41dsce4fohl-_sx319_bo1204203200_One of the great “advantages” of social media is that dirty laundry is so much easier to air. There have always been celebrity scandals, but they are much more accessible these days, and so much more satisfying than focusing on our own problems. Yes, celebrities are supposed to be role models and all that, but if you’re using that as the justification for your “righteous anger,” well, you’re gonna have a hard time finding a celebrity, or, you know, anyone, who never makes mistakes.

That’s probably why Matt and Cameron Fradd’s newest book is called Restored. This is a book that is hard to read, in a good way. It chronicles the suffering and wounds caused by sexual addiction and pornography. But more importantly, it chronicles the healing and restoration of these wounded families.

These are stories of survivors, not just of addictions, but betrayal by the ones they loved most. Our culture has a severe lack of strong men, and reading these testimonies reinforces the reality of that deficiency while women are left to pick up the pieces. But these stories highlight another reality too: that we’re all broken, and we all need forgiveness.

We’ve all messed up, some of us in bigger ways than others. Its one of the things that makes us human. So if we’re going to choose to love someone, we don’t get to just choose the happy times and the good qualities. We get the bumps and the bruises, and the failings too. But we love anyway. And although it may take awhile, we let go, even though the fellow human we love is guaranteed to fall again in some way or another, as we all are.

There are a lot of opinions about judging these days, when its appropriate, or when it isn’t, but one of our societies biggest failings is judging without love and forgiveness. As many women writing in Restored point out, this doesn’t mean blindly trusting those who have hurt you, but it does mean healing, both for the offender and the offended. The men in this book committed themselves to healing, no matter how many times they fell. That’s love too. Getting back up for yourself, for your family, and for God.

So whether you’ve been hurt, or you’ve hurt others (everyone qualifies for both at certain points in their lives), read this book. These are complete stories of love, not because the subjects are perfect, but because they have made the choice to love one another, even though they aren’t perfect.

michael_vick_protest_6Getting back to celebrities; even all these years later, people still go protest whenever Michael Vick signs a new NFL contract. This is a guy that messed up, went to jail, and missed out on the prime of his career. Can we leave him alone now? Yes, he did bad things. So did Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. H.P. Lovecraft was a stalwart racist, Frans Schubert contracted syphilis and some of the folks in Restored cheated on their wives and families and objectified women. It wasn’t because they are evil, its because they are human, and humans aren’t perfect. Its not easy to love celebrities, these people who are supposed to entertain us and maybe make us feel better about ourselves when they mess up. But life isn’t about falling, its about getting back up, which is why Restored is such a great name for this powerful tome.

This is a book which gives witness to freedom, and we all desire that, but not the freedom to just do whatever we want. This is true freedom, to choose to love and forgive. Even if you’re not dealing with the same exact issues depicted here, if you need to forgive, read this book. If you need forgiveness, read this book. Let the testimony of the fellow fallen give you hope for your future, strength to repent and recover, and hope to be Restored.

You can purchase Restored here: http://shop.catholic.com/restored-true-stories-of-love-and-trust-after-porn.html

Today, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AKA the Academy that handles the Oscars), announced radical changes to the process by which Academy members are chosen. The goal of these changes is to make the Academy more racially diverse.

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Steve McQueen directing 12 Years a Slave.

Of course, these changes were made in response to the #OscarsAllWhite campaign, and the decisions of marquee names such as Will Smith and Spike Lee to boycott this year’s ceremony (hosted by Chris Rock, who is black). It’s actually quite absurd to think the Academy is racist as a whole. Isaacs, whose actions should be applauded, is black. These new policies will allow for a more eclectic group of folks as Academy members, but won’t make much of a difference when it comes to nominating black actors. There’s a perfectly good reason for that, and it’s not that the Academy is racist.

Let’s be perfectly clear here, you need to actually deserve an Oscar nomination to get one. The Oscars are for the BEST of the best. Not the pretty good, or even the great. You don’t get handed an award, or a nomination, just because you’re a minority. You. Have. To. Earn. It. Like Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and Steve McQueen did two years ago. Or Selma when it was nominated for Best Picture and won Best Song. Blacks make up about 12.6% of the U.S. population, and since 2000, 10% of acting nominations went to black actors and actresses. That means there’s a negligible difference between nominated actors and the general population. It is likely that film studios could do a better job of giving better roles to minorities, but the Academy votes based on the finished product. The Academy isn’t the problem.

