I cannot say for certain whether toys come to life when their owners leave the room. Science tells me that molded plastic and cotton-filled plush cannot function the way human organs do, and even the most advanced neural equipment likely won’t detect a spark of brain activity within a GI Joe or Barbie doll. But despite this, asking whether toys come to life when humans are away is like asking the age-old questions about the tree, the forest, and the lack of anyone to hear a sound: We can never truly say for sure.
Continue reading “Toy Story 4”
One of the unspoken laws of animation, stretching back to the days of Felix the Cat and Gertie the Dinosaur, is that cartoon characters do not age. Sure, they may change to fit the times, and incorporate new technologies as they become available (iPhones are now a regular sight on The Simpsons), but they are not meant to grow up in real time. It’s an obvious benefit over live-action stories, and one we gladly accept – do we really want to see Shaggy and Velma fighting crime as senior citizens? (Poor Scoob would’ve been in doggy heaven by 1980.)
Continue reading “Toy Story 3”
To the casual nostalgic, the year 1999 may be viewed as an existential tipping point. It was the final year in a relatively stable decade, one largely unmarked by war or social upheaval. Yet despite the booming economy and a relative lack of international tension, an unconscious feeling told many Americans that something was happening. As the days shifted inexorably toward the new year – and the literal once-in-a-millennium experience of seeing all the calendar’s digits change simultaneously – fears of the Y2K bug, and how it would impact a technological culture just acclimating to the strange and mysterious force of the Internet, gnawed at many an uncertain soul.
Continue reading “20 Years Later: Reflecting on the Films of 1999”
As a kid, my favorite Disney film was Aladdin.
Looking back, it’s not surprising. Aladdin courts more of a male audience than a lot of the other Disney films of the era. It leans heavily on action, comedy, and razzmatazz animation. It has colorful characters and catchy songs and a generally upbeat tone.
Continue reading ““Aladdin” Was the Most Genial Disney Film of the ’90s”
[Writer: Eli Attie | Director: Christopher Misiano | Aired: 2/16/2005]
“Let’s get back to Politics 101. The object is to beat the other guys.” – Josh
Which came first? The egg.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×15: Freedonia”
On Thursday, Netflix cancelled One Day at a Time, its delightful revival of Normal Lear’s 1970s family sitcom of the same name. In an apologetic Twitter statement, the streaming service stated that, despite their love for the show, “simply not enough people watched to justify another season.”
Continue reading “What the End of “One Day at a Time” Says About the Future of Netflix”
(The following review contains minor spoilers.)
The trailer for Captain Marvel came equipped with an emboldened tagline: “Discover What Makes a Hero.” It’s a generic line, as easily applied to most of the three dozen or so superhero origin films we’ve seen in the past decade. But there’s a catch – as displayed in the trailer, the words “A Hero” first appeared as “Her” before the other letters faded into view – underscoring how, after twenty films with men at the center, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was finally focusing one of its adventures on a woman.
Continue reading ““Captain Marvel” is the Okayest Film in the MCU”
Welcome back to my unauthorized yet highly accurate history of Shazam! and Captain Marvel. Be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already. Here’s Part 2, although I must warn you – this gets real complicated…
Continue reading “The Complete History of Shazam! and Captain Marvel (Part 2)”
As frequent visitors of this website can attest, I love animation. Be it the sweeping vistas of Disney, the humanized stories of Pixar, or the hip smart-alecky humor of (insert name of any animation studio that’s not Disney or Pixar), a good animated film can appeal perfectly to young and old alike.
Continue reading “2018: An Animated Retrospective”
It’s that time again – the time when film lovers everywhere stop debating each other and unite to complain about the Oscars. And there are so many problems to bring up. How bad are the nominations? How out-of-touch is the industry? Do some categories deserve to be banished to the commercial breaks? Lots of problems have plagued the Academy lately, but like any other year, we can at least pray that the host will offer some good laughs. (Oh, wait…)
Continue reading “And the Best Picture of 2018 Is…”
Where does Glass go wrong?
