What We Learned This Week: April 1-7

LESSON #1: BUILDING A CINEMATIC UNIVERSE IS HARD— With the impending arrival of Avengers: Infinity War marking a peak as the seventh film of the planned ten-film third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Patrick Shanley of The Hollywood Reporter asked the question “Can Anyone Besides Marvel Make a Cinematic Universe Work?” and it’s a good one.  We’ve seen Universal Pictures flop with its “Dark Universe” of movie monsters and Warner Bros. unable to find the same success with their DC Comics titles.  Franchises with sequels can be done (Transformers, Star Wars, Fast and Furious, etc.).  It’s the intertwining of standalone films and storylines that can exist on their own outside of the combinations that is key.  That requires developing more than one narrative and character.  Marvel did it right with by having patience with its unified vision.  Nothing was rushed.  The other attempts have not shown that level of patience.

LESSON #2: BELIEVE IN CINEMATIC GUILTY PLEASURES— The arrival of Pacific Rim: Uprising side-by-side with the nostalgic energy of Ready Player One calls to mind the idea of guilty pleasures.  Some movies are never going to win Oscars, but are just flat-out fun and garner repeat viewings for easy entertainment.  A fellow Chicago film critic buddy of mine always tries to assert that there are no such things as guilty pleasures.  If a film is good for someone to a pleasurable level, it must have some objective merit worth a higher rating without shame or the need to defend it.  I see his point, but I disagree.  I think it’s perfectly OK, realistically even-keeled if you will, to recognize the differences found between artistic integrity of a film and the fun value.  Honestly, we do the very same with the vice versa end of the highbrow other stuff.  For example, a film like Schindler’s List or any Terrence Malick film can easily be recognized for its artistic superiority and seriousness, but no one is going to Netlfix-and-Chill to a Holocaust film or an Emmanuel Lubezki slideshow of familial hate and trees.  If we’re going to put qualifiers on one end, why not the other?

LESSON #3: DON’T ALWAYS BELIVE FILM SNOBS— From guilty pleasures, we switch the gears to revered classics and faked bragging rights.  Film snobs exist in this world (I work amongst them constantly), but, let me tell you, the majority of them are full of sugar-honey-iced-tea.  First, they don’t admit to finding fun in those aforementioned guilty pleasures.  They were silly kids and teens once too, and I’ll put money on them geeking out to some adventure or playing princesses in a younger life.  They didn’t always watch French New Wave films on 35mm.  The second point of fakery stems from this Gizmodo article by James O’Malley presenting the top movies film snobs say they’ve seen but never actually have.  Those types of film snobs feel the need to rub our commoner noses with notions like “you’re not a true cinephile if you haven’t seen ____” or “you haven’t lived unless you’ve seen ___.”  If they are faking that, they deserve to be called out.  You have my permission to troll the hell out of these people with every meme of movie commercialism possible.

LESSON #4: AVOID PURVEYORS OF THE WORST CLICHES OF FILM REVIEW— Speaking of film snobs and piggybacking off of last week’s column, film critics are often guilty of hyperbole of their own.  Props to Feelin’ Film Facebook discussion group regular Jacob Neff for providing this Letterboxd list piece by Erik Bazjert on the worst frequently-used cliches in film reviews.  I adore this list and know too many film critics who fall for these and write with a pull-quote/pun methodology of little substance.  Worst of all, more often than not, these cliches are celebrated and even encouraged by every studio’s marketing departments to fill their posters, packaging, and signage with these overused and weak zingers.  Even if I never get to scratch off that bucket list item of having one of my reviews cited on a DVD/Blu-ray cover, I, for one, actively try to avoid every single one of these tired and ultimately meaningless expressions.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitterMedium, and Creators Media.

Episode 102: Pacific Rim Uprising

For the second week in a row, we tackle a new blockbuster action film, this one featuring heavy CGI work. We both love Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and a sequel with more giant robots punching giant monsters can’t possibly be messed up, right? We discuss our reactions to and (lack of) feelings for the fun but forgettable Pacific Rim Uprising. Also included are reviews of Wes Anderson’s new stop motion film, Isle of Dogs, and the 1971 Steven Spielberg thriller, Duel.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:01:10

(Aaron – Isle of Dogs, The Films of Wes Anderson)
(Patrick – Duel)

Pacific Rim Uprising Review – 0:15:59

The Connecting Point – 0:53:43


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Music: Going Higher – Bensound.com

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Aaron’s Top 100 Movies (2018 Edition)

In 2017, I created my first ever Top 100 Movies list. Many gray hairs formed, I’m sure, as I sat trying to distinguish between beloved films. It’s been almost a year since that list was published and I’ve now seen quite a few more classic films that managed to find their way into my heart and onto this list. As is the case for most folks, my list is ever changing, but this serves as a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – a snapshot view of the cinephile that I am at this moment in time. My hope is that through this list you might be able to learn a little about who I am as a person by seeing what type of stories I love most.