The “problem” is that there simply weren’t any Oscar-worthy contenders from the minority crowd (with one exception, which I’ll get to later). We could sit around and argue all day about which actors did or didn’t deserve nominations based on our own opinions, but opinions are subjective. However, when thousands of differing opinions come together to form a consensus, it is more likely that said consensus aligns with reality.  Take Rotten Tomatoes for example. The Tomatometer measures what percentage of critics thought a movie was good (3+ stars) or not (1 or 2 stars). I’m not the biggest fan of it, but the Tomatometer is a good guideline for if you’ll like a film or not. A viewer is mathematically much more likely to like a film with an 85% Tomatometer than a film with a 15% Tomatometer. We can apply a similar test to actors and actresses by seeing how many different film organizations considered them worthy of their own award nominations. If one actor has been nominated by twenty-six different film or critics associations, and another nominated by three, its a pretty safe bet that the former did a better job than the latter. Here are some specific cases

Alleged Snub: Best Leading Actor – Michael B. Jordan (Creed), and Will Smith (Concussion)

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Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), and Eddie Redmayne (The Dutch Girl), were all nominated.

According to handy-dandy IMDB, their total award nominations are as follows:

  • Cranston: 15
  • Damon: 22
  • DiCaprio: 34
  • Fassbender: 30
  • Redmayne: 16

Now for these two.

  • Jordan: 10
  • Smith: 6

A note of importance is that 3 of Jordan’s nominations came from African American film organizations (Black Reel Awards for example). The same was true of 2 of Smith’s nominations. These organizations almost always exclusively nominate African Americans. In fact, the Black Reel Awards only nominated four actors this year instead of the usual five. The reason being that there was a severe lack of great performances by black actors in 2015.

So, as far as Best Actor is concerned, the consensus on a wide scale is that neither Jordan nor Smith were as good as the rest. The Academy, being made up of a lot of members, merely reflect this consensus.

Alleged Snub: Best Picture – (Straight Outta Compton)

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Straight Outta Compton only received eight Best Picture nominations from film and critics societies. Three of these nominations came from exclusively black awards.

Usually, SOC isn’t really considered a snub. By comparison, The Martian garnered over 25 of these type of nominations. SOC just wasn’t worthy.

Alleged Snub: Best Supporting Actor – Idris Elba (Beasts Of No Nation)

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The actual nominees are as follows, with the number of their non-Oscar nominations overall.

  • Christian Bale (The Big Short): 6
  • Tom Hardy (The Revenant): 11
  • Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight): 13
  • Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies): 30
  • Sylvester Stallone (Creed): 28

By comparison, Elba received 13 nominations. Now, I do agree that this was a snub. I think Elba was more deserving than Bale for sure and maybe Hardy. However, this still isn’t based on the race card.

Beasts of No Nation had quite the journey to the big screen. It is the first ever Netflix feature film, and it was actually only shown in a few theaters around the country. Many theaters actually boycotted the film (unofficially) because it was available on Netflix at the same time as it was in theaters.

It’s likely is that the Academy is slow in warming to Netflix produced films. TV is one thing. TV shows have always been “in the home” first. And most “watch-on-demand” debuts are known for not being very good. Of course, this is a different beast entirely (pun intended), which cost it some recognition.

Agree? Disagree? Leave me a note and tell me.

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To conclude coverage of 2015’s film slate, here are my predictions for Oscar nominations.

Oscar nominations are not announced until the 14th. However, with the Golden Globes this weekend, I’m releasing my predictions now. This is because, in years past, folks at sites like IMDB, Gold Derby, and the now-defunct Rope of Silicon always found themselves changing their picks drastically after the Golden Globes. This happens for two different reasons. The first is that they are eager to jump on bandwagons created by Golden Globe wins, which actually aren’t always that great of a predictor. The second is that they have to stop themselves from looking silly by distancing themselves from stupid picks they previously made which had very little chance of actually being correct.

This isn’t to say that it is somehow not kosher to change picks. Everyone’s free to do so. If I do, they will be noted here. The important part is transparency, to see how accurate things are as time goes by.

Here we go! Bold picks are ones I consider to be locks.

