Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 216: Allied (2016) and Moana (2016) and Moonlight (2016) and Pencils Down! The 100 Days of the Writers Guild Strike (2016)

Episode 216

Host emeritus Joshua Ligairi returns to Movie Podcast Weekly, Episode 216 for a short visit to help us Feature Review Moana and Pencils Down! The 100 Days of the Writers Guild Strike. In this episode we also bring you Feature Reviews for Allied and Moonlight. For the uninitiated, Joshua Ligairi is the host of Movie Stream Cast, a co-host on Horror Movie Podcast and an occasional contributor to The Sci-Fi Podcast. This is a very fun episode (especially for old-school MPW listeners). Join us!

Also, don’t forget to participate in our Top 10 Best Movies of 2016 episode!

If you’re new to our show… Movie Podcast Weekly typically features four hosts — Jason, Andy, Karl and Geek Cast Ry — along with frequent guests. We give you our verdicts on at least one new movie release from the current year that’s currently playing in theaters, as well as several mini reviews of whatever we’ve been watching lately. New episodes release every single week!


I. Introduction
— MPW host emeritus Joshua Ligairi will be joining us later in this episode!
— Please READ THIS BLOG to learn how to participate in MPW’s Top 10 Best Movies of 2016 episode

[ 0:03:23 ] II. Mini Reviews
Karl: The Last Descent and Karl’s visit to the Nutty Putty cave site (You can see Karl’s two photos from his Nutty Putty Cave visit, but WARNING — they both contain spoilers for The Last Descent: Click to view Photo 1, Click to view Photo 2), Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The DUFF, The Trend of Natural Lighting: TV Backlighting vs. Projection, VUDU’s free streaming (with ads)
Ryan: The vulnerability of Redbox in the old days, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Star Trek Beyond, Hell or High Water
Jason: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, This Is Us – Season 1: Ep. 8: Pilgrim Rick, Kubo and the Two Strings

III. Movie Podcast Network: Holiday Greeting
— From the Geek Cast Live Podcast

— Welcome back to host Joshua Ligairi

IV. New in Theaters This Past Weekend [Nov. 25, 2016]:
Apartheid City — Fake Ryan movie
Rules Don’t Apply
Route 66 — Fake Ryan movie
Bad Santa 2
Nocturnal Animals
Art Song — Fake Ryan movie
Font — Fake Ryan movie
Miss Sloane


[ 1:03:35 ] V. Feature Review: MOANA (2016)
Josh = 10 ( Theater / Buy it! )

[ 1:32:58 ] VI. Feature Review: PENCILS DOWN! THE 100 DAYS OF THE WRITERS GUILD STRIKE (2016)
Jason = 4 ( Avoid )
Josh = 4 ( Avoid for average viewer, but a *MUST-OWN* for industry insiders )

Hear more from Josh here:
Twitter: @IcarusArts
Movie Stream Cast
Horror Movie Podcast
The Sci-Fi Podcast

[ 1:52:32 ] VII. Feature Review: ALLIED (2016)
Karl = 7 ( Rental )

[ 1:59:52 ] VIII. Feature Review: MOONLIGHT (2016)
Jason = 6 ( Avoid )

IX. Wrap-Up / Plugs / Ending

Episode 217 when we’ll be joined by special guest MPW listener DINO, and we’ll be reviewing:
The Handmaiden
Man Down
Captain Fantastic
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
And Dino and Jason will also bring you the first ever MPW Summit, where they’ll be debating how to determine a film’s year of release (especially when creating our 2016 Top 10 lists). Join us!


Remember to participate in our Top 10 Best Movies of 2016 episode.

Don’t forget to catch up with Joshua Ligairi here:
Twitter: @IcarusArts
Movie Stream Cast
Horror Movie Podcast
The Sci-Fi Podcast

Contact MPW:
E-mail us:
Leave us a voicemail: (801) 382-8789.
Follow MPW on Twitter: @MovieCastWeekly
Leave a comment in the show notes for this episode.

Ryan’s new Facebook page
Ry’s BIO
Ryan’s New Facebook Page
Ry’s flagship show: Geek Cast Live Podcast
DONATE here to facilitate the creation of more Geek content!
Blog: Geek Cast Live
Web site: Geek
Twitter: @GeekCastRy

Jason recommends supporting: Operation Underground Railroad

Listen to MPW:
Add MPW to your Stitcher playlist:
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Right-click to download the MPW 100 Rap

Josh’s links:
Hear Josh named as one of the Top 5 Up-and-Coming Directors on The Film Vault Podcast!
Twitter: @IcarusArts
Josh covers streaming movies on: Movie Stream Cast
Hear Josh on The SciFi Podcast
Hear Josh on Horror Movie Podcast

If you’re a Horror fan, listen to Jason and Josh on HORROR MOVIE PODCAST

We’d like to thank The Dave Eaton Element and Dave himself for the use of his music for our theme song. Buy Dave’s Eaton’s music:

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Thanks for listening, and join us again next week for Movie Podcast Weekly.

67 thoughts on “Movie Podcast Weekly Ep. 216: Allied (2016) and Moana (2016) and Moonlight (2016) and Pencils Down! The 100 Days of the Writers Guild Strike (2016)

  1. FYI:
    This is a great episode, because we had some good debates and we had Josh Ligairi back for a visit. He is excellent, as always.

    Also: MPW Ep. 217
    We’re releasing ANOTHER great MPW episode sometime this weekend (12/9 – 12/11), so be ready for it! DINO is our guest, which is particularly noteworthy because he reviews “The Handmaiden” (as well as some other good movies), and we spend a long time at the end of the show, trying to figure out how to determine year of release for films being considered for year-end Top 10 lists! It’s a must-listen (for me). Watch for it this weekend!


