What We Learned This Week: May 12-18

LESSON #1: SCARY BUSINESS DEALS ARE ALSO SMART ONES— Just as there are two sides to every story, there are two sides to every business deal.  On the surface, Walt Disney, which acquired controlling stake in Hulu as part of the Fox deal, looks like the corporate greed monster or the Borg from Star Trek lore many fear in buying the rest of the Hulu pie from Comcast.  Honestly, though, this was inevitable and necessary. Split between two opposing controllers, Hulu was going to die a slow death of futility and stagnation.  Comcast squeezed Disney for $5.8 billion (far more than it paid years ago for LucasFilm or Marvel) for something the Mouse House was likely going to dissolve anyway with their Disney+ service.  That’s like the movie business equivalent of an NBA trade for an expiring contract that will never play a game in his new uniform. Comcast laughs all the way to the bank and the marketplace loses something that would have become clutter.

LESSON #2: EVEN “NO SUCH THING AS TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING” MIGHT NEED LIMITS— Now that Avengers: Endgame has cleared the Marvel end of self-imposed radio silence, have you seen the release date reservations of Disney’s calendar for the next five years?  Look below:

That, my friends, is insane.  Welcome to “market saturation.” I get that they are too big to fail and I get that they still make successful and positive products, but, good golly, space a few things out.  I’ll tip my hat that no new Star Wars films are coming for three years after The Rise of Skywalker.  That’s a nice pause.  That’s only one slow pause on a much bigger machine of cycles.  Other studios see this calendar and avoid these dates in order to not get squashed as the feeble competition.  Still, with a calendar that thick, where can the others hope to go at some point? Yowzers!

LESSON #3: START YOUR RESURRECTION CLOCKS NOW— Gazing into that future of release dates, one could wonder two things.  First, when will inevitable character turnover occur and, second, how long will the dead really stay dead.  I say that second one because anyone who knows the parent medium of comic book films (the graphic novels themselves) knows that no one ever really stays dead.  Even Christopher Nolan couldn’t really “kill” Batman. At this big level, when you put profit-minded and impatient studio execs in charge, I have to think the turnover or resurrection window narrows.  Contributor Jonah Koslofsky over on The Spool did a nice editorial piece this week on this underlying angle.  Sure, Hugh Jackman is supposed to be done with Wolverine after Logan, but what happens if the MCU fame comes calling (especially after/if Dark Phoenix bombs)?  Do we really think Robert Downey Jr. wouldn’t at least be tempted to consider another monster paycheck to return?  If their integrity holds (and I hope it does so as to not cheapen their phenomenal on-screen sacrifices and exits), wonderful, but when do the reboots and recastings start to come (Henry Cavill?! No, dude), especially with Logan’s new MCU home under the Disney roof?  Rub that chin and begin to wonder.

LESSON #4: THERE IS AT LEAST ONE PLACE WHERE DISNEY IS STRIVING AGAINST CREATIVE BANKRUPTCY— Speaking of that lengthy release calendar and recurring characters, the repetitive trends are a little maddening.  Call it whatever kind of adjective-assisted fatigue you want, this steady-yet-successful pattern of franchises, sequels, re-imaginings, and reboots from Disney (and other studios too, let’s be fair) have led many observers to bring out the “creatively bankrupt” label.  A sliver of less of that came to light this week when Pixar producer Mark Nielsen confirmed that Pixar has no other sequels on their planning board after this summer’s Toy Story 4.  Expect, fresh ideas, new faces, and big ideas which are, namely, all the reasons Pixar became successful in the first place.  This counts as promising news!

LESSON #5: THE ARTHOUSE HAS AN INTERNATIONAL LIFELINE— We in the United States are living in big screen blockbuster era.  It’s rare to see little films blow up anymore. If they do, they still have a genre bend to them for cross-demographic appeal matching today’s moviegoers.  The decline of the arthouse scene of independent film has been very apparent for a long time. We’re seeing a market transition where streaming and VOD platforms become their best profit options with multiplexes full of the big cheese.  So, it’s really encouraging to see one more place where arthouse films are gaining audiences: OVERSEAS. Eric Kohn of IndieWire wrote a nice analysis piece that shows a movie like Capernaum opening #2 and early $12 million behind Avengers: Endgame in China.  Here in the states last year, the same movie earned a little over $1.6 million in its entire run.  Opportunity like this for Capernaum and Shoplifters is great news for this class of filmmaking and for the global industry in general.  Slowly but surely, good films will find an audience and tastes can evolve along the way.

