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Denzel is back!

The film, The Equalizer 2, is the continuation of the first film. Again, following the adventures of ex-government black-ops operative Robert McCall (Denzel Washington), and he tries to ease his conscious of the sins of his past by righting wrongs and protecting the innocent. Along they way, he transforms his community, helping and inspiriting those around him to live up to their potential. Sounds promising right?

In the sequel, again Antoine Fuqua returns in the directors chair. The movie has the same visual-style as the first film. The plot is confusing and the pacing feels off. It takes the film a little while to really get rolling. The convergence of multiple story lines in this one is a slow and ardent process. But no one goes too see The Equalizer films for the plot. We go see the films for the creative ways McCall delivers vigilantes justice to “the villains” of the world.

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Go See Your “Uncle Drew”

Growing up a kid in Hoosier Country, we had a phrase we used to use, “basketball is life.” This phrase, simple and elegant, is the premise of the new film starring basketball superstar Kyrie Irving Uncle Drew. The film is based upon the character created in the Pepsi Max ads (if you have no idea what I am talking about, that’s what Youtube is for) following a geriatric basketball player who has no problem putting “young-bloods” in their place. For Drew, basketball is life. The game rules all, because it teaches us how to live together, and work together, and solve any problem.

Uncle Drew follows the title character and blacktop-basketball-legend as he assembles his old team to help Dax win The Rucker streetball tournament in Harlem. After Dax loses his team, Drew agrees to help recruit his old streetball team – despite their falling out – for one last ride to win the tournament. As Drew recruits his team, he teaches Dax about the game (and life) and discovers he hasn’t been as true to his principles as he thought.

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Not as Good as The First

Sicario: Day of the Soladado, is a crime-thriller offering a grim view of reality. It is uncanny that a film playing off America’s greatest border fears, has been released in the midst of renewed political debate surrounding border security and immigration reform. For movie-goers, the film is essentially everything that they have come to expect following the first Sicario film released in 2015. Spoilers below.

Following a terrorist attack in Middle America, and discovering the terrorists used the Southern Border as a point of entry into the United States, a covert operation is implemented to institute a war between the drug cartels in Mexico. The plan is a simple one, used whatever means necessary to instigate the cartels against one another, just make sure that the United States maintains plausible deniability. This brings Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and Alejandro Gillick (Benicio del Toro) back together, to continue the crusade against the cartels they started in the first film.

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Returning To Your Childhood Neighborhood

I just saw the movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor – and it is the best movie you haven’t seen. The film is a documentary, which explores the life of Fred Rogers, and his iconic children’s television show on PBS Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. The film is the the embodiment of Martin Luther King Jr. famous words that, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that; only love can do that.” A simple, but powerful message.

Roger’s simply cared about people. And his mission was a simple one. He believed that children needed to be treated with respect, told that they were individuals, and reminded that they are loved. Roger’s as man, and his philosophy, is a call back to a simpler time. A time of community. A time when neighborhoods themselves were institutions fundamental in shaping culture, identity, and beliefs. It is a reminder of what was, and what can be again.

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Worth the “Upgrade”

Upgrade is the most recent film from director Leigh Whannell (of Saw fame). The Science Fiction film seems to be flying slightly under the radar, likely as a result of its microscopic budget. In an era where Sci-Fi films like Blade Runner 2049 are produce for upwards of $185 million, a $3 million-dollar sci-fi film seems to pale by comparison.
But Upgrade gets back to the basics of science fiction. In true Asimoff style, the story is a collision between mankind and technology. Set in the near future, the film explores life in the perpetual surveillance state. The film also explores implants and augmentation, and when we combine the human body with tech, where does one end and the next begin. For a Luddite like me, this is the most terrifying film I have seen in a long while.

Spoilers.

The film follows Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) an auto mechanic who makes a living in the digital-world of the future by restoring classic cars. He is a man desperately out of touch with the rest of the planet. After his wife is murdered in a car-jacking and he is left a quadriplegic. After contemplating, and then attempting, suicide, Grey ends up hospitalized where he meets a tech-billionaire who promises to restore his motor-function. STEM is how he does it, an AI spinal cord implant which help to reconnect his nervous system.