EDIT: The Oscar Nominations have been announced. I picked 75% correctly. Below, you’ll see that my correct predictions are in bold, and my incorrect picks have been crossed out, and replaced by the actual nominees. 

Best Picture 

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  1. Spotlight
  2. Room
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Carol
  5. The Revenant
  6. The Martian
  7. Mad Max: Fury Road
  8. The Big Short
  9. Bridge of Spies
  10. Sicario

As I said below, this category can have from 5-10 nominees. Carol and Sicario were not nominated, but all other films were accurately picked.

These past few years, the nomination race has been very fun to watch. This year, there are three films that intrigue me. The first is Mad Max. Usually action films like this get passed over by the Academy. But with nominations by the Golden Globes and Critics Choice circles, I can’t count it out. Not only that, its looking pretty good for a nomination.

Beasts of No Nation is so hard to get a read on thanks to its Netflix-only release. Its as good as the last few films on here, but I think it doesn’t quite make it.

Finally, there’s Creed. I think it can sneak in, but I’m wondering if nostalgia is kicking this one up the ladder a bit. On the bubble perhaps.

Also, remember there doesn’t have to be 10 nominations, so we could see some fall by the wayside.

Best Director

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  1. Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
  2. Alejandro Inarritu (The Revenant)
  3. Ridley Scott (The Martian) Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
  4. George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
  5. Todd Haynes (Carol) Adam McKay (The Big Short)

Best Actor

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  1. Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
  2. Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)
  3. Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
  4. Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
  5. Johnny Depp (Black Mass) Matt Damon (The Martian)

On the bubble: Matt Damon (The Martian)

Best Actress

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  1. Brie Larson (Room)
  2. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)
  3. Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
  4. Cate Blanchett (Carol)
  5. Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road) Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

On the bubble: Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)

Best Supporting Actor

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  1. Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
  2. Paul Dano (Love and Mercy) Christian Bale (The Big Short)
  3. Sylvester Stallone (Creed)
  4. Michael Shannon (99 Homes) Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
  5. Idris Elba (Beasts of No NationMark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

On the bubble: Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)

Best Supporting Actress

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  1. Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)
  2. Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful 8)
  3. Rooney Mara (Carol)
  4. Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
  5. Helen Mirren (Trumbo) Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

On the bubble: Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)

Best Original Screenplay

  1. Spotlight
  2. Bridge of Spies
  3. Inside Out
  4. Sicario  Straight Outta Compton
  5. The Hateful 8 Ex Machina

Best Adapted Screenplay

  1. The Martian
  2. The Big Short
  3. Room
  4. Steve Jobs Carol
  5. Brooklyn

On the bubble: Carol

Best Animated Feature Film

  1. Inside Out
  2. Anomalisa
  3. The Peanuts Movie Boy and the World
  4. Shaun the Sheep Movie
  5. The Good Dinosaur When Marnie Was There

On the bubble: Home

Best Documentary Film

  1. Amy
  2. The Look of Silence
  3. Going Clear Winter on Fire
  4. Listen to Me, Marlon What Happened, Miss Simone?
  5. Cartel Land

Best Foreign Film

  1. Son of Saul
  2. Mustang
  3. Theeb
  4. A War
  5. Embrace of the Serpent

On the bubble: The Fencer

Best Cinematography

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. Sicario
  4. Carol
  5. The Hateful 8 

On the bubble: The MartianBridge of Spies

Best Costume Design

  1. Cinderella
  2. The Danish Girl
  3. Brooklyn
  4. Carol
  5. Far from the Madding Crowd

On the bubble: Mad Max: Fury RoadThe Assassin

Best Makeup and Hair

  1. Black Mass  The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
  2. The Revenant 
  3. Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Production Design

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Carol The Revenant
  3. Bridge of Spies
  4. The Danish Girl
  5. The Martian

On the bubble: BrooklynCrimson Peak

Best Film Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Revenant
  3. The Martian Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Spotlight
  5. The Big Short

Best Visual Effects

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. Ex Machina
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Walk The Revenant

Best Original Score

  1. The Hateful 8
  2. Carol
  3. Spotlight Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  4. Inside Out Bridge of Spies
  5. Sicario

Best Original Song

  1. “See You Again” (Furious 7) “Manta Ray” (Facing Extinction)
  2. “Writing’s on the Wall” (Spectre)
  3. “’Til it Happens to You” (Hunting Ground)
  4. “Simple Song 3” (Youth)
  5. “Better When I’m Dancing” (The Peanuts Movie)