LESSON #6: FEAST YOUR EYES ON PRODUCTION DESIGN— In the final lesson suggestion spot, allow me to re-share a YouTube essay from the fine folks at CineFix ranking (with several ties) the ten best production designs of all-time.  This stellar list covers all genres and periods with fairness and there’s not a dud in the bunch. If you don’t notice and appreciate production design when you watch a film, let a little study like this be a primer and have a discerning eye into that craft ingredient when you watch movies going forward.  Production design is absolutely vital, both visible and invisible.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over two years, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#102)

MOVIE REVIEW: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Yeah… I’m thinking he’s back. Not the best entry in this series, but nonetheless another incredibly satisfying time spent watching Wick do what Wick does best.


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

2019 Seattle International Film Festival Capsule Reviews

Each year the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) screens hundreds of feature films, documentaries, short films, and more from all around the world over a 25-day period in May and June. This year the largest and most highly attended festival in the United States will run from May 16 – June 9 and show 410 films representing 86 countries, a lineup which includes 36 World premieres, 40 North American premieres, and 19 U.S. premieres. 55% of films come from 1st or 2nd time filmmakers, 46% are made by women filmmakers, and 56% of Feature Competition films are directed by women. The festival will screen several highly anticipated films such as Late Night starring Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, The Farewell starring Awkwafina, and Sword of Trust written and directed by local filmmaker Lynn Shelton. As part of this year’s celebration of women in comedy, SIFF will be presenting the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema to Regina Hall. Suffice it to say, all 410 films won’t be covered here, but in addition to our podcast coverage of the festival you will find capsule reviews of a wide variety of films across many genres. Check back often for new capsule reviews as we cover the 45th Annual Seattle International Film Festival. (Reviews are in order of film’s earliest showing.)

Must See: THE FAREWELL, MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL

Recommended: MONOS, Q BALL, ROLL RED ROLL

Worth Watching: PACHAMAMA, WHO LET THE DOGS OUT

Skip: AN AFFAIR, COLD SWEAT


MONOS (102 minutes)

Nightmarish, unquestionably dark, and challenging, this story about eight teenage guerrilla fighters in the mountainous jungles of Columbia feels like a hallucinatory mix between LORD OF THE FLIES and APOCALYPSE NOW infused with the contemplative musing of Terrance Malick. Much is left unknown narratively, but the film excels in style. It features outstanding nuanced and intense performances, stunning landscape cinematography, and an incredible, haunting synthetic score from Mica Levi which lead to a sensory experience that evokes a range of conflicting emotions. MONOS is a captivating and unpredictable original work that won’t appeal to everyone, but has the ability to floor those who let themselves become invested. – Aaron White

Rating:

Showtimes: May 17 – 3:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown), May 20 – 9:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Egyptian)

[Get Tickets]


Q BALL (97 minutes)

The famous San Quentin Prison is California’s oldest, and the only one which houses male inmates on death row (the nation’s largest). This Kevin Durant produced film from Michael Tolajian focuses, however, on a rehabilitation program at the correctional facility for the general population, specifically a prison basketball team called the San Quentin Warriors (in honor of their local NBA squad). Over the course of this slickly produced and emotionally powerful documentary, we meet men incarcerated for crimes from domestic violence to gun possession to murder, all seeking redemption and community within the sport they love. Concentrating primarily on highly talented former collegiate athlete Harry “ATL” Smith and his road to parole as the Warriors play through a season against community teams from outside their walls, the film paints a beautiful picture of how basketball is universal and can be “a bridge between worlds” as well as a vehicle for growth. It is a compassionate but fair look at these men, always wrestling with their actions of the past, while trying to be better in the present to earn the hope of a future. Though never diverging to tackle bigger issues like the over-incarceration of people of color or unfair sentencing laws, Q BALL is an inspirational reminder about the power of sport and the need for rehabilitation programs that set up inmates to succeed when their time behind bars is through. – Aaron White

Rating:

 