Note: For the purposes of this list, any film with an asterisk (*) after it represents its series or trilogy. The arrows and number after them specify a film’s movement since the last edition of this list, in this case 2017.

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

#1 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring *
#2 It’s a Wonderful Life 1
#3 Casablanca 31
#4 12 Angry Men 1
#5 The Princess Bride 1
#6 Interstellar 3
#7 La La Land 5
#8 Jaws 4
#9 Before Sunrise * 1
#10 Blade Runner * 1
#11 The Prestige 4
#12 Full Metal Jacket NEW NEW
#13 Alien 5
#14 Toy Story * NEW NEW
#15 Top Gun 1
#16 The Last of the Mohicans 1
#17 Jurassic Park 4
#18 Mary Poppins 60
#19 Raiders of the Lost Ark 14
#20 The Wizard of Oz 20
#21 The Dark Knight 1
#22 2001: A Space Odyssey 7
#23 Singin’ in the Rain 8
#24 Vertigo 6
#25 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World 6
#26 Citizen Kane 18
#27 Inception
#28 Star Wars 44
#29 Rear Window NEW NEW
#30 Almost Famous 2
#31 The Silence of the Lambs 55
#32 The Nightmare Before Christmas 6
#33 Rashomon 36
#34 Fight Club 36
#35 Gone with the Wind 4
#36 The Sound of Music 25
#37 Lawrence of Arabia NEW NEW
#38 Sleeping Beauty NEW NEW
#39 The Exorcist 27
#40 The Social Network 1
#41 The Shawshank Redemption 18
#42 All About Eve NEW NEW
#43 Scream 19
#44 The Bridge on the River Kwai 9
#45 My Neighbor Totoro 9
#46 The Empire Strikes Back 11
#47 Unforgiven 9
#48 The Godfather 37
#49 Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 26
#50 Tombstone 13
#51 Gladiator 14
#52 The Lion King 11
#53 The Thin Red Line NEW NEW
#54 The Iron Giant 9
#55 Seven Samurai 12
#56 McCabe & Mrs. Miller NEW NEW
#57 Die Hard 26
#58 Your Name. 42
#59 Children of Men 38
#60 Aliens 24
#61 Back to the Future 19
#62 Network NEW NEW
#63 Apocalypse Now 19
#64 Beauty and the Beast 23
#65 Monty Python and the Holy Grail 18
#66 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation NEW NEW
#67 Memento 9
#68 The Right Stuff 3
#69 Reality Bites NEW NEW
#70 Black Hawk Down NEW NEW
#71 The Blair Witch Project 25
#72 Ex Machina 16
#73 Dead Poets Society NEW NEW
#74 3:10 to Yuma 3
#75 The NeverEnding Story 20
#76 The Incredibles 25
#77 Les Miserables NEW NEW
#78 Whiplash 28
#79 Groundhog Day 3
#80 Hell or High Water 13
#81 Into the Wild 21
#82 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 34
#83 Warrior NEW NEW
#84 The Cabin in the Woods 59
#85 Moon 1
#86 Drive 59
#87 The Red Shoes NEW NEW
#88 Reservoir Dogs 34
#89 War For the Planet of the Apes NEW NEW
#90 The Shining 10
#91 Se7en NEW NEW
#92 The Wailing 13
#93 The Departed 41
#94 The Exorcism of Emily Rose 2
#95 Fargo 12
#96 Stalker NEW NEW
#97 Pacific Rim 42
#98 Arrival NEW NEW
#99 Silence 1
#100 The Perks of Being a Wallflower NEW NEW

Dropped Out: Armageddon, Batman Begins, Dr. Strangelove, Equilibrium, Finding Nemo, Forrest Gump, Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Inside Llewyn Davis, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, No Country For Old Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Platoon, Psycho, Pulp Fiction, Serenity, Short Term 12, The Breakfast Club, The Place Beyond the Pines, True Grit (2010), Young Frankenstein

Link to list on Letterboxd

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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 how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

MOVIE REVIEW: Pacific Rim Uprising

PACIFIC RIM UPRISING (2018)

GOING IN

Giant robots. Giant monsters. The original Pacific Rim is an amazing example of what an incredibly talented (and now Oscar-winning) director can do when he wants to make a movie about playing with childhood toys. The film is so much fun, so I’m all in for more of it. Expectations are set appropriately lower due to this not being directed by Guillermo Del Toro, nor having Idris Elba, but if it can provide half as much entertainment as the first film did then it will be a success. Again… giant robots… giant monsters. Win.

