weird.

Barbara and her gay friend in Killing Joke

Batman: The Killing Joke is just that… a joke; They could have really told a dark and powerful Batman story but they didn’t and it kills me. And yeah the whole first part with Barbara Gordon and her awkward relationship with The Dark Knight is strange at best but I was thinking they were adding an extra layer to the final joke. Nope. She’s annoying. Her gay best friend is annoying. And it doesn’t change the fact that they wimp out in the end.


I’m watching that first part thinking okay this is good they’re making it more personal so they can justify the final act. But no. But no such luck. But go ahead and rent it anyway. It’s a wonderful story after the initial 30 minutes of Bat-Girlyness are over.

Rent it.

and Lastly…

The Huntsman Winter’s War (Universal Pictures)


Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos & Craig Mazin  Based on Characters by Evan DaughertyThe Snow Queen by Hans Christian AndersenSnow White by The Brothers Grimm

Starring Chris HemsworthCharlize TheronEmily BluntNick FrostSam ClaflinRob Brydon & Jessica Chastain and Narrated by Liam Neeson

I think I liked the first movie. I didn’t like this one very much. It plods along awkwardly. It starts off as a prequel and then suddenly turns into a sequel. It’s almost like they want you to pause the film and watch the first one because it’s easy to get lost and they just jump over the events of the first Huntsman movie and if you don’t remember it you can get a bit lost. I got a little lost but it’s gorgeous to look at.

The Huntsman Winter's War

I liked the story of Winter’s War, even the true-love elements which can seem a little corny. Like a romantic fairy-tale and that’s the point. So I don’t blame the story for the movie being bad. I blame the direction. Instead of playing up the fairy-tale elements, thus making the true-love theme fit the movie, the director plays up the epic quest a little too much and it feels like the romance is weirdly out-of-place.

The Lovers The Huntsman Winter's War

Winter’s War is a tough movie to like. But I did like the story. I just thought it was badly directed. I guess it’s worth a look. But in my opinion, the first one, with Snow White, is way better. Though Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain are both amazing.

Rent it.

So To Recap…

There were two movies about awkward love affairs between bad-ass warriors shoehorned into classic stories; Batman: The Killing Joke and The Huntsman Winter’s War. In one case I wanted to see a lot more of the romance, In the other, a lot less.

There were two movies about a group of awkward teens with special powers on the run from an oppressive government and a powerful enemy; Allegiant and X-Men Apocalypse. One of them a below average ending to a great series, the other, a welcome ending to a bad series.

And one movie where absolutely nothing happens in it. And it stars Matthew McConaughey; Everybody Wants Some!!. Except that a lot happens and Matthew McConaughey isn’t even in it. So yeah…

And that’s it.

I’m playing catch-up so there should be a bunch of posts in a row, if everything goes according to plan (but when has Everything been known to do that?)

Never, that’s when.

Jessica Chastain

Jessica knows what I’m talking about.

Wish me luck.

– Mel

What’s Good? (Early Summer)

Early Summer Edition

This installment of What’s Good? (my top ten things I’m enjoying at the moment) is mostly summer television with a few real life stuff thrown in for good measure. (Ha – for GOOD measure – get it?. Ha ha. GET IT?)

Orson Welles

I want to apologize to the regular readers of my blog. I’ve phoned it in this summer. My head and my heart have been elsewhere. I’ve written. I added Jimi Hendrix to my book. (Can I do that? I hope I don’t get sued) It’s literally a long story (I’m on a roll) but one of the characters keeps a skull on her desk. She calls it the skull of the last musician. (It’s a post apocalyptic future) And (long story short) she gains access to an alien regeneration facility and she clones the skull. (It’s less a clone as we know it and more of a recreation of the man before he died. Again long story) But I’ve been researching his interviews and trying to get his voice right. And I’ve been a little obsessed with it. It’s not a big part of the story. It’s just something that happens still I’ve tried to get it right. It’s a mad world.

To the list…


I’m glad you asked.

The 100

The 100 is pretty good. The first season is very exciting but I really enjoyed the second season of this post apocalyptic, young adult, action-drama about the survivors of a global nuclear apocalypse who have lived for generations on an orbiting space station before falling to earth. The first season moves so fast and the changes are drastic and quick and nobody is safe. It’s crazy. But during the second season, a more down-to-earth season, The 100 settles in for lots of political intrigue and survival action and coolness. A bunch of cool characters doing a lot of cool shit. It’s not sensational but it’s loads of fun and the cast is all good-looking and the main character is a serious bad-ass. I love her.

jonathan strange and mr norell

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is weirdly good. I like to think of Strange and Norrell as a prequel to the world of Harry Potter. It is about the return of magic to Great Britain. Very interesting. Very atmospheric. Some pretty cool effects and creepy mysticism and magic. A period piece where magic is accepted by the government and the society. A very dark and funny show. Six, creatively dense and magical episodes. Creepy good.