The kind of heartwarming stories you love to see; a film that shows us the redemptive qualities of a sport like basketball and how it operates as rehabilitation doubling as a place of peace for prisoners at the infamous San Quentin Prison. We follow a select number of convicts who detail their own personal stories on how basketball has given them a new sense of purpose. They detail the reasoning for why they are in prison, the mistakes they have made, and how being involved with a team sport has been the source for new change, hope, and a way to be free amidst the daily reality of life behind bars. It touches your heart and showcases the possibilities and potential for people to change if they are given the opportunities and resources to do so. I’m a sucker for anything sports related in film but this felt more poignant and deeper than sports. – Caless Davis

Rating:

Showtimes: May 17 – 6:30 pm (Ark Lodge Cinemas), May 18 – 12:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown),

May 21 – 3:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown)

[Get Tickets]


WHO LET THE DOGS OUT (70 minutes)

Director Brent Hodge (A BRONY TALE, FREAKS & GEEKS: THE DOCUMENTARY) loves exploring unique stories about popular culture. His latest film follows Ben Sisto, a man who was browsing the Wikipedia entry for the hit song “Who Let the Dogs Out” one day when a spark of curiosity hit. Over the next 8 years, Ben traveled the globe from Seattle to Nassau to England, attempting to nail down the origin of this memorable tune, and in the process uncovered a disputed history of the iconic song that includes a six-year legal battle and several ruined relationships. Though it’s certainly not life-changing, the investigative reporting style, which includes interviews with everyone from eclectic artists to sound engineers, and Ben’s charming personality, make this short, informative documentary an entertaining look into one of the most unforgettable songs to ever get stuck in your head. – Aaron White

Rating:

Showtimes: May 17 – 7:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown), May 19 – 6:30 pm (AMC Pacific Place),

May 25 – 8:30 pm (Shoreline Community College)

[Get Tickets]


AN AFFAIR (90 minutes)

AN AFFAIR comes off as a retread of what I’ve seen the few unfortunate times I have watched a Lifetime original film. Devoid of a plot that is more than simple in execution, lack of character development so that we can understand the decision and behaviors of the people we follow, a lack of awareness when it comes to character making decisions, and bare minimum acting. The film is centered on an affair between a teacher and student at a high school and then the teacher becomes obsessed with carrying on this blurred relationship, losing her sense off morality in a faulty attempt at recapturing a spark long missing from her love life. My biggest issue outside of the flaws I have noted is that the story is in a rush to showcase this steamy affair but we don’t know why this woman is willing to risk her marriage to be with this young teenager; we don’t get any exploration into her marriage or the internal strife she may be dealing with. Any information we do get is put towards the end of the film in the form of cheap exposition; by the time you get any understanding the film is over. I was excited to see this when I saw the change of pace of a teacher being obsessed with a student but honestly this is a big letdown when it had the opportunity to be a compelling drama. – Caless Davis

Rating:

Showtimes: May 19 – 9:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Egyptian), May 20 – 3:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown)

[Get Tickets]


PACHAMAMA (72 minutes)

This visually lush and magical animated tale from Latin America is a delightful depiction of culture in the Andes as the Spanish Conquest looms large over a peaceful farming village. The children’s story follows a young boy who dreams of becoming a shaman as he embarks on a hero’s journey to retrieve a seized religious relic from a representative of the nearby city’s ruling “god”. Accompanied by his wise and faithful female friend, plus two adorable animal sidekicks, their colorful heartfelt adventure is as entertaining as it is educational. – Aaron White

Rating:

Showtimes: May 19 – 11:00 am (AMC Pacific Place), May 27 – 1:00 pm (Lincoln Square)

[Get Tickets]


ROLL RED ROLL (80 minutes)

* Trigger warning for details of real-life sexual assault

“Boys will be boys” fuels the dangerous culture exposed in this documentary that shines a light on a 2012 rape case in Steubenville, OH. Director Nancy Schwartzman shows how a local crime blogger, and later the hacktivist group Anonymous, helped force a city to reckon with the awful sexual assault of a young girl by two star HS football players. The sheer lack of empathy from the teenage boys, victim-blaming, and protection of the abusers by adults is infuriating, disturbing, and gut-wrenching, but hopefully this serves as gripping call to action that will encourage others to stand against this behavior in the future. – Aaron White

