With nominations announced this morning, its time to see how my predictions fared. This year’s nominees are amazing diverse, and fantastic reminders that Hollywood is still a hotbed of creativity and art.

I’m copy/pasting my prediction lists (in condensed form). Incorrect predictions will be crossed out, and replaced by the correct ones, which have a number in parenthesis indicated where I ranked them on my original prediction list (out of 10). Correct predictions are in bold.

Best Picture

1) La La Land

2) Moonlight   

3) Manchester by the Sea

4) Arrival

5) Hell or High Water

6) Hacksaw Ridge   

7) Hidden Figures   

8) Lion 

9) Fences

A perfect nine for nine! My super-secret algorithm comes through again!

*Note: Anywhere from 5-10 films can be nominated for Best Picture. I always pick the maximum because there’s no way of determining how many films will be picked. My 10th pick, 20th Century Women, was not nominated, meaning my top 9 picks were.


Best Director

1)  Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Martin Scorsese – Silence     Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge   (#7)

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival


Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling La La Land

4) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

5) Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic


Best Actress

1) Emma Stone La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Isabelle Huppert – Elle 

4) Amy Adams – Arrival     Ruth Negga – Loving   (#6)  

5) Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins


Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Dev Patel – Lion

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

5) Liam Neeson –  Silence     Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals   (#6)


Best Supporting Actress

1) Viola Davis – Fences

2) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women     Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures   (#6)


Best Foreign Language Film

1) Toni Erdmann

2) Land of Mine

3) A Man Called Ove

4) My Life as a Zucchini     The Salesman   (#6)

5) Tanna


Best Animated Film

1) Zootopia

2) Kubo and the Two Strings 

3) My Life as a Zucchini

4) The Red Turtle

5) Moana


Best Documentary Film

1) O.J.: Made in America

2) 13th

3) Cameraperson     Life, Animated   (#7)

4) I Am Not Your Negro

5) Weiner     Fire at Sea   (#10)


Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Moonlight  

2) Fences 

3) Arrival

4) Silence     Lion   (#6)

5) Nocturnal Animals     Hidden Figures   (#9)


Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) La La Land

3) Hell or High Water

4) Jackie     The Lobster   (#6)

5) The Edge of Seventeen     20th Century Women   (#8)


Best Film Editing

1) Moonlight  

2) La La Land

3) Hacksaw Ridge

4) Jackie     Hell or High Water   (#9)

5) Arrival


Best Cinematography

1) Moonlight

2) La La Land

3) Arrival

4) Jackie     Lion   (Not ranked)

5) Silence


Best Production Design

1) La La Land

2) Jackie     Hail, Caesar!   (Not ranked)

3) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

4) Arrival

5) Silence     Passengers   (Not ranked)


Best Costume Design

1) Jackie

2) La La Land

3) Florence Foster Jenkins

4) Love & Friendship     Allied   (#6)

5) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them


Best Make-up and Hairstyling

1) Florence Foster Jenkins     Suicide Squad   (#4)

2) Star Trek Beyond

3) A Man Called Ove


Best Original Score

1) La La Land

2) Jackie

3) Moonlight 

4) Lion 

5) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Passengers   (Not ranked)


Best Original Song

1) “City of Stars” La La Land

2) “How Far I’ll Go” – Moana

3) “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” – Trolls

4) “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” La La Land

5) “Heathens” – Suicide Squad     “The Empty Chair” – Jim: The James Foley Story   (Not ranked)


Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4) Doctor Strange     13 Hours   (Not ranked)

5) Arrival


Best Sound Editing

1) Hacksaw Ridge

2) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story     Arrival   (#6)

3) La La Land

4) The Jungle Book     Deepwater Horizon   (#7)

5) Doctor Strange     Sully   (#8)


Best Visual Effects

1) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

2) The Jungle Book

3) Doctor Strange

4) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them     Deepwater Horizon   (#6)

5) Kubo and the Two Strings 


Best Short Film

1) Graffiti     Ennemis Intérieurs   (#7)

2) Timecode

3) Bon Voyage     La Femme et le TGV   (#8)

4) The Way of Tea     Silent Nights   (#10)

5) Mindenki (Sing)


Best Animated Short Film

1) Piper

2) Pearl

3) Inner Workings     Pear Cider and Cigarettes   (#6)

4) Borrowed Time

5) Blind Vaysha


Best Documentary Short Film

1) The White Helmets

2) Extremis

3) Joe’s Violin

4) The Mute’s House     Watani: My Homeland   (#8)

5) 4.1 Miles


Awards season officially kicks off this weekend, with the Broadcast Film Critics Association bestowing their Critics’ Choice Awards on their favorite films. This means it is a good time to remind readers that these awards usually have little bearing on Oscar prospects. These are critics giving these awards, not movie professionals so there is no overlap. Of course, it should go without saying that those most deserving of the awards will be recognized the most, regardless of who is doing the nominating, because they are the best.