Museum Trips are really good. My next museum trip will probably be to the Natural History Museum on the west side of the park. I really enjoyed my trip to The Cloisters and my trip to The Met. I finally got out of the house for more than a quick excursion to the movies (from my home to a dark theater and back really shouldn’t count as leaving the house). I took a lot of pictures (see I have proof that I left the house). I’m keeping my promise to spend more time outside my comfort zone this year. Wish me luck.


The Mets Pitching is astonishingly good. I can’t believe the Mets are doing as well as they are with the line-up they have but they’re solidly in the race. It’s been too long since we’ve had a good team in Queens. So long I’ve forgotten what one looks like. And make no mistake, this is not a good Mets team but the Mets pitching staff is Amazin’ (I’m talking Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Jerry Koosman good). All of their starters can hit like sluggers as well as pitch like aces. They have a pretty decent bullpen and one of the best closers in the game. All they need to do now is pick up a veteran right-handed power hitter and these Metsies will be a force with which to be reckoned.

Let’s Go Mets!


Mr. Robot is sensationally good. I fucking love this show. If you haven’t seen it yet, try to catch up quick. This is pure cyberpunk. The smartest computer hacking ANYTHING, TV, movie whatever, I have ever seen. Smart, funny, cool, very fucking cool. Fantastic direction that feels like a 70’s hacker thriller about the future. Except the future is today. So everything is just state of the art but with this futuristic cyberpunk feel. I hope I’m not explaining this badly because it is incredible. There is nothing sci-fi about this show (so far). There is nothing futuristic yet the direction and camera work are retro. Making it feel like you’re watching some future shit but it’s in the present day.

Mr Robot

The story is good. The lead character has a hard time interacting with people so he hacks anyone with which he has to talk. He data-mines people’s lives and social media to understand them and gain the upper hand. The acting is good (except for Christian Slater. I’ve never liked that guy) There’s cool tech and all that good stuff. But just based on the way it is shot, this retro-future-present feel, that I’m doing a bad job of explaining, just based on that, it is my favorite thing on TV now. My absolute favorite. (with Halt and Catch Fire a close second)

The Last Ship

The Last Ship is satisfying-ly good. I loved the first season of this (yet another) post-apocalyptic drama. This one takes place after a disease outbreak that kills half the world’s population. One American battleship survives the outbreak and so the show is very Naval and military. I enjoy military shows when they’re done well. And this one is done very well. Not the best acting but a lot of great action and suspense. (It’s Michael Bay) It reminds me of Star Trek except the ship is a boat and not a star-ship. That’s how I look at it. The Last Ship is Star Trek for the ocean. And each season, so far, has had a kick-ass big bad. Last year it was a Russian destroyer. This year it’s a hijacked British submarine. If you’re not totally turned off by military or nautical adventures, The Last Ship is pretty damn good.

Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful is dark and sickly good. I love this show. I loved the second season more than the first. And I really loved the first season. I like the evolution of Billie Piper’s character a lot. If you don’t know, Penny Dreadful is the story of all the classic literary monsters in one place and at one time solving crimes or something. The show is a period piece. It’s very sexy. It’s very creepy. And dark. With Victor Frankenstein and his family (the monster, the bride), Vampires, Dorian Gray. But it ain’t hokey. It takes itself very seriously while being the story of all these campy movie monsters. And I love that.

Episode 101

But my favorite thing about it was when I realized that Josh Hartnett (minor spoiler but not really) wasn’t playing a werewolf. He’s the Wolfman. He’s the motherfucking Wolfman. That made me so happy. So please please please have Abbott and Costello show up in season three. PLEEEEEEEEEASE. Just a cameo. I’m completely serious. They are the glue that would tie it all together. Please. Pretty please. Abbott & Costello.

Marriage Equality is all kinds of good. This is old news now but finally America joined the 21st century when it comes to equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. It’s about damn time. And except for a couple of bigots in the south digging in it’s going well.