Rating:

Showtimes: May 20 – 4:30 pm (Majestic Bay), May 28 – 6:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown),

May 29 – 4:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown)

[Get Tickets]


COLD SWEAT (85 minutes)

COLD SWEAT is a film that has its heart in the right place but does not fully use its message about women living under the patriarchal rule of their husbands in foreign countries to say anything substantial. We follow an Iranian female soccer player who is banned from leaving the country with her team because her husband did not give her permission to leave. Her career is jeopardized and there is no organization or anyone that is willing to help at all because the law is the law. Baran Kosari in the leading role gives us a powerful performance displaying the pain that comes with being a women in the developed world that faces major obstacles to being truly free and not just a piece of property. We see a couple of scenes that show just how little power women have in their own space; they need permission from their husband to do most of the things that women in other countries may take for granted, even something as wanting a divorce puts the women in a big disadvantage as far to whether she can even leave because all of the decision making lies with the man. Sadly the film does not go into more detail of this unbalanced structure and the oppression women face in this kind of life; they instead turn the narrative into a constant back and forth between an estranged husband and wife. Feels basic in the overall sense and the story could have had much more impact with its take on this occurrence in some foreign countries. – Caless Davis

Rating:

Showtimes: May 21 – 6:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown), May 26 – 6:00 pm (Lincoln Square)

[Get Tickets]


MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL (115 minutes)

A brilliant documentary that examines one of the more beloved figures in music history. Calling Miles Davis unique would be an understatement; he is the personification of evolution and creativity. Stanley George’s masterwork examines the illustrious career of the jazz legend through interviews from musicians and friends alike; never before seen photos and footage that capture the essence and marvel of a man who held the hearts and ears of many generations of jazz aficionados. We see the good and bad attributes that Miles possessed revealing to us a full picture of the man himself. If you are a lover of the documentary genre and music, this is a supreme treat. – Caless Davis

Rating:

Showtimes: May 29 – 6:30 pm (SIFF Cinema Egyptian), May 31 – 4:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Uptown)

[Get Tickets]


THE FAREWELL (98 minutes)

Lulu Wang’s heartfelt story about a Chinese family navigating their matriarch’s recent cancer diagnosis via a surprising lie is filled with poignant drama and tender comedy. It is both informative of Chinese culture and insightful into challenges faced by Chinese-American immigrants in ways that are tremendously affecting. Awkwafina stars in a break-out performance with incredible depth, but is backed by an equally wonderful supporting cast. Wang’s character framing shots are brilliant, the score is excellent, and everything works together beautifully to make THE FAREWELL one of this year’s first must-see indies. – Aaron White

Rating:

Showtimes: June 9 – 6:00 pm (SIFF Cinema Egyptian) – Closing Gala

[Get Tickets]


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

 

 

Caless Davis is a Seattle-based film critic and contributor to the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He loves any discussion of film and meeting new people to engage in film discussions on any subject. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

What We Learned This Week: May 5-11

LESSON #1: EVEN POPULAR THINGS HAVE DIFFERING TASTES AND CRITICISMSAvengers: Endgame may be shredding box office records left and right (more on that in Lesson #2), but even something that universally-loved has its range of assessments.  Take legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and how he’d love to see sexier superhero films with less neutering.  Even with a great moment for women in the film, some writers’ scorecards wanted more.  Then there are those who speak on the state of the genre and franchise as a whole.  Michael Nordine of Indiewire thinks something that actually doesn’t really end is problematic.  The deepest (and most respected voice) take of all came from top Roger Ebert critic Matt Zoller Seitz who talks about the content label and sketchy present and future.  All are fascinating pieces. Even if I personally disagree with many of them, you won’t see me calling them haters or even contrarians or dissenters.  There’s just different strokes for different folks. See Lesson #3 later.

LESSON #2: DATA CAN SEPARATE FALSE AND TRUE ACCOMPLISHMENTS— I’m going to stretch your legs and brain for a bit on this one.  After its huge start and decent staying power, it’s a matter of “when” and not “if” for Avengers: Endgame to overtake Avatar for the all-time worldwide box office crown and possibly Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the domestic title.  These are nice “pat your yourself on the back” gold stars for Disney and their marketing department.  However, inflation is still very real and the modern numbers don’t tell the whole “biggest movie ever” story they want you to believe.  To echo Jason Segal’s great “Call me when LeBron has six championships/It’s the only argument I need, Shawn!” rant from Bad Teacher, call me when Avengers: Endgame can topple two particular inflation adjusted statistics ruled by Gone With the Wind, Titanic, and the films of eras past.  