      • It could, I guess… but honestly (and I think Dino may agree with this), our discussion of year-of-release may only be valuable or entertaining to a very small subset of the MPN listenership. Um … very small. (I actually didn’t even have Karl or Ryan join us, because they would lose their minds. ha ha)

        I have edited it already — Dino is brilliant, of course — but despite how proud I am of the content, it still seems very esoteric and “inside baseball” or something. I seriously doubt it would make a very good stand-alone episode, which is why I’m putting it *at the end* of MPW Ep. 217, so people can turn it off, if they wish. ha ha

        Dino, what say you?


          • Not annoying at all, Josh. I appreciate it. I just think the Super-Fans deserve better than hearing me complain to poor Dino about film availability, keeping him awake until 3 a.m. just to discuss one of my pet peeves in the world. ha ha ha. That guys deserves an award for what he did in Ep. 217!

          • listeners) care about. This is the stuff that Jody and Juan and Dino and Sal and all of us are always talking about on Twitter. In fact, this grew from one such discussion. So speaking as a cinephile myself, this is the kind of content I’d want to hear on a bonus. Which is why I thought of it. I’d hate for the effort to be lost to the ages. Maybe you’d at least be willing to repost that portion once there is some more exciting premium content available.

          • I don’t know what happened to the top of my comment. But I was conceding your point and saying that “I hear you” about that not necessarily screaming “premium content.” I guess Satan didn’t want you to see me agreeing with you.

        • I definitely think the discussion will only appeal to a very small group of people. Whether that would be better published as a stand-alone bonus episode or as additional content attached to the end of ep. 217, I cannot say. Ultimately, I don’t think it makes that much of a difference; either way, people will probably listen to at least the beginning part out of curiosity, and then quickly turn it off!

          • Okay, last thought: I guess I think there are weird-o listeners of all the MPN podcasts, who don’t typically listen to MPW (like Jody, for example), who would love this conversation. I think it’s a shame to relegate that effort to an after-thought. But I concede to the will of the creators.

            • I think I told you before, but I like the idea of having it as a separate bonus episode. Also, because I think the typical MPW listener might see the next episode come out with a 4-hour runtime and be a little turned off (maybe not). Ultimately, though, I’m fine with whatever Jason decides.

    • I was curious and wanted to ask you guys how to decide what movies are considered 2016 / 2015 / 2017 etc.

      I hope there is some definitive answers Ha ha!

      And Jason. Your end of the year show is simply the best end of the year show in podcast land, and that includes Filmspotting and Film Junk both of which have great year end shows, I think your passion for both films and Podcasting is clear to everyone who listens.


      • Kevin,
        Thank you so much! Your comment “got me, good” on so many levels. Your hilarious opening line gave me a knee-jerk reaction where I fell for it! ha ha I was ready to jump on here and say, “Well, you’re in luck, Buddy! We’ve spent a lot of time outlining this…” ha ha ha Yep, you got me.

        And thanks for your compliments. As you can see, we take this way too seriously… It’s my favorite thing all year, even better than the Academy Awards or my birthday or Noam Chomsky Day (which was two days ago)!


      • I agree, Kevin. I also listen to the /Filmcast and Filmspotting, and I think the MPW end of year show is the best. The other two podcasts do great end of year shows, but I feel like MPW is the most fun, least pretentious and best reflects the feelings of “the people.” Filmspotting consistently includes movies that I either never heard of or have no interest in seeing, and /Filmcast sort of straddles the space between Filmspotting and MPW.

    • I understand how you see the availability issue. But even by your own rules, you don’t have a complete list. You need to be willing to move the podcast to the first week of January to actually be able to consider all of the films widely available in 2016. Otherwise you actually consider films released wide prior to Christmas (or however you want to see it) to be 2016 and films released the last week of the year are either lost causes or actually considered the next year for absolutely no reason.

    • It’s a fine film. A 6, even. But for me, it was just too slow for how little I personally got from it. Again, I have nothing in common with the character, so I have no way to relate to his plight.

      And I only say “Avoid” (for me) because there are so many great films to see, I can only recommend spending time on those that speak to me.

      It seems like you appreciated “Moonlight,” Jody. Tell us why! I’d love to have your thoughts on it.

      Thanks for writing!

      • I haven’t seen Moonlight so can’t speak directly to that film, but are you saying that a film can only be effective for you if you can directly relate to the characters and their plight?

        • I had an itchy trigger finger on that post. I should probably add that I think that sounds like a limiting way to approach the cinema, as far as what you allow yourself to enjoy. It’s a different story if the film is unsuccessful in representing the character’s plight, but I think that’s different from saying that if you cannot directly relate to the character then it won’t appeal to you. Is that what you’re saying?

        • Not to bash J… well, maybe a little… but that kind of thing is what bugged me about his Sing Street review. “I don’t like that kid’s fashion choices; I didn’t like those songs, etc.” When that’s all dressing to what’s happening and what kinds of themes and messages the film is delivering. You shouldn’t have to like those trees to appreciate the forest, and shouldn’t have to connect personally with people represented in a film to be able to get a powerful impact from what they are experiencing and from what is being said about that.

          Of course, we all connect better to certain movies where there *is* some personal resonance. I’ll admit that my 9.5 and 10 ratings for Captain Fantastic and Sing Street might include a half-point or full point of “this spoke directly to my life in a deep way.” So in that sense, it would make sense for a gay black man who grew up on the streets of Miami to give extra resonance points for Moonlight.

