2017: My movie year in review

My top 10 favourite 2017 movies:

10. It
9. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
American Made
Casting JonBenet
The Big Sick
Get Out
2. First They Killed My Father

1. Wind River It not only has suspense, a great story, good acting, good characters, and excellent storytelling, it also highlights an issue in our North American world that desperately needs a spotlight.

Honourable mentions: Coco, The Mountain Between Us, The Glass Castle, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Kong: Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast, Unacknowledged, Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

My top 10 favourite movies I watched in 2017 (that were not released in 2017):

10. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
The Basketball Diaries (1985)
The King of Comedy (1982)
The Crucible (1996)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Punishment Park (1971)
Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)
The Red Violin (1998)

1. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) — You’ll remember all the news coverage on Ukraine a few years ago, and this movie will bring to light so much more! You will understand the details surrounding those events, why they happened, and why it’s so relevant and important to us today.

Honourable mentions: Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Beasts of No Nation (2015), Fatal Attraction (1987), The Lunch Box (2013)

2016 Movies Watched in 2017

(I watched a pile of 2016 movies in 2017 that I had missed in that preceding year. A lot of them got Oscar attention (like Jackie, Moonlight, Deadpool, et al), but the following are ones that you may not have considered and that I really enjoyed and recommend to you.)

10. Keanu (2016)
Free State of Jones (2016)
Tower (2016)
Maudie (2016)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
5. The Girl on the Train (2016)
4. The Nice Guys
The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Tickled (2016)

1. 13th (2016) — A documentary that, I believe, is not only relevant, but essential viewing to understanding the time we are living in, especially with regards to poverty and race.

Congratulations Back to the Future. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars.

Best Actor: Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

Best Quote:You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.” — Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This year I’m hoping to see all of the movies nominated for best picture like I did last year. It ain’t easy, but it’s fun trying!


Pick your movie of the week: Heavy Hitters! (Dec 31/17-Jan 6/18)

Often I will avoid putting a movie in as a nominee because I think it would win too easily. This time we’re going in the opposite direction. All movies that are crazy popular and having them compete against each other would have to be a close race. I do believe Princess Bride (1987) could have been included, but we can save that for another time. For now, which heavy hitter hits the hardest in your book?

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Back to the Future (1985)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The cool pizza guy

The other night Joy suggested we get take out for supper. She made the order and I made the pick-up, which is when I was served by a gentleman I’ve known for the past 17+ years. I actually don’t know his name, but he’s always been the one to serve when I’ve eaten at his establishment and he’s really nice. We’ve actually had a lot of good chats over the years. Sometimes it’s just pleasantries, other times we’re solving all the world’s problems. This last pizza order reminded me of a great story from a few years back and I was reminded of how much I like this guy. Here’s the memory:

I was chatting with some students in town about how much we loved this particular pizza joint. And, of course, any time this restaurant comes up in conversation amoungst residents of this town, two things are sure to be said: 1) “That pizza is awesome!” …and 2) “I wonder where that guy’s from.” The latter is said because the man has darker skin than me, which means he has darker skin that about 90% of the population of Sussex and he has a slight accent. And in a small, mostly white town, people are constantly wanting an answer to that question when meeting someone with that distinction. And let’s be honest, we’ve all wanted to ask someone where they were from because of how they looked and sounded. And if that person answered with something like “Lakeville,” well, you have to admit you were probably disappointed and struggled to fight the urge to press further in hopes to get the real answer. So, as you’d expect, in this conversation with the students…

“I wonder where he’s from.”

“I know. It’s India,” says one.

“Oh really? I heard it was Dominican Republic. I’m pretty sure it is,” says another.

“It’s neither,” pipes up a third. “It’s Pakistan. I mean, he’s from Moncton. But his parents moved here from Pakistan.” I wasn’t surprised to hear this answer seeing as I’d heard his establishment being referred to with a racial nickname that indicated this country.