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No Point Seeing “Action Point”

Something like ten years ago, a film with Johnny Knoxville preforming his death defying stupid-human-stunts would have dragged every high schooler in America to the movie theater. My, how the times have changed. Knoxville’s latest film, Action Point, is essentially Bad Grandpa meets Jackass, again something that once-upon-a-time would have dragged viewers to a theater. Now imagine that movie, but without any redeeming or entertaining qualities. That is Action Point.

Action Point is more of the same from Knoxville, just, without the laughs. It is a film completely devoid of genuine plot or characterization. It is loosely held together by a story about a father, his backyard-built-budget theme park, and his relationship with his estranged daughter. So, there isn’t much to truly build a film around.

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‘Deadpool 2’ is Ten times better than ‘Logan’ Was

Deadpool (aka Wade Wilson), would tell you that “Deadpool 2 is ten times better than Logan was.

The first Deadpool, was unexpected bliss. Studio-heads and comic-book fan-boys fundamentally misunderstand each other. Nowhere is this clearer than with that three-letter-studio holding rights to the X-men. When the first Deadpool film came out in 2016, we were blown away – they finally managed to give us the comic-book film [we] the nerds had been begging for. So naturally – and skeptically – I wondered, would Deadpool 2 deliver to the same extent? How much of the euphoria delivered by the first film was the result of pop-culture references, unrestrained violence, and pure unadulterated shock value? Could they catch lightning in a bottle a second time?

They did. Spoilers below.

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Avengers: Infinity War – Top 10 Fake Spoilers

In an attempt to release a movie so huge it’ll give each fan his very own heart attack, Disney has crammed every single hero from the Marvel Cinematic Universe into one (okay, two) giant film(s). To prepare for the only film with a call sheet longer than its running time, check out the following fake spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War

10 – Let’s admit it, it’s kind of nice to see a Hemsworth in pain.

9 - Thanos's primary motivation: Conquer the Universe. Secondary motivation?: Bedazzle his Gauntlet.
9 – Thanos’s primary motivation: Conquer the Universe.
Secondary motivation?: Bedazzle his Gauntlet.

8 - Only one of these three actors has a "I'm getting back end box office points" smile on their face. Can you guess who?
8 – Only one of these actors has a “I’m getting box office points” smile on his face. Can you guess which one?

7 - You know the drill, Ruffalo. You get 15 minutes of exposition in the sport coat then it's torn pants and green skin for the rest of the film.
7 – You know the drill, Ruffalo. You get 15 minutes in the sport coat then it’s torn pants and green skin for acts 2 & 3.

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Photo: IMDB

In Case You Missed It: The Terror

If you are anything like me, the moment you saw the trailers for AMC’s new show, The Terror, you couldn’t help but be intrigued. The horror. The history. And the name Ridley Scott at the end, I was sold long before I even knew the plot. The show is based upon the novel of the same name by Dan Simmion, which provides a fictionalized account of the ill-fated expedition by the British Navy to map the Northwestern passage trough the Arctic.

In real life, Sir John Franklin brought two ships – the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus – into the Arctic Circle in the 1840s, only to disappear. Those ships, and their crew of 129 sailors were lost for more than 160 years. Simmons books, published in 2007 (a decade before the real-life discovery of those two ships), provide a fictionalized account of what may have happened. However, the books are more than just historical fiction, they provide a supernatural-horror account of how the expedition may have met its grizzly end. Needless to say, when the first two episodes premiered, I simply had to watch.

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Ready Player One

Ready Player One – Top 10 Fake Spoilers

Do you want to escape to an alternate reality where Steven Spielberg still makes fun movies? Then you’re probably psyched for Ready Player One. As you wait on line next to a guy using R.P.O. as an excuse to dress like M. Bison for the night, browse the following Fake Spoilers…

10 - Tye Sheridan has played Cyclops in one X-Men movie and he's already a victim of typecasting.
10 – Tye Sheridan has played Cyclops in one X-Men movie and he’s already a victim of typecasting.

9 - Steven Spielberg returns to big budget sci-fi form because you can never be too careful with J.J. nipping at your heels.
9 – Steven Spielberg returns to big budget sci-fi form because you can never be too careful with J.J. nipping at your heels.

8 - Ben Mendelsohn: The only actor who insists on a "No Likeability" clause for every movie he makes.
8 – Ben Mendelsohn: The only actor who insists on a “No Likeability” clause in every movie he makes.