Best Sound Editing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. Sicario
  3. The Martian
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  5. The Revenant 

Best Sound Mixing

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road
  2. The Martian
  3. The Revenant
  4. Bridge of Spies
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Live Action Short (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Ave Maria
  2. Shok
  3. Everything Will Be Okay 
  4. Winter Light Day One
  5. Stutterer

Best Animated Short  (Total Crapshoot)

  1. World of Tomorrow
  2. If I Was God Bear Story
  3. Sanjay’s Super Team
  4. Carface Bear Story
  5. Prologue

Best Documentary Short  (Total Crapshoot)

  1. Chau, Behind the Lines
  2. My Enemy, My Brother Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
  3. Last Day of Freedom
  4. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
  5. Body Team 12

Today we’re dealing with that ugly little monster that keeps saying that Hollywood is losing its creativity. Listen, its not the movie studios’ fault if you choose to ignore good films you’re not familiar with. Known commodities will nearly always win box office battles, because its easier to get people in the seats, but profit and box office receipts don’t equate to quality, and in this age of Netflix, Amazon, and Redbox, there’s honestly no excuse for not seeing the amazing new films and ideas out there. So…

Where Did They Come From?

There are four categories: Originals, Adaptations, Sequels (which include Prequels), and Remakes.

To be fair, I’m only listing films that made it to wide release. If they have already announced wide release dates for early 2015, but have been out already in limited release, then they have been counted. If I counted limited release films as well, the original films would be the clear winner.

Originals

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Using the same qualifiers that the Academy Awards use, Original Films are films that are new screenplays, and not based on previously existing material such as novels, plays, television shows, etc. Basically, “Original” means not connected to any pre-existing work in print, screen, or stage.

Films based on events, but not creative works, are still original films. Last year there were 49 original films released. This year, there were 61.

The Top Five Original Films at the worldwide box office in 2015 were:

(* = still in theaters, +/- signs indicate how much more or less money the film made to its counterpart on this list last year.)

  1. Inside Out – $856.1M (Written by Josh Cooley, Pete Docter, and
    Meg LaFauve).  +$181M {Interstellar}
  2. San Andreas – $473.8 468M (Written by Carlton Cuse) +$5.8M {The Lego Movie}
  3. The Good Dinosaur – $243.8M (Written by Meg LeFauve) -$219M {Lucy}
  4. Spy – $237.7M (Written by Paul Feig) -$30.5M {Neighbors}
  5. Tomorrowland – $209M (Written by Brad Bird and Damon Lindelof)   -$13.9M {Non-Stop}

Adaptations

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Adaptations are all films based on already existing material, which can include novels (The Martian), comic books (Ant-Man), short-films (Pixels), plays, TV shows etc.

Reboots are classified as adaptations because they are not sequels to existing material, but new versions of adapted material.

With 38 total adaptations, they were the second most common film in 2015.  Last year there were 50. Its still important to note that most adaptations have never been translated to the big screen, so they are mostly new material, aside from anomalies like Mockingjay.

The Top Five Adaptations at the worldwide box office in 2015 were:

  1. The Martian –  $596.3 772.5M (Adaptation of the novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir) -$176.2M {Guardians of the Galaxy}
  2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2*– $635.9M (Adaptation of the novel “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins) -$121.9M {Maleficent}
  3. Cinderella– $542.7M (Adapted from the Disney Cinderella animated film) -$129.2M {The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1}
  4. Ant-Man – $519.3M (Adapted from various Marvel Comics comic book series) -$61.4M {The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies}
  5. Kingsmen: The Secret Service – $414.4 477.2M (Adapted from the Icon Comics limited series “The Secret Service”) -$62.8M {Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles}

Sequels/Prequels

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In this category are films that are sequels or prequels to other films. Spin-offs like Minions are also included. There were 23 sequels in 2015, that’s an increase of three from last year. And in 2015, sequels ruled the box office.

The Top Five Sequels/Prequels in 2015 were:

  1. Jurassic World – $1.7B <— Yes, billion. +$600M {Transformers: Age of Extinction}
  2. Furious 7 – $1.5B, +$769M {X-Men: Days of Future Past}
  3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens* – $1.5B, +$785M {Captain America: The Winter Soldier}
  4. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.4B, +$691M {Amazing Spider-Man 2}
  5. Minions – $1.2B, +$491.7M {Dawn of the Planet of the Apes}

Side note: The new Star Wars film being in theaters currently, it will likely eventually secure the #1 spot.