Now the one who said India restates his position, saying he knows he’s from there because so-and-so asked him one day and that’s what he told them. Then the guy with the Pakistan answer said something that made my day. He said, “So did I. I asked him myself where he was from and he told me Pakistan.” (I believe the Dominican Republic guy said something to the same effect.) And I realized… He’s changing the answer every time someone asks! I love this guy!

Congratulations Fanny and Alexander. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Pernilla Allwin as Fanny in Fanny and Alexander and...
Best Actor: Bertil Guve as Alexander in Fanny and Alexander. Unfortunately this is the only movie I’ve seen of our nominees, though I plan to watch the other two. I thought it was fitting to give it to the two child actors. I’m not sure why, but children always seem to be better actors in foreign language films.

Best Quote: When asked if he’s sad about growing old, a character answers with I’m certainly not. Everything’s getting worse. Worse people, worse machines, worse wars… and worse weather. I’m glad I’ll soon be dead.” — Fanny and Alexander.

I wouldn’t say I recommend F&A. I’m not quite done it because it’s so long, which is a strike for me unless the movie is so good it earns a long running time. However, the first act is all about Christmas in a Swedish family and it was a lot of fun to watch. “God Jul!”

Pick your movie of the week: International Christmas Movies (Dec 24-30/17)

Most of the Christmas movies we watch every year are American/Hollywood, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some non-American films that are considered Christmas movies. And since I haven’t seen them, the one that wins I will try and track down and watch it. Which one would you pick to watch?

Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, Canada)
Set in cold rural Quebec at Christmas time, we follow the coming of age of a young boy and the life of his family which owns the town’s general store and undertaking business.

Fanny and Alexander (1982, Sweden)
Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family, the Ekdahls.

2046 (2004, Hong Kong)
The women who enter a science fiction author’s life, over the course of a few years, after the author loses the woman he considers his one true love.

The Guy You Sort Of Know

Oh trust me, you know him. You may not recognize “Vaclav” to see him, but I guarantee you’ve got a connection with him. He was a royal duke from what we know today as The Czech Republic. At that time it was known as Bohemia (formerly Moravia) and his story is pretty cool.

Now Vaclav was not one of those royals who aren’t in touch with real people and real situations. He was a very good leader and a very good example. Even when at war he was known for trying his best to avoid bloodshed, especially for the innocent. One time, there was a rebel Count that wanted to attack Vaclav’s army with his so that he could overthrow him in government. Vaclav heard about it and suggested to the count that the two of them fight each other instead, one-on-one, so that they could determine a winner without anyone else dying. According to legend, the count simply gave up because as he approached Vaclav for the fight he saw two angels on either side of him telling him to stand down.

Vaclav was also known for his generosity. He was intent on taking good care of orphans, widows, prisoners, and anyone facing troubles of any kind who lived in his country. He would travel long distances just to give individuals who were in some dire situation a gift of money or goods. This brings us to the reason you’ve heard of him. His best known story is traveling a long way in a bitter snow storm to bring alms to a poor peasant during one of their holiday feasts (He didn’t even know him. He just randomly saw him, could see he was in need, and wanted to help the guy out.). But the weather was so bad his attendant didn’t think he’d make it. He just knew he’d die if he kept going. Vaclav’s solution? Just follow behind me and take your steps in the snow in the steps I’ve already made. And they made it to the peasant’s house and gave him what they brought.

The holiday observance was the Feast of Stephen back in the 9th century. Vaclav is the more modern name of Wenceslas. We know him as King Wenceslas, but he was never a king. It was a Roman emperor who would centuries later confer upon him the title king because of his proven greatness.

And as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Congratulations The Lego Movie. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Courtney Cox as Julie Winston in Masters of the Universe.

Best Actor: Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky in Transformers.

Best Quote: I only work in black and sometimes very, very dark grey.” — Batman (Will Arnett) in The Lego Movie.


And the full lyrics to the song…

Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me

If thou know’st it, telling

Yonder peasant, who is he?

Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence

Underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence

By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Bring me pine logs hither

Thou and I will see him dine

When we bear him thither.”