          But I love movies so much because usually they represent specific things I will probably never do, places I may never go, and specific people and groups of people that I may never meet or interact with in a meaningful way. And yet, by seeing that film, I can have some sense of appreciation for that experience or place or person/people. I don’t personally know anyone with the background of the main character from Moonlight, but I found his story very compelling.

          In that case, though, the pacing of the movie let me down a bit (especially the third act), and I can agree with J about that. And I think maybe what he is saying in his comment (I still haven’t listened to the actual podcast review yet) is that without having more of a personal connection to what’s happening, the mechanics of the film itself are more likely to stand out, for better or worse. And slow pacing is something he admits as a personal pet peeve, so that was more likely to be an issue.

          So I’ll give him a pass on the 6 and on his comment about it not resonating enough (I don’t think “avoid” makes sense at all, though – there are great performances and interesting directorial choices throughout). I do think Moonlight is just a little bit overrated (I’m fine with it getting an Oscar nomination, but it shouldn’t win). But I also hope J will reconsider about whether he needs to resonate specifically with a character or setting in order to still appreciate a film in a bigger way. And then he should erase the “avoid” on Moonlight and adjust his Sing Street rating from 6.5 to the proper 9-10.

          P.S. To follow up what Cody said earlier… J, you should always just speak your mind 100%. We love you, regardless, and your honest opinions (even when they demonstrate cinematic hatred) make you a more worthy critic. Much as I think you *should* rate Sing Street higher (and Fury Road and Force Awakens and several other films), it would disappoint me if you actually did (unless you rewatched and honestly re-rated – which you should!).

          • At the same time, one of the beautiful things about movies is that they can transport us into environments and situations that we normally do not find ourselves in. So, while I understand the whole “it didn’t appeal to or resonate with me” argument, I think not appreciating a film based on your own ability to relate directly to the character and/or situation is a bit limiting.

            That said, if the film is not successful in portraying the character’s plight, then that’s a different story. I have not seen Moonlight, so cannot speak directly to this example. My comments are more just general to the cinema.

      • He also picked a bad week to stop sniffing glue.

        I didn’t think J would dig it too much because of the slow pacing. I loved the first two acts, but not the third, because it felt way too slow for what it was giving you at that point. The first two acts had enough moments of insight and beauty, but still stretched out pretty far among the length. It’s a 7.5 for me.

  2. Jason, much love for all the time, energy and resources that you devote to the podcast. You are a giant, sir. :-) But please stop identifying GCR’s fake movie titles in the show notes. I keep inadvertently forgetting that you do that, and then I inevitably see one or two when I’m scrolling down to read comments before I’ve listened to the episode. And then the fun is ruined. :-( (Or, as happened today, when I’m scrolling up to see, wait, what? Jay says “Moonlight” is an avoid?) (I mean, maybe it is an avoid. I probably won’t be able to catch it anytime soon. It was just surprising after all that I’ve heard already.)

    • Cody,
      Thanks for your gracious words, Brother.

      OK. I can stop identifying GCR’s fake titles in the show notes under the “New Releases” section, but for posterity’s sake, I will note the fake ones far below in the show notes.

      Oh, I have a sinking feeling that “Moonlight” recommendation to “Avoid” is going to come back to haunt me…

      But life is short. And the time we get to watch movies is even shorter (unless you’re Ryan, whose wife permits him 14-hour marathon Sundays, for some reason). Ryan, you could watch “Moonlight,” because apparently you have time. But for people like me, there’s just not enough time for a glacial-paced drama with heart and good performances but little to no pay-off…

      • I can live with this solution. Thank you, sir.

        Brother, don’t ever *not* say what you think. One has to speak one’s mind, loud and clear, when it comes to opinions about movies. Occasionally, the mocking consequences of doing so will follow you around for years. If you’re not being true to what you actually think, though, then what is the point? Besides, if everyone agreed about everything, then discussions of movies would probably be a lot more boring. When I was still at the Herald, almost the only time that I ever heard a peep from people who’d read my reviews was when they angrily disagreed.

  3. I haven’t listened yet, but apparently I’m coming in higher than Karl on ALLIED. I saw it last night and really liked it. A great romantic spy thriller with a WWII background and some nice moments where things didn’t happen as might have been expected. Also some great camerawork and creative scenes. One in particular involving lovemaking in a car was especially cool. After this and The Walk, I’d say Zemekis is back in a groove. 8.5

    I’ll also give an 8.5 for MISS SLOANE. I didn’t even know about this movie until two days ago. No trailers, news, nothing. But it’s really good! Jessica Chastain nails a performance again as a super lobbyist fighting for a gun bill. Some nice insights into that world (which I thought would be dreadfully boring), some great humor and energy, and though I saw one aspect of what eventually happens coming a mile away, another element of that was unexpected and well crafted.

    • Yeah, Miss Sloane came out of nowhere for me, too, but it quickly became one of my most anticipated films to end the year. Your high rating makes me even more interested in it.

  4. Television’s deepest (and, arguably, it’s greatest) remaining drama (and, without a doubt, the best drama after ‘The Wire’ that virtually no one watched), ‘Rectify’, comes to it’s end this Wednesday with it’s 30th and final episode.

    Ray McKinnon’s exquisite and heartfelt parable on alienation, judgement, and redemption works on so many levels it’s a wonder it ever got made, and the acting of Aden Young, Clayne Crawford, and the rest of the cast has simply been among the very best on television.

    If you like your fiction to challenge and move you – and you haven’t seen this yet – you’ve been missing out on one of the best pieces of serialized drama of the 21st century.