1 Hour and 51 Minutes Later.

COMING OUT

Pacific Rim Uprising wastes no time in setting its tone, opening with a serious sounding recollection of events from the first film and leading into an incredibly comedic introduction to Jake Pentecost (John Boyega). Jake is the son of Marshall Pentecost, the famous leader and hero who led the Jaeger team that closed The Breach, sealing off access to our world by the Precursors. Now that the war is over, and his father gone, Jake is having trouble finding his place, and Pacific Rim Uprising’s emotional focus is primarily on his journey to discover his identity and embrace it. It’s a soft focus, though, as Pacific Rim Uprising is largely a comedy first and action film second, with light dramatic moments sprinkled in for character development.

The story revolves around Jake meeting a young orphan named Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) and the two troublemakers finding themselves forced to relocate to The Shatterdome (a.k.a. Jaegar base headquarters, I think). Jake has beef with his former drift partner Nate (Scott Eastwood) to sort out, including some underlying competition for the attention of Jules (Adria Arjona), and Amara must try and integrate with a group of other cadets who see her as an outside who didn’t earn her way into their squad. Big picture wise, the Shao Corporation led by Liwen Shao (Tian Jing) is preparing to pitch a new drone system to the world. This new tech, developed in large part by Dr. Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day), will in theory provide hundreds of drone Jaegers for defense that can be operated remotely from anywhere in the world. Sounds like a good plan, right? Right. Which, of course, means things must go terribly wrong. And so they do.

The important thing to keep in mind about the plot and general comedy-driven nature of Pacific Rim Uprising is that this is 110% stylistically a live-action anime. The characters are over-the-top. Dialogue is cheesy. Acting is pronounced and silly. Reality is often thrown out the window in favor of whatever looks the coolest. Extreme close-ups of single characters talking is frequent. And the action is big, big, big. This is not a typical American action film where drama is the driver and most of the comedy is in quick quips while the action is kept center stage, and so expecting that is going to result in a major letdown. Even those who are fans of the original Pacific Rim may have to adjust to this sequel because it has much more humor and less of a “weight of the world on our shoulders” feel to it.

When it comes to action, Pacific Rim Uprising does mostly deliver what fans want. Four Jaegers with unique abilities and some surprises make for fresh action. Those wanting start-to-finish fighting do get what feels like more action than in the predecessor, and Jaeger pilots don’t hold back until the final moment to deploy their weapons this time around. Unfortunately, most all of those weapons and many of the best action shots were revealed in trailers during the film’s marketing campaign, leaving precious few “OMG WOW THAT JUST HAPPENED” reactions during the film. There is also perhaps a drop in quality of the action scenes. One character in the film suggests that “bigger is always better”, but ironically this may prove otherwise. Nothing comes close to being as powerfully emotional and stunning as the chain sword usage in Pacific Rim. In short, Pacific Rim Uprising seems to have gone with quantity over quality in the action department.

Though there is a lack of strong emotion, the film does have its moments. Jake and Nate’s relationship is a bit like Maverick and Iceman. Jake also develops a relationship with Amara throughout the film and together they provide some of the most affecting scenes. Newt and Hermann (Burn Gorman) reunite, much to the joy of many fans, and their hilariously awkward and sweet relationship offers plenty of laughs this time around, along with a few new twists. The actor’s performances are precisely what the tone and style of the film ask for. Boyega seems to be having a lot of fun playing the snappy, funny, would-be-hero and Scott Eastwood is… well, he’s Scott Eastwood, playing the same character he does in films like The Fate of the Furious and Suicide Squad. And though she isn’t featured heavily, the lovely Tian Jing is fantastic as the smart, strong Shao.