That being said. Here are my first round of picks for Oscar Nominations. Obviously, these could be changed, but I want a nice “told you so” trail to start even before the Critics Choice Awards this weekend. So here we go. Each category is ranked by how likely I think a nomination is. Not all categories are present yet, and tomorrow, in the aftermath of the Critics Choice Awards, I’ll be unveiling a special Oscar section of the site, that will keep track of predictions and their changes.

Best Picture

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) Moonlight

3) Silence

4) La La Land

5) Arrival

6) Hell or High Water

7) Hacksaw Ridge

8) Jackie

9) Fences

10) 20th Century Women


Best Director

1) Damien Chazelle – La La Land

2) Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

3) Martin Scorcese – Silence

4) Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

5) Denis Villeneuve – Arrival


Best Actor

1) Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

2) Denzel Washington – Fences

3) Ryan Gosling – La La Land

4) Tom Hanks – Sully

5) Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge


Best Actress

1) Emma Stone – La La Land

2) Natalie Portman – Jackie

3) Annette Benning – 20th Century Women

4) Ruth Negga – Loving

5) Isabelle Huppert – Elle


Best Supporting Actor

1) Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

2) Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

3) Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

4) Liam Neeson – Silence

5) Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals


Best Supporting Actress

1) Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

2) Viola Davis – Fences

3) Naomie Harris – Moonlight

4) Nicole Kidman – Lion

5) Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women


 Best Adapted Screenplay

1) Silence

2) Arrival

3) Fences

4) Lion

5) Hacksaw Ridge


Best Original Screenplay

1) Manchester by the Sea

2) Moonlight

3) La La Land

4) Hell or High Water

5) Jackie


Best Animated Feature Film

1) Kubo and the Two Strings

2) Zootopia

3) Moana

4) The Red Turtle

5) Finding Dory


Best Cinematography

1) La La Land

2) Silence

3) Moonlight

4) Arrival

5) Jackie


Best Film Editing

1) La La Land

2) Silence

3) Moonlight

4) Arrival

5) Hacksaw Ridge


Best Sound Editing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Silence

4) Arrival

5) The Jungle Book


Best Sound Mixing

1) La La Land

2) Hacksaw Ridge

3) Silence

4) Rogue One

5) The Jungle Book

After receiving a 10-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge quickly became one of the most anticipated films of the year. It doesn’t disappoint. In a year where Superman and Batman both were deconstructed into morally ambiguous big screen figures, Hacksaw Ridge gives us a hero who is unafraid of plunging into the jaws of death, not because of some inner conflict, but simply because he knows what his mission is.


“Lord, help me get one more.”

Private Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a combat medic who refused to carry a gun, became the first conscientious objector to earn a Medal of Honor after he single-handedly saved at least 50 (some accounts have up to 100) wounded soldiers in the Battle of Okinawa during World War II.

Make no mistake, this is a horrific look at the reality of war. This was the most deadly battle in the Pacific theatre of war, taking place on top of an escarpment nearly 350 feet high. The Japanese Army had dug trenches and tunnels that honeycombed the ridge, and were well entrenched when the Americans reached the shore. So when the battle goes poorly for the good guys, its less like a retreat, and more like a descent from another world.

At grave risk to himself, Doss pulls soldier after soldier off the front lines, going back time after time with one prayer on his lips: “Lord, help me get one more.” It isn’t mentioned in the film, but after the war, a Japanese solder recalled having Doss in his sights multiple times, but that whenever he pulled the trigger, his gun jammed.

The Bigger Picture

So often, faith is viewed outside of action, like it is all about sitting around, waiting for something to happen, but never putting your money where your mouth is. There’s a clear line in Hacksaw Ridge where Doss’ faith gets put to action. This isn’t about being content to let God take care of everything, it’s about putting your faith into action because you know He will.

The tone of the film takes that step over the line with Doss. It feels almost like a Southern romantic drama at first, even complete with a humorous bunkhouse confrontation between a Sergeant (Vince Vaughn) and his men. But when they hit the battlefield, reality sets in that the world of war is an alien one, dehumanizing, degrading, and deadly.