  5. J –

    I’ve got to disagree with your rating of 7 for KUBO, if for no other reason than there are visually groundbreaking things they do in it which have simply never been attempted before in feature animation.

    I think given the fact that it’s expanding the boundaries of animation in a way that’s both breathtaking and rare (and that the story isn’t terrible – by any stretch of the imagination), it would deserve a minimum of 7.5, strictly as a piece of pioneering visual art (and, IMO, an even higher rating when considering the difficult subject matter and it’s execution – as mentioned below).

    At the story level, I think the specific intention of the writers/filmmakers was to create a complex fable that requires some thought and/or multiple viewings to fully unpack. Of course, many might argue that this is a bug, but I personally see it as a feature – especially given the fact that the stunning visuals welcome repeat viewings. I think the film is one of those singular works of art which can, conceptually, reward multiple viewings – even for adults.

    As I posted before in my comments with Eric about the film at Ep. 214, I think the deeper meaning of the narrative is not the simple, linear “adventure quest” that is presented, and although I’ve yet to watch the film a second time, I’ll post a follow-up to my previous theories once I do.

    • I really do need to watch Kubo again and see if the story connects and comes together better for me. It might.

      Also yes, Rectify is quite good. Kind of lost my interest a bit in the second season, and I wouldn’t call it one of the greatest shows ever, but if you’re saying that its ending has been slated, then that will definitely get me to catch up again with it. Thanks for the heads up, Mark!

      • Yes, Rectify’s ending is finished and is airing in 3 days. In terms of it’s greatness – as with all things – I suppose it depends on how deeply it’s themes resonate with you.
        For comparison purposes, in the All Time Top 2000 critically-rated seasons of television at Metacritic, it’s four seasons currently rank as 1, 37, 66, and 226.

        And one other think that crossed my mind about Kubo while writing about it earlier….

        ********************** SPOILERS FOR KUBO **********************
        It didn’t dawn on me earlier, but the idea of “questing” for a “magical suit of armor” when your parents are dead and your grandfather has dementia seems obvious to me now.

      • Eric (and Jason and Ryan and any others that have already seen Kubo and the Two Stings):

        I watched KUBO a second time last night, and it solidified my earlier theory of the fable’s meaning and added other (now seemingly obvious) pieces to the puzzle for me. I’m not sure which things J thinks that the characters did that weren’t earned or his specific interpretations of the themes and symbols (since he didn’t want to spoil it), but here are mine:

        ********* ANALYSIS AND SPOILERS FOR KUBO *********

        Broadly, the movie is about loss of memory/his(your)story, death, and grief/suffering – and the way that Kubo deals with those things. Everything must be viewed through that prism (since all the allegories are connected), so those three difficult topics are symbolically represented by the Moon-King and the two sisters – with memory loss specifically linked to the loss of sight (I wonder if the writers knew that studies suggest that people with even minimal eye damage involving the blood vessels of the retina have a higher risk for memory decline?).

        The fact that the depressing subject matter is couched in a sometimes funny, heavily allegorical, action-adventure fable means that much of it will be opaque to children (and some of it to the rest of us) until they get older (or we get more thoughtful :) ), and watch it again with fresh eyes – keeping in mind that if if you must blink, do it now, and pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem……

        The movie starts with Kubo’s father already dead and Kubo’s mother dying; suffering from a progressive type of amnesia/dementia (which, as it turns out later, is the same thing plaguing her father). When the two sisters appear for the first time and “battle” with the mother, this is the representation (in Kubo’s mind) of her death.

        Kubo’s “flight”, at that moment, to the “Far lands” is actually the beginning of his psychological working through grief (akin to the 5 stages), and the entire story from that point, until he’s holding the two lanterns for his parents in the graveyard, is his journey coping with the death of his mother – the last member of his family that still remembered him.

        So how does one stave off despair after such utter and devastating loss? A story about a quest for a momentarily helpful but eventually disposable construct (the suit of armor; in other words, denial), and to help him on his journey, there are three characters – two of them based on the two objects he was given (and told to carry) by his mother: her monkey charm and his father’s robe with the crest of a beetle – and the third a small origami samurai (symbolizing his own story-telling), who always points the way forward.

        Again, this story that Kubo tells is him working through his grief – so the steps along the way are all interlocked and reveal (or re-reveal) things to Kubo that he needs to remember, work through, and accept. I won’t go into too many details here or this will post will drag on even longer, but every piece makes sense when considered as part of this mosaic – there isn’t a symbol or plot-turn out of place. If anyone believes that there is something in the story that is unearned, irrelevant, or incongruous, I’d be curious to hear what they think that is.

        For example, I’ve read/heard critiques of the parents dying so quickly (and close together) late in the film – but they aren’t actually dying – Kubo is just remembering and accepting that they’re already dead (after he had first remembered who they truly were and what they meant to his story from each encounter with the “sisters”). I’d also point out that it’s important to note (in case you missed it :) ) that Kubo realizes the suit of armor won’t save him in the end (in fact, he discards it); but instead, it’s the song he creates with the strings made from his mother’s hair and his father’s bowstring.

        So, I now realize this movie is even sharper than I thought – both visually and narratively – and I have to raise my rating to a 10, like Ryan.

  6. I loved Josh’s review of Moana and his heartfelt dialogue on the struggle (maybe not the right word) of raising mixed-race children in the United States. I love that media is beginning to have a more accepting representation of racial and cultural diversity, and having a “this is normal” type of non-reaction in front of my children is something I’m also very cognizant of.

    Beautiful review.

    • One last thing I forgot to mention.