Let me and the outstanding data of Box Office Mojo educate you and improve your short-sightedness.  First, here’s that inflation-adjusted domestic all-time box office list.  Currently, Avengers: Endgame is 36th.  How? Simply, the average movie ticket prices have changed and here’s that chart next.  They’ve doubled since the $4.50 times of 1997’s Titanic and exponentially since the 1930s.  If it’s not about the dollar signs to you, fine, then go look at the number of tickets sold, regardless of their era or price.  There’s a chart for that too and Avengers: Endgame is again 36th.  What’s even more amazing, as I put my social studies teacher hat on, is that there were 5.5 BILLION fewer people in the world to even see movies in 1939 and Gone With the Wind still put up numbers that triple-lap the movies of today.  That is true dominance and popularity. So, you can try you ranting argument about “different eras/competition/cultures,” but success is success.  Those historical measurements are undeniable and irrefutable. The success of Avengers: Endgame is truly wonderful.  Go, baby, go! Make that money.  But, it might as well be a participation ribbon for overpriced Girl Scout cookies.

LESSON #3: THERE ARE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN “SHADE” AND “HATE”— After a minor pot-stirring debate in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group on the genuineness (or lack thereof) of James Cameron’s congratulatory tweet towards the folks at Disney/Marvel for passing his Titanic on the all-time box office scoreboard, I feel that teacher hat coming on again.  This time, it’s about vocabulary. Just to be casual this time, I’ll let the Urban Dictionary do the defining of the lexicon on the table, so follow the links.  “Shade” is not “hate,” and “hate” is not “shade.”  “Salty,” by the way, is somewhere in the middle. There are nuances to both the sincerity of comments and the reactions that those words bring about.  Know the differences and seek context from people you’re arguing with.

LESSON #4: THERE’S A $700 MILLION BLOCKBUSTER ON NETFLIX THAT YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF— For my viewing recommendation that I end these posts lately, I’ll share buried treasure on Netflix.  Skipped by algorithms where you need to dig, China’s The Wandering Earth is a treasure chest is bigger than many movies you’ve heard of.  It’s a science fiction action film about global efforts to push our home planet out of the solar system away from a swelling sun and the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.  How, you ask? With rocket thrusters covering the whole globe. That’s sounds bonkers and aces. Eat your heart out, Michael Bay!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#101)

MOVIE REVIEW: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Full disclosure: I have a cat named after Pikachu and I am a big fan of this franchise in its many forms, including the card game, video games, and its anime series. I think with any beloved property that is being adapted it’s important to consider the fandom (or lack thereof) of the reviewer, so putting my history out there up front for context.

I won’t be surprised if a majority of adults who don’t have a history with Pokémon are meh on this, but fans and kids will adore it. My experience reminded me of READY PLAYER ONE. I wanted to live in this world of DETECTIVE PIKACHU forever. Smashing success!


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: April 28-May 4

THE 100TH EDITION OF WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK

LESSON #1: SATISFACTION IS BEAUTIFUL WHEN YOU GET IT— It’s been a week and we can certainly talk about Avengers: Endgame details.  As many of the over-300 comments in our Facebook group page reaction thread will tell you, the movie delivered on its Infinity War setup, surprises of secrecy, and hype of finale performance.  Reviews big and small are overwhelmingly stellar. It’s a great feeling when a series can stick its landing.  There’s both catharsis and satisfaction to be had where a viewer will always celebrate and connect to the giving film in question.  Folks, what we have here is a rare instant classic, a movie we will be talking about and remembering for a long time from Day 1. Behind the scenes, these endearing stars, especially Robert Downey, Jr., are getting P-A-I-D.

