My father is a great many things: A USDA choice parent, a doctorate in Chemistry, an owner of several chainsaws. What my dad lacks, however, is noticeable culinary skills. Growing up, Saturday lunches consisted of applesauce,old craisins, and "open-faced" salami sandwiches (to save on bread). It's no wonder my mom always planned her errands for weekend afternoons. Sadly, the man with the nerve to pair Kraft Singles with, well, pears, never blossomed beyond a Depression era line cook. He did, however, salvage morning breakfast for good with the power of Breakfast Carb Tubes.
Dear remaining Great Thinkers: I have solved one of your greatest debates. Nature versus Nurture!
That's right, Thinker Bells and Brain Bois. I've discovered that Nurture is the true winner of whatever y'all were talking about over lab coats and Star Trek-themed cocktails. And how do I know? I love diet soda over the supposedly superior sugar sips. I was raised on the drink equivalent of an empty briefcase in a movie drug deal, despite every aspect of Nature telling me it's radioactive war cancer. I've just solved the human condition, and you know what comes next?
This was the only way to use my advanced degree in ending theoretical squabbles, I swear! Considering that most people either drink the real deal or begrudgingly guzzle gallons of guilt-free Big Gulps because "health", I might be one of the elite few to actually enjoy drinking diet. This list, however, isn't about me. It's not about you, or America, or page views. It's about the truth. It's the cold, hard, unflinching truth, as I see it. Fine, it's about me, and also page views. And DIET!
Before the Avengers could snap back to reality (stone), Thanos went and removed half the population of *checks notes* everything. We don't know if this included bacteria, possibly causing the deaths of trillions more as they grip their stomachs and think, "Man, last night's takeout is doing a real number on my OHGAWD". We don't know yet if Ant-Man can truly climb inside the basement end of the Mad Titan and blow him up from the inside like that very same box of takeout. What we do know, however, is real-world audiences were torn about his motives.
Surely, every great villain has an empathetic view of society. They just tend to take a few shortcuts/infinity stones to get there. What made the viewpoint of Thanos so interesting was the severity, and the impact, of his choices. On his own planet, he witnessed overcrowding and tyranny, and eventually the death of his people. Had they only listened to his ideas, then maybe Titan would still be kicking out little baby Lavender Bois. This concept is instantly relevant to many struggles humanity burdens today. We grow far too quickly, and are unable to safely control it without challenging our core ethics. This isn't an easy problem to solve, and we lack the means and, thankfully, the kind of heart necessary to allow this genocide to happen. Still, we must shoulder our burdens.
Whether it's flat, round, or "going through a phase", the Earth is an ever-present part of our lives. It's always sitting there, right below us (or above, if you're Australian), and it's all we got for right now. And yet, "earth"? I don't know, people. Does that name sit right with us? Feel how your tongue curls up in disgust when you say it. "Earth". In the history of humanity, this is the best we've come up with? We can blame it on our ancestors, who were dumb, really big on rocks, and always sneaking into Neanderthal prom dances. We could blame it on the spread of Western civilization, bringing with it to, too, two, and "that's so fetch". Hell, we can get all deep and blame it on language's failure to capture the inescapable beauty of this planet. But at the end of the day, we have to come to terms with an imperfect name, and an uncertain future.
If you find yourself confused, conflicted, or repulsed by the idea that "Earth" isn't good enough for Earth, you're not alone. This isn't easy for me to write. I've grown up my entire life calling it "Earth". There were times where I even kinda liked the name. With growing up, however, sometimes we have to reckon with the fact that we used to be wrong about things. Babies are not conceived by open-mouth kissing alone and "Earth" isn't a good name. I have to live with these early failures. If you're still not convinced, keep reading. And if you are convinced, read anyway. This could be your go-to guide for winning arguments that will surely erupt around this very topic. Behold, the facts!
I don't really cry at movies. There have been a few exceptions, but it's usually real world loss that gets me. Loss of an argument, loss of life, loss of a close relationship. Most embarassing of all, I cried when Reggie Southerland lost to Guy Fieri in the season two finale of Food Network Star. HE WAS JUST A BETTER COOK, DAMMIT.