Andrew Garfield is spectacular as Doss, and while his fellow actors (especially Sam Worthington, Teresa Palmer and Hugo Weaving) hold their own, its Garfield’s world they are living in. Garfield plays Doss, from Virginia roots to bloodied boots, superbly, with his wide-eyed faith and hope shining through the grisly battle. He may have played Spider-Man before, but now he plays a real-life hero, in a film where Mel Gibson somehow makes the fog of war artistic, while bludgeoning the viewer (in a good way) with its finality and doom.

Speaking of Gibson, it’s been a long road for him, and folks have forgotten how talented he is. Hacksaw Ridge showcases his eye for detail and mastery of human emotion, and, as the man himself recently said, it’s time for forgiveness.


For a civilization supposedly so tolerant, our world is quite hostile to anyone with opinions outside the “norm,” which is interesting, because how often is “the norm” actually the best way to go? (McDonald’s and Justin Bieber, for example.)  This isn’t just true of religion and faith, but about politics, business, athletics, and almost every aspect of society.

But when you actually let someone live out their faith in a virtuous way, with conviction, amazing things are bound to happen, as it did on Hacksaw Ridge many years ago.

No matter how hard it gets, no matter how many bullets fly or how many insults are thrown, we should all hope we will have the courage of Desmond Doss to say “Please, Lord, help me get one more,” and go back out on the battlefield for our fellow man. And if you want to know what that looks like, go see this film when it hits theaters this weekend.


“I’m not gonna kill you…I’m just gonna hurt you…really, really bad.” – The Joker

That line really encapsulates Suicide Squad. After the Batman v Superman mess, DC/WB delivers us this film, which spares the DC Expanded Universe the bullet to the head, only to riddle it with the pain of knowing that folks in high places don’t know what they are doing.

First of all, Suicide Squad is miles better than Batman v Superman. Not even close. Suicide Squad actually gives us characters we care about, some awesome big screen debuts of iconic comic book characters and clear character motivations (mostly). The acting is also generally solid (like BvS). But that all gets bogged down in issues that come from the top down, namely the directing, editing, and writing. But good before bad, right? SPOILERS AHEAD.

The Good Stuff. 

  • Acting. Will Smith’s Deadshot was the best part of this film. We get some great scenes, including an amazing background flashback and some awesome action sequences. The script really undercuts his performance at times, but that’s not Smith’s fault. Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn is gold at times, and the voice she uses actually works, minus the couple times her British accent gets in the way. Everyone else does their job well, although the jury is still out for me regarding Jared Leto’s performance as Joker. Sometimes it was brilliant, and sometimes not.
  • Easter Eggs. As we all knew, Batman’s around for a little bit of the film, and another hero drops by as well. That hero’s interaction with a particular Suicide Squader is direct from the comics in its feel, look, and atmosphere. Also, seeing Joker dancing with Harley in her red and black harlequin outfit was magical. One of those “This is straight from the comics and I can’t believe how it is on screen!” moments.
  • Effects. Ok, no. Not the SFX used in actual action. Those were cheesy as all get out. The opening montage of sorts kicked off the film just how you want it to, with attention grabbing backstories and flashy letterings. We get to see where some of the Squad came from, and their run-ins with their superhero counterparts. Harley’s origin wasn’t her classic one, which was lame, but that didn’t take away from the film.
  • We Actually Care! In BvS we didn’t care about anyone on screen. Superman is mopey and broody and he dies…for no reason…because Wonder Woman could have been the one to kill Doomsday. Lois is a jerk, Batman wants to kill people, and well…you get the idea. In SS, the story and characters give us enough to care about. Yes, these are bad guys, but we actually can sympathize with their struggles, we care about Deadshot primarily, but also El Diablo, Harley, and even a bit for Flagg and Killer Croc. Its not just a bunch of villains running around that we have no emotional attachment to.

The Bad Stuff. 

  • The Script. I get that Ayer only had six months to write this (for some inexplicable reason), but boy is this screenplay a stinker. You can tell that they tried to shoehorn some comedy in, because almost every one-liner sticks out like a sore thumb. This is unfortunate, especially when Harley Quinn’s character should have made this easy. Robbie’s comedic timing actually seems pretty good, but there are some spots where a poor script and choppy editing render that skill useless. There are several groan-worthy lines that feel like they were written by a 5th-grader, and they are bad enough to take you right out of the film.
  • The Editing. Very jumpy. It chops up the story rather than progresses it.
  • The Pacing. There are several scenes that could have been used for emotional gutpunches and or profound moments, but these scenes were really rushed through way too fast. There was very little time to process things before the next scene was already there.

