2019 Film Recap: The Worst

Last year I ranked the films I watched in three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. This year’s film recap, I only watched 23 films that released during 2019. Because of that, I am categorizing this year’s list into two halves: The Worst and the Best. So, without any further ado, here are numbers 23 through 11. Or as I like to call them… the worst of 2019.

Since these films were released in the last year I will caution about spoilers.Dark Phoenix

23. Dark Phoenix
My Score: 2/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/64%

You know, people complain about The Rise of Skywalker and all of its plot holes, but no one really talks about the horror that is Dark Phoenix. The bland alien invasion, the fact that it was forgotten that the Phoenix showed up in the previous film (how they defeated Apocalypse), the F-Bomb dropped by Cyclops, and the fact that Magneto was just allowed to exist after Apocalypse was killed. Most people will discount this film due to the fact that the entire thing is now pointless because Disney purchased Fox. The funny thing is that even if Fox hadn’t been purchased, the X-Men franchise would’ve been dead due to this garbage fire of a film.terminator

22. Terminator: Dark Fate
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 6.5/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 70%/82%

Sure… kill John Connor. Okay… erase Skynet. I would’ve been onboard with these decisions if they’d been for a purpose. I’d have been on board with it if they tried to go at things from a different path. However, Dark Fate is the exact same plot. A poor lady gets targeted by termination by robotic assassins sent back in time by a robot overlord that’s trying to eradicate the human species. The only thing that stands in between her and the assassins is a human that’s sent back in time by the future version of that lady. Sound familiar? Well, it should. Swap Skynet for Legion, John Connor for Danni (I honestly don’t remember her name), Reese for another person I can’t remember, and update some of the tech and you’ve got pretty much the same movie.alita

21. Alita: Battle Angel
My Score: 4/10
IMDb Score: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 61%/93%

Granted, this film looks beautiful. I can’t knock the CGI. However, the weak storyline and the forgettable villains really just make this film forgettable in my opinion. I’m sure I’ll get some flack for my opinion on this film, but eh. And really, if you think about it, it’s just a CGI futuristic John Wick, dead dog included.

godzilla20. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 42%/83%

I’m not much of a Godzilla fan. I’ll go watch them, but I’m not one of those fanboys that will defend the film religiously. I understand that they were trying to make a giant monster film, but what I don’t understand is why they have to attempt a human-interest side of things. The audience goes into a Godzilla film wanting to see the King of Monsters rampaging through cities as it defeats other monsters. For the most part, this film delivers in this aspect. However, the parts of the film where the humans are trying to do their human-thing just drags the plot. Just let them fight.

detective pikachu19. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
My Score: 5/10
IMDb Score: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/79%

I went to see this twice in theaters. The first time, I really liked it. The CGI was great, the plot was decent, and the humor connected fairly well. Then I went to see it with my nephews. The second time was not as enjoyable as the first. The humor was stale, the plot had holes I hadn’t seen during the first viewing. Yet it was still pretty decent because of the franchise’s nostalgia. Overall, it was not a bad film. Not a good film either, but just average.

zombieland18. Zombieland: Double Tap
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 68%/88%

When I heard they were making a sequel of my favorite zombie flick, I felt both excited and apprehensive. Excited because I wanted more of that comedy and action. Apprehensive because they could totally mess things up. I got that humor and that action, but they totally messed things up. The idea of anti-gun, vegan hippies surviving in a zombie apocalypse is nuts. Having Tallahassee not kicking their butts once is a big letdown. Add in the fact that the humor is sorta stale, the girls take off on their own with the dudes going after them (same plot point as the last film), and the introduction of cool evolved zombies only to have them be referenced maybe once or twice and you’ve got a subpar film.

men in black17. Men in Black: International
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 23%/66%

Another film that tries to compete with the prior films in the franchise. Overall, I liked this film. Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have great chemistry together. The pawn alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani was the highlight of the film. Really, when you consider MiB 2, anything is better.

glass16. Glass
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 37%/68%

If this film came out before the superhero genre exploded, it would have performed better at the box office. Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan was a bit too late on this lackluster conclusion to his loosely linked trilogy. James McAvoy and Samuel Jackson are great, but Bruce Willis’ acting is as flavorful as a piece of dry white toast. Since it is an M. Night Shyamalan film, we know there’s some type of plot twist. This time around, the three main characters are murdered by a secret organization bent on keeping the fact that superhumans are real a secret. Of course, due to people’s obsession with social media, this secret gets out to the masses.