Sometimes, the bad guys win. Evil prevails. A bad movie wins the Academy Award for Best Picture. It happens. And with this year's lineup, there looks to be the whole spectrum in the mix. And why not? This is a celebration of cinema, and some cinema is bad. It isn't on purpose, I suspect, but the Academy lets all sorts float to the surface. This is a rundown of why each of these movies should and shouldn't win, and what I honestly think of each. You could use this as an edge up in your last minute Oscars betting, but I am violently emotional and in no way a safe source for odds. So, grain of salt.
With yet another Batman reboot on the horizon, we need a new Bruce Wayne to beat up on baddies and brood in a bat cave. We've had some good Batmen (Batmans?), and we've had some "Bad-mans", but this latest installation requires a new approach.
Matt Reeves, who brought us CGI Ape Glory in the last two Planet of the Apes movies, has been tapped as the next director for The Batman. He has made it clear that this will be a detective-y mystery-y take on DC's Dark Knight. While this focus is heavily prevalent in Batman comics and video games, film adaptations have leaned more into the BAM!s and KRAKOW!s of the Bat's daily super-routine. With a new style and new director, a different kind of caped crusader is required.
If you're desperately into the movie business or are one of those cat ladies who doesn't have to work due to an incident at the canned tomato plant years ago, then you probably tuned in to Good Morning America today to watch the unveiling of the 91st Academy Award Nominations. There are some surprises, some head-scratchers, and some omissions, but most importantly of all, some baffling Green Book love. Posted below are the nominations in all the major categories (sorry Sound Editing, ya basic). If you want my rants, deepest secrets, and general thoughts, keep on scrolling!
A Star is Born
Spike Lee - BlacKkKlansman
Pawel Pawlikowski - Cold War
Yorgos Lanthimos - The Favourite
Alfonso Cuaron - Roma
Adam McKay - Vice
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio - Roma
Glenn Close - The Wife
Olivia Colman - The Favourite
Lady Gaga - A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Best Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale - Vice
Bradley Cooper - A Star is Born
Willem Dafoe - At Eternity's Gate
Rami Malek - Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen - Green Book
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams - Vice
Marina De Tavira - Roma
Regina King - If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone - The Favourite
Rachel Weisz - The Favourite
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali - Green Book
Adam Driver - BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott - A Star is Born
Richard E Grant - Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell - Vice
Best Original Screenplay
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Star is Born
Best Animated Feature
Isle of Dogs
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
Sure, I could professionally and elegantly string together a long article of all my thoughts and feelings on this announcement, but seeing as I'm currently late to a conference call, we're gonna bang this one out with a scathing, BuzzFeed-style list!
My Friggin Thoughts on These Nominations
Some more in-depth thoughts should be coming soon, but for now, just have a gulp of the Haterade with your old pal Joe.
The Greatest Hits Album is sometimes considered the Gerber baby food of an artist's discography. Some of them are very good, like Sweet Potato Apple Carrot Cinnamon. Others are, frankly, Ham and Gravy. Yet even if a Greatest Hits album can reach the insane heights of S.P.A.C.C., it's still only an introduction to more complete meals. A 16 song playlist of Kendrick Lamar's best, most popular songs is certainly going to slap, but it will never carry the emotional, thoughtful impact of To Pimp a Butterfly. Some bands, like the almighty Queen, are singles-generating machines that can't drop a consistent album, but even their hits compilations can come off as "That's What I Call Music" CDs stocked in the back of an FYE. With less and less Greatest Hits and "Essential" albums being produced, there just doesn't seem to be a place left in this world for a 12-track chock full of a band's high points. However, one sacred temple of bangers and throwbacks remains standing: The All-American Road Trip.
We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we make large bets on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making it to the playoffs. Other times, we decide to go see The Twilight Saga: Eclipse instead of Toy Story 3 so we can look "cool" in front of our older female cousins. We ALL do this. ALL OF US.
If you had asked me back in 2010 if Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were destined to become wildly talented performers, I would've attempted to laugh in your face before the rubber bands attached to my braces stopped me in my tracks. Turns out, this would've been a mistake, too. While neither of these actors have donned any superhero capes or gone on to steal cars with Vin Diesel, they haven't faded to mediocre TV bits and straight-to-Redbox films, either. Instead, both K-Stew and R-Pat have carved out impressive indie careers with surprisingly powerful performances.