True Detective Season Two

True Detective Season Two is actually pretty good. Say what you want, I’m liking this season of True Detective better than the first season. Honestly. I like the cast better this time around. I like the story better. I like the setting better. It feels like the old L.A. detective stories and it hasn’t put me to sleep. The first season with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson was really good but I had to watch every episode twice because I would usually fall asleep somewhere in the middle. Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell are amazing. And even Vince Vaughn is growing on me. Loving it. And this last episode was off the hook. Action packed. Wow.


Dark Matter is a very good deep space drama based on a comic book. I love the sci-fi. I grew up on the sci-fi. But I can’t stand bad sci-fi. Most of the shows that embrace the genre are pretty damn bad. (More on that in a moment) But there are pleasant exceptions. I love Defiance. I still love Falling Skies. And after four episodes, I’m getting into Humans but I’m not quite sold yet. However, my favorite summer sci-fi show this year is a little show out of Canada called Dark Matter (on the SyFy channel). It’s a space adventure about six people and one android who wake up in deep space with no memory of their pasts. They assign numbers to themselves in the order they woke up. They pretty quickly identify each crew members strengths and fall into their obvious roles. Never really trusting, but needing each other to survive. It’s a nice story.

Dark Matter

And they don’t drag out the secret too long. They discover who they are pretty early on but they don’t know “those” people. Their real selves. They have no memory of them. Just strangers with their faces. So they decide to continue as One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six and the android. I really like this show. Please watch it. It’s like what you’d get if Firefly and the A-team had a baby with amnesia. Check it out.

Also check out this Suicide Squad teaser trailer with Margot Robbie, Will Smith and Jared Leto. I think it looks promising.

And now… for everything there is a dark side.


Summer Sci-fi Shows are traditionally not so good. (Extant, Killjoys, Dominion, Hannibal) Honestly guys It’s not enough to have some special effects and pretty actors and to air your show on date nights (when all the nerds are home). You have to have a story to tell and not just a premise to slowly roll out. And a mystery to tease.

Halle Berry Extant

Extant was actually pretty interesting the first season but instead of expounding on that, they fired half the cast and changed the whole damn thing. Like saying, all we need is Halle Berry. The nerds will keep watching. No. No we won’t. It looks to me like they’re trying to change a sci-fi mystery show about a woman giving birth to an alien into a futuristic procedural.


Killjoys is a horribly cheesy premise with a mediocre cast that benefits from being sandwiched between two good Friday SyFy shows. But it sucks. Most of all the acting. And the writing. And everything else about it. It just sucks. Something about bounty hunters or contract killers. Whatever. I just hope its stench doesn’t rub off on Dark Matter. Dark Matter is really fucking good.

Dominion SyFy

With Dominion I’m trying. I really am. I sort of liked the first season but I think I liked the sexiness of the angel Michael and also the general’s daughter. She’s a hottie too. So maybe it was the hotness of the cast that got me. But the story and the acting and the accents (I love you Anthony Stewart Head but your American accent is so very bad) make me want to give up on it. I’m pretty close to giving up on this show. Pretty close.


And lastly Hannibal. Listen. The reason I mention these shows is because I can’t help but watch them. These shows are made for me and my ilk. And I want them to be good. I want to like them because I want the powers that be to make more shows like this. Like Hannibal. I want to like Hannibal but that show is so far up its own ass it can see what it had for dinner last night. Honestly, the food is the best part of this convoluted and pretentious piece of crap. And I know the food is suppose to creep us out because he’s a cannibal or whatever. But it just makes me hungry. It looks so good. I’ve mentioned this before but I wanted Hannibal to be the anti-hero if not the hero proper. They make him completely unlikable. And it’s because in the first book he is the bad guy. And this series is based on the first book. I wanted something else. Hannibal is not enjoyable for me but I keep watching anyway. I heard they cancelled it. I’m not too sad about that.

I keep watching these crappy sci-fi shows but I can’t just watch them in silence. Mostly I yell at the screen saying, “Oh my god. That’s horrible. That’s so bad. Why am I watching this crap? Why, Mel? Why?”

I’ll tell you why. Because…

Summer DVDs

Summer DVDs are also notoriously not so good. I have a bunch of mini reviews in a folder. So I think I’ll throw them up here soon. I haven’t seen a good movie on home video yet this summer. I was waiting for a good one to come along before posting a 5 Quick Reviews of 5 New Releases for summer (yeah I was going to bring that back) but I’m up to six with nothing good in sight. I think I’ll post that next. They might be bad movies but a few were at least interesting (Slow West, The Voices)

And that’s all I got.