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Photo: IMDB

In Case You Missed It: Krypton

I am sure you – just like me – were confused and slightly puzzled when you heard about Syfy’s new series Krypton. A Superman show, without Superman? I was not really sure how I felt about that. When the show premiered Wednesday night, I had to give it a watch.

Spoilers.

The show follows Seg-El, the headstrong and fearless grandfather of Superman. Seg-El is approached by a time travelling Adam Strange, who warns him that parties in the future (specifically Brainiac) have traveled to the past to ensure that Superman – the greatest hero in the Universe – is never born.

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Photo: IMDB

Tomb Raider, The Video Game Film They (Sort Of) Got Right

As a nineties child, I spent a great deal of my money, and an even greater deal of my time, on the Tomb Raider games. We loved the games because they were fun and walked the perfect balance difficult puzzles and great action. I remember being disappointed in both 2001 and 2003 – with the release of the first two Tomb Raider films (Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life). While these films were entertaining and highly stylized, the films were unmemorable. And they lacked the genuine qualities which made the games so damn good.

Film’s based upon video games have always sucked, and the bar is set perpetually low. Whether we were watching Resident Evil, Doom, Silent Hill, or Hitman; regardless of how great the gaming franchises have been, these films have all turned out to be disappointing. Part of the reason is, that video game inspired films have, and always will have, the challenge of condensing a story told via twenty-six of hours of game play into a two-hour feature film. This is not an easy task. But Tomb Raider shows us how it is not as difficult as we previously imagined.

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Photo: IMDB

Red Sparrow: A Spy Thriller, Without The Thrills

The film, Red Sparrow, capitalizes on America’s renewed Russo-phobia. Central to the film is the fact that many in the west believe we won the Cold War, while many in Russia believe the Cold War never ended. While I agree with the sentiment completely, I do feel that the film simplifies decades of U.S. -Russian international relations into terms which can easily be digested by those who pre-November 2016, could scarcely find Russia on the map. While simplified it is does introduce to the masses three monumental facts of national security: (1) there are more Russian spies in the United States now than during the height of the Cold War, (2) Russian intelligence collection programs are built around long-term goals, and (3) the Cold War never ended, despite the fact that too many westerns believe it did.

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Photo: IMDB

Death Wish Leaves Us Wishing For More

The original Death Wish (1974) with Charles Bronson is one of my favorite actions films. It’s the prototype of the vigilante film genre; and though the later ones in the saga get a bit “over the top” [read: ridiculous], the first one is a great film. I love action movies, I won’t deny it. In fact, I will go as far as saying that I love the TERRIBLE ones. I tell you this, so you know that when I tell you the new Death Wish (2018) was bad, you know that I mean it was very, very, very bad.

I always question remakes. I think that is natural. Why are we remaking this film? How can it be different than the original? Will it be better than the original? Eli Roth had no business remaking the original.

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Photo: IMDB

Annihilation Will Blow You Away

While the rest of your friends continue to be infatuated with Black Panther, seeing it for the third or fourth time with their Movie Pass, consider seeing something a little different. Annihilation can best be described as a cinematic experience, one of those movies made to be seen in a theater. So, if you plan on waiting until the digital release to watch it, think again.

This experience presents itself when the characters enter The Shimmer, an alteration of space-time where the laws of nature are constantly reinventing themselves. The sound design, the powerful and emotional scoring, the color pallet, and the stunning visuals all work in harmony to immerse us in this altered-state bubble. You can’t help but check Google Maps when you leave, to see if a real-life version of The Shimmer is currently swallowing up the American South. It feels real.

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The Shape of Water – Top 5 Fake Spoilers

As yet another film you feel obligated to say is good when your girlfriend is around hurtles toward Oscar gold this year, check out these fake spoilers so you can sound like one of the 80 people who’ve actually seen it…

5 - To capture that "empty theater" look, they filmed on location at a Weinstein Oscar screening.
5 – To capture that “empty theater” look, they filmed on location at a Weinstein Oscar screening.

4 - So that's why he's reading this book.
4 – So that’s why he’s reading this book.

3 - As Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Marisa Tomei can testify to, doing nothing is one of the best ways to win an Oscar.
3 – As Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Marisa Tomei can attest to, doing nothing is one of the best ways to win an Oscar.

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Calliope Author Launches Book on America’s Self Image

The pressing issue facing Americans today: angry rhetoric replacing thoughtful discussion, based on seemingly impossible-to-resolve divergent views of America’s role in the world, a stark contrast to what decades before had been proud patriotism and a relativity unified front during times of crisis.