Page and monarch forth they went

Forth they went together

Through the rude wind’s wild lament

And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how,

I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, my good page

Tread thou in them boldly

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod

Where the snow lay dinted

Heat was in the very sod

Which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Christian men, be sure

Wealth or rank possessing

Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing

Pick your movie of the week: Toys!

I can remember every December of my childhood turning to the toy section of the Sears Wish Book and staring, dreaming, and wondering. All of our nominations are movies inspired by toys (…though perhaps in the case of He-Man the cartoon came first?). Sorry that these are mostly male-centered toys—I could have included a Barbie movie and/or Jem and the Holograms, but this is what I settled on. Anyway, which flick would you pick?

The Lego Movie (2014)

Transformers (2007)

Masters of the Universe (1987)

This is my 500th post: Gremlins at the Movies

I think it’s neat when movies make reference or pay homage to other movies, and Gremlins does this quite a bit. Here are some cool ways in which the makers of Gremlins snuck in references to other films:

  1. That poor theater. In 1984 it is blown up by gremlins. It got fixed, but one year later Marty McFly runs into it with a Delorean in Back to the Future (1985). In fact, the set for Kingston Falls was the same one used for Hill Valley.
  2. Speaking of McFly, Frances Lee McCain who plays Peltzer’s mom in this movie also plays Lorraine’s 1955 mom in Back to the Future.
  3. Stripe attacks Billy with a chainsaw, an intentional homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
  4. Near the beginning of the movie you can see a local cinema is showing A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies. You may not think you’ve seen these, but you probably have. They are the working titles (or secret names to keep people from knowing what they are) of E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind respectively.
  5. Speaking of E.T., a stuffed toy of the alien can be found in this movie. Also, there is a gremlin who utters the words, “Phone home.”
  6. In Billy’s home you can see a rolled up movie poster for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
  7. The time machine prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen in the background of a scene.
  8. There is a bar scene where some Gremlins are playing a Star Wars arcade game.
  9. Chris Columbus wrote the script for this movie as well as for Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. All three movies have clips from It’s a Wonderful Life in them.
  10. Director Joe Dante made a nod to his 1981 movie The Howling with a smiley face on the family’s refrigerator door.
  11. When Billy falls asleep after feeding the Mogwai after midnight you can see poster for The Road Warrior (1981) on the wall.
  12. …and in the same scene, before he feeds them he is seen watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
  13. In one scene at a science convention you can see a robot talking on the phone in the background. That robot is from Forbidden Planet (1956).
  14. When the Gremlins are in the theater they are watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was a movie released in December. This movie was actually released in June (on the very same day as Ghostbusters) even though it is set at Christmas time.
  15. You may also remember that while the classic movie is playing, one of the gremlins is wearing Mickey ears.

Congratulations Gremlins. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (Selina Kyle) in Batman Returns.

Best Actor: Danny DeVito as the Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot) in Batman Returns.

Best Quote: “I don’t make things complicated. That’s the way they get, all by themselves.” — Mel Gibson as Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

It is also interesting to note that it was this movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—both 1984 summer blockbusters—that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.

Tis the Timing of the Season


You can pick which part below applies to you: whether you like to decorate and listen to holiday tunes early in the year (say, after Halloween?), or whether you get annoyed by those who do so. Either way, I think we can work out a deal here. So, are you a Holiday Preemie or a Season Suspender?

Holiday Preemies (Celebrate early, and for as long as possible!)

Ok, my goal is to help you understand the Suspenders. They appear to be grumpy humbugs, but here is where they are coming from. They are aware, as you are, of how commercial Christmas has become. Hearing those age-old hymns and carols are very special to them—they really are!—but they associate the early playing of them to be just another way that stores get us to buy more stuff and for people to prove their Christmassy-ness. Think of it this way: neon lights never hurt anyone, right? You see them every day. You may even take a trip to Vegas and find the overcrowded display of flashing signs spectacular. But if you were to ingest this in large doses on a consistent basis, you might get a headache. You may even complain. They don’t want what is special to them to become a kind of obnoxious kid at the playground. And honestly, sometimes the Christmas posts on social media often come across as show-offy or even “in your face” to those who aren’t Preemies. And let’s be honest… is posting really your way of celebrating Christmas? Or are you trying to start something. Ah-ahhhhh… Be honest now!