Quick Note. I really like getting nominated for those blog awards but I am the absolute worst at talking about myself without something to hide behind. Some device. Some gimmick. So it’s not like I ignore them. I actually try to write something and just get frustrated. I thought about doing one with just music. Ten songs that define or describe me. I found a good ten. But that wasn’t going well. So I whittled the list down. I had a seven and a five and I still may post one of those but at one point I cut it down to one song. I’m gonna post that here.

It’s Mayonaise by Smashing Pumpkins.

Fool enough to almost be it
Cool enough to not quite see it
Pick your pockets full of sorrow
And run away with me tomorrow, June?
We’ll try and ease the pain
But somehow we’ll feel the same.
Well, no one knows
Where our secrets go.

I send a heart to all my dearies
When your life is oh, so dreary… dream.

I’m rumored to the straight and narrow
While the harlots of my perils SCREAM.

And I fail.
But when I can, I will.
Try to understand
That when I can, I will.

Mother’s weep the years I’m missing
All our time can’t be given back.

Shut my mouth and strike the demons
That cursed you and your reasons.
Out of hand and out of season
Out of love and out of feeling SO BAD.
When I can, I will
Words defy the plans.
When I can, I will

Fool enough to almost be it
And cool enough to not quite see it.
And old enough to always feel this
Always old, I’ll always feel this!

No more promise no more sorrow
No longer will I follow
Can anybody hear me?
When I can, I will.
Try to understand
That when I can,

I will.

If I don’t say it enough,

I love you guys.

Until next time,

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Jupiter Ascending

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros. PicturesRoadshow Entertainment [Aus, NZ])

Jupiter Ascending Poster

Written & Directed by The Wachowskis

Starring Channing TatumMila KunisSean BeanEddie Redmayne & Douglas Booth

There is one glaring problem with the visually stunning, science fiction epic, Jupiter Ascending, from the Wachowskis. Well two things really. And they’re staring you right in the face the entire time. Arguably the two most important things in any movie; the two lead actors. I loved everything about Jupiter Ascending except for the one thing that can turn an otherwise great movie into a bad one; Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum could not act their way out of a paper bag! And it’s a shame because Jupiter Ascending is a fun, sweeping, epic tale of intergalactic dynasties and sibling rivalries that burn at the core of every inhabited planet in the known universe. There are hybrids of major species. Like lizards with eagle wings and robots and spaceships. And at the center, two duds. But because I liked the story, I’m gonna spare you guys a spoiler-filled rant.

Verdict: SPARED

But I’m still gonna rant though.

Mila Kunis

Instead lets talk about Mila Kunis. I love me some Mila Kunis. She is very cool. Not a very wide acting range but she is likable, funny and good-looking. Like Matthew McConaughey was back before he found his acting chops. And I love her in action films, but she is at her best when she’s playing an Eddie Murphy type. Every word out of her mouth should be a wise-crack or some biting sarcasm. This is her wheelhouse. She’s funny. The three best lines in Jupiter Ascending are her being funny or sarcastic. She’s not the damsel in distress that the Wachowskis have cast her as. She’s the cool chick laughing in the face of danger. I love her too much to have to blame her for this. You’re making me blame her for this. And while she is to blame for this, it’s not her fault.

Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum on the other hand, can not be saved. He stinks. These are both very hot people but don’t make them emulate emotions. It’s painful to watch. Interestingly enough, had Mila Kunis played this part for the comedy, which I think would have worked so much better, Channing Tatum’s stoned-faced wolf-boy would have been her perfect straight man. Give Mila some jokes and Channing’s character, with his sour-puss acting style, would benefit hugely from it. Also give them some down-time to fall in love. Because if all they’re doing is running. And all he’s doing is saving her life again and again. She’s not in love with him. She’s in love with the fact that he saves her life. Will someone in Hollywood please stop confusing these two things. But anyway.

Eddie Redmayne

Jupiter Ascending is spared because of its gorgeous special effects and exciting chase scenes and dog-fights and fight scenes. And the gadgets are super-cool. Especially Channing’s anti-gravity boots. And the creatures are awesome. And the costumes are awesome. And the worlds are awesome. Have I said yet how visually stunning this film is? Because if you look-up the phrase visually stunning in the online movie reviewers handbook you’ll see a picture of any frame of this movie right here.