The other problem, the main problem, is the plot. Though generic, it made sense as it stood. But once again, motivations and decisions made by characters within that plot too often make little to no sense. This causes a real lack of depth that really twists things into nonsense way too much, because there’s nothing beyond the surface activity. This is a carryover from BvS (although it was much more handicapping in that film. Nobody even knows why Lex Luthor was motivated to do anything in that film). So here are some questions this lack of depth caused.

#1) Why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack?

The main concept behind Task Force X is using super-villains instead of soldiers so that other countries will believe the U.S. government when they say “we had nothing to do with this action that would be usually interpreted as an act of war.” Basically, they are black ops mission runners who are expendable. So why send the SS into an American city under a blatant super-human attack, when none of the Suicide Squad members actually have powers that would be better than ordinary soldiers? Deadshot, Katana, Captain Boomerang, yeah, they are good with their weapons, but are they really any better than just sending in more soldiers. The only one that actually has superpowers is the only one that refuses to use them. I know Waller wants to hide her connection to the Enchantress, but she already sends in ground troops with the SS! Its no secret that there’s tons of debris floating above one of the biggest cities in the U.S. No reason to choose volatile criminals in this case.

#2) Why didn’t Waller destroy the Enchantress’ heart?

She specifically finds and keeps the heart to control the Enchantress. The understanding is that if the Enchantress steps out of line, the heart gets destroyed. So why does Waller just stab the heart instead of destroying it.

#3) Why did Waller kill all her “co-workers.”

The obvious reason is that it would make her look more like cold, cruel, BA woman. The reason Waller gives is that they have seen too much. But Waller brought those very same people in. The room is militarily labeled in the building. This all goes back to the fact that if all Waller wanted was an extraction, why send in Task Force X? And there are plenty of folks that work for top secret military functions. They all don’t get shot.

#4) Why didn’t Enchantress notice that the only weapon that could cut her heart out was sitting right in Harley Quinn’s reach?

#5) Why does the Joker get jealous of the guy he “gives” Harley to when he’s the one who “gave” Harley too in the first place?

Yeah, I dunno the answer to either of those either. Basically, this films could have been great, but suffers from way too much dumb decision making. The actors did their best with what they could, but it wasn’t enough to make a flawed film great.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.)

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Suicide Squad: Adaptation of the DC Comics comic book series.
  • Nine Lives: Original film written by Dan Antoniazzi and Ben Shiffrin.

Original: 34

Adaptation: 22

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1


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) Zootopia ( +2 )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Love and Friendship ( –2 )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople ( – )
5) Captain America: Civil War ( – )
6) Finding Dory ( – )
7) The Jungle Book ( – )
8) Indignation (NEW)
9) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
10) Don’t Think Twice ( -1 )




I was shocked to learn that its been since April that I last posted a TWIC article. Then I reviewed the slate of films for this past summer. Yuck. Honestly, we haven’t had a big hit film since Captain America: Civil War, and, although there’s been some decent movies released, it really hasn’t been that exciting a summer, even on the indy film circuit.

Unfortunately, that trend won’t be changing this weekend. The big headliner is Jason Bourne, which join many of this summer’s blockbusters in the realm of the forgettable, not bad or good.  Bad Moms is the other film being released nationwide this weekend, and lets just say that one’s certainly not worth your time.

Your best bets will be the limited release films. Especially Gleason, a heartwrenching Sundance documentary about former NFL athlete Steve Gleason. Diagnosed with ALS at 34, Gleason set out to compile a film diary for his unborn son, while he still could. It ended up much more, as this documentary chronicles Gleason’s fight against the disease that ravaged his family’s life.

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Jason Bourne: Sequel in the Bourne franchise.
  • Bad Moms: Original film, written by  Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.

Original: 33

Adaptation: 21

Sequel/Prequel: 23

Remake: 1


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) Love and Friendship ( – )
2) Sing Street ( – )
3) Zootopia ( – )
4) Hunt for the Wilderpeople (NEW)
5) Captain America: Civil War ( -1)
6) Finding Dory ( -1 )
7) The Jungle Book ( -1 )
8) Eye in the Sky ( -1 )
9) Don’t Think Twice (NEW)
10) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( -2 )


I’m liking Superman comics more and more these days. Some of that may have to do with how butchered the character was in Batman v. Superman, making any version of Supes that doesn’t go around brooding a welcome breath of fresh air. But some of it, certainly most of it, is that the stories are good ones!

