The Reviewinator: Dark Phoenix (2019)

Here we go again. In this tiresome age of superhero do-overs, we now have the retelling of the Phoenix storyline first told in X-Men: The Last Stand. If memory serves, these “prequel” movies are supposed to co-exist with the original X-Men movies up to the 1974 timeline disruption from Days of Future Past. Meaning, from a purely continuity perspective, most of the same rules should apply here and the filmmakers should be telling more or less the same Phoenix story again. But like X-Men: Apocalypse, they throw continuity to the wind and add yet another decade-long time jump to 1992 (that’s right, 2011’s First Class characters are supposed to be 30 years older here!), so they can tell a bland and tonally-uneven conclusion to X-Men that neither honors the 19-year film franchise nor justifies Dark Phoenix’s now-infamous reshoots.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Tucker: The Man and His Dreams (1988)

Rarely has a biopic about a disgraced vehicle magnate been so chipper, uplifting and halcyon. The American Zoetrope logo is an indication of the old-fashioned approach that Francis Ford Coppola is utilizing for his hugely engrossing portrait ‘Tucker: The Man and His Dream’. The whole movie is glazed in a honey-pigmented lens and it is as wildly Icarus-like as Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) was.

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Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: Apollo 11 (2019)

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This year will mark the 50th anniversary since Neil Armstrong and the boys touched down on the Moon in July 1969. Back then, it was an epic event of Star Wars proportions (and I imagine the excitement of seeing the touchdown on a ’60s television set was akin to seeing Star Wars IV in the theatre for the first time) – the world tuned in to watch humankind take the next step forward. So much has happened since then – we’ve seen robots on Mars, satellite images of Pluto, the advent of the Internet, and more. It is a marvellous time to be alive – we can return to the past at the click of a button, look ahead to the future, and still live in a time where tigers, elephants, pangolins, and other creatures roam the wilds. The world is in trouble and we have an ominous future, but there is still some time left until irrevocable catastrophe hits. Watching the documentary Apollo 11 fills me with optimism and hope – it is a celebration of human achievement and fulfillment of one of humankind’s greatest desires. Despite the impending sixth mass extinction and the ominousness of climate change, this documentary makes us remember what we’re capable of and what makes us special as humans. Yes, humans are guilty of obscene pollution and deforestation and eradicating wildlife and overpopulation, but we also sent a few men to the Moon, and I think technology and collaboration will help save us and our planet in the years to come. Apollo 11 draws from familiar stock footage as well as unreleased footage and documents, and the timing and chronology of events positions the viewer in that summer of ’69, seeing it all for the first time. It is very special, and so breathable and vivid. I want to believe that such a documentary will squash the idiotic Apollo hoax theories (I mean, we’ve seen extensive footage of the takeoff and astronauts in space as well as landings on the Moon which I don’t think a film studio would replicate), but they always find more fodder and bullshit to chase after (guys, the flag was made of aluminum tin foil…).

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The Reviewinator: Star Trek – Discovery (Season 2)

When we last saw the Discovery, it was face-to-face with the Enterprise, igniting hopes that the glory days of Star Trek were about to warp back into our living rooms. Discovery’s first season was such a forlorn departure in tone, style, casting, and canon, that imagining it alongside the utopian Original Series was an exorbitantly tall order. But when it neatly wrapped up its dreary Klingon War storyline, it also presented fans with a look to the optimistic future they longed to revisit. So does this season truly go where no Discovery episode has gone before?

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Runstedler’s DVD Pick of the Month: Leaving Neverland

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I believe the boys/men in this documentary, and bravo to HBO for having the courage to air it in its entirety despite the backlash from MJ “superfans” and the Jackson estate. I love Michael Jackson’s music; Thriller was one of the first albums I ever bought (I think everyone has their own precious memories with Thriller and listening Michael Jackson over the years) and this was heartbreaking to watch but it’s so important to listen and hear the truth. The film details the alleged sexual abuse of two men (Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck), who were boys when the King of Pop befriended them in the late ’80s/early ’90s. The documentary enables them to have a voice and tell their story as it happened as well as examine the impact of sexual abuse not only for them, but also on their families and relationships. Growing up in the ’90s, it was hard to know what to believe about MJ as a person, except that he was super famous and a bit creepy. I remember hearing all the crude jokes about him (e.g. “What do Michael Jackson and McDonald’s have in common?”) and despite the allegations being settled out of court in the ’90s, I think we all knew he was still suspicious and guilty.

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The Reviewinator: Glass (2019)

It seems almost fitting that the franchise that began with a train wreck also ends with one. It’s been 19 years since Unbreakable impressed audiences with its mysterious take on superheroes in the real world. And it wasn’t until Bruce Willis’ cameo in 2017’s Split that fans realized they were finally getting a sequel. Unfortunately, Glass not only fails to deliver on any of its or its predecessors’ promises, it somehow manages to ruin the two great films that came before it.

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Red Dead Redemption 2: The Most Beautiful Tragedy

Sadie and Arthur (Dream Team)

Red Dead Redemption 2 is possibly the greatest video game of all time and certainly my absolute favourite. Red Dead Redemption was my absolute favourite for a long time, boasting gorgeous graphics, wide, open-world gameplay, and a super compelling narrative, yet Red Dead 2 exceeds the first in every way (I even liked Arthur Morgan more than John Marston, which is saying a lot) and seems to continue a growing trend in offering the rare prequel that surpasses the original (Better Call Saul is another prequel that comes close to being as good as if not better than the original, but I think Breaking Bad still reigns supreme). So what makes this game and experience so great?

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The Reviewinator: Creed II (2018)

Ready to party like it’s 1985? You better be. After Ivan Drago went curiously unmentioned in the first Creed movie during discussions of Apollo’s death, devoting an entire sequel to the Dragos is welcome compensation. It seemed an inevitable match-up, with the Creed family having never previously gotten any sort of restitution. But rather than a typical revenge movie, or worse, a monster movie where the monster comes back to kill his previous victim’s kid, Creed II doesn’t waste its chance to take a tragic event and make something good out of it.

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The Reviewinator: Halloween (2018)

It seems every 10 years or so, the Halloween franchise ignores a great portion of its sequels. In 1988, Halloween 4 ignored III; in 1998, Halloween H20 ignored everything after II; and 2007 saw Rob Zombie’s abysmal attempt at a remake. But here, on the 40th anniversary of the original, they haven’t just ignored every sequel and remake thus far, they’ve changed one of the most well-known details of the established lore: Michael Myers and Laurie Strode are no longer brother and sister! Imagine going back to before Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker were father and son and seeing what story paths a non-family structure could take that franchise. Even John Carpenter regretted making the two main characters related in Halloween II, and many agree that it made Michael Myers significantly less frightening. Instead of being “purely and simply evil”, he was a psychotic sibling less likely to kill non-relatives (i.e. most people). And even though this sequel shares the title of the original (the 2011 prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing did this as well), 2018’s Halloween is very much a sequel to 1978’s Halloween.

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Castor’s Underrated Gems – Victory (1981)

John Huston was the classic example of a tour-de-force director who, in his later years, became a gun-for-hire. With films like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Fat City and The Man Who Would Be King, he was a burly, epic craftsman but bills and time diminished his enthusiasm. Luckily, he rebounded in the late 80’s but one of his films that been labeled a minor sidenote was actually a peerlessly far-fetched but immensely amiable sports movie – Victory.

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