Remakes

This category includes all remakes of feature films regardless of their country of origin. There were only 3 remakes in 2015, the same amount as last year. Here are their international box office totals.

  1. Poltergeist – $95.4M (Remake of 1982 film of the same name)
  2. Point Break* – $80.2M (Remake of 1991 film of the same name)
  3. The Loft – $10M (Remake of 2008 film Loft)

In Conclusion

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After one year out of the lead, original films are once again leading the charge in Hollywood. Of course, the big money is in sequels, but that’s only natural, because they have the biggest fan bases.

Again, there’s plenty of fantastic original films out there for everyone to see, so go see them in 2016!

Now that its 2016, its time to look back at 2015 in the movie world. Today, its my 10 favorite films, tomorrow, it will be “Where Did They Come From?” – detailing the source material for all of 2015’s films, and Sunday will be the 10 films I’m most looking forward to in 2016.

Of course, Oscar buzz is picking up, and all votes are in, and I’ll release my predictions as the announcement time grows near. And now, without further ado, my 10 favorite films of 2015.

10. Slow West

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Imagine a film written by Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, and you might get Slow West. It’s a western coming of age story with gunfights and a tongue-in-cheek script. Michael Fassbender is fantastic, and we’ll be seeing him and his co-star, Kodi Smit-McPhee (who will be playing Nightcrawler) in X-Men: Apocalypse this year.

9. ’71

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I learned about this film thanks to its BAFTA nominations last winter. This film, and not Unbroken, is Jack O’Connnell’s best performance to date. We get a look at the situation on the ground in Belfast during the Northern Ireland “troubles.”

8. Mad Max: Fury Road

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This film is a masterpiece. Little plot to speak of, but some of the best cinematography (actually the best) and acting on this list. It might break the action mold and make an appearance at the Oscars for something other than technical nominations.

7. The Peanuts Movie

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Good ol’ Charlie Brown. Films that are clearly labors of love and produced masterfully are usually the best kind. I loved the way this film stays true to the characters, while also showing us a new view into the Peanuts universe.

6. Inside Out

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The plots in some other animated films were better this year, but this was written so, so well. The cast is incredible, there’s so much going on with the accuracy of how the mind works, and the script is simply fantastic.

5. Avengers: Age of Ultron

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Is it as good as the first one? No. But its also not as flawed as some folks make it out to be. There’s so much packed in here that some had trouble following things, which is too bad for them. James Spader was great as Ultron, and we got some amazing scenes and great special effects.

4. Mr. Holmes

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Ian McKellen is superb as Sherlock Holmes, and the way this story is woven, part drama, part mystery, part psychological thriller, is an interesting take on the Holmes legend. Great supporting cast as well.

3. Love and Mercy

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I forgot how much I’ve always loved the Beach Boys’ music. Then I saw this film. Brian Wilson was a creative genius who went through so much to bring us some of the best songs of all time.

2. Ant-Man

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I’d been so excited for this film’s release since Edgar Wright first mentioned he was writing a script. It didn’t disappoint, and the message it conveyed about the importance of strong fathers was one that every man needs to hear.

1. Spotlight

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Speaking of things everyone needs to hear…This is not a pleasant film, but people need to see it. A huge theme to this movie is that so many of us are so willing to look the other way when something’s not going right. Make no mistake, the Church has made great strides in dealing with abuse cases, but there are still some that prefer safety and darkness rather than the truth and light.

If you want to see really good films this weekend, go ahead and scroll down to my Oscarwatch listing below. If you’re a fan of Simon Pegg, and a decent comedy, go see Man Up. My Film to Catch of the week, its a decent commentary on our dating culture, and a good mix of comedy and drama, although it will likely be forgotten at year’s end.

Love the Coopers, a sad excuse for a Christmas comedy, adds another film to a bad track record for Ed Helms. The 33, about the 2010 Chilean mine collapse, could have been a great movie, but is considerably underwhelming and predictable. Aaron Eckhart’s newest outing: My All American, is a watered down Rudy, actually from the same writer. By the Sea is a mostly boring married couple (Pitt/Jolie) drama, too bland for its own good. As we start to wind the year down, we’re seeing more and more limited release films, but this week doesn’t present too many new intriguing options.