Not in ticket sales, certainly. M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film is thus far the highest-grossing American film of 2019. But despite the money it’s raking in, the film has generated a mixed reception – it currently stands at 37% of Rotten Tomatoes, with some reviews calling it one of the director’s biggest disappointments. And having now caught up with the film, I can understand why.
Continue reading “The Cracks in “Glass””
I can state without unwarranted cynicism that the idea for producing a “Lego Movie” probably did not stem from the need for artistic fulfillment. As with many cartoons that feature cute, kid-friendly, endlessly marketable leads, it was greenlit by a studio that wanted to sell toys. But it was thanks to the perfect team of thinkers and dreamers – led by the writing/directing duo of Phil Lord and Chris Miller – that 2014’s The Lego Movie turned out to be as excellent as it was, featuring terrific laughs and exploring poignant themes about imagination and growing up.
Continue reading ““The Lego Movie 2”: Blocks Fit Together, But Never Quite Click”
Every year brings with it a new plethora of superhero films, and 2019 is no exception. At last count, studios have an estimated 827 comic-book movies (give or take) scheduled for release this year, and who can blame them? 2018 saw four superhero flicks – Black Panther, Aquaman, Incredibles 2 and Infinity War – make over a billion dollars each, which means that Hollywood will continue producing such films until the sun eats our planet for breakfast.
Continue reading “The Complete History of Shazam! and Captain Marvel (Part 1)”
It’s no secret that I love a good Disney discussion, and the Internet offers no shortage of opportunities. Yet despite the multiple debates about the studio’s animated adventures, some films are unfairly downplayed or even ignored. When discussing the new wave of great Disney Animation films, for instance, fans are quick to champion the virtues of subversive princess stories like Tangled and Frozen, or other genre-bending adventures like Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia. All fine films, to be sure, and all deserving of their accolades. But few seem to mention the film which arguably kicked off the current “Disney Revival.”
Continue reading “How “Bolt” Revitalized the Disney Formula”
[Writer: Josh Singer | Director: Laura Innes | Aired: 2/9/2005]
“The document is just the beginning.” – Lessig
I’m a sucker for titles with double-meanings, and “The Wake-Up Call” has a doozy. The name refers here to the late-night/early-morning call that the President receives during a national emergency. But it also refers to the recent metaphorical wake-up call – mapped out in the purposeful “365 Days” – to the Bartlet administration at large, which is now in its final year and must determine how to end on a high note.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×14: The Wake-Up Call”
[Writer: John Wells | Director: Alex Graves | Aired: 1/26/2005]
“I lived the opposing arguments.” – Santos
It’s impossible to envy the position John Wells was put in during the summer of 2003. Not only had he been left to take charge of one of the most lauded and award-winning dramas of the era, but he’d had no direct involvement with the series beforehand. That the series didn’t immediately collapse into a pile of ash and broken dreams with the Season Five premiere was something of a miracle.
Continue reading “West Wing 6×13: King Corn”
In the introduction to last year’s installment of my annual “Best TV Shows” series, I lamented the fact that television had grown so voluminous in its content, and so fragmented in its appeal, that great shows no longer stood out the way they once did. Competitive-minded producers, sensing the need to stand out in an increasingly crowded field, have birthed countless shows designed to appeal to smaller and smaller demographics. And while some of these little-watched shows have been quite good, most of them… uh, no longer need to be.
Continue reading “The 10 Best TV Shows of 2018”
I don’t consider myself an expert on great film. Great TV, yes. Great animation, sure. Great comics, kinda, so long as they involve powerful people in tights. But the world of cinema is too wide and varied for me to get a firm handle on, at least thus far.