The featured story here is that a hi-tech new villain, HORDR_ROOT (don’t worry, there’s a perfectly good reason for that name) is blackmailing Superman. HORDR_ROOT collects secrets, and he’s found Superman’s. Unless Superman does as HORDR_ROOT says, the entire world will know Clark Kent is Superman, which will put  a target on all of Clark’s loved ones.

The main reason this story is so compelling is its cast of characters. Batman, Lois, Jimmy Olsen, HORDR_ROOT, they all have a strong role to play. Gene Luen Yang, a DC rookie, really gets the characters. Jimmy might be a little annoying, but he’s a competent character, and we finally get back to the interesting interactions between he and Clark that take place because Jimmy’s really the only one around (initially) that know’s Superman’s secret identity. Lois is Lois. And Batman and the Justice League are a good supporting cast, as they try to identify just what exactly Superman’s new power means for him, and the world.

If you’re looking for a modern take on Superman that doesn’t sacrifice any established parts of the mythos, this is a great place to start. For the first time since Grant Morrison’s run on Action Comics, I’m actually looking forward to reading more of a Superman solo title as it is being released.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars.


Seems like the House of Mouse can do very little wrong these days. In the midst of its Marvel and Star Wars ownership, its own properties have been feeling a bit neglected, and this is the second year in a row (after last year’s Cinderella) that we’ve gotten a really solid new rendition of an old classic tale. And this live action version of The Jungle Book does all the right things to improve on the “original” animated film.

First of all, the casting is perfect. From Idris Elba as the bloodthirsty Shere Khan, to Bill Murray’s goofy but loyal Baloo, to Ben Kingley’s severe but kind Bagheera, the voices fit their roles perfectly. The best of them all might be Christopher Walken, who brings a bit of mob boss to King Louie. Neel Sethi, virtually the only human actually onscreen, turns in a great performance as Mowgli, especially considering he was working with CGI backdrops and characters the entire time.

Director Jon Favreau and company do a great job of flushing out the story without changing the essentials. He does this mostly by drawing in more of Rudyard Kipling’s original novels. Ikki the porcupine plays a key role in the story, King Louie mentions the Bandar Log (his kingdom of monkeys and apes), and we see a cobra and hear talk of a mongoose, which could have been references to the famous Rikki Tikki Tavi story, also from Kipling’s set of jungle tales. Grey Brother appears, instead named “Grey,” and the elephants are portrayed as the rulers and masters of the jungle, like Kipling intended.

The different species of animal have also been defined more specifically, both in name, and in look, than in the cartoon. Baloo is a sloth bear, and King Louie, rather than being an orangutan, a species who never really existed in India, is a Gigantopithecus, a giant ape from millions of years ago. This accounts for the change in Louie’s size.

Speaking of Baloo, he’s really the star of the show. When he first appears, the film, which takes a while to get moving, seems like it’s headed towards the Batman v Superman school of filmmaking, with a bunch of establishing scenes that don’t really go anywhere. To be fair, we hear the real history of Shere Khan’s hatred of man from Kaa, but Baloo really saves the day, in more ways than one. Not only does his appearance allow things to settle from a pacing standpoint, but he’s a much stronger character than in the animated film. Although he’s still a bit lazy (he is a sloth bear after all), he and Bagheera are on more equal footing. Baloo is the one who comes up with a plan to rescue Mowgli, and he’s just as quick to jump into action as Bagheera and the wolves. In fact, when Shere Khan returns to kill Mowgli, it’s Baloo that leads the charge against the tiger.

Finally, it’s really the moments of nostalgia that put this film over the top. Baloo and King Louie get to sing their trademark hits: “The Bare Necessities” and “I Wanna Be Like You.” The themes from these two songs are worked into the score as well, and the songs fit into the film and don’t seem out of place. All in all, this new endeavor is a welcome adventure back into the jungle, and even ends with an awesome, much needed twist that differs from the animated film. The CGI is a little off at some points, but not enough to really ruin anything. And make sure you stay and watch the credits! King Louie returns to deliver a complete version of his song that’s really a blast to watch.

Final Grade: 4 out of 5 stars.

(The remainder of this post is the usual weekly TWIC features.

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • The Jungle Book: Ok, I’m not sure to classify this as an adaptation or a remake. I’m going to say remake. While it is based on Kipling’s works, it is based more on the original animated film.
  • Barbershop: The Next Cut: Obvious sequel is obvious.
  • Criminal: Original. Written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg.