For years, prolific Chicago writer Rich Trzupek researched and observed trends that shaped American’s self-perception from its founding onward. In his new book, America’s Journey: Underdog to Overlord, Regrets to Rebirth, baby-boomer Trzupek delights readers beyond history buffs with little-known stories and memorable characters that reflect Americans’ changing view of themselves from the world’s scrappy Underdog to the superpower Overlord.

“My intent is to start a dialog about how we have arrived at this time when neighbors and co-workers are afraid to talk with each other, families are torn apart over political disagreements, and elected officials react emotionally instead of leading dispassionately with a shared American vision and goal in mind,” Trzupek explains. “Each chapter traces key events that brought us to today’s sense of regret or rebirth, depending on your assessment of America’s strengths and weaknesses.”

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New Creative Writing Magazine

We have great news for fiction and narrative nonfiction writers: we are launching a new quarterly literary journal to be published in print and online.

The to-be-named publication will feature emerging authors from our writing programs, but will also be open to submissions from authors and writers of any background. With the goal of cultivating short stories and narrative nonfiction work that wrestles with themes of liberty and freedom, the journal will publish a collection of 7-8 short works each quarter.

Stay tuned for more details, but if you’d like to submit something for consideration, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Fiction word count: 5,000-10,000 words
  • Memoir word count: 1,200-5,000 words
  • Essay word count: 500-2,500 words
  • Must grapple with liberty-related themes in some way
  • Email submissions to [email protected]
  • Deadline to submit for the first issue is March 10th

In addition, if you are an illustrator and would like to illustrate for the new magazine, please contact [email protected] with some samples of your work.

 

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9 Authors With Books That Can Transform Your Life

The Andrew Klavan Symposium

Section I – Opening Remarks

Click here for the series introduction and Part 1: “Finding God in the Blood and Guts of Birth and the Big Bang” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 2: “A Search For An Authentic Life” by Alec Ott

Part 3: “Life-Changing Literature” by Chris Queen

Part 4: “To Know The Truth About The World” by Jon Bishop

Part 5: “The Long Road To Becoming An Essential Author” by David M. Swindle

Section II – Dialogue

Part 6: “If You Love Western Civilization, You Will Love God” by Fred Tribuzzo

Part 7: “Why God Does Not Want You To Worry About Anything…” by Alec Ott

Part 8: “The Bible As Artist & Author’s Muse” by Jon Bishop

Part 9:

(cross-posted from Mad Tab Blog)

Dear Jon, Alec, Fred, and Chris,

Throughout this dialogue you have each referenced other authors who have influenced you and who have reminded you in some way of Andrew Klavan’s work. Alec brought up C.S. Lewis, Fred invoked Thomas Sowell, Jon brought Augustine and monk-poet Thomas Merton into the dialogue, and Chris quoted the prophet Isaiah.

For many years I’ve been in the habit of list-making regarding books, authors, films and all sorts of subjects. And I don’t intend on breaking that habit anytime soon, in fact I’m doing the opposite: encouraging you and other writers to assemble lists too. In particular: who are the authors and books who most inspire you today? Which writers and titles are akin to weapons in your armory? Whose ideas and storytelling techniques do you adapt into your own?

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A Wrinkle in Time – Top 10 Fake Spoilers

Was anyone else assigned A Wrinkle in Time in middle school but couldn’t remember the plot if your life depended on it? Well fear not because it’s hitting the big screen on March 9th. To get you ready for this trip down faded memory lane, check out these fake spoilers:

10 - Disney introduces kids not only to the fantasy world of Madeleine L'Engle's writing but also their first acid trip.
10 – Disney introduces kids not only to the fantasy world of Madeleine L’Engle’s writing but also their first acid trip.

9 - Greatest suspension of disbelief required for Wrinkle in Time: Buying Chris Pine as an astrophysicist.
9 – Greatest suspension of disbelief required for Wrinkle in Time? Buying Chris Pine as an astrophysicist.

8 - Oprah's newest favorite thing: PLATINUM HAIR WEAVES!
8 – Oprah’s newest favorite thing: PLATINUM HAIR WEAVES!

8 - Every journey to save the universe starts with a spin through Wisteria Lane to check in with the Desperate Housewives from Hell
7 – Every journey to save the universe starts with a spin through Wisteria Lane to check in with the Desperate Housewives from hell.