Must See: None

Worth Your Time: Man Up

Ok: The 33

Stay Away: My All AmericanLove the CoopersBy the Sea

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Man Up: Original screenplay by Tess Morris
  • Love the Coopers: Original screenplay by Steven Rogers
  • By the Sea: Original screenplay by Angelina Jolie Pitt
  • The 33: Original screenplay by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, and José Rivera

Original: 54

Adaptation: 33

Sequel/Prequel: 19

Remake: 2

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

1) Spotlight
3) Room
8) Straight Outta Compton

Its James Bond versus Charlie Brown on the big screen this weekend. And while Bond’s Spectre is likely to win the box office battle, its actually Charlie Brown’s The Peanuts Movie that is a more rewarding film. So many films and franchises have very little respect for source material, and its nice to see the true spirit of Charles Schultz’s gallery alive again in film format. That makes The Peanuts Movie my Film to See this weekend.

That being said, I have no doubt that the limited release films bring a gold mine of cinema to the forefront.

Brooklyn (Saoirse Ronan), released on Wednesday, is about a young Irish immigrant falling for a young Italian immigrant in 1950s NYC, blacklist tale Trumbo should rocket Bryan Cranston back into the spotlight, and Spotlight, which highlights the initial Boston Globe investigation into abuse allegations against Catholic priests, is going to be one to see, especially with Mark Ruffalo and a resurrected Michael Keaton on board. There’s also Miss You Already and The Hallow, which can be skipped.

Must See: The Peanuts Movie, Spotlight

Worth Your Time: TrumboBrooklyn

Ok: SpectreMiss You Already

Stay Away: The Hallow

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Spectre: Sequel in the James Bond franchise
  • The Peanuts Movie: Adaptation of Peanuts cartoon strip by Charles Schultz

Original: 50

Adaptation: 33

Sequel/Prequel: 19

Remake: 2

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

2) Room
3) Sicario
4) The Martian
5) Beasts of No Nation
6) End of the Tour
7) Straight Outta Compton
8) Bridge of Spies

Its safe to say that what you should probably be watching this weekend is all the San Diego Comic Con footage, which includes a new Batman v. Superman trailer, because the new releases this weekend aren’t much to speak of.

The Minions prequel to Despicable Me is mostly fun, but leaves much to be desired. Ryan Reynolds’ new film, Self/less has an intriguing plot, but is poorly written and lacks the punch needed to make it a hit. And The Gallows is found footage horror that was better off lost.

Unsurprisingly, especially for this year, the Film to Catch this week is a limited release movie: What We Did On Our Holiday. Starring Rosamund Pike and David Tennant, it freshens up the standard “family-is-falling-apart-because-of-a-difficult-divorce” plot with clever comedy and solid acting.

Another limited release film of note is Boulevard, starring the late Robin Williams.

Must See: None

Worth Your Time: What We Did On Our Holiday

Ok: MinionsBoulevard

Stay Away: Self/less, The Gallows

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Minions: Prequel in Despicable Me franchise.
  • Self/less: Original, written by David and Àlex Pastor
  • The Gallows: Original, written by Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing

Original: 33

Adaptation: 15

Sequel/Prequel: 16

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

4) ’71

The Blockbuster Report

2015 is halfway gone, and the movies…well, have been mostly underwhelming. But no worries, as you celebrate this 4th of July, you can also count on TWIC to guide you to the best films! Which are actually in short supply this weekend.

We continue 2015’s blast from the past as Terminator Genisys joins us, and its mostly meh. Arnold has some good bits, but this one is going to join the ranks of ill-advised (or at least ill-written) sequels. Magic Mike XXL is in theaters as well this weekend, and its more of the same tripe.

The films in limited release are certainly much better bets this weekend. Some great music documentaries lead the way. Amy (about Amy Winehouse), and A Poem is a Naked Person (about Leon Russell) are insightful glimpses into the lives of musical icons. Cartel Land and Stray Dog look at two vastly different parts of American life, the former showcasing the chaos of international drug trafficking, and the latter painting a portrait of an army-vet biker who has a heck of a life.

