Long Time No Update

I haven’t updated the site much in 2017. Truthfully, the entire year has been a bit of a sprint, but I’m going to try to be better about keeping up down the stretch. Seasonally, it’s easier to blog in fall and winter when things turn into a gray deluge in the Pacific Northwest.

So, what has happened in 2017 so far? I’m still working on a few projects this year, including a fantasy, thriller and YA sci-fi manuscript. In addition to those tasks I’ve been writing the script for a video game. It’s a Jaws inspired diving game, which if you know anything about me, is right up my alley. All and all, it’s been a scattershot of projects in 2017, but I’ve enjoyed working on them all. Hopefully I’ll have some material to show off in 2018.

I also switched agents this year. My previous agent Kaylee, who I was a huge fan of, decided to hang up her agenting badge this year. I was bummed to hear she was retiring, but I’m excited for her new career in the medical field. With Kaylee’s departure, I switched representation to Kimiko Nakamura, also at the Dee Mura agency. I’ve only spoken with Kimiko a few times, but she also seems to be a wonderful and sharp super agent, just like Kaylee.

Along with the annual end of the year best of movie lists and the movie montage mashup I’ve done in years past, I’m hoping to add an end of the year movie recap podcast with two friends and start producing some youtube movie content by the end of the year. So, be on the lookout for some or all of that come December 2017.

I hope if you’re working on anything creative in 2017, it is going well for you and that amongst the chaos, you are finding passion and inspiration.

Canada Tour

We just got back from our Canada tour, which almost closes out an incredibly busy summer, a season that has included long stretches in Canada, Hawaii, San Francisco and Oregon. This is the video from our time up north. The B.C. wildfires cancelled our original backpacking route through Mt. Assiniboine and pushed us north toward Jasper, but it was still great fun. A lot of smoke, haze, and poutine, but no grizzly run-ins, which I’m always thankful for. This was mostly shot in Banff, Jasper, Canmore and the Icefields Parkway on a GoPro Hero 4 using the Centriphone rig.

 

 

Liz and Eric’s Best Movies of 2016

Liz’s Top Five:

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1. Train to Busan – Korean dramas always know how to tug at those heart strings when watching each character’s story unfold. A career driven, distant father learning to care for his young daughter. A bull-headed husband who turns into a doting servant at the command of his sharp-tempered pregnant wife. A young baseball player trying to find the right words to say to his best friend/girl of his dreams. Now take all of those people, board them on a train with ridiculously convincing crazed zombies (Seriously. The best zombies.), put in a blender and out pours the best action movie of the year.

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – I can’t help but want to watch Sam Neill rescue helpless children in life or death situations, whether it be on an island with clever prehistoric animals or an island with wild animals and equally wildly ego-driven Kiwis. Is that weird? Except Ricky is no Lex or Tim. Ricky is the kind of kid who kicks and spits on stuff. Ricky marches to the beat of his own drum and Sam Neill is more or less along for the ride. It is pretty hard not to root for this unconventional duo at the end. Bonuses: The very lovable Auntie Bella and the scene between Ricky and his social worker Paula, who delivers the ultimate Terminator 2 zinger.

3. Captain Fantastic – This movie lands in the top three because it struck too many chords with how modern society is shaping itself to be, particularly regarding the education and upbringing of adolescents. It draws a very strong argument from both sides—whether children should follow social norms with a traditional education, brimming with broad SAT based knowledge, but relatively devoid of practical skills, or have a hands-on, skill-based, self reliant education where independence and developed opinions are championed, but social interaction falls to the wayside. The movie also touches lightly on mental illness and how traditional and non-traditional medicine can be used to treat sufferers, with varying results. In the end, the movie grapples with the two respective styles of parenting, examining which is most beneficial to the children, all while searching for possible compromises between the polarizing approaches. Which is right, which is wrong, those questions still rattle around in my head.