scary stories to tell in the dark15. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 78%/72%

I loved the book that this film was adapted from. It was a treasured tome of mine growing up. The film did a decent job of merging a lot of those stories into one cohesive plot. The acting was alright, but the ending was the thing that suffered the most. It was meant to end with a few more sequels to build off of. However, I doubt that we’ll get those sequels because of the lukewarm reactions of the fans/critics. The monsters were very creepy, one of the best parts of that movie.

pet sematary14. Pet Sematary
My Score: 6/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 57%/34%

Most Stephen King films will rank higher than most on my list. I’m a huge fan of the author and I love watching his books come to life on the big screen. I think I’m being a bit picky, but I really didn’t like Jason Clarke as the main character, Louis. In truth, I’ve never liked anything Clarke plays. He’s not my favorite actor. What saves the film is John Lithgow as Jud. Loved his acting. If you’ve seen the original, then this may or may not be your favorite. The original is hard to beat because it instilled that creepiness. Watching the new version, that creepiness has been dulled a bit. But it was still there, lurking in the background as the plot lengthened.

childs play13. Child’s Play
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 63%/57%

When you reboot a movie, you sometimes change some things about it to make it your own. In Terminator: Dark Fate they changed details but didn’t make things different. When Chucky came to the big screen in this reboot, just about everything was changed. Instead of a bad guy that wills his soul to enter a children’s toy, this time around it’s a doll that’s sabotaged and learns to be evil. It’s a great lesson about nature vs. nurture. Another lesson is to never make a child’s toy that can control all the electronics around him angry at you.

noelle12. Noelle
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 6.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 53%/59%

This was a film I didn’t anticipate on watching this year. It wasn’t one that I really wanted to watch this year. It does have the powerful acting chops of Anna Kendrick, Shirley MacLaine, and Bill Hader to make this Disney + original Christmas film a success. Watching Noelle travel to Arizona to find her missing brother, the next Santa Claus, in time to save Christmas was a rather funny experience. The humor was unexpectantly funny and I laughed more than I expected.

in the tall grass11. In the Tall Grass
My Score: 7/10
IMDb Score: 5.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Critic/Audience Score: 38%/36%

For this last film on this list, it sort of surprised me. Sure, it’s a mediocre film with a confusing plot and some vague pseudo-religious relic and cult. But that’s what makes it intriguing to me. Watching this Stephen King short story come alive is not a masterpiece, but it does make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck happened. For those that are gluttons for punishment, it’ll make you want to watch it again. Can I just add that Stephen King has now forced me to put corn fields on my “don’t mess with” list. And I’m from Indiana so that’s pretty impressive. And a bit scary.

Soon, I’ll have my best of 2019 list showcasing the top ten films I’ve watched. Did you think my list so far is accurate? Which ones did you agree with? Which films do you think should’ve been higher/lower? Let me know in the comments!

If You’ve Never Watched Horror

So, I have a lot of people tell me that they don’t like watching Horror films because they have too much violence/gore/swearing/jump scares/takes place in Michigan or some variety of other reasons. Or maybe you have a rule about not watching films that are Rated R. Since it’s Halloween soon, this rant I’ll be listing my top five Horror film picks for people that don’t watch a lot of the genre.

1. Psycho (1960) directed by prolific Auteur Alfred Hitchcock. Basic premise: Woman decides to embezzle money from employer and during her escape she finds refuge in a motel ran by a psycho with a mother obsession. And yes, it’s Rated R but hear me out. Back in the ‘60’s this was considered R, but in today’s standards, it’s PG-13. Hardly any violence or gore (Hitchcock used chocolate syrup as blood since it was filmed in black and white), one profanity and that’s the “OMG” phrase, and the only nudity was a silhouette of Janet Leigh in the famous shower scene. Having sad this, Hitchcock was a master at building suspense and crafting deeply disturbing narratives.