The remaining films are varied. Faith of Our Fathers is another film in the vein of Christian films that feature atrocious acting and not much in the way of plot. (Is it really that hard to make a good Christian film? I’m embarrassed.) Stung is an indie-horror creature feature that fans of the genre should find enjoyable, and Jackie & Ryan stars Ben Barnes and Katherine Heigl in a romance drama driven by music.

Must See: None

Worth Your Time: AmyA Poem is a Naked Person, Stray Dog

Ok: Terminator GenisysCartel Land, Jackie & Ryan, Stung

Stay Away: Magic Mike XXLFaith of our Fathers

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Terminator Genisys: Sequel in Terminator franchise.
  • Magic Mike XXL: Sequel to Magic Mike

Original: 31

Adaptation: 15

Sequel/Prequel: 15

Remake: 1

Oscarwatch

These ten films are the “Best of the Year,” IF THE YEAR ENDED TODAY. This weekend’s releases not included.

They are ranked based on likelihood of winning Best Picture at the Oscars, with #1 being most likely. International films are not included until the end of year if Oscar potential exists.

DISCLAIMER: I may not personally recommend (or even like) all films on this list.

4) ’71

Marvel-Comics-Vision-Crying

I’m Catholic. I’m used to people saying I’m silly for believing things that no Catholic actually believes. Being Catholic, I have a deep love of truth. Its both sensationalist, and foolish, to spread lies or misinformation based on an incomplete picture. I’m used to people doing this to my beliefs. I’m not used to Catholic priests doing this to my favorite comic book characters, which is what just happened.

Upon seeing The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Fr. Barron declared it a Nietzschian parable. Director Joss Whedon is a proud atheist. And of course, when an artist does their job properly, they do embed, in their work, an imprint of themselves, to varying degrees. On the surface, the claim that Whedon has injected atheism or nihilism into this film is not a ludicrous one. If one knew nothing about the film itself, it might even be an easy conclusion to jump to…without the facts.

Father Barron’s central tenet, the point upon which his entire argument rests, is that the Vision, upon erupting into existence and being asked for his name, replies: “I am.”

Father Barron points out that, in declaring himself “I am” and proceeding to set himself up as a god, the Vision, who is essentially the engine of victory for the heroes, establishes himself as Joss Whedon’s version of Nietzsche’s “ubermensch.” This is dangerous. After all, this is a highly popular franchise, and with the Vision and Ultron spouting off Nietzsche-like concepts, its something that good Christian folks would not want their youngsters to pick up on. This view is problematic.

No, I’m not talking about Whedon’s. I’m talking about Father Barron’s.

You see, Father’s Barron’s entire article falls completely apart once you actually realize what the Vision means when he’s saying “I am.” Don’t get me wrong, Father Barron is a good shepherd, who frequently unlocks the deeper meaning of scripture and the Catholic faith. Yet here he is incorrect. The Vision is not setting himself up as a messiah, not as a god. In fact, he’s not even saying “I am.” He’s saying “I am…” Those two extra periods are essential! The Vision is not declaring himself to be anything because he doesn’t even know who he is! He’s asked for a name and he can’t provide one, so he pauses. Instead of rushing to define himself, he stays quiet and lets his actions do the talking.

Now let’s stop and back up a second. Let’s see the full picture before jumping to conclusions, which is, unfortunately what Father Barron did. In writing this film, Joss Whedon tasked himself with bringing iconic characters to life. One of his strengths in both Avengers films is taking decades of comic book history and breaking it down to give his characters the essential parts of their personalities, the parts of their personalities that make the characters who they are, and keep them faithful to their comic book counterparts. We see this in Captain America’s leadership, we see this in Bruce Banner’s anxiety, in Stark’s pride, in Scarlet Witch’s frailty. So why wouldn’t we see it in the Vision? We would. And we do.

When the Vision makes his first appearance in the pages of The Avengers comic books, he’s created by Ultron to destroy the Avengers. During their first meeting, Hawkeye asks him “Who are you fella?” The Vision’s response: “You need not believe me archer, but, in truth, I do not know.” (The Avengers #57).

In the next issue, when the Vision’s origin is revealed, he cries in anguish to his creator, Ultron: “You’ve told me only what powers I possess – not what I wish to know! Who am I? What name is mine?”