Terry Gilliam

Jupiter Ascending is spared because the story is this beautiful cross between Herbert and Asimov. And the style is all Fifth Element meets Tarsem Singh meets Terry Gilliam. So much so that at one point Terry Gilliam shows up to tell the Wachowskis to cut that shit out (not really but it’s still very funny). And the other actors are great from Sean Bean to Eddie Redmayne and all points in between. It’s just those two. The main two.

Creatures in Jupiter Ascending

Let me put it this way. There are two large paper sacks. Each one with a name on it. One says Mila Kunis and the other says Channing Tatum. And the Sack Master (That’s his name. He puts people into paper sacks) comes along and places both Mila and Channing into their respective sacks. And all they have to do is to not be themselves. Just pretend to be another person. That’s all it would take to make the Sack Master think he’s made a mistake and let them out. This was not always the case. Traditionally people had to punch their way out of his sacks or even dance. But on occasion, some barely decent acting would get you set free. What I’m saying is, neither Mila Kunis nor Channing Tatum could act their way out of a paper bag. But anyway that was a little sneak peek at my new horror series: Sack Master. SACK MASTER, he puts people into paper sacks. (sometimes they’re wet… it’s very scary). But I digress.

Jupiter Ascending is a gorgeous, epic, sci-fi, space adventure that only suffers when the main characters open their mouths. It’s just that they open their mouths a lot.

– Mel

Spared or Spoiled Film Reviews: Interstellar

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Interstellar (Paramount Pictures [North America],  Warner Bros. Pictures [International])

Interstellar Poster

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Written by Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan

Starring Matthew McConaugheyAnne HathawayJessica Chastain & Michael Caine

Swing and a miss. Too long did not like. Too ambitious. Interstellar gets trapped in the singularity up its own ass. Wow what a promising start but Christopher Nolan turns into M. Night Shyamalan somewhere near Gargantua and it doesn’t just get bad. It gets really bad. Hopelessly and unapologetically bad.

Verdict: SPOILED

Matthew McConaughey

“Don’t worry kids. NASA will save us. Go play with your lunar module until Mel’s done ranting.”


First, I think Matthew McConaughey is solid as usual. I loved Anne Hathaway in this and also Jessica Chastain, Ellen Burstyn. Honestly all the actors that played Murphy were very good. I liked but did not love the start of the movie back on Earth. The explanations of what happened to the Earth were rushed. It felt like they were glossed-over on purpose as to not get too earthbound. But it all comes back to haunt the narrative when they try desperately to find an upbeat ending. Where’d they get the soil? The seeds? If you can grow and live inside on a spaceship you can live inside on the planet.

The Coopers

“Stop him, daddy. He’s insulting our movie.”

I usually love the paradox of us saving our past selves from the future. I have a little something like that in what I’m working on now but it’s a lot more complex than this crap and it doesn’t get all inter-dimensional. That should have been the title of this thing. Not Interstellar but inter-dimensional. But then I guess that would have ruined the Shymalanity of it all. As it is, Interstellar left me cold and I hate it for that.

Anne Hathaway Handshake

“When you ask me what that was, I’m gonna say a handshake. Don’t ask me any follow up questions okay? It’ll make absolutely no sense later.”

Because, in the end all of its kumbaya ending crap felt so disingenuous that I would have been more satisfied had Matthew McConaughey died and not been found conveniently floating in space. What is the overall area that a human adult takes up in the vastness of space again? Don’t answer that. Well then you might as well have made it aliens and had those aliens transport him back to his stupid corn farm or bring everybody back to life. Roll credits. Oh this movie made me so mad.

Cooper, Brand and Romilly

“Put me in here until the review is over. Because I can’t take much more of this.”

Because once it goes into space it gets so freaking good. I mean positively stellar. Matt Damon and the robot and the planets and the ships and the stuff with the thing and the lights and the sci-fi. “We’re gonna make it!” “I can do this.” “Don’t open that airlock.” I loved every minute of the second act. Every last fucking minute. From the effects to the science to the suspense and the emotion it was fantastic. So, it starts off weak but necessarily so. “All is forgiven.” I thought to myself because this movie rocks when it turns into one of the best movie space adventures I’ve seen since Europa Report.

Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar

“Europa Report? What’s a Europa Report? This movie has three Oscar winners and the guy who directed Batman. What does your precious Europa Report have? Believability? Psshh”

But for a third act, Interstellar shits all over itself. And not solid and easy to clean up. It sprays diarrhea all over the screen and then the credits roll. I’m sorry for the imagery. It really annoyed me. It literally felt to me like M. Night Shyamalan directed the third act. From the grown up Murphy suddenly realizing that her childhood “ghost” was her father, to Cooper explaining quantum time mechanics or something equally mind-boggling-ly complex in Morse code, to the Starblazers and Battlestar Galactica style convoy leaving the Earth behind with no destination and suddenly being able to grow food. Swing and a miss, Nolans. I still love you both madly but… swing… and… a… miss.

Arrrgh! (I usually put a conclusion here but I just felt like screaming this time) Arrrgh!

– Mel

Best Picture: 5 Quick Reviews of 5 of the Best Movies they missed in 2013

With award season drawing to a close, there were a few notable snubs from the academy and a couple of performances that were seemingly custom-made for them.

Jennifer Garner and Matthew McConaughey

There was Woody Allen, Ron Howard, Joel & Ethan Coen and Tom Hanks, just to name a few, who did great work in 2013 but were left off the Academy’s list because of so many other good movies last year. But also because they were all competing against their past work. And maybe because their films didn’t deal with politically charged subjects.

Jim and Jean

Here are reviews of three movies that are, in my opinion, better than at least two of the films on the Best Picture list… and also reviews of those two movie. Here are the amazing performances, some of them honored, some of them not, that I feel are some of the best of the year. My other picks for Best Picture that actually have a chance to win are HERE.

And I know that not every film can be Gravity. And not every performance can be nominated. But when one or two of the spots go to make a political statement or to increase box office, you leave some of the best work unrecognized.

you better recognize

I would like to recognize them now… but who am I?

I’m just a homeless guy on a public computer blogging about movies he just happened to see while trying to get out the cold, rushing to get it all down before the library closes.

No. That’s not true anymore. But just between you and me, that’s kinda how I feel.

To the reviews…

Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)

Blue Jasmine

Written & Directed by Woody Allen

Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard & Michael Stuhlbarg

Blue Jasmine is the latest sensational cinematic sob story from the great Woody Allen. It is the story of a woman, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett, a woman who is losing her mind after the financial betrayal of her husband, played masterfully by Alec Baldwin.

Blanchett and Baldwin

As in most of Woody’s latter films, there is more than a touch of misogyny here but it is a fantastic story none-the-less. I’ve noticed that since Mr. Allen started on this, one film per year string of, not very good, not very well-made, not very well-thought-out yearly films, he still seems to knock it out of the park every three or four years. (about 1 out of every 4 films is a masterpiece). Blue Jasmine is that one (the last was Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

Blue Jasmine Still

Woody Allen is in fine form here but the film benefits greatly from Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of the title character. She is a woman in the middle of a nervous breakdown. In full denial of her life spinning out of control. And it is wonderful to watch.

Cate Blanchett is a master at her craft and should easily win the Oscar. (I love you Amy Adams but Cate carries this movie and you had a lot of help)


The main character of a Woody Allen film, male or female, is usually just a poorly disguised version of the director. Even when he doesn’t play the part himself, they all sound like him, they all act like him. Or at least most of the actors who don’t bring anything else to the role, who play it as written, play it like him. It takes an actor with a strong sense of self, and ideas of their own, to not just sound like Woody in a Woody Allen film.

Woody Allen Cate Blanchett

Cate brings so much more to the role. She is the singular reason this is not just another Woody Allen yearly offering but a great performance and a great film from a great director, who will go back to giving us another mediocre one next year.

There was a time when Woody Allen was my favorite director but that was a long time ago. Yet, it’s good to know that he still has flashes of greatness. Blue jasmine is a flash of greatness.

Cate Blanchett Bench

Rent it (If you haven’t been turned off by Woody as a person, realize that he is still a great artist and try to separate the two)

Next… I feel the need… the need for speed.

Rush (Exclusive Media, Universal Pictures, Studio Canal, Pathé Productions)


Directed by Ron Howard

Written by Peter Morgan

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara & Pierfrancesco Favino

Ron Howard has consistently made good films throughout his career. Rush is only the most recent. Ron Howard has become one of the greatest American filmmakers.

Daniel Bruhl as Nick Lauda

Rush is one of my favorite films from 2013. A true story of the competitive spirit with real-life strong characters played by two actors who bring a lot to their roles. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as James Hunt but Daniel Brühl as Formula One superstar Niki Lauda steals the film from the pole position… from the start. He is magnificent. One of the best performances of the year.