The solution is really quite simple with regards to the tunes. Of course you can listen to Christmas music as early as you like. You can listen to it every day and twice on Sundays all year long if you want to. It’s a free country and all that stuff. But it’s probably best to enjoy it at home or in your ear buds, but maybe not making it a playlist in group circles—at least until December. Otherwise, this inevitably brings on a whine-fest between Preemies and Suspenders. As for decorating, just keep doing what you’re doing. Whether it’s your business or your home, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks about timing. Put it up in April. Who cares?

Season Suspenders (Don’t jump the gun… Christmas will come…)

Ok, my goal is to help you understand Holiday Preemies. Though it can be annoying to see the “I celebrate mid-October, deal with it!” posts in social media, a lot of that comes from inner angst towards you, the Season Suspenders. Every time they want to celebrate and you object, they feel like you’re a wet blanket, and most times you are. To complain about their premature jollification is not going to make them rethink their life and change their ways. Au contraire, it just might lead to more posts. Holly-jollier posts. And saying that celebrating before Remembrance Day is disrespectful is just dirty pool.

If you wait until December 20th to put up a tree and listen to “O Tannenbaum,” go ahead. It’s your life bro. But any talk of this being the “right way to celebrate” will bring on (you guessed it) a whine fest between Preemies and Suspenders.

Christmas is too commercial? Well, even though we all may agree that it is, we would also be disappointed in getting nothing but hand-knit scarves and hand-drawn pictures for Christmas in an effort to avoid the commercialization. Come on now… admit it! Plus, the music is there to stay. Complaining about Christmas music being heard through the loudspeakers at Walmart in mid-November is right up there with complaining about cold weather. It ain’t gonna change. Press the mute button at home, put in earplugs at the department store.

There. Solved! We don’t have to discuss this anymore. We can all get along as well as Chuck and Wilson (though they did spat just a wee bit).

Congratulations Cast Away. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Tilda Swinton as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Best Actor: Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook in Hook.

Best Quote: To live…to live would be an awfully big adventure.” — Robin Williams as Peter Banning in Hook.

And if you’re interested at all—which isn’t likely—here is my latest “Top 10 Last 10” (ranking the last 10 movies I’ve seen)

10. Kids (1995) Not crazy about this one. I do not recommend it. 2 stars

9. The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) It’s on Netflix and has a star-studded cast. It was just ok for me. 2.5 stars

8. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) This is one of those movies I wanted to watch just to see what the fuss was about. I wasn’t crazy about the subject matter, but it was a pretty good movie. 3.5 stars

7. Coco (2017)  There was a good chunk in the middle where I was a bit bored, but overall a really good movie. 3.5 stars

6. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017) Man on the Moon is a movie on my top 100 list, so I was drawn to this movie from the start. It’s very interesting and I especially enjoyed the ending. If you watch it, you must watch the end credits for a little addition to the movie. 3.5 stars

5. The Birth of a Nation (2016) The best thing about this movie is taking back the title from the 1915 movie. If you want to know why I hate the 1915 movie—and I doubt you do—ask me sometime. 4 stars

4. The Basketball Diaries (1995) I always thought DiCaprio’s greatest performances were in Gilbert Grape and The Revenant, but now there’s a new kid in town to contend for that position. 4 stars

3. Thor: Ragnarok (2017) So fun. The best superhero movie I’ve seen in a long time. I’d even say I liked it more than The Avengers. Maybe. 4 stars

2. American Made (2017) Wow, I was really impressed with this one. As you might remember, I love biopics and this one is a near home run. 4 stars

1. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) This was a re-watch for me, and it has got to be one of the greatest comedies of all time. Every scene is good. And funny. Plus, I’m not sure there are any comedic actors better than Martin and Candy. 5 stars