So why does the Vision say “I am…” in Age of Ultron? Its because he doesn’t know who he is.

This is from Avengers #57, after Ultron's first defeat. The Ozymandias poem perfectly sums up Ultron's mentality.

This is from Avengers #57, after Ultron’s first defeat. The Ozymandias poem perfectly sums up Ultron’s mentality.

I certainly don’t expect everyone to have read through every comic book issue ever published before they watch a film, but before they spread lies about someone’s intentions, they should be informed. They should do their research. Could it possibly be that Joss Whedon was simply trying to bring the Vision to the big screen in a manner faithful to the source?

Of course, the real issue here is that Father Barron offered an uninformed version of the film to his readers, and now those readers are irate. Some are calling Whedon “despicable” and accusing him of infusing the film with hate. Interestingly enough, these are likely the very same people who lauded the Whedon-written Captain America line “There’s only one God ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that”, and plastered it all over their Facebook walls.

When one has a following like Father Barron does, its important not to jump to conclusions. Writers like Joss Whedon and Father Barron have a duty to the truth, but now a decent chunk of public perception has been steered away from the truth by an article that was written without having the full picture. Father Barron’s entire argument, in this case, is based on a falsehood. Without the atheistic “I am” that Father Barron hears, the entire remainder of his analysis falls apart. If the Vision does not fancy himself a god, then his opinion that chaos and order are both part of humanity becomes simply an observation, not a declaration of dogma. And it turns out that the marble statue shown over the end credits, which Father Barron says is “a neo-classical sculpture of all of the major figures in the film locked in struggle, straining against one another…in complete conformity with the aesthetic favored by Albert Speer, Leni Riefenstahl, and the other artists of the Nazi period” is actually just a marble statue (not even designed by Whedon) of good guys fighting bad guys.

Father Barron says that Age of Ultron promotes a certain attitude. An attitude that maintains that humans need to move beyond good and evil, like Nietzsche’s supermen. He says that the Vision embodies this attitude, because he “was brought about by players on both sides of the divide, by both Iron Man and Ultron. Like Nietzsche’s superman, he is indeed beyond good and evil.” This is Whedon’s whole point, according to Father Barron. Except it isn’t.

What’s the first thing the Avengers do when the Vision emerges? They test him. Is he good or evil? Only the good can pick up Thor’s hammer, which Vision does. Vision expresses that he has no desire to kill, but realizes Ultron must be destroyed. How is this different from Captain America’s declaration in his debut film that he “doesn’t like bullies?”

It is Ultron, not the Vision, that teaches us about nihilism. And guess what? He’s the bad guy. The only way for there to be peace is human extinction. Its Ultron who thinks he’s beyond good and evil, not the Vision. Where the Vision pauses to discover what is truly good -existence, friendship, kindness- Ultron acts without thought. Ultron declares himself the messiah. “I’m going to save the world,” he says. He’s a machine, utterly focused on his programming. Upon a rock of destruction will he build his church of death. Father Barron thinks that the Vision is presented as the herald of Nietzsche, that Joss Whedon is covertly trying to turn us into nihilists. Ultron is the herald here, and he sows and reaps destruction. He also loses in the end, and I’ve yet to see a scenario where losing attracts people to a cause.

When Ultron becomes self-aware, he processes everything at once. His purpose: “to save the world” is processed at the exact same time as every bad thing the Avengers have done. Does he stop and think about right and wrong? No. He interrupts and disconnects JARVIS, declares himself a savior, and starts a wave of destruction. “Ultron?” Banner asks. “In the flesh!” is the instant reply. The Vision bursts on the scene, and his first action upon getting his bearings is to stop and look at the beauty of New York City. He stops to process the wonder of humanity, stops to ponder man’s achievements, stops to declare that he is on the side of life and that Ultron is wrong, and must be stopped. This is who the Vision is. A powerful, thoughtful, innocently naive individual who clearly sees right and wrong because he has taken the time to look at them. Before anyone knows his name, they know what he stands for. His name is not important. Its not even important to the Vision that he can lift Thor’s hammer. This is not a figure with a messiah complex who considers himself above everyone else. “Who are you?” they ask. “I am…” he pauses…he doesn’t know. This is the power of putting the mission first, this is the power of seeing something going horrendously wrong and acting to end that wrong, this is the power of the selfless giver. This is the power in a pause.