4. La La Land – I love both Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling equally, so of course I am willing to watch them team up once again. At first, I feared this movie would end up being terribly depressing after watching the director’s previous movie, Whiplash, and feeling nothing good. The first trailer for La La Land gave me that same feeling of dread. But the second trailer revealed a more promising, optimistic tone. In the end, La La Land gave us the musical we’ve been wanting since ‘Chicago’, relying less on musical talent and more on the actors’ ability to carry the story along and take the viewer right along with them. When I first walked out of the movie I was a little disappointed, but after some thought I deeply appreciated the ending as a true LA story.

5. Ghostbusters – I know a lot of critics knocked this movie, but it rounds out my top five because I seriously had a good time watching it. I even clapped at the end. It was way more entertaining than any other “blockbuster” that was released this year and I found it refreshing to watch a movie that, YES, had multiple female leads. The shining star however was Kate McKinnon, doing what she does best—making popcorn projectile spit out of my mouth into the person’s hair sitting in the row ahead of me, all thanks to her timing and delivery on every line. I also highly recommend watching her outtakes. I don’t know how the rest of the cast held it together when some of those lines rolled out of her mouth.

Eric Sweeney’s Top 10:

eric-top-five1. Arrival – Denis Villenueve is on a roll. Loved Prisoners and Sicario, and now he proves he can make smart sci-fi as well. Which is good news since he has another one coming out next year – the Blade Runner sequel.

2. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Just saw this recently and it was worth the wait. I immediately went to watch Taika Watiti’s previous film and loved that as well. Can’t wait to see what he does in the Marvel universe.

3. The Nice Guys – Shane Black’s spiritual successor to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Funny and entertaining.

4. Star Wars: Rogue OneOverall a great entry into the Star Wars films. Just a few choices away from being perfect.

5. Captain America: Civil War – A very entertaining ensemble film that’s more of an Avengers film than it is a Captain America film. And the new Spiderman is better than the previous two, so that’s hopeful as well. Crazy how the Brothers Russo have gone from Arrested Development and Community to directing the biggest blockbuster films ever.

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6. 10 Cloverfield Lane – Thrilling film that pretty much takes place in one bunker, with a should-be-nominated-for-an-Oscar-but-probably-won’t-be performance by John Goodman.

7. Green Room – Just got to watch this recently – another suspenseful thriller that takes place in one location, from the director of Blue Ruin. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

8. Hell or High Water – A modern western/heist film with some great acting by Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges. Liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

9. Star Trek Beyond – Another good entry into this franchise – I hope they keep making these.

10. Kubo and the Two Strings – Not for everyone but I liked it nonetheless. Would very much like to see a “Making Of” documentary for it, as the little they showed of the production during the credits was pretty crazy.

Honorable Mention – Finding Dory, The Lobster, Zootopia, Doctor Strange, Deadpool

Want To See – The Handmaiden, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, Sing Street, Moonlight, The Jungle Book, Moana, Edge of Seventeen, Don’t Breathe, Hacksaw Ridge, Gold, Silence

(This was a weird year for me – usually I see a lot more. I think there were a lot of bad films/remakes/sequels this year that put a sour taste in my mouth. For the first time in probably forever, I went 5+ months without going to a theater – from Civil War in early May, to Girl On The Train in early October. Then there were a ton of films at the end of the year that I wanted to see but never got around to. Hoping 2017 is better (in every aspect, really)).