2. Insidious (2010) directed by James Wan is bordering on what I’m including on this list. Basic premise: family moves into a new house and are plagued by evil spirits and soon realize that a demon has trapped their son. So, it’s rated PG-13 and includes a single use of the “F” word. There’s a bunch of other mild obscenities. The violence in this film is very little, but there are multiple jump scares. No sexual content which is a plus. What might deter some people from watching this is the intense demonic entity that threatens the family.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999) directed by M. Night Shyamalan is another film that borders what I’m comfortable suggesting to you all. However, it’s such a great PG-13 rated film, I have to include it on this list. Basic premise: kid sees dead people and a psychologist tries to help the kid. Mild profanity, moderate frightening and intense scenes, mild sexual content, but moderate violence and gore are in this film. The ghosts appear how they looked at time of death, so some scenes are pretty grisly looking. However, if you’re wanting to watch a ghost film, this one is a must see.

4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) directed by Scott Derrickson. Try finding a decent exorcist film that isn’t Rated R and you have this film here. Basic premise: A lawyer that doesn’t believe in good and evil takes on a negligent homicide case centered on an exorcism. The lawyer begins to question whether or not good and evil exists. This film is unique because it focuses on the exorcism after the fact from the lawyer’s point of view as she tries to unravel the mystery of what happened to Emily Rose. There are a handful (maybe two handfuls) of curse words, moderate violence, and really no sexual content. It’s the perfect film for someone wanting to dip their toes in an exorcism movie.

5. Beetlejuice (1988) directed by Tim Burton is one of those films that you watched when you were younger, but when you watch it with your kids you wonder “Why did my parents allow me to watch that?” It’s Rated PG, but in reality, it should be Rated PG-13. In fact, the entry above is tamer than this one and that was about a demonic possession. Basic premise: Homeowners die and haunt their house. They seek help from the “ghost with the most” when new homeowners move in. It’s a great scary/funny film, but I’d suggest watching it first before letting your kids watch it.

With all that being said, I really thought that finding five films that weren’t all that gory and graphic wouldn’t have been so hard. I’m sure there are a plethora of other films that would make this list, but I either never came across them or I’ve forgotten about them. Hopefully you all have/had (depending on when you read this) a Happy Halloween! Wishing you all a treat filled and no trick night. Dress up as something and eat some candy because dressing up as a character from your favorite movie/book/show/video game only comes once a year. Right? Oh wait, that’s what cosplayers do every day.

If I survive the night, I’ll talk to you all later.

Happily ever after…

Guilty pleasures. We all have them, even if we don’t want to admit it. I mean, that’s sort of the point of guilty pleasures. One of mine is watching movies with really sad endings. Like, if you don’t tear up during the film then don’t bother making me watch it. Then, as part of the guilty pleasure, I make other people watch them with me. Spoiler warning for some films I discuss today. Here are a few of my “go-to” guilty pleasure films:

  1. Me Before You (2016)
  2. Night of the Living Dead (1968)
  3. A Quiet Place (2018)
  4. Road to Perdition (2002)
  5. Avengers Infinity War (2018)

I know, I’m sadistic.

Before writing this, I started thinking about why I take pleasure in this odd activity. One reason is that I have no soul and can’t gauge emotions, so I want to watch other people when they’re sad in order to copy their emotions. Another reason I came up with is that I’m so depressed that I like to watch fictional characters in pain, this way I take solace that my life isn’t as messed up as theirs.

Maybe I just like realistic storytelling in my films and novels.

That’s right. Sometimes we don’t all live happily ever after. Sometimes the guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. Maybe the father dies at the end in order to save his boy’s eternal soul. Maybe everybody dies at the end of a zombie movie. Maybe the coach mercy kills the paralyzed athlete. Maybe, the bad guy wins and destroys 50 percent of all life in the universe.

Did I just spoil a bunch of films for you? Well too bad! Sometimes we have movie endings spoiled for us. Maybe you should have gone and watched them. Maybe… just maybe… we overuse the word “maybe.”

Now, know what you’re all saying. “But Jimmy, why would I want to go to the theater and watch a film with a sad ending?”

I completely understand. Look at the current “Infinity Saga” that Marvel just pumped out. Starting with Iron Man (2008) until Avengers: Endgame (2019), the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has produced 22 films. How many of those ended with a happy ending? Every. Single. One. Of. Them.

Again, I know what you’re saying. “But Jimmy, in Avengers: Infinity War half of all life was dusted. How is that a happy ending?” To answer that, I’d argue that Thanos the Mad Titan was the protagonist and the Avengers were the “bad guys” of the film. With Thanos completing his task, he achieved his happy ending.