Continue reading “The 10 Best Films of 2018”
It’s that time of year again. The time when all the uppity and pretentious critics all hunch over their desks and type out their picks for the best films/shows/books/albums/games/celebrity pratfalls of the last 12 months. As a somewhat uppity and pretentious critic myself (albeit one who doesn’t hunch, for posture purposes), I’m all too eager to join the fray. I’ll be posting my “Best Films of 2018” piece next week, with a “Best TV Shows of 2018” article following shortly after.
Continue reading “10 Great Pop-Culture Books of 2018”
In the hallowed halls of Marvel Comics, past Thor’s hammer, behind Cap’s shield, and just to the left of Wolverine’s adamantium claws, sits the great Spider-Man vault. In it are contained the thousands of stories – both print and screen – centered on everyone’s friendly neighborhood wall-crawler. Spidey has starred in countless comic books, a dozen TV shows, and has had kicked off three different film franchises since the dawn of the new century. Forget market saturation – he’s webbed up the market like one of his arachnidan equivalents, and refuses to set it free.
Continue reading ““Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is the Best Animated Film of the Year”
On Wednesday, the Academy announced that Kevin Hart would host the 2019 Oscars. On Thursday, Hart announced that he would not, in fact, be hosting.
What happened? Some folks had dug up some of Hart’s old tweets and stand-up bits (from around 2010, before his Hollywood breakout) in which he made some homophobic jokes. These tweets quickly spread across the Internet, and a backlash quickly grew against the Academy. Said Academy told Hart to apologize, and although he at first balked (saying that he’d come clean about these jokes in the past, and has changed his tune in the years since), increased pressure finally forced him to acquiesce, and he stepped down from his Oscar-hosting role.
Continue reading “Why the Twitter Mob Keeps Winning”
The Internet is a fascinating and endlessly engrossing compendium of knowledge, allowing anyone to receive any sort of information at any time. There is no limit to the amount of eye-opening facts one can learn from surfing the web, and…
Wait. That’s not right.
Continue reading ““Ralph Breaks the Internet” is a Sweet, Self-Mocking Success”
As I’m writing this, we’ve just come off Halloween, the second-scariest holiday of the year. Now it’s time to move on to the first: Election Day. Yes, as those of you who watch cable news, browse online media, or stare at any screen for more than eight seconds a day probably know, America’s next annual election will be held November 6th. It is a “midterm” election, a term I assume is designed to diminish the already low voter turnout of college students.
Continue reading “My Thoroughly Accurate Predictions for the 2018 Election”
Note: I originally wrote the following as a thesis paper in May 2016. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, I’ve decided to share it on the main site, with slight modifications for clarity. The piece contains spoilers for both the novel and the first Blade Runner film. It does not contain any spoilers for Blade Runner 2049, which did not premiere until 2017.
Continue reading “Book vs. Film: Do Androids Dream of Blade Runner?”
On Wednesday, Keira Knightley (appearing on an episode of Ellen) mentioned that she forbade her daughter from watching certain Disney films. Cinderella was on the banned list, because, as Knightley explained it, the protagonist “waits around for a rich guy to rescue her.” The Little Mermaid was also frowned upon because of its purported message – as Knightley put it, “Do not give your voice up for a man.”
Continue reading “In Defense of the Disney Princess”
Rather belatedly, here is the final quarter of my CW history piece. Assuming any of you need a refresher, here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. But if you’re all caught up…
Continue reading “A Brief Unauthorized History of The CW (Part 4)”
I can say with some degree of certainty that Venom is not the worst Marvel film of the decade.
Continue reading ““Venom” is a Symbiotic Mess”
Located in the deepest recesses of the Warner Bros. vault are ninety years’ worth of animated entertainment, just ripe for the plucking, the cherishing, and the repurposing. The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts. The Hanna-Barbera TV library. Too many DC Comics adaptations to name. Outside of Disney, perhaps no corporation has as wide and diverse an array of animation as Warner does.
Continue reading ““Smallfoot” is a Fake News Allegory, with Snow Monsters”