Most Looking Forward To In 2017

  1. Star Wars – Episode 8 – Rian Johnson takes the reigns and it should be a better film than Episode 7 because of that. Going to be sad to see Leia for the last time tho.
  2. Dunkirk – Nolan is the man and I saw the 5-minute preview of it in IMAX. Yeah it’s good.
  3. Baby Driver – Edgar Wright’s first film in 5 years.
  4. War for the Planet of the Apes – Loved the last one and this one looks crazy – it’s got Woody Harrelson
  5. Blade Runner 2049 – wasn’t for this until I saw Villenueve is directing and the trailer looks amazing.
  6. Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 – should be fun
  7. Alien: Covenant – loved Prometheus despite the character issues, so looking forward to this follow-up.
  8. Mute – A return to grounded sci-fi for Duncan Jones
  9. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – From the director of In Bruges. ‘Nuff said.
  10. Molly’s Game – Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut with Jessica Chastain in the lead

Best Movies of 2016

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This is my Favorite Movies of 2016 list (along with a second opinion from Liz and Eric Sweeney). As all lists are, this list is highly subjective and probably has a few dumb movies on it. What can I say? It’s a sickness. Even then, there are still quite a few movies that I haven’t gotten around to seeing yet, so no internet yelling about your favorite film being excluded if it appears on the haven’t seen yet list at the bottom*. If it didn’t make that list, then have at it with the internet yelling. Also, all this year’s favorite movies are in movie montage mashup form if that’s your preferred manner of taking in best of lists.

There were way too many articles written about how 2016 was not a banner year for movies, so no need to cover that, but there were still some good ones if you sifted through the Suicide Squads garbage. Starting with:

la_la_land_ver21. La La Land – There were more socially relevant movies this year that I would encourage people to see, but in terms of pure cinematic enjoyment, La La Land is my favorite movie of the year. It’s vibrant, it’s intoxicating, it’s ambitious, and most of all, it’s fantastic. It’s what you hoped it was when you saw the trailer, a movie that justifies going to the movies. Emma Stone has been great in the past, but I think this marks her as a bonafide movie star. And I guess at this point it’s also fair to say Damien Chazelle is no fluke. Go see La La Land and good luck not humming City of Stars for the rest of the week. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Tell us a story

Watch This if You Like: Color Palettes, Singing in the Rain, Whiplash

hunt-for-the-wilderpeople-poster-52. Hunt for the Wilderpeople – Hunt for the Wilderpeople utilizes the dry Kiwi wit that the Flight of the Conchords cultivated so well, and mashes it into a heartwarming tale of misfits on the run. I smiled for most of this movie. It’s a movie made with love. You genuinely grow to care about the characters (Sam Neill is reliably great and Julian Dennison is a breakout star), the soundtrack is catchy and much like La La Land, seeing this in a packed theater was a joy. Not much else to say. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Ricky in the Wild

Watch This If You Like: What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Conchords, Boy

sing_street_poster3. Sing Street – Spiritual companion to his earlier faux musical masterpiece ‘Once‘, Irish director John Carney returns with another faux musical masterpiece of sorts in Sing Street, a movie that plays like a mashup of the best bits of ‘Once’ and ‘The Commitments’. This poppy 80s homage is full of feel good moments where the sentiment is actually earned, not crammed down your throat by an Illuminati focus group trying to win Will Smith an Oscar (I miss you old Will Smith. Sure, I want you to win an Oscar someday, but I also want you to make movies where you actually appear to be enjoying yourself). Like #1 and #2 on this list, Sing Street also has a stellar soundtrack. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Playing the Prom

Watch This If You Like: Once, The Commitments, Almost Famous, nearly unintelligible Irish brogue

rogueone_onesheeta4. Rogue OneRogue One is the sort of bleak Star Wars movie you thought Disney would never make. It’s not particularly family friendly, the ubiquitously dour tone won’t sell many action figures and it actually feels a bit too socially relevant for summer blockbuster fare (the rebellion morphs from the original trilogy’s unquestioned heroes to a more nuanced depiction of ruthless, desperate, gray area insurgents and extremists). Despite all that, a thrilling final hour rescues an uneven first hour to make a solid initial entry into the Star Wars standalone films. This is the movie that Suicide Squad desperately wanted to be, but instead of enjoyable characters like K-2So and Chirrut Imwe, we got a team of blandos, a stereotype parading itself as a giant crocodile and an utterly forgettable Joker. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Assault on Scarif