Original: 19

Adaptation: 12

Sequel/Prequel: 9

Remake: 1


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) Zootopia ( – )
2) Eye in the Sky ( – )
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( – )
4) Midnight Special ( – )
5) The Invitation (NEW)
6) Hail Caesar ( -1 )
7) Hello, My Name is Doris ( -1 )
8) Kung Fu Panda 3 ( – )
9) Eddie the Eagle ( -2 )
10) Louder Than Bombs (NEW)




Usually when a major comic book character gets replaced, its a difficult challenge for a writer to come up with something that doesn’t seem like a ploy to sell more comics. Superheavy isn’t in the “usual” category.

In the previous collection of Batman, the Joker’s endgame leads to Bruce Wayne vacating his role as the Caped Crusader. His successor is none other than Jim Gordon. The twist here is that Gordon is actually working for the city, officially, rather than partaking in the usual shadowy comings and goings Gotham is used to dealing with.

Gordon’s Batman is a mechanical behemoth operating much like a Starkian suit of armor rather than just a man in a cape and cowl, and this Batman actually has a boss.

In this volume, we see a Gotham where Batman is an employee, with supervisors and responsibilities to folks ranking higher than he. This makes for a very interesting dynamic, because Jim Gordon is still classic Jim Gordon, a good detective with a nose for catching the bad guys. So when his Batman is removed from a case, how will he respond when he’s not in agreement with his supervisor?

I try to keep things mostly spoiler free, so you’ll have to find out that answer for yourself. But regarding the actual composition of the books, you’ll find that this is not just your standard “replacement superhero” story. Scott Snyder continues his great work on the Batman title and delivers a creepy new villain (Mr. Bloom), along with a solid plot. It deals with some heavy issues, and lays the groundwork for a good conclusion and for Bruce Wayne’s return.

Final Grade: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Well, that was awful. So much for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice kicking things off in style. Anyway, moving on to better cinema!


My Film to Catch this week is Eye in the Sky. It is expanding to wide release this weekend, and for good reason. It currently sits at #2 on my Oscarwatch listing. Will it be there at the end of the year. Probably not, but it’s still a good film. Helen Mirren is the lead, which is always awesome, plus we get to see Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and the late Alan Rickman.

God’s Not Dead 2 (wide release) and Everybody Wants Some (limited release) are also out this weekend, and while GND2 may be of interest to some folks, it’s really not worth a trip to the theater. Folks that are fans of Richard Linklater will likely enjoy Everybody Wants Some, billed was a “spiritual sequel” to Dazed and Confused.

Finally, Don Cheadle turns in a great performance as the legendary Miles Davis in the biopic Miles Ahead.

Must See (5 out of 5 stars): None

Worth Your Time (3 to 4 stars): Eye in the Sky

Just Ok (2 to 3 stars): God’s Not Dead 2, Miles Ahead, and Everybody Wants Some

Stay Away (0 to 1 stars): None

Where do They Come From?

Only wide release films count towards these numbers.

  • Eye in the Sky: Original screenplay by Guy Hibbert.
  • God’s Not Dead 2: Obvious sequel is obvious.

Original: 15

Adaptation: 12

Sequel/Prequel: 8

Remake: 0


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) Zootopia ( – )
2) Eye in the Sky ( – )
3) 10 Cloverfield Lane ( – )
4) Midnight Special (NEW)
5) Hail Caesar ( -1 )
6) Hello, My Name is Doris ( -1 )
7) Eddie the Eagle ( – )
8) Kung Fu Panda 3 ( -2 )
9) Race ( -1 )
10) Risen ( – )

This scene was, unfortunately, not in the movie.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat (pun intended). The fact that a viewer might enjoy a film does not make it well-made. A lot of folks enjoyed this film. These folks are much like the two guys who sat behind me during a Man of Steel showing years ago. During the pre-film trailers, they bashed Gravity as “stupid” and gleefully expressed their excitement to see R.I.P.D. You know, one of the worst films of that year.

Here are some quotes from folks who gave this film high marks:

“It was easily the best superhero movie of all time, even better than The Dark Knight.”

“Affleck needs to win an Oscar for Best Actor.”

“Zack’s done it guys. He’s created this year’s Mad Max….Marvel’s movies don’t hold a candle to this one. D.C. has their Empire Strikes Back.”

Statements like these show that these folks generally wouldn’t know a well-made film if it bat-branded them in the face. To compare this film to The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark KnightMad Max? Their reviews become essentially unreliable. They are likely so invested in the film, so eager for DC to make something good, that they are too insecure to admit the truth.