 VERDICT

Regrettably, yet not unexpectedly, Pacific Rim Uprising does not reach the mind-blowing heights of its predecessor. In cranking the anime styling up to 11, it loses the balance between epic and cartoon that makes Pacific Rim so great, and a portion of its fan-base that needs things a bit more serious will likely be less than impressed. For those who enjoy this kind of craziness, though, watching the film (especially with a crowd of like-minded fans) is an absolute blast. It may be ultimately forgettable, but its laugh-out-loud humor and robot vs. monster battles still make Pacific Rim Uprising worthy of seeing on the biggest screen possible at least once.

Rating:


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 how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

Episode 2: Monsters

In this episode of Tabletop Flix, the crew discusses movies and games with the theme of giant monsters.

Games: King of Tokyo, King of New York
Movies: Godzilla: Final Wars, Pacific Rim, Monsters Inc.

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Intro/Outro Music – “Do the Pump” by Mr. Juan

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Episode 064: Pacific Rim

It’s Transformers week, so we’re covering an even better giant robot movie. Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a love letter to the sandbox dreams of little kids everywhere, a passion project on a giant scale. But there is so much more to this film than just epic Jaeger vs. Kaiju battles. There’s heart, hope, and a heap of Idris Elba, which makes everything better. Tune in for a discussion as fun as the film itself.

What We’ve Been Up To – 0:02:13
(Aaron & Patrick – Friday Night Lights)

Pacific Rim Review – 0:14:37

The Connecting Point – 1:08:01

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Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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Rate/Review us on iTunes and on your podcast app of choice! It helps bring us exposure so that we can get more people involved in the conversation. Thank you!

Aaron’s Top 100 Movies (2017 Edition)

I’ve always wanted to expand my favorite films list to 100 and my birthday seemed like the perfect time for doing so. With that, I present my list. It is ever changing. This list is a current reflection of my personal cinematic taste – what speaks to me emotionally, and those films that are just too so entertaining that all evaluation of their technical quality doesn’t even matter. I’ve labored over this for quite some time and it was not an easy task, but I feel confident that the results are accurate. For today.

(For the purposes of this list, LotR: The Fellowship of the Ring and Before Sunrise represent their respective trilogy.)

This is my list. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

  1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
  2. La La Land
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life
  4. Jaws
  5. 12 Angry Men
  6. The Princess Bride
  7. The Prestige
  8. Alien
  9. Interstellar
  10. Before Sunrise
  11. Blade Runner
  12. The Exorcist
  13. Jurassic Park
  14. Top Gun
  15. Singin’ in the Rain
  16. Inside Llewyn Davis
  17. The Last of the Mohicans
  18. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  19. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  20. The Dark Knight
  21. Children of Men
  22. Young Frankenstein
  23. The Shawshank Redemption
  24. Aliens
  25. The Cabin in the Woods
  26. Die Hard
  27. Inception
  28. Drive
  29. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  30. Vertigo
  31. Gone with the Wind
  32. Almost Famous
  33. Raiders of the Lost Ark
  34. Casablanca
  35. Short Term 12
  36. My Neighbor Totoro
  37. Tombstone
  38. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  39. The Social Network
  40. The Wizard of Oz
  41. The Lion King
  42. Back to the Future
  43. Seven Samurai
  44. Citizen Kane
  45. The Iron Giant
  46. The Blair Witch Project
  47. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  48. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  49. Armageddon
  50. Whiplash
  51. The Incredibles
  52. The Departed
  53. The Bridge on the River Kwai
  54. Reservoir Dogs
  55. Pacific Rim
  56. Unforgiven
  57. The Empire Strikes Back
  58. Memento
  59. Forrest Gump
  60. Into the Wild
  61. The Sound of Music
  62. Scream
  63. Gravity
  64. Pan’s Labyrinth
  65. Gladiator
  66. Batman Begins
  67. Hell or High Water
  68. Pulp Fiction
  69. Rashomon
  70. Fight Club
  71. The Right Stuff
  72. Star Wars
  73. Finding Nemo
  74. Serenity
  75. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  76. Groundhog Day
  77. 3:10 to Yuma
  78. Mary Poppins
  79. The Wailing
  80. The Shining
  81. True Grit (2010)
  82. Apocalypse Now
  83. Fargo
  84. Moon
  85. The Godfather
  86. The Silence of the Lambs
  87. Beauty and the Beast
  88. Ex Machina
  89. No Country for Old Men
  90. The Breakfast Club
  91. The Place Beyond the Pines
  92. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  93. Platoon
  94. Equilibrium
  95. The NeverEnding Story
  96. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
  97. Psycho (1960)
  98. Silence
  99. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  100. Your Name.

Like it? Hate it? Think I’m crazy? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Link to list on Letterboxd