LESSON #2: PLOT HOLES ARE PROBLEMATIC IN MULTIPLE WAYS— Some of the minority points of dissatisfaction towards Avengers: Endgame (including those from this critic) have typically cited the broad term of “plot holes.” For me, once you dive into time travel, plot holes become nearly automatic.  The question becomes at what point do plot holes matter? Which ones are worth citing and which ones are petty to complain about? Nearly a year ago, friend-of-the-page YouTuber Patrick Willems did an outstanding video testimony on plot holes and I think it’s a fitting rewatch for Avengers: Endgame.  His light side of “worry about the things that matter” is balanced by the overarching notion of “mainstreamed nerd culture” and the need to get “back to quality criticism.”

LESSON #3: PLOT HOLES BE DAMNED, ANSWERS ARE AVAILABLE— With the Endgame secrecy lifted in most places (Disney itself opens things up on Monday), the movie’s directors and screenwriters have been responding to theories and questions all over the place in exclusive sit-downs on the post-premiere press tour.   Fandango chatted with writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.  So did The New York Times.  The directing Russos talked at length in China and in Entertainment Weekly.  For me, hearing directly from the sources like this beats clickbait fan theories any day.

LESSON #4: LET’S ADD SOME NEW FAN THEORIES ANYWAY— Between the scope, importance, and even the plot holes of Avengers: Endgame, there’s room for the internet masses to apply their own guess work and prognostication.  Take the time travel as one place and hidden Easter eggs as another.  There’s even some guessing going on for who the next villain will be and when we’ll see the X-Men, despite no springboarding post-credits scenes or direct clues.  Maybe some of the big dangling ideas of Avengers: Endgame can join this Collider all-time list of some of the best and most famous fan theories.

LESSON #5: KEEP AN EYE ON UNIVERSAL PICTURES— With all the success and eyes on everything Disney, there are other power plays being made out there.  Long-time Sony producer Amy Pascal is leaving Sony for Universal Pictures.  The woman who steered the old Raimi Spider-Man boom, reignited James Bond under a new studio, survived The Interview fiasco with grace, and brought a range of successes spanning The Social Network and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is quite a get for Universal.  Sony now has a big hole to fill.  

LESSON #6: WHEN FANS MAKE ENOUGH NOISE ACTION CAN SOMETIMES HAPPEN— This week, new Sonic the Hedgehog movie coming in November debuted its first full trailer and look at the titular video game speedster.  The reactions were overwhelmingly negative. When that happens for a live-action movie, reshoots can sometimes be possible or fresh tries at editing a few tonal changes.  That’s not as simple for an animated film where that end of creative work takes years to render. Amazingly, the film’s director Jeff Fowler heard the complaints and vowed to redesign the character in time for November.  I call that ballsy and brave to say out loud.  You don’t see Disney doing that publicly after the Aladdin jeers.  Let’s see how it turns out.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#100)

MOVIE REVIEW: Tolkien

To say that I was merely satisfied by TOLKIEN from director Dome Karukoski would be a gross understatement. Check out Tolkien when it releases next weekend or attend the special Fathom Events showing on May 7 that features a Q&A hosted by Stephen Colbert.

 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: April 14-27

LESSON #1: THERE ARE CASES WHERE FAN SERVICE IS NECESSARY— Folks, with a universe and property as big as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we have reached a saturation point and commitment level where fan service is warranted. That’s right and here’s a paraphrase from my Avengers: Endgame review.  What some have called pandering should actually be seen as one of the many objectives in an invested and vetted blockbuster like this one. It is to a point where the course of things is thematically and tonally misaligned without those inclusions. Avengers: Endgame is unabashedly a three-hour festival of celebrating all the dream fulfillment of past and present for this deep roster of beloved characters. The wow moments come often and hit both the jaw-drop and stand-up-and-cheer levels.  Not every piece of fandom has earned that. Star Wars has and this one has too.

LESSON #2: PREPARATION IS KEY— Thanks need to go out to Feelin’ Film host Aaron White for spurring the one-movie-a-week #RoadtoEndgame.  Those rewatches since the first week of December have been outstanding for adding to the build-up and, more importantly, refreshing us to all the ins-and-outs of the MCU at it reaches its pinnacle.  If it’s too late for you to watch all 22 films before Avengers: Endgame, let our man and friend-of-the-podcast Emmanuel Noisette of E-Man’s Movie Reviews shortcut you to five must-see movies:

The movies are how you enrich your mind.  Now, you need to prepare your body. Eat a good meal before Avengers: Endgame to avoid expensive concessions and the distraction to snack.  Be mindful of your bladder power and your body will remember how it survived Titanic and six Tolkien films at the theater.  Honestly, when your mind is engaged in the movie, you won’t need a potty break.