2018, what a number. It's even, not divisible by 9 (but close), and it only overshoots the big 2000 by 18 or so. 2018 was also a big year in movies. We had some icky goo thing take over Tom Hardy, a helicopter almost beat up Tom Cruise, and Thanos made the biggest on-screen snap since the Sharks and Jets took up group ballet. Every year feels like a big year for movies, but this one was THE year, you guys.
Like always, I loved my time at the theater, and even on streaming services. This past year saw a rise in the "at-home auteur" experience, with films like Roma becoming heavy hitters on the awards circuit, and movies like Bird Box ascending to mainstream memedom faster than Big Neck Guy meeting Long Neck Guy. How we take in art and entertainment is constantly changing, and now the way we watch movies is becoming exciting and scary, all at once. Thankfully, more and more people are getting access, and I can't be mad at that.
With more trips to the cineplex than ever before, I still missed out on some real gems. I tried my damnedest, but Cincinnati isn't exactly Sundance Film Festival. To be transparent, I did my best to write down every single movie I saw this year, and group them into 4 categories: Top Contender, Pretty Damn Good, Meh to Okay, and Garbage. So everyone can see for themselves, I'll expose my latter three in groups, before tackling the real deals of 2018. I've written reviews on a few of these, but those opinions might have changed since then. If my list poo-poos on your favorite, or elevated a gem to legend status, let's talk about it. If you pay for dinner, hell, we can talk in person! I love free meals and spirited debate too much to consider the risks of meeting people from the internet. With that in mind, let's go!
None of our pasts look darker than through the lens of childhood Halloween costumes. (unless you're a practiced serial killer, in which case, please turn yourself in after sharing this review with all of your friends, if you have any) I have masqueraded as a G.I. Joe, a hand-stitched T-Rex with lumps in all the wrong places, The Incredible Hulk, and, in terms of the most haunting: Winnie the Pooh. Never, despite what I'm certain was ungrateful insistence, did I get to go as my hero Spider-Man.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse felt like one of many cosmic events I've had the pleasure of enjoying at the theater. What feels so authentic and true to comic book crossovers of old is somehow also one of the freshest, most modern takes on superheroes to hit the silver screen. My tried and tested standards for the past 16 years of Sony's takes on the web-slinger have been surpassed on only a few occasions, but Spider-Verse finds its way above and beyond what I could even hope for.
Growing up with a parent from Texas comes with certain quirks. Everything needs to be cooked in cast iron, wooden planks with cutesy quotes must adorn the kitchen corner-to-corner, and Old Yeller is required viewing. The 1957 film follows some kid without any real friends who gets a dog to fill the human-shaped hole in his heart. The next hour is boring. Nothing notable happens until the freaking end, where the dog gets sick and the kid gets some pre-Vietnam PTSD when he sends Yeller to "a big ol' pupper farm in upstate New York." Still, at least the dog is good.
Even the dog is perfectly cast in the tense 2018 heist film, Widows. Brought to the big screen by the other Steve McQueen, Widows makes the hits hard, the characters palpable, the action fast, and the local politics fun, somehow.
There are few films I loathe more than The Sound of Music. Is it a well-crafted, if overlong musical? Yeah, sure. It's got the goods. Julie Andrews kills it on every level, the kids are the perfect amount of adorable yet competent, and Christopher Plummer has never not been good. That's not the cause of my cinematic pain. As a kid, my mother, who is the most wonderful human being and loyal reader of my articles, hunted down every television broadcast of the 1965 masterpiece and made the whole family sit down for them. Several times a year, we'd be POW'd in the living room, praying for something more than just "limited commercial interruption." It's a good musical, but come on! An apple a day might keep the doctor away, but apples get old real quick.
I hope that I don't ever over-watch the musical A Star is Born, because this film deserves an older Joe looking back fondly on its emotive power. Bradley Cooper stars in and directs this adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation, and yet the tone of this movie holds classical cinema and raw emotion in the warmest of bear hugs that doesn't smell of regurgitation. This combination feels both old and new in style, while only occasionally failing to blend the two seamlessly.