      “Political correctness” is a term that has begun to take on a certain stigma in large portions of the United States (and, perhaps, the world), but I feel like there are two forms of political correctness. There’s PC (no quotes) with regard to fair and equal representation and treatment, and then there’s “PC” (in quotes) with regard to applying surface treatment political correctness from a disingenuous place (read: people who don’t really believe in or understand the importance of political correctness). It’s the difference between accurately portraying a cultural minority in film, as it sounds like Moana succeeds in doing, and saying in conversation that “Loving is a movie about a white man and black woman… I mean, a “Caucasian” man and “African-American” woman… who fell in love and got married in Virginia in the 1950s.”

      It’s a very big distinction, and one I hope the PC-naysayers come to realize in time. Our world would be a much better place for it.

      • I agree with you said. I see a third group that needs addressing, which is what I was referring to on the show, bc I also see problems on the PC-pushers side where people are honestly trying, but aren’t given any slack if they mess up. And I think shaming people in that group has lead to resentment and radicalization. There has to be a little respect both ways as thoughtful people adapt. I also think it can be taken too far, as in the examples I referenced here. Idk. It’s more complicated than I’m going to be able to articulate on my phone in this waiting room. Haha

        • That’s a good point.

          In a lot of ways, it’s similar to the recent spoiler culture conversation: you have spoiler sensitives (me) and spoiler resilients (Ryan), and then you have spoiler jackasses who are split further into different categories. You have the sensitive jackasses who think it’s everyone else’s responsibility to ensure they don’t get spoiled, and then engage in shaming when spoiling happens. But you also have the resilient jackasses, aka “the snipers,” who will seek out targets to take out with their spoilery vomit.

          I’m definitely not equating spoiler culture with the importance of political correctness and acceptance of our racial and cultural differences, but thought it might be a simple way of laying out the complexities of the discussion. Like you said, it’s not just black and white… there are many shades of gray in between.

          Ok, the spoiler culture example was a bad one.

      • Brilliant to have Josh on to review Moana! It was a 10/10 for me and I hoped, hoped, hoped that it was gonna be okay in the eyes of the cultures that it represents. I thought it was fun, heartfelt, educational, and gorgeous. I loved the colors, the characters and the music. But I was a little scared in my heart to say so. What if I loved it and it was another terrible example? Another offensive display of All That Is Disney? What if I was Disney-boozled and didn’t even realize it? I mean; I’m always asking myself; “Is it right? Is it good?” in regards to race and culture. But in the end, I’m just a white girl. I know Disney has stepped in it a lot, but unfortunately, a lot of the time they were just mirroring the American psyche regarding gender issues and race. I know it’s slow, but please tell me we’re making progress.

        They, like all of us are trying. (Even though their primary interest is, of course, the bottom line financially – they don’t make that bottom line if people are offended.) I feel like they/we are trying to do better. They/we are trying to listen. And yeah. They/we make mistakes. And sometimes Disney is just shit for zero. They are so demonized by some people that they’ll just never, never do anything right.

        I’m so relieved to hear Josh say that they got it (mostly) right. That his community for the most part is not complaining. That they feel fairly and honestly represented.

        And that it’s outselling Frozen!!
        Thanks too, for your comments, Dino.

    • Thanks, Dino. I’d like to hear more about your experience. I think it has to be both. I try to make them aware when people are treating them differently so that they can recognize it, I have taught them about racial discrimination historically, but I do think is empowering for them to believe that something like Moana is normal – when it is so not – and I hope that will give them strength and confidence and security if they grow up in that world.

  7. Jay, how were you not quaking in your boots when Ryan threatened to “Set your record straight on Harry Potter”? Absolutely terrifying, and if Ryan ever said anything like that to me I’d go into the witness protection program.

    Best MPW line since “These toenails ain’t gonna clip themselves.” Also by Ryan.

  8. I really loved Josh’s review and insights into the background of Moana. I think that plays a little into my point in another comment that sometimes we can be extra enthused and appreciative for something that happens to connect with us or with our background.

    I will also hypocritically ignore what I said to Jason about not adjusting his ratings and go ahead and bump my Moana rating from 7.5 to 8. I strongly disagree with Josh’s comment that it compares to the best of Pixar; it has a predictable story and the songs aren’t very memorable… But it is visually stunning and is overall very entertaining, and deserves higher than 7.5 upon further reflection (and with Josh’s enthusiasm).

    I also think that “cereal worthy” should be added as a criteria for ratings:
    “Josh = 10 (Theater, Buy it!, Cereal Worthy)”


    • Definitely cereal worthy. Thanks, Eric.

      One criticism I didn’t get much into was the weak stakes along the way. I’d have liked to see a little more depth in the threats, particularly with the coconut Mad Maxers and in the Miyazaki underworld. Other than that, the film worked for me on every level and I especially appreciated the big finale, which felt new and refreshing. Marvel and DV could stand to take something from an ending like that.

      It may be my bias, but I personally really liked most of the songs and found “How Far I’ll Go” and the “I Am Moana” reprise of that song very memorable. The Bowie-esque “Shiny” has grown on me A LOT as well. And I love “We Know the Way” especially with the Polynesian influence. The only song I actively disliked was Maui’s “You’re Welcome.” The rest of the music was okay. The actual theatrics score was probably the weakest element of the music, IMO.

      • Yeah, it’s probably not a fair thing for me to say, and based more on expectations (I’m a huge Hamilton fan, and these songs didn’t grab me like those). “Shiny” is indeed great, though, and I do like “How Far I’ll Go”. But regardless, they are well suited to carrying the moments in the film that they occupy. “You’re Welcome,” even, in that sense, as a comedic introduction to Maui’s arrogance. So the songs serve their purpose. I just can’t help but compare to certain Disney films like Little Mermaid, Lion King and Frozen, where the songs serve their moments in the film and are also timeless classics.