LESSON #3: A GOOD FRANCHISE NEEDS TO CREATE A CODA— The final spoiler-free celebration note I can post about Avengers: Endgame in this column comes from the last life lesson of five from my review and it speaks to the purpose beyond the fun of fan service.  The range of the definition of “coda” can be merged into “a concluding part of a dramatic work that is formally distinct from the main structure” and “serves to round out, conclude, or summarize.” Avengers: Endgame is not a pivot point, but a grand finale eleven years in the making. True to the blueprint, it is hard to imagine a more gratifying and rewarding summit.  I wish every franchise could craft something this fitting or even have the chance to crescendo with all the energy they can muster.

LESSON #4: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MARVEL REMAINS A PLEASANT MYSTERY— Normally, thanks to the constant Disney push and bragging, we normally know every little forthcoming detail possible about their dominating calendar of coming attractions.  At this moment, a year of somewhat “radio silence” after Infinity War, you have to tip your hat to Kevin Feige and company for holds their cards close to the vest.  Sony can’t help but admit to and tout Spider-Man: Far From Home, which is regrettable, but understandable.  They have a rare blockbuster to sell. Meanwhile, Feige recently hinted at a 5-year Phase 4 MCU plan that didn’t name names, but shared the usual ambition and confidence.  Naturally, the big question remains the character acquisitions from Fox. To that question, Feige has used the vague measurement of “a very long time” as to when we’ll see the likes of the X-Men or the Fantastic Four saving the day next to the established Avengers.  Feige’s absolutely supreme planning and patience should not be questioned. He’s earned our trust that the slow play is the right play. They’ll be worth the wait.

LESSON #5: LITTLE FILMS NEED HELP— As much as we are here this weekend to celebrate the big stuff, smaller films need audience too.  When they don’t get them, a part of the industry weakens and even dies. A spotlight example of that came through the news wires this week of the cuts happening behind the scenes after Disney’s acquisition of Fox.  The Mouse House is killing off or jettisoning several unreleased Fox projects with earning potential and the bottom line in mind. It’s a creative bummer but an unfortunate reality of business. I’ve said this often in this column space: Once you start charging for tickets, this becomes a business first and an art exposition second.  Like any owner targeting profit and returns on investment, Disney is making those tough decisions. Honestly, it’s likely bad business deals that made Fox vulnerable for sale. Do better and the predicament doesn’t come.

LESSON #6: HULU’S DAYS ARE NUMBERED— As you may know, one of the components of Disney’s purchase of Fox was controlling interest in Hulu.  The remaining 30% of that stake is owned by Comcast who, according to reports this week, is in talks with Disney to broker a lucrative deal.  No matter where that bidding ends up, a dissolution in the near-future feels inevitable.  Disney, should it gain that final portion, is pushing its own brand of Disney+ as its streaming flagship.  You would think they wouldn’t push or carry two. Comcast, if they stand pat, was planning on starting their own streaming shingle to add to the marketplace since they don’t own enough of Hulu to compete.  Either way, it doesn’t look promising.

LESSON #7: THE ACADEMY IS STARTING TO WISE UP— In other distant news away from Infinity Stones and Corporate Greed Monsters, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences actually announced a few minor changes and rulings this week that didn’t immediately make them Public Enemy #1 with the social media torches and pitchforks they were met with the last two press releases between the hosting screw-ups and the Popular Film category in 2018.  First, they affirmed their eligibility rules that didn’t take an anticipated shot at streaming services like Netflix, keeping the playing field fair.  Secondly, they showed modern wisdom with a redefined International Feature Film category and expanding their last three-nominee category (Best Makeup and Hair-Styling) to a proper and full five.  It’s refreshing to see them get a few things right. Keep it up, AMPAS!