Every MCU film is predictable. You know going into the film that the hero will win, the bad guys will lose, and that everything will be alright. It’s boring. Don’t get me wrong, I love each and every one of those films, but that’s why I have my guilty pleasures. For once, I’d like to see a hero fail at the end of an origin film. That would give the hero an excellent redemption arc in the second and third film. Why don’t they do it? Two words: Box Office. If the film doesn’t do well, then there might not be a second film. You have to perform well in the first film. Meaning a happy ending where the hero wins the day.
You know, the more I think about it, the first film is like a presidential term. If the first one doesn’t do well, there won’t be a second one.

Films that end happily are also a lie. Do you want to know the biggest lie in cinema? Here it is: “And they all lived happily ever after.” It trains children, and depressed adult male writers, that if they try hard and do all they can to overcome their obstacles then they’ll triumph in the end and live “happily ever after.”

Horror movies aren’t even exempt. In the film Dawn of the Dead (1978), the main characters are evacuating from the mall as it’s being overran by zombies. Two of the characters die and turn into the undead while the very pregnant woman gets into a helicopter. Because in the 70’s aircraft births were the thing. The last guy was locked in his room with a gun to his head. He was waiting until the zombies burst in before killing himself, because that makes a difference. At this point, I’m waiting for the film to end darkly. Then, for some reason, the guy has a change of heart. A song that’s reminiscent of the theme to The A-Team plays and the guy fights his way through the horde of the undead to board the helicopter. Together, they take off riding into the sunlight. Happily Ever After.

Again, I know what you’re going to say: “But Jimmy, these are fictional scenarios that’ll never happen. And you’re saying they need to be realistic?”

Here’s my conclusion (tip to all essay writers: never write that as your last paragraph. It’s tacky). Every story needs to have some realism to it. I’m not saying that every ending to every story has to be sad, depressing, or soul crushing. It’s my belief that even in defeat, lessons can be learned. Movies should have more endings where the hero ultimately loses but learns something valuable from the defeat.

Now, as to my mental health, I’m sure you’re all concerned. Because, if I’m being honest with you last week’s rant and this one was depressing. Don’t worry about me.

I’m sure I’ll live happily ever after.

Story and Plot, part two

In last week’s MtC (that’s the working abbreviation for Mastering the Craft, just trying it out), I talked about the interwoven relationship between story and plot and how you can’t have one without the other. Sorta like that theme song to Married with Children. It isn’t absolutely required that you read last week’s MtC, but if you wanted to boost my self-esteem then go right ahead. Don’t worry I’ll wait for everyone to catch up… you good? Great, onto part two.

So now that you know that story is everything the reader needs to know and the plot is the portion of the story that the writer presents to the reader, let’s talk about what exactly goes into the two narrative elements.

Let’s say I get arrested by the police. Let’s say it was for attempted murder. And, just for the sake of fun, let’s call the victim Mr. Language. His first name’s English. They put me in the interrogation room and a detective says, “tell me where you were on the night of the murder of English Language.”

The initial response would be to tell the detectives everything I’d done that day from beginning to end. That would be my story of what happened. Which is exactly what “story” is, it’s what happens from beginning to end.

Janet Burroway, in her book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft, states that “a story is a series of events recorded in their chronological order.” It makes sense, right? In the case of the story I told the detective, I stated the events from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to bed, beginning to end.

Any fiction movie, television show, book has a story. Remember from last week that Burroway defined story as “everything the reader needs to know to make coherent sense of the plot.” Note the phrase “coherent sense.” What exactly does that mean? In the case of my story to the detective, they wouldn’t want to know that I brushed my teeth with a baking soda toothpaste or that I ordered my pizza without onions because I hated the texture of the vegetables. Those are details that the detectives don’t need to know in order to make “coherent sense” of my story. The same goes when you’re writing a book.

“Random incidents neither move nor illuminate; we want to know why one thing leads to another and to feel the inevitability of cause and effect,” states Burroway.

How does that affect the plot then, you may ask? That’s right! I have another quote from Burroway (this is starting to sound like a thesis paper) that states “a plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance.” Have you ever wondered why a chapter ends with a cliffhanger? What about when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, but then nothing is resolved until the next movie? Those are examples of the writers arranging things to deliver a more emotional and dramatic impact on their audience.