        And yes, the finale was excellent and satisfying.

        • Revisiting this comment, I’m even more bullish on this soundtrack. I still think “How Far I’ll Go” and “I Am Moana” are pretty strong Disney songs. “Shiny” remains a fun fave. But for me, “We Know the Way” just blows me away. It is one of my all time favorites from any Disney film. Again, Polynesian bias, but I can jam to this song in the car anytime and honestly cry almost every time I see it in the movie. I had an amazing experience this past Summer when I took my kids to a swim-in movie and they watch Moana floating in an outdoor, public swimming pool at night. 300 kids singing along to every song, all night long. I found it incredibly moving.

          • Josh,
            I love this story. This song moves me to tears, as well. After my open-heart surgery this year, I used “We Know the Way” to help me through my darkest hours. (Truly.) It inspires my soul.

  9. I think J’s review comments on Moonlight were fair. But for me, Mahershala Ali’s first act drug dealer was a highlight, and an interesting thing to note for his character not being what might be expected, and also the irony of his role in relation to the boy’s mother. Also, I knew a few drug dealers of his type when I lived in Buffalo (don’t ask how), and one in particular who was very similar; a really nice family type guy with a regular house and car, who didn’t himself use drugs, but who was a pretty major seller in the inner city. So it’s not a totally unrealistic character. Another thing about Ali’s character is that he had a guy doing his actual street corner peddling, as a buffer to himself and from him getting busted. So therefore he was able to have more of a stable home life. One detail I liked about the third act is that the protagonist has now specifically modeled his look after Ali’s character, so you can see the continued influence there.

    I think you guys would like Allied better than the way Karl described it. He’s right that in the end it wasn’t a particularly necessary story, but I think it has a lot of good moments and interesting parts, and some great camera work. A strong rental, for sure.

  10. Moana

    If this is the last movie I see for 2016, then 2016 will at least end on one high note as “Moana” is an absolute triumph in animated storytelling for the Disney Princess tradition. Set in the Pacific Islands, we open the story as the demi-god “Maui” has long ago stolen the heart from the Goddess; Tala. With his theft, a darkness is spreading and it is said that one day a hero will sail beyond the barrier reef and will force Maui to return the heart of creation. The Chieftains daughter, Moana, dreams of life on the ocean even as the responsibilities for the village leadership will eventually fall to her shoulders. She eventually starts on her journey and meets a far different Maui than the one she imagined.

    The story is a simple hero quest with unlikely heroes, obstacles, villains, and a soundtrack fearing music from “Hamilton” creator, Lin Manuel Miranda. And it’s beautiful- the lush colors are like nothing I’ve seen in many previoius Disney productions, the animation capturing a look that is at once familiar and strange with an eye toward cultural heritage and respect. Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson is spectacularly cast as Maui, an arrogant demi-god whose actions have had unintended consequences. Johnson is at his best despite only being a voice on the screen, perfectly capturing the humor and occasional pathos of a character driven by very human motivations. But while Johnson features heavily in the story, the soul and drive is entirely on Auli’I Cravalho in the title role. Her arc as a hero is wonderful to watch as she goes from uncertain girl to the woman that she needs to be in order to try and save her people.

    Sea monsters, storms, volcanos and angry gods stand between Moana and her quest. Don’t let this film pass you by in the theater. You will laugh, cry, and feel everything you’re supposed to feel and this is the way movies should work.

    10 out of 10 and a definite BUY! See it in the theater.

    Regarding Fantastic Beasts… and specifically, the portrayal of Newt.

    I don’t presume to understand the author’s intent since it’s not explicit to the film- and especially since the condition was not truly understood or defined in the late 1920’s, nor is it even well known to this day. However, I’m not going to be on a limb with this assertion: Newt Scaramander has the condition known as Asperger’s Syndrome. This condition is has several very obvious signs- an aversion to eye contact, a seemingly neutral (robotic) facial expression, an intense interest in specific subject matter, an intense dislike of human physical contact. There are several smaller signs and it’s a condition that requires a lot of testing and examination before an official diagnosis, but with regards to a surface performance it is very obvious that the actor did his research and decided to make a conscious choice to play these characteristics to the hilt. In point of fact, Newt is might not even be high functioning despite his skill and ability in the film. There are moments he is obviously shutting down entirely and moments where he is all but useless.

    Asking why they have only a few facial expressions is like asking a person in a wheel chair why they don’t just walk around.

  11. Just watched captain fantastic, a great watch and i was hooked the whole time but i still wouldn’t put it up there in my top 10 this year. I think this might be because i found it hard to relate to the characters, I am 22 and live in England with no family of my own. Which is a complete contrast to Eric and Jay, so i am assuming this film moved up in your ratings because of the personal attachment and investment to this type of story line?

    Not saying its a bad film and its worth a watch, just i didn’t seem to get the attachment and love you guys got for the film.

  12. Also J, you might be thinking there is no rush with Game of Thrones, but if you leave it too long and everyone has finished watching it you will not get to enjoy the best part about it, which is discussing theory’s and what you think will happen as it happens. I had this problem with Breaking Bad and wanted to discuss it with people but i was two years late and there was a lack of interest in the topic.

    On another note, I still haven’t seen the Godfathers (Shocking I know, and my credit as a film fanatic takes a hit) but i always here bad things about number 3, if you had a chance to do it again would you still watch all 3 or should i just watch the first 2 ??