I’m not saying this film is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed parts of it for sure. Some parts were simply fantastic. But it wasn’t what it should have been, and that makes things that much worse. If you liked the movie, great! I liked the original Ghost Rider film, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t artistically a good movie. There’s a difference between personal opinion and objective truth. Batman v Superman was far from what we’ve grown to expect from comic book films. It just wasn’t a good movie. Here’s some of the reasons why. And yes…BIG SPOILER ALERT!

1) Character motivations are never clear.


This caper makes as much sense as his plan in Batman v Superman.

The film’s strength is the cast. Ben Affleck gives us the best on-screen Batman yet, with some amazing fight scenes akin to those we’ve seen in the Arkham video games. Jesse Eisenberg is a great Lex Luthor, when his character isn’t being poorly written, and Jeremy Irons is a perfect Alfred. But we really have no clue what motivates these characters because either it’s never shown, or it’s changed throughout the film.

Why does Lex want Superman dead? To protect the Earth? In the comics, Lex is really an awful human being, but his hatred of Superman stems from his pride. He thinks he, not an alien, should be Earth’s savior. If that’s really the case here, why does he unleash a troll from Lord of the Rings Doomsday, who will certainly be just as big a threat as Superman, and why is he so happy that Darkseid is coming? Either way…no savior card for you, Mr. Luthor. Lex is a genius, and we get some awesome moments in the film (the Senate bombing was done so well, classic Luthor). But he changes mid-film to a cookie cutter baddie. There is no way his plan is going to result in anything other than a trip to jail, something that Superman has always had a notoriously hard time accomplishing.

Luthor isn’t the only one written poorly. Throughout the film, a common question is basically if men are truly good or evil. I’d like to tell you which characters think which option is true, but they change their minds so much I can’t tell. First, Batman says they are evil, which is understandable. Except he is somehow both inspired by his parents death to be Batman, because lives are worth living, and haunted by their words about how bad people usually are, so they deserve nothing. Superman starts brooding and thinking the same, and Lois Lane has to convince him otherwise. Then Wonder Woman tells Batman that she left the world of men because she didn’t think they deserved her protection, and BATMAN convinces her that men are worth saving, so she changes her mind.

Head spinning yet?

2) Everything is surface level, and the deeper things don’t work.


These dreams may have actually advanced the plot more than what we got.

There’s a lot of dream sequences. We even get the classic “I had a dream about a character I don’t even know exists.” None of the dreams add anything to the plot that wasn’t there already. I’m not sure how bats levitating a young Bruce Wayne or a Man-Bat bursting out of a grave serve as good symbolism. Its like the writers wanted us to think profound things, but didn’t add any meaning to find. The lone exception is the creepy painting in Lex’s office, which really did add a layer of fear and premonition to the plot.

Of course, this all leaves the plot paper thin. It completely revolves on getting Superman to fight Batman. Usually plot points advance a story or a moral, they get from Point A to Point B. But the plot here isn’t linear, its orbital. Batman and Superman need to fight. Everything orbits that. Nothing needs to make sense, the characters can act completely different from one scene to the next, as long as we can get to the fight! For example…

  • Superman lets a bunch of terrorists go so he can tell Batman to stop being mean to criminals.
  • Gotham is close enough to Metropolis that every person in Superman’s city can see the Batsignal. If that were the case, and Superman dislikes Batman’s brand of justice so much, he would have long ago started cleaning up the streets of Gotham. He flies around the world to save people, of course he could go right across the bay!
  • Superman finally decides to ask Batman for help, but gives up way too easily on the whole “Maybe I should just refuse to fight this guy and mention that we have a common enemy that you are also really concerned about.” Honestly, all he has to do is say “Lex Luthor wants me to kill you or else he’ll kill my mom.”
  • Speaking of Lex, he orchestrates this gladiator match for no reason. He wants Superman dead, right? Why send him to Batman when you already have Doomsday?
  • Superman can hear when Lois is in danger from thousands of miles away, but his mom gets kidnapped and he can’t tell that she’s probably within 30 miles of where he is. We saw in the beginning of the film that Superman is truly faster than a speeding bullet. He could have saved his mom easily, but no, he had to go get Batman’s help.

Oh, and even the plot points that don’t necessarily revolve around making the two icons duke it out are clearly afterthoughts. They don’t make any sense.