Daniel Bruhl

Rush is a movie about a sports rivalry. Well-acted and well-written and very well directed by professionals. I’ve never put Ron Howard on any of my lists. But I’ve enjoyed all of his movies and I like that he takes on epic stories and epic challenges.


I love racing. Well… racing video games anyway. Rush was really cool to watch for me because I recognized the tracks from the games I play. I’m a regular speed freak… in my living room. Gran Turismo has been one of my favorite games since the first one.

Hunt v Lauda

But there hasn’t been that many good pro racing films. The Fast & Furious movies are a fantasy. Speed Racer had some unbelievable racing scenes but it was based on a cartoon. So in my opinion Rush is the best movie about professional racing ever made. If you know of a better one, let me know about it. I love a good racing movie.


The racing and the competition are the true stars. The drivers take a back seat because the story is real. I remember the era. I remember the commercials. It was a golden age. But the performance by Daniel Brühl is off the chain. I hated the character. You’re meant to hate the character. But he makes you love him at the same time. It’s masterful work.


Rent it. (Rush is one of the best movies of the year. Pure adrenaline)

Next… a good movie about another awful person.

Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS Films, StudioCanal)

Inside Llewyn Davis

Written & Directed by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen

Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund & Justin Timberlake

Inside Llewyn Davis is the story of a folk singer who is an asshole. I loved this movie. I think the Coen Brothers are the greatest artists in film right now. But how much I hated this character is hard to express. Oscar Isaac is so good in the role. Yet another actor creating an awful awful character and doing it extremely well.

Oscar Isaac

The movie opens with our hero (and I use the term loosely) getting his ass kicked in an alley and then it proceeds to show us why he deserves the beatdown. And it does. And he does. The man is a train wreck. Destroying everything he touches.

Isaac Timberlake Mulligan

Sadly, I identified with him a little too much. And because of it, I wanted someone to punch him in the face so very badly every time he expressed his ego and belittled his friends. I spent most of the movie thinking, “why doesn’t that guy just hit him?” or “Why won’t anyone slap him?” He is annoyingly anti-social and obnoxiously unaware. Oblivious to the disastrous impact he has on every other character in the film.

Oscar Isaac as Llewyn Davis

By the way, every other character in the movie, with little but hilarious exception (the incredible John Goodman), is a motherfucking saint for putting up with this guy. And the cat… Even THAT cat owed him a beat down or a claw in the face. Oh my god, the cat.

Llewyn has the Cat

I love the Coen Brothers but this film annoyed me. Inside Llewyn Davis is not their best by a long shot. First, it’s a drama, while I still think they are at their best with light dramedy and not this heavy stuff. And definitely not their more zany comedies, those can be hard to stomach.

Don’t get me wrong, I think everything they do is insanely good and I’m just comparing this to previous films. Inside Llewyn Davis is one of the best films of 2013.


Inside Llewyn Davis is an extremely well-made cinematic look at the folk music scene in the time before Dylan. I was not a fan. Folk music was too religious. Too many major keys. Too (forgive me) white. Llewyn to his credit was trying to add some blues. Bob Dylan, to all of our benefit, did so successfully.

It’s just the character reminded me so much of myself I wanted to punch him. A homeless musician with an ego and an attitude, treating his friends like doormats and making bad decision after bad decision after bad decision.

Llewyn Davis

Rent it. (But there just wasn’t enough violence in it for me. I’m kidding the movie is marvelous and the beatdown is satisfying enough)

Next up… A true story gets dressed up for Hollywood…

Captain Phillips (Columbia Pictures)

Captain Phillips

Directed by Paul Greengrass

Written by Billy Ray  Based on A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, and Dangerous Days at Sea by Richard Phillips & Stephan Talty

Starring Tom Hanks & Barkhad Abdi

Captain Phillips is intense. This movie is crazy intense. I loved the first part of the movie, a thrilling high seas pirate adventure. Tom Hanks is one of the greatest living actors and he shows off his talent once again. Based on a true story, it feels real and authentic… at first.

I am the captain now

The first half of the movie makes this one of the best movies of the year. But where Paul Greengrass loses me is on the backend. When the movie turns into a hostage drama, he tries too hard to pump up the jeopardy. In fact, I wished he would have calmed it down.

Hanks and Abdi

We know what happens in the end. We read it in the papers. We know the seal team super hero kick-ass American Cavalry comes and takes care of business. All bad-ass and shit. But he makes us wait for it.