Watch This if You Like: Empire Strikes Back, War Movies, The Dirty Dozen

hell_or_high_water-poster5. Hell or High WaterThere’s something at first glance that makes this movie look like it should have gone straight to video. Like one of those Bruce Willis movies you’ve never heard of that you stumble upon on Netflix in the New Release section. You know the type. Bruce Willis probably has a weird wig on, and maybe Adrien Brody is in it, too, and it’s probably about a heist, or cops, or corrupt cops pulling a heist. Either way, Hell or High Water isn’t that. It just has the initial appearance of sludgy C-minus material thrown together for actors in the twilight of their careers. But in reality, you get a slow burn, bare bones No Country For Old Men homage set in the dry flats of West Texas. And it’s propped up by the best script of the year. There’s not a single line that seems out of place in this movie. It doesn’t hurt that all the performances are great, too. (Trailer)

Best Scene: I’ll Give You Peace, Old Man

Watch This If You Like: No Country For Old Men, Texas, Great Dialogue

nice_guys_ver2_xlg6. The Nice Guys – Shane Black continues his streak of great scripts with this punchy 70s action comedy steeped in the tradition of Lethal Weapon, LA Confidential and Kiss, Kiss, Bang Bang. If it weren’t for Hell or High Water, I’d say this would be the best script of the year. Who knew Ryan Gosling had such great comic timing? Who knew Shane Black could write such witty banter? Who knew Russell Crowe could be so surly? Oh wait. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Take Your Daughter to Work aka The Party

Watch This If You Like: Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Lethal Weapon, LA Confidential

green-room7. Green RoomA tense, brutal skins vs punks showdown set in the backwoods of Oregon that wears its love for John Carpenter on its sleeve. This is not a movie for the squeamish or Star Trek fans who want to preserve a wholesome image of Patrick Stewart. It was sad to lose Anton Yelchin this year, but his talents were on full display in this movie. He was great, and he will be missed. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Couch Ninja

Watch This If You Like: Blue Ruin, Assault on Precinct 13, Extreme violence, John Carpenter, Patrick Stewart making you uncomfortable, Crusty punks

arrival-poster8. Arrival – The ending of this movie just wrecks you. How sad, but in a wonderful way. Arrival is thinking man’s sci-fi, pulled from a short story by Ted Chiang once deemed unfilmmable because of its convoluted and dense content. Director Denis Villeneuve, who was tasked with unravelling that complex narrative, did so with a level of quality that has to mark him as one of the best directors working today. Villeneuve has me excited for next year’s BladeRunner 2049, a movie I probably wouldn’t care about otherwise. (Trailer)

Best Scene: A Mother’s Love

Watch This If You Like: Contact, Hard sci-fi, Amy Adams, The feels


moonlight-poster-lg9. Moonlight – 
A somber meditation on identity, adaptability and the moments in life that haunt us. This is such a deeply personal film that it almost feels like an intrusion to watch it. But it’s wonderfully subtle, never holding your hand or forcing anything on you. I don’t think I can remember a movie outside of Terrence Malick‘s catalog that felt simultaneously so natural and yet so surreal at the same time. At the very least, Maherssala Ali and Naomie Harris deserve award recognition for their performances. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Reunion

Watch This If You Like: Great Storytelling, Terrence Malick

train-to-busan10. Train to Busan – Zombies on a train! By all rights, this should be schlocky nonsense, but it’s actually quite good. It borrows elements from World War Z, 28 Days Weeks Later and Snakes on a Plane, all while cobbling together a product that’s superior to all the movies it pilfered from. I look forward to Hollywood completely blowing the unnecessary English remake of this superb Korean thriller. Mark your calendars, skip it and see the original. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Journey to the front of the train