Bradley plays Jackson Mane, a big-time rock star who seems to be on the downturn. His problem with alcohol bring him to conveniently have a run-in with Ally, acted with absolute gusto by the surprise sensation Lady Gaga. I say surprise only because I was maybe one of only a few to be underwhelmed by her acting on the FX show American Horror Story. Despite my impression from the exceeding of expectations, Gaga is objectively impressive in her moving portrayal of an artist on the rise entangled with the embattled Cooper. If nothing else comes from this film, a rise in future creative castings for Gaga would be a welcome and worthy result.
Rounding out the cast of characters are surprise hits and old favorites. Sam Elliot is a steady bet for anyone wanting a good performance, and his command of the scene will bring tears for many, and maybe some soft hearts from the more senior members of the audience. Andrew Dice Clay and Dave Chappelle are not only highlights in creative, effective choices, but also examples of first-time director Bradley Cooper's greatest strength: Emotion via actors. There are both occasional lulls and clashes brought out by the introduction of modern music institutions and practices that feel less than authentic, and Cooper isn't positioning himself as the most innovative newbies behind the camera. That said, the man knows how to bring the best out of each character, whether it be in their performances or his framing of moments and faces. There is something intimate in the camera angles and movements that lends itself to the realness and power of these relationships, both with the people and with the bottle. The warmth is so tangible because it hones in on the tragedy of fade and failure instead of smothering it.
With the wealth of bland blockbusters meant to appeal to the greatest common denominator (many of which I love with a passion and a fistful of popcorn), A Star is Born manages to draw in the big crowds without dulling its senses. Cooper and his cast have pieced together an emotive, powerful narrative. It even left me a little misty, and not just because I was in one of those theaters with the full food menus.
I give this film a solid 8 out of 10.
The Autumn Bomb is a tradition that I just made up, and I have a strong feeling it's gonna sweep this nation by tropical storm (too soon?). It starts with shotgunning a hard cider. Then, you snort a line of pumpkin spice. Finally, you jump into your neighbor's leaf pile with a jar of peanut butter and packet of Oreos, all with the hope of a peaceful, three month hibernation.
Until the Autumn Bomb catches on, you're probably going to be tempted to see a movie. But which one? Here is an exhaustive, unreliable guide to everything coming out this fall.
There was a point in my childhood where every stuffed animal I had was also an imaginary friend. The polar bear, the frog, even the armadillo with a barbecue stain on the front-left paw. All of them. Unfortunately for "Real Friendless Joe", the collection got out of control and cuts had to be made. It was emotional, difficult, and provided such a feeling of raw power that never manifested into superpowers like they should've. I just wanted to shoot water out of my hands, dammit!
When I pick and choose which movies to write a review for, so many others fall to the side. Between 50 hour weeks, the podcast, and gazing into the empty void that is time, I don't have the scheduling power to see and write a full piece on everything. That, and I really just didn't want to see The Nun. Still, I want to give quick reviews on all the movies I saw this year that didn't get the full review treatment. Behold, the shortened glory!
(Reviews are out of 10 possible points, with "soft", "steady", and "solid" acting as further definitions of my rating)
Growing up in a more sheltered environment, my first exposure to kick-ass, therapist-alarming violence was from one of the Turok games on my buddy's Gamecube. My parents thought we were playing jax or maybe Go Fish. The graphics were blocky, the controls as intuitive as the Icelandic language, and green blood squirted from every fleshy beasty you could aim a gun at. It was so alien to me, and pretty awesome.
Fast-forward 12 years, and now I have The Predator to scratch that itch, even if that itch probably shouldn't be there anymore. From writer and director Shane Black, this film is a semi-successor to the Predator franchise that sees Earth at the center of an intergalactic hunting trip. The Predators, themselves, are hyper-masculine aliens that look like a skinned Pomeranian and Killer Croc had a few too many cosmos at singles night and decided procreation was a better idea than going home and watching the news. When military sniper Quinn McKenna, played by Boyd Holbrook, stumbles upon a crashed ship of one of these Predators, the race is on to save humanity from the threat of bigger, beefier Predators. Assisted by a wily group of former soldiers and an evolutionary biologist, McKenna must fend off aliens and the government to save the world, and his family.