Look at the film Reservoir Dogs (1992), written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. If you’ve never seen it, the story is about a group of thieves that attempt a jewelry store heist but things go really wrong due to an undercover cop in their midst. The “story” starts with the undercover cop learning to become a thief in order to infiltrate the group, interacting with the group before the heist, the heist going poorly, the escape, the regrouping of the thieves, then the end. The “plot” is totally different. Tarantino starts the film with the regrouping scene after everything goes wrong. Flashbacks are used intermittently to show the audience more information about who could possibly be the undercover cop. You don’t know into much later in the film. It is clever and if you’ve never seen it before it’s a watch if you’re looking to properly utilize how to create an emotional and dramatic buildup.

It looks like it’s my time to leave you all for another week. Next week, I’ll be discussing more elements within “Story and Plot” so be prepared for more Burroway quotes and maybe I’ll let you know whether or not I was officially charged with the murder of English Language. See? I’m using plot to create a cliffhanger.

Spoiler: English Language deserved it. He allowed the Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey books to exist. Someone had to act.

Avengers: Endgame (2019)

avengers endgameIn the history of cinema, there are movies that have broke the mold. Movies that change the landscape of the business. Examples include The Great Train Robbery (1903), Modern Times (1936), Jaws (1975), Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), and Iron Man (2008). Don’t get me wrong, there are many others, but the point I’d like to get across is that these films are milestones in history. They are markers to the amazing feats that were once thought impossible in film. This past weekend, audiences witnessed one such film. Avengers: Endgame is a milestone in the history of cinema.

Avengers: Endgame marks the end of the first three phases in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The fourth film to feature a massive cast of superheroes is the culmination of 22 films that span 11 years. It also signifies the end of the story arc of the original cast of Avengers: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.
In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), audiences were shocked when evil doer Thanos fulfilled his destiny to collect the six infinity stones and eradicate half of all the living creatures in the universe. Fan favorites Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and many others were reduced to a pile of dust.

avengers endgame2Now, the remaining Avengers must deal with not only the fallout from half of existence turning to dust, but also the heavy burden of trying to fix what Thanos had done.
Avengers: Endgame is a rather long film. The run time is 182 minutes (3 hours, two minutes). However, the film never feels that long. There wasn’t a moment where I was squirming in my seat, bored, or pulled out of the narrative. For me, the three hours seemed to fly.

Just like Captain America, this film packs quite the punch in the emotional department. Having seen it on opening weekend, the audience clapped and cheered, sniffled and cried at various moments in the film. The film doesn’t just deliver on an emotional level, it delivers in the action department as well. If you thought the fight scenes in Avengers: Infinity War was amazing. Just wait until you watch Endgame.

Another fascinating thing about the film was the story. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil anything here. Having spent an entire year crafting theories and listening to others, I was surprised by what actually transpired over those three magnificent hours.
Having said all of this, there were a few things about the story that I felt could’ve been better or handled a little differently. However, I can’t discuss those things without spoiling the plot. Those few miniscule details don’t change my overall feelings about the film.

Avengers endgame3Having grown up reading Marvel Comics, Avengers: Endgame was the closest to actually recreating one of those epic, universe altering comic book series. The amount of fan service, call backs to past films, and nods to the comic books just shows how much care the directors, screenwriters, and producers took in handling the last 22 films.
If you’re a fan of comic book movies, you’ll thoroughly enjoy Avengers: Endgame. Even if you’re not a comic book/superhero fan, you’ll find something to enjoy while watching this epic.

The film is Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and some language. If you’re wondering whether or not this film would be appropriate to take your children to, then I would suggest that if you’re comfortable letting them watch the other Marvel films then you should be fine.

2018 Movie Recap: The Best

Well, here we are at the end of 2018 and with it we are at the final category for my 2018 Movie Recap. The Best of the best that 2018 had to offer. At least, the best of the thirty or so movies that I watched this year. Sure, there have been others that have slipped my theatrical net, but I’m sure none of those were really worth watching. Examples included that Steve Carell action figure movie and that other one about the Arthurian knight that could talk to the chickens of the sea. 

Did I remember those two right? If not, oh well… Onto the list!

110. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 70%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 64%

IMDB Score: 7/10

Okay, I know what you all will say when you read this: “Seriously Jim. Solo! Are you even qualified to be writing this?” My response to your questions would be, of course, yes. Yes I am. Furthermore, I would quarrel with you over a cup of coffee anytime you want about this film. This film was fun, action packed, had decent twists and turns, had a stellar cast, and didn’t mess up the lore that was Han Solo. Plus, they even managed to tie in the Clone Wars television show with that awesome cameo at the end. Also, it was way better than The Last Jedi. What more can you all want in a Star Wars anthology film? Oh. You wanted Vader, Obi-Wan, Boba Fett, and Yoda to have their own origin stories? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but the butterfingers over at Disney dropped that ball when they allowed Rian Johnson to destroy everything that made Star Wars great when he was handed the reins to Episode 8. #notmystarwars #makestarwarsgreatagain

29. Christopher Robin

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 71%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 85%

IMDB Score: 7.5/10

This one hurt me right in the feels. Pure and simple. I grew up watching Winnie the Pooh and when they announced that they would be making a live action version I was horrified. I think I’m the only person on the earth that thinks that these live action films are silly. Why in tarnation does Disney take their old animated films and recreate them in live action? Didn’t anyone learn when George Lucas remastered Star Wars for the umpteenth time that sometimes remaking things with better technology just doesn’t work? Well… needless to say that when I sat down in the seat at the theater I was pretty optimistic. Of course, when Pooh realizes that he and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Woods had been “let go” because of “a fish in the sea” I was trying not to sob like a little kid. It doesn’t really let up either. Make sure to take some tissues if you watch this. I encourage you all to watch it.

38. Ant-Man and The Wasp

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 88%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 78%

IMDB Score: 7.5/10

To me, Marvel keeps getting better and better and that includes films like this one. It’s got the right blend of comedy and action that makes watching, and then rewatching, this film so great. If you liked the first one then you’ll love this one too. The film literally gets bigger and better with the addition of a compelling nemesis (sort of a bad girl but not really because lately Marvel does this great job of making you care about the villain), more comedy from the side characters, and an awesome sidekick in the form of the Wasp. Plus, it ties into the Infinity War Snap so that’s cool too.

47. Black Panther

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 97%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 79%

IMDB Score: 7.4/10

If you liked Hamlet and the Lion King then you’ll love this tale of a son having to gain the throne to an African kingdom from an outcast family member. The son will be thought dead after being thrown from a great distance, recover in a land not too far from home, and then come back and fight that family member to the death. Sure, it sounds like a rinse-and-repeat but Black Panther is a really great film. The CGI is pretty good (don’t look too hard at the rhinos), the acting and action are great, and the soundtrack is killer. To me, it wasn’t the best film because I knew going in that he was going to be alive. He was in Infinity War which came out a few months after Black Panther. Really, there wasn’t much threat to the character. However, Marvel was able to make a really great antagonist which seems to be the trend with their films nowadays. 

56. Deadpool 2

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 83%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 7.8/10

Don’t watch this film with your kids, even if your kids are adults. The film isn’t as lewd in terms of sexual jokes, but it’s not to be considered a “family film.” The story is great though and the comedy, while crude, is pretty funny and doesn’t hold back when making fun of Fox or any of the other superheroes in the genre. Ryan Reynolds gives another awesome performance of the “merc with a mouth” as he tries to save a kid from a terminator-like plot. Josh Brolin plays the antagonist, the time traveling Cable who is trying to kill a mutant child who will grow up and kill Cable’s family in the future. You know, that old chestnut.

65. Halloween

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 79%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 73%

IMDB Score: 7/10

Late to the reboot-train comes this newest incarnation in the Halloween Series. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis as the paranoid hermit Laurie who put her life on hold for 30+ because she believed that the psycho granddaddy of the slasher genre might escape the insane asylum he’s been kept in since the first Halloween (yes, they redacted all of the other films thankfully). However, Laurie tried to have a normal life and had a kid played by Judy Greer who, in turn, had a daughter named Allyson. Allyson is our protagonist and the target of Michael Myers. Yes, Laurie was right and Michael did escape and he is as vicious as ever. If you appreciate scenes that aren’t cut at all that manage some amazing stunts then you’ll appreciate when Michael goes “trick-or-treating.” As an old horror fanatic, I simply loved this film. It does suffer from some elements. If you’re a fan that appreciates when a series as convoluted and bloated as this one gets back to basics, then you’ll like this one.