Watch This If You Like: 28 Weeks Later, Snakes on a Plane, World War ZSnowpiercer

handmaiden_poster_2764x4096_1200_1778_81_s11. The HandmaidenChan-Wook Park returns to form with this visually sumptuous gothic drama about a handmaiden’s scandalous relationship with a Japanese heiress. In this entry, Park trades his traditional stamp of gratuitous violence in favor of a string of graphic sex scenes that are bound to unnerve more prudish sensibilities. But where other lesser filmmakers would use blasts of violence and sex for pure shock value, Park’s excesses always drip with the mark of a true artist, crafting these as moments of inevitable catharsis and awakening for his characters. Don’t be fooled by the violence/sex/gut churning moments. Chan-Wook Park is a master level director. (Trailer)

Best Scene: She’s Always Been Rotten

Watch This if You Like: Lady Vengeance, Raise the Red Lantern, Gothic Horror, In The Mood For Love

manchester12. Manchester By the Sea – A naturalistic endeavor from filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan that examines the damage grief can do after great tragedy. Credit to Lonergan for writing a script that has a lot of legitimately funny moments, considering how heavy the subject matter is in this film. Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are great. They will probably win awards. They probably deserve to. (Trailer)

Best Scene: (Tie for most devastating) ‘Police Station Visit’ and ‘Chance Encounter on the Street’

Watch This if You Like: Boston Accents, Being Emotionally Devastated

kubo_and_the_two_strings_ver1213. Kubo and The Two Strings – I haven’t seen any of Laika’s other films, but my first experience with the studio was certainly a positive one. Kubo is a stop motion animated film that has often been called the ‘Zelda’ movie, because it’s probably the closest anyone is ever going to get to a Zelda movie. Either way, it’s the best animated movie I saw this year (although I still haven’t seen Moana or Your Name). The animation is stunningly gorgeous. (Trailer)

Best Scene: The Night Calls Out To You

Watch This If You Like: Coraline, Zelda, Kung Fu Panda, Stop Motion Animation

 

10-cloverfield14. 10 Cloverfield Lane10 Cloverfield Lane is a surprisingly good high concept bottle episode of a movie. I know people had issue with the ending, which I understand, but I can’t say it bothered me all that much. John Goodman is just too good in this movie for a questionable ending to sully the entire experience. I would encourage any Hitchcock fan to give this a shot. Previous Cloverfield 1 viewing not required. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Any scene where John Goodman loses it

Watch This If You Like: Hitchcock, Tense Thrillers, John Goodman Dancing

the-shallows-poster15. The Shallows – The Shallows is the best shark movie in quite some time. I know that isn’t saying much, but there were some genuinely terrifying moments in this film. I should also mention that I am irrationally terrified of sharks though, so my judgement probably can’t be trusted with this one. But one of the main characters in this movie is a seagull. And his name is Steven Seagull. So, you should probably just go ahead and see this movie. (Trailer)

Best Scene: Buoy showdown

Watch This If You Like: Jaws, The Reef, Open Water, Movies with GoPros in them

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Movies in 2016 – Mashup Trailer

This is an excellent movie mashup montage edited by Andrew Rivard, celebrating the year 2016 in film. Although 2016 didn’t start particularly strongly, I think the surge of good films in the second half may end up making it one of the better cinematic years of late. I of course have nothing to back that claim up, but luckily this is the internet, where citations go to die. Cue the dance montage!

‘Hunt For The Wilderpeople’ Review

I saw two movies in theaters this week. One was the $130 million bloatfest that was Independence Day 2. The other was the New Zealand indie ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople.’ Hunt for the Wilderpeople, made for $128 million dollars less than ID4: 2, is the infinitely better movie between the two. Smart, funny, poignant and boasting a perfect rotten tomatoes score for the moment, Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a great example of an applause worthy indie that will go under the radar because of bloatfests like Independence Day (although it looks like everyone is ignoring Independence Day in favor of Finding Dory, anyway). So, if you’re looking to support something small, offbeat and worthy of your hard earned disposable income this weekend, give some consideration to Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which should expand to most cities this Friday (7/1). Sam Neill and Julian Dennison are the truth.