Shane Black aims for Spielberg vibes with his odd, R-rated The Predator, but can't help infecting most scenes with "Shane Black-ery". This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as the cinematic tone is decidedly 80s, with cinematography and a score that wax nostalgic. This throwback is natural and not overly done, unlike some of Shane's dialogue. Known for his quick quips and flowing conversation, Black feels stuck between action-broisms and stinging wit. When this combination works, it feels like a fluid blend of kid-friendly sci-fi and eff bomb-fueled fist bumps. When it doesn't stick the landing, however, it comes off like the one 4th grader who knows "bitch" and says it way too often in gym class.
The cast is the real shine, here. Boyd proves himself as a solid, if replaceable action hero, but it's his newfound unit that gets all the good lines. Trevante Rhodes, Alfie Allen, and Augusto Aguilera help bring some levity as former soldiers with more than a few psycho-social quirks, and Rhodes stands out as the bro to end all bros. Baxley and Coyle, played by Thomas Jane and Keegan-Michael Key respectively, are a surprise delight in their display of an oddball male bond. Also,
FACT: Sterling K. Brown makes everything better.
Where the fun dries up is in the "science lady" character, Casey Bracket. Brought to the screen by Munn, Casey is kind of a letdown, with a complete lack of real charisma and only the occasional good line. Munn has to bear the weight of Black's lackluster female writing, and seems almost tired of underwritten characters by the end of this film. When her better protagonist roles have come from Aaron Sorkin, one can guess how fed up she's feeling.
Jacob Tremblay plays McKenna's son and plot instigator in the film, whose disability takes stake in the story's outcome. The focus on his gifts come off as surprisingly empowered, yet under-baked. It's one of the many times that feel like another look at the script could've elevated the fairly standard storyline. The themes are casual and not supported by their own creators. Then again, it's a bromance shoot-em-up. What should really be expected here?
The Predator is a sloppy, chummy action movie that is pretty damn funny. If you were hoping for better female representation or an evolution in artistry from Shane Black, this movie is going to be pretty disappointing. If you just want a fun, dumb time at the movies, then The Predator is a rowdy, rewatchable crowdpleaser that has as much of a good time as you will.
I give this film a soft 7 out of 10.
(This article is a follow-up to earlier entries I penned about the fan’s predicament and what the studio should do, which you can find right here and here.)
Serotonin is most often found in either the enteric nervous system or the central nervous system. It can also be discovered tucked away in blood platelets, and is often considered the primary cause for happiness. When a film writer’s serotonin levels are low, they write up dream lists of who they want to direct a movie that’ll include a green lady and super intelligent trash panda. I have hit rock bottom.
But that’s okay! Guardians 3 is going to need a director, and I am the unpaid, wannabe Disney intern who can totally make that decision. In no particular order, here are my dumbest, wisest, and weirdest choices for the job.
(This article is a follow-up to an earlier one I penned about the fan’s predicament, which you can find right here.)
Disney CEO Bob Iger had been on vacation when James Gunn was fired from his role as director of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3, which gave some hope to fans that maybe there was some chance that the decision would be reversed once Iger made it back to the office. I personally like to think ol’ Bob likes to slap on a fake mustache and baseball cap so he can vacation at Universal Studios Orlando, but that might be a stretch, and certainly in conflict with his company. When the CEO did make it back to Mickey’s top secret headquarters, it became clear that any hope of reinstatement for Gunn was lost.
With the studio digging their heels and standing their ground, I would like to turn the discussion from “How could you?” to “What’s your next move?” It’s clear that James’s vision empowered and defined the Guardians series, and selecting a successor might prove quite the creative challenge. Convincing fans to accept that successor could be a greater challenge still. While I would love to craft a list of directors to take over the helm for Gunn, this particular piece will stay grounded in reality. Or, at least as grounded as a story with a talking raccoon and “Vin Treesel” can be.
Movie news for the last few weeks have pivoted from the James Gunn firing, to Venom saying “turd”, and back to James Gunn’s firing. Now that the decision seems to be cemented in Mickey’s ledgerbook, it’s time for Disney Studios and fans of the series to decide how to go forward.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.