  • Lex goes though a huge conspiracy plan to make it look like Superman was responsible for a bunch of deaths somewhere in Africa. Except all those deaths were caused by bullets. We’re not talking Iron Man here, Superman doesn’t use a gun. So he saves Lois, but it’s pretty clear that Superman didn’t do any of the killing. But it creates tension…so…there’s that. Oh, and accusations fly that Superman somehow saw the bomb at the Capitol but chose to do nothing to save everyone. Except its not common knowledge to these people that Superman has x-ray vision, so why would they suspect he could have known the bomb was there?
  • Lex somehow needs government permission to transport a chunk of kryptonite into the U.S. Maybe I’m wrong, but are there really laws that prohibit new minerals from being transported? He’s not even selling it to anyone. If I had a small chunk of kryptonite and I wanted to get in the U.S. with it, I’d put it in my suitcase and fly home. If I was rich and had a big chunk of kryptonite, I’d just put it on a ship in a big crate, or fly it in on a private jet. I wouldn’t tell the government about it until I actually had the dang thing, and maybe not even then!
  • Speaking of kryptonite, Batman puts a tracker on the transport truck, but still physically chases the bad guys. This is only going to get people killed. Just wait until the tracker stops moving, you know, like Spider-Man does in comic books from 50 years ago!
  • And as long as we’re talking Spider-Man, when did Perry White turn into a J. Jonah Jameson clone? The character was really solid in Man of Steel, but here it feels like they are trying too hard to make him a jerk. Stern is fine, but it was a bit much, especially when he says “nobody cares about Clark Kent taking on the Batman.” C’mon man, the Batman is obviously front page news if it’s a big TV story. I’d totally want to see Clark Kent taking on the Batman.
  • Why does Lex have his head shaved when he goes to jail? That’s usually not standard operating procedure. It just feels like the writers wanted us to have another AHA! moment.
  • This one is nitpicky, but when Lois gets to the Capitol, two security guards have to check her credentials. But she isn’t going to the interior, she’s just going near the protesters. She obviously didn’t need credentials for that.

3) We don’t care about these people. 


Probably in an attempt to get to an expanded universe faster, DC opted to throw a bunch about all these characters at us at once. So much has happened before the events of the film, but we weren’t along for the ride, so we don’t have anything invested in any of these characters.

Lois and Clark’s romance is all of a sudden there, which is fine, but we didn’t see its progression, so we don’t care about it like we care about Pepper and Tony, or even Arwen and Aragorn. Heck, Lois isn’t even likable. And she’s written so poorly, like the screenwriters thought they needed to hit us over the head with how intense she is.

Henry Cavill’s Superman is also not incredibly likable. He broods, he let his dad die in Man of Steel and he has no Clark Kent charm. And he’s always hovering over people. Who thought that was a good idea? “Oh look, a family trapped on a roof during a flood. I’ll just hover here a bit before I save them.” “Well, I’m here for a Senate hearing where lots of people are protesting my very existence. Might as well hover over them to make them feel small or something.”

I felt absolutely nothing when that troll Doomsday killed Superman. I didn’t care. And we all know he isn’t really dead. People like to say that Marvel is afraid to be serious, but both Phil Coulson and Quicksilver have been killed and those deaths made me sad (not super sad, but it produced an emotion), even shocked me. This wasn’t shocking. I was a little surprised, but only because we’ve really had no time to get to know this Superman. We do know that a lot of people actually don’t like him at all, so why should we care, as an audience, if he’s dead?

And Batman. I can’t really empathize with a character who treats life so callously. The thing that makes Batman different from the Punisher, or Deadpool, is that he isn’t a killer. The Robin costume was a good touch to see how much toll the Batman life has had on Bruce, but we don’t see enough of that toll to justify Bruce willing to kill Superman. And not just be willing, but to make that Plan A, not even a last resort. Plus his motivation is so cloudily presented that I can’t get on the same page.


This is what Batman’s conversations with the Punisher are like. Batman doesn’t step over the line like Frank Castle does.

The interesting thing is that the characters I actually care about were in the film very little. Wonder Woman was set up nicely, and the scenes of the Flash and Aquaman were very well done (and it was very thoughtful of Lex to design logos for them too!). I care more about what happens to those three than I care about what happens to Batman, and especially Superman. I’m actually excited for the Wonder Woman movie now, although I’m not as sold on Gal Godot’s role as some folks. Oh…Cyborg. I’m just curious if they are renaming him “Bad CGI Man” because I’ve seen better special effects on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


Based on BvS Special Effects, this is likely the version of Cyborg we’ll get for Justice League.

I could go on for much longer, but I won’t, because dead horses don’t need beating. If you enjoyed this movie, good for you, but it is very shaky ground to build a mega-franchise on. Stay home and rent this later. Or if you want to spend money on it, wait for the Director’s Cut to be released, perhaps it will be edited better than the awkwardly paced hodge podge we got in cinemas.

Final Grade: 3 out of 10 stars.