During the wait Tom Hanks cranks up his acting to eleven. Paul Greengrass pumps up the volume to eleven and then my heart starts pumping at eleven. Everything is cranked up so high for so long that it loses my interest. It stops being entertaining and becomes annoying.

The claustrophobic life boat. The arguing pirates. The waiting for the kill shot. It was all too much.


The first half is all emotion and characters and some really cool stuff with Tom Hanks matching wits with Barkhad Abdi. You meet the pirates; The impoverished fishermen that have been screwed over by commercial fishing and are at the mercy of organized criminal billionaires that force them to try and seize large vessels with only a few men, tiny boats, a couple of guns and little else for huge multi-million dollar ransoms; of which they get very little. It’s a great story where the good guys are good but the bad guys are sad and scary.

Tom Hanks

And If not for an overly drawn out third act, I would say Captain Phillips was the movie of the year. I just wanted off that lifeboat so badly. I just wanted the movie to end so badly. And the one thing I can always say about a great film, and the same with a great book, is that I never want it to end. I wanted Captain Phillips to end a half hour earlier than it did.


Rent it. (It has a great first half and the second half goes on for far too long. But it has two colossal performances from Tom Hanks and Barkhad Abdi)

Next up… a movie that’s a few decades too late.

Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features)

Dallas Buyers Club

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée

Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner & Jared Leto

Dallas Buyers Club is a decent movie. This is another true story. The uplifting tale of a man given only 30 days to live and how he uses his last days to help other people with AIDS to live longer. It takes place at the height of the plague, right after Rock Hudson dies.

Ron Woodruff

The performances are the stand out thing in this one because of the transformations that both Jared Leto & Matthew McConaughey go through for the movie. They are unbelievable. Neither actor is recognizable in their role. And both kick serious ass. Oscars all around.

Jared Leto

Jared Leto is extraordinary from the first moment he walks on-screen. And I was all set to see Matthew McConaughey deteriorate on camera but when you see him for the first time he is already sick and has been for some time without knowing it. He is a shadow of the buff and brawny former McConaughey. “Alright, alright, alright.”

Matthew McConaughey


I was already amazed. But then McConaughey just takes that to a whole ‘nother level. He is sensational. This is the best he will ever do. And you know how the academy loves to reward the pretty people who get ugly for the part. So, to not give the Academy Award to Matt would be a crime against nature, for the body transformation alone. But he brings the goods. He is so good in this and then you add the mess he made of that gorgeous body for the role and -Best Actor. Throw your panties on the stage.

MM as Ron Woodruff

Jared Leto’s transformation is of a different sort. He becomes this transgendered drug addict with a heart of gold that rips your heart out of your chest and shows it to you. And while Matt is obviously Matt in a role. Jared Leto disappears completely. Jared Leto wins going away as well. Both Matt and Jared get Oscars. Game Over. Panties.

Dallas Buyers Cast

The movie itself, however, is a statement against the American medical system. The for-profit, treating of symptoms, and pushing of drugs, without caring about the lives of the people. It is a condemnation of our system. A system that has killed thousands upon thousands and still does (by the way, we need to do something about that).

The amount of money the Pharmaceutical companies make off of dying desperate people is obscene. There is a special place in hell for these people. Lower than the circle of traitors. To benefit off the misery of others is the greatest sin. May they burn in hell forever.

McConaughey and Garner

Rent it. (The movie is nothing special. It’s just a straightforward biography with crazy good performances, but you get to be creeped-out by how gaunt and emaciated Matthew McConaughey gets. It’s no Best Picture of the year but it’s worth a rental)

So to recap…

There were two movies about awful homeless people who wear-out their welcome: Blue Jasmine and Inside Llewyn Davis with performances by Sally Hawkins and Oscar Isaac snubbed by the Academy.

There were two movies about real life heroes who when their lives are threatened, rise to the occasion: Captain Phillips and Dallas Buyers Club that weren’t quite good enough to be Best Picture nominees but got it anyway.

And one movie about two men who go really fast but never fast enough; Rush that was one of the best films of 2013 and included one of the best performances by Daniel Brühl.

That’s all for my Oscar posts. Didn’t see Philomena or Nebraska. But I felt that their nominations were more about increasing their box office numbers. Every year a couple of spots go to good little movies that didn’t make a bunch of money but never go to good big movies that did. The Academy, it seems, hates box office success. Anyway…

My DVD folder is about to burst so plain old DVD reviews coming next.

See you guys at the movies,

– Mel