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R.I.P. A.I.M.

The running man is dead. The running man, remember that yellow stick-figure in motion who used to greet you every time you logged onto AOL Instant Messenger?

The other day, something surprisingly-insignificant happened, AIM is no more. After more than twenty years it, is finally offline. Should anyone even care? Does anyone care?

I care, but I do not really even know why.

Maybe it is because growing up in the 90’s, AIM was an important part of who we were. We didn’t have smart phone – we didn’t have cell phones – but we were the first generation to grow up with the Internet. We learned to use the internet in school, something out parents never did. Our jaws dropped at the dizzying speed at which America got online, and dial-up providers worked their hardest to meet the demands of a fast, democratized internet. Each month AOL seemed to release a new version… 3.0… 4.0… 5.0… 6.0….

The internet was here to stay. They promised it would change our lives – and in more ways than we could have ever imagined – it has.

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A Conversation With Myself About Star Wars [SPOILERS]

I’ve been trying to come up with a pithy way to effectively review Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi, and the truth is, I’m stumped.

I was really looking forward to this film. But after two screenings, I think I need to come to terms with the fact that, well…. I just don’t like it that much.

And considering a lot of the reactions on Twitter, YouTube, and Rotten Tomatoes, I’m apparently not alone.

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It turns out that The Last Jedi has been incredibly divisive for fans.

In listening to commentary on YouTube channels like Screen Junkies and Collider, a lot of people seem to be throwing up their hands and saying that since the reaction to The Force Awakens (such as mine) was that it was a beat-for-beat remake of “A New Hope”, and since now some reactions to The Last Jedi are mad that it’s “too different” (more on that later), there’s just no way to please Star Wars fans.

There’s a grain of truth to this.

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Why We Hate the Prequel Trilogy

Last year, remember how traffic felt a little lighter on December 16, 2016? Or how there were a few less colleagues in the cubicle next to you crunching away on their Doritos? Or how our nations GDP dipped three points because everyone stayed home.

No, it was not because of the approaching holidays. No, it was not because of the wet winter weather gripping both coasts. It was because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released in theaters and America took a collective national sick day as the hardcore Star Wars faithful, casual fans of nerd culture, and the allies of geeks everywhere took a day to visit a galaxy far, far away.

Why do I remind you of this? Because on Friday, December 15, 2017 this will all happen again. This time, in response to the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi – Top 8 Fake Spoilers for Episode VIII

Star Wars fever is about to break out into another $2 billion box office rash. Apply these fake spoilers as a preventative salve to stave off your own case of Force-itis.

8 - Whether it's your evil lair or your family room, the remote's always in the last place you look.
8 – Whether it’s your evil lair or your family room, the remote’s always in the last place you look.

7 - Watch Poe and Finn's desperate struggle not to end up as the Ron Weasley of this trilogy.
7 – Watch Poe and Finn’s desperate struggle not to end up as the Ron Weasley of Star Wars.

6 - Mark Hamill's just relieved now that the last movie he holds a lightsaber in won't be Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. 6 – Mark Hamill’s just relieved that the last movie he holds a lightsaber in will no longer be Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. (more…)

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How diverse was “Ghost in the Shell”, really?

Hello!

My name is Luke Guidici. I’m a filmmaker and writer and while this is the first post I’ve written on Smashcutculture.com, my work has been featured on the site. In addition to my own work, I occasionally write about film. My last in depth exploration was a two-part essay on the Heist Movie Genre, but recently I was reminded that I wanted to examine the issue of diversity in the live-action adaptation of “Ghost in the Shell.”

Movie adaptations are tough. For one it’s a different medium, which means somethings just have to be changed. I wrote about the process of adaptation here. It seems that no matter what is done, people get very upset with any changes from the original text. Whether it’s casting an actor that doesn’t look like the source character, a costume that is different, or a change in a hero’s powers.

Back when the film came out there was much internet outrage about the “whitewashing” of the lead character. People were offended that Scarlett Johansson had been cast in the lead role… instead of an actor with Asian ancestry. When I watched the movie, I was struck by how diverse the cast and world was. It had probably been 10 plus years since I’d seen the anime, so I wasn’t sure my memory served me correctly. I made a mental note that once the new film was available to purchase, I’d buy both and compare the two to see what sort of changes were made in the adaptation. And for good measure, I also bought the original manga, from which both are based.

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