LESSON #8: FINALLY, IF BIG, DUMB SUPERHERO MOVIES AREN’T YOUR THING, WE STILL HAVE STUFF FOR YOU— For my parting viewing recommendations this week with all things super raining down on us, I think I have just the thing for those abstaining from heroics.  Here’s a list on Ranker of the “Most Pretentious Movies Ever Made,” topped by, what else, a Stanley Kubrick film.  If those are too blunt or obvious, try this nice little selection from Taste of Cinema of ten great movies meant to challenge your intelligence, topping by Richard Linklater’s Waking Life.  Finally, here are the May additions to the Criterion Channel with choices galore!  Call these three lists counter-programming.  Enjoy!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the previous “Connecting with Classics” podcasts.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#99)

MOVIE REVIEW: Avengers: Endgame

100% spoiler-free with no plot points even hinted at! AVENGERS: ENDGAME closes the book on one of the greatest film franchise achievements in history on a very high note. It is every bit the emotional experience you expect & a gratifying finale. Also, for the first time in 10+ years there is no post-credit scene so feel free to rush to the bathroom as required.

 


 

Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: April 7-13

LESSON #1: MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR NOVEMBER 12TH WITH PIXIE DUST AND MOUSE EARS— Circle the 12th of November on your calendar for the debut of Disney+, the entertainment giant’s new exclusive streaming service we’ve been hearing about for the better part of a year.  And, man oh man, did they announce a menu of old and new content that looks like the binder you get at The Cheesecake Factory.  The list is jaw-dropping. And that’s not even the best part. See Lesson #2.

LESSON #2: PRICE POINT ALWAYS WINS— The best part is the price. It’s a cool $6.99 per month with no ads and the future ability to bundle ESPN+, Hulu, and more.  $7 is a game-changing price. Even better, if you buy the whole year at once, it’s $69.99. That’s $5.83 per month. Excuse my language, but the smell and thundering rumble you hear is Netflix sh-tting bricks and staring down an $8 billion market value drop.  They just announced a price hike a few months back and now will be playing chicken against the company they relied on the most for top content.  Watch their member numbers begin to drop with the financials, but they knew this had to be coming. Their shift to developing their own unique branded content is how they will stand out.  No matter what, folks, I’ve been saying this now for years in this column. The price tag is always the biggest mover of an audience.

LESSON #3: STAR WARS WILL NEVER LET YOU FORGET ABOUT STAR WARS— Maybe this lesson should read: “Disney isn’t done because they’re never really done.”  In the words of Steve Jobs, Disney did their own “one more thing” this week with the head-exploding title reveal and first trailer for Episode IX at the Star Wars Celebration Convention in Chicago on Friday. Now officially called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the gates are now open and the levees are broken for every theory, reaction piece, and clickbait column imaginable. I get it.  Grab those web traffic pennies where you can, publishers.

LESSON #4: [INSERT OBLIGATORY “TRAILERS ARE MANIPULATIVE” LECTURE FROM THE MOVIE CRITIC]— I’ve been saving this informational video for a while for a choice teachable moment.  The Rise of Skywalker is the perfect time.

Admittedly, much of this video doesn’t apply to Star Wars, but the misdirection and overhype have been proven before in this franchise. You know me. I’ll always say less is more.  Not just for trailers, but be a discerning news-and-trends consumer. Don’t overthink a movie before it gets here, especially one still eight months away.  If you want homework, go backward instead of forwards. Hop on the ambitious canonical rewatch schedule that is already in progress. Let history get you hyped instead of silly theories.

LESSON #5: THE SLOW DEATH OF PHYSICAL MEDIA CONTINUES— Through all this one-upmanship in the streaming world, the marketplace of discs has continued to fade.  We’ve reported in this column in February how companies like Samsung are halting the manufacturing of Blu-ray players, but we’ve never seen hard numbers of the perceived decline. This week, the MPAA hit us with those statistics in a wide-ranging report. Physical media sales are down a steep 50% in the last five years and the new 4K upgrades account for only 5.3% of business. That’s a niche, not a replacement the way DVD was to VHS a generation ago.  The kicker is that home entertainment spending was up 16% last year.  That’s digital sales and subscription services.

LESSON #6: LEARN SOME BETTER SCIENCE FICTION— Don’t let your science fiction taste and acumen stop at Star Wars and other big names. Dive into some headier things (and still plenty of blockbusters) with high critical regard.  Pick away at this Top 100 list from Business Insider and find some new films for your to-do list. Heck, maybe you’ll even watch one on a disc from a library.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.  (#98)