  13. I watched a movie last night that was so bad that I hesitate to mention it, especially as it may hold a soft spot for some of the Mormons in the audience and among the hosts (though Jason doesn’t like musicals, so he’s probably already out).

    The new film version of Saturday’s Warrior gets a 3 rating from me, making that the lowest rating I’ve ever given here. I’ll go into detail if anyone really wants me to, but I’d rather not. Suffice to say that I’m not rating it that low because of its saccharine spiritual nature, or because I’m no longer a Mormon. I like plenty of movies with religious themes, and could definitely still appreciate a well-made film with a Mormon theme/setting, such as God’s Army. It gets a 3 because it’s that bad, for numerous reasons. Phew.

    That being said, I did not grow up with a frame of reference for the play or earlier movie version of this like so many Mormons I know did. So I would be interested to hear from those who did grow up with it, as far as what they think of this new version by comparison.

    • More details, please! I doubt I’ll ever watch the movie itself, so reading the detailed thoughts of someone familiar with the culture who *has* seen it is probably the next best thing. (And probably, it sounds like, a much better thing than actually watching the movie would ever be.)

      • Alright, this will be long, but Cody asked for it, so blame him!

        Saturday’s Warrior is a 2016 film that is based on a stage play from the 1970’s that became popular in the LDS/Mormon world. (There was also an earlier film version from 1989.) I joined the LDS church in 1990 at age 20 in Buffalo, NY, and had never even heard of Saturday’s Warrior until many years later when my wife (who grew up where I live now in eastern WA) told me about it. She thought it was pretty cheesy and that it had doctrinal issues (which many Mormons apparently adopted as true doctrine, regardless), but also had some affection for the show. So for the sake of curiosity, and because I generally like musicals, I did want to see this movie, even though I left the church earlier this year.

        I feel I need to say up front that I’m not bashing this because of the obvious saccharine religious nature of it, or because I’m a bitter apostate now (I’m really not). The subject matter has almost nothing to do with my reaction. I could still very much appreciate a well done Mormon-themed movie that shows some real insight and character into the lives of this group of people that I still know and love and served with for 26 years. I still consider God’s Army (a 2000 film about Mormon missionaries) to be a great film, and other movies like The Other Side of Heaven and 17 Miracles have shown Mormon themes in ways that I can still appreciate. Heck, the innocuous Once I Was a Beehive from last year was pretty good, too.

        That being said, this particular film is really quite bad.

        The premise is that we all lived in a pre-existence together and made arrangements to meet each other later, whether into families or as romantic couples. We see this framed mostly through a large family, focusing mainly on the oldest boy who is something of a rebel. Right off the bat, though, the nature of this setup isn’t very clear, religiously speaking, and it’s more that its implications are assumed. And really, there is so much here that is framed for an assumed Mormon audience. I suppose that’s fine, as that was the original (and current) intended audience. But a better written story would have made me care more and understand more of what is going on and why it matters, regardless of its specific religious bent. For example, I’m not Jewish, but in Fiddler I’m right there with Tevye and his plight with his daughters. And God’s Army gives us the essentials to be able to appreciate who these Mormon missionaries are and why their struggles and successes matter to them, and therefore to us. Saturday’s Warrior just gives us people whose lives and beliefs we are already supposed to appreciate, but no real reason as to why that should be. Sure, they’re nice people, and the main family that we follow seems agreeable enough. But there’s so little of substance with their lives in terms of why they’re the way they are and what that really matters. We see Tevye talking and arguing to God, and we care. We see the missionaries in God’s Army struggling with what their faith means and why what they’re doing is important to them, and we care. Almost nothing like that here.

        I have no frame of reference for what might be different about this version than the original, but the thing is, whatever they might have changed was not enough. It still takes place in the early 70’s, but it looks and feels like a 2016 movie with people wearing some bell bottoms and 70’s style shirts. So it probably feels even more antiquated and trite now than it probably did to any non-Mormons back in the 70’s. The references to things like over-population are so hackneyed, and that song… whew. There’s a song that the fictional rock band in the movie sings called “Zero Population” that talks about how abortion should be legal and overpopulation will kill the planet, and it has the most unpoetic on-the-nose lyrics ever. No way that band gets signed or gets popular with lyrics that obvious (I had to watch Sing Street again afterwards just to get a better image of a fictional band in my mind). To his credit, at one point the lead singer says something like, “we should make those lyrics more of a metaphor.” But they never do, because it plays into a later plot point [er, spoiler here] where his family comes to his show and hears the song and is duly offended. My point is that if you’re remaking this for a 2016 release, they could have rewritten a lot of this stuff out and maybe set it in modern times with a sensibility that might actually have more relevance today. Regardless, we never get any counter-arguments or depth about the over-population issue. Again, it’s something we’re supposed to assume, that those kinds of political views are not worthy.

        The songs are, oy, just so bad. One or two were okaaaay, but that’s as generous as I’ll get. And I feel terrible to say that, as I’m a songwriter and I know it’s all very subjective. But they just aren’t very memorable, they come in at times and in ways that don’t necessarily heighten the moment, and they are melodically meandering and lyrically empty. Again, I needed the Sing Street chaser, big-time. I mentioned the songs not being memorable to someone I know who grew up with the show and they said that they know all of the songs by heart… so of course that’s a subjective matter of preference (and probably helped by familiarity and repetition). But when I think of songs that work best in a musical, they have an immediate nature to them, melodically or thematically, that grabs you and makes that scene work with the song (or not). I’m thinking of almost anything by Lerner & Leowe or Andrew Lloyd Webber or from Hamilton or from the Beatles. Nothing even remotely of that caliber here. And again, it’s not the Mormon nature of this… I love some LDS specific music, and I’m a big fan of Julie de Azevedo, who happens to be the daughter of Lex de Azevedo, who created Saturday’s Warrior and wrote the songs. But by comparison, her songs are deeply meaningful and interesting, and also have recognizable and sing-able hooks to them, which you’ll catch right away. The songs in this show come in and happen and then they end and are forgotten.