74. Ready Player One

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 72%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 77%

IMDB Score: 7.6/10

First, let me admit one thing about this film: It’s not the best film on this list. However, I’ve seen this film more times than any other film on this entire trilogy of lists. It’s visually amazing. It’s slams you in the face with nostalgia, but does it in a way that’s acceptable. It’s not like the book, but almost as great. Some of the flaws include the main characters. Artemis is supposed to be so self conscious regarding her facial birthmark that she doesn’t want to be seen in public. Parzival is supposed to be overweight and out of shape. Again, this isn’t the book, but even still. Have you ever watched a movie and thought: those actors are waaaaaay too good looking to play that role? 

83. A Quiet Place

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 95%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 83%

IMDB Score: 7.6/10

Can I be honest with you all? I can? Thanks. I went into this film solely because of John Krasinski. I didn’t really know too much about the plot except that they all had to be quiet because aliens were tracking them by sound. The rest of the cast blew me away. You might think that the lack of vocal dialogue would be a deterrent, but it only amplified the film’s other senses. By the end of the film I was both loving it and hating it. But I won’t spoil anything for you all if you haven’t seen it.

I’ll be quiet.

92. Avengers: Infinity War

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 84%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 91%

IMDB Score: 8.5/10

This was tough to admit, but Avengers: Infinity War was not my favorite film of 2018. The culmination of 10 years of storytelling across a crazy amount of films and it comes to this film. Marvel did one heck of a great job making me appreciate and empathize with Thanos, the Mad Titan. At the end of the film, I was laughing and clapping for him while everyone else was weeping and yelling in anguish over the loss of their favorite superheroes. I must have seen this in theaters about four times and I loved every second of it. On that first night, the audience was so amazing. I’ve never experienced such a reaction from an audience. One guy even cried. Like, full man-tears. Even if you don’t like super hero movies, you have to appreciate how the Russo brothers were able to juggle that many characters and still integrate them in such a way that they all seemed important to the core storyline. 

So, we’ve come to the final spot. The cream of the crop, the best of the best, the one true film to rule them all. EXCEPT THERE IS A TIE!!!!

Yes, I watched a film last week that made me rethink my entire list. So here are the two films that tied for the number one spot:

101. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 97%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 94%

IMDB Score: 8.7/10

I watched this and I was truly amazed at the quality and overall story of this animated film. I have to admit, I didn’t like the Miles Morales character when he first appeared in the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. Not because of his skin color, but because they killed off Peter Parker in order to usher Morales into the role of Spider-Man. Why can’t there be two Spider-Men? Over time though, that hurt over the loss of Parker waned and I embraced Morales. Seeing that same plot play out in this film, I wasn’t as hurt by it. The thing that propelled this movie over Infinity War was the unexpectedness of it. Going into Infinity War, I knew the general plot points and where the ending would lead. Having been a comic book reader and knowing there was a part two, it wasn’t hard to predict what was going to happen. In fact, it was a…. snap. With this film, I didn’t have that knowledge. The plot kept twisting and turning and I was thrilled to see that Marvel’s propensity for creating compelling villains transferred over to Sony’s animated universe. You’ll sympathize with Kingpin and why he’s doing what he’s doing. Even the death of the Morales’ Peter Parker is heartfelt. Of course, seeing one of Stan Lee’s final cameos was also gut wrenching. Simply put, go see this film.

111. Won’t You Be My Neighbor

Rotten Tomato’s Critic Score: 99%

Rotten Tomato’s Audience Score: 95%

IMDB Score: 8.5/10

Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. You know, it’s a sad thing to think that most children nowadays are going to grow up without Fred Rogers in their lives. Unlike most children’s programs, Fred Rogers wasn’t trying to advertise a product. He wasn’t concerned about toy sales or his sponsors. The only thing he cared about was the children. This documentary portrays the love and caring nature that was Mr. Rogers. The show dealt with tough subjects, but Fred Rogers explained them to children in such a caring and tender way that made it easier to listen to and handle. If you’re looking for trip down memory lane, then take the trolley into the documentary that goes behind the scenes of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Just make sure you take a few tissues with you. If you were a fan of the show, you’ll cry somewhere along the journey.

Thank you all for bearing with me as I criticized and ranked the films I saw during 2018. If you disagree with me (I’m sure there are some that do), then let me know in the comments below. If you want, I can make a list of the films I want to see in 2019.

When the End isn’t really the End

So here we are at the end of 2018. For me, it’s been a year of some really great moments. Of course, like the roller coasters at Six Flags once taught me, what goes up must come down. Fortunately, it seems that 2018 was filled with more ups than down.