        Alex Boye is a great LDS singer and performer, and he performs a part in this film of a heavenly administrator, so his scenes were kind of fun to watch. But even the choreography on the big first number with him seemed like kind of a mess. Nothing really involved or interesting there, and people were just moving around to different places without much sense of purpose. The lip-synching in the film feels half-hearted and off some of the time, as if they had just listened to the songs a couple times and then filmed.

        Some of the actors are good. I especially liked the lady playing Pam, and most others do their roles adequately. There is one joke involving a current member of the LDS First Presidency that is quite clever and made me genuinely laugh, and a scene with the mother of the family talking to her daughter that was actually quite open and well said. So there are a few nuggets of quality in there.

        If only this film had realized how incredibly hokey and trite it is and intentionally gone with more of a satirical and subversive depiction. That could have been great, where it worked on more than one level; seemingly faith-promoting for those who need it to be, but also with a layer of innuendo that others could riff on (my girls and I joked about the two missionaries seeming to be repressed gay lovers, and that helped make their scenes more amusing). But no, it is meant to be 100% sincere and wow does that fail. Well, I’m sure it works for some, but I think you’d need to have a heart fully baked through with sugar and green-jello and tender mercies to not gag at least a little.

        The underlying message of the film is… well, I’m not even sure. Drugs are bad, nng-kaay? Family is good. People will find each other at some point and all will be peachy. I suppose it’s something of a prodigal son narrative, but never really earns its pivotal moments. [spoiler] The main character just feels bad about chasing his musical dreams and leaving behind his family, and eventually he goes back to them. Whoopee. I suppose the motto of the film is supposed to be “freedom is knowing who you are.” But that isn’t really well demonstrated in the film, and is even contradicted. That one dialogue I liked by the mother speaks somewhat to her frustration and depression and lack of freedom for being what she is.

        So yeah, this is probably a messy and rambling review and I apologize for that. Again, blame Cody, as I didn’t want to get into the details. If you already have a history with this from the stage play or earlier film version, there may be some nostalgic entertainment value for you, and if you are wont to give a little mockery for something that is extremely trite and cheesy, then there is some satirical MST3K type of humor to glean from it. But otherwise, just… no.

        3 – Avoid

        • No, no, don’t blame Cody. I think we all know that this is the sort of situation where one always (speaking of musical movies) passes the buck to our neighbors to the north. Blame Canada!

          Thanks, Eric. If you need another chaser, try “La La Land.” (Although I finally saw “Sing Street” the other night and I found it to be entirely deserving of all the praise that you’ve given in.)

  14. ROGUE ONE. Hmm. A decent number of individual things and scenes to like, and a few to love, but overall I only liked it and didn’t love it.

    It doesn’t approach the character and creativity and craft of Force Awakens. Compare the character of Jyn to Rey or Cassian to Finn/Poe, etc., and it’s not even close. The robot is great and I thought the main bad guy was quite good in his role, but otherwise the characters were pretty serviceable at best, and often nothing more.

    Some great action scenes, and some terrific moments with star destroyers and AT-ATs (I just have to reference that to kindle more pronunciation debates!), but also a lot of what we’ve already seen numerous times as far as Star Wars-y action and battles.

    J will be happy to know that the annoying alarm sound from the first trailer is only briefly and barely heard.

    One more thing for now… There was a choice made in this film about how to depict something that was TERRIBLE. Just terrible. Ugh. I literally shook my head each time I saw it, and especially the last time, which was just so egregiously bad of a choice in that moment.

    I’ve seen more than one reviewer refer to this as the best Star Wars film yet. Hail, no. IV, V and VII are all much better. A decent and entertaining Star Wars film, though? Absolutely.


      • Oh, I’d say it’s a cinema film, for sure. There are enough big and powerful visuals to justify that, especially in the third act. Then again, it’s possible that the thing I described as terrible wouldn’t be quite so on a smaller screen. Nah, it’s still a good (if not great) Star Wars movie… Big screen!

  15. Watched DON’T THINK TWICE from iTunes last night, and quite loved it. It might even fight for a spot on my Top 10.

    This is a small ensemble character-study kind of film, written and directed by Mike Birbiglia (who also has a big part in the film), about a close-knit improv troupe in NYC, where one of them has a chance to be promoted to the big leagues (the movie’s fictional equivalent of SNL). The interactions of all that involves and how that affects each character felt very real to me, and the performances of Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs in the main roles are excellent, especially Jacobs, who needs more of a range for her part.

    I loved the writing of this. Very sharp and real, and the way the different members of the group joke with each other, poke fun at each other, and argue with each other felt fluid and meaningful. I recall a review from earlier this year when it came out that praised the film, but complained about the actual improv performances not being that funny. Eh, I found them realistic enough and also amusing enough to seem fitting and genuine. And I loved how at certain times you think there’s a moment that is playing a certain way, but these people turn it into an unexpected improv. And I may have spoiled that, except that it happens in different ways and times, and not always. So it never feels forced, and in certain particular moments, it’s actually quite an uplifting kind of thing to see, being their voice and their art and at times their coping mechanism.

    Big surprise for me, and I’ll want to see it again. I give it a 9.

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