Side note, I’d like to apologize to the people in the row behind me for that incident I had during the ride. Turns out roller coasters and chili dogs when you’re a ten-year old kid don’t quite mix.

The good thing about the end of the year is that there’s another one immediately as soon as the prior year ends. You also don’t have to wait for it to come out. The same can’t be said for books.

I have this friend (despite the rumors, I do have friends) that buys books as presents. We were walking through Barnes and Nobles before Christmas and he was looking for a book for his father. He ended up getting two or three from the same series. When I asked if his father liked the series, my friend said he’d never read the series. He went on to say that when he buys books, he often purchases the whole series or a few books from the series because if they like the book then they can immediately continue on with the next.

I’ve come across another issue with series. Specifically my own book series. Sometimes when I’m trying to get people to buy my book, they ask if they’re part of a series. When I reply that they are, they often say the following: “Well, I might read them when the entire series is published. That way I don’t have to wait for next one to come out.”

So, for this last Mastering the Craft of 2018, it’s Dec. 27 when I’m writing this, I’d like to discuss some advantages/disadvantages of writing a book series.

Advantages:

• The story you write can be much longer than if it was a single book. By stretching your plot out between six or seven books you can develop characters and include more detailed side plots for characters. Book series like The Dark Tower comes into mind. If Stephen King had written one single book about Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower, King might not have been able to really develop the characters Eddie, Jake, and Susannah. Which would have been a shame because those characters really are intriguing and only help to enrich the overall story.

• You really shouldn’t be in the writing business for the money. Strictly speaking, being an author isn’t that profitable unless you’re a King, Patterson, Rowling, etc… Writing should be about loving what you do and not loving the money you may gain from it. However, if you’re able to profit from your books, then writing a longer series may be worth it. Look at J.K. Rowling. She’s published seven books in her series. Mathematically, she earns more money from seven books than she would if she’d written one to three novels.

• Publishers tend to look more for series than single books. The reasoning I said above applies here as well.

Disadvantages:

• You could die before the series is completed. Sure, I could have built up to this disadvantage, but I thought I’d begin with the absolute worst. So fans of Game of Thrones are waiting for George R.R. Martin to keel over at any moment and leave his series incomplete. I’m sure if you search on the internet there are many articles that have been written on the subject. Shoot, Weird Al Yankovic even involved this in a parody of his. Stephen King almost died in 1999 when he was struck by a vehicle. If he had died that day, his Dark Tower series would’ve been incomplete leaving fans with only questions.

• You could have your series completed by another author. I know some of you might think this is worse, but the first one involves death. Of course, if the author that takes over your series is awful, then that would mean the death of your series. So… maybe that’s worse. An author’s books are his/her legacy. Having another author taint your legacy with their writing style is equal to dying and not completing it yourself. Tom Clancy is a great example. You’ll notice that even though Clancy is long since dead, his series goes on with “Tom Clancy’s” in front of every book. Disclaimer: I’m not stating that all those books are rubbish. I’m only questioning whether or not Clancy would want this happening. You’ll notice I didn’t include a James Patterson joke. I’ve grown up a bit.

• So you’ve decided to write a book series. Awesome! Except, you don’t really need to write a series. Your plot could easily fit into one or two books, but you’re determined to stretch it out into five or six books and call it “The (fill in the blank) Chronicles” or the “(fill in the blank) Series).” The outcome is that all your books are pretty short in length and even shorter in character/plot substance. If you ever do get the books accepted by a publisher it’ll be a miracle. But then again, James Patterson gets his books published so publishing miracles must be a dime a dozen. 

Hmm…. Guess I didn’t grow up that much.

Remember folks, when you’re writing a book and decide to make it a series you need to do two things. The first is to consider where your characters want to go, do, and how they’ll grow as characters. If your characters are the same as when they began then it might prove as a boring book series. The second thing you have to ask yourself is: Is my story meant to be a series? Ask yourself if you have the mental fortitude to lock yourself in for a few years as you write all the books in your series. If you don’t know the answers to these questions then maybe a book series isn’t right for your story. Try writing just one book and if you have plots incomplete then go forth with another book.

Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you all in 2019! Unless, of course, assassins from Patterson and/or Michigan don’t get to me first. I tend to make enemies whenever I write these rants.